Title: Five Ways to Forgiveness
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Harry/Ginny, Draco/Astoria, Ron/Hermione.
Warnings: DH SPOILERS, epilogue-compliant. (In fact, it takes place in the middle of the epilogue. Sort of). Profanity and sex.
Summary: Every choice we make opens some paths and closes off others. At King's Cross, Harry abruptly sees five futures that may occur for him—but not all of them can happen.
Author's Notes: Written as a birthday fic for msarden, whose birthday was over two weeks ago. msarden, I am so sorry this took so long to post! I was working on a much longer story that broke down after ten thousand words, and then it felt like I had no more ideas. But in this story, Draco and Harry don't set out to deliberately hurt each other, they aren't separated only by stupidity, and there is some smut, so I hope it'll give you some happiness anyway!
The title is (very) slightly adapted from the title of a book by Ursula K. LeGuin, Four Ways to Forgiveness. This story also accepts the family tree that Rowling recently released as canon.
Five Ways to Forgiveness
Harry Potter meets Draco Malfoy's eyes. Draco Malfoy stares back at him with a distinct lack of expression, especially for a man who remembers when Malfoy's face was never without a sneer or a snarl, and then nods and turns away.
And suddenly, in the midst of steam and chattering children and childish fears and Ron's jokes and Hermione's fussing with Rose's trunk and Lily's whinging about wanting to go to Hogwarts too, Harry's mind splinters. His vision opens. Swaying a little with the force of it, he sees a cluster of futures falling on him like an avalanche. And all he would have to do to create them would be to speak to Draco Malfoy.
Five. There are five of them.
Malfoy looked absolutely stunned when Harry walked up to him smiling tentatively, with his hand extended. Well, Harry couldn't blame him. He took strength from the thought of Al—who he was really doing this for—and from the wary curiosity, not warm but not that cold, in the eyes of Malfoy's wife.
"Malfoy," he said with a brisk nod. "We haven't seen each other in a long time—"
"And that was exactly the way I liked it, Potter," Malfoy spat, backing away from him until he bumped into a pillar. Then he seemed to realize how ridiculous he was being, and straightened his shoulders, releasing a breath that contained a long stream of muttered profanity. "If you're going to blame me for a stubbed toe your precious child suffered getting on the train—"
"Nothing like that," Harry said, and the tone of his voice, low and easy, made Malfoy stop speaking and stare at him. "The thing of it is—" And then he laughed, and ran a hand through his hair. The words that had sounded so simple in his head when he was walking over here sounded so childish now. "The hell of it is," he continued, hoping that acknowledging his own reluctance would win Malfoy over, "I'm pretty sure my younger boy's going to be in Slytherin."
"And that's not the end of the world for you?" Malfoy had stepped away from the pillar, but he was still studying Harry's wand, an obvious outline against his sleeve, with more than casual interest.
Harry shook his head. "Al—that's for Albus—"
"Exactly what his mother did when I proposed the name," Harry said, feeling Ginny's presence and warmth at his back now. His confidence increased. She would tell him if he did something horrendously wrong. But her hand brushed the small of his back gently, so he knew he was all right to keep speaking. "But it abbreviates well. And he's going to be in Slytherin. I just know he is. He's that way."
"Evil?" Malfoy said. "Tortures small furry animals?"
"No. Wants to make something of himself. It's really no surprise, in the shadow of his father as he is."
Harry spoke the words softly, deliberately catching Malfoy's eye. The other man obviously understood the reference to himself and Lucius. His mouth fell open slightly, and Harry, amused, thought he would not have hated Malfoy so much in school if he had ever seen him do that.
"And I just told him that Slytherin was a fine place to be, if that's where the Hat said he should go." Harry briefly turned his head to follow the path of the departing train with his eyes, loss biting into his heart. But he had always known he would lose his children for a little while on their eleventh birthdays. Better to let them go gracefully than to try and clutch them close and make them struggle against him. "I fought against that fate, and there were times I was unhappy in Gryffindor. I want Al to be happy."
