Title: Changeling

Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.

Prompt: 13, "Magic is 1% inspiration and 99% incantation."

Wordcount: ~22,700

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: Profanity, angst, Dark magic, flirting and kissing.

Summary: In the wake of an unexpected revelation about Scorpius's heritage, Draco's relationship to his son, and, oddly enough, his relationship to Harry Potter, turn out to be in need of a severe reworking.

Author's Note: This was written for Team Epilogue in the HD_Worldcup competition on LJ. Thanks to my beta, Linda, and my very helpful teammates!


"Come along, Scorpius."

Draco kept his voice and his face both as stiff as he could, rather like the robes of gold brocade that rustled around him as he escorted Scorpius into Gringotts. This was a solemn ceremony, and they couldn't have it ruined by the antics of a boy who, having just turned eleven today, still wasn't as adult as Draco could wish.

But Malfoy children had been confirmed as the heirs to the estate and all its artifacts for generations on their eleventh birthdays, and Draco wouldn't give up more traditions than he'd already been forced to part with.

Scorpius followed the tug of his father's hand on his shoulder willingly enough. A moment before, he'd been chattering and speculating about the party that awaited him back at the Manor and the chance of seeing his mother-for a celebration like this, Astoria would put in an appearance-but now he swallowed and looked around with wide eyes.

Draco looked around himself. He had seen this place only once before, on his own eleventh birthday. They were in a sunken chamber of the bank, between the upper floors where the goblins processed transactions and the vaults of the great families. The walls gleamed pure, polished black; Draco had touched them on his previous visit, and encountered the slick surface of obsidian. Their reflections played along the walls in the light of the torches, distorted but recognizably white and gold and silver. Scorpius had inherited Draco's hair and eyes, something he found an immense comfort. It was like having Lucius with him again.

At least there can be two people with Malfoy coloring in the world, if not three.

The chamber started out wide, like the flung hoop of a skirt, and then narrowed as they approached the back of the cavern. The weight of magic also increased, so that by the time they neared the "point," Draco had to march through the accumulated density and Scorpius struggled forwards as if into a high wind. Draco kept his hand on his son's shoulder, a gesture that had begun as reassurance but had more practical reasons now.

The two goblins who guarded the key to the Malfoy wards and possessions stood waiting behind a waist-high-to them-block of gray stone, polished just as smooth as the obsidian. Each one held a single silver sphere, transparent and glittering now. They would shine like small moons once the transfer of blood occurred and the estate and artifacts, along with Draco, recognized Scorpius as his heir.

Scorpius halted in front of the gray block, panting. Draco tugged him up when he would have rested his forehead against it, and nodded to the goblins. "Erisshnatn, Therrissen, it is pleasant to see you." He had memorized the goblin names on the note from Gringotts and practiced them until he was certain he could say them correctly.

The goblin on the right, who had nodded in response to the name Erisshnatn, raised his silver sphere. "This is the key and lock of the wards of the Malfoys," he said, his voice holding the same ringing, eerie resonance Draco remembered from twenty-six years ago. He shivered, and hoped the creatures did not notice it. Goblins were the best protectors possible for a secret like this, but they were not equals, to be privy to Draco's emotions. "As long as this is held here and passed along the Malfoy blood, no thief or bastard can steal the family's ancient rights. Only a son or daughter confirmed by the blood and the present master or mistress of the line may use this key to piece this lock."

"I am the current master of the Malfoy line," Draco said. He froze his body and lifted his head. He was good at moments like this. He had trained himself to be good at them when Lucius died and he realized that he would not have a father in the world to coddle him ever again. "I confirm and adopt this young man as my heir. He is my son by blood, and only the blood test remains."

The other goblin, Therrissen, passed the sphere he held along in front of Draco at chest height, standing on tiptoe to do it. The sphere flashed once, a single white jolt of startling intensity. Scorpius squeaked, but caught his breath and said nothing else before Draco could scold him.

"It is so," said Therrissen. "The master of Malfoy stands before us. And there will be a young master now." He held out the sphere to Scorpius.

Scorpius hesitated. Draco drew breath to growl; if the boy did not remember the words and gestures they had spent so much time practicing-

But the next moment Scorpius's face lit up, and he fumbled in a pocket of his golden robes and pulled out a silver knife. The hilt was traced with the Malfoy arms, also in gold. "I come to prove the test of blood, and myself the young master," he said, in a voice shrill with excitement. Draco disapproved. He had sounded more sober himself when he took this test.

But then, he had long since had to accept that Scorpius would never be the son he had desired, rather than the son he loved.

Scorpius made a tiny slice near the base of his right thumb, and squeezed a drop of blood into Therrissen's sphere. Draco relaxed. He had spilled only one drop, and not fumbled much. Now the sphere would flare with silver light, and the light would pass to the other one-

The sphere turned red. The next moment, a loud retching sound traveled through the chamber, and the goblins both stepped back from the Malfoys, cradling the spheres to their chests protectively.

Draco felt his heart pounding so hard and fast he thought he would make a retching noise of his own. "What has happened?" he managed to say, locking his voice into pure coldness and aridity. "This is not a regular part of the ceremony."

"It is not," said Erisshnatn, and his ears were laid back to his head and he glared at Draco with a hostility that reminded him, suddenly, why goblins were said to be terrible enemies for any wizard. "It signifies that a bastard has been foisted upon the ceremony."

Draco froze. He could not have spoken if someone had cast a Killing Curse at him, or closed his mouth if someone had tried to slip a poisonous potion down it.

Scorpius made a confused, frightened sound. Draco turned to look at him, burning with steady wrath, and saw him cower.

The words didn't need to be said aloud, but goblins were pitiless, and Therrissen said them anyway.

"Scorpius Malfoy is not your son by blood."



Draco yelled his former wife's name up the stairs as he shoved Scorpius through the front door of her house. Scorpius promptly stepped into a corner and wrapped protective arms around himself, crumpling the golden brocade robes he had worn to the ceremony. Draco growled under his breath and turned away in disgust. He had paid well for the most expensive tutoring for eight years, so that Scorpius would be well-prepared for Hogwarts, and this was the result he got?

Astoria, in Draco's view, took a painfully long time to emerge from her dressing room, and she came down the stairs with her blonde hair flowing long and unbound down her back, as if to remind Draco that she could wear it in an undignified manner since their divorce. She saw Scorpius and immediately went to him, taking his hands in hers. Draco wiped his face tiredly. She was always spoiling the boy. Maybe this was the reason that none of the fancy education Draco had paid for had actually taken.

"What's the matter, Scorpius?" Astoria asked, in the voice Draco had once thought was musical and which now only grated on his nerves. "I thought this was supposed to be a happy day. Has your father done something to make it otherwise?" And she turned and glared at Draco as if she already suspected it was his fault.

He didn't even say a word, Draco thought. There are times I have to think the problem is all with her.

"We went to the confirmation ceremony, yes," he said, in a voice that could have cut rocks, and which he was gratified to see at least made Astoria pause. "And Scorpius had to pass a test of blood, and the goblins told me that he could not be my son by blood. The Malfoy artifacts rejected him."

