25th August, 2018
"Don't dawdle, Scorpius."
"But I want don't want to go to Flourish & Blott's. It's so booooring." Scorpius ran a hand through his white blond hair and pouted.
Draco suppressed a bark of laughter at the display. "But oh, so necessary if you want to go to school this year."
"You have my list. Can't you go get my books while I go look at the new brooms?" He looked up at his father and widened his eyes dramatically. "Pleeease?"
Luckily, Astoria'd recently trained her husband in the fine art of resisting the effects of Scorpius' famous eye-widening technique. Draco made a show of thinking it over a moment before saying, "Nope." Over his son's instant wail of disagreement, he wagged a finger. "Your mum sent us out shopping so that we can have some time together before you go to school again. When she asks what we did, shall I tell her you sent me off shopping for your books while you wandered around aimlessly, haring off after any shiny broom that catches your eye?"
"You wouldn't tell her that!" Scorpius accused, mortified.
Draco chuckled. "I might," he taunted, then shrugged fiendishly. "I might do it anyway."
"You're cruel, papa," his son sniffed in an affected voice. Never should have taken him to see that Muggle film for his birthday. It'd made him quite the ham.
"Yes," Draco agreed solemnly. "I am. Now come along. You've got to pick out something for your mother while we're here. Remember what sorts of things she likes?"
Scorpius adopted a recitative pose. "Sparkly things, flowery things, things which are pink, things which are blue, and things which smell nice."
The boy wrinkled his nose. "Things which... have bears on them?"
Draco laughed. "Well, that too, yes." He took pity on his young protege. "Things which have stars on them," he supplied, having memorised the list as well.
"Oh yeah," Scorpius agreed. "Because we're all stars. I forgot."
Draco smiled wearily and said, "So then? Shall we?"
"Oh fine," Scorpius consented, looking back over his shoulder wistfully at the broom shop.
"Don't worry. If we hurry, I'm certain we can use the extra time to look over the newest models of something," Draco guessed. Over Scorpius' renewed scampering excitement, he said, "I hear they've done a brand new version of the grass-eating machine over at Middle-Baum's Lawn Emporium."
"Daaad!" Scorpius whined, then shut up nicely once they stepped over the threshold. He had some decorum, after all. Instead of whinging on about things he could be fairly certain to get to see later, he set about rummaging through the serials section for glossy mags about brooms and animals and Muggle cars while Draco did the school shopping a couple of aisles over.
"You want hard cover," he called over, "or this raggy soft cover version?"
"Don't be silly," his son murmured distractedly.
Obviously he was going to get the hard cover, but it never stopped making him grin like an idiot to hear how grown his son sounded making his own decisions about things. He was only twelve, but he knew the sorts of things he wanted, and Draco was determined to let him have them. It was just as well Astoria knew when to say no, or he ran the risk of creating a monster worse than he'd been as a child. Then his heart dropped into his stomach at a decidedly Scorpius-sounding gasp from the serials aisle. He couldn't help fearing the worst; after everything else, it was reflex. "Scor?" he called, then frowned as Scorpius barreled toward him from the end closest the registers. "What in the world-"
"Nothing!" Scorpius muttered, practically hiding behind his father.
"Hardly looks like nothing," Draco murmured, humouring his secrecy, then he saw. "Ohh," he whispered. "Shall we invite her for butterbeers?"
"No, dad!" Scorpius hissed. "Don't you dare!"
Draco laughed, then sobered at the glares of the other parents shopping with their children. He'd never quite got the hang of how to treat them, so he'd always just laughed when his son was funny and been exasperated when he was exasperating, and Scorpius was funny and exasperating enough that he'd hardly ever had reason to be angry or stern. He glowered at Scorpius and scolded him: "I'll dare if I want to," and then they glared at each other a moment before bursting into hushed laughter.
"Really though, dad," Scorpius said, sounding far too serious for a voice that hadn't yet cracked. "You can't invite Rose Weasley to butterbeers!"
"I thought you liked her!"
"But we're related!" Scorpius said, sidestepping the issuelike the pro-level Slytherin he was.
"How did you find that out?" Draco murmured, taking his son by the shoulder and directing him a bit further down the aisle. They sat on a little loveseat.
"Someone made fun of her..."