"You were supposed to be in Slytherin?"
Oh, yes, it had not been a mistake to tell Malfoy that after all, as Harry had feared it would be. Malfoy was staring at him with devouring curiosity now, as if he could make out "Slytherin" tattooed in small letters somewhere on Harry's body.
"Yes," Harry said. "But I'd already made my mind up, and I acted like an idiot."
Ron cleared his throat behind him. Malfoy's eyes shot towards this new threat, and his face became a stiff mask.
"I did," Harry said firmly, leaning in so that Malfoy had no choice but to pay attention to him. "I can't regret my years in Gryffindor, but the way I made the decision was stupid. And so I think Al will be in Slytherin, and probably friends with your son."
"You haven't told him to carry the Potter-Malfoy feud forwards another generation, then?"
"I haven't mentioned you much at all," Harry said honestly. "And your son could be a completely different person from you. Even if he's not, they're not growing up in the middle of a war, now. Less suspicion. More room for friendship."
"And so," Malfoy said slowly, as if he wanted to reason out every nuance from this, "you want us to be friends so our sons don't feel awkward."
"That's pretty much the size of it, yeah," Harry said, and held out his hand again.
Malfoy eyed him intensely for some time before taking it. But he took it, and if Harry felt some holding back in the gesture, he told himself it was only natural. Malfoy didn't have much reason to trust Harry yet.
But he would. And in time, this would be true forgiveness, a healing of the wounds from Harry's childhood as well as the ones that might have opened up between Al and Scorpius.
There was an enormous chorus of questions on the way home, with Ron in particular wanting to know what the hell Harry was thinking. But when they got the owl that evening that said Al had been Sorted into Slytherin, Harry knew he had made the right decision.
"Admit it, Potter, you just like me for my pretty face."
Harry laughed, and then realized he was laughing a little too loudly. A reasonable consequence of being half-pissed, but still. He buried his face behind his mug of butterbeer, grateful for the coolness against his cheek.
He and Draco had been meeting in the Three Broomsticks for several weeks now, in order to have debates, conversations, and other means of working towards a friendship on fairly neutral ground. Draco still wouldn't call him by his first name—though he had loftily granted permission for Harry to call him by his—but he smiled most of the time, or at least sneered with a less sarcastic edge to it. And he had told Harry all sorts of things, from the way he and his wife argued to how overwhelming the job of keeping up the Malfoy name was sometimes, that Harry never would have dreamed of hearing from his lips.
He'd done other things, too, but he wasn't aware of them.
Draco had twisted about to call for another round. Harry stared covertly at the lines of his profile, the graceful way that his neck ran down to his shoulder, and the bunch and quiver of his muscles. Draco had explained the muscles by saying that he took care to exercise constantly with his wife, Astoria Greengrass, and Scorpius. The Black line had a tendency to corpulence, at least if they lived long enough.
Harry had been aware, during the past few months of their meetings, that his feelings weren't exactly…friendly. And they weren't the homicidal urges Ron would have approved of, either.
He'd fantasized about having sex with a bloke, of course. What bloke hadn't? But the fantasies never had a face, and Ginny always more than satisfied him, until he started seeing Draco Malfoy regularly.
Harry had no idea why the blond so enthralled him. He didn't want to think that he was shallow enough to act on a purely physical attraction. On the other hand, one reason he'd never been tempted to stray from Ginny was because he didn't lust after other people. He might notice a face here, an arse there, but the impulse passed across his mind like a shadow and went away again.
This temptation was strong, and solid, and right in front of him.
Draco turned back, and Harry was afraid he didn't look away fast enough. And he was sure, now, that his flushed face was too obvious for Draco to attribute it solely to the butterbeer. He coughed, stood up, muttered, "Loo," and fled.
