This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
This story is a sequel to "Of Hats and Girls". It is
compatible to the books, including Deathly
However, it is not compatible to various titbits of information Mrs
Rowling has been dishing out after her last book was published.
#2 Special thanks go to my kind and reliable beta-reader duj.
Ravenclaw. Ravenclaw? Ravenclaw!
Would he be all right? Harry hadn't worried when James went to Hogwarts for the first time. James took after Ginny's side. He was so much like Ron, like Arthur Weasley, like the twins when they still had been twins.
Albus was different.
What if I'm in Slytherin?
Then Slytherin house will have gained an excellent student. It doesn't matter to us.
Or did it?
Outwardly, Harry would steadfastly maintain it didn't matter to him.
But how would he really feel, in his heart of hearts? He had hardly slept last night, pondering this question, and the answer was: scared. He would feel scared.
Compared to James, Albus was quiet and perceptive. Occasionally, he got so absorbed in what he was doing he would forget everything else, including dinner. He'd probably be all right as long as Rose was near him.
But being alone in Slytherin? Would Albus be able to make friends? How would his housemates react to the son of the Head Auror?
Thinking of the office, he suppressed a sigh. He had pushed the tedious parchment work from one side of his desk to the other for the whole day. He had half wished some emergency would arise to distract him.
Just how long did these owls take nowadays to get here from Hogwarts? Somehow, he'd become used to faster means of communication. He was contemplating to fetch his broom and go for a brief ride around when Lily burst into the room. She jumped straight onto his lap.
"Daddy, guess what!" she cried excitedly while she used his outstretched legs as a slide. She scrambled to her feet and turned to face him. "Albus's owl has come!"
She wheeled round and made for the open door, but Harry overtook her. He was practically running.
Ginny sat on the stairs, and the merest glance at his wife's face, at the mischievous glint in her eyes, lifted the weight from his chest.
He sat down two steps below her and pulled Lily, who looked a bit dismayed at being second winner in the race, up to him.
"Let's hear it, then," he said.
Ginny's grin became wider. "Well, where was he Sorted? What d'you think?"
Anywhere but in Slytherin, he thought. However, trying to sound casual, he said, "Dunno. Hufflepuff?"
"No kidding?" he exclaimed, unable to hide his surprise.
"Well, you were all for making Luna his godmother," Ginny said in mock reproach.
"Yeah, that must be it..." he laughed. "Then again, Victoire and Angelique are in Ravenclaw, too. I just thought that were Fleur's influence."
"He's a bright boy," Ginny said. "He'll do fine. And besides, Rose is also there."
"She's also in Ravenclaw?"
Ginny nodded, pointing to the letter.
Harry allowed himself a smirk. Ron was going to blame Hermione forever and ever... Though more than that, Ron was going to be proud like hell.
"Mum, do read to us," Lily demanded.
"Sure dear," Ginny said, smoothing out the parchment on her knees. "Dear Mum and Dad, hi Lily," she read out loud, "you won't believe I have to share my dormitory with Aidan and Cedric Davies, the sons of one certain Roger Davies! Of all people! It's my fault, though. I asked to be put into Ravenclaw. Rose did so, too. I'm sure things will work out fine. People are friendly here, and every first-year student has their personal tutor. Mine is Mike Wilson. He says, he'll show me the way to the Owlery and that's why I have to finish now.
P.S. The first Flying Lesson is scheduled for this evening.
P.S. I've also found somebody to play chess with.
P.S. I haven't seen Neville, I mean Professor Longbottom, yet. We met Hagrid, though. He was in a bit of a mood. This was probably because of the weather – storm and downpour and someone went overboard and he had to rescue them."
"How many postscripts are still to come?" Harry asked when Ginny was silent for a few seconds.
"This was the last one. Somehow, Al's letters remind me of yours."
Harry didn't have to turn his head to know that she was grinning.
"If you always remember the most important bits after you've signed..." he trailed off as Ginny leaned forward to kiss him lightly on the temple.
"According to this, Hagrid's troubles with bad weather and the band of over-excited kids is today's breaking news," she went on, "closely followed by the discovery of people interested in Wizard Chess, and the breathtaking revelation that there are, indeed, Flying Lessons at Hogwarts."
