Title: Sympathy and Admiration
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling owns these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione, past Draco/OFC.
Word Count: 8500.
Warnings: DH SPOILERS, including partial epilogue compliance. (Basically, Draco got married and had a kid. Ron and Hermione got married and had kids. Harry didn't).
Summary: Teaching Malfoy's son wandless magic was weird enough. Harry was not prepared to find that the git had changed as well.
Author's Notes: Written as a birthday fic (much belated) for sillyharriet, for the prompt of learning wandless magic after DH, though I'm afraid I changed the reason why it would be emphasized quite a bit. Important: This is a partial AU. Harry doesn't have kids, and Scorpius exists but is not attending Hogwarts. Also, it turned out to be more preslash than slash.
Sympathy and Admiration
It was odd. Harry couldn't deny that.
"So, Malfoy." His voice was neutral. He silently gave himself a point. He leaned forwards and set the cups of tea he'd made down on the far side of the desk, watching as the small, pointy, blond boy reached timidly out for one. "What can I do for you? I know you'd like to hire me, but not much more than that."
"Yes, my owl was terse, wasn't it," murmured the man who sat in the chair next to the boy. He didn't take his tea, but watched Harry like a hawk. He also darted flickering glances at the boy—constant small reassurances for both himself and his son, Harry supposed. Malfoy sighed at last, licked his lips, and pinned his stern gaze solely on Harry. "What I'm about to say cannot leave this room."
Harry tipped his head in acceptance, used to this arrangement. The reasons why people wanted to learn wandless magic were many and various, but only a few of them legitimate. Even if they told the most perfect story ever crafted, Harry knew the vast majority were at least interested in evading the Ministry's ability to track magic done with wands, and maybe more than that.
It didn't matter to Harry. His life had turned out to be so unexpected after the war that he'd had to change most of his old standards, and sometimes there was nothing to take their place, so he'd evolved his own. Despite being the home of several friends, the Ministry was nothing he approved of as an entity.
"Scorpius—" Malfoy began.
It was a bloody good thing that Harry was already prepared for Malfoy's son to have some sort of odd star name, or he would have snickered aloud. As it was, he was able to maintain his blank face and intent, listening air.
"Scorpius has Hydra's Disease." Malfoy looked him straight in the eye. "You've heard of it?"
"I have," said Harry, and made his voice quiet and respectful. Hydra's Disease had appeared in numerous children after the war, apparently as a result of combinations of Dark curses cast by the Death Eaters on their victims. It meant an absolute loss of control over one's magic; the child would lash out the way Harry had when he was ten and vanished the glass that contained that snake at the zoo. Now and then a temporary solution could be found to control the magic, but almost immediately a different problem would evolve, and often two different problems, giving the disease its name.
Some people would probably say it was the ultimate irony that the grandson of a Death Eater should have it. Harry wasn't about to say that. He'd been in Diagon Alley on one occasion when a little girl with Hydra's Disease started a fire in her own flesh, and no one had been able to put it out. He still heard her screams in his nightmares sometimes.
But most children could tame the magic—if they survived their first eleven years—by the time they were ready to attend Hogwarts. A wand could hold it down and control it. It was a pity that wands couldn't choose a wielder who was younger than eleven, as far as Harry knew. Ollivander and a few apprentices he'd chosen had worked frantically to develop one that could, but with no success. Both traditional and non-traditional woods and cores simply did not bond to children with Hydra's Disease; their parents' or siblings' wands did no good at all.
And now, it seems, Harry thought, his gaze lingering on Scorpius, who was staring at his hands, there's a child who can't control his magic even with a wand.
"You can't attend Hogwarts, can you?" he asked softly.
Seeming startled to be addressed, Scorpius blinked and looked up at him. Then he ducked his head, a bright flush streaming across his cheeks. "No, I can't," he muttered. "I—it gets worse when I hold a wand. And I can't control it at all. I—" His blush grew deeper, probably as he remembered some specific incident, and he stopped speaking.
Harry nodded and glanced at Malfoy. "And you'd like me to teach him wandless magic so that he can have a method of control?"
Malfoy's hands closed like claws over the arms of the chair. "I'll pay whatever you ask," he said, voice tight.
Harry blinked for a moment, and then realized Malfoy must be thinking of their old rivalry, expecting Harry to try for extortion. Well, Harry couldn't blame him, even though he felt a mild surge of indignation at the idea. After all, he had thought how odd it was that Malfoy would choose him as his son's instructor, though Harry was the only wizard in Britain who taught regular classes in wandless magic.
"My ordinary price is three Galleons a week," he said. "Is that acceptable?"
Malfoy just stared for a moment. Then he closed his eyes and gave a little shiver. Harry recognized the motion of a man who had barely dared to cling to hope, even as he went about busily trying to find some way to better things. When the hope finally came true, it was nearly as damaging as the dread had been.
"I thought you'd want more," Malfoy whispered, the barriers down for just a moment.
"I don't change my prices, except to lower them in special circumstances," Harry said, keeping his voice completely neutral. "No matter how much my students or their parents are worth."