Leaning over the basin, he splashed water on his face and stared himself grimly down in the mirror. "You can't," he said. "You have a wife. You have three wonderful children. Draco would never forgive you. Do you want to ruin this new friendship you've got going for the sake of a quick fuck, even assuming he did agree?"
The conclusions were all very sound and sensible, but they didn't help when Harry could still imagine short pale hair sliding through his fingers, rough stubble against his face, a forceful mouth tasting of alcohol…
Alcohol, Harry thought, and his mind seized on the suggestion gratefully. That would divert him from paying attention to his little problem and letting it grow bigger than it already had.
He left the loo and returned to the table. Draco smiled at him. "About time, Harry," he said. "I was wondering how to explain to your friends that you'd been kidnapped right under my nose. Weasley would surely hold a wand against my forehead and demand I lead him to the body."
He called me Harry. Luckily, the next round of butterbeer was there by now. Harry picked up his mug and tilted a long run of the liquid down his throat.
By the time Draco helped him out of the Three Broomsticks, Harry was drunk enough to stumble over his own feet. He reeled around once, bumped his head on the stone wall outside the pub, and groaned aloud.
Draco made some remark, laughing, as he tried to get his shoulder under Harry's arm. Harry stared at him. His face was so near, and everything about it, from its pallor to the small and unexpectedly fine nose, made Harry want.
He leaned forwards and pressed his lips to Draco's.
Draco's eyes widened, and he froze. That was the only reason, as Harry knew later, why he got as much of a taste as he did. And the taste had been one thing he wasn't capable of imagining, rich and salty, as if Draco spent most of his day eating crackers. Harry leaned nearer still, one hand rising to grasp the other man's head, to hold him in place—
And then Draco pulled away with a hiss, and shoved him so hard that Harry's head collided with the stone wall again. This time, though, the pain was enough to stab through his haze. He groaned again and buried his face in his hands.
What are you doing, you freak? snarled the voice that never quite left him, the voice of the Dursleys. Risking your perfect life, your wonderful family, just to satisfy your lust? You're certainly not in love with him, or anything like that. This is fleeting and childish, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
Harry already was. Thick, choking globs of guilt rose in his mouth like vomit, and that, more than the voice, killed his lust. He had made a mistake. He could only hope Draco would forgive him if he apologized hard enough for it.
He reached out and caught the other man's wrist just as Draco started to draw his wand and Disapparate. Draco whirled around and stared at him with open hatred. Harry winced, but held his ground. The biggest problems in life, he had already learned, were caused by silence—by letting the other person run away and brood on things, whilst he brooded himself, and the brooding continued until they had both lost the courage needed to address it.
"This was just a ruse, wasn't it, Potter?" Draco was shaking. "You wanted to lure me out and convince me to leave my wife, ruin my son's life—"
"What I did was stupid and wrong," Harry said, and he knew the utter conviction in his tone, more than his words, made Draco stop and listen to him. "I could blame some of it on being drunk, but not all. Suffice it to say that I've had fantasies, like everyone, but unlike most people, I was stupid enough to try and translate them into reality without even thinking of how other people would feel." He grimaced and shook his head. "I've been thoughtless before, but not that way, not in years. Words can't express how sorry I am. If you want to stop meeting for a few weeks, I understand, but I hope you'll forgive me eventually."
Draco stared at him. Harry dropped his hand cautiously away. If he went on holding him, Draco would probably distrust his intentions, and Harry had to give him the choice to leave—no matter how much that might hurt him.
Draco swallowed once or twice. Then he nodded regally. "You were drunk, Potter," he said. "I understand that."
Harry shook his head again. He wouldn't let their friendship, which he still hoped to salvage, rest on a mistaken foundation. "Drink's part of it, but not all of it," he said. "I did want you. But please trust me when I say I won't press it again."
"Lust doesn't vanish that quickly."
"It does when you can feel your guilt weighing you down worse than the hangover you're going to have tomorrow," Harry said, and rubbed his forehead.
Unexpectedly, Draco smiled. "That was what I wanted, you know," he murmured. "All the time we were in school."