Astoria was no fool, at least. She understood what he was implying, and drew herself up with a chilly pride. Her words made a slight shiver run down Draco's back. "I never betrayed you," she said. "I never conceived a child by another man. And I am ready to take Veritaserum to prove that, if necessary."

Astoria had refused to take Veritaserum to tell Draco the real reasons she was divorcing him. She must know that Draco might take the opportunity to ask whilst she was under the potion, and that he could find out. Draco stared at her, and felt his heart sink. That she would take the risk argued that she was telling the truth, and that meant. . .

That meant what? How in the world could Scorpius not be his son if Astoria had not betrayed him? Draco had been present at Scorpius's birth, which had taken place in Malfoy Manor. That was an ancient custom, because the Malfoys had once stood a high chance of having their children kidnapped from them by jealous rivals. Draco had thought the whole business silly at the time, but the older he grew, the more he appreciated Lucius's wisdom.

"If not that," he began.

Again, Astoria had jumped ahead of him. "There are spells that might be able to do this," she said, and turned towards the door which led to her own private library. Most of the books had once sat on Draco's shelves, but Astoria had taken strictly what she owned when she moved out, and had still left his shelves denuded. "I will find out."

Draco watched her go, comforted. Astoria might not be quite as good a researcher as Mrs. Find-an-Obscure-Loophole-and-Free-Thousands-of-Elves Granger-Weasley, but he trusted her to find an answer to the dilemma. Scorpius was her son, too.

I think so, anyway.

"Daddy?" Scorpius's voice quavered. "Does this mean that you don't want me anymore?"

Draco looked at his son, and felt a wave of helpless love come over him. Love, because he did care for Scorpius; he always had, from the moment when he had seen the scrunched-in face wrapped in blankets. Helpless, because no matter how much time he spent training Scorpius to be the perfect Malfoy, it never worked out.

"Of course I want you," he said, and managed to keep the other words silent as Scorpius ran to embrace him. I just wish you were a little more satisfactory.


Harry rested his chin on his hands and yawned. The smooth top of the desk felt delicious when he rubbed his cheek against it. He wished he could plop his head down right here and go to sleep.

Well, you can't, he reminded himself, lifting his head and rubbing his eyes. And it's your own fault that you're tired, anyway. He was working extra hours now because he wanted to take a holiday after Al and James went to Hogwarts this autumn. He'd spend it with Lily, who he knew would be devastated by not going and by losing Al's company. And Ginny's team toured so much now that she simply couldn't keep Lily with her all the time. It would be best for all three of them.

Harry smiled faintly when he remembered the way Ginny had enthusiastically agreed to the plan. We certainly do get along better since the divorce, he thought, and reached for another file. He didn't go out into the field as much anymore; the next generation of potential Dark Lords had come along and seemed to see his murder as the first milestone on the way to Becoming Voldemort's Successor. It was just too dangerous for Harry, even with a partner. But it meant a lot of paperwork and offering opinions on cases that were just beginning.

He stared at the case in front of him and had enough time to note that those incompetents Molesworth and Brown had been picked to handle it before one of the silver globes that hung on the walls began to vibrate urgently.

Harry leaned back in his chair and stared at it, stupefied. The globe twitched and glistened and rocked in place. Harry leaped to his feet and managed to snatch it just before it smashed into a hundred pieces on the floor, which Kingsley would not have been happy about.

The globe went quiet the moment he touched it, and a cool, sexless voice spoke in Harry's head: the voice of the ward that the globe represented. Someone has removed the Grimoire of Haunted Blood from its place.

Harry swore and dumped the globe on his desk, wedging it with a book so it wouldn't roll off. The next moment, he snatched his wand and went charging out of the office and towards the lifts that would give him access to the Floos in the Atrium. Though it was for security reasons, for the first time he regretted not having Floos arranged for transportation as well as talking in the Auror Department itself.

The Grimoire of Haunted Blood was one of the most dangerous of the Dark Arts books that the Ministry had classified as "Forbidden" two hundred years ago. Just trying to touch it meant at least a month in Azkaban. Harry couldn't comprehend what Kingsley would want to see done to someone who had actually stolen it. There were curses in that book that could unleash blood-borne plagues on the wizarding world.

Harry thought the Ministry should have destroyed the damn thing. But apparently, they were afraid that someday they would need one of the spells in the book, and they wouldn't have those if they'd burned it.

Or maybe it was immune to destruction, Harry thought, as he paced restlessly in front of the lifts and cursed the anti-Apparition spells in the Ministry for the seven thousandth time. Kingsley had been vague when Harry asked him about the book, for understandable reasons.

Except now someone's stolen it, Harry thought as the lift arrived and he dashed in, jabbing the button that would take him to the Atrium, and I don't have the faintest idea what to expect because I don't know enough about it.


Blasted bloody lift!


"Here it is," Draco breathed, and then caught his breath to hold against the cloud of choking dust that came with the book. Though no one was around-in fact, with Draco's and Astoria's combined Dark Arts knowledge it had been surprisingly easy to get through the wards and find the Grimoire of Haunted Blood-he had the conviction that those nonexistent ears would hear him if he sneezed.

"At last." Astoria took the book from him and began to flip briskly through the pages, her eyes scanning each one and moving on. Draco would have objected that she couldn't possibly see what they were looking for that way, but he had the same sense of urgency she did. Being caught in the Ministry's secure vaults in Scotland was not a sensible political move. Besides, she was a good researcher.

And there were other reasons he wanted to get away from here, too. Draco eyed the book uneasily. It was vast, bound in a sickly gray leather that reflected the light in odd patterns as if it were the surface of water, and slick and soft; Draco could feel a sucking warmth when he touched it. It was as if the book were alive and tasting its potential meals like a frog or the Giant Squid. Draco shuddered and turned away to scan up and down the narrow corridors of the vaults by the light of his wand. All around them, the fanged shelves that contained the Forbidden books weighed down like ledges of rock. Draco swallowed and told himself that he should be grateful that the Grimoire of Haunted Blood hadn't been in the Very Very Forbidden section.

"Here we are," said Astoria, and the hungry sound in her voice made Draco lean forwards, forgetting about the haze of uneasiness he was sure was down to the Ministry's wards, anyway. "I thought I remembered a spell that could affect the blood of a pure-blood child." She looked at him over the top of the book, her face set. Draco felt both terror and admiration. She was a worthy successor to Narcissa in the protection of her son, even if she wasn't Mrs. Malfoy anymore. "We'll find out who cast this and make them reverse it, Draco."

"We can't reverse it?" A hope Draco hadn't known he was nourishing withered and died in his mind.

"Of course not," Astoria said, and gave him a pitying glance. "Why would they choose something so simple as that if they truly wanted to hurt us?" Her fingers played along the page, and she bent closer to it. "Now, hush, and let me memorize the incantation. If we can't force them to take it off, then at least we can cast it on them in return and harm their children."

"I have enough evidence now to put you both in Azkaban for six years apiece," said a cold and strangely familiar voice from behind the nearest shelf. "Lower the book, now, madam."

Astoria met Draco's eyes. Her face was calm, but Draco couldn't tell what she was trying to communicate with the glance. He had frozen the moment he heard the voice speak, his tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth as he thought about all his accumulated political influence draining away like so much blood.