Malfoy looked at him again, wary now, seeming to realize just how much of himself he'd exposed. "Do you honestly think you can help?" he asked. "How many children with Hydra's Disease have you taught?"
"Several." Harry spread his hands. "But, more than that, I had to learn wandless magic for the same reason. After the war, I couldn't use a wand again, either." He looked at Scorpius, to find the boy staring at him with wide eyes. Harry smiled a little, wondering if it was just the newness of finding someone like himself or hearing about a flaw in the Great Savior of the Wizarding World that had so shocked him. "The situation was rather—different—but yes, I'm certain I can help."
Malfoy was too strong to slump back against the chair and breathe as Harry would have wanted to do in his position. He just smiled, a thin pursing of his lips that didn't show his teeth. "That will be acceptable," he said.
Scorpius, on the other hand, beamed.
"But how can I have a focus if I don't have a wand?" Scorpius was worrying his bottom lip between his teeth, his expression solemn. It was the look Harry imagined he had worn in Potions immediately after Snape began picking on him.
Shaking memories of his own Hogwarts days away—he hadn't understood anything of Snape's relationship with his mother and father, then, and he hoped he had learned some lessons since—Harry focused on his student. They stood in the large room he had used before to train children with Hydra's Disease, all the surfaces densely padded with a kind of blue moss that actually flourished on the discharge of wild magic. Harry had had cause to bless Neville for breeding the plant more than once. Nowhere the children fell or rolled or hit would hurt them, and they couldn't hurt the room in return.
"A wand is actually just a kind of focus, not the only one," Harry explained. "But because it's the only one so many wizards and witches use, they think it's unique."
Scorpius didn't look convinced. Harry could hardly blame him. He'd had the same questions when he first began to half-study, half-construct the theory behind wandless magic, and he'd been much older.
"But how can I have one?" Scorpius repeated. "They only work for a little while with Hydra's Disease." He flinched minutely at the name. Harry strongly suspected he didn't like thinking of himself as sick. Well, Harry was determined not to treat him that way.
"Your task is harder than someone with a wand, that's true," Harry said gently. "You have to create a new focus each time, adapt yourself to the situation, and decide what's right based on what's in front of you. That's the reason this kind of practice can work to harness Hydra's Disease. It changes constantly, just like the wild magic."
Enlightenment flared to life in Scorpius's eyes. Harry felt a moment of pure pleasure. Teaching wasn't the career he'd envisioned himself having when he was seventeen, but there was nothing quite like the moment when a student understood the basic concepts Harry laid out.
"How do I learn to do that?" Scorpius demanded, leaning forwards. Harry wondered if he had a young Hermione on his hands. Well, maybe it was just the encouragement; he couldn't imagine Scorpius had heard many words of it.
"I'll show you." Harry focused on the wall behind Scorpius, causing him to turn around. "Let's imagine that I want to create a red circle on the wall there, large enough for me to learn against it and be completely surrounded. It depends on how I think of circles. The first image that comes to mind when I think of a red circle is a circle of blood."
"Why?" Scorpius looked caught between horror and fascination.
"I injured myself when attempting to use a wand after the war," Harry said dryly. Images of St. Mungo's and Ginny's terrified face flashed through his mind; then he shook his head, and they were gone. He focused on the image of the bloody circle instead, sharpening and intensifying it. "Now," he said when he could imagine the shadow of the thought appearing on the wall in front of him, so deep was his concentration, "I have to focus on my sense of my body. How big is it? How large does the circle need to be to contain it?"
"But I don't know that," Scorpius said. "I'm not good at sizes."
"That's all right," Harry said soothingly. "You still know when you look at a bed whether it's big enough to hold you, don't you?"
"I reckon," the boy said doubtfully.
Harry smiled. "It becomes easier with practice." He focused on the wall once more. "You combine that sense of how big you want the circle to be with the image of the circle itself. Essentially, you hold the two thoughts in your mind at the same time, until they're each as real as the other." He took a few deep breaths and pushed the image and his sense of his own body shape forwards. "Then you have to choose where you want the spell to happen. I want it to happen on this wall. It helps if you whisper wall to yourself, at least until you get used to thinking of the place at the same time as the other things you have to think of."
"But that doesn't make sense," Scorpius objected.
"Sure it does." Harry took a moment to grin at him, knowing he could pick his dropped concentration back up again in a moment. "Basically, you're imitating an incantation. It's easier for most wizards to use magic aloud than nonverbally. The words give you a focus, though most wizards don't think of it like that because they're too concerned with the wand. Do you see?"
Scorpius nodded, slowly.
"Then," Harry said, "you send your magic towards the images in your head, and say the word. You make the images become real on or at your target place." He glanced at the wall again. "You can also wave your hand if you want to; some people find it easier to imitate wand movements. Watch me. Wall!"
The image and the sensation of his own body size in his head rushed together, the naming of the place gave him a direction, and the magic flowed obediently after. A red circle appeared as a thin line on the moss. Scorpius's mouth fell open. Harry smiled and stepped past him, turning around so that he could stand with his arms and legs extended against the wall. The circle just surrounded him.