Draco twisted his mouth up. Of course they did - how had he forgotten that. Hermione's letter'd said she'd gone home crying at Easter hols. Scor, as usual, hadn't seemed affected, except that he spent most of the two weeks hanging out in the playroom reading rather than riding his broom like an over-excited hippogryff the whole time. Hermione's letter had cleared it up, but Scorpius had refused to admit being hurt at the notion Rose could be tainted by being related to him. And then third quarter sales numbers had come in and Scor had gone back to school and his letters had seemed cheerful enough that Draco'd promptly forgotten all about it.
He sighed. "You're a pureblood, and Rose's father's a pureblood. Of course you're related. That really only matters if you're first cousins, which I know you know. So what's really going on?"
"I don't like how smart you are, dad," Scorpius said instead of answering.
"I'm not actually all that smart," Draco said. "Which doesn't speak well of you." Which got Scorpius grinning. He even slugged his dad playfully in the shoulder, which hurt more than Draco would ever admit to. "So answer the question."
Scorpius frowned immediately. "Nothing's going on," he said glumly, shoulders slumping. Then he looked right at his father and said, "I'm mad at you."
Scorpius shrugged. "Iuhno..."
"Then what do you want me to say?"
"That you didn't do anything," Scorpius said then, animated. "That you didn't do what they said you did!"
Ohhh. Draco sighed. "I didn't." It felt good to be able to say it after all this time, but twenty years had passed during which people'd cemented their ideas about the Malfoy family and how it'd spent its time during the war Scorpius and his classmates hadn't even been alive during. God, was he almost forty? No wonder he felt so heavy. He shrugged at his son. "Well, I might have. I don't know what they're saying I did. Listen, this isn't the time or place to talk about it, but you can ask me anything you like, once we're home, all right? I trust you to know what's personal family business and what's okay to tell your friends."
Scorpius frowned, clearly disappointed. "All right," he agreed dispassionately. "I'm gonna go look at the writing journals, okay?"
"Okay," Draco replied, watching him totter off, already more legs than torso. He'd be tall too, and prettier than was good for him, which was his mother's fault completely. When he was safely out of sight, Draco took his basket of books and looked around for Missus Weasley's bushy brown mop. He found her picking over the hard bound Second Year potions manuals for ones that hadn't had their pages pawed by too eager First Years.
"Hardly any good ones left," he drawled, and watched her startle.
She looked up at him red-faced and huffy. "Yes, well," she started, then stopped when he offered his.
"Scor could use having to manage a less than pristine copy once in a while," he suggested, crouching to choose one of the ones with a bent dust cover. "He leaves the covers off anyway."
Hermione pursed her lips at him. "How've you been?" she said primly.
Draco twisted his mouth to the side. "I wanted to invite you and Rose for butterbeers after shopping, but Scor's a bit upset about Easter."
"Oh Ron," Hermione muttered. "He's such a buffoon sometimes. Don't worry. Rosie has since learnt not to take him so seriously."
"Well I'm really the one to blame, in the end," Draco said, standing. She stood as well and they took their conversation to a couch. "A lifetime of horribleness-"
"Don't say that," Hermione interrupted him. "A year is hardly a lifetime, and let's not forget the whole secret hero thing."
Draco squeezed his eyes shut at her bluntness. "Definitely not a hero," he said, strained. "Maybe I shouldn't have told you lot after all. You Gryffindors make way too much of things."
"Be that as it may," she went on, adopting her old, comfortable air of knowledge, "you cannot keep on like this after having done your time, as it were. Even Ron was impressed."
"Weasley was impressed?"
"Well..." she backpeddled. "He didn't say it so much as kept going on about how ridiculous it was to have chosen to covertly go against Voldemort when you should have just switched sides and never gone back home to begin with." She paused at Draco's bewildered and doubtful look. "Because the path you chose was so dangerous, you see," she explained. "That's his way of saying you were brave, because Ron can't just say 'Malfoy did a brave thing,' he's got to say 'Malfoy did a stupid idiotic thing that only accidentally ended up being brave.' You know Ron."
"Oh," Draco said. If only Weasley weren't right about it, he'd have a better reply. "Uh. Well, that's great. Anyroad, I've told Scorpius I'll answer any questions he has for me when we get home. I'm not really looking forward to the conversation. I'm not very good at holding my ground when it comes to him..."
Hermione gave him a pitying look. He imagined she knew exactly how to deal with her children in any sort of situation a textbook could dream up for her. "You'll figure it out," she said, instead of offering advice. Draco let out the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding.