"What?" Harry peered at him. His mind was already fogging again—he wished he'd thought to use a Sobriety Charm—and his eyesight was bleary.
"Just one apology," Draco said, "one acknowledgment that you weren't perfect. And now I have it." He looked away from Harry for a moment, as if the answer to their dilemma were written on the robes of passing wizards, and then turned back. He held out a cautious hand. "We'll try to forgive and forget," he said.
Harry felt a smile widen across his face, and he clasped Draco's hand fervently. His first tentative approach after he'd learned Al had been Sorted into Slytherin was rejected, but he was glad he'd kept trying. And the touch of Draco's skin was not so intoxicating as all that.
"Forgive and forget," he said. "Friends."
Somehow, it grew. And it changed.
Harry went over and greeted Draco Malfoy stiffly that day at the platform—under prodding from Ginny, who evidently thought it was past time that childhood grudges were over and done. She had been impatient before when Harry ranted about something Malfoy had done years ago, reminding him sharply that the man was not the boy, and shouldn't he know that better than anyone? But still, acknowledging a philosophical point and talking to the git were two different things. Given the haughty way Malfoy accepted his greetings, Harry rather expected never to hear from him again.
But a few months later, an owl came winging in, announcing that Scorpius had persuaded Al—Harry knew that was the truth, though the owl blamed Al—to sneak out of the school on a Hogsmeade weekend, and together they had summoned one of the Malfoy house-elves, who had brought them to the Manor, and would Harry please come pick his son up and give him a severe scolding?
A month after that came another owl, announcing that Malfoy's wife thought he should spend more time outside the Manor, and did Harry want to play Quidditch? Malfoy promised to beat him solid.
The next night, another owl saying snippily that even if Harry didn't want to play Quidditch, he owed the person making such an invitation the courtesy of a reply.
Harry sighed, and gave in, and wrote back.
So he and Malfoy met for pick-up Quidditch games, and Malfoy made regular appointments in Harry's office to rant about his wife—whom, he said, didn't understand the aristocratic elegance of doing nothing—and one night they got drunk and maudlin and had an enormous fight about which of them had really been a wanker years ago, which resulted in a lot more clear air when it was done.
So it changed. Harry was prepared for that.
He wasn't prepared for the way he started relaxing around Malfoy, or the way that Malfoy became Draco imperceptibly, or the way he was able to complain about Ginny to him as he couldn't in front of Ron and Hermione, or the reluctant way he laughed at Draco's horrible jokes. And he was certainly unprepared for the sheer joy that rushed through him when Draco waltzed into the office, laughing exultantly, and proclaimed he'd finally obtained a divorce from his wife on the grounds of persistent nagging.
Harry tried to assume that Astoria was a lovely person, really, but the expression on Draco's face and the disturbing glee in his own stomach prevented him from saying anything. He just grinned and stood up to hug Draco.
He lingered a moment too long. Or Draco twisted in his embrace and brought their faces too close together. Or the smell and touch of another human being who wasn't from the Weasley family was too unexpected, too rich and deep.
Harry was never sure about the cause. He was sure that they both moved forwards at the same time, and when their lips met, it was an entirely simultaneous affair.
That first time was hasty, hard, hot, scrabbling at each other more like fighters than lovers. Draco came with a sob and Harry with a most unmanly whimper, both rubbing off against each other in their pants. They lay panting, draped across Harry's desk, for a ridiculously long amount of time, neither wanting to lift their heads and begin what would surely be an awkward interlude.
Harry cleared his throat and tried to ask, gently, if Draco was just looking for a rebound relationship. Draco raised his eyebrows, mouthed, "Idiot," and laid his lips against Harry's collarbone.
That tore it.
It was in an odd, wild, scattered mood that Harry went home and confessed what he'd done to Ginny. She promptly left him. Harry had expected it. His wife wasn't the kind of woman who would let herself be used, in any fashion.