He couldn't help but laugh.
"Flying Lessons?" Lily piped up. "Daddy, will we go flying on the weekend? With Hugo and Uncle Ron? Please!"
Harry hated saying no to his daughter as much as he hated making promises he couldn't keep. He had to sort out a case of counterfeit bezoars with a delegation of Aurors from Italy. They were scheduled to arrive on Friday and not likely to leave before Sunday. "We'll have to ask first whether Uncle Ron is on duty," he said carefully.
He didn't fool her.
"If you two are too busy, then I'll go with Mum and Uncle George," she stated, slipping out of his gentle embrace and turning to her mother for agreement.
Ginny simply nodded, and Harry said, "You're exceptionally bright, my little flower girl. You might end up in Ravenclaw as well."
"You think?" she said, astonished.
"Who knows. You've still got two years to figure out what you want."
"I want to become a Seeker. Or a Chaser, like Mum."
"Yeah. But right now, you should seek your bed. Or I'll be forced to chase you there."
That made her giggle, like always.
While Ginny coaxed her into actually going to bed, Harry read Al's letter again. All seemed well. Albus wasn't quite the bookworm that Rose was, yet he liked studying well enough. More than James did anyway, or than Harry ever had. He would surely manage to put up with Roger's sons. Really tough challenge there... Harry chuckled quietly to himself.
At least, Albus wouldn't have to live too close to the young Malfoy. Maybe this was the aspect that would have worried him the most if Albus had been Sorted into Slytherin.
Malfoy – Draco Malfoy – was the puzzle. He had nearly completely disappeared over the past two decades. If Ron hadn't checked the Hogwarts's Scroll – out of sheer curiosity; it wasn't necessarily a part of his Auror duties though it could be considered that way – they wouldn't even have known there was a Malfoy coming to Hogwarts this year.
Malfoy had shown his face only once, some twelve years ago, when Narcissa Malfoy's time of probation had ended. The two of them had come to the Ministry to reclaim their wands, or rather, to get permission to buy new ones. Narcissa's actual wand had been destroyed in the terrible fire in the Room of Requirement, and Malfoy's former wand was being kept in a safe ward since it was one of the main war relics – the wand that had ultimately defeated Voldemort.
The odd thing was, Malfoy could have had his new wand two years earlier. He had shrugged off all questions and told the interrogating Aurors he didn't care, and they should mind their own business.
Well, Harry made sure the Aurors minded their business. There were Monitor Charms on the wands of former Death Eaters. This practice had proved to be a reliable means of keeping them under control. When Lucius had dared to use Narcissa's wand – she employed it a hundred times a day, but only for household spells and other petty stuff – they had caught him within hours. Needless to say, it had earned him another ten years of probation.
Draco Malfoy was another matter. His new wand had only been used on one occasion – three weeks ago, to enter Diagon Alley via the backyard of the Leaky Cauldron. Harry suspected him to have another one. Which was, at least by now, not illegal. For himself, Malfoy could buy as many wands as he pleased. Though he didn't. According to the shop assistant at Ollivander's, the boy had been in on his own. Someone wearing a dark coat and wide-brimmed hat had waited outside.
Ginny nudged him. "There's somebody waiting for Daddy to kiss her goodnight. And could you do the dishes, please? I've got to finish the report about the Goblin Congress."
He watched her retreat into the study. Once, he had left her behind, going the way he had been destined to go. When he had approached her again, the day after his victory over Voldemort, she had detailed to him what, in other circumstances, would be called conditions. She had told him that he couldn't expect her to play the role of a weak, protection-seeking girl anymore since she'd learned to stand on her own feet, walking her own ways, and fighting her own fights. He hadn't wholly understood at first.
Comprehension had dawned, slowly but surely, as they'd gone on with life. Ginny had reduced but never entirely given up her work for the Daily Prophet when the children were little. She'd often written her articles at home, baby in her lap, and sent them via owl. He'd volunteered for any weekend duty so he could take time off during the week when Ginny had to attend staff meetings. To everyone's surprise – especially Molly's, whose approach towards homemaking was decidedly different from her daughter's – things had worked out just fine. They'd quarrelled ten times less than Ron and Hermione. His two best friends were apparently unable to live without constantly bickering about something or other. It seemed to be an essential part of their relationship.
