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First Year, Christmas Holiday
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“Does anyone need to go shopping before Christmas?” Ginny asked at breakfast.

Harry smiled at his three children gathered around the table. “I do! I can take whoever needs to go to Diagon Alley this afternoon.”

“I’m fine,” James said around a mouthful of bacon. “Got some things at Hogsmeade so I’m fine.” Harry nodded, expecting as much now that James was allowed visits there from school.

Nine year old Lily piped up next, “I already made all my presents with Auntie Luna!”

“That’s great, sweetie,” Harry said, inwardly cringing at the memory of the glitter-infested ornaments they were given last year. “Can’t wait to see what you two came up with this year. What about you Albus?”

“Er, yeah, I guess. I have something for you and Mum, and also for Gran and Papa, but I wanted to get something for Scorpius and Andrew.”

An unexpected shock passed through Harry and his eyes sought out Ginny’s. She frowned at him and shook her head. Harry asked, “Scorpius? Er, Malfoy?”

“Yeah. He mentioned something about my flying gloves that made me think he’s getting me some new ones. So I want to get him something too. And I should get something for Andrew and maybe Thomas too.”

“Oh.” Harry looked to Ginny again. Her eyes widened in the way that indicated he definitely needed to say something. But what, exactly? “I didn’t realize you were friends with Scorpius Malfoy. You haven’t written about him.”

“He only sent home two letters,” Lily said, sticking her tongue out at her brother, “so there wasn’t much time to say anything.”

“Sorry if I hate writing letters, all right? And of course we’re friends, we’re in the same dorm.”

“He’s in Ravenclaw?” Ginny asked. This time when their eyes met, Harry noticed a malicious sparkle. “Wow, that must have set Malfoy off.”

Albus shrugged, “Mr Malfoy said his wife’s family sorts to Ravenclaw a lot so he wasn’t surprised. He said Scorpius is only the twelfth Malfoy not to sort to Slytherin but he didn’t care.” He sipped at his juice like he hadn’t just dropped a shock in their laps.

“I meant Lucius Malfoy. He probably cried buckets of tears.” She mumbled under her breath, “That prick.” Her comment made James giggle and Lily gasp in shock. Albus frowned in confusion.

“Ginny! Language!”

“Sorry,” she grinned. And then continued mumbing, “I meant wanker.” James laughed again and Lily looked to Harry to gauge his reaction. Albus’s gaze dropped to his plate.

“Gin.”

“Sorry.” Her mouth twisted with suppressed laughter, and Harry had to shake his head with a fond smile. She’d never really managed to clean up her language when they had kids and it still made him laugh to see their reactions.

Albus interrupted the moment. “So can I go shopping with you, Dad?”

“Er, yeah. I guess that’s fine. We can go after we’re done here.” Harry nodded at Ginny to indicate they’d talk after the kids left the kitchen.

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“So, Scorpius Malfoy…” Harry said as he and Albus walked down Diagon Alley together.

“Yeah?” Albus said hesitantly. He absently ran his hand along a shop window sill, staring intently inside. It must be on purpose to avoid looking at Harry because Harry couldn’t imagine an eleven year old found antique tea sets anything worth looking at.

“What’s he like?”

Albus shrugged, “I don’t know.”

“But you two are friends?”

He kicked at a pebble and shrugged again, “Yeah.”

“Okay.” Harry chewed his lip, unsure how to move on from there. Ginny had made it clear he should nip this friendship in the bud. But that was tricky if Albus wasn’t even going to talk about it. He looked at his son, walking with his eyes trained on the ground in front of him, and wished Albus had been a little more forthcoming in his two letters home. How had they not known who his dorm mates were?

Before he could think of anything to ask, Albus led them into Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Harry talked with George while ten year old Roxanne helped Albus shop around.

George packed everything carefully and handed the bag over to Albus. “I hope you only intend these items for good!”

“You do not,” Harry said with a snort, handing over a few galleons.

“Yeah, okay, I don’t. Wreak havoc at all times, Albus!”

Albus grinned. “We will. It’s for my friends at school. Scorpius and Andrew and Thomas. But I’m sure they’ll share.”

“Scorpius Malfoy?” George asked, then turned a quizzical look to Harry. Harry nodded. “Wow. What’s Gin got to say about that?”

Harry shrugged one shoulder, “About what you’d expect.”

“Good luck with that. We’ll see you lot next week at the Burrow.” George winked and waved the two of them off.

“Why’s everyone being so weird about Scorpius?” Albus asked as they made their way down the road. “No one seems to care about Andrew or Thomas.”

“Er… it’s just… complicated. Weasleys and Malfoys haven’t gotten along for ages.”

“Why not?”

“Well… they…” Harry ruffled his hair, unsure how to encapsulate everything that happened between the two families.

Albus sighed heavily, “Because they fought on the wrong side?” They stopped outside State of the Art, a magical art supply shop.

“Yeah.”

“But you said the war is over and we should all move on. Isn’t it just more of the same if we’re mean to them and they’re mean to us?”

“Yes. In theory. But in practice, it’s a little more complicated than that.” Harry scrubbed at his hair again and cursed the fates that put him in this awkward position.

Eyes on a set of colored pencils, Albus asked quietly, “So you think I should stop being friends with him?”

“You - you can be friends but just not… so friendly?”

Albus looked up in confusion, “What does that even mean?”

“I guess just try to spend less time with him?” Harry knew it was stupid, even as the words left his mouth. He hoped his cheeks weren’t as red as they felt.

“His bed is right next to mine and we have all our classes together. How am I supposed to do that?”

“I don’t know. Just… maybe just try not to mention him around your mother? She’s really sensitive about it all.”

“Fine.” Albus rolled his eyes and went into State of the Art. He filled the basket to the brim and Harry paid for all of it, in relief that the conversation seemed over.

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Summer Holiday
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Harry gripped tight to Ginny’s hand as the Hogwarts Express pulled into the station. The Weasleys took turns picking the kids up from the train and taking them all to the Burrow for a welcome home feast before dispersing to their homes. Harry always made sure he was one of the adults there. It never got old for him, picking up his children (and nieces and nephews) from school. As a child, boarding school had been a blessing. But as a parent, it was a small form of torture. It was hard for him to see them only a few weeks out of the year.

As usual, Molly found them first, dragging her sister Lucy along with her. She was a remake of Percy all over again, and would brook no delay by her younger sister. Molly gave both Ginny and Harry perfunctory hugs and sat on her trunk to await the others.

Jamie, Fred, and Louis found them next. The three boys were usually starving and anxious to get to the feast at the Burrow. They laughed and waved off their friends, snacking on liquorice wands while they waited.

Victoire tearfully hugged her friends goodbye. Now that she’d graduated, she wouldn’t be seeing them much anymore. Dominique tugged her arm until Victoire finally let go of a petite blonde that was also crying. The two girls shouted promises to owl over the summer but Harry knew how difficult that would be. They would be starting work, or advanced education, or traveling. He thought briefly of the friends he’d lost touch with over the years. Long distance friendships were so difficult to maintain.

Finally, Harry saw Albus and Rose getting off the train, followed by Scorpius Malfoy. He darted a glance to Ginny to see if she’d noticed but she was busy shrinking the kids’ trunks for easy transport. Albus and Rose waved goodbye to Scorpius and made their way through the crowd to their corner.

“Albus!” Ginny said happily, hugging him tight. “And Rose! You two are the last, I think.” Ginny did a quick head count and nodded.

“Sorry, Aunt Ginny, we were caught up on the train. Albus left his sketchbook, and then Scorpius forgot his hat. It was hard to fight the crowd.”

At Scorpius’s name, Albus shook his head vigorously at Rose, but she didn’t seem to notice. Ginny’s eyes narrowed as she scanned the crowd. Catching sight of Draco and his son, she sneered, “I see he doesn’t have his skinny bitch with him. Too good to mingle with the common people, I suppose.”

“Gin…” Harry sighed.

Albus frowned and grumbled something under his breath as he knelt by his trunk. He opened it up to pull out a copper wire sculpture, and then a t-shirt to wrap the sculpture in.

“Stop mumbling, Albus. What did you say?” Ginny asked.

“I said she’s ill.” He slammed the lid shut and tucked the sculpture in his backpack. “My trunk is ready for shrinking now.” Shouldering the bag again he stared at his mother. “Mrs Malfoy’s not well enough to make the trip to the station so she’s waiting on them at home.”

“Oh.” Ginny bit her lip, “Perhaps I spoke harshly.”

Harry reached for Ginny and rubbed her back. “It’s okay. You didn’t know.”

“So it’s okay to call her a skinny bitch if she’s not ill?” Albus deadpanned. The other kids smothered giggles, watching the proceedings avidly. Molly, in particular, looked as if she were about to start taking notes to make an accurate report later.

“Albus,” Harry sighed again as Ginny crossed her arms with a scowl. Harry put a hand on her arm to calm her before she began yelling at their son in public. Was this going to be their new normal for the next several years? Squabbling over Malfoys?

“What? I’m just curious about when it’s okay to call someone a skinny bitch. Is it only when she’s healthy? Or just when she’s not here to defend herself?” Albus stared with wide-eyed innocence. Behind him, Rose’s cheeks reddened with suppressed laughter. Lucy, James, and Louis could barely contain their glee.

“That’s enough! I’m sorry for what I said, all right?” Ginny hissed quietly. “We’ll talk about it later.”

“Oh goody, lessons on when skinny bitching is appropriate.”

“I said enough, Albus Severus! Let’s go, Gran and Papa are waiting for us. To the car everyone!”

Ginny urged the group through the barrier to the passenger van waiting outside. Harry sighed, lamenting the tone they’d set for the summer holidays.

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Second Year, Christmas Holiday
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“All right, Lily and I are off to pick up Hermione and Rose. Anyone need anything while we’re out?”

Harry looked up from the morning paper to see Ginny smiling down at the table. “I think we’re fine here.”

“Great.” She kissed the top of his head. “We should be back by lunch time. Love you boys!”

“Love you to, Mum!” James said too loudly for so early in the morning.

“Bye, love. Have fun!” Harry rose to give her a proper hug and kiss goodbye, then Ginny followed Lily to the floo. Once they’d gone, he turned to his boys, “What should we do this morning while the girls are out?”

Predictably, James said, “Flying,” before Harry could finish his sentence.

Albus grinned and the two boys ran for their brooms. Harry Apparated the three of them to a nearby field that was free from muggle interference, allowing them to fly higher than they could at home. For an hour, Harry charmed a snitch and a quaffle to challenge each of his sons. James played chaser for Gryffindor and hoped to follow Ginny into professional Quidditch. Albus was reserve seeker for Ravenclaw, merely for the fun of it.

While they rested on a picnic blanket with a thermos of hot chocolate, talk turned from Quidditch to their teammates, and from there to various friends and their holiday plans.

“Actually,” Albus said hesitantly, “Scorpius invited me to his house for the holiday.”

“Did he?”

“Yeah, like he knows we have plans with family and all. But if I wanted, after Christmas, he said I could go. Just for a night or two.”

Harry made a noncommittal sound and busied himself with pouring more hot chocolate. James laid back on the blanket and covered his eyes with his arm, unwilling to engage in yet another Malfoy-Potter discussion.

“Do you think Mum would let me?”

The hopeful look on his son’s face made Harry’s heart clench. “Albus, I’m sorry, but there’s no way your mother would let you get within a hundred miles of Malfoy Manor.”

“They don’t live at Malfoy Manor,” Albus said. He leaned forward, eager to impart his news, as if it would make any difference. “They live in a terrace house in London, so Mrs Malfoy can be near enough to St Mungo’s.”

“Albus…” Harry said carefully. He watched the hopeful look die and hated the situation just a little more. “It’s not just the house they live in.”

“I know, I know…” Albus mumbled, “Evil, plotting Malfoys.” He tossed the rest of his hot chocolate into the dry grass and stood with his broom.

“It’s just not something your mum likes to talk about,” Harry said, standing with him. “During the war… she was in a - a difficult situation because of Lucius Malfoy. She doesn’t like to talk about it but she can’t ever forget it.”

“But peace has to start somewhere, right? Isn’t that what you said about those years after the war? Mr Malfoy said we could all go to dinner at his house. You can see that maybe it’s different now!”

“We can’t. It’s too hard for your mother.” Harry remembered too well those nights when Ginny woke, terrified and disorientated, unsure of how much time had passed and if she’d missed something. When she scrubbed at skin that didn’t feel like her own. She hated it, and had kept it hidden from the kids as best she could. Perhaps too well.

“But she’s not even trying!”

“Albus,” Harry reached for his son but Albus jerked away with a sneer.

“It’s not fair! Whatever stupid thing she’s angry about - it’s not fair to keep punishing me for it! Scorpius is my friend. My best friend!”

“I know, son, and I’m so sorry. Please try and understand, she could have died. During the war. And she can’t forget that.”

Albus’s shoulders slumped in defeat. He opened his mouth to speak, but then shook his head and hopped on his broom. Harry reached for his own broom, prepared to chase his son if he took off into the unknown. But Albus stuck to slow circles around the meadow.

“Well that went well,” James said cheerily.

“Indeed,” Harry sighed.

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Summer Holiday
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“Albus,” Ginny yelled through the house, “you got an owl!”

With the reckless clatter of a boy growing too fast, Albus scrambled down the stairs and into the kitchen. He snatched the letter from Ginny and tore open the envelope. His eyes quickly scanned the short letter.

Gasping, he covered his mouth. “Oh no! No,” he whispered hoarsely.

“Everything all right?” Ginny asked, peering over his shoulder.

He hugged the letter to his chest and shook his head. “It’s Scorpius. His - his mum died.” He looked down at the letter again, with a tremble in his hands. “His mum died,” he repeated quietly. “Just like that. Day before yesterday."

“Oh Albus,” Harry said, coming to hug him. “I’m so sorry to hear that.” At thirteen, Albus didn’t usually let anyone hug him anymore but he held tight to Harry, accidentally crinkling the parchment in his grip.

“He said - “ Albus pulled away, wiping at his eyes. “He said the funeral is tomorrow. Can I go?” He smoothed out the parchment as best he could and read the letter again.

Harry looked at Ginny to gauge her reaction. The heavy frown on her face looked more angry than sympathetic, so Harry thought it best Albus leave for their conversation about it. “Let me have a few moments with your mother?” Gently he pressed on Albus’s back to direct him out of the kitchen.

But Albus was no fool. His gaze darted between his parents and his face crumbled. “Oh Merlin, you’re not going to let me go, are you?”

“We haven’t talked about it yet,” Harry said, running a soothing hand down Albus’s arm. “Just give us a few minutes, all right?”

“Mum,” Albus said, turning pleading eyes on Ginny, “please, you have to let me go. You just have to!”

“Albus…” Ginny swallowed heavily. “I’m sorry for him, I really am. But do you really think it wise you show up at this funeral?”

“I have to go. He’s my best friend! He needs me!”

“I know, baby, but you remember when Uncle Nev’s Gran died? And the media circus that happened because we went to the funeral? You don’t want that for Scorpius, do you?” She reached for Albus and he let her hug him for a moment, but then he pushed her arms away.

“But - but Uncle Nev said he didn’t care, because - because he was glad to have his friends around him. Scorpius won’t care either. I know he won’t!”

“It’s not just Scorpius, though.” For a moment her jaw tightened, but then it softened into something more sympathetic. “His father, his grandparents. They won’t want a solemn family event sullied by flashbulbs and gossip.”

“That’s not true! Why would Mr Malfoy let Scorpius invite me if he didn’t want me there? Please, Mum. Please! You have to let me go!”

“I’m sorry, Albus, but we just can’t.”

Growling in frustration, Albus covered his eyes and choked back a sob. “It’s just not fair!” he yelled before stomping into the sitting room. They heard the flare of the floo as he called out Ron and Hermione’s address.

“Damn it,” Harry sighed. “I should go after him.”

“They’ll look after him. Let him rant at Rose and we’ll get him back when he calms down.” Ginny tapped the kettle with her wand to heat water for tea.

“You shouldn’t have said those things. Not like that.”

“Oh? I should have given him false hope?” Ginny slammed the tin of tea on the counter, “I don’t want him associating with that family any more than he has to. It’s bad enough they share a dorm.”

“I told him we would talk about it, and there you were telling him no. And in a way that makes it almost impossible to change our minds.”

“Good, because I’m not changing my mind! He’s not going, and that’s final!”

“Gin…”

“Don’t ‘Gin’ me! That family is nothing but trouble and I will not be encouraging them!”

Harry sighed down at his mug. He rubbed at the headache building behind his eyes. “I think at this point we have to consider that this isn’t something we can keep from happening. Albus spends nearly ten months out of the year with Scorpius. We can’t stop them from seeing each other.”

“Well I can at least stop it from being eleven months out of the year.” Ginny crossed her arms in defiance. Years of marriage had taught Harry there was no use pursuing the topic further. At least not this time.

“I’m going to Ron’s. I’ll see if I can get Albus to come home.” He set his mug in the sink and brushed past Ginny without a goodbye.

Ron was unpacking a box of WWW products when Harry arrived. “Looking for Albus?”

“Yeah, is he upstairs?”

“No, they left.” He gestured to the table, “Freddie was here to drop off some samples George wanted me to look at. He took Albus and Rose to the shop for ice cream. Albus looked like shit.”

Harry heaved a sigh as he threw himself into a chair. He picked up a little pot of cream. “Poor thing, he’s a wreck right now. Astoria Malfoy died, and Ginny won’t let him go to the funeral.” The cream smelled of peppermint and Harry wanted desperately to eat it. He put the lid back on and set it aside before another Weasley product made him do something stupid.

Ron winced, “Ouch. That’s a tough one.”

“Yeah… not sure what to say to who.” Harry dropped his head into his hands. “I don’t know how to explain to Albus that his mother was possessed by Voldemort and almost died because of Lucius Malfoy. And I don’t know how to make Ginny understand that Scorpius is just a little kid and not really part of any of that.”

Ron pushed the box aside and sat at the table with Harry. “Do you think you should invite the Malfoys over? Try and reach out to them?”

“Why, so Ginny can insult them in our home?”

“Probably poison their tea.”

“With you-no-poo.”

Their laughter continued as they picked through the box of samples George had sent over. Ron was his favorite consultant and always reviewed new products before they hit the shelves. Speculation about the peppermint cream, which also came in strawberry and pumpkin spice, were cut off by the loud tapping of an owl. Ron untied the note with a frown, “Oh, it’s for you.”

Confused, Harry reached for the envelope. His eyes widened as he read. “Oh fuck, he’s at Malfoy’s house.”

“What?” Ron snatched the letter from Harry and they read it together.

“I have to go get him. He can’t stay there. Ginny is going to shit kneazles when she finds out!”

“How did he even get there? He’s supposed to be eating ice cream with Fred and Rose!” Even as he spoke, they heard the flare of the floo.

“Hey Dad, Uncle Harry,” Rose said with a false smile. “I didn’t know you’d be here.”

“Or you would have gone elsewhere?” Ron asked, hands on hips. He frowned at Rose. “Albus is with Scorpius. What did you do?”

She shrugged and her smile became genuine, with the same manic spark in her eye as her mother. “Oh, you know, just comforting a friend. It’s not my fault he gave me the slip at Fortescue's and used the public floos to get to his grieving friend’s house.”

“You are in serious trouble young lady! Don’t think I won’t tell your mother when she gets home!”

Rose laughed and shook her head. “You can’t prove anything except that Fred and I took Albus to Fortescue’s. The staff there will even confirm I purchased ice cream for a friend that had to use the loo. But he never came back.” Her face fell and fat tears welled in her eyes. “I was so scared, thinking he’d been kidnapped or worse!” She wiped them away with a small smile. “I’m so relieved to know he’s safe with his very best friend!”

“I have to go,” Harry said. “I’m sorry to leave you with this.”

“Go, go. I’ll take care of Rose. And let George know about Fred’s part in it.”

“Thanks!” Harry hurried to the sitting room and flooed to the address on the letter. He rolled out onto a posh, blue rug in a sparsely decorated sitting room. Harry didn’t want to brush the soot from his clothes and risk staining the white furniture. What kind of person decorates a floo-access room with white furniture?

A house elf dressed in a miniature Weasley jumper bowed low and said, “If you please, sir, follow Tipsy.” Harry followed the elf to the library where the elf bowed again. “Will sir be wanting refreshments?”

“Er, no, thank you. I just want to speak with Malfoy. Er, Draco. And I need to see Albus Potter, if he’s still here.”

“Very good sir.” With a snap of his fingers, the elf disappeared.

Harry pulled out his wand and did his best to vanish the remaining soot. He wondered absently if Albus made the little jumper. He’d learned to knit from his Gran last summer and she had encouraged miniature projects to practice with. The jumper looked like his style. His musing broke off when the library door opened. Harry inwardly cursed, unprepared for what he would say to Malfoy now that the moment had come.

As expected, Malfoy looked terrible. His face was washed out and had a worn look from missing sleep. His hair was neat, and his clothes were clean, but both had the air of someone that threw themselves together at the last minute. And unless Harry was a complete idiot, there was the whiff of alcohol accompanying him.

“Potter, it’s been ages,” Malfoy said in welcome, coming to Harry with hand extended.

Harry shook his hand firmly. “Malfoy. I’m sorry to hear about your wife.”

“Thank you,” he smiled sadly. “She was - a wonderful woman. Better than I deserved, I’m sure. Please sit. Can I offer you something to drink?” He indicated an overstuffed armchair to Harry and sat in the matching chair across from it. “Tea? Something stronger?”

“No, thank you. I actually just, erm…” Harry sat, perched on the edge of his seat. He nervously jiggled the wand in his hand.

Malfoy’s shoulders stiffened. “You’ve come for Albus?”

“Yeah,” Harry said slowly. “I’m so sorry, Malfoy. But Ginny… she…”

Malfoy shot to his feet. “Say no more. I understand.” He rubbed at his neck, and across his eyes. “I’d hoped… This hasn’t been easy for Scorpius. And when Albus arrived…” He cleared his throat. “They’re just up the stairs. I’ll go get them.”

But there was no need to go far. Both boys were in the hall, awaiting the verdict. If Harry thought Draco looked bad, it was nothing on Scorpius. His pale face was splotchy and tearstained. His rumpled pyjamas probably hadn’t been removed in days. And a stiff breeze could knock him over. Wide grey eyes searched his father’s face, and then Harry’s. Next to him, holding his hand, Albus turned a black stare on Harry.

“Albus…” Harry cleared his throat awkwardly, making a split second decision. “I told Malfoy you can stay the night.”

Whatever wrath Ginny had in mind was worth it to see his son light up that way. “Really?”

“Er, yeah. Funeral and dinner should be done by eight, right?” Harry looked to Malfoy for confirmation. He nodded jerkily, grey eyes blinking rapidly. “Yeah, so… I’ll pick you up then.”

