A/N: All the usual Disclaimers apply. Please do not assume I own anything.

This story is not a romance. It is not a drama or an action story. It isn't even about magic. It is simply a story about life.

All The World's a Stage

By HiBob

Lucius Malfoy grinned with expectation as he entered the bank. He looked with ill-feigned interest at the muggles around him, until one of them approached.

"May I help you, Sir." The woman was obviously one step up from being a simple clerk.

"I am looking for Reginald Grant." Malfoy continued to smile disdainfully. "If you can direct me too him I would be most . . . grateful."

The Assistant Manager looked at the obviously wealthy man. "Is he expecting you?"

Lucius Malfoy lowered his voice as he came to the point. "It concerns his son. I would not think an appointment necessary?"

Chastised, the Assistant Manager led the way to the Senior Manager's office. "Mister Grant, you have a visitor. It's a personal matter." She stepped aside and let the man into the office. She then closed the door behind her.

Reginald Grant was a stout man of average height and thinning brown hair. He was also the Branch Manager of the second largest Branch of one of the largest banks in England. He found out only recently how little money could help to buy happiness.

"You have the advantage of me, Sir," Reginald said. "You know who I am but I do not know you. Would you care to have a seat?"

"The name is Lucius Malfoy." He cast a glance at the chair. "I think I would prefer to stand." Walking over to the wall, he tapped a picture with his walking stick. Then did so again. "This picture doesn't move."

Reginald Grant started in surprise. "It isn't supposed to, Mister Malfoy."

"Typical of muggles," Malfoy muttered and turned away. "I have a business proposal, Mister Grant, one that would be of benefit to both of us, and to others as well."

"If you will excuse me, Mister Malfoy, Miss Campbell said you came here on a personal matter. If this business a personal offer, it is unacceptable."

Malfoy sneered. "Is everything money with you muggles? Business can be Business without money being involved."

"Muggles? Could you explain that word?"

"My business concerns your son."

Reginald maintained his calm demeanor. "Now, Sir, I have another questions for you. How is my son any business of yours?"

Lucius smiled. "Muggles are people like you, Mister Grant. People who are completely and totally incapable of magic. We don't associate with muggles as a rule, but sometimes there are exceptions. Your son is one of the exceptions."

Moving a hand to the silent alarm, Reginald asked, "Are you trying to tell me that magic is real?"

Malfoy grinned from where he stood across the room. "You don't believe in magic?" he asked in mock surprise. He disappeared with a loud popping noise.

"You don't believe in magic?" Lucius asked from directly behind Reginald.

"How . . ."

"Magic, Mister Grant. I am a wizard, and a very powerful one. But even as powerful as I am, I need your help. But I can not and will not take it. The circumstances dictate that you must agree to help me of your own free will. And therefore we must do business with each other."

Somehow through all of this Reginald had managed to keep his head. He had to believe that magic was real. His voice, however, showed his agitation. "You said this concerned my son?"

"Yes it does. And I can assure you that, should our business be successful, his acceptance is guaranteed at the finest School of Magic that this country has to over."

"Mr. Malfoy," Reginald said with indignity. "If you have any knowledge about my son then you know that is a cruel jest."

"I know all about your son, Mister Grant," Malfoy said with equal intensity. "And you forget that I am a wizard. Let me add that if our business in not successful, educating your son will not matter. What do they call it? Catastrophic Amnesia? I would give him a proper name. A human vegetable."

The two men glared at each other for a minute. Then Malfoy sat down.

"Mister Grant, I am not here on a personal matter, per se. I am offering to heal your son. But to me this is also a business matter. I want something in return."

Reginald hazarded a guess. "You want my son to study magic."

Malfoy actually laughed. "You muggles are so ignorant it is truly pathetic. No, Mister Grant, I do not. Personally, I would prefer it if your son and others like him were never taught. But I have little control over that. The truth is, Mister Grant, your son has no memories. He can't wake up because there is no one there to wake up. Correct me if I'm wrong."

