Ginny picked at her dinner, using her fork to line up the peas in precise lines. 'Are you feeling all right?' Harry asked.

'What if I know something about one of your… charges?' Ginny asked quietly, eyes fixed on nudging a pea into place. Harry's brows flew upward. 'Something that could potentially make life even more difficult than it is presently?'

'It's been a long day, Gin. Don't speak in riddles. Spit it out.'

Ginny laid the fork down and let her hand fall into her lap. 'Daphne is pregnant.' Harry stared at her for a long moment, before picking up his wand and jabbed it at a cupboard. A bottle flew to the table. Harry uncorked it and poured two fingers of whisky into his glass. He downed it in one gulp, eyes watering.

'It is Draco's?' he asked hoarsely.

'That was rather my reaction,' Ginny said dryly. 'Daphne is adamant it is, so who am I to say otherwise?'' Harry held up the bottle and Ginny pushed her glass to him. He splashed whisky into it and poured more into his glass. Ginny sipped it, a plaintive expression falling over her face. 'Is there nothing to be done? For Draco, I mean. It's horribly hard on Daphne, with the restrictions on Draco. And then to add a baby to it.'

Harry leaned back in his chair. 'I've never agreed with the Wizengamot decision,' he confessed. 'It was one thing for them to make Lucius Malfoy's life a living hell. He actively chose to be a Death Eater. Draco wasn't given an option. It's affected Daphne, Scorpius, and it will affect their unborn child…' Harry trailed off. He swirled his whisky, gazing into the glass. 'I'll talk to Hermione, see if we can't get something started.'


Draco slumped in his chair in the pub near Andrew's flat. He rubbed his hand over his face, still no closer to giving Daphne an answer than he'd been three days ago when she had informed him she was unexpectedly pregnant.

'Rough day?' Andrew asked, dropping into the chair opposite of Draco's.

Draco sipped his lemonade, wishing not for the first time that it were something stronger. 'I suppose so.'

Andrew glanced at the television screen over their head and mentally noted the score of the football match. 'And…?' he prompted.

'Daphne's pregnant,' Draco blurted.

'Yours, I presume?'

'Of course it's mine!' Draco snapped irritably.

Andrew sipped his bitter and studied the tense man on the other side of the table. 'How does this make you feel?' he asked, genuinely curious, given Draco's nearly non-existent role as a parent with Scorpius.

Draco threw Andrew a scathing look. 'Don't analyze me.'

Andrew snorted. 'I'm not. You're not my patient, and I don't treat people outside office hours.' He settled back into his chair and picked up his glass. 'I am going to go out on a limb, however, and assume this was not a planned pregnancy.'

Draco eyed his friend's drink enviously. He desperately wanted one. 'No.'

'So?' Andrew prodded.

Draco stared at the television screen, not really seeing the football match. 'I'm scared as hell,' he admitted.

'And Daphne?'

Draco picked at invisible lint on his jumper. 'She'd like to go through with it,' he muttered. 'If - IF - I can actually participate and be a real parent.' He slid down in his chair until the end of his spine balanced on the edge of the seat. 'Whatever the hell that means.'

Andrew shifted his chair so he sat next to Draco. 'Maybe you change a few nappies this time around,' he suggested, gazing at the television. 'Ah, bleeding idiot refs! He was off-sides!' Andrew lifted his glass to his lips and took a healthy gulp. 'That is one way to look at it, you know.'


'The baby. A second chance.' Andrew glanced at Draco. 'What would you do differently, if you could do it all over again?'

Draco took a long swallow of his lemonade, keeping his eyes glued to the television. 'Forget everything my father ever said about blood purity and all that rot,' he muttered.

'You don't have to do things the way you did before,' Andrew reminded him. 'You never even had to do things the way your father did, once he'd moved to France.'

'What if I do the exact opposite of what I did or did not do with Scorpius, and I still end up making an utter mess of things?' Draco asked plaintively.

Andrew shrugged. 'It's a chance you take, my friend.'

'Then why bother?'

'For most of us,' Andrew mused, 'it's lots of things. The promise of the future.' He waved at the television. 'My gran could have avoided that tackle,' he huffed. 'Did you want to have Scorpius?'