His children wrote him tearful responses from school (well, tearful from Lily and Al. James was just angry). Scorpius sent him a Howler. He seemed to suspect that Harry and Draco had been fucking for a long time before this encounter, and that that was the cause of his parents' marriage breaking up. No matter how many times Draco told him the truth, he was unable to change his mind.
Ron simply gave him a stare of solid disbelief, didn't speak to him for a week, then pranked him for another and went back to being his friend. Hermione bought books on the changing of sexuality in adult married life and sent them all to Harry; they sat in the corner of his bedroom, unread.
He was much more interested in what he was doing with Draco on the other side of the room.
Their second time was slow, gliding, like the approach of a cat sneaking up on prey. Harry had the glorious chance to see Draco completely uninhibited, unbound, and willingly playing the part of the prey, arching his head back as Harry bit into his throat. Harry hadn't had any experience in this before, but he'd listened faithfully to Draco—and, all right, read one of Hermione's books—and spent a good thirty minutes using the lubricant before he slid slowly into his partner.
Draco bellowed like a buffalo, Harry would maintain later.
Harry's own sound was more like a cry of joy.
He lay in Draco's arms afterwards, playing with the other man's hair, and wondered lazily why he had changed so much, why everything had been so different after that day in his office. His life could be clearly divided into two halves: one before, and one after. Both had their good and their bad points. What confused Harry the most was his lack of confusion, his lack of hesitation and doubt and regret. He had acted as if he had been in love with Draco for years, knowing instinctively that this was the best thing for both of them.
But there was no guilt on his part. For whatever reason, his conscience lay quiet, and there was nothing to forgive himself for.
That nod in King's Cross started a chain of reflections in Harry's mind. For the most part, they focused on why he hadn't thought much about Draco Malfoy in nineteen years, and whether he still hated the man.
To find out, he started corresponding with Malfoy.
The owls were short and terse at first, but they grew more complicated as time went on, and the hostilities tended to drop.
September 18th, 2017
Why in the world are you writing to me? Don't you have anything better to do? Go fuck your wife and make another perfect Potter child for God's sake; that is more productive than annoying me.
October 2nd, 2017
Yes, you have a point about Shacklebolt seeming too old to be an effective politician in some eyes. Others would say that having him for nineteen years is long enough and we're ready for a change. But you forget how long wizards live—and how long our active period of life is. Whilst most Muggles are ready for staring vaguely into space and watching their tellies by their seventy-first year, many members of the Wizengamot made their most brilliant political decisions after that age.
In other words, you are still seeing complex wizarding issues with Muggle eyes, which isn't all that surprising, given the company you keep.
October 4th, 2017
Of course I know what a telly is, Potter, don't be stupid.
November 26th, 2017
I refuse to argue with you further on this subject, as I do not feel like having a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent. And no, before you can cast stones at me, I am certain that quotation does not come from a Muggle source.
March 8th, 2018:
Harry, please come quickly. Someone's blocked our Floos and is launching an attack on the Manor. We can't Apparate. I barely got this owl away in time.
August 23rd, 2018
Yes, it felt damn good to watch the bastards who tried to kill my wife finally put away. You know that, you wanker. You were there and grinning, remember? I saw you.
August 31st, 2018
I feel odd writing to you but never seeing you. Perhaps we could meet up for a meal after delivering our brats to King's Cross tomorrow? Your wife and your daughter are more than welcome to come along.
"It was wonderful of you to accept the invitation."
Harry smiled at Astoria. Draco's wife was poised and pretty, though so pale Harry thought she must be sick. She ate small amounts from her plate, too, which was abnormal to Harry; the Leaky Cauldron's food was still some of the best he'd ever had.
"Our sons are friends," he pointed out as he took a deep draft of the pumpkin juice that was all Herbert, Tom's successor, would serve at this hour of the morning. "We probably should have done this long since."
"We definitely should have," Draco murmured.