"You are correct," Reginald admitted, but he kept a calm face. The wizard he was talking to revealed something. His son was born with magic. And this man, this wizard did not like magic children born of muggle parents. This was a business deal and Malfoy had given him a bargaining edge. "Tell me what you want, and tell me what you have to offer."

Malfoy smiled again. "I have already told you what I had to offer. A healthy son. Now I will tell you the price."

Reginald watched as Malfoy took a ring box out of a pocket. He placed it on the desk and lifted the lid. Inside the ring box was a ring, a plain brass ring too small for a man.

"A child's ring?"

"For a child," Malfoy agreed. "Preferably an eleven year old boy."

"Is it safe to touch? I assume it is a magic ring."

"For you and I it is safe, Mister Grant. But if this ring were placed on your son's finger, one of two things would happen. First, and most likely, nothing. Second, and what I hope for, the spirit which is held by this ring will be released into your son's body."

Reginald shook his head. "I will not permit my son to be possessed by some demon just to see him open his eyes. That would be . . . horrible."

Lucius spoke his words carefully. This was the critical moment. He had to reveal enough of the truth but not to much. This had to be willingly done.

"It is not a demon. I can assure you of that. The spirit is human, held by the ring until it can be released into a new host. As far as I know, the spirit trapped in the ring is a boy. I assume it was the son of a colleague of my mentor, from whom I obtained the ring. May I speak plainly?"

"You can try, Sir, but I do not want someone else's child. I want my child."

"As I see things, this boy is your son. If my plan works, he will still be your son. Because he lost his memories, he has to be given new ones. He will not remember who he was, but he will remember a lfe. You will have the difficulty, and the pleasure, of showing him who he is."

"And you?"

"I only want to talk to him. The man who created this spell left no written record of how he did it. It is my hope that this boy will know the answer. I want permission to talk to him about his knowledge of magic."

"I will have to think about it."

"I have time, Mr. Grant. The ring is useless to me otherwise, so feel free to keep it. I've placed a charm on it so that I can tell if it is being used and I will appear at once.."

Malfoy disappeared with a distinctive pop, and Reginald sat at his desk fingering an old brass ring. In the end, he could not stop thinking about the boy trapped inside

Lucius Malfoy was exultant. The muggle fool had failed to put all the pieces together. The wizard whose magic formed the ring had done so for a purpose and an ill purpose at that. He now stood in the bedroom of the mudblood boy. He watched as the man started to put the ring on his son's finger. But the man stopped and looked at his wife, while Lucius worried. Then she smiled and also put her hand on the ring. Typical muggle sentmentality, Lucius thought as both husband and wife put the magic ring on the hand of their sleeping child.

The boy stirred. Then slowly opened his eyes. He looked around, his confusion obvious, but smiled when the woman grabbed his hand and spoke softly.

In less than five minutes, Lucius had disapperated from the house. The boy had no knowledge. He was no wizard's son. The boy was used because he was convenient, because he was dying.

Hamnet lay in his bed. He did not move. It hurt to move. It also hurt to breath but he could not help that. His only happiness left was that it would not last much longer.

Hamnet's father was well to do. He was a writer by trade, and was famous throughout London as a playwright. The Queen herself sat at more than one command performance, and Father had even been called to meet her. He told Hamnet all about it.

"It was amazing. I wish you could have been there, when they told me that Queen Elizabeth had asked to meet me."

Judith, Hamnet's twin sister, had also been there as father described the scene, and she tried to cheer him up by exclaiming every detail. She then made him promise to get well so that he could go to London the next time.

Hamnet promised.

Father tried everything. He called every doctor, every magician, every charlatan. On his last day Hamnet had a succession of visitors. A man lay eggs on his eyes to draw out the evil. He left with the eggs. A woman felt his forehead and looked in his mouth then left shaking her head. She refused payment. A foul smelling man placed a ring over his heart then recited some bad Latin for twenty minutes. He left with the ring and enough money to buy some ale. The last visitor that day was a priest. Father had acknowledged that there was nothing more he could do.

