Harry arrives on Draco's doorstep at one o'clock on a Saturday afternoon. Draco feels rather underprepared; it's certainly not their usual schedule.
"Potter," he says, bewildered. Harry is dressed in a suit, holding a bouquet of white chrysanthemums and looking completely lost. "Going to a wedding?" Draco quips.
Draco remembers, too late, that Harry's uncle died recently. "Right." He feels that he should say something else. "So...what exactly are you doing here?"
"You're right," Harry says morosely, picking at one of the wilting petals of the chrysanthemums.
"I'm...right?" Draco, sensing an oncoming personal crisis, frowns and looks around before opening the door farther. "Well, I suppose you'd better come in."
Harry walks inside, still picking at the flowers and looking miserable. He wordlessly follows Draco to the study and stands by the fireplace. After a moment, he looks around as if suddenly realising where he is, and sets the bouquet upon the mantlepiece.
"You're right," he repeats, turning to look at Draco. "What you said about the guilt complex."
"What are you talking...oh, that."
"Don't just say 'oh, that', as if it's nothing," Harry says irritably. "I've been having a crisis for the past hour, and it's your fault."
Draco guessed right about the oncoming personal crisis, then. "What's wrong with a guilt complex? Loads of people have them, especially when a relative dies. Go and look suitably solemn, offer condolences, eat any free food, and leave."
"You're heartless," Harry says, but without any venom. He slumps into an armchair. "I can't attend. I don't want to."
"So don't. Your cousin said there wouldn't any hard feelings."
"I lived under Vernon's roof for sixteen years. He might not have liked me, but he still let me live there. Spent money on extra food for me, haircuts, my optometrist visits."
"How outstanding," Draco says dryly. "He must've been like a second father to you." He opens the desk drawer and pours a firewhiskey.
"No thanks," Harry says distractedly, glancing at the glass.
"Drink. You need it."
"I can't. I can't attend a funeral smelling like whiskey!"
"So you are going?"
"I don't know!" Harry stands up and starts pacing. "I mean, if I do go, it will be the whole guilt complex. He didn't do a thing for me; why should I do anything for him? Why do I always have to feel so guilty about everything?" He reaches for the glass of firewhiskey and downs it in one quick motion.
"I'm not offering another, I hope you know," Draco says disapprovingly. "That was a vintage bottle, Potter. Oak aged."
"This is your fault. If you hadn't said anything about a guilt complex, I wouldn't be overthinking everything!"
"Your chrysanthemums are wilting," Draco says. Harry stops pacing and gives Draco a very long look.
"You," he says, "are entirely missing the point."
"You are. If you're annoyed at feeling guilty, then stop feeling guilty. If you don't want to attend the funeral, don't go." Draco pauses. "I don't know why you're here, anyway. Shouldn't you be crying on Granger's shoulder or talking to Weasley?"
"They don't know." Harry tugs at the collar of his suit. "I don't want them to worry about it."
Draco feels rather pleased about the fact that Harry Potter has elected to leave his dedicated friends out of the loop, instead coming to him for advice. He turns away, but not quickly enough; Harry spots his smile.
"What are you smiling about?"
"I'm not smiling."
"You are. You've got one of your self-satisfied looks on your face."
"I just think it's rather amusing," Draco says, tidying a set of quills if only to keep his hands busy. "You asking me for advice."
Harry gives him another long look. "You're not so bad, you know," he says, and Draco stares in surprise. "It's true," Harry adds. "You've changed a lot since school."
"Drunk on one glass of firewhiskey? Always thought you'd be a lightweight."
"It's been seventeen years since the war, Malfoy," Harry says, ignoring the gibe. "Don't you think you've changed?"
"I suppose." Draco traces a pattern etched into the desk, trying to resist the next question, but curiosity gets the better of him. "Exactly how have I changed?"
Harry shrugs. "I don't know. You're more interesting, I suppose."
"More interesting?" Draco's amused.
"Well, during school you were very boring, weren't you?"
"Boring? Are you insane? After all that happened — "
"Oh, I don't mean boring like that," Harry says quickly. "I meant...well, you were just like a miniature version of your father, weren't you? Just a copy of his personality, really."
"I am nothing like my father," Draco says coldly before he can stop himself. "I will never abandon my family. My son — " He cuts himself off. He hadn't meant to say so much, and certainly not reveal his innermost thoughts to Harry Potter, of all people. But Harry isn't looking calculating or indifferent; he's instead staring at the fire, a pensive look on his face.
"Do you miss him? Your father, I mean," he asks.
Draco turns away. "Of course not."
"Oh." Harry picks up the white chrysanthemums. "Well. Just thought I'd ask. Anyway, suppose I should leave."
Draco accompanies him to the front door. He pauses a moment, looking at Harry.
"Are you going to the funeral?"
"I still don't know."
"Oh." Draco pauses again; as if sensing his hesitation, Harry waits patiently on the front step. "I do, you know," Draco says at last. "Miss my father, I mean." Then he shuts the door hurriedly — before Harry can respond — and leans against it, exhaling slowly. He doesn't know why he told the truth, but it feels strangely therapeutic to tell someone. He hates his father; he loves him. He wishes he'd magically appear and fix everything; he wishes he'd never return.
It's been so long, anyway, that he's beginning to forget who his father is. Draco looks at the portraits and sees a man who feels like a stranger.
Just a picture of someone Draco once knew.
Draco whiles away the rest of the afternoon by writing a letter to his son. Scorpius sent a letter recently; he'd made some new friends, he'd said, and discovered a hidden talent for playing Gobstones. The other Ravenclaws were very nice once he'd gotten a bit better at talking to them.