"Will I really be able to do that?" Scorpius looked intrigued. "Only I don't understand how I can get it to imitate specific spells. I might be able to do brilliant things, but can I actually use Scourgify and Incarcerous and so on like my dad?"
Harry wondered for a moment why Malfoy would have had to use Incarcerous, but then brushed the notion off as none of his business. "Yes, you will," he said. "Those are actually easier, because most of the time the image is clearer in your head. For example, if I wanted to imitate Incendio, I would envision a fire, name the hearth as the place, and throw my magic towards it. You just have to be careful to think exactly about the size you want, or you can end up with a wildfire."
Scorpius went pale, and shuddered a bit. Then he said quietly, "Yeah."
Assuming it was some awful memory from the Hydra's Disease, Harry let his hand press briefly on the lad's shoulder. Then he bent down so they could come eye-to-eye.
"I won't lie to you," he said soberly. "This is hard. It will require work from you—a lot more work than magic with a wand would. A spell is the same every time, same wand movements and same incantation, but with this kind of magic you have to create hundreds or thousands of pictures in your head, and be sensitive to everything. How you move. What things smell like. The last time you saw a certain person. The distance between two points. And you always, always have to realize that your magic could get out of control and do things you don't want it to."
"Well, that's not new," Scorpius said with some asperity.
Harry laughed and clasped his shoulder once more, for longer this time. When he stood, he met the boy's eyes again. "So you think you can do this?"
"Not yet," said Scorpius, and his face burned with determination. "Not really. But I'm going to try."
"Potter, a word."
Harry turned around curiously. Malfoy had come to fetch Scorpius from his afternoon lesson, arriving twenty minutes early and waiting in the outer office as he usually did. He always seemed glad to see his son, as if he knew that Scorpius probably wouldn't come to harm outside his guardianship but couldn't be absolutely sure. It was an attitude that Harry was familiar with from his experience with parents of children with Hydra's Disease.
He had to admit he wouldn't have expected it of Malfoy, though. Not that fierce, quiet devotion. Not the way he had achieved a balance between watching his son for unexpected magic and attending to the outside world. Not the way that he spoke cheerfully to and of Scorpius, as if for him this was normality, and not something to be despised, while change was something desperately wished for.
Harry found that he admired Malfoy more than he could say. It wasn't easy, not for either of them, but Malfoy was obviously striving to make Scorpius's life as happy as he could. Not all bonds could stand the test of something like that.
Once again, the memories of rows and tears tried to intrude. Once again, Harry carefully shut them out. Wandless magic had done wonders for his concentration.
"Are you worried about Scorpius?" Harry asked. The boy had already exploded out of the office and into the care of a house-elf Malfoy had brought along, no doubt relieved to be out of the cramped rooms after hours of lessons. "Don't be. It's been three weeks, and there have been no accidents so far—"
"That doesn't mean there won't be." Malfoy's voice struck like a blade.
Harry bowed his head. "I know. But I've dealt with Hydra's Disease extensively several times, and my own—incapacity—as well. Trust me, Malfoy. I know it can't be easy," he added impulsively, seeing the way Malfoy had stiffened at his words. "And I can never take the place of his father. But I promise you I'll do my best to keep him safe."
Malfoy took several deep breaths, then lifted his head. "I know," he said. "And—what I wanted to speak to you about doesn't concern Scorpius directly. I want to explain something so you won't accidentally make a fool of yourself around him. And since I'll be trading you a secret, I want an answer in return."
Still a Slytherin. Harry leaned on the edge of his desk. He had an hour before his next student, a young woman who would probably never be very proficient but who was determined to learn anyway, arrived. And he was curious. "All right. Ask me what you want to know first. I'll tell you if it's worth my giving it away to hear your secret."
Malfoy twitched his head in a little nod. "Why did you take up wandless magic? You said you were like Scorpius. I want to know what that meant." He took a step forwards, his eyes so intense it hurt to look into them.
Harry glanced down at his hand, tracing an idle figure on the top of his desk. "I became master of the Elder Wand at the end of the war," he said quietly. "But I didn't realize, once I picked it up, that it would never allow me to use any other wand."
Malfoy's breath jerked out. "Ah."
"Exactly." Harry smiled at him, and if the smile was without humor, well, at least he wasn't ready to snarl at the mere mention of his failures. He had come to peace with his memories. "I didn't want to use that wand, not and have every wizard with delusions of grandeur come after me. But every other wand I tried—just didn't work. Not my holly one, not any of my friends', not any of Ollivander's." He briefly looked at the bulge in Malfoy's right sleeve he knew must contain the hawthorn wand. "Not yours."
Malfoy looked at him in silence. Harry wondered if he was remembering the owl that had carried him back his wand on a summer morning nineteen years ago, along with the brief note Harry would have changed the wording of now: Thanks for the loan.
"I refuse to take up the Elder Wand," Harry finished firmly. "But I heard about the theory of wandless magic being picked up again by some practitioners in Austria, as a last-ditch defense against Voldemort if he tried to invade. I was an excellent candidate for it, given all my motivation and my power. I mastered it."