"Astoria will be there," he agreed. "Oh, she says you and she and Luna're going out on Saturday. Anything I should be worried about?"
Hermione laughed. "We're going out to get some ideas for Harry and Ginny's surprise anniversary party."
"Ahh," Draco said, nodding benignly.
She swallowed nervously. "You should come," she ventured.
Draco pursed his lips.
"Really," she insisted. " Ginny asked Astoria about you the other day. Harry knows I've been writing you. I think he's..." She trailed off a little before bolstering herself back up. "I think Harry thought you'd keep in touch more than you have, after last fall. It was like having Professor Snape back, knowing someone that close to him in his last year was still around. You were the only other one who really knew who Snape was, in the end. The rest of us had to take Harry's word. And we do!" she added hastily, possibly seeing the cloud forming over Draco's head. "But you know it first hand, and I think he wanted to reminisce or something."
Draco mulled it over. "I'd planned a board meeting, since I knew 'Stori'd be going to the party. But I could cancel it. George won't be there anyway, since he'll be at the party himself," he laughed.
"I hope you'll come. I think it'd be nice." She looked like she was halfway to deciding something, then plunged ahead. "You left him thinking he was alone all this time, alone with the memory of who Snape really was. He had a hell of a time trying to convince people of it, even with the memories."
"I didn't have a choice," Draco began. "You think I would have chosen a life of dubious innocence over a life of being a hero?"
"You certainly seem to have capitalised on it!"
"I did what I had to!" Draco snapped, then the air was out of his ire before it'd even got a chance to get going and his shoulders slumped. "I had to keep on living - I was just making the best out of what I had. Anyway, I wanted to tell him. I almost did the week after the battle, on the pitch. Almost ruined everything. And then during the trials, I did feel sorry for the lug, trying to talk over everyone else. But I got over it. I don't owe him anything."
"He did save your life."
Draco smiled wryly. "Which was endangered trying to save his," he pointed out.
They sat in silence for a bit longer before Hermione stood. "Rosie's picked out her quill set, and that's my cue to tell her to find something less feathery. I do hope you'll come. I didn't mean to shout at you. It's just - Harry's my best friend."
Draco waved her off and stood himself, joints creaking. "I know. I'm sorry, too. I'll try to come. If I can't make it, Astoria will convey my hallos. You're sure you won't come for a butterbeer? Might do to clear some air between the kids before school next week," he enticed.
Hermione thought about it a moment, then laughed and said, "You know, I think we will. We've got to finish her list, but why don't we meet in..." She consulted her watch. "At 6 o'clock? It's two now, that should be plenty of time."
"It's a deal," he agreed. "Now to convince Scorpius that this is what he wants to do."
"Good luck," she laughed.
Hermione's laugh rang in his head, echoing and distant. It was the first thing he heard when he woke up - who knew how long later. The second thing he heard was his own ragged breathing, which he couldn't make sense out of until he realised the warmth drooling from his mouth tasted like copper.
Well that couldn't be good.
"'Bout time," a voice near his ear drawled. It was smooth enough and crazed enough that it evoked the terror of his youth, even as his brain told him Voldemort was dead and had been for some time. All the same, his blood went cold. "Was afraid I'd killed you," the voice went on. Male - Draco tried to place it. The man grabbed him by the chin and shook him.
Draco groaned and tried to open his eyes. His vision was dark, fuzzy, and decidedly one-sided. "What do you want," he mumbled, trying to remember how he'd got there. He remembered Granger, and he remembered the clerk at Flourish & Blott's. And he remembered heading toward Gringott's... and then he didn't remember much else besides a sudden splitting cracking ache on the back of his head and the sickening lurch of unexpected portkey travel. Oh yes, it was coming back to him. In fits and starts - the ranting while he tried to retain consciousness, failing to do so after blow after blow, and -
"Scorpius!" he gasped, then strangled out a cry as struggling revealed ropes that held him fast, his right hand tied behind him to his ankles. The notion he was too old to be "hog-tied" flitted through his brain, quickly supplanted by the searing pain of the reality of the sentiment.
"I'm all right, father!" Scorpius piped, and Draco's heart plummeted. If his son'd gotten away, it didn't much matter what happened to him.
"Oh yes, he's all right. For now."