Still, Draco wonders what happened to James Potter. Since Christmas, Scorpius had started sending many letters, all of which excitedly mentioned the Potter child at some point. However, there's no mention of the boy in this letter.
Well, Draco's just happy that Scorpius is making more friends. He'll have to send new robes soon, he thinks. Scorpius has grown a lot. Then again, he'll be returning home in a month for the summer holidays. Draco smiles at the thought.
A tap at the window. He stands up and unlatches the window, pushing it open. A bedraggled owl patiently waits.
The letter is only a short scrap of parchment, consisting of a single sentence written in Harry's untidy scrawl.
I didn't attend.
Draco studies the sentence and, after a long moment, smiles faintly. He sets the letter aside and turns to the kitchen table, where a fresh ream of parchment awaits. He picks up the quill, draws the ink, and writes carefully across the top of the parchment.
The Evans Family.
James is miserable.
Scorpius isn't talking to him, his friends have already grown bored of the room and forgotten about it, and summer is swiftly approaching. School will finish in just two weeks, and James has to fix things before then. Late Friday evening, after dinner, he manages to catch ahold of Teddy in the crowded hallways.
"Hey cuz," Teddy says amiably, waving at his friends to go on without him. "What do you want?"
"The Ravenclaw tower."
"Not happening. Nice chat, I'll see you around."
"I'm not joking!" James desperately grabs at Teddy's sleeve to stop him leaving. "Come on, please? I need to see a friend."
"Why not? You snuck me in last time," James says accusingly.
"That was during class, wasn't it? This time of night everyone will be in the common room."
"I'll wear my invisibility cloak."
"You're the clumsiest person I know. You'll end up bumping into someone or treading on your own head or something. What's the big deal, anyway? You'll see your friend in class."
"I'm trying to apologise," James says reluctantly.
"So, go apologise then."
"It's not that easy."
"Oh no, it's not that easy," Teddy repeats mockingly. "Course it is. Here, I'll show you." He grabs ahold of a sixth-year Hufflepuff passing by. "Hey, Matthew. You know the other day, when I said all Hufflepuffs were thick as planks? Sorry about that, I can be a real idiot sometimes. Shout you and the Hufflepuffs a round at the Three Broomsticks next weekend?"
"Cheers, thanks," the Hufflepuff says, looking gratified. "See you in Charms class, Teddy."
"See you round." Teddy waves, watching the Hufflepuff walk away. "See, that's how you do it. Anyway, got to run. I've got Homework Club tonight."
"Homework Club?" James says, pleased to finally have something to tease Teddy about. "Don't your friends think you're a teacher's pet?"
Teddy gives him an odd look. "No. They're my friends, see, and therefore they think I'm awesome no matter what I do. Which, by the way, is true. I tried being non-awesome once, it sucked. Everyone thought I was you."
"Oh, very funny!" James, sensing an incoming hair-ruffling, ducks away quickly. "I'm telling Dad you're being mean, and he'll tell Andromeda!"
"I'll tell her you're the one who ruined her forty-year-old wedding veil by pretending to be a ghost!" Teddy calls as he walks away.
The problem with cousins, James thinks gloomily, is that they know too much about you.
He jams his hands into the pockets of his robes and walks slowly to the Gryffindor tower.
When he arrives in the common-room, he finds his friends sitting in the corner. They're complaining about Slytherins again.
"Henrietta Mortley, she's in second year. Her whole family's Dark!"
"I heard she has an uncle who's in Azkaban for torturing Muggles."
"We should — " Paul begins, and James interrupts.
"No, you shouldn't."
They turn to stare at him. "You don't even know what I'm going to say!" Paul protests.
"Yes, I do. Why don't you leave them alone?"
"Because they killed my cousins," Martin begins angrily, but James cuts him off.
"They didn't! Other people did! They can't help who their parents are!"
"But — "
But James has finally snapped, the words spilling from him, and he raises his voice. "You're just as bad as them! Going around picking fights and making fun of people — how is that supposed to fix anything? I'm sick of it. I'm sick of all of you. Count me out." His voice rings with anger and he's suddenly aware of the silence in the common room. Paul is looking at him with a shocked expression; Martin is the first to speak. James is expecting anger, but instead Martin speaks so quietly that James has to step closer to hear him properly.
"But...some of them are horrible to us, too. The fifth-year Slytherins that always tease me about my dead cousins...call me a blood traitor...you don't know what it's like, James."
James looks at Martin for a long moment, at his miserable expression, and then he looks at Paul, who just seems bewildered now.
His shoulders slump and he suddenly feels defeated somehow.
"I'm going to bed," he says, his voice flat and tired.
Nobody stops him as he turns away and drags his feet up the dormitory stairs.
He doesn't know how to fix this.
It's pointless, James thinks. None of his friends are speaking to him anymore. Martin's gone very quiet, Nate stays out of James's way, Paul seems very confused by it all, and worst of all, Scorpius hasn't spoken to him since that day in their room. He hasn't even looked at him. James ended up sitting next to him in Potions yesterday, and the silence echoed between them like a vast ocean. At the end of the lesson, as they were packing up, James gathered all his courage and asked Scorpius if they were still friends.
Scorpius had replied — without a single look at James — "You're only friends with Gryffindors."
Then he'd left without another word.
Now James sits in the common room, hunched over a book he's really not reading. Opposite him, Rose is smiling as she reads a letter from home.
"Cheer up," Rose says, glancing up from the letter. "Only one week left. Has Uncle Harry got any plans for the summer holidays?"