He left out how long it had taken him to master it, how the necessary focus on himself and his own problems had strained his relationships with his friends and broken his love affair with Ginny completely, how there had been numerous "accidents" before he was able to admit he could no longer handle a wand. There was no reason to mention such things. Harry could hardly imagine that the sympathy and admiration he was building for Malfoy were returned, but the last thing he wanted was pity.
"Thank you for telling me," Malfoy said, so softly that at first Harry didn't realize he'd spoken. A moment later, he added, "You must have wondered where Scorpius's mother was—why I was raising him alone, why he never mentions her…"
"Actually, I haven't." Harry shrugged a little when Malfoy stared. "We talk about wandless magic exclusively when we're in the lessons. He doesn't want me to know much about his home life. I thought he was embarrassed about some of the things that might have happened around him."
"Aren't you delicate in your language," Malfoy murmured.
Harry rolled his eyes. "For God's sake, Malfoy, it's not as though I believe the children with Hydra's Disease somehow deserve it, you know. And it's not their fault, I know that. I assumed, if Scorpius wanted to talk to me about it, then he would. I don't like to inquire where I'm not wanted."
"And that's a change from school," Malfoy said, but once again he had resorted to an intense stare. This time, Harry was irritated enough to match it. The last thing he wanted was for his old rivalry to well up now and ruin his relationship with Scorpius.
Finally, Malfoy smiled—a real smile, nothing of the sneer or the smirk to it—and went on before Harry had recovered from the shock. "Delphinia was my wife's name. She—couldn't take it that a child of hers had developed Hydra's Disease. She didn't want, as she put it, all the extra 'work' of raising Scorpius. She wouldn't accept that he needed parental supervision every hour of the day when he was little, that house-elves wouldn't cut it." Malfoy's eyes darkened, and his hands made unconscious wringing motions. Harry doubted it was a wet cloth he had in mind to wring. "She made his life miserable. I had to literally bind her to keep her from hurting him several times. I finally divorced her when Scorpius was six."
"I'm sorry," Harry said.
Malfoy pursed his lips in that thinner smile and darted a glance at him. "I reckon you're about to say you understand that aspect, too?"
Harry lifted his chin. "As a matter of fact, I do. Ginny—well." He shrugged. "I didn't have time for her, so she didn't have time for me."
And the intense look was back. Harry wasn't sure what it signified. Well, no, he did know, or at least he would have known if he'd seen it on any other man's face, but Malfoy was—well, he was Malfoy, and Harry was a Potter, and never the twain should meet, Harry was certain.
"Well," Malfoy said. "Well, well."
And then he handed Harry his three-Galleon payment, and turned and took his leave. Harry shuddered, feeling as though he had barely escaped from a brush with a stinging hex gone wrong. Considering the weeks and weeks of welts he'd endured from that, Harry had learned to hate the feeling.
But his job was to teach Scorpius Malfoy, not sympathize with Draco Malfoy. So long as he could remember that, and refuse to cross the lines and borders that defined his role, he would be fine.
A burst of flame exploded out of Scorpius and crashed into the far wall where he'd been aiming his hand. The fire burned merrily for long moments before the moss rose and absorbed it. The flames were bright red and orange, exactly the color of the Incendio spell Scorpius had been aiming for.
Harry laughed aloud. Scorpius was whooping, jumping up and down and clapping his hands together. It had taken him six weeks to produce his first successful effort at wandless magic, but Harry knew, from the look on his face, that he thought it was worth the wait.
And then Scorpius screamed.
Harry whirled towards him. Fire was crawling along Scorpius's arm, heading towards his face and his hair with a rapidity that seemed born of malice, though Harry knew it was only the fire gone wild. Scorpius flung himself to the floor and let the moss take as much of the magic as it could, the way Harry had taught him, but Harry doubted it would save him from scarring or worse damage.
Except, of course, that Harry also knew wandless magic, and had dealt with the explosions of Hydra's Disease in the past, often from younger children whose parents only wanted them to know enough to be able to live until they were eleven.
He brought together in one smooth movement the image of a waterfall he'd seen in Austria and the force of a hard shower; no need to smash Scorpius flat with his rescue. Then he imagined Scorpius's arm and shoulder and flung out one hand—a dramatic gesture he'd never quite rid himself of when he was casting a powerful piece of magic, though he could get by without words.
His magic reared and lashed down and out, crushing the fire with a hissing spray of water. Harry wove his magic into an invisible barrier next, protecting Scorpius from the resulting steam, and then conjured sand when the wild magic tried to change into a fire that could resist being put out by anything wet.
An instant later, it was gone and Harry was racing towards Scorpius. The boy picked himself up, face a picture of misery, and dashed at Harry. Harry held him close, soothing him with what words and pats he could. It was a long moment before he could persuade Scorpius to draw back so he could look at his arm and shoulder, though.
He nearly fainted with relief. The burns on Scorpius's skin were well within his capacity to heal; Harry knew that based on numerous tests with his own body. He held out his hands, hovering them above the burns, and asked, "Do you trust me to take away the pain?"
Scorpius, face wet with tears and eyes still bright with terror, managed to nod.