Lily looked up from her Pink Dragon comic for a moment to let him plant a kiss on her forehead. "Night, Daddy," she murmured, returning to her reading material.
"Sleep well, flower girl," he said. He took care not to add, and don't read so long.
Somehow, he hadn't quite become the same sort of adult person as other people. Nor had Ginny. He didn't care whether the lawn was trimmed or how many gnomes had set up camp in it. Ginny was content to polish the cutlery and crystal ware once a year although, unlike Aunt Petunia, she could do it with a few spells... Sometimes, the laundry piled up in a corner until Kreacher or Teddy came along and took pity. Kreacher's time was limited since Hermione had won him as the spokes-elf for the House-elf Trade Union. Teddy, however, took delight in doing chores for Harry. Apparently, his grandmother didn't let him touch anything at home. Teddy – using magic as he was of age now – had painted anything made of wood around Harry's house: front and back door, shutters, window frames, and last but not least the entire fence. The fence looked like a work of art, gleaming in three different shades of green and highlighted with red and gold. Harry dearly wished Remus and Tonks would have lived to see their son grow up.
He pointed his wand at the dirty dishes assembled in the sink and muttered a succession of Washing and Drying Spells. He Vanished a copious amount of crumbs from the floor and a couple of obvious cocoa stains from Lily's cushion.
There were more important things than a neat kitchen he reflected while he laid the table for breakfast to save Ginny and himself time tomorrow morning. Like, for instance, making sure your children were not only safe, fed and clad, but also happy.
Kingsley would be pleased if Harry persuaded the Italian wizards to visit the most recent achievement of the British wizarding community – the recreation ground in Wiltshire. Meticulously shielded from Muggle-eyes, it boasted the largest Magic Maze in Europe, a roofed Area of Requirement, and splendid Quidditch facilities, including a special pitch for younger children.
And of course, he would bring his daughter along.
"Ravenclaw?!" he exclaimed, staring at the letter in his wife's hand.
"Ravenclaw," Hermione said pleasantly.
"And who decided this?" he demanded.
"As far as I know, they still use the Sorting Hat at Hogwarts."
He glared at her. Her calm was simply annoying. All Weasleys had been in Gryffindor. Ever. No exceptions. Well, yes, there were exceptions. Marianne was in Hufflepuff but given that she was Percy's daughter... He abandoned the thought. Victoire and Angelique were a different matter, naturally. Their mother had been at Beauxbatons, and they also had a bit of Veela blood in their veins. Pretty girls they were, no mistake about that...
But his Rosie? What was wrong with her? She was smart; she clearly had inherited her mother's brains. Of course! That had to be it!
"This is all your fault," he stated.
"Thanks, Ron," Hermione said with an inexplicably happy smile, "that's the nicest compliment you've paid me in months."
"Compliment?" he asked, completely baffled. "I said it was your fault that Rosie ended up in Ravenclaw!"
"I know what you said, Ron."
He resented her tone. Why had she always to treat him as if he were an idiot?
"But I think it is an honour," she went on, "that Rose was Sorted into Ravenclaw."
"Yes. I've told you that the Hat first considered putting me there, too. However, I've never regretted having chosen Gryffindor instead. Except, perhaps, on certain occasions when you blokes simply couldn't be bothered to do your homework..." She smiled.
"She'll do fine," Hermione said. It sounded like a promise.
"Give me that letter, already," he said gruffly, snatching it out of her hand.
'Dear, Mum, Dad, and Hugo, I was sorted into Ravenclaw and so was Al.'
"Al too?" Ron burst out. What was Harry going to say about this? He glanced up at Hermione who continued to smile in that special, provocative way. Well, he wasn't going to let himself be provoked right now. He read on.
'I think he wasn't too reluctant to get a bit away from James. Besides, Ravenclaw is great. (Don't worry, Dad. It's the house for those most eager to learn. The Sorting Hat agreed with me on that point.) The common room is full of books. Professor Flitwick is our house teacher. My personal tutor is Miranda Corner. She's in fourth-year. The other girls in my dormitory are Ireen, Trayi, Pia, and Glynnis. I add a copy of my timetable to the letter. I'm looking forward to the lessons.'