"Maybe a trip to Brighton," James murmurs, not really focusing on the conversation.
"Mum's taking us to France. You know the family tradition."
"Mm," James says indistinctly.
"You look tired. Maybe you should have an early night."
"Can't. Got Astronomy soon."
"Oh, have we? I nearly forgot."
They make their way to the Astronomy tower. The Gryffindors share the class with the Hufflepuffs; one or two are on friendly terms with James and at least nod in greeting. James chooses a telescope on the far side of the room, listening as Professor Sinistra gives instructions. They will be looking at Saturn tonight, she explains.
"We're in luck tonight," she says. "Very clear conditions. Now, how many of you can see Saturn? The rings should be visible, although you won't be able to see them in much detail until you've completed the additional magnifying charm."
"Amplificare," James murmurs, tapping his wand on the telescope.
"Now, has everyone found Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons?" Professor Sinistra asks. "Good. You will be required to locate all nine of the moons."
The class works quietly. James carefully inks the names of the moons into his star-chart and Sinistra looks over his shoulder.
"Oh, you found Hyperion! Very good. It's quite a unique moon — it's the only moon in the solar system that has chaotic rotation."
"Chaotic rotation, Professor?"
"Its orientation in space is unpredictable." Sinistra turns to the next student. "Appleton! Have you found Mimas yet?"
James finishes early. As he waits for the other students, he adjusts the telescope to look at other parts of the sky. Sirius is easy to find; it's the brightest star in the sky.
That must be nice...looking into the sky, and seeing all your friends and family there…
The sea-blue star seems to wink in the night sky, as if it's a lantern flame flickering in a breeze. James blinks, feeling his eyelashes brush against the cold metal surrounding the eyepiece.
I'd never be afraid of the darkness again if I loved the stars so much.
Harry visits Draco on Wednesday, at the usual time. He's kept waiting quite a while before a somewhat flustered Draco appears, flinging open the door and distractedly telling Harry to come in.
"I was in the middle of figuring out something," Draco says, immediately turning and hurrying away. Harry follows him down two hallways and a flight of stairs, arriving in the kitchen. There's a mass of parchment and old books piled atop the work bench. Draco takes a seat on the far left of the table and starts unravelling a scroll. "Where was I?" he mutters. "That's right, the marriages in the Leeds line." He glances up. "You should really just Floo, you know. Far less disruptive."
"I suppose," Harry says slowly, then spots the name 'Evans' hidden among the piles of parchment. He pulls the parchment free, and is immediately entranced. "Look! It's my family tree!"
Draco gives him a long-suffering look. "Yes. You placed a request and I accepted it. I then started making what we in the industry call a 'family tree'."
"Yes, but it's different to actually see it," Harry says, too excited to pay much attention to Draco's condescension. "You've even got Dudley's daughter on here! She was only born a few months ago. How on earth did you find all this out?" Too late, he remembers Draco is in the middle of working, but Draco doesn't look annoyed at the interruption. On the contrary, he looks a little gratified with the attention. He pushes the parchment aside.
"Well, it's a bit difficult for Muggles. Most of the work is done through old church records. Births, deaths, marriages, baptisms. But for wizards and witches, I can just use the National Wizarding Archives. It's where I found your mother's birth certificate, for example."
"My mother's birth certificate?" Harry echoes. "I've never even heard of the Wizarding Archives..."
Draco looks at him for a long moment, evidently considering something. "Would you like to see it?" he asks at last.
Harry hesitates. Going sightseeing is hardly part of the Ministry-approved visits. But seeing his mother's birth certificate...he'd never even thought about that. "I would, actually."
He stands and follows Draco to the fireplace; Draco tosses a handful of Floo powder into the flames.
"Library of Magic, St James Square," Draco says clearly. He disappears in a flash of green flames and Harry quickly follows, repeating the same address, and finds himself standing in an elaborate marble fireplace in an enormous circular room. The great curved walls are completely lined with books; long oak tables stretch into the centre of the room where a statue of a witch, a book in one hand and wand in the other, stands proudly. Draco catches Harry looking at it.
"Valdis the Scribe," he says. "She was the founder of this library."
There's a faint whoosh, indicating someone is about to Floo into the fireplace, and Harry quickly steps out of the way. Antique lamps line the tables; here and there, a wizard or witch sits by one of the lamps, nose buried deep in an ancient tome.
"This is the Library of Magic?" Harry asks. Draco smiles.
"It's the foyer of the library." He walks to a shelf, reading the titles, then stops at a book. "Pick that book up."
Harry gives him a doubtful look, then reads the title on the book's spine. Registry of Births. It seems rather inconspicuous, and he obediently tugs the book from its place.
Draco grabs ahold of his arm just before they're whipped away. It's a portkey, Harry realises. Within seconds, they've arrived in what looks like a vast wine cellar. Instead of wine, however, the walls — marked with square nooks from floor to ceiling — contain glass bottles, a scroll within each one. In the centre of the room is a raised pedestal, a single sheaf of parchment upon it. Draco approaches it, picks up the long silver quill laying next to it, and writes something. When Harry looks over his shoulder, he sees his mother's name. Evans, Lily.
The word fades. A second later, hundreds of bottles begin to glow.
"Don't tell me you have to search every scroll?" Harry says, looking around.
"Wait a moment, the spell will process your mother's first name too."
It does. Within seconds, the glows begin to fade, leaving five bottles still aglow.
"There's more than one Lily Evans?" Harry's in disbelief, but Draco doesn't seem perturbed.