“Thanks, Dad!” Albus surged forward in a rough hug for Harry. He turned, smiling, back to Scorpius. “I can stay! C’mon, let’s go back to your room. Maybe try the soup Tipsy brought?” Carefully, his son reached for Scorpius, holding his hand and leading him back to the stairs.

“Potter. Harry, thank you so much. This, really, it means so much to me. He’s been so lost since… “ Malfoy covered his mouth to smother a small cry. “It’s been hard on us both. But at least I can drink.” He gave a sad laugh and wiped at his face with a sigh. “I’m sorry. Years I’ve had to let go of her, but it wasn’t enough in the end.”

“I’m - I’m really sorry, Draco.”

“Thank you. For letting Albus stay. We’ll take care of him, and see that he’s ready at eight tomorrow.”

Harry gave him an awkward handshake in goodbye. Then braced himself for the shouting match that awaited him at home.

Chapter Text

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Third Year, Christmas Holiday
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Flitwick met Harry just outside the Great Hall of Hogwarts. “Mr Potter, we’re so sorry about the mix-up!” he said by way of greeting.

Harry shook his hand and smiled, “Not to worry, Professor. It wasn’t your fault. Just a misunderstanding.” Inwardly, Harry fumed at his middle child for lying to him. As he followed Flitwick up the stairs to Ravenclaw Tower, he tried to organize his thoughts. Immediately he dismissed James and Lily’s excuses made on Albus’s behalf. All three of them knew better than to think he and Ginny would let this disobedience slide.

Flitwick left him in the Ravenclaw common room after pointing the way to the boys’ dorms. Harry found the proper dorm easily enough and knocked loudly before opening the door. Albus was already halfway to the door.

“Dad!” He glanced behind him at a frightened Scorpius sitting on the bed. “I didn’t think you’d be here so soon.”

“But you knew I’d be here,” Harry said with forced calm. Albus’s eyes dropped and Harry knew he had misled them on purpose. “Scorpius, if you could give us a moment.”

The pale, slender boy scrambled off the bed, brushing Albus’s hand as he passed. His eyes didn’t quite meet Harry’s as he moved around him on the way out the door. It was easy to see the Malfoy in him, with that coloring, but he had softer curves on his face from his mother. Still, a Malfoy through and through.

Harry closed the door and crossed his arms, staring Albus down. Albus twisted his hands in his Ravenclaw hoodie, waiting for Harry to speak first. His eyes finally dropped to the floor with a soft, “I’m sorry.”

“For what. Be specific, please.”

“For implying that I would be on the train.”

After nearly a minute of silence, Harry said, “That’s it? That’s all you’re sorry for? That’s all you’re going to say?”

Albus bit at his lips and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Are you here to take me home?”

“Of course I’m here to take you home! Your mother and I were worried sick, thinking something had happened to you!”

“James and Lily said - “

“Yes, they tried explaining it all. How you decided to stay behind, how you were keeping Scorpius company. But that’s not good enough. You asked if you could stay for Christmas, we said no, and you said you were coming home. And then you didn’t.”

“Dad, it’s his first Christmas without his mum! He’s been having a hard time and - “

“Albus, we only get to see you for ten weeks in the summer and two for Christmas. He gets you the other forty weeks of the year! He’ll survive the holiday without you!” Harry looked around at the four identical beds with four identical trunks at the ends. “Now, are you going to pack or should I do it for you?”

“But Dad - “

“No buts. You’re coming home with me, and that’s final.” Harry flicked his wand and silently accioed Albus’s bag. It whizzed out of the trunk by the nearest bed.

Albus ripped it out of Harry’s hands and began stuffing it with clothes. Then a half finished lump of knitting and accompanying yarn. Last to go in was a sketchbook and set of charcoal pencils. He also pulled a small wood carving of a woman’s face from his trunk and set it on the bed next to his.

“Do I have time to leave him a note?”

“Yes, but be quick about it.”

Albus scribbled a message on a small parchment, then folded it up and tucked it under the carving. “Let’s go.”

In the common room, Albus immediately turned to the armchairs by the fire. Scorpius was curled up in one, his knees pressed to his chest. He jumped up when they came down the stairs. Albus glanced at Harry, then pulled Scorpius to the far corner of the room. But the room was small and empty enough that Harry could hear them whispering.

“I have to go,” Albus said quietly.

“It’s all right,” Scorpius replied, wrapping his arms around himself. He glanced at Harry, then down at the ground. “We knew it probably wouldn’t work. And it’s fine anyway. My dad’ll be here day after tomorrow.” He covered his face with his hands. “It’s fine. It’s going to be fine.”

Albus enveloped Scorpius in a hug. “Scorpius, I’m so sorry.”

For a moment, Scorpius hugged him back, but then with a choked sob he pushed Albus away. “Damn it!” he cried, wiping blindly at tears as he ran for the stairs.

Albus glared at Harry, then stormed out the common room door. For a moment, Harry wanted to call him back, to tell him he could stay. Like he’d done for the funeral. But the other part of him protested that it wasn’t fair. That Scorpius got Albus mostly to himself for the majority of the year and that this two weeks was all Harry was going to get until next summer.

Their time together, as a family, was growing small. His children were growing up and even at the tender age of thirteen, Albus was creating a new family for himself. Harry didn’t begrudge Albus his friends, after all it was his friendships that made life liveable for Harry. But it hurt to think of his children leaving home and living a life without him. Or with him on the periphery. It wasn’t fair. Thirteen years wasn’t enough time and he couldn’t bear losing Albus to the Malfoys.

He deserved this time with his son, even if his son was unlikely to bounce back from this slight during the holiday. But he’d rather have a grumpy Albus with him than no Albus at all.

--------
Summer Holiday
--------

Harry woke disorientated. Squinting at the clock, he saw that it was just after four in the morning. He dropped his head on his pillow with a low moan. What was he doing up so early? A soft clatter from the kitchen had him out of bed, wand in hand.

He muffled his footsteps with a spell before spying on whoever was in his kitchen in the middle of the night.

“Albus!” he called in surprise.

With a guilty look Albus turned from the window where their owl, Spot, waited with a letter on his foot. “Dad!” Albus said, shooing the owl out. He closed the window and turned with a small smile for Harry. “I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

“Yes. What are you doing sending a letter at four in the morning?”

“Oh, well… I was just…” He trailed off, twisting his hands in the hem of his t-shirt. Eyes on the ground, he said, “It’s nothing I guess. I’m sorry. I’m going back to bed now.”

It certainly didn’t look like nothing. And this was a rare opportunity for the two of them to talk alone. Harry stopped Albus with a hand on his arm. “It’s all right, son. Is there something you needed to talk about?” He yawned and rubbed at his eyes, then pointed his wand at the kettle. “We could have tea while you tell me?”

Harry put up a silencing charm on the door so they wouldn’t wake the rest of the household. They sat together with their mugs at the table. When it seemed like Albus wasn’t going to say anything, Harry asked, “Who was the letter for?”

“Er… Scorpius.”

“Ah,” Harry said, and immediately felt ridiculous for not guessing that right away. Of course Albus wouldn’t send him a letter in the early evening when his mother might see. “I didn’t realize you wrote to him. But if you’re sending the letters in the middle of the night…”

“I don’t. Usually. This is actually the first time all summer.” Albus stared down at his mug, and tapped his fingers on the sides. Harry wanted to run his fingers through his son’s hair and hug him tight like he did when he was a wobbly toddler, but Albus didn’t welcome such affection anymore.

“Why now?”

“His last letter - “

“He writes to you?” Harry hadn’t meant to interrupt but Albus hadn’t gotten any letters this summer. But clearly he had, if the wide darting eyes meant anything.

Albus licked his lips and Harry hoped that wasn’t a precursor to a lie. “Yeah, erm… usually he sends them to Rose or to Freddie and they get them to me. Since we see each other so often.”

“Oh.” There wasn’t much more Harry could say. For the two boys to go through such subterfuge to send a few letters, and implicate Albus’s cousins as well… it was more than Harry could comprehend at this late hour. Or rather, early hour. He rubbed his face again and drank heavily from his mug.

“Yeah, so, he said his dad was taking him to Diagon for his school things on Sunday. But Mum said we were going Saturday afternoon after Quidditch. So I told him to meet us then.”

“On Saturday.”

“Yeah. Like, we could, you know, accidentally meet and maybe… maybe you two can see they’re not as bad as you think.” Albus tapped his fingers again. “Maybe we can have dinner together?”

“I don’t know, Albus. Your mum is…”

He slumped his shoulders, “I know. But she has her public face. Surely she’d be nice to him if there were others around.”

“It’s such a risky plan. There’s so much you can’t account for.”

“Well she wouldn’t do it voluntarily, so surprise is all I have going for me. Scorpius is my best friend and I - I don’t want him to be some secret I have to keep all the time.” Albus went to put his mug in the sink. “Even if this blows up in my face, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.” He bent to give Harry a brief hug. “Goodnight, Dad.”

Harry wanted to believe Albus, that they could fake a surprise visit and convince Ginny to have tea with the Malfoys. But that was impossible. He loved his wife too much to force her into a situation that would make her so uncomfortable.

He found time the next evening to let her know of their plans to meet up with the Malfoys and perhaps have tea together after the school shopping. As expected, she rejected the idea entirely, even when Harry pointed out how important it was to Albus. The best he could get out of her was a sullen, “I’ll think about it.”

On Saturday morning, Harry, James, and Albus met Ron, Rose, Freddie, Lucy, and Louis for their regular Quidditch match. It was good practice for House players James, Albus, and Rose, and just fun for Freddie, Lucy, and Louis. These were Harry’s favorite moments, flying with his children, nieces, and nephews. It was the last summer Fred would be joining them now that he was starting his last year of school, but next summer Lily and Hugo would probably want to come.

When they finally trudged up to the back door with loud laughter and muddy boots, Ginny and Lily were just finishing with lunch preparations.

“Perfect timing!” Harry said, with a kiss to Ginny’s cheek. “James went home with Louis. Said he didn’t need to go to Diagon Alley with us this afternoon.”

“We already went,” Ginny said, laying a platter of sandwiches on the table. She sat down and spread her napkin on her lap.

Albus and Harry looked at each other, then at Ginny. Harry frowned and said, “What do you mean you already went?”

“Just that. While you boys were out flying, Lily and I picked up all the school books and things.”

“You went without us?” Harry asked again. He watched Ginny calmly eat her sandwich, while confusion and anger swirled inside him. “You - why would you do that? After what we talked about.”

“You told her?” Albus screeched. “You told her about Scorpius? Dad! Why did you do that?”

“I had to! Surprising her was a terrible idea.”

“Oh yeah, because this was so much better. Thanks a lot!” Albus shoved hard at his chair, sending the kitchen table sliding several centimetres. “Damn it!” he growled as he ran up the stairs.

“Great. That’s just great!” Harry sighed. He fell into his chair and dropped his head into his hands.

Next to him, Lily cleared her throat, “May I be excused?”

“Of course, sweetie,” Harry said kindly with a kiss to the top of her head. She looked back and forth between her parents, then grabbed her sandwich and ran out the back door with it. Harry crossed his arms and said, “Really, Gin?”

She shrugged, “I didn’t want to have tea with Malfoys.”

“Gin, we talked about how important this is for Albus. How much this meant to him.”

“See, that’s what you said but what I heard was he’s been lying to us and sneaking around mailing letters to that boy. He’s been using his cousins to smuggle him letters and who knows what else. What kind of friendship is that?”

“It’s the kind we’ve forced him to have.” Harry sighed and rose to his feet. “I’m going to go talk to him.”

“Fine, but he should be grounded for lying to us.”

Harry rolled his eyes and left the kitchen without responding. What would grounding accomplish? Albus never went anywhere or did anything. He’d probably be happy to never leave his room. Taking a deep breath, Harry knocked gently on the door. He found Albus bundled up in his bed, staring at the wall.

“What do you want?”

Gingerly, Harry sat himself on the edge of Albus’s desk chair. “Albus, I’m so sorry your plans fell apart.” He shifted carefully, trying to move the half-finished wood carving tucked behind him and a stack of sketches to where they wouldn’t be damaged.

“You should be sorry. You shouldn’t have told her.”

“I had to tell her. She’s my wife. I can’t keep secrets from her.”

“It wasn’t a secret!” Albus said, rolling up to sit against the headboard, his elbows resting on his knees. “It was a surprise. There’s a difference!”

“It’s the kind of surprise I couldn’t keep secret from my wife. One day you’ll have a wife and you’ll understand. There’s just some things you can’t keep secret.”

Albus’s face scrunched up and he dropped his head into his hands. “This was my only chance! And you ruined it!” He growled and tugged his hair, “Ugh, I don’t want to talk about this right now. Can you please just go?”

Harry stood carefully, but still managed to bump Albus’s desk. His hand darted out to catch a clay pinch pot Albus had made years ago. Harry had a matching one in his office for quills. “I’m sorry Albus.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you are,” Albus grumbled as he tucked himself back into bed. “Sorry again.”

“I’ll take you, if you want. You and I can go to Diagon together.”

The silence seemed to last an eternity while Albus thought it over. Harry looked around the room, making note of the small changes that had been made over the summer. There were sculptures made with higher skill replacing old childish works. Above them were notes tacked on the walls with the various spells needed to lay over the newest creations. Those couldn’t be completed until Albus returned to school.

Harry waited, hoping he could convince Albus to go with him. He ran his finger lightly over a delicate copper butterfly. Harry knew the charms Albus was preparing would make the wings flutter as if it would take flight, but it would be Christmas before Harry would see it again. If he ever saw it again. Months and months of change in his children that he would miss.

“Albus, please. Go with me. We’ll have tea with Draco and Scorpius. I’ll take you to State of the Art after, stock you up with new art supplies for school. Please? It’ll be fun, won’t it?”

“He’ll know,” Albus said quietly. He cleared his throat and said, “Scorpius will know she didn’t want to come. It’ll be a dark cloud over everything. I’d rather we didn’t go at all.”

“All right. Well… if you change your mind, let me know.” Harry paused in the doorway. “I can bring your lunch up here for you, if you like.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Okay. I’ll set a sandwich under a stasis charm in case you change your mind.” Harry gently closed the door, then made his way to the study to pen an apology to the Malfoys.

It was the very least he could do.

--------
Fourth Year, Christmas Holiday
--------

Albus poked his head into his Harry’s study. “Hey Dad, can you help me with something?”

“Of course. What is it?” Harry set aside his parchments immediately, eager to help.

“These pictures.” Albus held up a stack of glossy photos. “I did most of the developing at school, but I need help to finish the last step. I need a bit of magic,” he said sheepishly.

“Yeah, absolutely!”

Harry followed Albus to the kitchen where a series of basins were already set up, along with long lines of string from wall to wall. Albus gave Harry a mini-lecture on developing photos and the spells needed when decanting the potions. He also over-emphasized the need to vanish and replenish the rinse water. Harry, never patient with instructions, itched to get started. All the photos were pale and still, waiting for the last two washes that would set them moving and enhance their color.

He picked up the first photo, of a couple he’d never met. “Are these classmates?”

“Yeah. James said he wanted a picture of him and Clara for Christmas. Then Louis said that was a great idea and wanted one of him and Brin and it kind of snowballed from there.” He nodded to the picture in Harry’s hand. “That’s Andrew’s sister and her boyfriend.” He held up one of a laughing group of girls. “This one is for Lily, a surprise. I don’t think they knew I was taking it. But I think they’ll like that for their dorm, don’t you?”

“They look so adorable, all laughing like that.”

“Jenna’s brother is in the year above them and he has a thing for Samantha so Jenna was like, ‘Yeah, absolutely go for it. Because she’s totally into you.’ But Samantha had no idea. So then he goes right up to them and boldly invites her to Hogsmeade on a date. And Samantha is just all confused and goes, ‘I can’t even go to Hogsmeade.’ And poor Stephen is crushed because it didn’t even occur to him and he just turns and runs for it. All four girls broke out into giggles and I snapped the photo.”

“Poor Stephen,” Harry said, trying to bite back a smile. He remembered being that age and completely confused by everything related to girls.

“It’s fine, here look.” He rifled through the stack and found one of Stephen and Samantha holding hands. She looked happily at him, while he stared shyly at the ground. “They got it worked out before we left.” He rinsed the next picture. “Here’s the one of James and Clara.”

“Aww, that’s so sweet.” James and Clara were sitting on the shore of the lake, with her nestled between his legs. Harry took the next picture, of Louis and Brin in a similar pose. “This one turned out good too. Those two are pretty serious.”

“I think so too. Brin doesn’t fall under his spell like the others did. It’s probably his favorite thing about her. Oh!” Albus bit his lip. “I forgot this was in here. It’s for you and Mum for Christmas. Spoiler alert, I suppose.”

Harry took the picture, already grinning. He and Ginny were on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, smiling at one another. “When did you take this?”

“It was after you dropped us off at the beginning of term. I was on the train already. Thinking ahead, you know. To Christmas. I know you like pictures of the two of you.” He took the picture back and dipped it in the first wash. “I think she’s going to kiss you. Gross,” he said, but with a smile.

Harry nudged him, his grin widening, “Eh, one day you’ll have a wife and it won’t be so gross.”

Albus pursed his lips and shrugged. “Old people kissing is always gross. I’m not ever doing that in public when I get old.” He smiled at the photo as the figures began to move. “Ha! I was right.” The image was still pale, but the Ginny and Harry in the photo shared a soppy smile and a quick kiss.

“We look so cute together!”

Albus shook his head as he rinse the photo and put it through the wash to set the color. Harry’s heart quickened, seeing Ginny’s hair become its regular vibrant color. He’d definitely be taking that photo to add to the others in his office.

The last photos were of the Malfoys. One of Scorpius, sitting on his bed and frowning down at a textbook. The quill in his hand looked like it might snap at any moment. There was also two copies of a photo of Draco and Scorpius smiling at the camera.

“He looks so serious here,” Harry said, taking the photo of Scorpius revising.

“It’s Ancient Runes. He hates it so much but… he sticks with it anyway.” Albus bit his lip and studied the picture. “He’s only taking it because I like it. Says it was that or Arithmancy and he hates that just as much. Might as well be with a friend.”

“That’s how Ron and I picked a lot of our classes, too.”

“I never know how these are going to turn out.” He set the photo in the wash and bit his lip. “I hope he doesn’t throw something.” They watched as the image began to move. Harry was sure the quill was going to snap and Scorpius would throw the book to the floor. But instead, he looked up in surprise and smiled widely.

“Whew!” Albus laughed. “Much better than I thought!”

“What were you going to do if he was throwing something?”

“I developed one as a still too. I figured if this one was crap, Mr Malfoy would like the still one. Studious Scorpius is certainly not the norm, and difficult to capture on film.”

“You should get me more stills of your mother. Sometimes I have to freeze the ones in my office because the motion is distracting.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. For your birthday or something.”

Harry handed over the last pictures, of Draco and Scorpius. “When did you take this one? Is this Hogsmeade?”

“Yeah, it’s from our November outing. Since Mrs Malfoy died, Mr Malfoy comes to visit Scorpius occasionally for lunch. He invites the rest of us too. Me and Andrew almost always go, but Thomas usually skips out.”

Harry felt a strange swoop in his belly, that Draco was having lunch with his son and he didn’t even know about it. James didn’t like his parents visiting, and so Harry and Ginny had stopped making those kinds of plans. But Albus was a different sort altogether.

“That’s a great idea. Would you like me to come visit sometime?”

Albus shrugged it off, but Harry noticed how his eyes lit up. “I mean, if you want. I know you’re really busy with work and all.”

“I’m never too busy for my kids. I’ll talk to your mum and see what she says.” Harry hoped it was only his imagination that Albus stiffened at the mention of Ginny. “That’s it, then? All the magic you needed?”

“Unless you want to dry the photos?” Albus glanced along the floor. “Also, maybe a drying charm on the floor?”

Albus stacked all his supplies and carefully took down the photos as Harry dried them. Within minutes, all evidence of their afternoon together had disappeared. Albus took everything to his room, while Harry decided to get dinner started. As he pulled plates out, he heard Ginny returning from Montrose. He hoped the practice had gone well and Ginny had managed to get her information from the Magpies manager.

“Hey love, dinner’s ready,” Harry said by way of greeting. He kissed Ginny’s cheek as she slumped into him with a soft sigh.

“Thank goodness. I’m exhausted.” She dumped her flying bag by the back door. “Is Lily back?”

“No, Hermione’s taking them to a film. Said she’d bring her back after.”

“Dad!” James exclaimed, his face flushed and hair wild. “We got to fly with the Magpies!”

“You did?”

“It was brilliant! Alex Moncrief signed my playbook!” James held out the Gryffindor-red journal, full of all his favorite plays from quidditch games throughout the years. “And I scored a goal on Kilpatrick, but I think he let it in.”

“He did not!” Ginny insisted, ruffling James’s hair. “You’re a brilliant flyer and now they know it. We’ll let them think on that until next summer’s quidditch camp. Now, I’m going to get cleaned up so I can eat. Babe, can you take the brooms to the shed?”

“Of course!” He grabbed the bag by the door and followed James to the broomshed.

“Mr MacLaren said I could come back next time Mum has an assignment. He said I was a talent to watch. Got that? A talent to watch! Oh man, can you imagine if I was recruited to the Magpies? Unbelievable!”

Harry opened the broomshed door and turned on the lights. “Well, your mum’s right and you’re a brilliant flyer. We’ll apply to their camp and see how that goes.” He set the bag on the table and began pulling everything out.

James followed suit, emptying his bag of quidditch gear. “I wish Albus had come with us. He would have loved it.”

“He had some things to finish up for Christmas. We had photos up all over the kitchen.” Harry scoured Ginny’s gear with a charm and banished each piece to its proper place.

“Oh good, I’m glad he got to finish them. He was worried when he left school, that they weren’t done yet.” James fiddled with shin and arm guards, clearly trying to decide if they were clean enough to put away. Harry laughed to himself and cleaned them with a charm.

“It was fun. And it was so good to see the old Albus again.” When James gave Harry a funny look, he continued, “You know, having Albus excited and laughing, instead of… dark and brooding like he usually is.”

James shook his head. “Albus isn’t dark and brooding. Well, I guess he is while he’s here. But he’s not like that at school.” He grabbed an oilcloth to give his broom a quick polish.

“Really?” Harry wanted to leave the polish for later, since dinner was waiting, but didn’t want to pass up this rare moment of insight from James. He took another oilcloth to work on Ginny’s broom.

“Well, yeah. Like, he can’t do any magic here so he can’t work on any of his projects. And he certainly doesn’t like talking about his best friend because Mum flies off the handle every time. So… he’s quiet and he’s bored and just… closed off, I guess? Doesn’t feel like himself here.”

“Oh,” Harry said on a sigh. “I hadn’t thought about all of that.” He gave the broom one last swipe and set it on its rack. “Come on, dinner’s waiting.”