Some customary, polite phrases followed. Ron was about to put the letter down when Hugo wandered in on bare feet. The boy was growing out of his pyjamas again Ron noted with astonishment.
"Is the letter from Rosie?" Hugo asked.
"It is," Hermione said. "Daddy will read it to you."
Without a word, Ron swept his son off his feet and carried him to the toy-infested bed. He had to push a score of soft animals aside to make room for the child.
"I want Bellykins."
"Right," Ron said, frowning. He scanned the pile of toys. Most of them came from Hermione's parents and represented, consequently, ordinary animals like lions, donkeys, or turtles. Somewhere was the odd dragon or Hippogriff, though. Ron pulled out a fat beast that looked vaguely like a Ukrainian Ironbelly.
"That's Ucca," Hugo objected. He pointed to some untidy elephant. "There's Bellykins."
"Right, Bellykins," Ron grinned, handing his son what was probably meant to be a mammoth. "I knew. I was just kidding."
"What's Rosie write?"
Ron sat down and read. Soon, Hugo interrupted him by asking, "Will I also be in Ravenclaw? Or in Gryffindor like you and Mum?"
Ron regarded his son with intense paternal pride – freckled, red-haired, and gangly Hugo was every inch a chip of the old Weasley block. He'd be in Gryffindor, sure as sunrise.
"I guess it'll be Gryffindor for you. Look, Rosie will already be in her seventh year when you go to Hogwarts. Where'd be the point of being in Ravenclaw then?"
"That's the spirit," Ron said, kissed his son good-night, and left.
Out in the hall, he perused the letter once again, trying to come to terms with the situation.
The house for those most eager to learn...
Of course, she had it in her. His Rosie, his girl. Wasn't that bloody brilliant? He, Ronald Weasley, had a daughter in Ravenclaw...
People would just gape once they heard the news.
"I'm going for a quick stroll," he called, catching a glimpse of brown hair through the partly open door of the living room.
He couldn't wait to see George's face.
After Ron was gone to bring his family the grand tidings and, without doubt, to revel in their amazement, Hermione read Rose's postscript, written on a separate slip of parchment. Apparently, the girl hadn't wanted her father to notice.
'Mum, there was an incident last night. As you surely know, some of the students here are the children of former Death Eaters. A huge boy, seventh year I guess, tried to bully one of them, but James interfered. I think that was the right thing to do. My line of argument is as follows: All these children were born after the war. They can't be responsible for anything that happened back then. So therefore, if they show decent behaviour and don't hold forth questionable opinions, it is all right to accept them and even to stand up for them. What do you say, Mum?
Please write, Rose'
Rose clearly had a point. You couldn't hold the parent's crime against a child. In some cases, the crimes might actually be the grandparents' evil deeds, because already in her time at Hogwarts some students had been the children of former Death Eaters, and, as events developed, of active Death Eaters.
Had these children been accepted? Would anyone have stood up for them? She paraded the Slytherin students of her year before her mind's eye – Millicent Bulstrode, Tracey Davis, Daphne Greengrass, Pansy Parkinson, Anastasia Urquhart... Zabini, Nott, Crabbe, Goyle and, of course, Malfoy. If anyone of them, or the younger ones whose names she couldn't quite recall at the moment, had desired admission to the hideout in the Room of Requirement, would they've been allowed in? The most likely answer was no. Everybody had been so busy fighting Voldemort or else struggling to survive, they had simply overlooked those kids and whatever fears and doubts they may have harboured. Had those children ever had another choice than to follow their parents' example? They'd been completely at the mercy of the Carrows and without hope for help from the other side.
A few years after the war, Hermione had initiated an official Reconciliation Programme intended to bridge the rifts that divided the wizarding world. It had met with little interest. From either side.
However, it was never too late unless you gave up. Maybe the new generation would do better. Rose definitely showed a promising attitude. And James seemed indeed his father's son, despite the mischief that occupied his mind all the time.
She reached for her quill.
Draco stood by the window and looked up into the darkening sky.
If only the owl would come...