"There's thousands of records, all dating back to the eleventh century, and 'Evans' is a common surname. It's not that surprising." Draco goes over to one of the glowing bottles. "This is the correct one, if I recall. Quaero quero," he says, and with a swish of his wand, words begin floating above the bottle, like the ghost of the scroll.
EVANS, Lily. 30 January 1960.
Draco moves his wand across the name, as if underlining it, and the name ripples and dissolves into a new floating image. The full birth certificate appears and Harry's heart misses a beat. All this information, and he had no idea it was even here...his grandparents' names, their occupations, date of marriage...
"I didn't even know their names," he says quietly, speaking to himself. "I never even knew...Harry Evans and Hazel Evans. My grandparents. I suppose I was named after my grandfather, then..."
"It's my job to find this information, Potter," Draco says. "It's very common for people to be unaware of their family's history. For example, Astoria never knew..." He trails off. "Shall we take the portkey back, then?"
Harry's rather curious about the end of that sentence, but he acquiesces. They take the portkey back to the main foyer. Harry looks up at the domed ceiling overhead, marvelling at the size of the building. "So, this is the Library of Magic, then."
Draco nods. "Every book in the foyer leads to a particular collection," he says, gesturing to the portkey.
"It must be massive, though. How do they hide it from the Muggles?"
"I don't know. It was built in the eleventh century. Very ancient magic, probably breaking every rule of space and time. Then again," Draco adds, "it's not that hard to believe when you think about those smartphones. All the knowledge in the world, kept in your pocket...what are you smiling about?"
"You read the book," Harry says, feeling absurdly happy.
"Of course I did," Draco snaps.
"So," Harry says, changing the subject, "is this where you do all your research?"
Draco nods. "Sometimes I can borrow items — I've got a copy of the Domesday Book at the moment, but I'll have to return it soon."
"Can't you just buy a copy?"
Draco raises his eyebrows. "A full and complete copy of the Wizarding Domesday costs nearly a thousand galleons."
Harry's aghast. "What! For that price, I hope the book's made of solid gold and turns into a pet phoenix once you've finished with it."
Draco grins a little. "You can get annotated copies for cheaper," he amends, "but the nineteenth-century Wattleworth Press edition is regarded as the best and most definitive version."
Of course, Draco would only want the best. Harry shakes his head and steps into the fireplace.
"Malfoy Manor," he says clearly, stepping into the flames.
Once more he's whisked away, landing in the sunroom hearth. A second later, he remembers — too late — that Draco is following, and the next thing he knows he's tangled up with displeased Draco.
"First time using the Floo or something?" Draco demands, climbing over him and brushing the soot from his robes. "Honestly, Potter."
"You forgot I was right there? How could you just forget?"
"You're quite right, I don't know what I was thinking. Your presence is impossible to forget, with the amount of whinging that you do."
"You're worse. Your voice sounds like a Blast-Ended Skrewt being pushed into a wine bottle."
"Yours sounds like someone just trod on a peacock. One of those ugly little albino peacocks your father was so fond of."
"Ugly little peacocks? I'll have you know they cost a hundred galleons each."
"Should've saved your money and bought some garden gnomes."
"Why not? I hear they have little Harry Potter gnomes now, complete with tiny spectacles and a gormless expression."
They make their way to the kitchen, still bickering, but Draco prepares a pot of tea and Harry interprets it as a truce.
"I've got to finish up a couple of other projects," Draco says as he sits opposite Harry, handing him a cup of tea, "so your family tree will have to wait. Don't expect it to be completed quickly."
"That's fine." Across the table, Harry spots the copy of the Domesday Book. "Don't you get sick of looking at records?"
"I quite like it." Draco hesitates, glancing downwards slightly, and Harry's started to recognise it as a sign that Draco is about to reveal something personal. "They're like riddles. Puzzles, and I have to find all the pieces."
"It's why I became an Auror. Every case is a puzzle."
"I'm a puzzle?" Draco says it in jest, one eyebrow raised, but Harry says nothing for a long moment. He traces a long burn mark across the unpolished wood of the table, then looks up.
"Earlier, you said Astoria never knew something about her family history. What was it?"
Draco looks at him, then glances down at the table, his hands resting against the warmth of the teacup. "It's nothing," he says, and Harry can hear the finality in his voice. Perhaps Draco remembered to whom he was speaking; perhaps he regrets sharing such personal thoughts and memories. Harry glances up, catching sight of the freshly-painted ceiling, and suddenly recalls Scorpius's words regarding his father's renovations.
"Getting rid of all the ghosts," he echoes.
Draco tilts his head slightly, an almost-nod of agreement.
James stands atop the hill, gazing down at the students milling around the train station below. An early summer rain has come, sending silvery rain falling upon the tall, green grass. There's a patch of daffodils growing near James's feet and he looks disconsolately at the butter-coloured petals.
Time to leave.
He slowly descends the hill, walking the meandering stone path until he's reached the centre of Hogsmeade and then the station platform. All around him, students are sharing heartfelt goodbyes.
James boards the train slowly, dragging his luggage behind him. Most students are still on the platform, chatting excitedly before they board. He sits in an empty compartment, gets out his latest comic and tries to read it. Soon, footsteps constantly patter past, along with the clatter of luggage and snatches of conversation.
"Honestly, who does she think she is? I don't..."
"...pick us up at nine o'clock sharp, so don't..."
"...just a few Canary Creams and he gave me a detention…"
Each time, James glances up; he tries to keep reading but ends up re-reading the same sentence seven times. Just as he's about to toss the comic aside, footsteps stop at the compartment door and someone pulls it open.