Harry cast. The image he used for healing was always the same: the cool, soothing blues and greens of the corridors at St. Mungo's, where he'd traveled again and again when he was still trying to use a wand. A strong push to make sure that his magic understood he wanted to heal Scorpius and not himself, and the burns vanished. Scorpius held up his arm and gaped.
"I didn't—how did you do that?"
"Wandless magic," Harry said, and managed to restrain his gasps. He was tired from using so much power at once, and so quickly; he hadn't had to combat fierce, resistant Hydra's Disease effects like the fire in a while. Younger children usually couldn't cause as much damage. "As always."
"Can I—could I do that someday?" Scorpius's face shone. Harry was almost certain he knew why. Hydra's Disease never did anything helpful or beautiful or creative except by the sheerest accident. Knowing that he might be able to heal would open up a new world to Scorpius, and probably encourage him to regard his magic as a benefit instead of a liability.
"Of course," Harry said firmly. He could feel the strength slowly creeping back up his spine. As long as he didn't need to do much of anything strenuous for the rest of the day, he'd manage. "And that was very good, by the way. The fire."
"It got out of control," Scorpius whispered, looking as dejected as only an eleven-year-old could.
"Only on your arm," said Harry. "On the wall, it did exactly what you wanted it to." He paused. "Unless you were picturing a fire that was supposed to look completely different from the Incendio spell."
"No," said Scorpius, and then he began, shyly, to smile. "I did it, didn't I? I really did."
"You did," Harry confirmed, and then he had an armful of eleven-year-old for the second time that day. At least it was an exuberant one this time. Harry grinned and let himself feel a pulse of longing for a moment. He'd never met any other woman he wanted to have children with after Ginny, or a man he wanted to adopt them with, for that matter, but that didn't mean he didn't want them.
Well. Working with them will just have to be enough satisfaction.
Visitors to Harry's snug little house in Hogsmeade were rare, and they usually didn't show up at midnight. Harry stifled a yawn as he frantically dragged on his robes and rushed towards the door, tripping over his own boots on the way. Hermione was pregnant again, unexpectedly; he wondered if it was Ron with news that the baby had come early, or maybe something about Rose at Hogwarts.
He yanked open the door, and a hand promptly closed on his shoulder and dragged him out and into a Side-Along Apparition before he could even see who it was. Harry yelped in shock, but controlled his instinctive urge to struggle. With his luck, it would make his unexpected abductor Splinch them.
He landed solidly on a stone floor, and then the hand steered him up a flight of stairs and down a corridor lined with torches. At least Harry could crane his head back now and catch a glimpse of his attacker's face by their light.
It was Malfoy—Draco Malfoy, Harry corrected himself. His face was pinched and desperate; the shadows that normally remained at the back of his eyes marched across his features now, making him look as if he stood in firelight. Harry bit his tongue and remained quiet. He suspected it had something to do with Scorpius. Perhaps Malfoy had brought him here because the Hydra's Disease had acted up again and Harry was the only one who could heal him.
Although, why would I be the only one who could heal him? I'm sure that Malfoy would rather trust his son to St. Mungo's than to me.
Malfoy shoved him hard into a room. Harry caught his balance with a hand against the wall and looked around. This was probably Scorpius's bedroom, based on the Quidditch posters—Harry noted, with surprise, one of the Chudley Cannons—the smaller bed, and the collection of toys on shelves against the north wall. Everything was painted in silver and green. Harry stifled a snort, wondering for a moment if Malfoy had worked hard to make sure his son, if he had a choice, would pick Slytherin over any of the other Houses when he went to Hogwarts.
And then he remembered that Scorpius would never attend Hogwarts. Swallowing the sudden lump in his throat, he turned to Malfoy. "What's happened?"
"Scorpius was upset with me," said Malfoy, his arms folded. His nostrils flared, but he looked more panicked than angry, so Harry let it go. "He turned himself invisible with wandless magic. And now I can't find him, and I also can't persuade him to turn himself visible again."
Harry opened his mouth to ask what had happened, and then shut it again. No. It still wasn't his business. Freely offered confessions of the kind that Malfoy had made a few weeks ago were one thing; this was, well, different.
He focused on an image of Scorpius and his conception of his own eyes. Then he let the magic rush through him, and his eyesight sharpened. He turned his head slowly from side to side, letting himself get used to seeing the grain of the stone and the minor flakes and chips in the paint too small to attract even house-elf notice.
He saw the faint outlines of a shadow against the wall, and sighed. Striding across the room, he came to a halt in front of Scorpius. "What do you have to say for yourself?" he asked.
There was a long, sullen silence, and then Scorpius said, "How did you do that? I thought you had to have a place to point the magic at, and if you didn't know where I was, then you couldn't find me."
"You thought wrong," Harry replied dryly. He sensed a shimmer of another kind of power around Scorpius, too. "You cast a spell that would prevent your father from finding you with Homenum Revelio, didn't you?"
Scorpius stamped his foot. "How do you do that?" He spoke as if it weren't fair for Harry to know more than he did.
"I didn't," Harry said. "I reckoned it based on the fact that your father would certainly have cast that in order to find you."
Scorpius remained mutinously silent.
Harry crouched down in front of him, subtly preventing the boy from dashing past him and out the door. "Listen," he said, softly but intensely. "This skill that you're doing, you understand that your father can't do it, don't you?"