'My father said I needed to have an heir - a son. As for myself, I was never quite sure about having a child, given my circumstances,' Draco admitted.

'You know, Draco, you'd be a lot happier if you forgot everything your father ever said about children. Or life in general,' Andrew commented.

'What should I do?'

'I can't tell you what to do,' Andrew said. 'But I can say that you should only do this if you think you can truly do it all differently.'

Draco leaned forward as a footballer lined up a penalty kick, leaning slightly to the left, as if he could will the ball past the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper's hand shot out and deflected the ball. Draco sighed in disappointment. 'What honestly terrifies me is that there is so much unknown,' he said quietly. 'I could tell Daphne as soon as I'm home I want to have the baby, but then I'll spend the next seventeen years frightened by the prospect that it was all for naught, and I've gone and ruined the life of an innocent child. Again.'

Andrew nodded. 'Did you feel any of this when Daphne carried Scorpius?'

The thoughtful expression on Draco's face was quickly replaced by one of surprise, tinged with guilt. 'Not really.' One pale brow rose. 'Go on then,' he sighed, seeing a familiar light come into Andrew's eyes.

Andrew chuckled. 'You've all but said it, but now you know just how high the stakes really are.' He lightly punched Draco in the arm. 'Don't tell Daphne yes to the baby, because you think it'll make her happy. If you can't be all in with it, be honest with her. If you think you can be more involved, but you're not sure how to go about that, tell her. From what I know about her, she'll be more than willing to help you learn.' Andrew drained his bitter. 'Everyone deserves a second chance, Draco. Your wife. Your son. You. Don't be afraid to take it when it's offered.'


Draco stood in the middle of his former bedroom. It was perfect for a baby. It was just across the hall and a door or two down from his and Daphne's bedroom. It was airy, or would be, once they ripped down the heavy drapes that cloaked the windows. He ran a hand over the ornately carved headboard of the cradle he'd found after several hours poking around in the musty attics. Every Malfoy baby had slept in it for generations. At least since the seventeenth century.

It was hideous.

The cradle had been carved from ebony. Decades of assiduous polishing by many house elves gave the dark wood a sinister gleam. Detailed carvings of chimeras, erklings, and kelpies chased each other around the sides. Hebridean Black dragons rose from each corner, head tilted back in a fierce howl. It was altogether a frightening place for a baby to sleep. He wondered if Scorpius remembered this… thing. Draco had searched in vain for anything else. This monstrosity had been the only cradle he could find in the attics.

'Buggering hell,' he muttered, kicking one of the rockers of the cradle. He yelped in pain, and began to hop around the room, rubbing his abused toes.

'Draco?' Daphne stood in the doorway. 'What are you doing?'

Draco looked up, startled. He overbalanced and landed painfully on his bottom. 'I thought this could be the nursery,' he blurted, too surprised by Daphne's sudden appearance to say anything other than the bald truth. 'A few coats of paint. New draperies. Some toys. Although I don't quite know what an infant should do with toys.'

Daphne crossed her arms over her chest. 'Toys generally come later, eejit,' she chided gently. 'All the rows of plushy bunnies one sees in trendy baby magazines are strictly for the parents' pleasure.'

'I should probably read a few of those,' Draco said sheepishly, standing up. 'I really want to make a proper go at this.'

Daphne's eyes welled up with tears. She dashed the ones that spilled over with the back of her hand. 'Do you really mean that?'

'I can't promise I won't make a lot of mistakes,' Draco told her quickly. ''I'm fairly certain I'm going to make lots. I don't even know how to put on a nappy properly, for Merlin's sake.'

Daphne chuckled. 'There are worse mistakes than an improperly pinned nappy,' she chortled. 'That cradle, for one.'

Draco whipped out his wand, and jabbed it at the offending object. 'It's gone.'


Lily cursed under her breath. James peered at her through the swirling mix of snow and sleet. 'What?'

'I've gone and left my Charms textbook in the changing room,' she groaned, glancing up at the dark sky. As if in response to her unspoken need to make the muddy slog back to the Quidditch pitch, the icy mix of snow and sleet became heavier.