James looks up. Nate is looking at him, Martin and Paul behind him.
"Hello," he says, but even he can hear the disappointment in his voice.
"Mind if we sit?" Nate asks, and James shrugs.
"Thanks." He sits on the opposite seat, along with Martin; Paul sits next to James.
"Listen," Paul says, looking nervously at the others, "we just wanted...we wanted to say we're sorry. I suppose we haven't exactly been very kind, even though I still think it was horrible of you to yell at us like that — "
James straightens up, feeling defensive, but Martin speaks then.
"I've been thinking a lot about it," he says quietly. "And...well...you're right. About what you said. I suppose it's all you ever hear about the war, isn't it — what your parents tell you, I mean. And it's easy to sort of, you know, get a little angry at people. Even people who didn't really have anything to do with it."
"What we're trying to say," Nate says earnestly, "is that we're honestly sorry about the whole business, and we'd like to be friends again."
James can't afford to be turning down offers of friendship, but he's still mad about what he lost and he thinks for a long moment before he shakes his head.
"I don't think so," he says. Paul and Martin look crestfallen; Nate nods.
"Well," he says, "maybe next year, then."
"Maybe," James allows.
They all nod at him and wish him a good summer before leaving. Not soon after, Rose and Teddy appear.
"Look at you, slumped there like a dead bumblebee," Teddy says theatrically, throwing the door open and immediately launching himself at James. James, caught by surprise, puts up a spirited fight but quickly resigns himself to being held in a headlock for a few moments, his hair being ferociously ruffled.
"Go away," he groans. "Haven't you got friends to bother?"
"I'd much rather annoy my noodle-limbed cousin."
"I'm taking the window seat," Rose tells Teddy, and they immediately start bickering.
"Merlin, save me from days like this," James mutters.
Secretly, though, he's grateful for their company.
Harry's pleased to see his son again, but there seems to be something different about him. Something's changed, Harry thinks. After they arrive home from the train station, James disappears upstairs to unpack and doesn't reappear again until dinnertime.
"Didn't know you were that interested in astronomy," Harry teases as James pores over an Astronomy book, absently eating forkfuls of peas as he turns the pages. "Thought you said stars were just balls of gas in the sky."
James makes an indistinct noise and turns another page. Harry frowns. Normally, that'd be the cue for James to excitedly chatter about the subject. Is it just the oncoming teenager years, taking away James's habit of constant chatter?
He studies his son. James, he realises, looks miserable.
"What's wrong?" he asks.
"Nothing." James turns another page; Harry, worried at the sudden distance between them, reads the heading of the page upside-down.
"Studying Saturn, hey?" he asks, trying to draw James into conversation. "On a clear night, you can see it without a telescope. It's one of the brightest planets."
"But you can't see the moons," James says.
"No, you can't."
James stares down at the diagram in the book, then slowly pushes his plate away.
"You haven't eaten much," Harry says.
"Yeah." James carries his plate to the sink, then picks up his book and goes upstairs.
He spends the rest of the night in the study, going through his notes for an upcoming surveillance project. Just as he's about to finally go to bed, an owl taps at the window. Harry glances up, then grins and collects the parcel from the owl before going to the fireplace and flinging a handful of Floo powder into the flames.
"Malfoy Manor," he says clearly, stepping into the green flames, and a few seconds later he lands in the sunroom fireplace, toppling over and falling across the grate. "Ouch," he mutters, standing up and dusting soot from his robes. He hears hurried footsteps; a second later, Draco's appeared in the doorway, his wand aloft.
"Potter! What are you doing?" he hisses. "It's nearly midnight!"
"Oh, is it really?" Harry asks with surprise. "Sorry, I completely lost track of time. Did I wake you up?"
"No, I was in the kitchen, and — but that's not the point! And Scorpius is a very light sleeper, if you've woken him up — so help me — "
"Father?" As if hearing Draco's words, a rumpled Scorpius has appeared by his father's side. He spots Harry and shrinks back. "What's he doing here?"
"I'm just dropping off something for your father," Harry says.
"Go back to bed," Draco tells Scorpius, but he shakes his head firmly. Draco turns and gives Harry an angry look.
"It's all right," Harry says, trying to catch Scorpius's eye and smile reassuringly. "You can come along too. Shall we go to the kitchen?"
Draco leads the way. Once they're in the kitchen, Scorpius sits at the end of the table and observes both Harry and his father, an air of anxiety still about him.
"Please don't tell me you've arrived at midnight to give me paperwork, of all things," Draco says curtly, pouring himself a cup of tea.
"Sort of." Harry still feels terrible about waking Scorpius up; he hadn't really thought of that when he Floo'd. "I really should've left it until tomorrow, but it only just arrived and — well, I'm a bit impatient like that." He pushes a parcel across the table.
"What's that?" Draco asks suspiciously.
"Something for you."
"A present?" Scorpius suddenly asks. Harry turns to look at him.
"Well — yes. A present."
"Open it," Scorpius urges his father, and Draco gives him a look of slight amusement. He reaches for the parcel, slowly untying the string, and stares down at the item inside. The letters gleam across the leather cover of the book. The Complete Wizarding Domesday Book, Volumes I and II. Draco flips the cover open; there's a small stamp of a wattle branch on the first page, with Wattleworth Press in neat lettering beneath it.
"I want to read it," Scorpius says, and Draco looks amused.
"You want to read everything." But he hands the book over; Scorpius turns to the first page and immediately begins intently reading it. Draco glances at Harry, frowning.
"You didn't have to buy it."
"I know." Harry tries to say it as a joke, but Draco doesn't smile.
