You walk through King's Cross to see Albus off to Hogwarts for the first time, and your head is crowded with paternal thoughts of loss. You can't believe you're here again, how it seems the time has flown. Then through a puff of steam you hazily see your son, and think how he could be you.
Then you wonder how long boys with the same unruly black hair, with the same pale faces, same glasses and same smiles, everything the same, have been boarding this train. Maybe your father looked like his own father, who looked like his own father, and back and back and back. The pattern is comfortably worn, and there is a sense of right to it.
History repeats. Time moves in circles. All is well.
Your own trips to King's Cross were lonely, once Vernon sent you off and before you met up your friends. Your own son won't be alone. He will have a red-haired mother and spectacled father; they will wave good bye, just as your mother and father would have done had they could.
There is a sense of right to this thought, too. History repeats, but never quite the same way. You are not your father. Nor is Albus you (as far as you can tell). There might be similarities, but you are your own people. You can make the future different; you can choose.
You are moving forward. The world is going on. All is well.
Everything fits. The shiny lines of Hogwarts track stretch straight out before you; the engine will chug into the future, into the unknown. And predictably, reliably, the engine will return. You remember another King's Cross, imposed on this. The station had been clean then, so clear, lit with the white of steam, of certainty and uncertainty, of endless cycles of departures and return. In your mind, but real, Dumbledore had said. It makes a sort of sense. Everything fits.
Then all the pieces shift, following the incline of Draco Malfoy's head.
Once that angle of acknowledgement had been far broader; it had encompassed so much more. He'd held out his hand to you on the train, out at ninety degrees. Across, even, drawing a straight line, as if you were equal. But you'd known him for what he was, even then. He was spoiled, self important, unkind. You had already decided. You had been told where all the bad ones came from.
("I won't! I won't be in Slytherin!")
History repeats. Time moves in circles.
Siblings argue on the platform. One red-haired, one blonde. The blonde secretly longs to be different, separated from all the normal people she knows, but she can't. Her sister can, and that makes her a freak.
Another argument between two more siblings, one with black hair, one with red, is of course entirely different. The dark-haired one secretly longs to be not different, but the same. He longs to be the boy with the same unruly black hair, with the same pale face, same glasses and same smile, everything the same, boarding this train. And of course your son is only taunting his brother—saying that he won't be like them; it is only jest.
("I only said he might be. There's nothing wrong with that. He might be in Slyth—")
The red-haired sister, the freak, steps on board as so many have done before her. There's a boy there with her, and he holds his heart out to her on the train, just as another boy has held out his hand. He extends it at a right angle, so that if she reached back, their heartstrings would measure level, as if they could ever be the same.
And look, everything fits: here with them is a boy with the same unruly black hair, the same pale face, the same glasses and same smile. This boy wouldn't want to be any different than those other boys, with the same unruly black hair, the same pale faces, who've come before. If he was any different, he says, he'd leave—wouldn't you? This boy, too, has already decided. He's been told where all the bad ones come from.
("So that's little Scorpius. Make sure you beat him in every test, Rosie.")
History repeats. Time moves in circles.
Yet another boy, but this one holds out nothing. Instead, he takes. They know that; they can see it; they find out. The professor had looked down into his box of stolen property and seen it all, everything, except the heart thrust too far down to offer as you've seen others offer theirs. That was why the professor threatened this one; that was why this boy never even learned he might have instead been welcomed. That was why he never knew that to take someone's hand, he would not have to lower his own. He never suspected that anyone could be his equal, or the same. He's already decided, where all the bad ones come from: the Mudbloods and the scum.
("Don't get too friendly with him, though, Rosie. Granddad Weasley would never forgive you if you married a pureblood.")
History repeats. Time . . .
Here's another boy, and another blond. It's not at a station but it's at the start of summer, as certain and sure as the return of the Hogwarts train. This blond is merry, laughing, clever, powerful, and this time, the boy accepts his hand. A friendship is struck.
Five years later our boy is prising a wand from those same fingers of that same blond. Fifty years after that, someone is taking that same wand from his own hand, and it's another blond boy.
The wand that next came to you.
. . . moves in circles.
You could be him, you know, the man who wielded that wand for those fifty years. Your son could be him, too; he even shares the name. Your son also has a brother and a baby sister, not at Hogwarts yet. When you suddenly realize this, you don't actually know what you'd do if three Muggles laid a hand on your daughter, did what they did to that other one so long ago. You do not know what you daughter would do, either, if that happened. You don't know whether she would lose control, kill your wife, whether either one of the brothers could kill the sister, or whether it would be—
—why, it could just as easily be that blond boy over there, arguing with your sons, all of them fighting and spitting and throwing curses about, until the sister gets caught somehow in the cross-fire. It could be that blond boy with his father, who looks exactly like him.
History . . .
You go in your different directions, but you always end up here, back at the station, the place of endless departure and return. Only in the places where the tracks cross, the lines meet, the threads tie, only here can you all exist for each other. Here in these intersecting moments, you make each other who you are; you make each other real.
Draco Malfoy only exists for you in a train station, year to year, Christmas to Christmas. Gindelwald only rises when Dumbledore shakes his hand; Tom Riddle only succeeds because there's no one here to meet him; Severus Snape's driving force in life was Lily Potter's eyes, and Rosie will smugly outshine Scorpius just because her father told her to.
For a moment you see the future folding out before your eyes, as the past has just done, and you see the two are mirrors. They are the same. And even if the scar has not hurt you for nineteen years, fear, blatant and sudden, seizes you. It makes you crouch down, so that your son's face is slightly above your own, so you can whisper away your fears like a dirty secret.
History repeats, but never quite the same way. Things can be different this time. Mistakes can be learned from: the bad ones never all come from the same place.
("Albus Severus, you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.")
You are moving forward. The world is going on.
Everything fits, shifting back, and Draco Malfoy disappears in puffs of steam. Your own trips to King's Cross were lonely, but the present time is different. Your son will have his parents. . You remember another King's Cross, imposed on this. The station had been empty then, of trains, of departure and return. There, stripped of everything, you learned you were love, you were life. It was real, in your mind. You must be right.
Tell your son he can make the future different. Tell him he can choose
("The Sorting Hat will take your choice into consideration. It did for me.")
You are not your father. Nor is Albus you.
Go on; tell him he can choose to be you.
Who wouldn't be? Why should he? Your words were only whispers, and your name was just a name.
Your boy with the same unruly black hair will just want to be the same, same as the boys with pale faces, with glasses and with smiles. He's already decided. If Severus was so brave, maybe they just Sort too young. He was obviously in the wrong place, because your son knows where all the bad ones come from.
He looks over to the blondes standing yards away in steam.
But you're looking forward. Your scar has not hurt for nineteen years, and now it's time to go. Albus and his brother board the train. Several minutes later the steam whistles, and the train chugs by. Several minutes more and it is all over; the train has sped and sped until at last it is a bullet, shooting straight into the future, into the unknown. Everything fits.
You are looking forward.
The world is going on.
All is well.