It was magic that hid the catacombs so well in the brush, from both magic and muggle eyes. The entry was ornamented with no great, pillared door, but, instead, buried into the side of a ravine like its Greek predecessors in Milos were carved into stony walls. One could not tell from viewing it, a blackened, square hole covered in grasping roots and thorny fingers, but the entrance was well known to a good dozen living beings and visited often.
The passage breathed cool air over his face, and he closed his eyes, letting his nostrils examine the gentle scent in the air. He could always tell who the last visitor had been by the smell. Weasley was a daisy and wildflower sort of man, while, it seemed, Potter had a fondness for lilies. Draco wasn't sure what spell the two of them used to keep the tomb so perfectly scented over the years, but he was glad they had been so courteous as to continuously change the selection for her. Draco didn't bother; there were other things he brought her, and they were, very often, not things he left behind.
"Papa, I think I saw a kelpie!" a voice called.
Draco turned, brow raised in surprise. He watched the child wade, ankle deep in the clear waters of the stream, his black dress shoes abandoned on the grass. The child was no duplicate, but he resembled his father to such a great extent that his grandmother, more often than not, found herself calling him by her son's name. The little boy stood straight backed, still no taller than his father's thigh, and pointed around the shadowy bend.
"There," he insisted, smirking, as if the gesture was proof enough. "I saw its tail, like a horse's. I think it was changing shapes."
"Oh?" Draco managed to raise a smile. His son had a fascination for creatures that very few people could maintain past age five. His son was six. "Then perhaps you should get out of the water. Nana will have my head if you're caught by a kelpie."
The boy shrugged, as if unsure of why it would be such a bad thing to be face-to-face with any such being, and made his way to his socks.
"Why are we here, Papa?" he asked. The child stood up, letting his laces tie themselves.
"I've told you already, Scorpius," Draco chided. "We're visiting a friend of mine. She's in the catacombs." At his son's puzzled glance, he continued. "Catacombs are like tombs."
Scorpius glanced the dark entrance and grabbed his father's fingers for comfort. "Is she dead?" he asked, his voice soft. He'd learned to whisper at his grandfather's burial and had since kept the habit when passing cemeteries.
Draco shook his head, unsure of his answer. "She's sleeping," he said, "until she feels like coming out again. She's a vampire. Remember what I told you about vampires."
Before Scorpius could recite his father's words, he was distracted by Draco's wand. The boy's eyes, a bluer shade than his father's gray ones, studied the movement. Draco swept his wand over the entry and the roots and mangled weeds retreated, cleaning the staircase, temporarily.
"Watch your step," Draco said, leading his son by the hand down the stone walk. "Lumos."
The beam of light was for the child's convenience. The meager glow of the torches at the bottom floor of the wide vault was more than enough for someone who had visited so often.
"Hermione?" Draco said, as his foot hit the final step. He received no answer, no mental call of his name. But, even after all of these years, he felt a certain stirring within him, and he knew that she was aware, if only as aware as a dreamer hearing the interrupting call for wake-up.
Scorpius was quiet, an appendage of his father. Draco knew that it wasn't solemn politeness but engrossing curiosity that plagued his only offspring, so he waved him forward. The child ran a hand over the top of the sarcophagus-like box as if it were as delicate as porcelain.
"I got your message," Draco said, to the coffin, remembering the dream he'd had the previous night well. It was certainly nothing that he could bring up in front of his son, but its conclusion had been obvious. Hermione wanted something from him. He approached her, feeling, as usual, somewhat silly, and took a seat on the floor at the head of the tomb. He could hear his son circling the stone cover, as he were pretending to be a raider looking for some hidden curse carved into its side.
"I suppose it's about time," he continued, his voice lower. "I should have brought him to visit you sooner, but. . . I always assumed it was unnecessary, since you can see him just as well through my eyes." He looked down, twisting the knotted gold of his wedding band and wishing very much that he had the courage to take it off, at long last. "And I didn't think his mother would approve very much." He swept his tongue over his bottom lip and chewed it in thought. "I suppose that I'll never know now, though, will I?"
He received no answer and expected none. But the slightest sensation of arms wrapping around him warmed his body. Draco released a sigh, resting his head against the stone. The early wrinkles at his eyes were easy tells and gave away the emotion that his mouth refused to express.
"I don't know what I'd do without Scorpius, Hermione." He smiled, imagining dark, honey eyes staring at him. "He's kept me sane, you know. I'm not as big a prat around him."
Draco blinked, surprised. He hadn't imagined it. Four years had passed since the last time he'd heard her voice outside of his dreams. The tiniest mutter felt like fire pouring down his veins.
"Yes, my son," he said, smiling. "I was afraid at first, when Astoria was pregnant. I was afraid that I'd be doomed to be like my father. But it's different. He calls me papa, and I tell him stories at night. So far, so good, as they say."
Draco paused, his brow wrinkled in confusion. His body trembled in knowing, but he pushed down his panic, smirking at the quiet grave. "Getting a bit repetitive, are we?"
Knew him, as soon as I smelled you approaching. Knew my son.
The air around him seemed to freeze into little shards of ice that he couldn't quite swallow down. He shook his head and pushed himself to his feet, his frantic eyes immediately finding his son, playing with one of the torches.
"No, Hermione," Draco breathed. "Anything but that. . ."
He heard no reply.
Scorpius looked up, as if noticing his father's voice for the first time. "What's wrong?" he said. He stepped away from the fire as if he thought he might be scolded. "Papa?"
"Nothing," Draco forced. Dazed, he stared at the stone slab. It didn't move, but his pulse sped. "He can't be," he whispered and blinked down tears. "It can't happen again. Not to him. Not now."
Not now. But one day.
"I'll stop it from happening," Draco replied, his voice stern.
He held out a hand. Scorpius took it without hesitation, frowning at the catacombs as if their darkness was just then becoming clear.
"I miss you, Hermione," Draco said. He glanced down. "Say goodbye, Scorpius."
The reaching vines, covered in their needle-like armor, wrapped around the entry as soon as the two wizards had passed out into the warm daylight. Green spilled out like a living rug over the evidence of their footfalls on the stone.
Draco stared at the entrance, unable to feel the venom he knew should remain. He knew, without a doubt, that he should feel rage towards someone, anyone, but he couldn't. The tugging at his mind told him that there was no one at fault, that one could not choose their children.
A tear slid down his cheek, splashing onto the front of his shirt like a stain.
"What's wrong, Papa?" his son begged, pulling at his father's wrist. His eyes were pleading, but could not see beyond the surface. "Are you hurt?"
Draco shook his head. "I'll tell you when you're older," he promised, and smiled down. "Let's go home."
End Notes: Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my story. Please feel free to tell me what you thought. Thanks again--all of the reviews really meant so much to me :D