"Why did you, then?"
Now it's Harry's turns to look away. He glances down at the table and traces a pattern in a whorl of wood. "Well...I..." Why did he? It just seemed a bit of a joke at the time; he really hadn't put much thought into it. "Thought it'd be handy," he says. Draco waits, one eyebrow slightly raised, as if awaiting the punchline. A silence stretches on. "That's...that's it," Harry says awkwardly.
"You bought a thousand galleon book," Draco says slowly, "because you thought it might be handy?"
"Yes," Harry says resolutely.
"You're mental, you do know that?" Draco says conversationally.
Harry rolls his eyes. "You're welcome."
Scorpius looks up from the book, glancing from Harry to Draco, and then he closes the book.
"I'm tired," he says to Draco. "I'm going to bed."
"All right," Draco says. "Would you like the Lumos spell for your wand?"
To light the way back to bed, Harry realises. He used to do the same for James when he was little, except he used a different spell, and now he speaks before he can really think about it.
"Would you like something a little brighter?" Harry asks Scorpius, and Scorpius suddenly looks at him with complete attention.
"A new spell?" he says eagerly.
"Scorpius loves to learn new charms," Draco says.
"Really? Well, watch this," Harry tells Scorpius, drawing his wand. "Expecto Patronum!"
Within seconds, the stag is standing proudly by the table, illuminating the room with its white-blue glow. Scorpius gazes at it with an awestruck expression.
"What is it?" Scorpius asks.
"A Patronus. They're made from happy memories. You'll learn about them later," Harry says. Scorpius approaches the stag and hesitantly moves his hand towards it. The stag tilts its head, as if trying to nudge Scorpius. "Just walk," Harry says, "and it will go with you."
Scorpius takes a few steps forward and the stag immediately follows him, keeping pace. Scorpius looks at his father, his eyes bright.
"I'll learn this one day," he says. Then he turns and leaves, the soft blue glow of the stag disappearing with him.
Harry suddenly remembers the furious look Draco gave him earlier, when Scorpius first appeared, and prepares himself for a vitriolic lecture. However, Draco just gives him a look of mild annoyance.
"I don't appreciate you arriving in the middle of the night," Draco says. "Especially waking Scorpius — "
"I know," Harry says quickly. "I honestly didn't think about it."
"Typical of you." Draco looks away. "However, I'll consider overlooking your error. Mostly because you've impressed Scorpius."
Harry suddenly remembers Scorpius's friendship with James. Visiting a friend, he thinks, would definitely cheer James up. "Listen," he says, "James seems to be feeling a little down, and I thought maybe I could bring him with me next visit."
Draco shrugs. "I don't see why not."
"I'll see you next week, then."
Harry turns and makes his way back to the sunroom, the green flames of the Floo reflecting brightly along the large windows, glittering and flickering like ghosts.
Draco thinks Scorpius would also benefit from a visit from a friend; though he doesn't seem unhappy, he's certainly spending a lot of time in the gardens, reading alone, and he seems a little quieter than normal. On the Wednesday of Harry and James's scheduled visit, Scorpius arrives back from one such reading session in the gardens, grass stains on his robes, and Draco looks at him in dismay just as the wards vibrate.
"Visitors?" Scorpius asks, looking surprised.
"One for you, one for me." Draco studies Scorpius, then sighs. "Go upstairs and change your robes."
Scorpius nods and disappears to his room. Draco goes to the door and when he opens it, he's greeted with a pleasant smile from Harry and a look of terror from James.
"Afternoon," Harry says by way of greeting. "I've got some paperwork to discuss with you. James, run along and play with Scorpius."
James hides behind his father. Draco can't figure it out. The boy — previously appearing to be a confident and rather energetic child — now shuffles quickly behind Harry like a shy five-year-old. Harry, evidently equally puzzled by the behaviour, gives James a slight push into the hall.
"Go on," he say.
"I — can't I stay here with you?" James asks plaintively.
"No. I brought you here to spend time with your friend," Harry says. "I want to have a cup of tea and a bit of peace and quiet."
James gives Draco a look. "Hello," he says, politely but with a faint trace of apprehension.
"Hello," Draco says, still a little bewildered. "Scorpius is in his room." James stands there, unmoving. "You can go upstairs," Draco adds.
"Now, preferably." Harry says, a little less tactful than Draco.
James, at last, shakes his head violently. "I can't!" he blurts out.
"Why not? Off you go," Harry says, but James just looks even more unhappy.
"I can't. We had an awful row! Scorpius won't even talk to me."
"Then go say sorry and shake hands," Harry says, unperturbed. Draco speaks up, slightly defensive about James's last sentence.
"Scorpius isn't the sort to make a fuss over nothing," he says a little sharply. "I'm sure if you apologise, he'll be happy to be friends again."
Harry looks at Draco, and for a moment, Draco thinks Harry will make a sharp retort. However, Harry gives James a small nudge.
"Go on, then," he says, and James walks very slowly to the stairs and begins ascending them, reluctance in his every step.
"Children," Harry says wearily as soon as James is out of earshot. "They're twelve, what could they possibly argue about?"
"I don't know, we found a lot of things to argue about," Draco points out, shutting the door behind Harry. They both automatically start making their way to the kitchen.
"That's different. You're talking about schoolyard rivalry. I'm talking about a falling-out between friends. First time I had a major argument with any of my friends, it wasn't until fourth year."
"Was it?" Draco asks with interest. He always thought Harry and his friends were sickeningly sweet to each other. "Granger, wasn't it?" Some quarrel over homework, he'd wager.