Maybe his being still was all Astoria had wanted, though, because she turned around to meet the voice with admirable coolness. "And if we are using the book only to revenge ourselves for its being used against us?" she asked. Her chin was lifted and her left hand braced on her hip. Draco couldn't comprehend how she was managing to hold on to the book with just her right hand.

From behind the shelf, Potter came into view, his wand pointed straight at them and his face not softened at all by Astoria's little speech.

Of course it would be Potter, Draco thought in resignation. The first time I do something illegal in decades, and he's the one to catch me at it.

"You want revenge," Potter said, in a voice on the edge of sarcastic laughter, "and I'm here for justice, and you think that kind of talk is going to convince me?"

He did sarcasm better than he used to, Draco had to admit. He, in fact, looked far better than the last time Draco had bothered to glance at a photograph of him, which was back when the Prophet was still hysterical about him as the savior of Britain. He walked with a long, swinging stride, and he held his head up as if he intended to charge like a werewolf and rip out both their throats, and his green eyes blazed, and the scar shone on his forehead like a badge of honor instead of the stupid deformity Draco knew it was.

Why do I think he looks good if he's about to rip out our throats? Draco thought then. Or at least arrest us? It didn't help that Astoria had a sardonic look in her eyes when she glanced at him, too, and she was even better at sarcasm than Potter.

"Of course you wouldn't know what it's like to sacrifice anything for your children," he said to Potter, because his boiling wrath and bitterness at fate could no longer be contained. "Everyone knows that the Weaselette kept them after your divorce. Or should I call her the She-Potter now, since she still runs around with your name?"

Potter drew himself up and gave him such a withering stare that Draco had to look away from him.

"For your information," Potter said in a harsh whisper, "Ginny kept the children because she has more free time for them when her team isn't touring. When it is touring, I take them. And what in the world does this have to do with your pointy little son, anyway?"

Draco felt a wash of hot indignation, and then bewilderment that Potter would go around telling his domestic arrangements to his worst enemy (well, his worst enemy left alive, anyway). A moment later, the bitterness returned, as he realized what must be the reason. He's not ashamed of anything he's done with his ex-wife. His children please him. He doesn't see a reason to conceal anything about them.

"If you would listen to me for a moment," Astoria said, "instead of engaging Draco in a contest of wits that he is not prepared to have, I could tell you how closely this concerns Scorpius. Who is not, in fact, as pointy as you might think. He got some of my genes, thank Merlin."

And it was clear that Draco was going to taste a full seven-course meal of bitterness, because Potter turned to her and seemed to be listening, and that meant that Draco had to be grateful to her.


Harry reckoned he was doing something stupid and irresponsible by listening to Malfoy's too-pretty wife-no, ex-wife, if he was remembering the breathless newspaper articles correctly. Kingsley would have told him to Stun them both at once and then Apparate with them to the Ministry, where someone would be waiting to take them into custody, no matter how late.

But there was no one else here-he knew that because he'd watched the Malfoys carefully for a long while before approaching them-and he was confident he could handle them both.

And he had to listen when someone else mentioned their children. It was a character flaw, resulting from an emotionally stunted childhood and a sense of having a family as a blessing instead of normality; Harry could quote the lecture from Hermione, he'd heard it so many times. But just now, he could afford to listen, which wasn't the case when he and Ron confronted some other criminals.

"All right," he said, shifting his wand to his left hand so he could cover both of them. Mrs. Malfoy looked as if she might be left-handed, and Harry was better at what little wandless magic he could manage with his right. "So talk."

Mrs. Malfoy stood gazing at him with open contempt for long moments, seemingly trying to make him feel intimidated. Harry grinned back at her. He wasn't about to feel abashed by blond hair, thank you very much, which had had a negative association for him from Hogwarts thanks to that git over there, or green eyes, which he had himself. And it had been years since a pair of breasts could make him stutter. A nice thick cock was more likely to, if anything would.

"Our son," said Mrs. Malfoy, pronouncing the words with a clarity Harry valued, "has been cursed." She paused.

Harry waited, then drawled, in a deliberate imitation of Malfoy's voice from their school days, "Yes?" He was gratified to see the idiot toss him an infuriated look and then shift from foot to foot, as if his bladder were troubling him.

"I don't think it's a wise idea to tell him," Malfoy hissed to his wife.

"Wise idea or not," Harry said cheerfully, folding his arms, "you're telling me anyway. Because if I tell anyone what you did tonight, it's Azkaban and not Malfoy Manor that you'll be walking into."

"Fine, then, Potter!" Malfoy turned on him, his eyes wide and agonized. Harry felt his smile drop away. He wanted to apologize, but Malfoy was already spitting the words and wouldn't listen to him. "Scorpius isn't my son! We went to confirm him as the Malfoy heir by blood, and the ritual failed." There was something particularly bitter about the way he said failed that made Harry frown in interest again, but Malfoy seemed to have decided Harry should know more about the facts than the nuances of the situation. "His blood isn't my blood. And since Astoria says she didn't cheat and I have proof that no one switched my son with someone else's, the only choice is a curse."

"And that, in fact, is what we found," said Mrs. Malfoy, with a quiet, cold triumph that made Harry felt a tremor of dislike towards her. She nodded to the book she held. "The Changeling Curse. It literally changes the blood of the affected heirs in their veins and renders them unlike their parents. Depending on when it was cast, it may have even affected Draco's sperm-"


Harry kept his eyes fixed on Mrs. Malfoy's face and his expression stern, but he had to bite his cheek. Who knew Malfoy the High and Mighty was a prude?

"And that would mean that he could not father a child with Malfoy blood, no matter what happened," Mrs. Malfoy finished, disregarding her husband altogether. "So, yes, our son is a changeling, and we must know who did this, or we cannot reverse the curse, and Scorpius cannot take his place as the rightful owner of Malfoy Manor and the magical artifacts that go with it." She gave a little nod and looked at Harry expectantly. It was a look Harry had seen from other pure-bloods before, and it always made him sick. Now that we've explained our crazy ideas to you, it said, you'll have to believe us.

"I fail to see," said Harry, after a pause in which he scratched behind his ear, "why that's such a bad thing. You can will it to him, can't you? Maybe you won't be able to conduct whatever fancy ritual you wanted to conduct, but-"

"You don't understand, Potter," Malfoy hissed, and pushed his way forwards again, despite Mrs. Malfoy's attempt to put a hand on his arm and restrain him. In fact, he shook her grip off impatiently. Harry felt a certain amount of sympathy for him. He knew that he had done the same thing sometimes, when he had something important to say and Ginny didn't want him to. "The rituals have to be undergone so he can become the Malfoy heir. He can't have the Manor or the artifacts if he's not a blood heir. That was a measure taken long ago as a protection against bastards and pretenders." Once again, Harry had to bite his cheek not to laugh; Malfoy sounded as if he were talking about the heir to a medieval throne, for God's sake. "He'll be cast out on the streets if he doesn't have the right blood, as soon as I die, and he won't have a single heirloom to take with him. He won't even be able to touch them."

Harry caught his breath, and then let it drain out again. He was thinking about what would have happened if he hadn't been able to touch his father's Invisibility Cloak, or if some "ritual" like this had kept the Marauders' Map from him. And how would he feel if James and Al and Lily could never inherit the money he was working to secure them after his death, and the fortune that had made his life in the wizarding world comfortable?