Ursula and Cassie were running to and fro between their room and the bathroom. He could hear their merry chatter, punctuated with giggles.
If only the owl would come...
He'd had eleven years – more even, since Vivian and he hadn't started their relationship with having a baby – of life as normal as he could possibly expect. Peaceful years. Sometimes, he'd actually been happy. Seeing your own children grow up was such a heart-warming experience. He'd watched them learning to walk and to talk. He'd read about two hundred children's books to them in quiet evening hours while they curled up around him on the large sofa. To Draco's delight, Scorpius had been reluctant to abandon this habit once he was capable of reading stories for himself.
If only the owl would come...
Outwardly, the past summer had been as the ones before. There had been barbecue parties at Vivian's parents and holidays with her brother and his family. Five weeks ago, Scorpius had been fooling around with his cousins on the beach of Soulac-sur-Mer.
A fresh round of laughter erupted from the bathroom. In a not too distant future, this laughter would have disappeared to Hogwarts, too.
Sighing, Draco turned away from the window. There was no help; they couldn't afford Beauxbatons. At least, they couldn't afford to send all three children there. And having Scorpius in a cosy place while the girls would still have to attend Hogwarts was out of the question.
Hogwarts. Slytherin. House of Cunning and Scheming. Scorpius wasn't prepared for that. Then again, after countless sleepless nights, Draco had decided the best way to prepare Scorpius was not to prepare him at all.
He had given his son no more than the absolute minimum of information. Not a syllable more. Sure, Vivian had told Scorpius long ago about his other grandfather's prolonged stay in prison, but she had done so in her own words, and her vocabulary didn't include the term Death Eater.
Death Eaters... Dark Lord, Killing Curse – the words had tasted bitter in Draco's mouth. Scorpius and he had sat at the farthest table outside Fortescue's. There, in the shade of the huge, old oak, he'd finally forced out what had to be said. He had chosen the far-off place on purpose. He would not speak of the demons of his past at home.
I was a member, too. The tattoo on my left forearm is proof of it. I wasn't sent to prison since I hadn't committed any actual crime besides being loyal, when I should have run like blazes. The look in Scorpius's eyes, the mixture of disbelief and pity, had been hard to endure, and Draco had desperately groped around for a safer topic. Come on, I'll buy you a present. Before you go to Hogwarts, you should know about Wizard Chess...
Scorpius had fallen in love with the game instantaneously. By the time Draco had convinced the shop-owner – an old acquaintance of his father's indeed – that he didn't wish to buy a set of pure silver chessman embellished with emeralds, Scorpius had already been engaged in a cordial conversation with a smart-looking king made of ebony. Much like the wand chooses the wizard, the king had declared his desire to go with the young customer. Never before had Draco seen chessman climbing into a transport box on their own accord. Perhaps they hadn't. Perhaps Scorpius's abilities had been unleashed in a single instant, abilities that had lain dormant for so long.
Would it be Slytherin for him? The amount of Vivian's influence was hard to calculate, but it had to be there, didn't it?
A rustle of feathers stirred Draco out of his musings. The owl, at last!
Fumbling out of sheer nerves, he wrestled the small scroll from the bird's leg. His hands were blatantly shaking when he unfurled the letter.
'Hello Mum, Dad, Ladybear and Cassie, I'm fine and I hope so are you. How is school, Cassie? Do you like it?
Hogwarts is a big and very old castle. But the rooms are furnished in a more modern style, and to each dormitory belongs a bathroom. We don't have to run down a long hallway as it was in this hostel near La Rochelle if we need to go to the loo.'
Draco's brain raced trying to figure out what rooms Scorpius was referring to. He caught the word friends in the next sentence, and read on.
'I've already found friends. They like playing Wizard Chess very much. Their names are Al and Rose; they're cousins. Al's bed is next to mine (Rose sleeps elsewhere, obviously, as she is a girl). The other boys in my dormitory are a couple of twins, who are the sons of a famous sportsman and a bit keyed up about this, and Joseph. He was born near Salzburg where Mum played once.
I can't say much about the lessons so far. We only had Transfiguration this morning. It is taught by Professor McGonagall, the headmistress. She seems to be rather strict. Our house teacher is Professor Flitwick but-' Draco sank down on the nearest chair, fighting for breath. Could that be? Ravenclaw? Oh, sweet heavens...