The thought that his children might not feel happy and whole in their own home sliced like a knife. Having grown up that way, it was a situation Harry wouldn’t wish on anyone. It kept Harry awake for half the night, until a solution smacked him in the face. Really, he was a fool for not considering it before.

The next day, after breakfast, Harry requested Albus’s help with cleaning up the kitchen. As soon as Ginny, James, and Lily left, Harry finished the cleaning with a few flicks of his wand. “I just wanted to talk to you for a few minutes.”

“Okay,” Albus said slowly, nervous uncertainty etched in every piece of him.

Harry cleared his throat, unsure why he was nervous too. “Yeah, so… the thing about underage magic, is that it can sometimes be hard to pinpoint.”

“Okay.” Albus still looked nervous, but a light of excitement made his green eyes shine.

“For instance, in the Ministry itself, where so much magic is going on all the time… Even with the Trace it’s hard to know if the magic was by someone underage.”

“That’s… certainly interesting…”

“And as it happens, I have a quick thing to do at the Ministry this morning. If you don’t mind waiting, you could come with me and I can take you to State of the Art after?”

“Yeah,” Albus said, bouncing on his toes. “Yeah, let me get my bag.”

As he hurried up the stairs, Harry found Ginny in her office. “Hey, Albus and I are going to run a few errands. I have a quick thing at work, and then I’m taking him to the art shop.”

“I thought you were off for the kids’ holiday.”

“I am. It’s just an excuse to get Albus out of the house for a bit. We’ll be back in about two hours.”

“All right,” she said, tilting her head back for a kiss goodbye. “Have fun!”

They navigated the maze of the Ministry of Magic, until finally Harry unlocked the door to his office. He shrunk the filing cabinet and moved his desk to one corner. Then he transfigured one of the guest chairs into a table.

“You can set your things there. I’ll be back in about an hour, all right?” He was talking to himself, because Albus already turned his focus on his notebook. He unfolded the accordion pages into a long line, and shuffled loose papers around them. Harry shook his head with a fond smile and slipped out of the office, locking it behind him.

Not wanting to talk to anyone while he was meant to be on holiday, Harry cast a Disillusionment Charm and moved slowly and carefully to the stairwell. On the landing between floors, he sat on a cushioning charm, enveloped in a warming charm. He set an alarm on his wand and pulled a paperback novel from his pocket.

At the end of an hour, he stretched and popped all his joints. In his office, Albus was still working diligently. His sketchbook was still open on the side of the table, its pages unfolding from it in all directions. In the center sat a wooden dog, surrounded completely in several colorful layers of magic.

Harry didn’t want to disturb him, so he quietly closed the door and waited. With a final swirl of Albus’s wand, the magical lines tightened and then disappeared into the dog. Albus smiled over his shoulder at Harry.

“Dad, look!” He pet the dog down its back. It gave a little shiver and moved jerkily along the edges of the stone rectangle it sat on. “Ha! It worked!”

“How funny! Almost like the little niffler you used to have!”

“Yeah, I think I’ve got the spells right so I can charm bigger, more complicated things. I’ve been having trouble with the base. The stone doesn’t hold the spells well, so I might need to switch to something else. Although it seems to be staying on there now so…” He trailed off, making notes on some of the parchments.

Then he set the quill aside and started gathering everything up. “Thanks for bringing me. This was really great. You got three memos under the door, and two people knocked but I didn’t answer.” The pages folded themselves back up to settle inside his sketchbook while he wrapped the dog in a cotton cloth. “Brilliant. Now I can work on the research for the next step. And you said we could go to State of the Art?”

“Absolutely. And ice cream after?”

“Brilliant.”

--------
Fourth Year, March Hogsmeade visit
--------

Harry couldn’t keep his eyes off the door as he waited for Albus and his friends to join him in the Three Broomsticks. He’d taken a quick stroll through the village when he arrived, to see if they were shopping, but hadn’t seen them. He’d arrived early, but apparently Albus meant to stick to the scheduled noon visit.

Anyway, it gave him time to calm down after Ginny had backed out at the last minute. She’d done her best to convince Harry to reschedule, but he knew that would be a waste of effort. Albus intended for them to get to know the new Draco Malfoy, and rescheduling would just be putting off the inevitable. And upset Albus again. He would know Ginny was at the root of the change, and Harry didn’t want to put him through that again.

So he waited, alone, in a corner table. Coming early had at least secured him a good spot. He saw clearly when the door swung open and Draco Malfoy walked in. His eyes swept the room, coming to a halt on Harry. His smile was guarded yet pleasant as he sat down.

“Malfoy, good to see you again.”

“Please, call me Draco.” Malfoy adjusted his robes as he shifted in his seat. The small sign of nervousness reassured Harry that he wasn’t the only one feeling the pressure surrounding this meeting. “The boys are right behind me, running through the streets like maniacs.” He rolled his eyes with a fondness Harry could appreciate.

Just then the door burst open, admitting the laughing and red-faced pair of boys. “Dad!” Scorpius yelled from across the room. Unabashed at the open staring, he slammed into Draco’s waiting arms. “I thought you were going to wait for us.”

“The two of you looked like wild animals. I was trying to pretend we didn’t know each other. Cover’s blown, I suppose.” He kissed Scorpius on the temple and nodded to Albus. “Albus, good to see you again.”

“Sorry we’re late, we had to shake Andrew. He wanted to meet Mum, but I said he’d have to wait until next time.” The flush in his cheeks deepened as his smile fell. “But she didn’t come?”

“Something came up at the last minute,” Harry said. “But she said next time.”

“Right, yeah.” Albus coughed and side-eyed Scorpius, who was still flushed and smiling.

Scorpius nudged Albus with his foot and said, “Right. Well, James’ll be glad he didn’t miss her. So, what’ll we have?”

Albus’s smile returned, although not as glowing as it had been. The barmaid chose that moment to come over and chatted at them about specials and drinks. Conversation flowed more freely once they all had food to distract them. As Albus relaxed, Scorpius became more animated with his gestures. Whatever nervousness Harry carried faded away as he witnessed firsthand how kindly Draco spoke to and about Scorpius. And Albus. It didn’t escape Harry’s notice that Albus was also comfortable spending time in Draco’s company.

Draco and Harry agreed to walk the boys back to school so Harry could say a quick hello to Lily, and possibly James if his quidditch practice was over.

“I’ll meet you outside,” Harry said, pointing to the loo. When he came out, he was pleased to see a familiar face. “Madam Rosmerta! What a surprise! How are you doing these days?”

The grey in her hair and the lines around her eyes did nothing to diminish the sparkle that had charmed so many patrons over the years. She laughed and drew Harry in for a hug. “Harry Potter, as I live and breathe! I’m the same as ever. How about you?” She pulled back and squeezed his cheeks. “How is Ginny? You should have brought her along!”

“Something came up,” Harry said in a rush. “So it was just me for lunch with Albus and Scorpius. And Draco.”

“Ah those two… like little copies of you and Draco. Funny, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it sure is.” Harry had marveled at that very thing as they’d eaten. Could things have been different between him and Draco, if there hadn’t been a war? But there was a war, so speculating hardly mattered. “Rosmerta… if you don’t mind me asking…”

She pulled her shawl more tightly around her shoulders and nodded with a sly smile. “Are you thinking of then, Harry? Why I’d let someone like that in here?”

“Well, it’s just… after what he did to you... It’s not like a generic sort of mischief.”

“No, and I thought for a long time I’d never forget it. But then he came back, to help me fix things up after it was all over. And Harry… he was just so damn young.” Her eyes dropped to the floor as the memories took over. “You know, he wasn’t much older than your Albus. James is sixteen, yes? Could you imagine James doing something like that?”

Harry didn’t even have to answer. James was too carefree and… honest. James wore everything on the surface, too impatient to hassle with lies or deceptions.

“Draco was just a baby then, Harry.”

“So was I.”

“Harry,” she said softly, “you imperioused someone else too, didn’t you?”

He had done, when he was too desperate to think of anything else. He’d said so at Draco’s trial all those years ago, to add to his defense. “I still feel horrible about it.”

“Trust me, so does he. But it’s over now and he’s made amends. We can’t hold on to those years so tightly.”

“I wish Ginny felt the same. At least for Albus’s sake. But talking about the Malfoys brings it back and it’s… it’s like it’s happening all over again.”

Rosmerta patted him on the arm, “If there’s anything I can do, let me know.”

“Thank you,” Harry said, giving her a light peck on the cheek. “It was so good to see you! I’ll try and stop by again soon.” He stepped outside and joined the others in the walk to the castle. “Sorry for the delay, I was caught up with Rosmerta.”

Draco arched an eyebrow at Harry, “Trying to get the dirt on me?”

“What? No!” Harry squeaked, feeling his face heat up. Albus and Scorpius paused in their whispered conversation to stare at the two of them.

“Oh Potter, you never were a very good liar. No wonder you made truth a personal crusade.”

“Actually, I’m a very good liar. You just… caught me off guard is all.” Harry flushed a deeper red as Draco gave a booming laugh. Albus searched their faces, presumably for animosity, but smiled when he saw no malicious intent. Harry gave Albus a light shove. “Come along, we’re going to be late to meet Lily.”

She was waiting for them at the gates, waving madly with one of her dorm mates. She had letters for Ginny and Grandma Molly, and a list of things she wanted owled to her as soon as possible. After three goodbyes and two promises to owl the things as soon as Harry returned home, Lily pulled Samantha back to the castle. Albus gave Harry a brief hug, but he suspected that was only because Scorpius hugged Draco first. They watched as the two boys disappeared up the path to the school.

“Well I think that went well,” Harry said as he and Draco made their way back to Hogsmeade.

“Indeed it did. Perhaps next time Ginevra can join us.”

“Yeah… I hope so. But… it’s hard for her. After…” Harry faded off, silently begging for understanding. Draco nodded, not quite meeting his eyes. “I think… Maybe she’s thinking that the two of them are like her and some of her dorm mates, where they were friends in school but not much of anything after. But I think that’s what Andrew and Thomas are. This... it’s more like her and Luna, where they’re still close even after all these years.”

“Does that - “ Draco broke off to clear his throat. “Does that mean you - are you going to - “

Harry scrubbed at his hair. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. Not right away, at least.” He sighed and kicked at the ground. “This was good, and I’m glad I came. You’ve turned out all right, Malfoy.”

“You too,” Draco said with a soft smile. “Good luck with Ginevra. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”

Chapter Text

--------
Summer Holiday
--------

It took Harry less than a week to realize something was odd about Albus’s notebook situation. While he had always carried a sketchbook around with him, now he had a second notebook that he would leave open next to him at all times. Every so often he’d glance at it, laugh, then scribble a few notes with a separate ink and quill than the one he used in his sketchbook.

One morning, when Ginny was out on an assignment for the Daily Prophet, Harry took the opportunity to question Albus about the special notebook.

“Oh, it’s brilliant! Scorpius and I got them at Scrivenshaft's. You write in it with this special ink and it appears in the other book too. Look.” He drew an arrow on the page, then turned to a fresh page. He scribbled quickly, My dad is looking over my shoulder.

Within seconds, a rolling script appeared. Then I won’t mention the dead bodies we hid in the forest.

“See? Brilliant, right?”

“Yes,” Harry said slowly. “Mind if I…?” He held out his wand in silent permission to run some tests over it.

“Of course.” Albus cleared his things out of the way and left the book open on the table. Harry ran a handful of dark magic detecting charms he knew of and everything turned up clear.

“Interesting,” Harry said at last. “Just… just don’t tell your mum, all right?”

Albus snorted, “Yeah I hadn’t planned on that anyway so…” He sat down and resumed his sketches of a ballerina in a flowing gown.

Harry knew he’d have to tell Ginny about the book before she discovered it on her own. That afternoon, he owl ordered a set of the books and ink so she could see and test them herself.

But of course, they arrived too late. Harry came home from work two days later to Ginny shouting, “What the fuck is this, Albus?”

In the sitting room, surrounded by parchments and his sketchbook of accordion pages full of notes, Albus looked so young and defenceless while Ginny towered over him in a fit of rage, waving his special notebook frantically.

“Is this book talking to you?!”

“No! Mum it’s… it’s nothing. I got it in Hogsmeade…”

“Ginny, give it back. It’s all right,” Harry said, trying to keep his voice calm and soothing as he approached cautiously.

“The hell it is! I saw it. The book, writing back to him!”

“It’s not what you think. Give it back and we can talk about it.” Harry took a few more steps forward.

Albus spoke at the same time, “It’s not the book, it’s Scorpius. He has one too.” And for a brief moment, Harry marveled at the complete lack of self-preservation skills in the Potter bloodline.

“No! No!” Before anyone could stop her, Ginny started ripping pages from the book.

Albus leaped to his feet and grabbed for it. “Don’t! You’re wrecking it!”

Ginny gave him a harsh shove back and pulled her wand out, her eyes shining with manic energy.

“Ginny, no!” Years of training sent Harry hurtling at his wife, spinning them into a painfully tight Apparition and landing them in a large, grassy field. Instinctively he put up anti-Apparition wards and summoned her wand.

“Harry Potter, you let me go this instant!” Ginny raged, beating against his chest. “Give me back my wand!”

“Ginny… Gin... fuck,” he hissed when she bit the wrist of his restraining hand. “You pulled a wand on our son Ginny! I’m not letting you out until you’ve calmed the fuck down!”

Expecting further resistance, Harry was surprised when Ginny dropped at his feet in ugly sobbing. He knelt beside her and slowly pulled her into a hug. She grasped tight to his shirt and cried bitterly into his shoulder.

“It’s all right, love,” he said softly, rubbing her back and rocking her gently. “It’s not as bad as it looks. I ran some tests over it…”

“You knew?!”

“Yeah… I saw it a few days ago. And it’s fine. No dark magic of any kind. It’s a few charms and some ink to share thoughts between people. Living people.”

“He said -” she hiccupped loudly through her tears, “said the Malfoy boy had one.”

“He’s keeping in touch with Scorpius. But it’s harmless. I ordered some from Scrivenshaft’s so you could see, but it’ll be another day or two before they arrive.”

“I don’t want it.”

“I know.” He pulled her closer and let her tears wear themselves out. “You’re going to have to tell him.”

She shuddered as another wave of tears crested. “I don’t know if I can. What I did… how can he forgive me?”

“He loves you, Gin. You’re his mum. But you need to tell him so he understands. We’ve kept it from them long enough.” He ran his fingers through her hair, smoothing it away from her face. His thumbs traced over her cheeks. “Maybe the kids can go to Ron and Hermione’s tonight? We can talk to them tomorrow after a little space?”

She pressed her lips together and nodded jerkily, blinking away more tears. Harry kissed both her cheeks, then stood to cast his Patronus. The stag bounded off with a message for Ron to please collect the three kids for the night. A terrier returned, saying the kids were already at their house and asking after Ginny.

“What should I tell them?” Harry asked her.

She plucked at the buttons of her robe. “I guess... that I’ll be fine and we’ll see them tomorrow.”

The next morning, Harry made Ginny a special calming tea and left her bundled on the sofa while he went to collect the children. Ron and Hermione greeted him in the sitting room with anxious faces.

Ron hugged him tight. “Albus told us about the fight… and the book.”

“Poor dear was beside himself,” Hermione whispered as she also hugged Harry. “As soon as you Disapparated, he dragged Lily and James here to wait it out. We didn’t know what to tell him, except that it was old war trauma.”

“Gin’s a mess, but she’ll pull through. We had Healer Davies over for a few hours and she walked Ginny through some of her old exercises and things. She slept on her own, no potions.”

“Well that’s something, I suppose.”

“She’s been practicing what she’s going to say, and she’s hoping she’s all cried out from it all but… we’ll see what happens when she actually says the words.”

Hermione shook her head sadly, “This stuff just never goes away… thirty years later and it’s like it happened yesterday.”

Harry found his three children in Rose’s room, his heart clenching at their nervous faces. “It’s going to be all right. Mum’s doing a lot better and she’s anxious to see you.” He squeezed Albus’s hand. “She’s sorry about yesterday. I know she’s going to tell you herself but… I want you to know it wasn’t you or anything you did. It’s trauma from a long time ago, coming back to bite her.”

Albus nodded, not looking up at Harry. Lily took Albus’s other hand, then changed her mind to put her hand around his waist. He hugged her back and nodded more firmly. Releasing his tension with a sigh, Harry ushered his children through the sitting room and goodbyes with Ron and Hermione, then followed them through the floo to home.

He almost stumbled into Ginny hugging Albus. She was already crying, and Albus held her tentatively. Behind them, James and Lily hovered, ready to hug whoever needed it next. Harry kissed Ginny’s head and pulled her out of the hug. Albus wrapped his arms around his waist, looking relieved to have been rescued from his crying mum.

“Why don’t we sit,” Harry said gently, guiding her to the loveseat. The kids sat on the sofa across from them, all three looking pale and worried. Harry summoned the tissues and offered the box to Ginny. “Do you want me to tell them?”

“No. I should…” She pressed her lips together and wiped at her eyes. “When I was just beginning at Hogwarts… we were in Diagon Alley getting our things. And… Lucius Malfoy…” She sniffed again and pressed a clean tissue to her eyes. Taking a deep breath she continued, “He slipped a diary in among my other books. But I didn’t know it was from him. Or that it was - was dangerous.”

“It’s all right, you’re doing great.” Harry rubbed soothing circles down her back. Albus kept his eyes downcast, but James and Lily stared at Ginny with rapt attention.

“I poured my heart into that book and it - it answered me back.”

This finally caught Albus’s attention enough that he looked up. His eyes met Harry’s, and Harry tried to give him a reassuring smile.

“But the more I wrote, the more… alive… it became. And I was…” She choked back a sob and launched herself from the loveseat to pace. She hummed quietly to herself, but Harry heard the desperation in the sound. He got up to hug her close. Ginny buried her face in his neck and stuttered, “I can’t… I’m so sorry but I can’t say those words again.”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to.” He rubbed her back and kissed her head. “It’s all right. Do you want to go lie down?”

She nodded and without looking at the children, she ran from the room. Harry sighed and collapsed into the loveseat.

“Is Mum going to be okay?”

“Of course she will, Lily-bud. This is just hard for her. She’s got another session with Healer Davies scheduled for tomorrow and twice next week. It’ll help.” He scrubbed at his face and sighed. “That diary… it used to belong to Voldemort. And it started to possess your mother.”

Three gasps met this statement. “But… but she’s… she was just eleven?”

“Wasn’t that when you killed the basilisk?” James asked.

“Yes. We kept the rest of it quiet. As far as anyone knows, she was in the Chamber of Secrets as a hostage. But really Voldemort was stealing her life force to fuel his own. I killed the basilisk and destroyed the book that housed him.”

Lily cried silently, her hand grasping tightly to Albus. His misery pulled painfully at Harry and he tried to reassure him. “It wasn’t your fault, Albus. You didn’t know and that’s our fault. We shouldn’t have kept it secret for so long. It’s always been a difficult thing for her and she pushes it away as much as she can. That’s our mistake, not yours.”

But he could see it wasn’t enough. That afternoon, when the books arrived from Scrivenshaft’s, Harry and Ginny spent an hour going over diagnostic spells, and even taking turns writing in it. The next morning, they knocked on Albus’s door for a private conversation.

Ginny sat on Albus’s bed, smiling gently. “Albus, I want to say again how sorry I am. That I lost my temper, that I destroyed your notebook, that I - I pulled my wand on you. I thought these things were past but… I guess it’s always just there under the surface.”

She handed him the two new notebooks and ink pots. “These are the journals your father bought. I thought we could go to the Malfoy’s house and deliver one to Scorpius.”

Albus looked up in surprise, first at Ginny, then over her shoulder at Harry. Harry nodded encouragingly.

“I know I’ve behaved badly, and I’m sorry. Your father has tried to impress on me how important your friendship with Scorpius is. And maybe now you understand why I resisted.” She rubbed at her temple and sighed. “But this isn’t really about me. I may not like it, but… I want to try. It won’t be easy, I know, but if it’s important to you, I’m going to try.”

Tentatively Albus reached for the books. “Thanks, Mum.” He let her hug him, and promised to dress quickly so they could get breakfast and go to the Malfoy house. Lily hugged him and quietly wished him luck as Ginny, Harry, and Albus went out to the Apparition point.

Albus knocked loudly on the Malfoys’ front door, clasping the book to his chest. Draco opened the door, surprise written all over his face.

“Potters!” He smiled widely, “Please come in.” He stood back to let them in, shaking Harry’s hand as he passed, and nodding to Ginny. “Tipsy!” When the elf appeared, Draco said, “Would you please inform Scorpius that the Potter family has arrived. And then tea in the sitting room, please.” The elf disappeared, and Draco led the way through the house. “This is a pleasant surprise. To what do we owe the honor?”

Harry sat on a small sofa, Ginny pressed stiffly to his side. Albus sat in the armchair next to them, bouncing on the edge of his seat and keeping an eye on the door. Harry attempted a smile at Draco sitting in the other armchair, but it was too grim to be reassuring. “We decided we needed to talk to you, in person. About…” Harry trailed off, but Draco seemed to understand the point well enough.

“And Scorpius?” Draco asked. He looked up as the boy in question came bounding into the room.

“Albus! What are you doing here?” Scorpius laughed and nearly toppled Albus with his hug. “Mr Potter, Mrs Potter. Welcome! What a lovely surprise!” He looked at everyone’s serious faces and his own smile dropped. “Is everything all right?” His voice lowered as he said to Albus, “Is this about the book and why it doesn’t work anymore?”

Albus nodded as Harry said, “Albus, why don’t you go up to Scorpius’s room and let us talk to Draco.” With a last worried glance around the room, Scorpius pulled Albus away. Harry said to Draco, “He won’t say anything beyond that the book was destroyed. We thought it best you tell Scorpius about… all that.”

“I see. Yes, thank you.” Draco’s brows drew down in concern and he hummed in thought. The awkward moment was broken with the arrival of TIpsy and the tea tray. “Thank you, Tipsy. Could you take something up to the boys, too?” The elf nodded and disappeared.

The familiar ritual of pouring tea calmed the tension in the room. Taking care to protect Ginny and her pride, Harry explained about the Scrivenshaft’s notebook, and its destruction, the setback and breakthrough their family shared, and the future plans to bring their families closer together. Draco promised to explain to Scorpius about Riddle’s diary and Lucius’s part in the whole thing. They all agreed to tread carefully in the future, but in a way that would hopefully build bridges between their two families. For the boys’ sake.

But with one thing and another, they never managed to get together for even a single meal or event. And Harry didn’t see Albus’s notebook for the rest of the summer.

--------
Fifth Year, Christmas Holiday
--------

“Hiya Uncle Harry!” Rose said as soon as she rolled through the floo. She hugged him and kissed his cheek. “Dad said he’d be another ten minutes or so.”

“That’s all right. I’m not quite ready to go anyway.” Harry turned to the stairs and yelled, “Albus! Rose is here!”