Harry shot him an uneasy glance. Draco was polite enough to Ginny, and had made Lily gasp or squeal more than once with his descriptions of the Manor; that wasn't the problem. The problem was the glow in his eyes when he watched Harry, the way he went out of the way to touch Harry's fingers as they both reached for their plates or brush his hand as he passed the salt. Harry thought he must have done something wrong, sent some signal he didn't mean to.
Or else their year-long correspondence had been a ruse and Draco had lured him here for some evil plan, but Harry didn't understand what it could be.
Draco stared at him again, and Harry rose, coughed, and said, "I'm going to the loo."
Ginny raised an eyebrow at him—she had never seen the point of announcing it, as she'd told him more than once—and Harry hurried off. He heard someone follow him, but assumed it must be the waiter, who had dropped off a piece of cake for Lily just a moment ago.
When he entered the secluded corridor at the back of the Leaky, strong hands seized his elbows and spun him around. Harry gasped when he found Draco standing there, crowding him, pressing him more closely than he was ready for.
How am I supposed to get ready for this? Harry thought, and turned his head away from Draco's insistent, nipping lips. His voice was strangled. "Draco—Malfoy—what the fuck are you doing—"
"Come on," Draco said, his voice low. He shifted, and Harry was torn between embarrassment and horror to feel the other man's cock rub against his. "You can't tell me you're averse to a little fun, when you talked with me for a year. You can't tell me you've never looked at another man with lust, or dreamed about what it would be like." His hands wandered lower, gripping Harry's arse. "You and Weasley must have got up to it all the time when you were at Hogwarts."
In a daze of confusion as to why Draco would think Harry and Ginny fooling around as teenagers made a difference, it took Harry a moment to realize he meant Ron. When he realized it, he shoved Draco away violently.
Draco staggered, and stared at him with those same fever-bright eyes, his breath coming short. "Harry, what are you doing?"
"I get to ask that question of you," Harry snapped, and drew his wand. He aimed it at Draco, and snarled a little when the other man took a step towards him. "Don't move," he added.
"I asked you here for a little fun," Draco said. "Why else would I ask to see you?"
Harry stared at him for a minute, then shut his eyes, feeling enormously weary. There was no need to say more, he thought, numb. Those words encapsulated the entire difference between them.
"I don't fuck around on my wife, Malfoy," was all he said, and walked away.
September 2nd, 2018
Come on. You can't expect me to just drop the habit of writing to you because we had a disagreement. And it was a natural disagreement, wasn't it? I mean, we're not exactly natural friends. Of course I assumed you had other motives. Who wouldn't?
Write back to me.
September 4th, 2018
Just for the record, Harry, I don't consider "fuck off" a reasonable reply. Nor do the other creative suggestions in your letter quell my need for real sex. But relax, I'll get it from my wife or someone else; no need to twist your pure and unstained knickers over the state of my soul.
I'll be thinking of you, though.
September 29th, 2018
If you don't write back to me, Harry, I'll start thinking we're no longer friends.
October 3rd, 2018
I've looked in my neglected copy of the Gryffindor Code of Exaggerated Morality,, and it seems as though I might have actively offended you in numerous ways. So: I apologize for implying that you only wanted to meet me for sex, and for impugning your love for your wife. But I seriously would like to retain your friendship.
So. Forgive me?
Harry stared at the letter, and sighed.
He supported Al in his decision to date Scorpius Malfoy, he really did. Shocking as it was at first to have a gay son, Al seemed happy—much happier than he'd been in his short-lived relationships with several girls. But Harry had not counted on Scorpius being an intense young man, an incipient social reformer, who was determined to start the process of reform with his own family. And that meant uniting his father and his boyfriend's father, who had continued to ignore each other, or at best snipe at one another, on every social occasion when they'd been forced into contact.
Harry could have resisted the social arguments, though. Scorpius's logic was impassioned and well-meant, but he was a teenager still, and had a teenager's view of the world, which meant, essentially, "Everybody can get along if they just try!"