"He can do magic."
So many tones of longing compacted into that one word, Harry thought. Scorpius must have grown up thinking that Malfoy's skill would never be his, that he was really little better than a Squib.
"Yes, but he can't do what you do," Harry said. "Your skill is mostly limited by your imagination and your control—"
"And my disease."
"Yes, there's that," said Harry, unwilling to let Scorpius distract him from his main point. "But you're still stronger than him. He's confined to spells. He can't create or modify them from scratch. You can. Have some respect for his nerves, all right? It's one thing to disappear when you're angry. It's another to remain like that when you know very well he's going mad with worry trying to find you."
Scorpius moved a hand—scratching his ear, Harry thought. The shadows followed and outlined his movement. "I didn't want to worry him," he said. "I just wanted him to scramble around for a while. I didn't know he'd go and get you."
Harry smiled. The tone of irritation in Scorpius's voice was too perfect for him to let it pass without a smile. "Do you want to turn yourself visible again?" he asked, knowing that this much magic in an evening would have taken a toll on the boy. "Or do you want me to do it?"
"Er." Scorpius paused for a moment. Then he said, "Could you do it? Please."
Harry concentrated on a visible Scorpius and unleashed the magic carefully; it could have any effect if he wasn't careful, from making Scorpius bigger to sharpening Harry's own sight unbearably. Scorpius shaded in like a portrait being painted with lightning speed. He yawned, his eyelids drooping, and leaned for a moment on Harry's knee. Harry picked him up and turned to hand him to Malfoy—
Who was right behind him, again with that intense stare. This time, Harry refused to let himself be unnerved by it. He just raised an eyebrow and presented Malfoy with Scorpius until he took him.
"Not a harsh word for me about being called out of bed that way," said Malfoy. He didn't make it a question, but Harry answered it as one.
"You were right to fetch me. Someone trying to cast ordinary spells would just have made it worse." Harry smiled at Scorpius, who appeared to have gone to sleep quickly and easily in his father's arms. Rebellion at midnight takes a lot out of an eleven-year-old. "If he does something like that again, feel free to call on me."
"You care for him," Malfoy said. "Why?"
Harry looked at him, slightly bewildered. Most parents he knew lapped up praise for their children as if it were wine. Maybe Malfoy thought Harry had to have some ulterior motive behind his reaction to Scorpius because of their history, but still. "Because he's a good kid. And because I see a lot of what I could have become in him, if I hadn't finally found a way out of my predicament."
"Hmm," said Malfoy. Harry expected him to step aside and put Scorpius back in bed, so that Harry could depart. But Malfoy just stood there, looking at him. Harry raised an eyebrow, and wondered what the next question would be. This evening was so strange, he had no idea.
There was no question, just a sudden and unexpected brush of fingers against his left hand where it dangled over his hip. Harry started and looked at Malfoy in wonder, but now he was turning away and laying Scorpius down, hiding his face.
Harry couldn't think of any reply that wouldn't sound patronizing. He just nodded, though he doubted Malfoy was watching, and left.
And if he felt a moment's envy that it was his old rival who had a son like Scorpius, well, that was a result of his own choices and not something to blame either of the Malfoys for.
Harry turned around with a smile. Scorpius was running towards him through the crowds in Diagon Alley, trampling on feet and ducking under elbows with the blithe assurance of a child who didn't regularly have to watch out for other people. That surprised Harry, a little. Maybe it was just because he knew how focused Scorpius was in the classroom, but he would have thought Malfoy would have taught his son polite, restrained manners.
And there I go, making assumptions about his parenting again. I should be glad that he's let his kid be a kid.
"I didn't know you came here!" Scorpius said, stumbling to a stop in front of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and staring at it in awe.
Probably didn't think I existed outside the classroom. God knew, Harry had thought that about enough of his own professors in his day. He nodded. "The owner's a friend of mine, actually." There was the ache when he spoke the singular, but Fred was nineteen years gone. Harry had come to peace even with those memories, in time.
"The owner's a friend of his, Dad!" Scorpius turned to communicate this important fact to Malfoy, who had ducked out of the crowd behind him, smoothing over the ruffled feathers Scorpius had left behind with polite murmurs. "Do you think he could get me a deal on Peruvian Darkness Powder? I want some when we go to the Parkinson-Notts'! I want to make Mandy scream!"
"You do enough of that without Peruvian Darkness Powder," Malfoy told him, and then smiled at Harry while he stroked his son's hair. The smile was the same shockingly open one Harry had seen once before. "Care to join us, Potter? We'll be going to Flourish and Blotts and then to Quality Quidditch Supplies."
And somehow Harry found himself joining them, caught up in a Malfoy shopping expedition. It was a slightly surreal experience, since he'd imagined Scorpius insisting on anything and everything and Malfoy buying him whatever he wanted. In reality, it turned out that Malfoy was willing to buy Scorpius educational books on Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts, but refused to spend money on Martin the Mad Muggle comics, and there was a long and intense argument about whether Scorpius really needed the most expensive broom, given that he couldn't be a professional Quidditch player for at least six more years.