'-is Professor Flitwick but I haven't met him yet. He teaches Charms, Mr Boot says. Mr Boot is my personal tutor.'
Personal tutors? Were they a newfangled institution? Or a long-standing Ravenclaw tradition?
'What else can I write? The journey was okay except for the last bit where we had to go by open boats. The rain was so heavy, we were all soaked to the skin within minutes. But I don't think anyone caught a cold because our clothing and shoes were dried with spells the moment we reached the castle. That was impressive. Everything is exciting here. You know, some of the hallways are lined with old suits of armour. They rustle when you walk past. Al and I turned and walked past one several times on our way to lunch, just for fun.
That's all for now. Mr Boot is going to show me how to use the school owls, and afterwards, I have to get ready for the next lesson. I think I will write again on Saturday.
Bye. I love you,
Draco let the letter sink into his lap. He didn't know what to think. There was surely no reason to assume Filius Flitwick would give up his house to head another. So, it was Ravenclaw. It was Ravenclaw... He closed his eyes. However, before the wave of relief had a chance to wash over him, Ursula's voice sounded from the door.
"Dad? Are you asleep?"
"No. Just a bit resting," he answered, sitting up straight. Cassie and Ursula were already in their nightgowns – pink, frilly things their grandma thought the girls would look cute in. The woman was right. Draco could go down on his knees for the sight. "Scorpius wrote," he said. "Shall I read the letter to you?"
"I'll read it," Ursula cried eagerly. She rushed forward and pried the paper from Draco's fingers.
"Hello Mum, Dad, Ladyb-" she interrupted herself at the encounter of her nickname. Her giggling brought Cassie, who had gazed in utter fascination at the Snowy Owl perched on the windowsill, back to the present. "-and Cassie," Ursula continued. "I'm fine and I hope so are you. How is school, Cassie? Do you like it? Hogwarts is a big and very old cast- castle. The rooms are fur- furry... furri-ished – Dad, I can't really read Scorpius's handwriting. Will you?" She held the letter out to him, a pleading look in her eyes.
"Sure," he said, accepting the precious piece of paper back with an almost open sigh. "Let's sit on the sofa for it, right?"
The girls turned as one and ran out of the kitchen. When Draco entered the living room, they were seated in their usual spots with their favourite cushions clasped tightly to their stomachs and looked at him expectantly. A third cushion lay a little way off, unused.
Draco had known he'd miss his son. In a remote corner of his mind, there had always lurked the knowledge that, one day, the invite would come, taking Scorpius to Hogwarts and thus, away from him. He hadn't expected to feel this shaken, though. To make matters worse, the trip to Diagon Alley had stirred up all the memories he'd hoped to forget.
He settled down between his daughters, and they snuggled up closer to him. He often wondered whether this intimacy brought more comfort to him than to them.
"Hello Mum, Dad, Ladybear and Cassie, I'm fine and I hope so are you. How is school, Cassie? Do you like it?" – "Yes," Cassie confirmed in a low voice, and Draco went on, "Hogwarts is a big and very old castle. But the rooms are furnished in a more modern style, and to each dormitory belongs a bathroom. We don't have to run down a long hallway as it was in this hostel near La Rochelle if we need to go to the loo.
I've already found friends. They like playing chess very much. Their names are Al and Rose; they're cousins. Al's bed is next to mine (Rose sleeps elsewhere, obviously, as she is a girl). The other boys in my dormitory are a couple of twins, and Joseph. He was born near Salzburg where Mum played once.
What else can I write? The journey was okay except for the last bit where we had to go by open boats. The rain was so heavy, we were all soaked to the skin within minutes. But I don't think anyone caught a cold because our clothing and shoes were dried the moment we reached the castle. Everything is exciting here. You know, some of the hallways are lined with old suits of armour.
That's all for now. I have to get ready for the next lesson. I think I will write again on Saturday.
Bye. I love you,
Draco folded the letter twice and tugged it into the pocket of his shirt.
"What's a dormitory?" Cassie asked.
"A big room for several children to sleep in," Draco said.
"More than two?"
