"I'm home," Draco called into his still house, as he shut the front door behind him.
Pansy appeared from around the corner, her eyes scanning him over reprovingly. He drew her closer and pressed his lips to hers, needing something to try and comfort him just then before the fireworks he knew were coming.
Just as he'd thought, the second they broke apart, Pansy wasted no time in informing him flatly, "You were at work late again."
"I know, Pansy, I'm sorry. It's been really busy at the office."
"Draco, I'm tired of you making excuses!" she exploded, trailing after him as he entered the sitting room and fell onto a sofa, sinking into the cushions. "I know what this is about, this is about You-Know-Who and the war, it always is with you – "
"Pansy – " he began, raising one hand in weary protest.
But his wife was not about to give him the chance to speak; it seemed she had been waiting the whole day to give him this speech, perhaps the whole year . . . maybe several. Not that she hadn't tried to give the monologue to him before.
"The war is over, Draco," she said loudly, standing over him and looking down into his face. "You-Know-Who is gone, accept it – "
"That doesn't change that he was once alive. It doesn't change what happened."
"But it's over!" she cried. "And you can't keep hiding in the past, you have to move on! You have a new life now, Draco, you have a job and a family and – "
"And I know it," he shot back. "Do you think I'm oblivious, Pansy? I know that you're here, I see you every day, God dammit! And I know that I have a son – "
"Well, that's saying something," she said stiffly. "Seeing as you never pay any attention to him."
Angered, Draco grasped the left sleeve of his dark green robe and yanked it up to his elbow. He lifted it to his eye-level, showing it for her inspection. "Look," he spat furiously. "You can still see where the Dark Mark used to be. It's not completely gone, and it never will be. The things that were done, the things that I've done, they'll never go away."
She sat down next to him and grabbed his arm, tracing the black-ish bruise on his arm with soft fingertips. "But they will fade," she whispered, her eyes following the patterns her fingers were weaving. "They fade, Draco." She met his eyes, and he felt a jolt in his stomach at how her eyes glistened with tears.
Weakened by her moist gaze, he lowered his eyes and pulled his arm away mutely. The couple sat in an uncomfortable silence, stewing in their argument. When he finally dared to catch her gaze again, her dark eyes were hard and her mouth was pressed in a firm line. She stood up and walked towards another room, wavering just before she left.
"Why don't you take Scorpius out for a bit?" she suggested in a subdued tone of voice.
"Pansy, honey, I'm a little tired . . ."
Her eyes narrowed.
". . . but not too tired to spend a little time with my son," he added reluctantly, and she smiled tightly at him.
"He's in his room," she said. "He's been napping for the past two hours, so he should be ready to get up." There was a sudden wail of "Muuuummmmmyyy!" from upstairs, and Pansy smiled affectionately. "Yes, he most definitely is ready to get up."
Draco rose from the sofa. "Any ideas of where I should take him?" he asked Pansy as he passed her.
She kissed his cheek, looking pleased that at last her husband was going to try and bond with his son. "You're his father, Draco. Take him wherever, so long as you go along."
With nothing more than these (very unhelpful) words to guide him, Draco ascended the winding staircase and entered his son's room. Little Scorpius was standing inside his crib, his small chubby hands gripping the top bar. Looking like his father in miniature, from the white-blonde hair to the pale skin and gray eyes, it was quite safe to say that his child had inherited most of his dad's physical traits. Scorpius smiled toothily as Draco approached and lifted his son from his confinement.
"Mummy?" the two-year-old asked hopefully, as Draco secured him in his arms.
"No, no Mummy right now. You and Daddy are going to go out!" said Draco with forced enthusiasm.
Scorpius blinked at his father slowly, looking about as happy at the prospect of the expedition as Draco was. But regardless, Draco carried the tiny body back down the steps and out the door. Once outside, he set Scorpius on the ground, holding his hand.
Having no earthly idea where to go, Draco wandered aimlessly away from the house and down along the vast grassy expanse. His childhood home, Malfoy Manor, had been set in a prestigious, fancy neighborhood, elegant and superior in every way. But he loved the house he shared with Pansy more than he had ever loved the Manor. It was smaller, but not crowded; and instead of reeking of luxury it was a bit tamed down, giving the appearance of more of a large cottage than a gigantic mansion. The neighbors were few and far between as well, which was pleasant, for there was a wide open space of grass and wild flowers simply for relaxation.
And so, Draco took his son to this vast area. He dropped Scorpius' hand, and instructed the young boy to 'go play', which he did quickly, an eager skip in his step. The toddler bounded through the grass that was almost as tall as he was, humming tunelessly but happily.