'Want me to go with you?' James asked with obvious and great reluctance.

Lily tightened her scarf around her throat and pulled her hat down snugly over her ears. 'No. I won't be long,' she said, her voice muffled as a sudden gust of wind carried her words away.

James nodded. 'Off you go,' he told her, giving her shoulder a brotherly shove. Lily trudged back to the Quidditch pitch, her head bent against the wind. James jogged to catch up with the others, dreaming of a scalding shower, warm - dry! - clothes, and a mug of hot, sweet tea. The mental image of the fire in the Gryffindor common room spurred him to sprint the last few yards to the doors of the castle.

'Out a bit late, aren't you?' Neville said as the Gryffindor team pushed the heavy doors closed.

'We thought we'd see if the storm let up,' Rose sighed.

'It got worse,' Alex said, beginning to shiver.

'Hang on a mo,' Neville said. He drew his wand and waved it over the huddled group. Their sodden cloaks dried to the point where they were no longer dripping on the floor. 'I'm not very good at drying and warming at the same time,' he said apologetically. 'But you'll be able to get back to the dormitory without bringing the wrath of Filch on your heads for dripping mud and water all over his clean floors.'

'Good idea,' Sophie grinned. She jabbed her wand at the floor, and the small puddles of muddy water disappeared.

'Where's Lily?' Neville had missed her absence in the initial hubbub.

'Left a book in the changing room,' James offered. She'll be along soon.' Neville nodded and motioned for the Gryffindor team to go.

They hurried through the corridors and up the stairs, nearly running until they stood in front of the Fat Lady. 'Bowtruckle,' Nicky said shortly as they approached the portrait of the Fat Lady.

'You're not even going to allow me to ask for the password?' the Fat Lady grumbled indignantly.

Rose rolled her eyes. 'Fine,' she huffed, crossing her arms over her chest, toes tapping impatiently. When the Fat Lady didn't respond, Rose barked, 'Well?'

The Fat Lady drew herself up. 'Password?' she asked haughtily.

'Bowtruckle,' Nicky said flatly. The portrait swung open. The cousins wearily hauled themselves through the portrait hole and stumbled to the fire.

Alex held his hands out to the flames. 'I'd give my left ball for a pot of tea,' he moaned. A large tray appeared on a nearby table. Seconds later, a large, steaming Brown Betty materialized out of thin air, followed by an overflowing plate of biscuits. Alex's eyes darted around the room. He knew elves were responsible for his cooking his meals, laundering his clothes, and cleaning his dormitory and the common room. Tea appearing out of thin air was definitely new. It definitely deserved acknowledgement. Several mugs joined the rest of the things on the table. 'Thank you,' Alex said gratefully. He poured tea into a mug and held it cradled between his palms.

Nicky dug an elbow into his twin's ribs. 'You owe the Hogwarts elves your left ball,' he chortled reaching for a mug.

Hugo's head lifted at the sight of biscuits. He tilted his chair on its back legs, and one of his lanky arms snaked out and his fingers grasped a biscuit. 'Only need one, really,' he said absently. One eyebrow quirked upward. 'We're Weasleys. Two are almost a waste.'

Scorpius glanced up from his homework. 'Where's Lily?'

'Went back for something,' Al told him, pouring tea into a mug.

Scorpius stared at the portrait hole for several minutes, waiting for Lily to climb through it. 'She's taking too long,' he murmured, and slid from his chair. He slipped out of the portrait and made his way to the entrance of the castle. He slowed to a stop when he heard Lily's voice float around the corner. Scorpius crept forward, his wand held aloft. Lily stood with her back to the wall of a shallow alcove. Geoffery Greengrass stood in front of her, his hands braced against the wall on either side of Lily's shoulders, effectively trapping her. She was clearly impatient, toes tapping a rapid tattoo on the floor.

'Come on, then,' Geoffery wheedled, leaning closer. 'Give us a kiss.'

'Are you spell-damaged?' Lily grunted. 'I've already told you to bugger off.' She tilted her head to the side and saw Scorpius lift his wand. She shook her head slightly.