"Of course. Didn't you listen?" Ursula put her arm across Draco's chest and started counting on her fingers, "Scorpius, Al, Joseph, a twin, and another twin."
"Five," Cassie said somewhat defiantly. "I know a full hand is five."
"So, there," Ursula muttered, withdrawing her arm.
They were tired. Sudden squabbling about trifles was always a telltale sign. Draco fetched the book from which he had lately read to his children.
"Interested?" he asked, holding it up.
The girls instantly chorused their approval.
"Christopher Robin was planning an expedition to the North Pole," Ursula stated.
"Expotition," Cassie muttered under her breath.
Draco resumed the story where they'd left off last night, becoming calmer with each sentence. He liked the naive characters with their yet untainted consciences, and the way they stumbled through their world. He read on until Cassie was nearly asleep.
As usual, he had to carry her to her bed. Ursula hugged him before she climbed into hers. Draco put the light out, wishing his little girls pleasant dreams.
Unlike mine, he thought as he walked down the hallway, forcing himself past the closed door of Scorpius's room. Two more nights like the last one, and he'd be back to having nightmares.
But no. Now he knew that Scorpius slept next to a boy he seemed to like, and, even better, who might like him back. I've found friends...
He checked whether the girls had created any mess in the bathroom. Things were all right, though. He put the soggy towels on the clothes-horse and picked up a pair of multicoloured stockings from the floor. Since they were in dire need of cleaning, he tossed them into the laundry basket, and left.
Back in the living room, he meticulously watered the potted plants. He removed a dry leaf here and there, but soon he realised that this was no way to keep the dark shadows of his past at bay.
In an attempt to fight painful memories with good ones, he took the photo album from the cabinet.
The first page was dedicated to the day of Scorpius's birth. His mother-in-law had taken photographs and insisted on every family member holding the tiny boy in turn. They'd all been so elated. None of them had had an inkling as to what the very existence of the baby meant to Draco, or for him. Then again, at that time, he hadn't been aware of all the consequences, either.
He turned the pages slowly – Scorpius in all the universal baby poses, smiling, crying, crawling, a birthday party, Scorpius and Ursula, the new flat, Scorpius smeared with paint from tip to toe, Vivian pregnant with Cassie.
He'd never understood why the pureblood families, obsessed as they were with their lineage, had so few children. Even without the assistance of war and murder, such a practice would lead to extinction in the long run.
His father had no siblings. His mother's two cousins had died before their time, and childless. Crabbe, an only child like Draco, hadn't lived to see eighteen. He had died a most horrible death in an inferno that he'd brought about himself. Yet, Draco thought it kind of unfair to blame him. The blame lay with the Carrows, who'd taught a dim-witted fool like Crabbe a curse without teaching him the counter-curse first.
As much as by Crabbe's cruel end itself, Draco had been shocked by Goyle's callous disregard for it. He had but gaped, uncomprehendingly, as Gregory Goyle's gormless features had suddenly been distorted with something that reminded him sharply of Greyback. He hadn't met him since. Nor did he wish to see him ever again.
Draco could but hope his son had a luckier hand in picking friends, and Al might prove to be someone Scorpius could count on when life got tough.
He had had nobody in the end. His father had turned out to be not man enough to protect himself, let alone his family. The only one who had at least tried had been his mother. But her powers had been no match for the forces they had been faced with, either.
In the summer that had followed his trial, Draco had fantasised about having children – not two or three, but thirty or fifty. He hadn't bothered with the technical implications. Just daydreaming about scores of white-blonde girls and boys overrunning Hogwarts had helped him to live through his disgrace and humiliation. Daydreaming was the word. At nights, the horrors of the past months had closed in on him, making sleeping difficult and staying awake a nightmare.
He returned his attention to the album. The photographs steered his thoughts here and there. The last one, Scorpius in his Hogwarts robes, landed him straight on Platform nine and three-quarters.
Draco had been grateful for all that mist. He had hardly seen anybody, and he hoped that only few people had noticed him. However, for a matter of seconds – Vivian and Scorpius had been talking between themselves and not looking up – the treacherous, white clouds had shifted to reveal none other than Mr Harry Potter, surrounded by his school-day friends and a host of children. Draco had managed a single nod. Whether it had passed for a greeting, he did not know. He'd turned away, summoning all the strength he could muster to fight the urge to run.