He came thundering down the stairs with a small stack of notecards in his hands. Harry shook his head, remembering with horror all the revising that went into their OWL year. The two of them immediately launched into a detailed conversation about Goblin uprisings as Albus spread his colorful array of cards out, and Rose unpacked a fresh set from her bag.

“That...is a lot of notecards. And quite a rainbow of color.” How Albus could stand to look at the brightly colored cards was beyond Harry. He felt a headache developing just thinking of staring at all that color.

“I know, but they work better for me than parchments. Single ideas on single cards, arranged in a rainbow.” And indeed, he spread them out in neat, even lines like a rainbow. “Andrew found the spell to color the cards, and now everyone seems to be using it.”

Rose, spreading out her own cards that were similarly colored, shook her head. “It was Scorpius that found it, not Andrew.”

“Yes,” Albus sighed, “thank you for the reminder.” He stuck his tongue out at her and she returned the gesture, then rolled her eyes.

Something about the exchange made Harry realise Albus had lied on purpose to hide Scorpius, a habit he thought they’d moved past. What else had Albus lied about to keep from mentioning Scorpius? Before he could ask, the floo whooshed and Ron rolled through.

“At it already, eh? I do not miss those days.” He hugged Harry in greeting. “Although I wouldn’t say we’ve got it any better with the reports we have to keep filing at work. I’m thinking about quitting and joining George full time.”

“Mate, that’s a conversation for a six pack on another day. Right now, it’s flying.” He turned to Rose and Albus. “Last chance, are you sure you don’t want to come along? We don’t have to do a game, we can just run some drills?”

“No thanks,” Albus said, “we really need to revise.”

“We need study time more than play time right now. Especially since I’m in reserve now, and Albus is off the team.”

Albus hissed, “Rose!” at the same time Harry asked, “You’re off the team?”

“You didn’t tell them?” Rose asked, looking bewildered at Albus.

“What happened?” Harry hoped it wasn’t something awful that had to do with why Albus was lying about Scorpius Malfoy. He sat down on the sofa, and Ron followed suit, looking just as confused as Harry felt.

Albus sighed down at his notecards. “It was just too much. I’m trying to keep up with my schoolwork, but that’s a lot and… between that and Quidditch, I just didn’t have enough time to work on my projects and… something had to give. So I quit.”

“When did this happen? Why didn’t you say anything?”

“It was only a month ago. And I didn’t want to make a big deal about it.” He laid out another line of cards in a rainbow.

Harry met Ron’s eyes and he shrugged. Clapping Albus on the back, Ron said, “See, your mistake was in not saying it in a letter home so they could get over their shock in private. Now, you’re going to have to endure a lecture of some kind from your mother.” He stood and picked up his Quidditch bag. “The secret is to cut her off before she builds steam. We’ll wear her out on the pitch before she gets home.” He jerked his head towards the door. “Let’s go, Harry. We’ve got a game to play.”

They joined Ginny, James, and Lily, along with a variety of other Weasleys for a fun afternoon. While everyone ate a picnic dinner, Harry pulled Ginny away to tell her about Albus leaving the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. And of course, she focused on the complete wrong thing.

“What do you mean he doesn’t want to play anymore? It’s… it’s a family tradition! First he misses this game, and then what? I mean, I know he has his OWLs and all, but what about after?”

“It’s his decision how he spends his time, Ginny, and it was just too much for him. You remember what that was like, all that homework and worry.”

“But this is what we do as a family and now he doesn’t want to be part of it anymore?”

Harry wanted to draw attention to the fact that Albus felt he had to keep his decision a secret, but instead found himself reassuring Ginny that their family would find other ways to bond with each other and Albus in particular. By the time they Apparated home, Rose and Albus were cleaning up their dinner plates. Lily gave them quick hugs, then went up to shower. James began picking at the leftover food, but at the determined look in his mother’s eyes, instead decided to take the bags of gear out to the broom shed.

“Albus, your dad said you quit the Quidditch team…” She likely intended her voice to sound gently questioning, but to Harry it was vaguely accusatory.

He evaded her hug by moving to the cupboard to put the dinner plates away. “Yeah, about a month ago. I just got too busy for it anymore.”

“Me too,” Rose added. “I mean, I moved to reserve, but we both thought it was too much for right now.”

“I just wish you’d told us sooner,” Harry had to say. He hated that his kids might keep secrets from him. It reminded him too much of when he was young and had no one to confide in. Albus shrugged, looking uncomfortable, so Harry changed the subject before Ginny could delve deeper into a topic Albus didn’t want to discuss. “You finished with your revising for the day?”

“Oh yes,” Rose sighed. “I never want to hear about Goblins again. I cannot wait to drop History of Magic! We do not have enough time for this!”

“Oh stop, we have plenty of time,” Albus laughed, lightly elbowing her.

“Liar! You were just complaining about how Scorpius got more time quitting Astronomy club than you did quitting Quidditch!”

Their laughter died when Ginny asked lightly, “So it was Scorpius’s idea you drop Quidditch?”

“Of course not!” Rose said, immediately indignant. “Uncle Nev says it happens every year among the Fifth Years. Penny only goes to choir once a week. Kylie reduced her tutoring hours by half. Andrew only goes to Charms club occasionally. We’re all just swamped with our studies.”

“Right, how silly of me.” Ginny laughed it off, and Rose smiled as she said her goodbyes.

But Harry couldn’t help notice Albus looking tense as he gathered his notecards. He didn’t speak much at dinner, even when Lily asked how his latest project was going.

“It’s kind of stalled,” he said, “while I work out the next set of spells.” He took a bite of his food, closing the subject.

Harry wanted to offer another trip to the Ministry but Albus had turned him down the last two times. It probably wasn’t the most relaxing work environment, but it was better than nothing, right? Although the second time Harry took him, his figurine had been accidentally cracked when a loud knock startled Albus while he worked. He made a mental note to approach Albus about it in private later anyway.

Their silence broke with the noisy arrival of James. “Ooh! Curry! I ate at Uncle Bill’s already but don’t mind if I do!” He served himself a bowl of rice and curried chicken and fell into his chair. “So… Louis said they were portkeying to France on Boxing Day and I could go too if you two said yes. So what do you say?”

Harry made his usual response of, “We’ll have to think about it.”

“This is the part of the discussion where I remind you I’m seventeen and don’t really need your permission.”

“That is very bold of you son, and I admire your audacity. We’ll take that into consideration.” Harry winked at Ginny, knowing already they would let him go. Still, it never paid to let the kids dictate those sorts of things and so they would pretend to have a discussion about it.

“Anyone else have a surprise visit they’d like to arrange four days before Christmas?”

Lily lit up like the Christmas tree. “Oh! Aunt Luna said I could go with her and the boys to pick up Uncle Rolf from Andorra!”

“Not hardly, sweet girl!” Ginny laughed. “You don’t even speak the language! What if you got lost?”

“James doesn’t speak French! And anyway, I won’t get lost.”

“We’ll discuss that too,” Harry said, pinching her cheek just to see her roll her eyes at him. Ginny pursed her lips and Harry knew it was a maybe. Luna used to occasionally take Lily with her on Scamander family trips before Lily and the twins started school. “Albus, you have anywhere you want to go Boxing Day?”

“Er, well, Scorpius is having a thing at his house. I could go there for the day? Maybe overnight?”

“I don’t know,” Ginny said slowly. “Who else is going?”

“The other Ravenclaw Fifth Years. I already know Rose isn’t going because they’re going to visit Aunt Hermione’s family. But I think Penny and Kylie will be there. Thomas said no but Andrew is a maybe.”

“All right. Well, we’ll add that to the discussion.” She smiled at Albus, but Harry knew that smile and braced himself for the fight to come. That night, as they got in bed, behind the privacy wards of their room, Harry opened the discussion. “So, James is a yes. What about Lily?”

“Luna said it was only the three days. Seems like a short enough trip. Probably nothing will go wrong.”

“Yes on Lily. What about Albus?”

Ginny huffed a sigh, “Oh love, you really want to let him go?”

“We said we would try to bring our families closer, to let this friendship flourish. Is it really trying if we deny him the first thing he’s asked for? What if it scares him into never asking again?”

“Good.”

“No it isn’t, Gin. Can you please take this seriously?”

“I’m trying to but…” She growled in frustration. “I hate that family so damn much, and the thought of my child breaking bread with Lucius Malfoy just sets my blood boiling.”

“We don’t even know if Lucius will be there!”

“And if he is? Do you really want our Albus to share a meal with him? Listen to whatever nonsense he spouts off?”

“Are you saying if Lucius isn’t there, you have no other objections?”

Ginny was brought up short by that. “Trust me, I still have objections. But none that will win me this argument.”

“Fine. I’ll owl Draco in the morning.”

When they found out that Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy were visiting from Italy for the holiday, Ginny heaved a sigh of relief. “So that’s a no then?” Her voice went up as though asking a question, but Harry could hear the definite statement in it.

“Fine, but you’re the one to tell Albus.”

And that went over even worse than Harry imagined. No yelling, or arguing, or defiant scheming. Just a shrug of his shoulders and back to his earbuds and knitting as though he’d long since given up hope. It wasn’t fair.

James hugged them all goodbye on Christmas Day, as he left to spend the night with Louis and catch an early morning portkey. Lily had opted not to go with Luna and the boys, so she could spend the day with Albus. They declined the visit to the Burrow with Harry and Ginny, and spent the day playing cards in their pyjamas.

--------
Summer Holiday
--------

Salty sea air, the soothing sound of waves hitting the beach, hamburgers sizzling on the grill, and a cold beer in his hands. Could there be any more perfect holiday evening?

The three boys came tromping in, laughing and talking loudly about their afternoon adventure, breaking the calm but bringing with them a vitality that Harry never tired of. Lily slammed her book shut and squealed in delight at the return of James, Louis, and Albus, excited to hear about their afternoon. She’d been too scared to try hippogriff racing, and had spent the entire afternoon lamenting her solo status at home. Never mind that Harry had offered board games, shopping, the local history museum, or a shell collecting walk as alternatives.

“Oh man, Lils, you should have come with us! You would have loved it! So much wilder than brooms!”

Ginny came onto the porch with a tray of lemonade. “Is that a herd of erumpents or did our boys come back?” She hugged all three boys. “I’m so relieved you all made it home in one piece! Never again, all right!”

James laughed, “No way, we’re definitely going back again tomorrow!”

“Again?” Lily cried. “Ugh, I should have invited Jenna along after all.”

“Yeah right,” James grinned, “you know Jenna would have loved to go racing. Especially if Louis was going.”

Louis nodded in agreement. “I swear that girl would jump into the path of the Knight Bus if I asked her to.”

“Besides,” Harry said, setting the plate of burgers on the table, “this was a family trip anyway and Jenna isn’t family.” He flicked his wand and summoned the other food from the kitchen. They found their seats and started passing plates of food.

“We’ll do something fun together,” Albus said to Lily, “while James and Louis go back.”

“I don’t want you missing out,” she said, plopping potato salad on her plate. “I just didn’t think there’d be so many ‘boys only’ activities.”

“Hey,” James protested. “It’s not boys only, you just didn’t want to go.” He slathered ketchup all over his burger, enough to make Lily wrinkle her nose.

“I know… I just wish Jenna were here. I didn’t think I’d be on my own quite so much.”

“I told you so,” Ginny said in a sing-song voice. “But you didn’t want to…”

“I know, I know. I’ll ask her next time, for Albus’s trip.”

Harry paused in passing the tray of hot chips. “Did you tell Lily to invite a friend?”

“No,” Ginny said. “I asked her if she wanted to invite a friend, because I knew the boys would be doing things together and she might get lonely. But she said no.”

“I thought we were keeping this a family trip. Jenna isn’t family.” He smiled at Lily, “Not that we don’t love Jenna, but it wouldn’t be the same with her here.”

Ginny gave him an exasperated smile. “There’s no need to be so defensive. It was only a suggestion.”

“And if she’d said yes… when were you going to tell me? After Jenna had already agreed to come? Why didn’t you talk to me about it first?”

“The real question,” James said, “is if I brought Louis, and Lily brought Jenna, who would Albus bring?”

The sudden change in subject was met with surprised silence. Although no one spoke his name, phantom echoes of ‘Scorpius Malfoy’ seemed to reverberate off the walls. Harry felt his focus shift from a building disagreement with Ginny to a defence of his younger son. James hated their fights over the Malfoy family, and Harry wondered why he would drop a bomb like that in the middle of dinner.

“Jenna’s got an older brother,” James continued. “Maybe he’d like to come. Have an opinion on that, Albus?”

“No, you berk, I do not have an opinion on Jeremy Newcastle. You think this is the time for that?”

“I’m just saying… no time like the present.”

“That won’t do,” Lily said quietly. “Jenna said he’s got a - erm, he’s dating someone.” Her eyes darted around and back to her plate. “So he’s probably busy anyway…”

Harry stared between the four teenagers, wondering at the subtext he didn’t understand. More secrets? Ginny frowned at him, clearly also not understanding what was happening.

“I don’t want to bring anyone, all right, James? Leave it.”

“Fine, but you’re missing an opportunity here.”

“This isn’t the opportunity I’m looking for.”

Lily smiled into her napkin. “That’s right... everyone knows he’s holding out for Scorpius.”

“Everyone except Scorpius.” At James’s statement, the three of them burst into loud laughter while Albus scowled.

Albus threw his napkin at James, “You fucking git!”

“Albus! Language!”

James and Louis laughed harder at the reprimand, while Lily at least attempted to look contrite.

“Sorry, Albus,” she said, pressing her lips together to suppress a laugh. “Peace?” She offered him one of her chips, and he hesitated only a second before taking it with a small smile. “It’ll be fine. I’m sure Scorpius’ll come along on your graduation trip.”

“As if I’d invite Scorpius in the first place.”

“Hey, don’t say that!” Louis said. “Scorpius would love to come with you! If you just… you know… invited him.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to invite him… It’s that I don’t want to invite him here.” His eyes darted briefly to Ginny, which made her frown. “Just leave it, all right?”

“You’re making a mistake.”

“Fuck off James.”

“Albus…”

“You know what, I’m not hungry after all. I’m going for a walk.”

--------

They hadn’t gotten much clarification from the other children about Albus’s behavior. Just a repeat of, “Albus is going through some stuff.” Normally it made Harry happy to see his children supporting and taking care of each other, but now he missed the days when Lily was still young enough to spill secrets in exchange for ice cream.

Harry and Ginny waited for hours on the porch for Albus to arrive. After a brief conversation, they decided it would be best if Harry talked with Albus alone. Ginny went inside as the stars emerged in full force. Not long after, Albus climbed the stairs to the porch.

“You waited up.”

“Of course I did,” Harry said. “We were worried for you.”

“Yeah, sorry. I shouldn’t have been gone so long.”

He started past Harry into the house, but Harry stopped him. “Wait, sit with me a minute?”

With the sort of defeated sigh only teenagers could really pull off, Albus collapsed into another rocking chair.

“Everything all right with you?”

“Peachy.”

“Albus… what happened at dinner?”

“Nothing happened, Dad. Just James being a berk as usual.”

“It sounded like something specific.” He set his own chair rocking gently. “Something about Scorpius. You know we’re trying to make that situation better.”

Albus laughed bitterly. “This is trying to make it better? I’d hate to see what it’s like if you and Mum were actively trying to keep us apart.”

Blunt would have to do. “Why don’t you want Scorpius here?”

Albus stared out at the crashing sea, then sighed to himself. “Scorpius is… he’s special. Funny, clever… just... so brilliant, you know?” He looked at Harry briefly. “And no matter what Mum says about getting better, she still flinches when I mention him. And I don’t want him to see it. To know how much she hates him or his family. I don’t want him feeling less than he is.”

They rocked silently for a few minutes, while Harry pondered a response. It was true that Ginny still tensed when the Malfoys were mentioned, but they had spoken once or twice about inviting them to dinner anyway. But nothing had come of it yet.

“I can understand she doesn’t want him in her house. I get it. But she won’t let me go there either, and that’s harder to understand. It’s not like Lucius Malfoy is there all the time or anything. He’s in Italy nearly all the time, just visiting at Christmas and a week or two in the summer to see Scorpius.”

“I think it’s that she has no say in your schedule while you’re at school. But over the holidays, she can decide where you go and who you see, and that’s her one chance to show you that you don’t need Scorpius at all.”

“That’s not healthy, Dad. Surely you can see that!”

“I know… she’s working on it, in her own way.”

“Sure she is…”

“She is, but it takes time to change things.”

Albus rocked his chair faster and faster, the boards creaking loudly under him. “Do you know what it’s like to be with someone all day, every day? I wake up in the bed next to Scorpius, brush my teeth over a shared sink. Eat all my meals, go to all my lessons with him. We revise together and spend free time together. We hang out with Andrew and Thomas, or Rose and Penny. We go to bed at the same time, and wake up the next day to repeat the whole thing all over again. We pretty much never spend any time apart.”

Harry remembered those days, spending all his time with Ron and Hermione. And then the weeks at the Dursleys that stretched between school terms when loneliness pressed in.

“And then I come home and we have to plan letters back and forth like a military campaign so she doesn’t see the owls. I’m not allowed to visit him, he’s not allowed to visit me. And I have to wait, week after week, until I can see him again. I don’t know what to do with myself. It’s like a limb is missing. It’s so damn hard, and all she says over and over again is, ‘I’m trying.’ So yeah, I get it that she’s struggling, but so am I and doesn’t that count for something?”

Harry swallowed the thick lump in his throat. It didn’t seem healthy of Albus either, to put so much of his happiness into another person. Especially when he had so many people that loved and cared for him. But he remembered like it was yesterday what it felt like at sixteen to be left without his friends for the summer. And his heart hurt for his son. “Albus… I’m so sorry…”

“Yeah, I know. Everyone’s always sorry, but nothing ever changes.” He crossed the porch to the door. “Good talk, Dad.”

--------

Three weeks later, Ginny and Harry began making plans for his birthday while preparing dinner. He felt forty-two was too old to be hosting a party and tried to convince Ginny that the two of them should go away by themselves for that weekend.

“But the kids…”

“They’ll be fine!” Harry insisted, as he chopped vegetables. “James will be at the Magpies training camp, and Albus and Lily are sixteen and fourteen! They can handle two nights without us. Please… doesn’t that sound more fun than a dumb party where we have to socialise?”

“Harry… you really want to go away?”

He set his knife aside and pulled her close, nuzzling into her neck. “Doesn’t that sound much more fun?” He swayed them side to side. “Just you and me at some romantic, remote cabin… no kids or responsibilities…”

“We have plenty of time without the kids! They’re all leaving in just a few weeks! Don’t you want to spend your time with them?”

“Well yes… but I’d sacrifice the two or three days to avoid whatever party you’re planning.”

“Harry, you are too ridiculous for words!” She gave him a playful slap on the shoulder, then sagged into him with a sigh. “Fine… I’ll find somewhere fun for us, and see if my parents are available.”

“Excellent!” He slapped her on the arse and resumed chopping the vegetables. “Your parents are going on their anniversary trip the week after. Want to see if the kids have friends they want to visit for the weekend?”

The pot in Ginny’s hands slipped and slammed the top of the cooker. She turned to him with a cold stare. “Harry James Potter. Are you manipulating me with your birthday plans to get Scorpius and Albus together for the weekend?”

Harry set his knife down with a sigh. He went around the island to take hold of Ginny’s hands. “My dearest wife, I love you so very much, but I want you to stop for just a moment, and consider your words. And how mad you sound.” She jerked her hands from his and crossed her arms. “I didn’t pick when my birthday would happen, and I certainly didn’t plan the trip for your parents. All I said was they might want to visit friends instead of staying home alone.”

“What about Ron and Hermione?”

“I don’t know… you could ask them, but I know Lily has been missing Jenna since the missed opportunity at the beach.”

“And Albus has been missing Scorpius? That’s your real end goal, isn’t it?”

“It’s not my goal but it’s certainly a side benefit. Albus misses him, Gin, and you can hardly blame him. They spend all their time together at school -”

“Exactly. And they can survive a summer apart.” She swished her wand wildly to fill the pot with boiling water, then cursed when some of it spilled.

“You’re being too hard on him. And it’s… Ginny, you’re driving him away.”

“I’m not driving him away! I’m looking out for him!”

Out of habit, Harry set up privacy wards around them even though the kids were out of the house. “No, you’re driving him away! He’s closing in on himself little by little, and one day, he won’t open back up to us. He’ll be gone and we won’t see him again.” He scraped the vegetables into the saucepan and summoned the marinating chicken from the fridge.

“Don’t be ridiculous! Albus would never leave his family behind like that.”

“Oh no? What happens after school? You didn’t want to go to the Burrow after Hogwarts so you spent six weeks at Luna’s flat before leaving for the Harpies. What if Albus decides to get a flat with Scorpius instead of coming home? What if he does comes home for a visit and you’re full of piss and vinegar about his living situation? Then maybe he decides he doesn’t want to come home anymore. Don’t you see? This is our crossroads. Scorpius isn’t going away so either we accept it and keep Albus, or we reject it and Albus leaves us.”

“No, that won’t happen.” She shook her head and dumped rice into the boiling water.

Harry noticed the tense set of her shoulders, but still wanted to drive the point home while the kids weren’t around to hear. “I’m telling you it’s already happening! You’re forcing him to choose between Scorpius and you, and right now, you’re losing!”

“No… that’s…” Ginny groaned in frustration. “I’m trying here, Harry. But it’s so hard!”

Harry crossed his arms to keep from hugging her, which would weaken the impact of his words. “You’re not trying hard enough.”

“I’m doing my best! Healer Davies said -”

“You haven’t seen her in months, Ginny! And it’s been a year since the journal and you haven’t done a single thing differently since then.”

“Yes I have! I - I -”

He covered the pan to let everything simmer. “Trying, Ginny, would be letting us connect our floo to the Malfoys’ so the boys could chat sometimes. Trying would be not muttering passive aggressively whenever you see Albus sending an owl. Trying would be meeting Draco for tea sometime. Trying would be making some kind of overture towards the Malfoys.”

“Why should I? Why can’t Albus be the one to see things from my point of view and realize the Malfoys aren’t what they say they are?”

“Because he knows them and he knows you and he made a choice. All you know is what you learned thirty years ago, and you haven’t bothered to see they’re different now.”

Ginny made a dismissive sound, “I’ve got centuries of history to back me up.”

“That is fucking useless and you know it! Draco isn’t Lucius! He’s different, all right? He has a fat, lazy cat he named Mr Snuggles. He takes a week off every month to run a soup-kitchen style dispensary for Wolfsbane, no questions asked. He’s raising his son to be caring and thoughtful, and everything he wasn’t as a kid. But you’re not giving it -”

He stopped when they heard Lily yell as she slammed into the wards. “Ow! Dad! Why aren’t the wards colored? Quit snogging in there and make me dinner!”