Night fell, and Hamnet fell into an easy sleep. The pain was lifted from him and he could feel nothing. A smile formed on his face for the first time since he fell ill. Then he died.

Then he felt something on his hand, and Hamnet awoke in a strange bed. The surroundings were unusual and he did not know any of the three people in the room. But the woman took his hand gently and began to rub it with her other hand. Her voice was soft and soothing.

"Rest, dearest. Take your time. Do you need to sleep some more?"

"I thank ye, fair lady," Hamnet said, his voice harsh. "I do feel weak, but have rested well. Is my mother near? Or father?"

Hamnet was surprised when the woman gently touched his lips with her finger. He was helped to sit up, and given a drink of warm water, for which he was grateful.

"I don't want to frighten you, dear, but you have been sick for a long time. I need to ask you a few questions., to make sure you are fine." Hamnet nodded his agreement. "First, I must ask your name and date of birth."

"Easy enough, Hamnet Shakespeare. And I was born on February second, in '85"

The lady grinned. "You were born in the year 85?"

Hamnet returned the smile. "You know I meant 1585."

The lady smiled. "To be honest, I didn't. Hamnet, what is the last date that you remember?"

Hamnet became cautious. "August 10, 1596. What is today?"

"July 17 . . ."

"Ask him," insisted the tall blond man who was standing.

"I don't think I have to," the other man said, but he turned to the boy. "Hamnet, was your father William Shakespeare?"

Hamnet nodded, but his eyes began to water. "Why did you ask if he WAS my father? Did something happen? Did he die?"

"I'm sorry, Hamnet," the woman said as she grabbed the boy into a hug. "Reggie, we have so much to tell him."

"I know Delores, but I was right. This will be for the best."

Lucius was glaring angrily. "Grant, Who is this William Shakespeare."

Reginald looked up from the bed at Lucius Malfoy. "He was a writer. Very famous in his time. I'm surprised you haven't heard of him."

"Then the boy knows nothing."

"He was probably convenient. A test subject."

"Then all of this was for naught."

"Well, Malfoy, you can guess why he didn't bother writing down the spell. It didn't work properly."

"Except the fool didn't know that it did work." Malfoy, in his anger, left the bedroom and was halfway down the stairs before he calmed down enough to remember to apparate.

Reggie turned around as the man left. Hamnet was looking at him in wonder. Dolores was still holding him protectively. "Who are you?" the boy asked.

"A fair question. I am Reginald Grant, and my wife, Dolores, is the one who is trying to comfort you."

"What happened to my father."

"He died after a long and full life. I don't remember when he died, but I do remember for some reason that it was on his 52nd birthday." Reggie noticed the hint of fear in the boy's eyes. "Hamnet, are you brave? You will have to be brave because there are a great many things I have to tell you, and not all of them are good.

"I will try to be brave, Goodman Grant."

"Hamnet. Magic is real."

Dolores Grant stepped outside to stretch her legs. Ham was sleeping again after some soup and juice. They had talked the full afternoon and into the night. Then she and Reggie talked about what had happened. Finally, she needed to move. She had been sitting most of the day. And so, at Four in the morning, she went for a short walk. Dolores came back to find someone at her door.

"May I be of help," She said as she came up behind the man.

"WHAT," the man said in surprise, and Dolores had to laugh. The burglar she was going to scare away was the milkman reading the note she had left.

"I am sorry, Mr. . . . Creevey, isn't it. I didn't think of the time."

"I thought my heart would stop, Ma'am. I don't meet too many people in my job. I'll just get the extra two quart you asked for." He went back to the truck and came back with two more bottles. "Do you want them in the milk box?"

"Yes, please," Dolores said, as she took the bottles from his hand. She then blushed. "I'm sorry. I didn't even listen to what you said."

"Quite all right, Ma'am. It is early." Mr. Creevey tipped his hat and walked back to his truck to continue his route.

"Mister Creevey," Dolores called, running after him. She had to tell someone. "It's my son. He woke up last night. He's going to be fine."