Draco, satisfied that he had done as he was supposed to, sank down to his knees in the grass and watched his son amuse himself for a few minutes. Then, gradually becoming at ease with the situation, he lowered himself farther into the tall, swaying grass blades, flopping over on his back and squinting his eyes up at the dying evening sun. He stared up into the sun and thought vaguely how just mere years ago he would have shuddered at the thought of tumbling into the grass and lying there. The idea of dirtying himself with anything 'lower' than he was used to repulse him. Yet here he was, surrounding himself in the wispy grass and dirt.
He put up a hand to shield his eyes from the sun. It felt nice, just sprawling in the grass, the warm sun on his body even as a gentle breeze whispered against his cheeks. It felt nice, not having to recall his past and not needing to think on what could have been different had he gone a different road. It felt nice, letting his every limb recline and sink into the ground as though he had no history, was not a marked man. It felt nice, just being able to be. And so, for several drawn out wonderful minutes, that was all Draco Malfoy did.
A few grass blades bending back and whipping his face pulled him slowly from his trance. He opened his eyes, blinking lazily. A sudden shriek jarred him fully from his drowsy state.
Draco bounded to his feet, his eyes searching the grass wildly for the small boy. He couldn't see him.
Dear Merlin, please, no . . .
He continued flying his eyes rapidly over the grass, hoping he had somehow missed the small blonde head. But his search proved fruitless; he could not see the young boy anywhere. His chest tightened painfully; he was a terrible father, he couldn't even keep track of his son for a little while – no, he just had to go off and relax, completely ignoring the child – and now his kid had gone, or been taken, or something – he didn't deserve to be a father, and his son didn't deserve a dad anything like him, because now – now –
Draco tore off through the grass, sprinting desperately, shouting his son's name to the skies.
"Scorpius? Scorpius? Scorpius?"
He raced to the end of the field, whirled around, crazed, his chest continuing to compress both from fear and exercise. With a weak moan he dashed back across the grass the other way.
He stopped for a fleeing moment to catch his breath, bending over slightly as he rested his hands on his knees.
He ran trembling fingers through his hair, panting, feeling as though his body would suddenly give in completely and leave him nothing more than a broken pile of limbs.
Two gray eyes suddenly peeped at him from between the grass. Then the grass was pulled back by two tiny hands, revealing the form of Scorpius, who beamed when he spotted his father. "You fewl aswleep, Daddy!" he giggled. "I woke you up with gwrass!" he added proudly, waving a fistful of the substance in his fist.
Draco felt as though a thousand tons had been lifted from his back. Nearly sobbing with relief, he fell to his knees and crawled over to his son, embracing him tightly. He felt Scorpius' tiny hands patting his back gently.
Breathing hard, Draco pulled away, holding his son away at arm's length. "Daddy – Daddy was very worried about you," he panted. "Daddy thought he had lost you."
"Swiwly Daddy," said Scorpius, screwing up his face in a goofy expression, and then grinning brightly. He tugged himself out of Draco's grip, and skipped off through the grass. Does that kid ever run out of energy? Draco thought wryly to himself.
He remained kneeling, watching his son frolic through the field, savoring the weightless joy beating steadily in his heart. He had not failed as a parent yet. He nearly had, though. But he would not let anything like that happen ever again. He rubbed his left arm on the spot that the Dark Mark had once been etched into his skin. Scorpius deserved a happy future, an unmarked future, and Draco knew he would have to do the best he could to give it to him, despite his own mangled past.
Scorpius had hopped back over to him, and was now standing several feet from his father, his hands behind his back and an adorable smile on his face.
Scorpius pulled his hands from behind his back, clutching in his fists a beautiful flower, pink petals blooming around a perfect yellow middle. "For you," he said, almost shyly. His mouth was hidden by the blossom, but Draco could hear in his voice that he was smiling.
"Thank you," said Draco softly, taking the flower by the stem and bringing it up to his eyes for inspection. He stroked one petal carefully, feeling the softness in it. He lowered the flower to his side, looking his son up and down. "You know, I think we're going to be all right, Scorpius," he said slowly.
Scorpius could obviously not fully comprehend these words, but nonetheless he broke into a huge smile, revealing his four small teeth. "Awwl rwight," he imitated.
"Yes," said Draco, pulling Scorpius to his chest and wrapping his arms around him, feeling the small body's heat and its heart thudding against his own. "You and I going to be all right. Because I'm all right."