Harry gave them a few seconds to calm down before letting the wards down with a smile. “Sorry, sweetheart, we got carried away talking about my birthday.”

“Gross, but all right. How’s dinner coming along?”

Harry stirred the veggies and chicken. “It’s nearly done. How was the film?”

“Ugh, predictable. He was a complete idiot the entire time but she fell in love with him in the end anyway.” She nodded at James and Albus as they came in. “The boys liked it though.”

“Had some pretty decent chase scenes,” James said, peering into the pots on the stove.

“It’ll just be a few more minutes.” Harry set the prep dishes washing and turned to the kids. “So… we were talking about my birthday.”

“Is there going to be a party,” James whined. “We’re already having a party…”

“No. No party,” Harry said, smiling when James relaxed. “Next week is the party to say goodbye to James, and so a week later, your mum and I thought we’d go away for the weekend instead of a second party for my birthday.”

The kids turned to Ginny and she smiled widely.

“Yeah so, James, you’ll be with the Magpies, and Albus and Lily, we thought you two could stay with friends.”

“Or Ron and Hermione,” Ginny added as she summoned plates. She handed the first one to Lily.

Lily spooned rice onto her plate. “Yeah, that’s great. I’ll owl Jenna about it.”

“Sure,” Albus agreed. “I can see if Andrew’s free.”

“Or Scorpius,” Harry said with a smile.

All three kids froze, Lily on her way to the table, James dropping chicken and veggies on his plate, and Albus clutching his plate to his chest.

His eyes darted to Ginny, then back to Harry. “Really? I can visit Scorpius?”

“Yes, your mum and I talked about it and it seemed like a good time.”

“Really?” Albus grinned at them, and set his plate down. He threw himself at Ginny in a tight hug, then pressed a smacking kiss to her cheek. “Mum, that’s brilliant! I’m going to owl him now!” With a loud clatter he ran up the stairs.

“Mum,” James said, also giving her a hug. “You’ve made his day. His month! We’re never going to hear the end of it now.”

“It’s worth it,” Ginny said, with a small smile, “to see him so happy.”

Chapter Text

--------
Sixth Year, Christmas Holiday
--------

When Luna invited them to a Disney themed New Year’s Eve party, Harry agreed because he thought it would be good, clean fun but then Ginny said they should go as Ariel and Eric from the Little Mermaid and Harry had his doubts about Ginny in a lavender bra and tight fitting turquoise skirt where everyone would see him seeing her and that look on his face was meant for Ginny alone to witness but then she showed him her dress and oh she meant the peasant dress Ariel wore driving through town with Eric and all right he could go along with that and it was back to good, clean fun until he saw his boys dressed and ready to go and wondered at what the fuck Disney was trying to pull with such slutty characters.

He was getting too old for this.

James, home from training camp for the Christmas holiday, was dressed as Hercules. He’d changed his eye color to blue, and tamed his red curls with Sleekeazy. But what set Harry’s stomach churning was the short, belted tunic that was a little too form-fitting. Clearly, he’d been training hard, if all the muscle on display was any indication.

“That’s quite a… revealing outfit you have there, James.”

James held a leg out and grinned, “That’s how they drew him, Dad.”

“Besides,” Albus laughed, “he’s hoping that Margaret Moore will be there to take notice, since so many Ravenclaws were invited.”

Albus was no better dressed as Aladdin. How had Harry never noticed Aladdin wore no shirt? The tiny waistcoat barely covered anything! Not to mention the low-slung, loose trousers! He’d also charmed a little stuffed monkey to sit on his shoulder and chatter occasionally, just like Abu, which Harry had to admit was adorable.

“And you,” Harry said, giving him a quick once over. “Is there a Jasmine you’re trying to attract?”

“Not really,” Albus said with a blush, fiddling with the monkey’s tail around his neck. Harry smiled to himself, making a mental note to keep an eye out for the witch Albus hoped to snog at midnight.

Lily, dressed in a deep olive green gown as Merida from Brave, followed Ginny into the sitting room, her hair a wild mass of curls. “We’re ready!”

“You look beautiful, sweetheart!” Harry said, moving to kiss her temple.

“Don’t mess up my hair! It took me forever to get it like this!”

“You mean it took me forever,” Ginny laughed. She tilted her head for a kiss on the cheek from Harry. “You look so handsome!”

“Thank you!” Harry looked down at his simple peasant shirt and black trousers tucked into thick, black boots. “Are we ready then?”

“James, you go on. I’ll get Lily. Harry, you get Albus.” They all filed out of the house to Apparate, so they didn’t get floo powder on their costumes.

The party was still in its early stages when they arrived. Ginny wanted to get there early to help Luna with any last minute things that needed doing, but Luna and Rolf seemed to have everything in hand. People streamed in over the next hour, spilling out of the house and into the garden, where layers of warming charms kept the winter chill at bay.

“Is that -” Ginny whipped around to Luna. “Did you invite the Malfoys?” Harry saw them in the garden, Draco smiling at Scorpius as he put on a fake white beard.

“Of course I did,” Luna said with a smile. She looked ethereal dressed as the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio. “The boys invited pretty much all of Ravenclaw House and nearly half of them showed up. Besides, we’re friends.”

“Friends? Since when?”

“Since I had trouble conceiving and Draco brewed us a fertility potion.”

Ginny followed the path of twelve year old Lorcan and Lysander as they ran shrieking and laughing through the house, dressed as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Two boys dressed as Captain Hook and Smee ran after them.

“You - but - why didn’t you say anything?”

“I know how sensitive you are about it,” Luna said gently, wrapping a hand around Ginny’s waist. “It’s all right if you don’t like him, we understand.”

“Understand?” Ginny pushed Luna’s arm away and crossed her arms. “Luna, his family locked you in a cellar!”

“I know,” Luna laughed. “And if I didn’t forgive them,” she tapped her temple, “I’d still be there.” She hugged Ginny, even though her arms were still crossed defensively across her chest, then kissed her on the cheek. “We all move on at our own pace. It’s okay if you haven’t yet.”

Ginny reeled back as though slapped, but Luna had already turned away to other guests. Harry held her close and whispered, “Are you all right? Want to go home?”

“No,” she said, clearing her throat. She smoothed her dress down and shook her head. “No, I’m all right.”

But Harry could see she was more shaken than she wanted to let on. Luna always did have a way of cutting through to the heart of a thing. He kept a close eye on Ginny, staying nearby in case she needed him. And at midnight, they shared a sweet kiss.

“To another year together,” Harry said, as usual.

“It’ll be the best one yet,” Ginny responded with a smile.

He returned the smile and stole one more kiss before looking around for the kids. He endured hugs and handshakes from random people until he finally found the knot of his children, who had naturally gravitated together. Albus, blushing at his feet, nodded at Lily and she shrieked loudly and pulled him into a hug. James grinned too, and ruffled Albus’s hair, nearly dislodging his little hat. Harry smiled at the three of them, wondering who had snogged Albus to put them all in such a good mood.

Another round of drinks passed, and then dancing began. Harry tried to see if any particular witch danced with Albus, but the kids all seemed to move in one large, teeming mass with no order or sense of any kind. At one point, as the crowd thinned, he saw him talking to Scorpius, dressed in an oversized red robe and a gold scarf, but that was hardly unusual.

While Ginny went to round up the other kids for the trip home, Harry took the opportunity to say a few words to Draco.

“Nice costume.”

Draco tugged at his white beard, and smoothed it over his blue robe. “Thank you! Scorpius is Arthur from the Sword in the Stone, so I came as Merlin.”

“Nice. Ginny and I did Ariel and Eric from the Little Mermaid.” He nodded in the direction of the boys. “They seemed to have a good time tonight.”

“Indeed they did. A big night for them.” Draco smiled when the boys looked in their direction. Albus whispered something to Scorpius, who shook his head.

“Oh yeah? Did Scorpius find someone special to kiss at midnight, too? Albus tried to not let on, but he was definitely trying to catch some witch’s eye. Given his blushing at midnight, I’d say he succeeded.”

Draco frowned at Harry and slowly said, “Yes… something like that.” He raised a hand to Scorpius. He whispered to Albus and the two boys started across the room to them.

“I wonder how long it’ll take for him to introduce us to her.”

“Mm, who knows. Best not make a fuss about it so you don’t make him nervous.” Draco quirked a funny smile, making Harry think he knew more than Harry did. Probably Albus told Scorpius about his crush, and Scorpius told Draco since they didn’t seem to have any secrets between them.

A twinge of jealousy made Harry squirm a little.

“Albus,” Harry said as the boys approached. “You about ready to go?”

“Er, yeah.” Albus licked his lips nervously and gave Scorpius a smile. “I’ll… try to write…”

“Liar,” Scorpius laughed. “But it’s fine.” He hugged Albus briefly. “It’s only a week and a half.”

Albus nodded, biting his lip. The air around them felt charged, and the hairs on the back of Harry’s neck stood up. What was he missing?

Draco plucked at Scorpius’s sleeve. “Come along, Scorpius. We need to make our goodbyes to Luna and Rolf.” They walked away, Scorpius looking over his shoulder and waving at Albus.

Albus sighed, “I guess we can go too.”

“Did you have a good time?”

The wide grin returned and Albus’s cheeks flushed a light pink. “The very best time.”

--------

Harry groaned as he crawled into bed. “I’m too old for this. I don’t even remember the last time I stayed up until nearly two in the morning!” Ginny smiled absently and curled up next to him.

Nox,” Harry whispered, plunging them into a comforting darkness. He set his wand on the bedside table and heard it roll to the floor. Inwardly he groaned, imagining future him trying to find it in the morning. But the wards were set and there was no need to bother about it now. Instead he wrapped his arms around Ginny and sighed into her hair. “Are you doing all right? You seemed off all night.”

“Yeah… I’m fine.”

Harry stroked her back and brushed her hair away from her face. “Was it Luna?”

Ginny sighed, “Yes.”

“Oh love, it’s all right.” Harry gathered her more tightly against him and kissed her head.

“I don’t want to be trapped there anymore! But I don’t know how to be different! I almost died, Harry!”

“Yeah, and I did die, but that’s all behind -”

“Don’t!” she yelled as she shot out of bed. “Lumos!” Her arms were crossed as she stared him down in the sudden, bright light. “Don’t you dare compare those two situations! You knew! You knew what was happening and embraced it willingly! I was - I was taken, Harry!”

“I know. I know. Fuck, I’m sorry, Ginny and you know I didn’t mean -”

“You don’t know what that was like! You can never know! Waking up and not knowing where you were or what you did. And the smell of blood…. Fuck!” She sniffed and covered her face. “Laying there in the Chamber, and feeling like I’m underwater… the sounds muffled and so far away and the pressure and feeling myself die… How can I let that go? How do I move on from that?”

“I don’t know, Ginny. By living, really living and cherishing the happiness around you!” Tentatively he wrapped his arms around her, and nearly sighed in relief when she relaxed into the embrace. “You have me, even if sometimes I’m a shit husband.”

She huffed a laugh, “You know you’re a great husband, you berk.”

“We have three beautiful children, and so many people we love that it would take me the rest of the night to list them all.”

“But I’m still there, thinking about it. I don’t want to think about it anymore!”

“I know.” He leaned back to cup her chin for a soft kiss. He guided her back to bed and under the covers. “Consider that for years, you didn’t think about it at all. That the kids, the Harpies, the house, me… all of it took up your thoughts and attention and now… Now the kids are growing up, making lives of their own and you’re not thinking about them in the same way.”

“And the Malfoys are back in our lives…”

“They didn’t do this to you, Ginny. That was Voldemort. And it’s time you really consider the past in a way you haven’t had to before. Without the kids to distract you, it’s flooding back. I think you should let it, so you can look at anew. With a grown-up, mature perspective, instead of as an eleven year old you with no therapy whatsoever.”

She pressed herself to his side, burying her face in his neck. “You think I can get better?”

“I know you can. You’re the strongest person I know, Ginny. And I’m here for you. For whatever you need.”

“I’ll firecall Healer Davies tomorrow.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

--------
Summer Holiday
--------

“Harry, darling, so very good to see you!”

Harry suppressed his groan and pasted a smile on his face for his least favorite socialite, Matilda Cunningham. Her cloud of perfume made his eyes water, distracting him enough that he couldn’t prevent her hand snaking around his arm. He was in for it now, as she was likely to stay there for half the night. Damn Ginny and the Weasleys for leaving early!

While Matilda chattered on about the absolutely brilliant artwork she’d seen all night, and the fabulous pastries, and the truly decadent wine, Harry looked around for Albus. Hopefully he was enjoying the limelight.

Blaise and Pansy Parkinson sponsored a gallery of up and coming young artists and had offered Albus a space for their summer collection. Albus and three other artists featured their work, nearly all of it for sale, in the hopes of getting their names out there.

Of course, Albus didn’t need help ‘getting his name out.’ At least half of the people attending tonight were merely doing so to grab hold of anything to do with the Potter family. But Harry knew there were plenty of people interested in actual art that would appreciate Albus for his talent and not his name. And Albus retained final say in who purchased his pieces.

“Blaise, darling, how did you manage to snag someone as talented as young Albus?” The shimmery bits on Matilda’s elaborate robe caught the light and momentarily blinded Harry. He never understood high fashion. What was wrong with plain, no-nonsense robes?

“Lucky me, I have a bit of an ‘in’ with the family,” Blaise said with a charming wink.

Harry laughed lightly, hating the sound of his own fake laugh. Ugh, he hated this shit. But when Albus said Scorpius’s Aunt Pansy offered him a showing, Harry happily agreed to attend in support. Ginny and a few other family members had been there for the early set-up and pre-party, leaving the actual event to Harry. While it wasn’t exactly a fair split of parenting duties, he knew if he didn’t stay the whole night, people would question his whereabouts, whereas Ginny wouldn’t be missed in the same way. Harry took another glass of wine from a passing tray and took a large gulp.

“Tell me, which of Albus’s pieces is your favorite?”

“Oh I haven’t seen them yet!” Matilda laughed. “But I’ve heard nothing but praise all night!”

“Well you don’t want to miss out. Shall we?” Blaise offered her his arm, but she clasped harder to Harry.

“I’m sure Harry would love to show me the way. Wouldn’t you, Harry?”

He coughed lightly. “Of course. It’s this way.” He guided her in the direction of Albus’s room.

As they walked, Matilda stopped every few feet to talk with everyone they passed, to be sure they saw her on Harry’s arm. If he wasn’t careful, there would be rumors in the paper… only now that Ginny worked at the Prophet they tended to run the stories by her first, which always sent her into fits of giggles, and corrections that led to the story being dropped.

Finally they made it to Albus’s room, a well-lit, open space. Harry discreetly nodded at Albus, standing in the center with Scorpius, and another man and woman, discussing the hippogriff figurine flying around a mountaintop base.

Landscapes and portraits in both moving and still form lined the walls. Albus had a good eye for which pictures should move, and which should be still. None of the portraits were for sale, as they were all of family members and none of the Potter-Weasley family felt comfortable with their portraits in other people’s homes.

On stands of varying levels in the center of the room were his signature animals and insects. Harry’s favorites were the delicate copper butterflies fluttering around their flower bases. But there were creatures of all kinds that Albus had animated in a lifelike manner - a niffler, a crup, a pair of unicorns (mother and baby), and an asp. He spent weeks studying their movements and then layered charms to move the creatures around their bases in a way that felt real, even in miniature. These could be purchased, or else commissioned as a special request.

Matilda gushed over each piece, and even though Harry believed Albus was the most brilliant designer he’d ever seen, every word grated on his nerves. How could anyone be so fake for so long? Did she ever have a real thought in her head?

Just as guilt hit him for being so uncharitable, Matilda stopped chattering with a small gasp. They’d reached the back corner of the room where Albus’s masterpiece stood in a special case. It was a ballerina, in a flowing, knee-length dress. Like the animals, the eight inch figurine was animated to move in a realistic way. What made her more complex was the way her dress shifted and moved along with her. Albus had worked endless hours to get the fabric to sway and cling, so that she looked like a real dancer in miniature.

“Oh,” Matilda breathed quietly. “It’s so… she’s… beautiful.” Taken aback by the simple phrasing, Harry looked, really looked, at his companion. Her face held a sadness he didn’t understand as she reached out for the glass.

Harry had to smile at her sweet, child-like reaction. Probably the most real thing he’d ever seen from her. “She can move faster...” Harry tapped the back of the display with his wand and the dancer’s movements increased in speed. “Or slower…” He tapped it again and the movements slowed until it hardly seemed she moved at all. “That’s my favorite, because you don’t even notice her moving, but then you look back and she’s in a completely new position.” A third tap had the ballerina moving at the speed Albus had originally set.

“Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.” Suddenly, she became aware of where they were and blinked rapidly for a moment. Gently she pressed a hand to her eye. “I’ve got something… erm…” She laughed nervously and looked around. “Blaise! Darling!”

Blaise had followed at a distance and nodded politely as he joined them by the ballerina. “Stunning, isn’t it?”

“Indeed. How much is it?”

“Oh it isn’t for sale. That one is display only.”

“Nonsense, everything is for sale. Where is Albus? Surely he would negotiate.” Her eyes focused on the ballerina again. “I simply must have it.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” Baise nodded politely to them both and left to speak with Albus. Harry noticed him talking with Scorpius, alone now, their heads pressed close together. Albus normally hated to be the center of attention, but seemed to be enjoying the praise of his art. He certainly deserved it after all his hard work. He listened to Blaise for a moment, then followed him to Harry and Matilda.

“Albus, darling, you are absolutely brilliant! Tell me, how much is the ballerina? I simply must have it for my collection!”

“You have a collection?” Albus asked, looking at Harry for his reaction. Harry wanted to share with Albus the touching moment he’d witnessed, but didn’t know how with everyone watching.

“Oh yes!” Her voice quieted as she looked at the dancer again. “My mother.” She cleared her throat and pasted on her fake smile. “My mother was a prima ballerina of some renown. Until an injury ended her career.” Her smile faded as she turned back to the display. “I have a collection that reminds me of those happier days. Portraits, mostly. Statues as well. But I’ve never seen one so… so very real.” Her voice softened as she touched the glass. “It reminds me of her.”

“Oh.” Albus stared at her profile for a moment. “You should just have it.”

“What?” The unguarded response surprised Harry. He’d never heard Matilda Cunningham say something so plebeian.

“You can have it. My gift to you. For the memory of your mother.”

“Oh,” she said softly. Her back stiffened and she gave him another fake smile, determined to keep her ‘party face’ on. “Nonsense, you deserve something for your marvelous talent. A thousand galleons, at least.”

Albus’s eyes opened wide. “I - I couldn’t… I’m -”

“Nonsense. A thousand galleons and I’ll pay Blaise’s commission as well. You deserve it.” She inclined her head at Blaise. “Deliver it to me tomorrow morning, no later than ten.”

“Of course, my dearest,” he said, taking her hand and kissing the back of it. “Shall we handle the paperwork then?”

“Wonderful.” She gave Blaise two air kisses, then did the same to Albus. “You’re quite talented, Mr Potter, and I look forward to your next show.”

--------

Blaise ushered out the last few guests, then rounded up his artists for a last congratulations. While he made arrangements with one of the other artists for a special request, Harry, Albus, Scorpius, and Draco gathered in Albus’s room, looking over the displays one last time for the evening. Most of the pieces would stay in the gallery for the next three weeks, until it was time for the next set of displays.

Albus collapsed into a chair with a happy sigh. “I can’t believe I sold nearly everything!”

“I believe it!” Scorpius laughed, sitting next to him. “You’re amazing! I told you!”

Harry sat on Albus’s other side. “I’m so proud of you, Albus. This was quite impressive! What a night!”

“It doesn’t have to end here,” Blaise said as he joined them. “Pansy was sad to miss out, and wanted to invite you all for drinks at our house.”

Draco clapped him on the back. “I never did get to ask why she didn’t come. She loves an opening night.”

“Alas,” Blaise sighed and clutched his heart, “she had a last minute rendezvous with the young man that has stolen her affections from me!”

Draco laughed, “Ah, Benjamin in town?”

“For the weekend. So what do you say? Drinks at ours?”

Albus looked at Harry expectantly. Harry held out his hands. “Whatever you like, son. This is your night!”

“Let’s go!”

Harry sent a Patronus to Ginny to notify her of their plans, then followed everyone through the floo. He didn’t know what he expected of the Zabini household, but Pansy Zabini in fluffy pyjamas with puffskeins printed on them, and a baby on her hip was definitely not it.

“Benjamin!” Draco cried out when he saw the baby. “Did you miss your Uncle Draco?” He took the baby from her and kissed a light brown cheek with a loud kiss. The baby gurgled and drooled happily, then leaned his head and upper body towards Pansy again.

“Ha! Not as much as he missed his Grandmum. Isn’t that right, my dearest boy?” Pansy took the baby back and nuzzled his cheeks. “Potter, it’s good to see you after so long. I read you’re doing well. All that true?” she asked as she led them to the sitting room, completely unabashed that they were in formal wear and she was in pyjamas.

“Er… yeah. James is playing for the Magpies, and that’s going well. He’ll be first string this year, which he’s terribly excited about. Lily is working on her OWLs this year, and Albus on his NEWTs but you probably already knew that.”

“Tell me about the show,” she said, turning to Albus. “Was it a huge success?”

Blaise came in at last and sat next to Pansy on the sofa. “Pips is on his way to take drink orders.” He leaned in to kiss Benjamin. “Everything went perfectly! Albus sold nearly everything. Waters and Jamison sold about half, and McDonald a little less, but overall a success. Albus here made a tidy sum on his pieces.”

“Oh excellent! I’m so sorry I had to miss it, but Zachary dropped the baby off at the last minute and I never turn him away.”

A little house elf in a pristine white tea towel popped in and bowed low to everyone. “Drinks, anyone?” Blaise asked.

“Just water for me,” Albus said. “Tallest glass you have. I’m not sure when I last talked so much!”

“Same for me,” Scorpius agreed.

“Perhaps tea for the rest of us? I know I drank my fair share of wine at the event,” Draco said with a little laugh. Everyone nodded and the elf bowed low and popped back out.

“He’s a free elf,” Pansy said to Harry.

“Yeah, that’s fine. Or, I mean…”

“I know what you’re thinking, with the tea towel. But he cries when I buy him clothes. We’re working on it. I just didn’t want you to think -”

“It’s fine. You don’t have to explain to me.” Harry laughed lightly. “You’re wearing puffskein pyjamas and snuggling a small baby. Nothing about this is what I expected.”

Pansy gave him a small smile, then turned to Albus again. “Blaise will fill in all the details for me later, so you tell me things from your perspective. What was your favorite sale? Who did you turn away? If someone cried, I want to hear all about it.”