Harry had to scold himself when he found his head reeling, though. How much more proof did he need that neither Malfoy nor Scorpius was like Lucius or the younger version of Draco?
Apparently his opinion was needed on the broom. Harry studied it skeptically. It was a Starflare 2018, good at speed but not as sturdy as he remembered his Firebolt being. He glanced at Scorpius. "What position do you play?"
"Seeker, of course!" Scorpius graced him with a look of burning contempt, as if to ask what world Harry was living in. "Who'd want to play Beater or Chaser? And when you're a Keeper, you don't need a broom like this." He turned appealing eyes on his father. "Please, Dad? I'd use it every single day."
"Until you grow tired of it, I suppose," said Malfoy, in a restrained, considering voice. Harry had to smother a grin with the back of his hand.
"I will not." Scorpius turned imperiously to Harry. "Tell him, Mr. Potter. I don't get tired of wandless magic, do I? I can finish what I start."
Harry considered this gravely. "Well, that's true," he said. "But wandless magic changes all the time, and flying doesn't. Maybe you'll use the broom for two weeks and then grow bored with it."
"Flying changes all the time, too!" Scorpius folded his arms. "You should know that. My dad told me you were murder on a broom when you were both in school."
Harry blinked, startled, at Malfoy over Scorpius's head. Malfoy, damn him, just raised an eyebrow. "I might have mentioned, a time or two," he said, with a slight hitch of his shoulder, "which Gryffindor Seeker I lost matches to."
"But he never lost otherwise," Scorpius added, voice filled with filial pride, and turned and beamed up at his father.
"I reckon," Malfoy said slowly, "that he might use the broom for longer than two weeks. Maybe three."
"What do you think, Potter?" Malfoy tilted his head in invitation, face having lost all the amusement now. "Should he get to have the Starflare 2018? Or would the Cleansweep 870 be sufficient for someone of his talents?"
Scorpius immediately turned around to do his lost puppy impression on Harry. Harry hesitated, not sure how serious either appeal was, and then decided, to hell with it, he was going to behave naturally. "I think he should have the Starflare," he said.
"Yes!" Scorpius proclaimed his victory to the shop, causing more than one patron to glance their way. "And you can come over and teach me to fly on it, won't you, Mr. Potter?"
"Er," Harry said. "Well, your dad still flies, surely?"
"Not as well as you did, Potter," said Malfoy blandly, as if he said this kind of thing every day. Maybe he did, Harry thought, resisting the temptation to burst out laughing maniacally. "And surely two teachers are better than one, no matter who the teacher is or what he accomplished as school Seeker?"
His voice was bland, yes, but his eyes held Harry's with a brilliant spark of challenge. And Harry found himself responding, his smile dawning, his weight shifting forwards as if he were about to pounce on Malfoy here and now. Scorpius looked hopefully back and forth between the two of them.
"It's settled, I think," Malfoy said.
"Yes, it is," Harry agreed. "I'll help better your flying, Scorpius, if your Dad helps me."
"It would be my pleasure, Mr. Potter," said Malfoy. His voice had gone back to mocking again.
Harry shrugged. He would probably never understand the shifts of Malfoy's moods, but with an excited boy hopping up and down and informing them that he intended to perform a Wronski Feint on the pitch tomorrow, that seemed less important, somehow.
Harry's throat hurt. The wind stung his cheeks and had long since turned his ears into blocks of ice. His hands ached from their grip on the broom, his knees were telling him that thirty-seven was too old to make tight turns the way he was doing, and he probably wouldn't be able to sit down tomorrow.
He felt so alive that not one whit of it mattered.
A flash of movement from the side caught his attention. Malfoy was once again gaining on him, determined to catch the practice Snitch they'd let loose from the chest of Quidditch gear two hours ago. Harry knew he flew more often, and he'd certainly shown some new and unexpected skills today.
That didn't mean he'd let the wanker win.
Harry held the broom still more tightly and flipped upside-down. He heard Scorpius's startled shout, and Malfoy made a sound that wasn't human. Harry didn't care. He felt one leg slipping off the broom, and still didn't care. In fact, that slipping leg provided him with the weight and momentum to whirl the broom around when the Snitch darted away to the left and scoop it up in one hand.
He yelled as if he were still Scorpius's age and tried to swing back onto the broom.
His limbs didn't appear to be cooperating. Pain inundated him, and he was panting, his shoulders shaking, as the exhilaration of the game wore off and old wounds made themselves known. The ground spun dizzily below. For a moment, the only thing he could envision was a Daily Prophet headline for the next day, noting that the glorious Great Savior of the Wizarding World had ended his life in an ignominious plunge to the Malfoy Quidditch pitch.
And then Draco was beside him.
He did it very smoothly and subtly, hooking one arm around Harry's shoulders and grabbing his dangling leg, while his own broom hovered obediently upright. Two maneuvers and a yank later, and Harry was on the Cleansweep again, shaken but all right.
He only realized what else Malfoy had done when he opened his empty hand. He snapped his head up, furious, to see that Malfoy had once more set the Snitch free and Scorpius was chasing it in giddy circles.