Harry shakes his head. "Ron," he says regretfully. Draco's eyebrows rise with surprise.
"And what exactly did you argue about?"
"Mind your own business," Harry says, and switches topics. "Anyway, I wasn't kidding about the paperwork. You've got to update all your contact details."
"Oh, that covers everything then." Harry rolls his eyes. "You need to sign it, at least. Technically, the — " He stops dead in his tracks; Draco pauses and turns around.
"What — what have you done to the kitchen?"
"Oh, this?" Draco says casually; he'd actually forgotten about the state of the kitchen. It had been a place designed for mass cooking, with long workbenches notched by years of knifework and a stone floor scraped and scratched from past house elves dragging things about. Draco had decided that it most certainly required an update.
In any case, kitchen renovations turned out to be trickier than he'd first imagined. He'd attempted a number of spells listed in the renovation spellbook and ended up having far too much fun with Incendio. The kitchen is currently a half-destroyed mess, counters reduced to piles of splinters and half the stone floor in fragments.
"I liked it in here," Harry says with horror.
"In winter, perhaps, when it had a fire lit and you couldn't see the full horror of it," Draco says critically. "I have plans."
"You always have plans. Speaking of which, if you've stolen The Strand from me…"
They fall into half-hearted bickering as if it's an old routine. Draco makes a pot of tea and sends it upstairs with a wave of his wand; they catch up to the tea-tray once they've made their way to the study. Their Monopoly game has been set up by the fireplace, on a small side-table, but Harry's immediately distracted by the reams of parchment on the desk.
"You've found out more about the Evans?" he asks keenly.
"Oh, didn't I tell you? You've got a few other Muggleborns in your family," Draco says. And, minutes later, they're both poring over the long parchment, Draco explaining things while Harry nods and asks questions.
It's almost a frighteningly normal routine.
James walks slowly up the stairs, feeling inexplicably nervous. He'd been thrilled when Harry had announced a 'surprise visit' and had happily taken the portkey. Once the manor had come into sight, however, Harry practically had to drag James up the driveway. James had tried to come up with a million excuses to go home, but Harry hadn't accepted any of them.
He steps onto the landing and turns down the hallway.
Scorpius is walking along it.
He's at the far end of the hallway, and he's busy buttoning up a set of robes and not paying any attention to where he's going. James waits for what feels like an eternity; Scorpius, still looking down at his robes and fumbling with the buttons, doesn't look up until he's a few feet away.
He stares at James, one hand still raised to the top button, other hand by his side. The silence goes on, until it's nearly too much to bear, and James is about to say something himself. Then Scorpius speaks.
"What are you doing here?"
He asked that same question six months ago, at Christmastime. When the manor's gardens were dusted with snow and roses of ice, and James's face was red with cold. Visiting you, of course, James had replied, and Scorpius had smiled at him.
"My — my father's here," James says, looking away and wincing at how awkward he sounds.
"I don't want you here."
"I'm sorry." James stares fixedly at his feet, still unable to look up.
"Leave me alone." The chilliness hasn't left Scorpius's voice.
"I said I'm sorry! Look...can't we just...start again? Things can be different this time...I feel horrible about everything, and...and..." It's always been difficult for James to admit weakness; others are always chasing him, begging for a scrap of friendship, not the other way around. "I miss you," he mutters. "Can't we just be friends again?"
"You're only friends with Gryffindors."
James looks up then, feeling hurt and angry. "Stop saying that," he says. "Do you have to be so stubborn? I'm trying to apologise! It's just a stupid argument — friends have arguments all the time! I already feel bad about it, and you're just making it worse! You're my friend, and — "
"I am not your friend!" Scorpius retorts, and at last, real emotion flits across his face — genuine anger.
"Are too! We made a promise!"
"You broke it!"
"I couldn't help it! I told you, my friends made me — "
"They didn't make you do anything! You're a coward, and a liar, and you're not my friend!" Scorpius is shouting now.
"Don't you dare call me a coward and a liar!"
"You are! You should be ashamed of all the lies you tell people!"
James is flushed with outrage; lost in his anger, he says the next words unthinkingly. "You're the one who should be ashamed — I'd rather be a coward or a liar than the son of a Death Eater!"
Scorpius doesn't retort. The silence seems a thousand times worse than their raised voices. They stand there for a moment, and then Scorpius speaks.
"Don't," he says, but his voice cracks halfway through the word and he pauses before speaking again. "Don't come near me. Ever again. If you try, I'll hex you."
"Scorpius, I — "
"I mean it." Scorpius draws his wand and points it at James. "Stay away from me." He looks at James, his face pale, and then he turns and disappears around the corner; a few moments later, James hears a door closing.
For some inexplicable reason, he wishes Scorpius had slammed it.
"You're such a liar."
Draco waves a hand dismissively. "You're too paranoid, that's your problem."
"It's not paranoia, Malfoy, when you've miraculously acquired two property sets." Harry's eyes are narrowed with suspicion.
"Oh, come on. You've got one set, and I haven't accused you of sneaking money from the bank to buy them."
"I've got the worst set! Whitechapel and Old Kent! They're worth nothing. And I swear I had an extra five-hundred pounds. Went missing about the same time I went to make more tea, actually."
The problem with Harry, Draco muses, isn't that he's paranoid. Quite the contrary, really. He's far too trusting.
He rolls the dice, begins to move his piece, then notices Harry's battleship sitting on Mayfair. "Potter! That's rent! You owe me a thousand pounds!"
"Too late, you already rolled the dice." Harry's grinning. Draco growls.