It would be like not having a family.

But of course it was different. Of course Scorpius had living parents, and he knew they loved him.


There was a wild, bitter desperation in Malfoy's face that Harry had also seen before, on cases when pure-blood children got kidnapped. Some parents wanted their children back because they loved them. Others simply wanted an heir, a living flesh and blood copy of themselves-or at least of their ancestors-who could walk around with the right face and the right name and provide a guardian for a vault and some gemstones, and father or bear children of their own when the time came. Harry had grown to hate those cases; sometimes he wasn't sure that what the children were going back to was all that much better than what their captors gave them.

Harry had no idea if Malfoy really cared about Scorpius as his heir only. But he couldn't take the chance.

And even if Scorpius only faced the horror of having to work for a living instead of being despised at home for a curse he couldn't help, then Harry still thought he deserved to have what his parents intended to leave him.

"I'm doing this for the boy," he said to both the Malfoys, so that they would be sure to understand him. "Not for you."

"That is, in fact, the best reason you could do it," said Mrs. Malfoy, and pushed her hair behind her ears, and gave him a smile that she probably imagined would cause him to melt at her feet. At least, she looked a bit disconcerted when Harry turned away from her and focused on Malfoy.

"And I want your word, now, that you won't take vengeance on the caster of the curse when I introduce you to him," he said.

"You know who it is?"

Harry forbade himself to move back a step, but it was not easy. The Malfoys could look extraordinarily like piranhas when they wanted to.

"Of course I do," he said. "That book was last disturbed twelve years ago, and the person who used it is still in Azkaban." He cast a pointed look at Malfoy's groin, determined to get some of his own back. "Scorpius is under twelve, isn't he? Sorry for your sperm, Draco."

Malfoy had a delightful blush. Harry waited until they put the book back in its rightful place and then led them towards the surface again, muttering in his own mind about how Malfoy didn't have the right to a delightful anything, much less a blush.


Azkaban was still as Draco remembered it from his own brief residence there nineteen years ago whilst he was waiting for his trial: gloomy, cold, full of shadows and half-muted screams. The Dementors had gone, but their legacy lingered. Draco did his best not to fold his arms or shiver defensively as they passed over on the ferry. Or at least he could pretend that his shivers were ones of cold.

Not that Potter was likely to believe that.

When Draco's mother had wanted to visit him, it had taken her nearly a month to work through the gauntlet of permissions, forms in triplicate, and bribes that the guards demanded, and then she got to see him for approximately five minutes. Potter showed his face, and the Aurors on duty scrambled about, bowing and babbling, and never asked them what they'd come for.

The perks of being Harry Potter, Draco thought bitterly as he followed the Boy Hero-all right, all right, the Man Hero, which was at least better than that stupid Chosen One nickname-down the main prison corridor towards the Dark wizards' cells. He glared at the gracefully striding figure ahead of him, and sneered at the lordly way he nodded at the gaping, saluting Aurors. And he probably doesn't even notice that it's happening, and just assumes that it happens because people like him. Berk.

Astoria caught his eye and glanced from him to Potter with a smirk. Draco scowled back at her. Was she comparing them and deciding how best she could get Potter into bed? "Now is not the time for seducing him," he warned her in a low voice. He knew how incredibly lucky they were that Potter had decided he wept for Scorpius in his melting hero's heart and so needed to do this. He wouldn't let Astoria waste the chance.

For some reason, his words made her snort a muffled chuckle into her palm and then cup her hand frantically around her mouth, her cheeks turning red. Well, good, Draco thought, as he caught up to Potter, who had paused. She deserved some embarrassment.

And then he realized that Potter was motioning him towards the man in the cell, and he crowded up beside the bars, his eyes narrowed. This was the pathetic, envious weakling who had destroyed his son's future. Probably a Mudblood or a half-blood, of course, weeping over the loss of what he would never have been pure enough to possess.

The first thing Draco noticed was that the thin face looked familiar. And then he glanced from it to Astoria and gasped in shock.

Astoria's face had been wiped clean of expression in the meanwhile. She stepped forwards to the bars like a queen and leaned in with her hands folded behind her back, where the pathetic creature in the cell couldn't catch a glimpse of them. Draco approved of that, and of the courteous way Potter had fallen back-until he realized that Potter was in a position where he could ogle Astoria's arse. He worked hard to keep a scowl off his face. This isn't the time for Potter to decide that he wants to shag her, either.

"Ricardo," Astoria said. "I wondered, once, how many times I would have to refuse you. I see now that even twenty times was not enough."

The man-who had once been Ricardo Greengrass, Astoria's first cousin and would-be lover-scrambled to his feet and took several shaky steps towards her. But he halted a distance away, as if he were afraid of her, and reached out grime-stained hands, "Astoria?" he whispered. "Astoria, my angel? Have you come at last? Is this a visitation? A flight of angels to sing me to my rest?"

"You always did spend too much time with Muggle rubbish." Astoria might have been speaking from the moon, her eyes and voice were both so distant. Draco thought he was the only one in the corridor who knew her well enough to realize how furious and hurt she really was. If anything, he thought, she would have decided in the back of her mind that this came from a covetous relative on Draco's side of the family who might stand to inherit if Scorpius was not of pure blood. The cousin who had begged literally on bended knee to marry her had not entered her head, probably because they had both believed he had gone to America twelve years ago. "Tell me why you stole my son's future."

"He wasn't your son," Ricardo said at once, smug and confident, as if he hadn't spent twelve years in this place. His eyes found Draco over Astoria's shoulder and burned with a hatred that made Draco almost flinch. "He doesn't share blood with you, or him. I made sure that he couldn't plant a real child in you, and so your womb is still undefiled." He nodded several times.

Draco felt a moment's pity for him then. Those words only proved that he had never really known Astoria.

"I," said Astoria, voice so low that Draco thought he could feel it echo in Azkaban's walls, "was never only a womb." She turned and faced Potter, every line of her body so straight and unflinching that she looked like a classical statue. "I have heard all I intend to hear from him. I know he cast the spell. I know he will not reverse it."

"But we haven't actually asked him that yet," said Potter, and stepped around Astoria to address Ricardo with courtesy that made Draco roll his eyes. Why was it that a convicted criminal got more respect from him than a mere accused criminal, like Draco? "Do you intend to reverse the spell that condemned Scorpius Malfoy?"

"No." Ricardo's reply was immediate and glad, the way Draco knew it would be. He was watching Astoria with greedy eyes, though what insights he hoped to glean from her still back and folded arms Draco didn't know. "I did it for the best of reasons, and nothing you say can convince me to change my mind."

"We can speak to the Wizengamot," said Potter. His tone was so mild that it took Draco a moment to recognize it as a threat.

"Of course we cannot," said Astoria, spinning on Potter with a grace and swiftness Draco was glad to see. "Otherwise, we would truly take Scorpius's future away from him. As it stands, this is an invisible difference. Would you have us expose him to the press, and ourselves to all manner of pity? No, Potter."

Potter stared at her as if dumbfounded. "But you want to help your son, don't you?" he demanded.