'You can't tell me that big girl's blouse cousin of mine can do anything with his limp willy.' Geoffery took a step closer, placing his feet on either side of Lily's. Lily turned her head away as Geoffery leaned closer. Just as his lips grazed her cheek, she brought her knee up, connecting solidly with Geoffery's crotch. Geoffery toppled to the floor, hands clutched between his drawn-up legs, wheezing in pain.

Lily savagely scrubbed a hand over her cheek. 'I'd rather kiss a Wookie,' she spat. She lightly stepped around Geoffery and all but danced to Scorpius. 'And Albus said learning self-defense was useless,' she said cheerfully.

'Bravo,' Scorpius told her, applauding. 'I was going to hex the knobhead, but your way was better.'

Lily tossed the end of her plait over her shoulder. 'Thanks.' She pulled the edges of her cloak together. 'Let's go. I've got a hot shower with my name all over it. I'm positively frozen from the walk back to the castle.' She sashayed down the corridor, humming lightly to herself.

Scorpius watched her walk away for a moment, allowing himself to appreciate her utter fearlessness. He took a deep breath, and quickly scanned the corridor. Assured that he was alone, Scorpius furtively adjusted his trousers. 'Hot shower for you, ice cold for me,' he murmured ruefully, striding back to Gryffindor.


Harry stalked through the corridors of the Ministry, clutching a crumpled piece of purple parchment. The edges were singed and smoke wafted from its folds. Sparks intermittently flew from the tip of his wand, held in his other hand, clenched into a tight fist. When he arrived at Hermione's office, the look he shot at her assistant quelled any sort of argument the girl had on the tip of her tongue to deny him entrance. Harry barged into the office without so much as a knock and slammed the door behind him. Hermione glanced up at the intrusion. Every muscle of Harry's body was tense with barely suppressed fury. 'Bee in your bonnet?' she asked, tossing her quill aside.

Harry brandished the parchment. 'What. The. Bloody. Hell. Is. This?' he snarled.

Hermione tugged the parchment from Harry's hand and smoothed it out, waving away a wisp of smoke, then quickly scanned it. 'Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ…' She squinted at it, then read it again, slowly this time. 'This is absolutely ridiculous,' she breathed.

'I've been dealing with Malfoy for almost twenty-five years,' Harry said, beginning to pace restlessly. 'Not once has my integrity been called into question.'

Hermione carefully folded the parchment. 'I told them it was a baseless accusation. I was politely informed that my opinions were not germane to the discussion. The personal nature of our relationship rendered anything I might have said in your defense invalid.' She took a deep breath. 'They said the same to Kingsley.'

'Oh, Merlin's sagging bollocks,' Harry growled, as he threw himself into a chair. 'I don't understand,' he said in bewilderment. 'We don't socialize. I haven't even gone into the house when I've taken Scorpius home.' Only because it makes me want to vomit and pass out, he thought wryly.

'But Ginny does socialize with Daphne,' Hermione reminded him. 'She's actually quite nice,' she admitted with only a bit of reluctance. 'Wicked sense of humor.' Hermione pushed the parchment back to Harry. 'The people that want to investigate you only see that you readily and welcome the scion of the Malfoy and Black families into your home. That he's your son's best friend.' Hermione paused delicately. 'And if they care to look closely enough, that he has feelings for Lily.'

Harry's eyes narrowed. 'What do you mean, he has feelings for Lily?' he demanded, feeling a knot of cold deep in his stomach. Michael Carter had mentioned something to Harry during his birthday party last summer, but Harry had dismissed it.

Hermione pressed her lips together to prevent a smile. 'It's nothing, really. He just always seems to know where she is in the room. No different from the way you used to be aware of Ginny when you were Scorpius' age, actually.' Harry's eyes bulged from their sockets. He remembered with startling clarity how he'd felt about Ginny in those days. He wasn't altogether comfortable with the idea of someone having those sorts of feelings for his own daughter, regardless of how highly Harry personally thought of Scorpius. Harry muttered a pungent expletive under his breath. 'To people who aren't in your inner circle, having Scorpius spend so much time with your family does look rather odd,' Hermione told Harry softly.

'But he's in Gryffindor!' Harry blurted.