Sure enough, his feigned composure had faltered the moment the door closed behind Scorpius. As soon as the train was gathering speed, he'd fled the platform, propelling Vivian along with him. He'd swept her off her feet the instant they reached the barrier, hoping against hope she would not twitch. But she had been marvellous; and he had been able to stay his breakdown until they had been safely out of everyone's sight.
He tried to recall whether one of the children standing around Potter had looked likely to be a first year. He couldn't; all he got was a blurred image of people moving randomly about. Perhaps it didn't matter much, anyway. Scorpius was in Ravenclaw. In general, Ravenclaws and Gryffindors neither mingled nor fought.
He looked at the empty page that followed. It would stay this way until Scorpius came home for the Yule holidays. So many weeks...
A clatter of keys announced Vivian's return.
Draco went out into the hall. He couldn't wait for a single second longer.
She kissed him lightly on the cheek and gave him one of her tentative smiles that were, as he was very well aware, wordless questions.
"Scorpius wrote," he said, taking the letter out from his shirt pocket. Only now, he realised where it had rested for the past few hours – right next to his heart.
She took the letter, handing him the violin case in turn. She read slowly and carefully.
"He seems to be okay," she said at last, sounding relieved.
"I think so, too," Draco said, restoring the letter to its previous place.
"However, I don't like to hear that the headmistress was rather strict," Vivian remarked. "I'd rather hear she was fairly liberal and open-minded."
"She's always been that way. She had also a reputation for being fair."
"Was she fair to you?"
He had a hazy recollection of McGonagall rescuing him from the clutches of a raving-mad impostor. "There might have been such an occasion..." he said, trailing off.
"You know, I'm increasingly more concerned about you than about Scorpius," Vivian said while she took her coat and shoes off. "Having him this far away is difficult for me, too, no doubt about that. But it's downright scary to see you suffer."
"Believe me, it could be far worse-"
"Worse? The sorrows you have will do nicely. You don't need any new ones."
"I meant worse for Scorpius."
"I'm talking about you," she sighed. "How much exactly did you tell him about your time at Hogwarts?"
"No more than I could help. I... I felt that I shouldn't give him so many answers before he's learned to ask questions."
She nodded. "Because that is what your father did."
"Well, yes, to some extent... Look, I can't put my burden on his shoulders. I won't send him out fighting battles. Especially not fighting battles for my sake, ones where he has no chance of winning... " He fell silent, trying to disentangle the knot of feelings and longings that constricted his throat. Of one thing, he was certain – he loved Scorpius. He'd spent eleven years, two months and ten days making sure the boy knew he did. And now, he was afraid he might do more damage than good if he tried to... stay involved any further. What, if Scorpius begged him for help one day? Draco's eyes locked with his wife's. "I feel miserable about leaving him to finding things out the hard way."
"He's strong, perhaps stronger than we think," she said and reached for the violin case Draco was still holding. "He's quick on the uptake. He'll learn. He'll cope."
"I love him," he whispered.
"I know. And so does he. Come," she said and directed him gently into the living room. "I cannot eliminate the source of all this. But I can do something about the symptoms. Just tell me what you want, music or sex?"
"Both. In the suggested order."
Her smile told him that he would have both. He watched her unpacking the violin while he made himself comfortable on the sofa.
She was four years his senior. He didn't mind.
She'd gained some five pounds with each child. He didn't mind.
"Grieg, please," he said in a husky voice.
"Sure. What else."
Her bow touched the wire strings. The first notes sent, as always, a blissful shiver down his spine. He slowly closed his eyes.
What she did with her violin was magic in its own right.
What she did with his body was magic in its own right.
His children couldn't ask for a better mother. If, what the heavens may forfend, the world turned Dark again one day, she'd be their best hope. Draco knew he'd be exactly as helpless as he had been twenty years ago. But on her, they could rely. On her, her brother, and their parents. And if Potter along with all those morally perfect people abided by their own law, nobody could raise a wand against them.
The irony made him smile.
There is another sequel, now completed: "Of Boys and Spells".