Two bright, emerald eyes peered around the corner, settling their gaze upon the huddled lump collapsed onto the bed in past the frame of the door, neither moving nor speaking. Soft snores could be heard emanating from beneath the shield of blankets. Good. He was asleep.
Backing up, he moved away from the bedroom's entrance, closing the door firmly and leaving the chamber's occupant slumbering behind. Moving slowly but quickly he made his way to the home's small kitchen, noticing with a weary eye the scattered and cluttered state of the room. Empty bowls and abandoned bottles littered the counters; half-eaten dinners and semi-finished beverages rested upon the small table's surface, thankfully not aged enough to be mold-ridden yet. He set himself to his task, work he had expected since his arrival that he would have to complete.
He washed the dishes, and he sanitized the counters, cleaning the weeks and, most likely, months' worth of accumulated grime and dust from the yellowing countertops. Sighing, he remarked the continuously deteriorating condition of not only the kitchen, but of the entire house, as the blue wallpaper began to wear thin and the tiles began to flake and crumble away. Everything spoke, even shouted, of neglect: abandoned to the stresses of the world and the struggles of time, the building was slowly starting to fade away.
It was then, while remarking on the nature and reality of a disappearing life, he noticed that he could no longer hear the audible snores from before.
Stepping away from the kitchen, he returned to the bedroom anxiously, hoping that he would find the sleeping resident still dormant, resting peacefully. He pushed the door opened, and craned his neck to obtain a better vantage point.
Instead of finding himself staring at the immobile form and rhythmic breathing of a sleeping individual, he found himself gazing deeply into two green eyes eerily like his own.
"Is that you? Home from school already?" The tones were soft but broken, like a record that has been scratched and damaged too many times. He stopped, hand placed against the cool veneer of the bedroom door, on the threshold of so much more than simply the crossover into the adjoining chamber. He enters a moment later, releasing the breath he had realized he was holding.
The lump had shifted, propping itself up against the pillows piled up against the headboard, revealing the eyes and the face of the man hidden beneath the warm covers. The boy surveyed the damage: the man's face was hollow and strained, pasty and tired with too many nights of restless sleep.
The boy grimaced, seating himself onto the edge of the bed, and meeting eyes almost identical to his own. Almost, because the ones across from him had lost some of their brilliance, their inherent innocence; they had lost it all to the red that disguised and stained what had once been white, the corporeal reminders of a life long lost. "You've been drinking again," he remarked, and the tone was neutral, with no accusations or judgment, not yet. Just a sadness and grief long past his short years, sorrow bred from a lifetime of the same problem.
The man on the bed looked away, but the blood-tinged eyes could not hide the pain. "I'm sorry, Julian," he muttered, though ignoring the main issue at hand. "I forgot what day it was. I should have been there at the station to get you."
"A friend's parents helped me Apparate," he said softly, as if this simple explanation would clarify everything. He shifted, still not having deserted his earlier line of questioning. "Have you been like this the entire time I was gone? Are you drunk all the time?" The anger boiled up inside of him, unbidden but, at the same time, unchallenged. "Do you spend every day with a bottle clutched in your hands, buying that bloody Firewhiskey and drowning your sorrows away? Damn it, Harry!" the boy exclaimed, as his anger peaked and he rose to his feet quickly, barely resisting the urge to bury his foot into the dresser beside him.
Harry looked back towards the young man, his tired eyes and sallow face reflecting all the pain in the world. "I-" he began, but was unable to finish.
"Look, Harry," said the boy, more calmly now, as his temper faded away and sensibility slowly returned. "I came back to tell you that I'm spending the summer with a friend. I'll be back only once or twice, okay?" He shifted on his feet, slightly more nervous now that he had announced his plans.
"Who are you staying with?"
"Do you honestly care?"
The man looked up and met the brilliant emerald eyes across from him. "Of course I do."
At this, the boy smiled sadly, the anguish of a childhood lost soaking through. "Will you actually remember?"
Harry had no answer, for there was no answer to give. A silence fell, awkward and heavy with years of battered emotions and unfulfilled promises between them. Neither spoke, for there was nothing truly for them to say.
Julian cleared his throat abruptly, shattering the stillness of the bedroom. "I'm leaving now, then," he announced, and it felt so good to say it, making that last and final step in leaving this home of depression and of alcohol and of, above all else, neglect.
"Take care of yourself, Harry," he said softly, as he made his way back to the door once more.
He had crossed the threshold and was about to start his walk down the corridor when he heard a voice behind him, calling his name.
"Why have you always insisted on calling me Harry?"
The question was difficult, and it was a long moment before the young man could answer. "Because, Harry," he began, his voice eerily loud in the unnatural silence, "you've never really given me any cause to call you Father."
And if Harry could have seen his son's face in that moment, that solitary moment before the boy left the bedroom, and the hallway, and the home, he would have remarked the tears that slid down the cheeks of his only child's face, as he cried for a father that he had never truly known.