Footsteps trailed away from him and Draco took the opportunity to get a look around. He blinked madly to get his vision back. The floor he was on was cold, concrete. He didn't recognise any of the machinery, so it wasn't his own - only two years previous, he'd been worried about Billows, but since then, the man'd gone quite mad and been locked up. Before that, it'd been twenty years since he'd done anything truly despicable; he'd been counting. "Tell me what you want," Draco tried again, craning his neck to watch the figure pace. "Who are you," he demanded.
The figure turned to him, face set in a gruesome scowl of malevolent intent. "You killed him," he rasped.
Draco shook his head and ignored the way it set the world spinning. "I haven't killed anyone," he started, then shrank back as the man lunged toward him like an animal, crazed. Hastily, he thought over the people he'd helped kill, even if he hadn't thrown the curses himself. But if revenge was what this man wanted, there were better targets. He refrained from saying so.
"You did it, you made it possible!" he cried, gnarling his fists into the lapels of Draco's robe. "You killed my father!"
Draco winced as he was shaken, the movement pulling on tendons that had never healed and never would. Plus, he was nearly forty, as he'd only just been thinking, oh... two hours before, he guessed. "Who was your father?" he said, stalling for time. The man looked around his age - god, they must have gone to school together. Must have been younger; Draco'd never bothered learning the names of his juniors. In which case... but the only thing that had really been his fault during school had been letting DEs into Hogwarts in his Sixth Year... and no one had died during that. Except Dumbledore, of course, and he hadn't any children. Oh, but-
"Esteban Gibbon!" the man screamed into his face. "You filthy traitorous scum! He died for nothing - nothing! Now everyone knows it - you were just a pawn, a dirty Mudblood-loving traitor the whole time!"
"No-!" Draco's head snapped to the side, a victim of a nasty backhand that sent his already dizzy consciousness spinning. He spat blood. That explained why Gibbon's son had waited so long to get his revenge; he'd been clinging to some hope that his father'd died for a cause, Draco's cause. And now that he'd been cleared -
Draco repressed a bark of giddy laughter. The one truly wicked thing he'd done in his life had resulted in killing exactly two people, and the one for which he was being kidnapped and ranted at over hadn't even been on the Good side. Wasn't that just his luck. "I didn't kill your father," he tried again. "Rowle-"
"Was only there because of you!" Gibbon's son spat. "He was doing his job, and you - you-" Gibbon's son stopped himself, and muttered, possibly to the voices in his head.
"I wasn't a traitor," Draco tried. Saying so after finally getting to proclaim otherwise after all this time left a bitter taste in his mouth, and it didn't help that he'd only just been telling Scorpius that he hadn't done the things the other kids were saying.
"You shut your mouth!" Gibbon Jr cried, whipping his wand toward Draco on the ground. He didn't hear the spell, but he felt the effects, a roaring rush in his ears and the sensation that his veins were carrying acid rather than blood. "I'll teach you to be a traitor, I'll teach you!" Draco barely heard him, taken as he was by sudden and profound misery. The effect redoubled with every heartbeat, so that only ten in, he was straining to hold back an undignified growling grunt of pain that once started would have escalated into horrible screaming.
But he must have said something, because while Gibbon Jr's voice was unimportantly distant, Scorpius' rang through like sunlight. "Dad!" he cried, his voice breaking as he shrieked. "Dad! What are you doing to him! Stop! Stop it!"
And then he did, and Draco relaxed completely, unable to even muster the energy to lift his head. Unlike Crucio, Gibbon's curse didn't leave him feeling like he'd rather his bones had broken, nor did his limbs twitch uncontrollably with the aftershocks. He just felt sick and warm and too small for his skin, after the pain vanished.
Gibbon stalked around the room, muttering to himself. Draco took the opportunity to inch his free hand toward his right pocket, decidedly awkward a thing, but if his wand was still in his pocket - and it wasn't, he discovered a moment later. But his ring-! Wasn't there either; he could feel it with his fingers, the big empty space on his right middle finger where it should have been.
"Ingenius little device," Gibbon said, suddenly at his face. "You've really carved out a little business for yourself, haven't you."
"You're confused, Gibbon," Draco tried, his voice hoarse. "I wasn't a traitor when your father went on that mission."
"Lies!" Gibbon hissed, kicking him in the face before stalking away again. "And you're going to learn what loss is, and you're going to learn about pain!"
Draco choked on blood from a possibly broken nose and spluttered, "I was sixteen! Why would I even know your father, least of all want to lure him into a trap! And if I'm so clever, why'd I end up torturing the man who killed him!" And hadn't he told Scorpius just earlier that he'd answer any questions he had? When they made it out of this - not if - they were bound to have a really interesting horrible conversation.