Harry smiled at his son, brimming with excitement about his successful show, and the friends and family that supported his endeavor. Pansy listened with divided attention, keeping a portion of her focus on the adorable baby, who appeared to be about seven or eight months old. What a strange turn of events, that he would be sharing tea with Pansy Zabini and her grandbaby. A grandbaby. They hardly seemed old enough for that. James was only nineteen and not nearly ready for children yet.

But if he remembered correctly, Pansy had Zachary at a fairly young age. It caused quite the scandal when she and Blaise eloped. His mother had not been pleased, and threatened to cut him off, but she died before she could carry out her threat and the two of them were left with two houses and a sizeable inheritance, along with a small baby.

And now a grandbaby. Pansy kissed the smiling baby and offered him a piece of her biscuit.

“You’re spoiling that baby!” Blaise said playfully.

“You can’t spoil a baby this small!” she responded automatically. “My sweet baby needs a little snack before bed anyway.” He waved his arms, crumbling the biscuit in the process. Pansy yelped when he reached for her face with wet, crummy hands but Blaise rescued her with a cleaning charm on Benjamin’s hands. The baby nuzzled into Pansy and she kissed his head. “Are you tired, sweetheart? Let’s get on to bed.”

“His own bed!” Blaise called as they walked towards the door.

Pansy blew raspberries at him, then left while mumbling about Grandad being a party pooper.

“She spoils that baby,” he told them all with a fond smile.

“Good,” Draco said. “He deserves it.” He patted Scorpius on the leg. “What do you say? Ready to head home yet?”

“Yeah, I guess.” The two boys stood and Scorpius gave Albus a long hug. “I’m so proud of you! I knew you’d be brilliant!” He paused a moment while they just smiled at each other. “Try to owl me this week?”

“I will,” Albus said, but Scorpius was already shaking his head at the lie. Poor Albus was a terrible correspondent.

At home, Harry quietly put up the night time wards, and congratulated Albus one last time as he headed to bed with a wide grin on his face. Harry, exhausted, peeled his robes off and dumped them in a chair to deal with in the morning. He hadn’t expected to find Ginny still awake.

“How did it go?” she whispered as he curled up around her.

“Brilliant! He’s so excited. Everyone loved it.”

“Mm… of course they did, he’s very talented. And - the Zabinis?”

“Oh my word Ginny, Pansy had on her pyjamas when we got there! It felt like some strange alternate universe or an epic prank of some kind. She and Blaise have a little grandbaby. He’s so adorable. About seven months old or so. Can you believe it?”

“Actually he’s… nearly ten months old, I think. Maybe eleven? I remember when he was born and the scandal of it all. But the Daily Prophet got a large sum to bury the story. Typical Slytherins.”

Harry snorted. “First of all… we’re too old to be referring to our Houses. Second, we suppress stories about us all the time!”

“That’s different - you’re a hero!”

“They’re just people, Gin, that don’t want their lives splayed out all over the papers. Can you blame them?”

“That’s what they get for putting themselves in the public eye, good and bad. And their son getting some witch up the duff and then not marrying her is certainly not putting them in the ‘good’ category.”

That didn’t seem entirely accurate to Harry. After all, Zachary Zabini was raising a baby, and Benjamin’s mother was nowhere to be seen. “But helping him raise his baby in a secure and loving home does so just leave it.”

She made a dismissive noise and Harry sighed. “Look, it’s late. I’m tired. And I don’t want to ruin a nice evening. Can we just go to bed and discuss it in the morning?’

Thankfully she didn’t bring it up the next day while Albus shared with Lily and Ginny the highlights from the evening. Harry didn’t need the added stress of Ginny hating yet another family, for reasons that weren’t even entirely clear.

Two days later, Blaise and his assistant came to the house with papers and things for Albus to sign.

“You’re a very rich young man!” Blaise said as his assistant tucked the forms away. He pulled another folder from the briefcase. “I’ve got your Gringotts information here. Does this look correct?”

He passed a form to Harry and Albus, and Harry nodded at the vault number matching Albus’s person vault. Each of the kids had one with a portion of their inheritance inside for emergencies.

“And here is the paperwork for two of the commissions. I have two other meetings with clients this week, and I’ll bring the paperwork for those commissions as soon as I have them. You will receive half the payment immediately, then you’ll have six months to complete the item. You’ll be paid in full upon delivery.”

“I can’t believe I really sold all those pieces.” Albus signed the papers, bouncing in excitement.

Blaise handed the papers to his assistant. “It was an impressive feat. It certainly opens your options for your future.”

Albus took that statement a little more seriously than Harry and Ginny would have liked. He started making little comments that indicated he wasn’t keen on returning to school in autumn. And a Burrow dinner with George, Angelina, and Roxanne only made it worse.

“What does he need his NEWTs for?” George asked. “I certainly didn’t need mine.”

Ginny glared at her brother. “Please do not encourage him! Of course he should finish his education!”

“But why?” Albus sat back in his chair, crossing his arms. “I barely escaped having to repeat my OWLs and these NEWT level classes are ten times worse!”

“Because some NEWTs are better than no NEWTs!”

“Are they, though?” George interjected, earning him another glare. “He has a chance to start a real career in his chosen field. Why would you deny him that?”

“He can still work on those things around his school work, just like he has so far.”

“But wouldn’t it be easier for him to focus on his art if he doesn’t have an education he doesn’t need distracting him? If it doesn’t work out, he can take the NEWTs then.”

“George, can you please try to be a responsible adult here?”

“Excuse you, I am a responsible adult. I’m a successful business owner that followed his dream and I encourage my children to do the same. When Fred had doubts about his NEWTs, we talked through his options with and without them and what he wanted from life, and he realised it would be a good idea to stay. Can you say the same for Albus?”

“Yeah, I’m thinking about his options too! Sure, he had a popular showing, and I’m so very proud of him for it, but what happens in six months or a year when the next rising star appears? Does he have something to fall back on when he can’t depend on his art anymore? Should he burn through his savings because he can’t get a real job?”

“Please stop talking about me like I’m not here!” Albus finally yelled over them. Everyone stared at him in the sudden silence. “I haven’t made any decisions, I’m just thinking on it.”

“You’re just so young, Albus. Too young to really consider what comes next for you. I don’t want you suffering a few years down the road because you didn’t think ahead enough. I have the perspective of age that you just don’t have.”

“I understand the importance of NEWTs, but honestly whatever job I’m likely to get isn’t going to involve higher education. You know I’d be happier in a cafe or stocking shelves somewhere than working a nine to five job at the Ministry. Will NEWTs help me with that? Probably not.”

“Albus… you have to aim higher than that. How are you going to support yourself on that sort of job? Let alone a wife and children!”

He closed his eyes with a heavy sigh and stood. “Maybe the things I want are not the things you want for me. Maybe I want to travel the world and have new experiences. Maybe I want to hole up in a little flat I never have to leave. Maybe I want a life I build for myself instead of one someone else built.” He summoned his bag from the sitting room. “I think I’m done eating. Can I go home now?”

“Albus -”

“Of course, son.” Harry interrupted. “We’ll be along shortly.” He smiled at Albus and took Ginny by the hand to calm her. Albus kissed his Gran goodbye and rolled through the floo.

“What was that, Harry? Letting him run away again?”

“He hates these kinds of confrontations, Ginny. There comes a point in the conversation when you have to let it go before he does or says something he’ll regret. We can broach the subject again when we’ve all calmed down.”

But they never did seem to calm down enough. Albus tensed whenever the subject was brought up, and retreated into himself. And Harry finally understood about Albus and magic and the art that meant so much to him. Albus was a new creation now that he was free of the Trace.

Before, Albus spent all of his holidays with his earbuds in and his sketchbook in hand. He never seemed to be with them. Distracted, quiet, sullen. That became normal for them.

Now that he was of age, and could use his magic freely, they saw a new side of him. Or rather, the him he was at school. He worked on his art throughout the morning, sculpting his figurines and layering charm after charm over top to animate them. He explored new ideas for different materials, and laughed at his mistakes. He shared funny stories of projects gone bad, and silly successes that delighted his friends at school.

Probably the thing that brought about the biggest change for him, was the connection of their floo to the Malfoy house. Ginny had resisted with every fiber of her being, but gave in when they promised there would be no unauthorized travel between the two homes. Albus and Scorpius could talk if needed, but she didn’t want him flooing over without her express permission.

Right from the beginning, Albus only firecalled Scorpius while Ginny was out of the house. That made Harry suspect Albus flooed over when they were both at work, but he didn’t care. Albus was glowing and happy in a healthy way, and whatever brought that about was fine by Harry.

One Saturday morning, Albus was pulling out of a firecall as Harry came through the sitting room. “Ugh, I hate soot!” Albus lifted the corner of his t-shirt to wipe at his eye, and Harry noticed a suspicious black line on his skin, just above the waistline of his jeans.

“Albus, is that a tattoo on your hip?” he asked in the most curious, least accusatory way he could.

“Oh,” Albus laughed nervously and tugged his shirt down. “Er… sort of. It’s not a real one. I do them for the kids at school. Simple, one line drawings. They last about three or four months, then the magic holding it fades and it’s gone.”

“How clever of you! Can I see it?”

“Erm… “

Normally that sort of hesitation would make Harry retreat. He hated making his kids do things they didn’t want to. But something about Albus’s stance said he was less nervous or embarrassed, and more like he was hiding something. And secrets made Harry nervous.

“If I promise not to tell your mum, would you show me then?” Internally he sighed at the compromise. He didn’t keep secrets from Ginny either, but perhaps he could convince Albus to tell her on his own.

Albus shrugged, “I guess?” He sighed, but then lifted his shirt and lowered the waistband a little to show an abstract, single line drawing about the size of a tennis ball on his upper hip.

“Is that a scorpion?”

“Erm… yes…” he said slowly, pulling his clothes back into place. “I’ve done unicorns and hippogriffs, foxes and rabbits. Even an armadillo!”

“Oh, I see.” Harry paused a moment to take that in. “What did Scorpius get?”

He braced himself for a lie, but Albus blushed too hard to be lying when he said, “A snake.”

“An asp?” Harry asked. He remembered when young Albus, too little to know how to write his name, signed all his drawings with the little snake. He’d been fascinated with asps from the moment he learned his initials spelled a real word.

Albus pressed his lips together, to smother his smile. “Well, they’re just line drawings, so it’s not detailed… but yeah, I guess. I tried to include the stripes a little. I mean, really, are there any other snakes worth drawing?”

“I see.” Harry wasn’t sure he really did see, but Albus seemed to relax a little. “I won’t tell your mum.” At that, Albus sighed in relief.

“Thanks Dad. I know you don’t like keeping things from her. But it’s only a week or so and it’ll be gone. I’d just… rather she didn’t know about it.”

“Okay. Yeah… all right. Erm… I’m sure it’ll be fine anyway.” Harry felt off kilter, like he needed to examine it all with a pensieve for an outside perspective, but that seemed like overkill for… matching tattoos? Well, not matching, but paired up in a way. Was that strange for friends as close as they were?

The significance of the two of them getting the tattoos lingered long after the image itself faded. Albus didn’t say anything about it, or approach Harry with any sort of deep discussion, but Harry still felt there was an element to the whole thing that he couldn’t put his finger on.

When the two letters arrived from Hogwarts, another small argument erupted about Albus’s future. Harry ended it by pointing out they still needed to get Lily’s things, and so to Diagon Alley they would go. The materials they purchased could be donated to the school if he ended up not needing them.

And the timing could not have been more perfect. As they entered Flourish and Blotts for books, a loud, “Albus!” sounded. Every head turned to see Scorpius and Albus grinning in a hug.

“I didn’t know you were coming today too. Why didn’t you say?”

“I wasn’t sure…” Scorpius said with a shrug, his eyes flicking briefly to Harry and Ginny. “But look what I got!” He pulled a sleek phone from his pocket. “Remember Calum Martin working on the tech shields? He got a model to work and my dad bought me one! The sales clerk said it’s been thoroughly tested to work through Hogwarts’ wards.”

Scorpius slid his finger along the screen to unlock the phone and began tapping on the screen. “His team even developed a few apps that can be used in class. Check out this night sky for Astronomy.” He held the phone up to the sky. “See that? It’s the constellations above us. Brilliant, right?”

“Is that a potions one too?”

“Yeah, for calculating bigger or smaller batches. Lists of substitutions. Even a shopping list.” While Albus scrolled through apps, Scorpius continued on. “It’s mainly to keep in touch with my dad while I’m at school but if you get one too… well, we could keep in touch while you’re in London.”

Harry, still blatantly eavesdropping after Ginny and Lily had moved on to find her books, was taken aback that Scorpius knew about Albus’s plan to leave school and supported the idea. He’d secretly hoped Scorpius would talk sense into Albus.

Draco joined them with a stack of five or six books in his basket. “Albus, Harry! What a surprise. Hogwarts shopping, or a coincidence?”

“Hogwarts. Ginny and Lily are somewhere getting Lily’s things. Scorpius is distracting Albus from his task,” he said with a smile.

“Ah yes,” Draco said with a shake of his head. “I’ve finally caved and purchased the artificial intelligence device -”

“It’s just a smartphone, Dad.”

Draco smirked at Harry, who also smothered a laugh. Kids were so easy to rile. “You’re going to have to get one for Albus or I’ll never hear the end of it from Scorpius.”

“Indeed,” Harry said, already thinking about Albus begging him for the portable device that would let him speak to Scorpius at all hours of the day without having to kneel in the sitting room or pen letters. “We’ll look them over once we find the girls. Lily is likely to want one too, if Albus has one. Not a bad idea, though, for keeping in touch with the kids.”

“We’re nearly done here,” Draco said. “Would your family be interested in joining ours for tea?”

“Yeah, I’ll round up Ginny and Lily. Give us maybe half an hour to finish up some things?”

“Absolutely. At Daily Grind?”

“Sounds perfect.” Harry and Albus hurried through the shop, looking for Ginny and Luna. Ginny offered to take their lists and finish the shopping while Harry took the kids to meet Draco and Scorpius. Harry kissed her cheek and whispered, “They’ll know why you took too long if you take too long.”

She rolled her eyes and shooed them off. Harry led them to Daily Grind, a coffee shop near Madam Malkins. Scorpius and Draco were waiting, cups of tea still steaming in front of them. Scorpius and Albus went to the loo, while Harry and Lily ordered some tea and pastries to share.

“Ginevra wriggled out of it again, did she?”

“This excuse was legitimate at least. She’s finishing the shopping. Hopefully she won’t be long.”

“Oh we all know she’ll be exactly long enough,” Lily muttered with an eye roll. “You’d think she’d be embarrassed by the reputation she’s building, but she isn’t.”

“Lily, please be kind about your mother.”

Lily shrugged and sipped at her tea. Draco broke the awkwardness by showing Harry his new phone. Harry had to swallow a giggle when Draco pulled wire rimmed glasses from his pocket.

“Go ahead and poke fun if you like. I’ve been saving barbs about your grey hair just in case.”

“Eh, we’re all getting older. They suit you.”

“Thank you.”

Harry adjusted his own glasses as he looked over Draco’s shoulder. He had to admit the phone was a handy little tool he might enjoy more than he’d initially thought. Ginny, too, for her out of town trips. Kneeling for floo calls was getting more difficult and he was only forty-three.

When Scorpius and Albus returned, Harry was jolted into awareness on how long they’d been gone. Lily winked at Albus, who blushed, and Harry suddenly realised what he’d been missing before with the tattoos.

Albus was with Scorpius.

Of course! How could he have been so stupid? The anger whenever relationships were brought up, the teasing from his siblings, and of course the tattoos. That smile when Albus mentioned the asp on Scorpius. He must have thought himself so clever, signing his ‘name’ on the other boy! Oh, and Draco knew! The New Year’s party at Luna’s, he’d hinted at their relationship and Harry had missed it completely, caught up in expecting a witch to catch Albus’s attentions.

He smiled politely and continued his conversation with Draco, but inside he reeled. He’d have to tread carefully, both with Albus and with Ginny, until he knew enough to support them both as well as he could. This wouldn’t go over well with Ginny, and Albus likely knew it and was too afraid to say anything. But their boy was nearly grown and these decisions weren’t Ginny’s and Harry’s to make.

The two boys automatically moved farther apart as Ginny finally joined them. “Hello everyone. Looks like you’re finishing up?”

“Er yes, nearly…” Harry stood and kissed her cheek. “Just discussing phones and technology. It’s amazing what’s been developed. I think we should go check it out, perhaps get phones for the kids to keep in touch with us a little easier.”

Ginny nodded thoughtfully. “I’m interested in at least seeing it. Shall we?” She looked at Draco and Scorpius with a smile. “You don’t mind cutting our visit a little short, do you?”

“No, of course not,” Draco said as he stood too. “We’ve got dinner plans this evening, so we should be going anyway.”

Lily and the boys stood and the group made their way out of the coffee shop. “This was nice. We should do it again before school starts,” Harry said as he shook Draco’s hand.

“Here’s my number,” Scorpius said, writing in Albus’s sketchbook, “so you can text me as soon as you get your phone. As soon as, got that? I don’t want to stalk your phone later and find some practice texts with Lily, all right?”

Albus laughed, “Of course I’ll text you first. Before anyone else.” He smiled when Scorpius hugged him goodbye.

Scorpius hugged Lily next. “Get my number from Albus and send me a picture of him trying to figure everything out.”

“Will do,” she said, laughing and elbowing Albus beside her.

Within the week, Harry nearly regretted his decision to get them the phones. If only because the kids never seemed to be without them, and the pings and jingles drove him mad. Thankfully, they both silenced their phones full time, but Harry still had to endure them out at all hours of the day, save meals together as a family.

But it was worth the cost of the phone, to show Albus what he would miss if he kept to his idea to move to London. Having near-constant contact with Scorpius only made him miss Scorpius more. Shortly after, the comments shifted to his coming school year and London wasn’t mentioned anymore.

As they waved goodbye to Albus, Lily, Roxanne, Rose, and Hugo on the departing train, Harry made sure to point out to Ginny Scorpius’s role in getting Albus to Hogwarts for his last year of school.

Chapter Text

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Seventh Year, Christmas Holiday
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First there were texts.

Can’t wait to see you!

Actually, I’m thinking of staying at school for Christmas.

But it’s Christmas! And then it’ll be June before we see you again!

I know.

And then there were phone calls. The first told them that Scorpius would be staying at school, along with a reminder from Albus that he was old enough to make his own decisions, and how often they accepted such excuses from James once he’d turned seventeen.

The second phone call included a plea for him to join the rest of the family and even… begrudgingly from Ginny… an invitation for Scorpius to join them for the entire holiday. But all they got in return was a tentative, “I’ll think about it.”

Finally there was the hope he would get off the train with the other Potter-Weasley children. Dashed as soon as Lily stepped out of the train carriage with a sad smile.

On Boxing Day, Ginny took Lily to have dinner with James at the Magpies training camp, while Harry arranged to meet Albus in Hogsmeade.

Outside the school gates, he hugged Albus hello with a smile, and then hugged Scorpius as well. “I like your hat!” The navy blue hat sported bronze snowflakes and a large pom-pom on top.

“Thanks,” Scorpius said, “Albus made it for me. It’s always exactly warm enough, and it repels water.” He shook his head to make the pom-pom on top wiggle. “Also, I look adorable in it.” He held up his hands to show off his matching mittens. “He made the mittens too. He keeps promising the scarf is nearly done but I’ve seen the skeins of yarn still in his trunk so…”

Albus laughed, “You know I’ll be starting any day now!”

“Sure, sure, when the weather is too warm to bother. Good thing I still have my Ravenclaw scarf.” He pulled the scarf tighter around his neck. “Shall we go? It’s so chilly. Supposed to snow again this afternoon.”

“Yeah, I thought you’d be waiting on us in the Three Broomsticks,” Albus added.

“Well, I wanted to talk to you in private and the road down seemed best.”

“Everything all right?” Albus asked as he led the way down the path.

“Yes, everything’s fine. At home and all. I just…” Harry bit his lip, unsure how to proceed. What if he was wrong about his assumption? But the asp hung heavy on his mind. He knew he was right about this! “Albus… Scorpius… Are you two - you know - together?”

Scorpius’s eyes widened and he looked at Albus for his reaction. Although he visibly tensed, Albus kept walking without pause. “I don’t - erm…”

“I’ve had time to think on it and… It’s fine if you are. I - I didn’t say anything to your mother… in case I was wrong.” That made Albus look at Harry, worry in his eyes. He reached for Scorpius, who immediately took his hand.

“You’re not wrong.”

“Okay.” Harry exhaled heavily. “Okay, good to know.” After a moment of silence he said, “I did some reading...”

“Oh Merlin…” Albus groaned.

“Which wasn’t easy, given Aunt Hermione’s nosy nature, and your mum always around… And I brought these books, in case it would help you.” He pulled the books from his robe pocket and handed them to a red-faced Albus. He looked at the two books in horror, but Scorpius reached around him to take the books from Harry.

“Thank you, Mr Potter -”

“Please call me Harry.”

“Thank you, Harry!” Scorpius flipped through the two books quickly. “I’m sure these’ll be more helpful than what we found in the school library.”

Albus groaned again, “Scorpius, please stop talking!”

“My dad sent this one,” he held up the slimmer book, “but this one looks quite helpful as well.”

“Well,” Harry laughed, also blushing now, “glad to be of some help. That bigger one is a muggle book. Maybe give you a new perspective, some advice. It has a really good section on coming out to your friends and family.”

Albus finally stopped walking. “Wait - is that why you’re here? To convince me I should tell Mum?”

“Actually… yes.”

Albus shook his head and started walking faster, pulling ahead of Scorpius and Harry. “No, that’s a terrible idea and I’m not doing it.”

“Albus, I’ve suspected for a few months now, and I didn’t say anything because you were at school and I wasn’t entirely sure. But you can’t hide this forever, and you can’t ask me to hide it either!”

“You can’t be serious! She’s going to completely lose her shit and quite possibly forbid me from ever seeing Scorpius again!”

“I won’t let that happen! We just… can’t keep her in the dark about this!”

“James doesn’t have to go on about all his relationships with her. Why should I?”

“For one thing, your brother does keep us informed on all his relationships. And for another… if Scorpius is going to be in your life for a long time…” He paused while the two boys shared a warm smile, “then you’re not going to be able to hide it. Not in a way that makes sense.”

“We’ve hid it this long!”

“But it’s not sustainable once you leave school! What are you going to do a few years down the line… you’re sharing a flat, holidays, special events or whatever… Do you think that’s going to keep her from mentioning witches you should be dating? A life you should be building away from Scorpius?”

“I can handle a little nagging about getting married.”

“And if one day you want to marry Scorpius. Are you going to hide that from us too?”

That, at last, gave Albus pause. He stopped walking and searched Scorpius’s face. “Do you think he’s right?”

Scorpius took his hands and smiled gently. “Oh Albus, you already know what I think. But regardless of what we want… now that your dad knows, we have to say something. He’s right, you can’t ask him to keep this from her.”