Draco sighed. Once again, it was up to him to explain the truth to a Potter whose acquaintance with reality was only reluctant. "He will have a better life as it stands if we do not speak out," he said. "He can at least marry a pure-blooded wife, and we can pretend that the reason he cannot inherit the Malfoy estates and artifacts is a matter of antagonism between us. He will produce children that, as far as anyone knows, are Malfoy in blood."

"Anyone," chirped Ricardo. "Except me."

Potter hadn't ceased frowning, and he didn't look away from Draco, either. "You would tell a lie," he whispered, as if he wanted to test the words before he spoke them in a loud tone. "To make your son's life better."

"As if you've never lied." Draco sneered at Potter. He would have felt better if he had some definite proof that Potter had done it beyond covering for his friends during minor incidents at Hogwarts, but that didn't matter. It was outrageous that Potter claimed he wanted to protect Scorpius and yet thought they should do so by placing their son on display in front of a mocking pure-blood world.


Harry stared at the man in the cell again. It was possible that he could be talked around, if only Malfoy and his wife would be more acquiescent. Really, hadn't they got enough practice at that when they bowed and scraped in front of the Wizengamot after the war?

But he had seen criminals like this, with the same set and staring eyes and smug mouths. Yes, it was possible Greengrass could be talked around; anything was possible. But he had gone to Azkaban for the maximum possible sentence rather than admit what he had wanted the Grimoire of Haunted Blood for, and if he had endured twelve years here without crumbling, Harry didn't know what persuasion he could employ that would convince him.

He probably had more chance of convincing Malfoy and his wife to take this to the Wizengamot.

But, when he turned around, their faces were set, too, if not smug, and there was a tightness and tension around Malfoy's eyes in particular that Harry didn't like. He began to wonder if perhaps they might know more about the pure-blood community, what it would mock and what it would accept, than he did. Maybe Scorpius's chances at a normal life would be compromised by releasing this information, as much as Harry thought it a good idea. He had managed to avoid conflicts with the newspapers over the last few years by living as honestly as possible and giving them no ability to print lies that would catch hold of any aspect of his life.

But you're a full-grown man with a powerful reputation of your own, and Scorpius Malfoy is an eleven-year-old boy.

Harry sighed and said, "If you really think it won't make Scorpius's life better to expose this, then we'll do something else."

"There's no way around it," Mrs. Malfoy said, turning about again. Harry looked at her with a certain amount of wonder. Malfoy had always struck him during school as rather explosive, someone who would demand emotion from anyone he became involved with, if only because he would need to be clucked and soothed over when the world didn't turn out the way he wanted it to. He wondered how the git had ended up choosing someone so cool and distant. "If we cannot force the caster to remove the curse, Scorpius will bear it forever."

"I don't believe that," Harry said calmly, and ignored the way she tried to stab him with her eyes. So she wasn't used to being contradicted. Hermione hadn't been, either, but she had got used to it after she had her children. "I've worked with Dark magic for years, and there almost always turns out to be an exception that someone overlooked before, if only because not that many people have studied it compared to the more common spells."

"Sometimes, Potter," Malfoy said, sounding as if admitting this made him ill, "you have more sense than it looks as if you have. Not that that's hard," he added.

Harry took a deep breath and managed to ignore him, focusing on Mrs. Malfoy. She studied him minutely, the way Snape had when thinking of fifteen ways he could kill Harry and get away with it, before she inclined her head.

"Then you will not speak of this to anyone else," she said. "And you will help us."

"In private, yes." Harry smiled a little grimly. He got along better with the newspapers, but they hadn't stopped pouncing on every stray little fact about his life the first chance they got. "So that my helping you doesn't provoke the suspicions that we want to avoid in the first place."

"Acceptable," said Mrs. Malfoy. "So you will come with us to meet our son as soon as possible, and you will arrange meetings on the weekends. Scorpius attends Hogwarts in less than a month. I will not pull him from school. You will need to make sure that he keeps up with his studies as you work to solve this problem."

"Of course," Harry said, and rolled his eyes, not caring if she saw. Now he saw how Malfoy could have chosen her. She was deeply managing, and if there was one thing Malfoy had, it was a need to be managed.

"I haven't given my permission for this," Malfoy said, fussily, and predictably.

"You need not," said Mrs. Malfoy. "You know that we must help Scorpius somehow, and you know the impossibility of reversing the curse, and you know the impossibility of speaking up in public about this. Be grateful that we have Potter to help us and do not need to approach some of your old-colleagues-for their expertise in Dark magic."

Malfoy shuddered with an apparently genuine disgust. Harry remembered that he had looked terrified in the majority of the visions Harry had of him during the war.

"All right," he said in a low voice. "And I presume that I'll be the one leading these meetings, Astoria, whilst you stay aloof from the mess as usual?"

A tight smile graced Mrs. Malfoy's face for a moment. Harry had the feeling that they'd had this conversation before. "Of course."

Malfoy folded his arms and turned away. Mrs. Malfoy watched him for a moment before she turned and walked away, not seeming to care about the way her cousin's gaze lingered on her.

"What time do you want the first meeting?" Harry asked Malfoy.

Malfoy's shoulders hunched, but he sighed noisily and turned to face Harry, wearing the expression he probably wore when he dealt with cooks, florists, and other necessary evils. "As you have the goodness to consult me on something," he said, "I want you to see Scorpius before he goes to school. Two weekends from now is the optimum time for me. Come to Malfoy Manor at eight in the morning on Saturday."

Harry concealed his annoyance at having to rise so early on a weekend, and nodded. He had done it before for Auror work, and there was a child in this case. Harry tried to imagine the way he would feel if Al was similarly affected-not by a curse that changed his blood, because who cared about that, but by Dark Arts-and grew more determined. He would help Scorpius no matter how irritating Malfoy was.

Besides, he would probably feel irritated if his schoolboy enemy possessed information like this, himself.

"Eight in the morning is fine," he said. "Please warn Scorpius I'm coming; I don't want this to be a surprise to him."

Malfoy gave him a look of contempt that was probably meant to wound. "He already knows something is wrong. He already knows that he failed the ritual that was supposed to confirm him as Malfoy heir."

"I meant," Harry said, and refrained from grinding his teeth by thinking of the damage it would do to the enamel, "that you should warn him I'm coming. Tell him the specifics. I would have wanted to know them, when I was his age." He had forgiven Dumbledore for much, but not for concealing information that was so necessary from him for so long.

"Thank Merlin you are not my son."

Harry managed to laugh, though he had thought that impossible, at the fervent tone of Malfoy's voice. "I think that's a prayer we can all agree on," he said.


There was a wrinkle in his left sleeve.

Draco smoothed the wrinkle out, and then sneaked a glance sideways at Scorpius. He still had a dangling bit of fluff on the back of his head, a single blond hair that would not lie down. Draco frowned. He didn't know where this tendency to wildness came from. Both his hair and Astoria's was as smooth as could be imagined, and he was sure that he had not been so unruly when he was Scorpius's age, either.

"Scorpius," he began.

His son sighed, most unbecomingly, and reached up to tap his wand against the hair and make it lie flat. It was the first spell he had learned, out of necessity. Draco nodded stiffly-if he knew what his father had wanted to say, why did he need the reminder at all?-and then faced the door again.