'There are people who don't care about that,' Hermione retorted, reaching for the steaming cup of tea at her elbow. 'And nobody ever accused that particular lot of having more brains than a bowtruckle. Truth be told, it's taken years for them to gather enough support to initiate an investigation. Most would be happy to just leave it all behind.' She chewed her lip for a moment, thinking. 'Walk me through what you do with Draco when he comes in to see you every six months.'

Harry heaved a sigh and picked at a hangnail. 'He comes in my office. His minders stay outside, as they have since I took over as Head. The first couple of years, I did the interrogation in one of the smaller conference rooms on Level One. At the time, Peter Wilson, my supervisor, sat in with us. Christianne Gibson, my Auror Head, insisted on it. After two or three years, Peter declared me perfectly competent, and told Gibson he had better things to do than listen to Draco give the exact same answers every single time.'

Hermione frowned. 'And the Veritaserum?'

'I brew it,' Harry replied shortly. 'I've been doing it since my second year with the Aurors.'

'How strong is it?' Hermione shot back.

The back of Harry's neck prickled with heat. 'Technically, it's full strength.'

Hermione dug her thumbs into the ridges under her eyebrows. 'Get it. Now.'

'But…' Harry began to object. A quelling glance from Hermione propelled him from the chair. He managed to casually stroll back to his office, stopping to engage in a bit of banter here and there. He slipped into his office, and opened a drawer of his desk. He tapped the bottom with his wand, revealing a well-padded hidden compartment. A small drawstring bag nestled in its confines. Harry picked up the bag and pulled out a single clear vial filled with crystalline liquid. He tucked it into his pocket and tapped the drawer twice with his wand. The compartment vanished and Harry closed the drawer. He made his way back down to Hermione's office with the same studied nonchalance that he'd displayed before. When he dropped into the chair across from Hermione's desk, she flicked her wand at the door, and it silently swung shut. Harry pulled the vial from his pocket and set it just on the edge of Hermione's desk.

'Is this the one you plan to give Draco in July?' she asked. Harry nodded. Hermione reached for it and cracked the wax seal with her thumbnail and pried the cork from the opening. She mockingly saluted Harry and downed it.

Hermione waited for the effects to set in. Harry watched impassively as she leaned back in her chair and slouched a little, as if she'd had a bit more to drink than she ought. 'Go ahead and ask me something.'

Harry stared at her. 'Why did you choose the name Rose?' It was innocuous and seemed least likely to lead to an embarrassing reply.

Hermione chuckled bawdily. 'She was conceived after my dad's funeral in his rose garden. I'd rather had a lot to drink and wouldn't take no for an answer.' She whooped with laughter, then suddenly froze. Hermione blinked several times and straightened, smoothing her hair. 'That's what you give Draco?'

'Yeah.' Harry ran and hand through this hair. 'I brew it full strength, then dilute it.' He licked his dry lips and added pointedly, 'I did say it was technically full strength.'


Harry nearly leapt from the chair. He resumed his restless pacing along the towering bookcases that lined the walls of Hermione's office. 'To make up for the way we've treated him,' he said quietly, running an index finger along the smooth leather spines. 'Have you ever read the transcripts from the Malfoys' trials after the war?'

'Of course,' Hermione said.

'Their punishment was meant to humiliate them. All but take away their ability to make decisions about their own lives.' He spun on his heel. 'Daphne's pregnant,' he told Hermione.

'I know,' Hermione quietly.

'We've ruined his life. Draco all but has to beg for permission to leave his house,' Harry continued, as if she hadn't said a word. 'At least one Auror follows him around when he does leave. And when Daphne goes into labor, Draco is going to have to stop what he's doing, and tell an Auror that he'd like to take his wife to hospital, please and thank you. When all he'll want to do is Apparate to St. Mungo's. Right. Now.

'For God's sake, Hermione, what's the harm in giving the man a scrap of dignity?' Harry exclaimed. 'He's going to have another child soon. He hasn't said so much as said boo to anybody in over two decades. Can't we revise his probation? Or at least talk about it?'