"Wanker," Harry said to him, but without heat. The sight of the boy's happiness had stolen the fire from the accusation, and Malfoy knew it.
This time, Harry received the intense stare coupled with a faint smile. He frowned back, uncertain what he was supposed to say, what Malfoy wanted from him.
Both stare and smile were gone a moment later. The Snitch had deserted Scorpius to romp freely about the far end of the pitch. With speed like hawks, both Harry and Draco dived after it.
Harry was beyond tired. He had spent the morning teaching one of his least promising students—a man who wanted to learn wandless magic for reasons he refused to talk about, and which Harry didn't see the need to inquire into because he would never learn it anyway—and then the afternoon in hospital with Hermione, because the baby had chosen early December as the perfect birthday. It was a girl, so far nameless, whom Hermione's son, Hugo, had loudly deplored as being a needless addition to the family.
Hermione had told Harry, shyly, that they might call her Lily.
It was a gift. It was. As were his friends, and his students, and his ability to keep wielding magic and living in the wizarding world despite the complication the Elder Wand represented.
But there were times when Harry desperately wished he could come home to a family of his own, people to whom he represented something even more than a friend and a beloved uncle—or a godfather. He saw Teddy still, but not often now that the boy was nineteen years old and had a life of his own to lead. And that was a gift, too, and Harry was being selfish and whiny for wanting more.
But so long as he was selfish and whiny only in his own head, he thought it was all right.
He had just decided to collapse in front of the fire and feel sorry for himself when his Floo flared green. Harry turned to take the call, wondering what supplies Ron had left behind at the house and needed now. Or maybe he needed someone to stay with Hugo. Ron would probably want to remain with his wife and newborn daughter, but Harry imagined it couldn't be much fun for a nine-year-old boy who had been abruptly deprived of the position of youngest child.
But instead, Malfoy's head appeared in the flames. Harry steeled himself for another crisis.
"Hello, Malfoy," he said. "Did Scorpius turn himself invisible again?"
"Not really, no," Malfoy said calmly. "Rather, he decided to use his magic on our dinner. He duplicated it."
"I'll be right there," Harry said in alarm, visions of Malfoy Manor about to collapse under towering piles of treacle tart dancing in his head.
Malfoy's for-real smile showed up again. "Relax, Potter. It's not a crisis, really it's not." He hesitated for a moment, then added softly, "He's never used that much magic before without hurting himself."
Harry answered with a helpless smile of his own. How could he not? The lessons had worked, and given Malfoy's son a future he might never have had otherwise. There were no words for how wonderful that was.
"And Scorpius was so worn-out from magic use and pride that he went to bed early," Malfoy continued smoothly. "I just thought that you might want to come around and help me finish off what he duplicated. No sense in wasting food, after all."
There was that stare again.
And finally, finally, Harry thought he understood.
He knew as well as Malfoy did that there would be no waste. The house-elves could keep the food warm or cold as necessary for future eating. Scorpius's duplication of it really was a triumph, not something that required Harry's intervention.
No, if he went to Malfoy Manor now, it would be purely and simply because Malfoy—Draco—had invited him, and because Harry wanted to be there.
That was what the stares meant, the smiles, the quiet attempts to involve Harry in Draco's life along with his son's. They were the only sorts of invitations Draco could extend. Maybe he really couldn't risk more of himself than he had so far, not when so much of his energy was reserved for Scorpius. Maybe he had offered the ability to ignore him or withdraw gracefully so that, if Harry didn't want what lay behind the small lowering of Draco's barriers, they could remain friends with no harm done.
This time, though, Harry had noticed. And if the sympathy and admiration he already felt burned quietly in him…well, there was no saying that they could not flare up someday from embers into something more. Quiet was not such a bad beginning for what Harry thought Draco was offering.
Something even more intimate than friendship, which had been a blessing in Harry's life for twenty-six years. A place to belong.
"I'd love to come," he said.
For the first time, the gray eyes warmed completely, and Draco nodded. Then he stepped back out of the way for Harry to come through.
Harry cast a handful of Floo powder into the flames. "Malfoy Manor!" he called, and stepped in, and was whirled, and expected to come out with the clumsy stagger he always used. Traveling by Floo remained a part of the wizarding world Harry had no desire to increase his experience of; he much preferred Apparition.
But this time warm arms enclosed him and kept him from stumbling. Harry straightened up, and they still didn't withdraw. Draco stood close to him, holding Harry around the shoulders and the waist, eyes searching his.
Harry stared back and said aloud, because he could be the daring one, "Yes."
When Draco kissed him, it was an invitation, a promise, and a thanksgiving all rolled into one. Harry opened his mouth in answer, and for a moment the kiss deepened into hunger.
Then Draco drew back and said, "Come. We shouldn't let the food get cold."
Harry grinned in answer.
They left the room not exactly touching, but side-by-side, and now and then Harry angled himself so their elbows would brush. He thought of leaving, and of coming back, and, someday, of rising in the morning and greeting Scorpius as he came sleepily in to breakfast, while Draco snored in the bed behind him.
But all that could wait, because Harry knew it was coming, now.
Yes, quiet is good for a beginning.