Albus wrapped his arms around Scorpius, burying his face in the Ravenclaw scarf. His voice was muffled, but they all heard clearly, “I couldn’t bear it if she drove us apart.”

“You know that’s impossible.” Scorpius pulled away and cupped Albus’s cheeks. “She can’t stop us being together at school. And while we’re here, she has time to get used to the idea. So next summer when we get a flat together, it’ll be old news.”

Harry relaxed at Albus’s sparkling laugh. “You silly twit,” Albus said, “you know that isn’t true. But I guess I can think on it.” He took Scorpius’s hand and continued down the path to Hogsmeade.

The three of them shared a nice lunch, avoiding the topic of relationships around so many eavesdroppers. When Harry left them, Albus promised to think about telling Ginny.

By the time he made it back home, Ginny and Lily weren’t back yet. He hated how relieved he felt, wanting to put off the ‘How was Albus? What did you talk about?’ conversation for as long as possible. He filled his afternoon with nervous cleaning of an already clean house, just to burn off the frantic energy building inside him.

The work helped, and when he finally started working on dinner, he felt like himself again. He heard the floo whoosh, which was odd since Ginny and Lily would Apparate.

“Dad?”

“Albus!” Harry hurried into the sitting room and found Scorpius rolling through the floo right behind Albus. “Boys! What are you doing here?”

Albus shrugged. “We talked about it all afternoon… and Scorpius was right. I can’t ask you to hide this for me so here I am. Are they back from James’s yet?”

“No, but it should be soon. She didn’t text or send a Patronus saying they would be missing dinner so… Come in, you can sit with me while I finish up.”

They filled the time with idle chit chat while Harry finished the ginger-carrot soup he was working on. He was just putting the sliced bread on the table when the front door opened.

“Harry! We’re home!” Ginny called.

“In here!” he called back.

Lily beat her into the kitchen and shrieked, “Albus!” She smothered him with a laughing hug. “You liar! You said you weren’t coming home at all for the break!”

“Albus, oh my, I can’t believe you’re here!” Ginny joined the hug and gave Albus a kiss on the cheek. Lily moved to hug Scorpius hello too, and Ginny wrapped her arms tighter around Albus. For once, he returned the hug instead of standing awkwardly in her embrace. “Oh my sweet boy, it’s so good to see you!”

“You too, Mum. Sorry I didn’t come home the whole time but… I arranged with the Headmaster to come for the evening.”

“Just the evening?” She wiped her eyes and smiled. “It’s a shame you can’t stay overnight.” Her eyes flicked to Scorpius and Harry thought she deserved points for not frowning. “Both of you.”

“Actually… we just came because I wanted to talk to you about something.” His eyes darted around, and Harry thought he needed rescuing.

“Why don’t we sit down? Dinner’s ready, we can eat while we talk?”

Now Ginny frowned, shifting fully into mum-mode. “Is everything all right? With school? Your health?”

“Yeah,” Albus said, ladling soup into his bowl. “It’s not anything like that.” Scorpius did the same and the boys sat next to each other at the table.

Lily stared wide-eyed at Albus. “Oh,” she said softly. She looked down at the bowl in her hand, and then into the sitting room. Harry wondered if she was considering fleeing the fight to come, or if she wanted to stay and support Albus. Ginny looked at her suspiciously, but Lily avoided her by ladling soup into her bowl. Good, Albus needed all the support he could get.

“Why don’t we sit?” Harry said as he took his place at the table. He was too nervous to eat, but felt relieved Ginny wasn’t. She sat next to him with her own bowl.

“Did something happen?” she asked.

“Well,” said Albus, fiddling with his spoon, “I had a talk with Dad in Hogsmeade today and…” Albus licked his lips and looked at everyone gathered at the table.

“It’s all right, Albus,” Scorpius said quietly. His hand twitched, as though to take Albus’s hand but he held back in the end.

“I - I told Dad…” He laughed nervously and squeezed his hands together in his lap. “I’m gay.”

“What.” Ginny looked at Harry with a confused frown.

Harry held her hand and smiled softly. “He’s gay. And he’s -”

“That’s all I wanted to say,” Albus interrupted.

“- very brave for coming here to say so,” Harry said without pause. “I’m proud of you -”

“Wait a minute!” Ginny said, her voice rising in pitch. “You’re gay? I don’t even - since when?”

“I don’t know. Is there a moment you remember thinking ‘I definitely like men more than women?’”

“Of course not! That doesn’t even make any sense!”

“Well I don’t know what else to tell you. It’s not like I had some ‘big, gay moment’ where a fit guy snogged me senseless or anything.” Beside him, Scorpius laughed into his hand. Albus smiled at him and rolled his eyes. “I just didn’t enjoy the company of the other girls my age like I did the other guys my age and eventually I figured out why.”

“But… you’re so young!” Ginny looked so confused, and Harry could empathise after his own chaotic awareness of the situation. “You’ve hardly experienced life at all. How can you -”

“I’m older than you were when you and Dad started dating the first time. And you’ve told us before you always knew the two of you would marry. I feel the same, only it’s not about a witch.”

Ginny huffed a heavy sigh, plucking at her lip. She looked down at her soup bowl and Harry wondered if she was ever going to look at ginger-carrot soup and not remember this moment. “I guess… I just need a moment to… to think.”

She stood and circled the table to Albus. He jumped to his feet as she approached, and then exhaled heavily when all Ginny did was hug him. “My boy,” she said quietly. “I love you so, so much.” She pulled back and smiled at him. “It’ll take a little getting used to, I guess, but I’m happy you told me. I know that must have been hard.”

“Yeah… I - I’m -”

“You’re a brave boy. And growing up so fast!” Her smile turned a little sad. “When we were your age, your dad and I were fighting a war. And I’m - I’m so glad that you’re just being a young man, figuring yourself out.”

“Thanks, Mum,” Albus said huskily, blinking away tears.

Ginny sighed and resumed her seat. Harry reached for her hand and gave it as squeeze, then went to get his own bowl of soup, now that the tension had eased.

“I told you it would be all right,” Lily said to Albus.

Ginny looked between the two of them. “I’m the last to know, aren’t I?”

“Well, Lily and James know, because it’s impossible to hide at school. And I told Dad today.”

“How’d you keep it from the papers?”

Albus shrugged. “People our age take that kind of thing seriously, and so if I didn’t out myself, they weren’t going to do it for me. Plus, no one cares. Half the kids are bi anyway so to them it’s not really gossip-worthy.”

“Hmm,” Ginny said thoughtfully, turning to Harry. “It’ll definitely be gossip for the older set. Do you think we should draft something for the papers?”

“We can prepare something, just in case but I don’t think we need to throw it out there for no reason.”

“Right. We’ll just wait and see. Maybe when you get a boyfriend,” she said to Albus with a smile. “Is there someone you’re interested in?”

Everyone around the table immediately tensed, for some reason not having anticipated that question. Albus probably expected a huge fight, and his return to school before a boyfriend could even be brought up. In the past year, Ginny had - not warmed exactly - but certainly not been so scathing in her treatment of the Malfoys. But this might be more than she could handle.

“Actually…” Albus said slowly.

Scorpius took his hand. “Actually, Albus and I are dating.” He spoke with unapologetic confidence that Harry could see bolstered Albus’s confidence.

Ginny huffed a nervous laugh. “Of course you are.” Her eyes darted to Harry, and then down at her soup. “Right. Okay. I’m going to... need another minute.” Her chair scraped back loudly, and she fled the room.

Harry barely made it out of the kitchen before Ginny warded them in privacy charms and said, “Did you know about this?”

“I… yeah. He told me today in Hogsmeade.”

“I can’t believe it!” Ginny kicked the coffee table and began to pace. “That boy coming here, after defiling my son! That family is nothing but a plague on ours!”

“He didn’t defile Albus, and he’s not a plague. He’s been very supportive and caring of Albus. You just haven’t taken the time to see it.”

“I don’t need to see it! I already know it! They’re just waiting to use this whole thing to their advantage!” She tossed her hands dramatically and resumed pacing.

“Ginny, this is exactly why Albus didn’t want to tell you. These vitriolic overreactions are driving the wedge between you two even deeper! Don’t you see it? He’s in love!”

She whipped around to glare at Harry, hands on hips. “If he were in love with an abusive drunkard, would you be using love to excuse that behavior?”

“Scorpius is not abusing him! He’s seventeen and one of the most innocent people you will ever meet.”

“No one from that family is innocent!”

“Do you even hear yourself? You don’t even know him! He makes Albus happy. This Albus we’ve seen recently - that’s thanks to Scorpius! We’d gotten so used to him being grumpy and quiet all the time, we’d forgotten what he’s like when he’s excited about life. Don’t you want that for him all the time?”

“Of course I do!” She sat on the sofa with a heavy sigh. “Just… why couldn’t it have been with literally anyone else?”

Harry sat next to her and draped an arm around her shoulder. “You know, Zacharias Smith’s son is in the year below him… so it could have been worse.”

Ginny gave him a watery laugh as she wiped her eyes. “Stop trying to make me feel better.” She rested her head on his shoulder. “The snitch is caught, the game is over. I lost.”

“You didn’t lose, love. You won a happy son, and isn’t that what we want?” Harry felt her nod on his shoulder. He squeezed her closer. “Please give him a chance. A real one.” He pressed a kiss to her hair. “Let’s go in, have dinner, and assure Albus we’re supportive of him and the love he found.”

“I’m just going to mess it up.”

“No you won’t. You’ll be a wonderful, supportive mum, and Albus will look back on this day with fondness.”

“Yeah,” she said with a deep sniff. “Yeah, all right, I guess I can play nice. But you’re getting an earful later.”

Harry laughed as he stood and extended a hand to Ginny. She lowered the wards to the kitchen and led the way in. The three kids had their heads bent together, but they sprang apart when Ginny and Harry came in.

“Mum - I’m -”

“So when did you two get together?” Ginny smiled at the two of them as she sat, spreading her napkin in her lap and picking up her spoon.

Albus looked at Scorpius, then swallowed nervously. “Er… at Aunt Luna’s New Year’s party last year.” He gripped Scorpius’s hand like a lifeline, unsure how to take Ginny’s sudden change in attitude.

Scorpius took it all in stride. He smiled widely and said, “Yeah, unlike Albus, I did have a big, gay moment where a fit bloke snogged me senseless. It was brilliant!”

Ginny spluttered at that, and Albus blushed to the tips of his ears, but Scorpius and Lily both grinned madly. Harry pressed his lips together to smother a laugh of his own. Inwardly he was relieved Albus had kissed Scorpius first. At least that way, Ginny could no longer accuse a Malfoy of leading her boy astray.

Lily laughed and leaned over to hug her mother. “Oh Mum, trust me… you’ll love this!” She linked their arms together and rested her head on Ginny’s shoulder. To Scorpius she said, “You should tell her about your grandfather finding out.”

Lucius knows? And he didn’t - I don’t -” Ginny began.

But Lily interrupted, “Trust me, you’ll love this story.” Harry took Ginny’s other hand, to offer what support he could. He hoped Lily knew what she was doing.

“Well,” Scorpius began, eyes lighting up as he shifted into storytelling mode, “it began over the summer with my grandparents visiting from Venice and asking after my ex-girlfriend Amelia. And I said we’re not dating anymore -”

“You had a girlfriend?” Ginny asked. This was news to Harry as well. Was that hard for Albus, watching Scorpius with another girl?

“Yeah, two of them, for about five minutes each. But they were both jealous of the time I spent with Albus and that wasn’t going to work for me and that was the end of that.” Albus gave him a wink, which Scorpius returned with an air kiss. “So anyway,” Scorpius leaned closer over the table, “Grandfather’s going on about suitable families I should choose a wife from, and I was so annoyed, but I never know exactly what to say to them and then Dad says, ‘What about the Potter family. Are they suitable?’ and Grandfather’s face sours and he says something ugly I won’t repeat here -”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Of course he did, that hypocrite.”

“I know, right?” Scorpius said. He barely paused when Ginny’s eyes widened. “And then Grandmother has a little speech about how times have changed and Lily Potter would make a lovely, well-placed bride and Dad says, ‘wrong Potter,’ and Grandfather’s face turns this hideous shade of purple as he realises what it all means -”

“Too bad the shock didn’t kill him,” Ginny muttered.

Scorpius laughed, “That’s exactly what Dad said, after. Anyway he had more rude things to say about the end of the Malfoy line but then Dad Silenced him and said that if Grandfather couldn’t adjust his attitude to something more accepting, then he wasn’t welcome in our home anymore. So they left.”

Silence met the end of his story. Ginny stared at Scorpius, mouth open in shock. “So - your dad - Draco - kicked Lucius out of his house?”

Scorpius nodded. “Oh yes. Then we went from limited contact twice a year, to none. That’s why I stayed at school over the holiday - my dad went to Venice and I didn’t have to go.”

Ginny looked at Harry again, and he saw his shock mirrored in her face. Lily laughed, “I told you you’d want to hear it.”

“I guess I didn’t know that Draco had such a strong stance against Lucius,” Ginny said softly. Harry agreed with her sentiment. In all the conversations he’d had with Draco since their children became friends, he couldn’t remember him mentioning Lucius even once. Harry assumed it was to spare their feelings, given all that transpired during the war.

“Would that have helped? Because I’ve got stories I could tell…”

Albus, seeing the speculative look in Ginny’s eye, said to Scorpius, “You know what else she’d love? The reason they’re in Venice in the first place.”

Scorpius paused with his spoon halfway to his mouth, then dropped it back in his bowl with a grin. “Oh right! Yeah, so Grandfather wasn’t too pleased about Dad marrying my mum in the first place and when she got ill, things got really difficult between them all. So that summer we’re packing up to move to London, so Mum could be close to her Healers, and Grandfather’s ranting about weak bloodlines and tainting the family line and Dad says, ‘You know what you need while we get Astoria straightened out? A holiday!’ He sends my grandparents off to Venice and while they’re gone, he sells everything they left behind. And I mean everything!”

“He did what?” Ginny asked, her face frozen in a horrified grimace.

“Sold it all. See, Dad’s in charge of all the Malfoy family finances. It was a condition of Grandfather’s release after the war. So everything my grandparents own is really my dad’s.”

Ginny frowned at Harry. “How did we not know that?”

Harry shrugged, “Maybe because we had other things to worry about then? Why would we have cared who controlled the vault?”

“Probably at first, Grandfather made all the decisions, even if Dad had to be the one to carry them out. But over time, Dad definitely took control of everything.”

“I had no idea.”

“Yeah, so they came back from Venice with glowing remarks about the food and the pleasant society, and Dad says, ‘I’m happy to hear you enjoyed your holiday because you’ll be relocating there permanently.’ And I will never forget the looks on their faces.” Scorpius pauses his story to stare with wide, terrified eyes and mouth dropped open in shock. His grin returned and he continued, “Then Dad summons a file from his study and shows them the bill of sale for their house and all, and how he set up a monthly stipend, to be delivered to the bank in Italy, so long as they stay in Italy.”

Ginny covered her horrified grin with her hand. “Draco Malfoy kicked his father out of England?!”

“Yes he did. And he said if he ever heard Grandfather say another negative thing about my mum, he’d deduct a hundred galleons from their allowance. That shut him up well enough. They left that evening and we didn’t see them again until Christmas.”

“That - that can’t be true!” Ginny shook her head. “The Draco we know would never treat his father so harshly!”

Scorpius shook his head and took on a contemplative look. “Maybe before? But now, Dad’s sort of caught between loving his parents and hating their actions. And since he’s in a position to rein in their behavior, he does what he can.”

Ginny tore at her bread, frowning. “Harry was right. What I thought I knew wasn’t accurate.” Harry smiled kindly, relieved she’d finally admitted the Malfoys had changed. At least Draco had.

Scorpius hummed in agreement. “Dad says that becoming a parent changed everything for him. Now, he’s terrified of what my grandparents might say to me. But I see it… the things they say and how wrong it sits.” He eyed Ginny earnestly. “I’m not like them.”

“No,” Ginny said softly. “I don’t think you are.”

Harry squeezed her hand and smiled at Albus. Finally, a new beginning. “Maybe we could have Draco over for dinner, when he returns from Venice?”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Ginny agreed, although she still looked hesitant.

No matter, Harry thought, they had time to get used to the idea before he actually arrived. Hopefully it would be the first dinner of many.

Chapter Text

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Summer after Hogwarts
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“Albus,” Harry asked, “what time did you tell Scorpius to get here?”

“I told him the portkey was at ten, and he should get here around nine-thirty, but he likes to be early so it’s probably going to be any minute now.”

“Great. Why don’t you and Lily do one last check to make sure games and films are packed, while your mum and I get the rest of the food together.”

Harry found Ginny in the kitchen, where she handed him a list. “Check this over again.” She started stacking bottles, boxes, and tins of food into their travel trunk while Harry looked the list over and pulled food from the fridge.

“This portkey can’t come fast enough,” Harry said, once the kids were out of earshot. “I’m so sick of Albus’s mopey face. It’s only been two weeks since he left school. You’d think he could survive that long without Scorpius.”

“Ugh, I know. I’m glad Draco found them that flat and we won’t have to put up with the whining once we’re back from holiday.”

They’d had dinner with Draco a few times over the last few months, as a chance to get to know him better. Ginny still treated him with caution but at least acknowledged he was different from Lucius. Draco had found the boys a flat only a few streets away from his house. Harry and Ginny appreciated that Draco would be near enough to keep an eye on the boys, and Scorpius liked that he would be within walking distance to Draco’s house where he would be working. He’d done his best to convince Draco to set up a lab outside the house, but Draco insisted he was too set in his ways.

“We’ve come a long way, if that’s your thought on the matter.” Harry laughed and kissed Ginny’s cheek, then locked the food away.

Ginny hummed absently as she stared at the trunk. “What if we’ve forgotten something?”

“We’ll buy a new one. It’s going to be fine.”

“I’m going to check we have all the flying gear.” Ginny left for the broom shed, while Harry levitated the trunk and pushed it ahead of him into the sitting room.

Just as he summoned his and Ginny’s bags from their room, the floo flared to life and Scorpius rolled through.

“Albus!” Scorpius grinned and wrapped Albus in a hug. “I know I’m a little early -”

“I totally called it!” He kissed Scorpius on the cheek and took his two bags to hand them over to Harry. “I’ll get my bags too. Come on, Scorpius.”

Harry refrained from mentioning Albus could summon his bag, and let the two boys run up to Albus’s room to greet each other properly in private. Opening a different lock on the trunk, he found the empty space for the kids’ luggage. Lily’s things were already inside, with space enough for the boys’ things. In another compartment, Harry packed his and Ginny’s things. After all the planning and packing, it was a relief to finally be leaving.

The portkey took the five of them to the same little seaside house they’d rented for James’s post-Hogwarts trip. It hadn’t changed in two years, and the kids naturally gravitated to the rooms they’d used before. Harry followed them up with the trunk, flicking his wand at every window he passed to open them and let in the fresh sea air.

“Scorpius, you can have the room James isn’t using,” Harry said, opening the door across from Albus’s room.

The two boys looked at each other briefly, but then Scorpius followed Harry and crossed to the window. “Beautiful view!”

“What about when James gets here?” Albus asked.

Harry shrugged as he opened the trunk, “He won’t be here until Thursday, so we’ll worry about it then. You should have waited to tell us you were dating, and then we wouldn’t care so much. But I remember being eighteen and you’re just going to have to sneak around like the rest of us had to do.”

“Ugh, Dad, please don’t be gross.” Albus flushed to the roots of his hair, and Harry could only laugh at him as he handed over his two bags.

“You’re the one asking to share a bedroom, with only one bed I might add, with your boyfriend.” But Harry did remember being eighteen so he said, “We’ll consider the arrangements later on when James gets here. That bed looks like it can easily be split in two.”

“Hurry up you two!” Lily yelled, hurrying past them in her bathing suit. “I’m already ready for fun beach times!” She whooped as she skipped down the steps.

Scorpius laughed and dug through the bag Harry handed him. “How is she ready? Her bag’s still here.”

“I think she had her suit on under her clothes,” Harry answered, banishing Lily’s two bags to her room. “You boys get changed. Ginny and I will unpack food and meet you down there.”

Ginny helped him put the food away, grumbling about the hassles of packing, only to unpack an hour later.

“Well, I’m just thankful we didn’t have to spend hours driving in a hot, boring car. And we don’t have to go shopping right now. I’m ready for some sun!”

“You go on with the kids. I’m going to have a lie down.” She went to their room, off the kitchen, and sat on the bed to kick off her shoes.

“Already? We just got here!” Harry tackled her, pressing her flat to the bed and peppering her face with kisses. “Mm… I could stay with you and we can take advantage of probably the only moment of empty house we’ll have all week.”

“You know someone’s coming back any second now for the sunscreen they all left without.”

Almost as soon as the words were out of her mouth, the door slammed and Lily called out, “Mum! Where’s the sunscreen?”

Harry rolled to the bed next to Ginny and sighed. “It’s like they can’t go twenty minutes without our help, and yet they want to be treated like grown, independent adults. It’s ridiculous.”

Ginny kissed his cheek and gave his inner thigh a squeeze. “There’ll be time enough later.” She got up and called to Lily, “It’s in the trunk. I’ll get it.

The weather couldn’t have been better all afternoon. They spent the day in and out of the house, on the beach, as the tide and sun allowed. Harry smiled nonstop, so relieved to have a week off work where he could focus on his family.

With everyone growing so fast, he wanted to cherish this time together. James would only be coming for a few days, which made him wonder about Lily’s trip in two years. Would it just be Harry, Ginny, and Lily? Would James be bringing a girlfriend? Would Albus and Scorpius still be together? He hoped so. Harry loved Albus’s carefree happiness with Scorpius.

After late-night stargazing in their pyjamas, the kids headed upstairs to bed while Harry and Ginny locked up the house. He had been looking forward to bedtime all day because holiday sex was definitely in the top five of his favorite kinds of sex. Sure, the bed didn’t feel quite right, and sand lingered pretty much everywhere, but there were no responsibilities or expectations for tomorrow and that made Harry feel light as a feather.

As Ginny started to close the door, Harry stood behind her, already nibbling at her neck. They both froze when they heard Scorpius’s voice.

“No, just a second, I’m going to - oh damn, Harry already set up the wards. I can’t get out.” There was a brief pause. “No, it’s fine. I can talk to you here.”

Peeking through the door, they saw Scorpius talking on his phone, dropping into an armchair with a smile.

“It’s been such a great day! The weather has been amazing! We were out nearly all day on the beach… Yes, I remembered the sunscreen charm. And the sunscreen potion just in case.” He held out his arm. “Yeah, no sunburn yet. But there’s still time,” he added with a little laugh.

“We should…” Harry whispered. But Ginny shook her head, watching Scorpius through the crack in the door.

“Albus spent a lot of the day sketching. He’s got an idea for a tide clock of sorts, as a huge moving mural and I hope to Merlin it works because I would adore a giant mural of the sea on a wall of my house.”