"You're just not as clever as you think you are!" Gibbon spat back. Then the core of Draco's being siezed up at the sound of Scorpius' terrified squeal. Gibbon came back into Draco's limited field of vision dragging Scorpius behind him by the arm. He let him go a couple of feet away and took a step back. "Okay," he said, looking eager. "Now... tell him it's going to be all right."
Draco furrowed his brow in confusion.
"It's going to be all right," Draco obeyed hastily.
"Okay... Now..." Gibbon giggled, the tip of his wand waving greedily. He collapsed next to Draco and bent low to whisper in his ear.
"No!" Draco shot back, struggling to sit up. Gibbon slammed him back to the ground easily since Draco had no leverage, but Draco gritted his teeth. "I won't!"
Gibbon got up. "Then maybe Acidia Sangua again..."
"Fine!" Draco agreed. Anything. Moments later, as Scorpius' frantic sobbing pleas cut through his pain fuzzed hearing, he thought he might have reconsidered. It was only moments after that that he got his head back again, so that when Gibbon gave him another shot at the deal, he snarled "Not a chance! Do whatever you like to me."
"But that's no fun," Gibbon railed, leveling his wand at Scorpius, who stared at the tip of it with wide eyes. "Sectum?" he started, looking over at Draco with undisguised glee.
Draco's eyes widened. For all his experience with it, he'd never learnt the countercurse, and couldn't have cast it anyway without his wand. Even if he could best the crazed Wizard, he'd never be able to Apparate a grievously injured boy without killing him. "No," he begged.
"Then do it."
"Give me the wand then, and at least let me do it myself," Draco said.
"If I thought you were serious, I might. But since I know you're a piece of traitorous filth, no."
Draco squeezed his eyes shut. There really wasn't another option. There wouldn't be any lasting damage. He could explain things, once they got out. But if they didn't get out - Love you, love you, my son, he willed Scorpius to understand. "Curse him then," he bit out. "Do it. I'm telling you to do it!"
Scorpius dropped like a stone, his childish scream echoing through the warehouse. The sound of it rent Draco's heart in twain, then quarters, then eighths; tears ran freely down his face. He'd been seventeen when his father had cursed him, an adult, and it'd still been the most horrible thing he'd ever had to endure. Scorpius was only twelve. But it was better than bleeding to death on the floor. Of course, that could still happen.
Draco squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't think he could manage Scorpius screaming another time. "No," he breathed.
Scorpius sobbed on the floor and continued to do so even as the crazed Gibbon Jr knelt at Draco's side. "I know you're a traitor," he said genially, "but I think you just needed a reminder. Dad won't have died for nothing." As he talked, he stretched Draco's free arm out and pulled the sleeve up to trace the enchanted tattoo emblazoned across his forearm. "Just a... refresher," he said, and Draco's arm exploded in agony. Gibbon chanted sing-song as he recarved the image of the slithering snake and skull, cheerfully wiping away blood with the tail of his shirt as Draco writhed and struggled helplessly.
And then just as suddenly as he'd gone cheerful, Gibbon froze and looked up. "Visitors," he muttered, and stood abruptly. He flicked his wand a couple of times, dodging stray blue and red streaks of magic. Draco focused on Scorpius' shaking shoulders, too many feet away from him.
Scorpius glanced back at his dad, tears still streaming down his face. He couldn't have helped it, of course. Crucio was nasty and horrible, just like Dad had said. But it had afforded him the opportunity to curl up in a ball without anyone questioning it. He tucked the ring back into his shirt collar and looked around for their wands while the man in crazy pants dashed around flicking his wand at things. Oh! There! Scorpius dashed tears from his eyes and willed his hands to stop twitching as he made a break for the two wands he could see stashed in the pocket of the man's mangy jacket. He stuffed his dad's in his pocket and took aim with his own just as his mother and her friends skittered into view at the far end of the long room.
"Scorpius!" she called, and Gibbon snapped his gaze to him.
"Mu-um!" he whined. But his reflexes were easily faster than the older man's and he dashed behind a fall of boxes, taking aim from behind them. Mum's friends shot curses left and right - of course, they'd been in that war ages ago. They were pretty good, but they didn't know this guy was C-R-A-Z-Y crazy. He deflected and set off traps and shot back curses fast like only mad people can, and Scorpius frowned. Then as soon as he had a clear shot, he shouted, "Expelliarmus! Impedimentia!" And Gibbon lost his wand even as he flew backward into a wall and lay still.