Hermione gazed thoughtfully at the wall of books, tapping the handle of her wand against the desk blotter. 'One thing at a time,' she said after several long moments. 'Let's convince the Wizengamot you can be trusted with Draco Malfoy first, and then we can see about his probation.' Hermione decisively flicked her wand at several books in rapid succession. 'It might take years to even get them to agree to revisit Draco's, ah, situation,' she reminded Harry. 'If I recall, you did manage to express sympathy for the Malfoys at their trials. Even if it was somewhat contemptuous.' She gave Harry a censorious glance. 'There will be members of the Wizangamot who remember that, and their memories are as long as their beards.'

'Yeah,' Harry murmured, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans. 'You're not going to tell anyone about the Veritaserum, are you?'

Hermione tossed the vial into the air, Vanishing it with a small flourish of her wand. 'Tell anyone what?' she asked innocently.


Harry stared at the sheaf of reports without seeing them, trying to keep a grip on his temper. Another letter from the Wizengamot sat on a corner of his desk, delicately suggesting that Harry might want to take a long – very long – holiday. As the day wore on, the more he stewed over the idea that his integrity was once again being called into question. It reminded him all too well of his fifth year of school when many people had neither trusted nor believed a single word that came out of his mouth. Harry glanced at his watch with a sigh. It wasn't even noon. He threw the quill down and snatched the folded square of purple parchment from the desk, shoving it into the pocket of his jeans. Harry grabbed his coat from its hook and yanked the door of his office open and managed to close it as he normally would. He took a deep breath and strolled to Iain McDonald's desk. Iain's desk was, as usual, hidden under layers of parchment, folders, and a variety of broken, bent, and bedraggled quills. Iain had worked with Harry for nearly twenty years, starting with his training, and was well versed with his Head's moods. Harry was absolutely expressionless - a tell-tale sign to anyone in the Aurors that their Head was seething with anger under that impassive face. Iain slid a hand into the detritus on his desk, and emerged with the training schedule. He glanced up as Harry came to a halt next to his desk. 'Andre's got the first years down in one of the courtrooms working on defensive spells,' Iain said casually. 'He could probably use a hand with the hexes and jinxes.'

Harry's eyebrow shot upward. 'Tempting, but some other time,' he muttered. It would give him excellent cover to let off some steam, but even Harry could recognize in his current state of mind, he'd probably end up giving some poor trainee a combination of a Jelly Legs curse and a Knee Reverser hex. 'I'm going to exercise my privilege as Head and leave for the day.' At Iain's inquiring glance, Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. 'Headache.'

Iain saluted Harry with the rather tattered quill he held. 'I'll keep things limping along.'

Harry lightly punched Iain on the shoulder with the side of his fist. 'Thanks, mate. Check in on Andre after lunch, will you? Make sure we don't need to call in St. Mungo's.'

'Noted. Now get out now, before someone comes up with something that demands your undivided attention.'

Harry grimaced and walked swiftly to the lifts. He couldn't leave the Ministry quickly enough.

As usual in times of uncertainty in his profession, Harry sought the advice of his former mentor, Peter Wilson. Peter had been instrumental in integrating Harry into the rank-and-file Aurors. He had been one of the first to unequivocally support Harry when he'd been promoted to Head. Peter had quite the knack of dispassionately studying a situation, when Harry had been on the verge of acting emotionally. Harry had often gratefully turned to him for advice in those first few blurry years. Harry rubbed his throbbing temples as he strode down the pavement, heading for the house with the blue door. He knocked lightly, grinning at the eagle-shaped doorknocker. It was obvious the inhabitants had been Sorted into Ravenclaw, if you knew what to look for. The door swung open, revealing the cheerful face of Peter's wife, Marianne, a former Auror herself. 'Harry!' Marianne exclaimed. 'What brings you here in the middle of the day?'

'Peter around?'

Marianne scowled slightly. 'And driving me mad. Old bugger shouldn't have retired,' she sighed, stepping back. 'Come in. It's nearly lunchtime. Have you eaten?'


Marianne patted his arm in a motherly fashion. 'You look like something's bothering you.'

'It's the Wizengamot,' told her.

'Hmmmm,' Marianne grunted. 'That lot needs to find a hobby. Hang up your coat, then, and come into the kitchen. I'll tell Peter you're here.'