Creevey nodded. Everyone in town knew about the Grants and about the accident. He thought something like that had happened but it wasn't his place to ask. And it was good news. He had two boys of his own, and although he couldn't tell her, he knew exactly how she felt.

His congratulations were cut short when an owl dropped a letter between the two of them.

"Was that an owl?" Dolores Grant asked?

"Nothing unusual," Creevey answered. "You see them around this time of night." He tried to pick up the letter without her noticing, but she did.

"What's that?"

"Something I dropped. Ma'am." He glanced at the address, then looked again. "It's for you, Mrs. Grant. For your son, I think. But I thought his name was Martin."

"We decided to change it," Dolores said evenly.

"Then you knew the letter was coming?"

Dolores stopped and read the envelope. It was addressed to Hamnet Shakespeare Grant. And it was from Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Magic was real. And it was real for her son. That wizard had told Reggie the complete truth. Then she looked at her milkman in a new light.

"Mr. Creevey, why did you think this letter was for you?"

"I, um, well, I thought it might be my son's booklist for the next school year." Donald Creevey had a shy grin on his face. "I thought maybe the owl noticed me and decided to save some time." He looked at his watch. "Mrs. Grant, I have my rounds. If you like, I'll have my wife give you a call later?"

Please do, Mister Creevey."

Dolores walked back to the house, and Reggie was waiting. She looked at him coyly. "I know the perfect school for Ham. The milkman sends his boy there."

Ham was still getting used to looking at a new face whenever he looked into the mirror. He did adapt quickly to the modern conveniences, and was overjoyed that he did not have daily chores. He would have to take out the trash and help clean up but he did not have to pump water or help around the glove shop where he lived with his grandfather. Stratford was supposed to have been healthier for him than London. But that was then.

Hamnet finished combing his hair and went downstairs, his first time unattended. He was looking forward to his new life.

"Ham, we're in the kitchen."

He followed his mother's voice, reminding himself that she was his mother, and found himself face to face with two blond boys, both of whom were smaller than he was.

"Hamnet," Dolores said. "Remember the school I told you about? This is Colin. He's already a student there, and this is his brother, Dennis. He'll be starting there this year, just like you."

"They call you Ham?" Dennis asked. "Like in Green Eggs and Ham?"

"No, they call me Ham, as in," he pointed at Colin with the strap around his neck and used the new word he learned, "as in CAMera."

"Okay. Do you want to go to the park and kick the football around?"

"Dennis," Mrs. Creevey said, "Ham's fresh out of his sick bed."

"But I am out of it," Ham said with an anxious look at his mother.

Dolores controlled her own fears. "If you have any problems come straight home."

"Thank you, Mom." He turned to Dennis and Colin. "You will have to tell me. What's football?"

Dolores went to the window and watched as the boys went off. Mrs. Creevey came and stood next to her. "What was it like, being William Shakespeare's son? Did he tell you?"

Dolores sighed and looked at her newest friend. "His father was a well-to-do man who spent most of his time working in London. Ham grew up in Stratford, with his grandfather. He died without really knowing who his father was. Only that he was famous."

"That is sad. My Donald always makes time for the boys. He's the one that hates to see them go off to school. He says he'll have nothing to do."

Dolores nodded. But Ham now had a father who was doing the same thing. Then she saw it. The boys were heading down the street when the family car pulled up. Reginald got out of the car and, Dolores couldn't believe it, he was wearing trainers. She watched happily as the four boys walked to the park.

Reggie had talked about how they had saved Hamnet, but it was Hamnet who had saved Reggie, who reminded him of the important things in life. And Reggie never knew he needed saving.

"You're going on a big adventure," Reggie told Ham.

"I'll miss you," Dolores said as she hugged her son.

"I will miss you, too." He had a tear in his eye.

"Are you ready," Colin asked. "Just follow me."