Scorpius stalked toward him while the others ran the length of the room. "You attacked my family," he said darkly, the tip of his wand wavering in anger. "You should die for what you've done!"
"Scorpius!" Mum called, and he looked over by reflex. She was kneeling at his dad's side, and suddenly revenge didn't matter as much as making sure Dad was alive. It took only the breathy sound of his father calling his name a second time to get him running. He didn't acknowledge the two of Mum's friends who ran past him toward Gibbon.
"Dad!" he cried, pushing through Mum's other friends to throw himself on his father.
"Ow," Dad groaned, and Scorpius scrambled off of him to kneel next to his mum. "Scor?"
"Shh," Mrs Weasley murmured, brushing hair from his dad's face. It was covered in blood - he looked awful. Scorpius felt the embarrassing prick of tears tingle again and hastily swiped at his eyes. "Hurry up," Mrs Weasley said.
"I'm trying," Mr Potter hissed, then he finally cut through one of the magical ropes and Dad groaned, pulling his bad arm to his chest with the other one.
"Dad," Scorpius tried again, putting his hands as gently as possible on his dad's freed arms.
"He'll be okay," Albus' mum said, putting her hand on Scorpius' shoulder to restrain him.
But his dad didn't need Mrs Potter to protect him from his own son. He took Scorpius' hands and pulled him in, hugging him tight even though it didn't look like he could possibly even move, and Scorpius wept into his neck without meaning to. "Dad, dad," he wailed senselessly.
"I'm sorry," his dad murmured over and over. "Scor, I'm sorry. I love you so much."
"It's okay dad," Scorpius said haltingly. "I know it was a trick, so I could get to my ring and signal Mum. It's okay."
His dad pushed him away and shook his head. "Not everything's a trick," he breathed. "I was just trying to keep you alive. You saved us all by yourself."
"What's this!" Mrs Potter hissed, pulling at Dad's arm. Dad frowned and pulled it back to his chest protectively, and Scorpius turned bright, angry eyes on her, ready to leap to his father's defense.
"Harry, look," Mrs Weasley said, then patted Dad on the shoulder. "Draco, you have to let us help you."
"Darling," Mum breathed, and took his hand. He looked embarrassed; it was painful to witness, awkward and made Scorpius unaccountably angry at everyone for not just leaving his poor father alone when he so clearly wanted to be. But Mum was Mum, and Dad, so far as Scorpius had seen, had never been able to refuse her. He reluctantly looked from face to face then away at nothing before letting Mum examine his arm. Scorpius' eyes went wide at it, covered in blood wherever his weird tattoo was.
Mr Potter frowned, then looked at Dad seriously. "What the hell, Malfoy?" he breathed. Scorpius might have leapt at his throat if he hadn't been an Auror and Mum's friend's husband. He settled for glaring murderously.
Dad winced and shook his head. "Don't get any ideas, Potter," he breathed, lolling his head back into Mum's lap. "It was Gibbon. You'll want to put him down as both insane and possibly evil. Think he wanted to get the band back together..."
Whatever that meant, Scorpius thought petulantly. He liked Mum's friends well enough when they were saving their bacon from evil mad people, but now he just wanted them to go so he and Mum could get Dad home where he belonged.
"I don't think he plays an instrument," Mum's friend Luna said, coming back from where Gibbon now lay, bound tight.
"Luna, Neville. Glad you could make it..." Dad joked weakly, then coughed, and then the general consensus was that this happy reacquaintencing could come later, when Dad wasn't laying bonelessly on a cold concrete floor in a pool of his own blood. Mum's friends filtered away to meet the Aurors who'd officially arrest Gibbon and get Dad to hospital, leaving Mr Potter with them.
"Malfoy," he began, and Scorpius cut him off.
"Leave him alone! He was saving me!"
"Scorpius!" Dad admonished softly.
"It's all right," Mr Potter said, pursing his lips together. Then he looked right at Scorpius, and Scorpius could tell that he was trying not to laugh at how serious he was and it just made him more angry. "I was just going to say," he said, looking back at Dad, "that I understand. I admit, my first thought was... alarming. But Luna's really fond of sticking up for you by saying you'll do anything for your family, and I understand it now. This is the second time you've taken this Mark for them."