Harry hung his coat on the coat stand in the corner, and trailed after Marianne. If anyone could tell him his actions were objectionable, it was these two.


Harry opened the front door, shrugging off his coat. 'Ginny?' he called.

'In here!' she replied, her voice floating from the kitchen.

Harry pushed the door open to find Ginny elbows-deep in a carton labelled with "Lily" in Ginny's round hand. 'What's all this?'

Ginny emerged with a stack of assorted folded dresses. She carefully placed them into another carton. 'I thought I'd sort through some of the children's baby things to pass on to Daphne. They haven't got a thing left from when Scorpius was born.' Ginny pulled a finely knitted blanket from the carton. She shook it out, examining it for snags or stains. She re-folded it and deposited the blanket in a smaller carton. 'Mum made that the week Lily was born,' she sighed wistfully. 'Maybe when Lily has a baby…'

Harry idly picked up a tiny jumper, marvelling that any of the children had been small enough to fit into it at one time. 'I thought I might take a leave of absence from work,' he said.

Ginny unfurled and scrutinized another blanket. 'Need another long holiday so soon?' she teased.

Harry traced the outline of the jumper's top button. 'More like a sabbatical,' he told her. 'Get some perspective on how to properly do my job,' he added bitterly.

Ginny's arms lowered slowly, the blanket sliding to the floor, forgotten. 'What?'

Harry sighed and dropped into a chair. 'The Wizengamot is going to investigate me. It seems a few members believe I am no longer capable of behaving in an objective manner, as far as Draco is concerned.'

'Where did they get such a preposterous idea?'

'Because our children are friends with his son. Because my wife is friendly with his wife. Because I've – how did they put it? – aided and abetted Draco in embarking on a clandestine career. Because the Wizengamot members who instigated this remember that I spoke on behalf of the Malfoys after the war. I couldn't bear watching someone my age get thrown into Azkaban.' He paused, not seeing the tiny violet jumper in his hands, but the ravaged figure of Sirius Black that long ago night in the Shrieking Shack. 'Sirius was only a few years older than we were when he was arrested. He sat rotting in Azkaban for twelve years, and it destroyed him.' Harry carefully folded the jumper and slowly placed it into the carton Ginny indicated. 'If Lucius had gone to prison, I wouldn't have shed a tear. But Draco didn't deserve that. Anybody in that courtroom with two brain cells to rub together who'd heard Draco's testimony should have been able to cotton on to the fact Draco was an unwilling participant.'

'How long will you stay away?' Ginny asked quietly.

'Dunno,' Harry replied. 'Maybe until the investigation is done. Maybe just a month or two.' He rolled his head around his neck, trying to work out some of the knots that had taken up permanent residence there. 'Peter and Marianne suggested I take the Wizengamot up on its offer and take the sabbatical,' he told her. 'Well, Marianne more than Peter. She thought it would be best to let it run its course without me glowering in corners.'

Ginny snorted. 'She's not wrong.' She closed the lid of Lily's carton and pushed it aside. 'How many Wizengamot members are in on this?'

Harry picked at the skin around his thumbnail. 'Just a handful of the older members. Ones who were on it before the war. One of them was in the Wizengamot before my parents died.'

'You don't think…' Ginny began, but she clamped her lips together.


'It's nothing.'

'What?' Harry prodded more forcefully.

Ginny bent to retrieve the forgotten blanket. 'Do you think they're trying to force your hand and make you resign?'

Harry's mouth opened and closed several times. 'I won't,' he told her, teeth bared, cheeks splotching with color. 'I've given my life in service to British wizardkind since I was eleven years old. I've never quit and I don't intend to start now. Which is more than I can say about some of those miserable excuses for humanity who are incapable of seeing people change,' he added fiercely.

Ginny patted his arm. 'Oh, good,' she said in mock relief. 'I thought for a moment you were going to meekly roll over and let them bugger you. I was about to check you for fever.' She stepped behind Harry and began to massage the bunched muscles in his shoulders. Harry mewed softly has her fingers dug into a particularly sensitive spot. His shoulders began to relax under Ginny's ministrations.

'What more do I have to do?' Harry whispered.