Scorpius turned in the chair to drop one leg over the arm, while his head fell back over the other side. “I know… he’s so adorable when he’s so excited. He was like a little kid, pocketing shells and things. It was just the sweetest thing. I’m so glad I came.”

His smile fell a little. “Yeah, I mean she’s been nervous, obviously.” Harry felt Ginny’s body tense and circled her waist with his arm for comfort. “But it’s not been too bad.” He sat up in the chair. “Yeah, I think she’s coming around… I know… Yeah, it’s hard on Albus being caught between us, but things are so much better. And I just want him to be happy.” He smiled again. “Thanks, Dad. I hope I always do.”

He stood to walk around the room, his tone shifting slightly. “Okay enough about me… what about you? How did it go brining the dandelion roots?” He frowned as he listened, nodding every so often, murmuring little sounds of assent. “Okay well, we’ll just add that to the notes and see if we can improve the results with the next batch. Maybe it didn’t soak long enough.”

Scorpius’s tone changed again, something lighter and playful. “And what about the shopping? Did you buy anything special today?” Harry and Ginny both held still, wondering at this new topic, and Scorpius’s singsong voice.

“You’re going to miss your chance with her, Dad, if you don’t hurry up and ask her out… Oh please, of course she wants to go out with you! You think she chats up every customer that comes through her line? Saves coupons for them?” He laughed. “Erm, no. I’ve been through tons of check-out lines and I can assure you, no one giggles and blushes like that with their customers. You should give it a shot before someone else snaps her up.”

Scorpius laughed loudly at whatever Draco said, belatedly covering his mouth to smother the sound. “Dad! I promise she’ll say yes and you won’t have to find a new grocery shop! Oh Merlin, you’re being ridiculous.” He bit his lip and said, “It’s been five years, Dad… Mum wouldn’t want you to mourn her so long.”

He sat back down in the armchair, leaning his head on his hand. “I know. I miss her too. She’d want you to be happy. And not so lonely… Yes you are. You almost never leave the house anymore and -” He scoffed. “Liar! You can’t lie to me about these things, Dad!” He smiled. “Yeah, she’d have loved Albus. Probably would have helped with Mrs Potter too. She always knew what to say to set people at ease. I wish I’d inherited that superpower… no, it’s going to be fine. Yeah... yeah… I know. I know and it’s going to be fine! Yeah, all right. I’ll try to remember to call you earlier tomorrow... Okay... I love you too! Goodnight, Dad!”

He hung up the phone and sighed at the ceiling. As he left the room, Ginny closed the door fully. Turning in his arms she asked, “Do you think he’s been faking sincerity all these years in some sort of twisted long con?”

Harry choked on air, his eyes widening in shock. Ginny laughed and said, “Oh my word, you should see your face right now!” She laughed harder and buried her face in his shoulder. “Oh Harry! This is the funniest thing that’s happened all day!”

“I’m not gonna lie - you had me going for a second there.”

“Please, as if any eleven-year-old has the kind of skill to fake sincerity.” She sighed and tugged lightly on his shirt. “That boy doesn’t have a single deceptive bone in his body.”

“No, he really doesn’t.”

She wrapped her arms around Harry and settled deeper into his embrace. “No wonder Albus loves him so much.”

Harry started to reply, but Ginny halted him by sighing heavily and giving him a light push away. She whipped off her shirt with a smirk and threw it at him. “But I don’t want to talk about the boys right now.” Her bra immediately followed. “I believe I was promised sexy fun times…”

“Your wish is my command,” Harry said with a grin, pulling his laughing wife to the bed.

--------

A few days into their holiday, Harry joined Ginny on the porch, looking out over the beach where the three kids were splashing and laughing in the surf. Lily gave him a big wave, then laughed as Albus doused her with water.

Harry laughed at their antics as he sat in the rocking chair. “I love that they can still play around like that. They haven’t become bored, jaded teens that hate everything.” He sipped at his tea and smiled at Ginny. “Having a good week?”

“Yes, I suppose.” She rocked silently for a moment. “Do you think it’s odd that Albus and Scorpius aren’t very affectionate?”

Harry hummed in thought. “Albus is our least physically affectionate child. Could be they show each other affection in other ways. Plus, I think they’re used to keeping their relationship under wraps, and keep their distance out of habit.”

“Am I still that frightening?” she asked sadly.

“No, love,” Harry said, taking her hand and giving it a kiss. “I think it’s just still new, even though it’s been months since they told you, and they’re just too used to hiding it.”

But Harry could see Ginny’s feelings were hurt that the boys didn’t trust her reactions, even after the strides she’d made in accepting Draco and Scorpius in their lives. She had always been more affectionate than him, and it had taken him years into their marriage to feel as comfortable expressing himself physically as she did. Albus was probably the same way and it would take time for him to open up in that way to Scorpius.

Eager to cheer her, he dragged her down to the beach to play with the kids. Lily shrieked when she saw them, and attacked Ginny with a wet hug, pulling her into the water.

--------

The next day, the five of them readied for a trip to visit a group of sirens living nearby. The colony visited every summer and let a local sailor bring small groups for pictures and snippets of song. Guests were required to bring gifts, and in return the sirens let them leave unharmed.

Harry opened the door to the shop and a little bell jingled. A wizened old man emerged from the back room with a smile.

“Good afternoon! I’m Captain Birch. Lookin’ to visit the sirens this lovely afternoon?”

“Indeed we are,” Harry said. “There’s the five of us. That all right?”

“Yessir,” the man replied, looking down at his registry book. “You can sign here. It’s five galleons a piece.” He looked up then at all of them and paused on Scorpius and Albus. “Hmph. Your boys are a bit young.”

“Is that going to be a problem?”

“Might could be. Sirens like ‘em young. Especially the blond one.” He squinted at Scorpius. “That your natural color?”

“Er… yes…” Scorpius looked nervously at Albus and stepped closer to him.

Captain Birch pursed his lips with a frown, “Hm, not sure about that. You a virgin?”

Scorpius blushed a violent red and stammered incoherently. Instinctively, he hid himself fully behind Albus, who gripped his hand. Harry moved in front of both boys and said, “Excuse me? Did you just -”

“Now, now,” he said, holding up his hands in defense. “Don’t mean no harm. But he’s a pretty one, with that hair, and those sirens’d love to chew him up and spit out his empty husk. If he’s a virgin, he should stay behind.”

This was the most horrifyingly awkward moment of Harry’s life. In all the trials he’d endured, he never imagined he’d have to turn to his son’s boyfriend and ask if he’d ever… ever done… things. Fucking hell, this outing had been a huge mistake. Briefly he met Ginny’s eyes, and saw his own horror mirrored there. Next to her, Lily’s face had reddened while she choked on her own laughter.

“Er…” Harry said, hesitating as long as he could.

“I - I - well - we’ve done… some things… not - you know - everything but -”

“That’s fine,” Captain Birch interrupted, saving them all from a soul-crushing recital of deeds. “Innocence lost is all that matters.” He pulled two parchments from a folder behind the counter and held a quill out to Scorpius. “Both you boys sign this release form. It’ll be a deposit of an extra five galleons for each of them, in case the sirens give us trouble. Pays for the extra trinkets we might need to offer to keep the boys out of their hands. You’ll get the money back if we don’t need it.”

Harry held Albus’s arm, to keep him signing anything. “Are you saying there’s a chance the boys might get taken in by the sirens?”

“Well now, this group’s been coming by for years and we’ve developed a friendship of sorts. Your girls’ll be fine and I can already tell you won’t interest them. But those two… fresh for the pickin’. It’s probably going to be fine. I’m just addin’ the extra gifts as a precaution.” He pulled a box from below the desk. “They could put a little cotton-wool in their ears, keep ‘em from hearin’ the sound.”

“Sort of defeats the purpose though, doesn’t it?” Albus asked.

Captain Birch shrugged. “It’s a choice you should make now. Once you hear the song, it’s in your blood and there’s no gettin’ rid of it. But it’ll be probably be fine. Besides,” he said to Harry, “a strong wizard like you is surely no match for siren magicks.” He winked and gave a wheezing laugh that did nothing to calm Harry.

No longer sure about this outing, Harry looked Albus and Scorpius over. He turned to Ginny, “Are we sure about this?”

“Scorpius?” Ginny asked.

But he’d already signed the release form. “Yeah, it’ll be fun,” Scorpius said as he handed the form back. “How many chances will we get to hear real sirens? Assuming I make it out alive, it’ll be a great story to tell.”

Lily finally let loose a loud string of giggles. “Oh I’m already planning on telling this story to everyone I know. I’m so sorry James missed it!”

Harry wanted to yank the quill from Albus’s hands but he’d already signed his name. So the five of them followed Captain Birch out to the dock where a trim little boat waited. A pleasant half hour boat ride brought them to a small outcropping of rocks near a tiny island that hardly deserved the name.

“Oh!” Lily exclaimed. “I see one!” She waved to a figure sitting on a rock and got a wave in return.

As soon as he saw her, Harry understood why they might be drawn to someone like Scorpius - he looked just like one. Harry’s only exposure to sirens was some vague recollection of a painting at Hogwarts. This siren had hair as white-blonde as Scorpius, done up in tiny braids to the nape of her neck, then left free flowing in waves. Her upper body was mostly covered in a woven or knotted fabric made from seaweed, laced through with shells, gems, and sea-glass beads. When she saw the boat approach, the siren trilled like a bird with a smile. Just as the boat slowed to a stop, three other sirens appeared in the water.

“Captain Birch! So good to see you have brought us some friends.” Her voice thrummed with magic, giving Harry goosebumps. As her eyes scanned the party, Captain Birch handed sweets to each of the waiting hands in the water. Harry reached into his pocket to grip his wand as she paused on Scorpius and Albus.

“We’ve brought gifts for you,” Captain Birch said, stepping back and letting them approach the boat’s rail. Scorpius and Albus hung back, nervously scanning the four sirens. Ginny, standing on Harry’s left, got a tap on the arm to go first.

“I’ve brought sweets too. A family recipe.” Ginny handed the siren a box that held hand-rolled chocolate truffles.

The siren moaned happily as she opened the box and inhaled the chocolate scent. “A lovely gift!” She handed it back to another siren that looked roughly the same age. Her white-blonde hair was also braided elaborately, but rolled into a bun at the nape of her neck. She put the box in a bag hanging across her body, and it disappeared in such a way that Harry suspected an extension charm.

“And you, principessa?” she asked, turning to Lily on Harry’s right.

“I - I - er - it’s a story I wrote.” She offered a tightly rolled scroll to the siren with shining eyes. “It’s about a fire… a - a candle, telling little stories of the family it illuminates.”

“Intriguing!” the siren said with a smile as she took the scroll. She ran her fingers over the parchment, and seeing it was already waterproofed, handed it to the siren behind her. It also disappeared into the bag.

The other two sirens began to hum quietly, or maybe they’d already been humming and only now was Harry aware of it. He felt it thrumming in his veins, making him rise on his tiptoes, ready to jump as soon as the music reached its peak. The siren’s eyes focused on Harry with an intensity that made him squirm. The melody rolled and thickened, becoming his only thought.

“And you?”

He had to drop Lily’s hand to reach into his pocket for the necklace he’d brought. “It’s a pendant. Made from Alexandrite. It changes color in the light.” The gem was rare in the muggle world, but readily available in the magical world if one knew where to look. Perhaps too extravagant of an offering, but worthwhile if it drew the sirens’ eyes away from Scorpius and Albus.

But only for a moment. Harry wondered if she’d saved the two boys for last on purpose. In particular, the youngest siren seemed keen on drawing their eye. Harry felt their magic inside, so different from Veela allure or an Imperious Curse. It didn’t make him want to do anything, but held him still as though waiting on the edge of a cliff, ready to fly.

“Ah, ragazzino,” she said to Albus. “You have something special, yes?”

Albus didn’t break eye contact as he opened his bag and pulled out a modified crystal ball. Inside, a small candle burned with a dancing flame. The charms on it made the glass warm to the touch, and although the light was faint, it would continue to glow for years to come. He held it out to Ginny, who passed it to the siren. “I brought you a flame.”

“Yes… truly unique,” she said with a smile. She pressed the warmth to her cheek and laughed lightly, a tinkling sound that made something hot pass through Harry. From the side of his eye, he saw Albus blush. When she held the ball out, the youngest siren swam forward for it. This brought her too close for Harry’s comfort but the music held him still, waiting for something.

“And you, mio tesoro, what have you brought us?” Her voice lightened as she spoke, joined in chorus by the sirens behind her. Scorpius’s mouth hung open, his eyes glazed over. She pressed against the rail, joined by the youngest siren. “Do you have a gift for us?”

Scorpius leaned down and had to drop Albus’s hand to reach for the siren.

“No,” Ginny whispered. She squeezed Harry’s hand and he wanted to respond but his arms felt heavy and he waited, still waited. “No,” she said again, but louder. “He’s ours. You can’t!”

“And if he wants to come with us?”

“Scorpius!” Ginny called loudly to him. “Your gift. Give them your gift!”

Instead of reaching into his pocket, he stepped closer to the boat’s rail. “They don’t want it,” he said quietly. “Have to give them something else.” He closed his eyes and swayed on his feet.

“No! Scorpius, stop!” Ginny pulled her wand, but the sirens sang a long, harmonious chord and her fingers trembled, dropping the wand among the ropes and boards on deck. “No! No!” She shook her head but the music was inside and couldn’t be taken away. “Albus… Scorpius…” Ginny dropped to her knees and searched for her wand.

Albus, jarred by Ginny’s shouting, yanked Scorpius back. “You can’t!” He shook his head roughly, trying to dislodge the siren’s song. But it was inside, all around, and Harry knew there was no use. They just had to wait, and it would end soon. So soon.

Scorpius pulled away from Albus and stepped flush to the rail. “I can hear her.” He ran a hand down the young siren’s face. “My lullaby…”

“No, you can’t, it’s not real!” Albus grabbed his arm and pulled him further back, knocking the two of them into the mast. “Scorpius, please!” While the song swelled and pressed on all sides, Albus grabbed Scorpius’s face and pulled him in for a deep, hard kiss. A one-sided kiss, as Scorpius remained wholly unresponsive.

The music sounded from everywhere. Inside Harry, outside. Beside him, he barely registered Lily crying her silent tears and he wondered why, when the song was so nearly finished and the end would bring them all such joy. If they waited long enough.

“Please don’t leave me,” Albus cried against Scorpius’s lips and kissed him again. This time he moved gently and carefully, whispering things Harry couldn’t hear. He saw Scorpius’s fingers twitch, then slowly rise to wrap around Albus’s hips as he returned the kiss with tentative but growing vigour.

A sour, discordant note shattered the song

Ginny gave up on finding her own wand and pulled Harry’s out instead. The young siren screeched loudly and dove deep, just as Ginny aimed a blast of air at the water to send up a spray on the three remaining sirens, to warn rather than injure them. Their song stopped abruptly, finally giving Harry the chance to breathe. His magic surged in him and he used it to summon Ginny’s wand from wherever it had rolled.

Her green eyes flashing, Ginny yelled, “He is ours, and you can’t have him!”

The siren with the bag of gifts cackled loudly and said, “There is a song in her yet.” Still laughing, she swam away.

The leader smirked at Ginny. “He is a rare find. You cannot fault us for trying to keep him. But he is lost to us.” Her eyes darted to the boys, who were still wrapped up in each other. “A love such as theirs is rare. Not easily broken by our song.” She turned to the remaining siren. “A song for them, one of joy. In thanks for their lovely gifts.”

This time when the song swelled, Harry felt pure happiness burst from his heart. It rolled through him, reminding him of the love he’d found in Ginny and the years of laughter and joy they’d had with James, Lily, and Albus. Held in its thrall, he rejoiced in the future to come and the peace the years would bring.

As the song wound down, Ginny and Lily crowded Harry for hugs. He kissed both their heads and hugged them tight, then reached behind for Albus and Scorpius. Laughing, they shared a group hug, and bumped one another as they wiped away stray tears.

“Thank you,” Ginny said to the siren. “That was… more beautiful than I can say.”

The siren swam up to the rail and reached up to caress Ginny’s arm. “You are a queen. Do not let them forget it.”

She turned away, but Albus called out for her to stop. Reaching into Scorpius’s pocket, he pulled out a glass bottle. “He’s a potioneer. A very good one. And he’s made a pain-relieving potion for you.” Albus handed the bottle to Ginny. “In thanks, for your song. And, you know, leaving him with us.” As he spoke, Scorpius wrapped an arm around Albus’s waist.

Ginny handed the bottle to the siren, who smiled. “Truly, you are gracious, ragazzino. Perhaps worthy of him after all.” She turned to the other siren. “Come, sorella, to the depths.” With a last trill, both sirens dove underwater and swam away.

They all breathed a collective sigh of relief, summed up best by Captain Birch, “That surely was damn close!” He gave a raspy laugh and turned the boat for home.

--------

They were silent as they climbed the stairs to the beach house, all lost in their thoughts. Harry didn’t know how to separate the joy of the final song from the fear that they’d almost lost Scorpius. He opened the door for Ginny and Lily, but Albus and Scorpius stayed behind on the porch.

“I’m going to call my dad. Let him know I’m all right.”

“Ah, yes,” Harry said. He hadn’t even thought of Draco once in all of this. “Good idea. Invite him to dinner.”

“Really?” Scorpius asked, turning his surprised face on Albus.

Ginny popped her head back out. “Yeah, actually, tell him he can join us for the rest of the weekend.”

Scorpius’s mouth dropped open and he looked to Harry for verification. “He can?”

“We almost lost his only child to sirens,” Ginny called from the sitting room. “It’s the very least we can do.”

Harry nodded to the boys and left them to their phone call. He joined Ginny and Lily on the sofa, snuggling up close to his wife. “What an afternoon!”

“It was so incredible!” Lily sighed, resting her head on Ginny’s other shoulder. “The energy, and excitement! I don’t think I even have words for it all.”

Ginny stroked Lily’s hair. “That last song made me cry, it was so beautiful.”

“I feel guilty for having such a good time, what with Albus and Scorpius having such a hard time of it.”

“Oh baby girl, don’t feel bad. Everything turned out all right in the end, so go ahead and be happy about it, all right?” Ginny kissed Lily’s head and squeezed her tight.

Lily hugged Ginny back, then squeezed Harry’s hand too. “I’m going to go write about it now, so I don’t forget anything.”

“Good idea.” Ginny settled in closer to Harry as Lily ran up the stairs to her room. Through the front window, they could see Scorpius pacing back and forth, on the phone with Draco. Albus sat on the loveseat, smiling at whatever Scorpius was saying. “I cannot believe that boy was almost taken by sirens.”

“You saved him.”

“I think that honor goes to Albus, but I did what I could.” Ginny turned in his arms so she could rest her head on his shoulder and drape her arm across his waist. “Their song made me feel so powerful and bold. I didn’t want it to end, because then I’d just be ordinary.”

Harry laughed, “You know you’ll never be ordinary. Ginevra Potter, queen among peasants. She specifically told you not to forget it.” She hummed in agreement. “That was a good idea, to invite Draco.”

Outside, Scorpius pocketed his phone and joined Albus on the loveseat. He rested his head on Albus’s shoulder for a moment, but at words they couldn’t hear, he smiled and nuzzled Albus’s neck and jaw, up to his mouth for a soft kiss.

“If our positions were reversed, nothing would keep me from Albus. It was the least I could do. He can share with Scorpius and James can share with Albus. It’ll be a squeeze, but fun in its own way.”

“We can get a bigger house next holiday.” Harry loved the idea of all his family spilling out of every room, reminding him of summers at the Burrow. So maybe not too big of a house next time.

The boys’ kisses became slower, more lingering. Albus carded his fingers through Scorpius’s hair and traced the line of his jaw with his lips. Scorpius leaned into it, pressing himself ever closer to Albus.

“This is getting awkward. We should leave them to it,” Harry said, standing and offering his hand to Ginny. “Let’s take advantage of everyone’s distraction for a little fun of our own.”

“An excellent idea,” she said with a smile, taking his hand.

--------

Harry dug his toes into the sand and leaned back in his chair. “There could not be a more perfect day for sitting on the beach.”

“Agreed!” Draco said, tipping his beer bottle toward Harry. Harry tapped it with his own bottle and they both drank deeply.

Draco arrived late last night, and James arrived early in the morning, and now the house brimmed with people and activity. James, Lily, and Ginny were nearby, slowly returning from a walk and a catch-up with James. Albus sat on a blanket by Harry, sketching Scorpius at the water line, searching for shells.

“Better look sharp,” Harry said to Albus. “Looks like some girls are moving in on your territory.” Three girls walking a cute little dog had stopped to chat with Scorpius. But he only had eyes for the dog. They couldn’t hear the conversation, but could see Scorpius making cooing faces and rubbing the dog’s fur vigorously. He scooped the little dog up and petted its head while talking to the girls.

Albus smiled as he set his notebook aside. “I know. I’m waiting for my moment.”

“What moment?”

“That moment he realises they’re flirting with him and panics. Then I can swoop in and save him. Hero of the day.”

Draco snorted. The three of them watched as the girl in the green bikini laughed loudly at something Scorpius said. She tapped him playfully on the arm and smiled seductively.

Harry shook his head in disbelief. “That boy was nearly taken by sirens yesterday. How does he not know they want him?”

Green-bikini shook her head and laughed again, this time pressing her chest to Scorpius’s arm. His smile froze and his eyes widened in mild panic.

“There it is,” Albus whispered, just as Scorpius yelled, “Albus! Albus, come look at this cute little dog!”

Albus adjusted his sunglasses with a wide smile as he approached. The girls smiled at him, clearly pleased at seeing another fit young man join them. Right up until Albus hugged Scorpius from behind and kissed him on the neck.

He ruffled the dog’s fur, leaving his other hand around Scorpius’s waist, and said something Draco and Harry couldn’t hear. Green-bikini stepped back, still smiling at the two of them. Red-and-black-tankini gave them an appraising, lust-filled look.

“That one on the right seems excessively interested, don’t you think?” Draco asked.

“I was just thinking that! James’ll be along shortly and scoop her up. He seems to instinctively know which girl in any group is the most adventurous.”

Sure enough, James left Lily and Ginny behind to join in. The circle widened for him, but he tripped over literally nothing and had to catch red-and-black-tankini as he stumbled into her. She gave him a coy smile and held his arm to ‘steady herself’.

“There it is. He gets that from his mum, because I was never that smooth.”

“Yes well, we had other things to worry about at their age.”

Harry hummed in agreement, then laughed. “Can you imagine us at their age, someone telling us that one day my son would snog your son free of sirens and we’d be laughing about it the next day?” He laughed and sipped at his beer. “Things have certainly changed over the years!”

“For the better.”

“Definitely for the better,” Harry said, watching Albus and Scorpius wander down the beach, hand-in-hand.