He and Scorpius were waiting in the entrance hall of Malfoy Manor for Potter, partially because it was the best room to impress a new visitor to the house and partially because Draco was determined that Potter would find nothing out of place about his son's behavior or appearance. Potter would be looking about with beady eyes, seeking something to make fun of if he could. Draco would leave him no dangling thread to seize, and then he would be compelled to offer respect.

Potter knocked a few minutes after eight. Draco drew himself up straight, assumed the most thunderous expression he possibly could, and nodded to the scurrying house-elves to let Potter in. House-elves. That is another thing Scorpius will not manage to inherit if we cannot fix this. He's never lived a day without their devoted care. What will happen to him if he doesn't have it?

Draco reminded himself, then, when the thoughts might have managed to fluster him as Potter entered the room, that this was one reason he was obliged to have Potter in his house at all. They had time before Scorpius came of age and Draco died. They would just have to find a solution.

Potter stepped into the entrance hall and didn't look up, at the great vaulted ceiling, or around, at the gilded tops of the pillars and the sweeping staircase. Instead, he smiled at Scorpius, held out his hand, and said, "I'm Harry Potter. You must be Scorpius Malfoy."

Draco's son blinked, so slowly that he looked like a lizard. Draco opened his mouth to intervene. Scorpius had always been too slow to recognize honor being done to him, too slow for a Malfoy.

But then Scorpius grinned, a dazzling grin Draco had never seen before, and shook Potter's hand firmly. "I am," he said. "And I would have recognized you without your introducing yourself, you know. You're pretty recognizable." He gestured to the faded scar on Potter's forehead, still grinning.

Draco froze, because he was so mortified. How was it possible that he had raised a boy who would respond like this in front of someone he didn't know?

But Potter smiled back, and Draco remembered: Potter was an undisciplined brat at Scorpius's age, too. He would expect a certain amount of informality, and he was unfamiliar with pure-blood customs. He probably thought Scorpius was acting natural and child-like.

"I like to introduce myself anyway," Potter explained, "just so people don't confuse me with my scar."

"I'd like to do that," Scorpius confided, "someday when I'm grown up and famous. So people don't confuse me with my name."

"A good plan." Potter nodded, as if satisfied, and then turned to Draco. "Do you have a drawing room where we can sit and talk about this? I want to explain some of what I've found out about potential cures for curses like this so far."

Draco opened his mouth to object. He and Potter should meet by themselves if at all. Scorpius wasn't old enough to understand all the information Potter would give him, let alone make decisions that affected his own welfare.

But then he saw the way Scorpius was looking back and forth between the two of them, his eyes bright for the first time since the confirmation ceremony, and the level gaze Potter was giving him. Draco suspected that Potter would try to include Scorpius in the conversation anyway if Draco refused.

And it might be better for Scorpius to hear about it.

Silently, Draco nodded and led the way.


Harry watched with an ache in his heart as the train began to move, carrying Al away. He hadn't realized until today that his son harbored such a strong fear of being put in Slytherin. Al was more like himself than Harry ever known.

But he's going to have a better childhood, Harry resolved as the train pulled out of the station. If he's in Slytherin, then I hope he owls me immediately, and I'm going to owl him back and repeat what I told him about Snape. He doesn't deserve to think he'll be evil because of where the Sorting Hat chose to put him when he was eleven. I wish someone had thought to tell me that.

And Scorpius Malfoy, whom Harry had seen climb onto the same train with a determined but haunted look in his eyes, didn't deserve to suffer through the rest of his life because of a curse that had been cast before he was born.

I'm going to do my best for you, too, Harry told him silently. What are we for, if not to fight so that the next generation has a better chance?

"Are you all right, Harry?" Ginny smiled up at him and ran her hand over a sniffling Lily's hair. "You have that pensive look that means a monster's around the next corner and needs to feel the bite of one of your hexes."

Harry smiled back. He and Ginny really did work much better as friends than as spouses, and once they had divorced, Harry had noticed a massive relaxation of tension in his life. He didn't mind that Ginny had kept his name; it was a way to connect them as friends who had shared a bond that most of the rest of the world had no idea about. And Harry had come to think that sharing with other people was more productive than fighting with them-unless they were Dark wizards who needed to be shut into a cool cell in Azkaban and left to think over what they'd done for a while.

"Thinking," he said. "The same way I did when James went off last year, if you remember."

"I remember," Ginny said, and stretched up to kiss his cheek.

"Muuuuum," said Lily, who had reached the stage when kisses between her parents were the height of grossness. "Daaad. I want to go to Hogwarts, too."

"Next year, Lily-bee." Harry took her hand. He had charge of Lily for the next few weeks of his holiday. Ginny waved and vanished into the crowd at the train station, and Harry turned around to find Ron and Hermione. "Don't you want to go for ice cream with Hugo? I bet you can eat more than he can."

Hogwarts already half-forgotten, Lily pulled impatiently away from him and ran off to search for Hugo. Harry started to follow, then hesitated when he saw Malfoy standing near a pillar by himself, arms folded and shoulders hunched the way they always seemed to be. His wife had already vanished, and he looked cold.

He put Scorpius on a train this morning, too.

Harry changed his mind and strode over to Malfoy.

Malfoy, of course, straightened when he saw Harry coming, and tried to look as if he'd never done anything but stand there and sneer. Harry inwardly rolled his eyes, but he thought he was starting to understand Malfoy a bit better. Malfoy was someone who hadn't shared. He seemed anxious that Scorpius be nothing more than a perfect little automaton. Look at that first meeting they'd had, in August. He tried to direct the things Harry said, he frowned with disapproval whenever Harry asked Scorpius his opinion or answered one of his questions, and he continually snapped reminders for Scorpius to sit up, smooth his hair, not wrinkle his robes, and speak clearly.

He was worried for his child, and he seemed to always have lived with managing people-his parents, his wife-who ordered him around, so he didn't know what to do when he was left on his own. Harry told himself that so he wouldn't strangle the man for being such an annoying little pissant.

"We're meeting Scorpius at Hogwarts on September the fifteenth, right?" he asked, to have a plausible excuse for approaching Malfoy.

"Not even you could have forgotten the date that fast." Malfoy folded his arms until he looked as if he were trying to squeeze all the air out of his chest and squinted at him suspiciously. "What do you really want?"

Fine, then. Harry abandoned subtlety. Maybe that wasn't what Malfoy needed. Maybe his parents and his wife had tried to make him realize the truth in subtle ways, and he hadn't paid attention, because he wasn't forced to. "He'll be all right," Harry said softly.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Malfoy sniffed and looked away.

"Yes, you do." Harry nodded after the train. "I just sent a son off to Hogwarts, too. Well, both of them, but James was already there one year and he's eager to be away from us." Harry had to smile as he thought of James. Compared to Al, James was insensitive, loud, and boisterous, but he always did land on his feet. "I know what it feels like, that shattering of childhood. When you don't see them around every day anymore. When you have to worry that every owl from Hogwarts could bring report of a potential accident, just because you weren't there to hover over them and protect them from danger. When you realize that in six years they'll be of age, and in seven years they'll even leave Hogwarts, and then what will you do?" He leaned a shoulder on the pillar and watched Malfoy intently.