But there was a provocative sentence in Scorpius's latest letter, to the point that it would make Al happy if Harry attempted to bury his feud with Draco Malfoy.
So Harry repressed his problems with the entire idea, and extended an invitation to Malfoy for the next Ministry function he would have to attend—a function usually beyond the reach of the family, who had become pariahs since the war.
The ballroom the Ministry was using for this particular useless party was enormous, but Harry had little trouble spotting Draco Malfoy; that particular combination of white-blond hair and spells that were meant to defeat steady baldness was visible at a hundred yards. He stepped up behind the other man and cleared his throat.
Malfoy went stiff for a moment, then turned around. His lips were set in a very large, very fake smile. He shook Harry's hand as if it was made of china and he might break it.
"Very nice to see you, Potter," he chirped.
"Nice to see you, too," said Harry, much aware of how Malfoy was fighting the temptation to squeeze down and the anxious looks Scorpius was giving them from the sidelines whilst pretending to be interested in something else.
Luckily, Malfoy's wife saved the day. Al had talked enthusiastically about Astoria Malfoy to Harry; it seemed Scorpius took after his mother rather than his father, and that was the source of Al's fondness for him. She came sweeping over in a rustle of silk and pearls and laid a soft, confiding hand on Harry's arm.
"We're grateful for the invitation," she murmured sotto voce. "Even if some of us can't show it."
The whisper allowed Malfoy to save his pride and calmed Harry's rising indignation. He stepped back, let Malfoy's hand go, and inclined his head to Astoria. "Thank you for accepting," he said. "Might I fetch you a drink?"
Astoria beamed up at him. She had eyes blue enough to turn heads, and Harry rather suspected Malfoy was jealous of the thick, lustrous blonde hair she wore flowing to the middle of her back. "That would be wonderful. Thank you."
As Harry turned away, he saw Al relaxing almost into a slump and Scorpius beaming. They hadn't come to blows in the middle of the room, and that was apparently all Malfoy's son wanted.
Harry doubted their interactions would ever move beyond a formal politeness for the sake of their children, but he could get to like Astoria. And so could Ginny, if the way she was laughing with the other woman over Pansy Parkinson's latest affair when he came back was any indication.
Malfoy caught his eye once, and mouthed, I won't forgive you.
Harry was glad he hadn't had liquid in his mouth at the time, or he would have sprayed it everywhere.
And Back Again
Harry turns slowly away from the train that is carrying his children into their unknown future. The vision of the futures he had a few minutes ago is still with him, so powerful that he is surprised Ginny or Hermione hasn't asked him about his health; he thinks the signs of their passing must be visible on his face.
The steam clears, and he sees Malfoy still standing on the other side of the platform, eyes shaded as he peers down the tracks. His expression is wistful, unguarded for the moment. Is he dreaming about his son, too?
Harry has no idea why he imagined those futures. He has no idea which of them would come true if he approached Malfoy in friendship, if any; the definition of the future rather tends to be that one doesn't know about it.
The future could be any of those, or none of them.
The real question is: does he have the curiosity, the strength, enough to cross over to Malfoy and find out? Does he want to know why he imagined them at all badly enough to ask?
Hermione told Harry about alternate futures once, when she'd been doing research on choice and free will as part of the background of building up legal reforms for house-elves. Every choice makes a million other choices possible; every choice kills a million choices, too. There might be paths of wonderful and dazzling fortune than people could have accessed if they'd just remained in one location a few seconds longer, or talked with a stranger, or embraced a friend—and they might as easily have died, or seen one of their children die, or lost the friendship forever. You can never know what possibilities you murder and which ones you leave breathing in your wild career through life.
Malfoy's wife asks him a question. Malfoy turns to answer. In a few moments, he will move away from King's Cross, or Harry will; Ginny is already at his elbow, asking him about taking Lily for ice cream before they return home.
Each moment a million choices die. Each moment a million are born.
Harry hesitates. Then he crosses the platform.