"You're annoyingly Slytherin sometimes, do you know that?"
"Must be spending too much time around you."
Draco opens his mouth to respond, but never does; right then, the study door opens and James appears. Draco frowns; the boy looks pale and unhappy. Harry glances up, his smile fading as he sees his son.
"James? Something wrong?"
"Can we go home? Please?"
"Don't you want to spend some time with Scorpius?" Harry asks; James shakes his head mutely and Harry exchanges a glance with Draco. "Well," Harry says, in tones of slightly weary patience, "I'm in the middle of a game right now."
James's gaze falls to the Monopoly board. "That game takes ages, Dad," he pleads. "Can we just leave?"
"Have you said goodbye to Scorpius?" Harry asks. "Go say goodbye, I'll finish my turn."
James shakes his head again.
"No?" Harry's taken aback. "James, are you really going to pick an argument over this?"
"I don't want an argument!"
And to Draco's horror, James immediately bursts into tears. Harry, looking alarmed, stands up and turns to Draco.
"I'd better take him home and sort this out," he says. "See you Wednesday?"
Harry puts a hand on James's shoulder and guides him out the door.
"What's all this about, then?" he asks his son softly, but their footsteps are quickly fading and Draco doesn't hear James's reply.
Soon as Harry and James have left, Draco frowns and stands up, making his way upstairs. He knocks twice on Scorpius's door.
"Scorpius?" he calls quietly, and he hears a faint tap followed by a whispered Alohomora. The door opens. "You're not supposed to perform magic out of school," Draco reprimands gently.
"I know." Scorpius looks down at his feet. He looks upset, Draco thinks with concern.
"Did James do something?" he asks, but Scorpius shakes his head.
"We had an argument." Scorpius folds his hands in his lap, his signal for I'm not going to talk about it. "He's not my friend anymore."
"You don't want him to visit again?"
"And Harry?" Draco asks. Clearly James and Scorpius have had a row of sorts — Draco's not overly alarmed, he'd had plenty of dramatic arguments with Pansy and Theo in his childhood years — but if Scorpius doesn't want Harry to visit either...Draco will have to explain that Harry must visit, it's part of Draco's probation.
Fortunately, however, Scorpius nods.
"Harry can visit."
Draco sits beside Scorpius and changes the subject. "Would you like to play a game of backgammon?" he asks; it's one of Scorpius's favourites. Draco has a stack of newly-arrived letters from various historians, awaiting reply, the gaps in the family trees ready to fill, but he wants to spend some time with his son.
Scorpius nods and fetches the game.
Harry wonders what on earth happened between James and Scorpius. He'd asked James when they left the manor, but James had been too upset to say anything and as soon as Harry arrived home, he was immediately called into a conference at work.
"I'm sorry," Harry had told James. "But I have to go to this debriefing. We'll talk later."
But the conference had taken far longer than expected, and Harry had arrived home some time after midnight, when James had already gone to bed.
The next time he visits Draco, he wonders if he should ask about it. But surely it's just a quarrel over nothing, he decides, and there's no point bringing it up again. Instead, he tries to remember the real purpose of his visits and keep it strictly businesslike. He conducts a wandcheck, much to Draco's apparent annoyance, and writes down the spells performed, then asks the standard questions.
"Any contact with family or friends?" he asks Draco as they sit in the study, the file open across the desk between them.
Draco doesn't look too impressed with Harry's efforts to return their meetings to a more professional manner. "What family or friends?" he asks. "That's not sarcasm, Potter. That's a genuine question."
"Do you really need specifics? Fine. Theo..." Harry trails off, staring at the name in the file. Deceased. Blaise Zabini. Deceased. Millicent Bulstrode. Deceased. "Er...Pansy Parkinson."
Draco levels him with an incredulous look. Harry rapidly retreats.
"All right, yes, no contact then," he says, scribbling madly just to seem busy. "Changed any contact details recently?"
"Right." Harry closes the file, then stares at the desk beneath his hands. There's tiny scratching across it, he realises, from years of people writing on thin parchment. He can actually read a few words.
My dear son…
He wonders who wrote those words. Lucius, or Draco? Countless letters sent to Hogwarts, bringing news both bad and good throughout the years…
Footsteps. He turns around. Scorpius stands in the doorway.
"Hello, Scorpius," Harry says. "I was just leaving." He stands up, then studies Scorpius for a moment. "You know," he says, "you've probably heard it a thousand times, but you look so much like your father."
Scorpius looks at his father, then back to Harry. "Do I?"
Harry nods. "Do you think James and I are alike?" It's an impulsive question, one he hadn't meant to ask. Scorpius frowns and tilts his head, as if trying to remember something.
"My father has the Dark Mark on his wrist," Scorpius says at last. Harry, thrown by the unrelated remark, blinks and looks at Draco. Draco looks caught between surprise and horror at Scorpius's comment.
"I know," Harry says.
"I don't think Harry wants to talk about the Dark Mark," Draco intervenes quickly.
"No, it's all right," Harry says. "It's just a scar, isn't it? I've got a few of those I don't particularly like either."
There's a short silence, then Draco holds out his hand. Harry looks at it blankly for a moment before reaching out and accepting it.
"See you next Wednesday," Draco says, shaking hands only once before letting go.
"Next Wednesday," Harry echoes.
Scorpius looks at his father, then at Harry, and follows them silently to the front door. As Harry turns the handle, Scorpius speaks.
"I don't think you and James are alike."
"Oh," Harry says with disappointment. He'd like to think James looks a little like him — that tousled mop of black hair, at least.
Regardless, he smiles at Scorpius and leaves.