Malfoy gaped at him, then shut his mouth with a ferocious click. "How do you know that?" he demanded. "Has Astoria been writing to you?"

Harry rolled his eyes openly this time. Someone needs to let him know when he's being an idiot. "Only you would think of spying and conspiracies first," he said. "I have three children, Malfoy. I'm speaking to you as one father to another. It's all right to feel lost and lonely and abandoned for a little while. It happens to the best of us."

"You're not eloquent, Potter." Malfoy was whispering harshly now. "You're not interested in my welfare. Far be it from me to forbid you to feel these things, with your sensitive little Gryffindor heart, but why are you talking about them to me?"

"Because you looked lost, and lonely, and abandoned." Harry cocked his head when Malfoy's mouth dropped open again. "And because your feelings aren't the only ones involved here. Scorpius's are too, as you should have realized by now. If you don't, you're such a berk that you really don't deserve any further consideration. Right now, you're a pissant, yes, but no worse than that. Grow up and realize that your acting like this-haughty and unaffected and cold when you aren't those things at all-hurts Scorpius as well as you." Harry paused, then added, "Ponce."

And he turned and walked away, shaking his head. Right now, ice cream with Lily, Hugo, Ron, and Hermione sounded much more enjoyable than spending another minute with Malfoy.

He was almost dreading the fifteenth, or would have been, except that Scorpius was a great kid, and more than someone like Malfoy deserved.


What did Potter mean, calling me a ponce?

Draco knew he should be thinking about other things, but there weren't other things to think about. He'd done some desultory research during the last two weeks, but Astoria was the real expert on magic like this, and she hadn't found anything, so how could he? He'd done his usual Ministry work, made the right contributions to the right people, and got all the business out of the way that he could. He'd received a few owls from Scorpius, saying that he was Sorted into Slytherin and was friends with Potter's son Albus and that Transfiguration under Professor Brown was wonderful. Draco had already sent back plenty of advice on acting right and not betraying the Malfoy name, and anyway, he'd be seeing Scorpius in a few moments.

It was a bright, clear Sunday morning, and Draco was pacing back and forth in the Astronomy classroom. He'd wanted to meet in Hogsmeade at first, but the Headmaster wouldn't agree to let a first-year leave Hogwarts.

If anyone's a ponce, it's Longbottom.

Why did Potter feel free to insult me?

Draco scowled and paced faster.

Yes, he had to admit reluctantly, he'd felt some of the things Potter had accused him of feeling when he saw Scorpius climb into the train. But that didn't mean that Potter had the right to just announce them to Draco's face and expect Draco to gladly accept the announcement.

He didn't understand the Malfoy legacy. He didn't know what it was like after Lucius was discredited, and then basically resigned himself to not living in a world where he wasn't treated with dignity and respect, and died from it. It had been a quiet death, but one where every time Draco went into Lucius's room, he saw a pair of gray eyes staring at him with silent condemnation. Draco had to be the one who lived up to the Malfoy legacy now, who made sure it continued to survive, and he knew Lucius had severe doubts about his ability to be that person.

But Draco had worked, and worked, and worked. He had tried his best to raise Scorpius with the right pure-blood values. He had revived what political contacts he could and extended others that he thought Lucius would have liked him to pursue. He had tried to give his father a second chance to live again through him, and even a third, through Scorpius-

But he could never really know if he'd succeeded or not, and with Scorpius, it seemed as if he was foredoomed to failure.

Draco swore at himself under his breath and paced rapidly in a circle. He had to calm down. He had to meet Potter with serene eyes and contempt breathing through every pore in his face.

"You're almost human when you look like that."

Correction: You might have managed that if you'd heard Potter coming. Draco planted his hands on his hips and spun about. He could at least show anger if not contempt. "You took your time getting here, didn't you?" he drawled.

"I thought Scorpius would be here first," Potter said calmly, letting the door of the classroom fall shut behind him. "I wanted to give you some time alone with him, since you haven't seen each other in a fortnight."

"I'm not that weak, Potter." Draco leaned forwards, trying to emphasize the inch or so of height he had on the other man to make his point.

Potter stared at him with his mouth open, which Draco could imagine women found endearing, which no doubt was why he did it. "Why in the world would that make you weak?" he asked, as if he didn't know.

But then Draco reminded himself again that Potter had no way of understanding the Malfoy legacy, and so, yes, his mistaken conclusions were entirely natural. Maybe it was time he came up against the limits of his familiarity with the pure-blood world.

"Scorpius and I are more than father and son," he said coolly. "We are Master of the Manor and heir." He ignored Potter's muttering, which had the word "master" in it in no complimentary tone. He didn't have to pay attention to things that displeased him. "That creates a relationship that necessitates a certain degree of distance."

Potter's eyebrows slowly rose. "So you can't tell him you miss him."

"You understand nothing," said Draco. He should have known trying to explain wouldn't work. But luckily the classroom door opened then and Scorpius came in, so he could turn around and nod welcome to his son.

Correction again, he thought, incredulous and then furious as he realized Scorpius had not come alone. No question who the boy standing beside him was; only two people in the world could look that much like a young Potter, and Scorpius's letters had revealed that James Potter looked different from his father and was in Gryffindor besides, whilst this boy had on a Slytherin tie. "Scorpius," he said, and was glad to at least see his son jump a little. "I told you this was to be a private meeting."

Scorpius, his obedient son, the boy who understood, some of the time, how far he was from living up to the Malfoy legacy and respected that, lifted his chin and replied like an insolent Mudblood. "Al saw me getting ready and asked where I was going. I couldn't lie to him, so I brought him with me."

Albus Potter blinked and looked uncomfortable, but also looked at Draco defiantly. Draco spun on Potter. "He's your son," he said. "Order him out of here."

Potter looked at him evenly. "I would if he were doing something wrong. But he's standing by his friend, and that's admirable." He nodded at Albus, and the boy beamed.

"He can keep a secret, I suppose?" Draco hated it, but since the boy was here and no one else agreed to his going, he knew he would lose dignity if he went on insisting that Albus leave.

"He can," Potter said firmly. "He's kept quiet before about his brother's Christmas presents, and that is a challenge and a temptation in our house, let me tell you." He grinned and pushed his glasses up his nose. "Especially when he knows that James isn't getting everything he asked for."

With a sigh, Draco accepted the offer as the best one he would get. He was living in a diminished world since he knew of the curse; really, he'd been living in a diminished world since Scorpius's birth. He would just have to live with this. "Then you should know that I haven't discovered anything new, Scorpius," he said.

Scorpius nodded, but didn't take a bracing breath, the way that he had when Draco told him that right before he left home. He actually looked as if he cared less about not being of pure blood when he was at school, Draco thought, though being around his peers, who all had more claim to their heritage than he did to his, should have taught him better. "That's all right, Dad," he said. "I know you're trying."

Draco opened his mouth to question why the boy thought he needed to forgive Draco instead of the other way around, but Potter interrupted. "I, on the other hand, have discovered something that might work," he said.

"What?" Draco snapped, vaguely noticing that Scorpius didn't look as hopeful as he should have. "Why did you wait until now to tell me?"