Ham nodded. When his turn came he pushed his cart through to Platform Nine and Three Quarters and began the next adventure of his new life. In his trunk he had all of his school supplies, his school clothes and one large book. The complete works of his father. He would find time to read everything.

Colin found a compartment for the three of them and they settled in for the train ride to the school. Dennis asked Hamnet what it was like for him when he learned that magic was real, and the boy smiled. "Of course I knew about magic, from Colin getting his letter. I was the only one who wasn't surprised when I got my letter. What was it like for you?"

Ham paused as he tried to think. "Father told me that I would be going away to school. He knew the letter was coming. I only wish I had more time to get to know him."

"But, he's your dad. You must have spent time with him."

"Dennis," Colin said in a warning voice. "Ham was sick for a long time."

"Like when you were turned to stone?"

"Like that?" Colin said with his perpetual grin.

"You were turned to stone?" Ham asked.

"For six months my first year at school."

"I am glad you got better."

Dennis laughed. "He was turned to stone, not a newt."

Ham stared.

"You never watched Monty Python?"

Colin interrupted again. "He doesn't watch the television."

Dennis looked confused. "Ham, why don't you know anything?"

Colin started to interrupt but Ham stopped him. "Colin, it's obvious you know and he doesn't. Why don't you tell him?"

"I thought it was a secret?"

"It is. The way magic is a secret."

"What's a secret, Colin."

"I am," Ham answered with a smirk.

"Colin? Ham? Is this a joke?"

Colin laughed at his brother's reaction. "It could be funny. Dennis, do you remember Shakespeare?"

"Ugh. The teacher made us read Hamlet last year. I hated it."

Ham took mock offense. "That's my father you're talking about."

"Hamlet is your father?"

"No, you ninny," Colin said as he ruffled his brother's hair. "Shakespeare's his father."

"But he's dead, and Ham isn't that old."

"I was born in 1585. I was asleep for a long time."

Dennis' eyes grew big. "That means you're older than Dumbledore."

"He's the headmaster?"

Colin and Dennis nodded. Then Dennis thought to ask. "Ham, is Hamlet named after you?"

"It's possible. Father would have done something like that, changing the name just enough to avoid an obvious connection. I've started reading the play." He hesitated. "Dennis, you said you read the play?"

The small boy nodded. "I had to read the part of Polonius. The only good thing was that I died in the third act, but I had that big speech in the first act. It was terrible."

Hamnet was curious about the big speech. The character of Polonius was the father of 'Laertes' and THAT name had a special meaning.

Ten year old Hamnet was resting on the hillside, his father beside him. It was one of those too rare occasions when the famous William Shakespeare would return to Stratford for any length of time.

"Father?"

"A question? Good, Laertes. You seek knowledge."

Hamnet smiled at being called Laertes. It was a word that a very young boy had mispronounced, and it had become a nickname. Neither father nor son remembered the word he was trying to say. :I seek adventure, father. May I travel with ye to London? I am old enough to help in the theatre."

"And your mother agrees?"

"I have not asked."

William looked down at his son. The boy was growing and he was not there to watch him. "I think you are still too young this year . . ."

"This year?" The boy smiled at the glimmer of hope."

" . . . and next year," Will said as his son frowned, "But after your twelfth birthday I promise to bring up the subject to your mother, and perhaps, for the summer."

"The summer?"

"Your schooling comes first. And you must prove yourself to the teachers. I have no easy tasks in London, and I do not need a lie-abed."

"I will study, father. I promise."

"You will study?"

Hamnet laughed. "I will father. I promised you."

That look came across Father's face. "Do not promise me, young Laertes, promise yourself. Because if you can be true to yourself, you can be false to no man."

"Ham?" Dennis asked. His new friend was reading the big speech that he had complained about. Now his friend was crying.

But how could Hamnet explain. He knew. Somehow his father knew what happened. He knew that his son would someday come back. And he left behind a letter. He put it in a play and left obvious clues, obvious to Ham. Polonius was his father talking to his son across the span of centuries for one final time.

"I promise, father," Dennis heard his friend say. "I make that promise to myself."