Potter gave him an odd look. "Because it's Scorpius's blood and Scorpius's life," he said. "I thought he should know first." And whilst Draco was still spluttering, he turned and looked into Scorpius's eyes and spoke exactly as if the boy were either an adult or the perfect heir of the family that Draco had always envisioned and strived to rear. "The process is dangerous, though, and involves several steps. A potion is first." Draco scoffed to himself. A potion might be dangerous for Potter, but I can brew it with no problem. "Then several spells with long incantations, and then a ritual. Do you want to go through with it?"

Scorpius's face was pale, but he responded with a logical question, the first intelligent thing Draco had heard him say all day. "Why is it dangerous?"

Potter nodded, as if he'd been expecting Scorpius to ask that, too. "Because there's an emotional component to it all," he said. "And if the emotional component isn't perfect for each step of this, then the potion or the spells or the ritual could react badly. The potion might poison you. The spells might twist your limbs or cause you to grow an extra head. The ritual might drain all the blood from your body."

Scorpius looked at the floor and thought about it whilst Draco tried to grapple with this information. "Who told you?" Scorpius asked finally, sounding subdued. Draco, still too stunned to speak, wondered if the boy had unexpected talents with Legilimency. It was as if he was reading Draco's mind, asking the questions that Draco wanted or needed to ask.

"No one, really." Potter looked triumphant at last, in the way that Draco had thought he would from the beginning of the conversation, since he was getting one over on Draco by not telling him before by letter. "We found the procedure described in Ricardo Greengrass's notes. He was anxious that no one circumvent the spell, and so he listed all the ways they might be able to."

"He had notes?" Draco demanded, finding his tongue at last. "Why haven't Astoria and I been allowed to look at them?"

"They were flung into an Auror file and forgotten about," Potter said. "At the time, we thought his claims of actually having used the Grimoire of Haunted Blood were ridiculous. But we went through the notes again. I can copy out the relevant portions for you. In fact, I have most of them here." He produced a thick sheaf of paper from his robe pocket and held it out. Draco snatched it.

"Do you think you want to go through with it, Scorpius?" Potter added then, his voice soft. "It's dangerous, like I said."

Scorpius looked at Draco, for some reason. Draco stared back at him impatiently. He hadn't had the chance to read the notes yet, which would be the ultimate deciding factor, but he knew what Scorpius would say, what he had to say. Of course he would go through with this. There was no price too great to pay to have pure blood again.

At least he had raised a son who would realize the inherent importance of that, because Scorpius turned back to Potter with a little nod. "Yeah," he said. "I want to go through with it."

Potter smiled. The expression was tinged with sadness for some reason. "All right," he said. "Then I reckon, unless you have questions, or unless you want to stay and speak with your father-Al and I can leave-"

"I don't want Al to leave," Scorpius said, too quickly. Draco frowned at him for showing his emotions like that-showing people that you were invested in them caused them to betray you-but he was looking at Potter instead and missed the frown. "I don't have questions, and I've communicated with my father by letter-I don't think there's anything more to say." He looked hesitantly towards Draco.

"If you think that," Draco said, and didn't bother to keep the coolness or the displeasure out of his voice, "then of course you must be right."

Scorpius bowed his head and left the room as soon as he could, Albus in tow. Once, that boy looked back and frowned at him. Draco raised an eyebrow. He had borne harder looks from harder men. An eleven-year-old could hardly compare to his father lying in bed, dying of grief, and trying to teach Draco everything he should have learned already through his eyes alone.

The minute the door shut behind their sons, Potter turned and strode towards him. From the look on his face, he had murder on his mind.

Draco widened his eyes and backed up, thinking that his reactions must appeal to Potter's instincts that told him to protect all things helpless and innocent, but instead Potter simply backed him into a corner. And then he stood there, his hands clenched at his sides, his breathing harsh and his eyes focused on Draco as if Draco had raped his daughter. It was hard to meet and match that stare.

"You," Potter whispered, "treat your son like shite."

Of all the accusations, that was the last thing Draco had expected. "I think you're hardly the authority on how I treat my son," he said stiffly, "and hardly in the position to offer advice about it. You didn't even act as if you knew your son was there."

Potter ignored him completely. "You know what one requirement of that ritual is?" he asked, nodding to the notes Draco still held. "The last step in reversing the curse and getting your son's 'pure blood' back? It requires absolute trust between parent and child. Absolute trust, you tosspot. Do you think you'll pull that one off? Really? Does your son trust you to do anything but scold him and try to make him into something he's not?"

"Are you supposed to insult someone you're helping on official Auror business?" Draco said, feeling as if he were pushing against an avalanche that was falling on him.

"This isn't official Auror business," Potter said, his eyes shining with a shark-like joy. "Remember? I agreed to help you on my own time, for my own reasons, and a lot of them are because there's Scorpius in the case." He put one arm on the wall and leaned so close that Draco could feel his warm breath on his face. For some reason, that made him shiver, even though it was warm. But then, Draco had never understood his own body that well. It had sometimes done very strange things when he and Astoria were in the same bed. "But you're always and forever after him. Staring disapprovingly at everything he does, not treating him like he's an adult or has any right to know about this-"

"Most parents think that about their children. Or did you retell every gruesome detail of Auror cases in front of yours?" If Potter would just listen-

"I told them when I almost died," Potter said, snarling now. A fleck of spit leaped out from his mouth and landed on Draco's cheek, and Draco felt so frozen that he couldn't even wipe it off. "I told them when someone cursed Al as 'revenge' for my putting their sister in prison where she belonged. I hide truths that have nothing to do with them. But I've always, always let them know about dangers that might change their lives drastically. And this is Scorpius's life, Draco. Not yours. If you offered him one ounce of the respect and dignity that you seem to have crammed into the Malfoy name, then you'd be doing one hundred times better."

"You have no idea what it's like for me!" Part of Draco was appalled that he was screaming this, but when he grasped at his control, it whipped through his hands like uncoiling rope. "No idea at all! Trying to carry on my father's legacy-"

"Carry it on the way you like! I don't care! But you're forcing Scorpius into a mode he doesn't fucking fit, and you're doing it for what you think is his own good, and that doesn't fucking work, Malfoy! It doesn't fucking work!" Potter was screaming now, too, his eyes blazing like a sunset. "Dumbledore should have known that, and so should you!"

"So you see yourself in him." Draco sneered. "Very poetic and all that, but since you're sympathizing with him just because he's you-"

"If you had the least idea," Potter said, voice low and poisonous now, suddenly, "how unhappy that child is-if you knew a quarter of what Al told me in his letters, what he's said Scorpius said-how much he's afraid of you-"

"What?" Draco knew he should deny that, decry Albus's words as lies, but for some reason he could only stand there staring at Potter.

Potter laughed bitterly. "Yeah. Afraid of you, Malfoy. Afraid of disappointing you, that his life isn't worth anything if he isn't the kind of son you want. And he already knows that he isn't. He's interested in other things and he doesn't care that much about having his 'pure blood' or the magical artifacts you want so badly for him to inherit. But he's doing it anyway, for you, because he loves you at the same time he's afraid of you." Potter abruptly flung himself away and stalked towards the door. "But you should have been able to figure this out on your own. I've said enough."

The sound of the classroom door slamming behind him echoed in Draco's bones, and then in his heart, and then in his soul.