Dad stared at nothing for a moment, or maybe he was just passing out - then he blinked and sniffed and clutched his arm to his chest protectively.
"I'm saying, you don't need to be ashamed of it any more," Mr Potter added softly.
"He's not ashamed," Scorpius defended. "You-"
"I am," Dad interrupted. Then he looked up and met Scorpius' eye and smiled wanly. "I was," he edited.
"Resting," Astoria replied over her tea. "Scorpius too, though I daresay he's even more keyed up now than he was this morning, when the most exciting thing in the world was going to Diagon Alley to look at brooms."
"I'm sorry we haven't been over before now," Hermione murmured apologetically, glancing at Ron, who'd shown up after the fight leading the team of Aurors that'd arrested Gibbon and escorted the Malfoys to hospital.
Ron sighed heavily and looked uncomfortably around at the dining room of Malfoy Manor. "Yeah," he agreed half-heartedly, picking over the light lunch the Malfoy elf had insisted on. Not that he'd refuse food. He grunted as Hermione's elbow connected with his rib cage and made more of an effort. "Really. George has... really come up. I mean, the rest of us think it's a dreadful idea, letting those two go into business together," he joked. "But it's great, what Malfoy's done for him."
"I'd have lent him the money to get back on his feet," Harry said. The others groaned.
"He wouldn't have accepted, you know that," Hermione huffed. "Draco's actually gone into business with him, draws pay back from the company, and handles the legal end. He knows you'd have just given him the money and gone off to do your own thing."
"I still don't see what's so wrong with that," Ron shrugged.
Harry scoffed. "You got upset when I wanted to buy chocolate frogs for everyone when we'd first met."
"Yeah, well I got over it. Anyway, they took it once, didn't they? To start up the first business."
Harry looked guiltily at Hermione, who looked at Ginny, who looked at her lunch. Astoria smiled grimly.
"George invented that ring, didn't he?" Neville suggested, changing the subject away from the "they" that was now a "he," the fact of which no one wanted to acknowledge.
"Not exactly," Astoria answered. "Draco'd been fiddling with it for a year before finally getting George to answer his owls. George perfected it, but the working proto-type was Draco's." She pulled her own ring from her finger and passed it to Hermione to pass along around the table.
"I recognise this idea," Hermione chuckled. "Our coins from Dumbledore's Army."
"What's Dumbledore's Army?" Astoria asked.
"A bunch of us got together in secret Fourth Year and started practicing defensive things," Ginny replied. "You'd've been a Third Year, I suppose. Oh, but you went to Beauxbatons, right?" Astoria nodded, so she went on. "It's a long story, but that's what happened in the end. Harry ran it."
Harry went red with embarrassment. "Not really," he waved off. "Just suggested things." He reached over to take the ring from Hermione, looked it over with passing interest, then handed it to Ginny next to him.
Ginny frowned at it. "How'd he get your idea, Hermione?" she murmured. "I mean, I know you've been talking, but I didn't think those days would be pleasant conversation fodder..." She trailed off, glancing guiltily at Astoria before passing the ring on to Neville.
"That's not the first time he's used it, actually," Hermione replied, an attempt at lightness obvious in her voice. She looked meaningfully at Harry and then Ron, then said, "Sixth Year."
Astoria watched the exchange of glances with a brow arched coolly. She knew Draco's history, of course, including his entire Sixth Year. Everyone did, since much of his trial had been focused on what he'd done in the lead up to Dumbledore's death, but he'd actually told her specifically. Well, most of it. The rest had come in fits and starts over the twenty or so years during which they'd been off and on and then married. Things he wasn't proud of, things he was proud of but knew he shouldn't have been. Things he hated about himself and had to be convinced were worthy of praise, like his nearly fanatic loyalty to family and his tendency to find tricks in everything. Things he liked about himself and had to be convinced needed changing, like his tendency to say he wouldn't allow things he really had no control over.
"Which I think just proves Draco isn't shy about repurposing an idea," she suggested. "He isn't the sort of person to throw a good idea out just because it had once been used by an enemy, or for a purpose less than noble," she explained. "And it saved our son's life today and his."
Luna nodded. "That sounds like him completely."
"What're these symbols, then?" Ron wondered, turning the ring around in his fingers. "A bug thing, a ... what's that? A snake lookin' thing... and a star?"
"It's how we choose who we're trying to signal," Astoria replied.
"Right, but what do they..."
Luna leaned over to watch him turn the ring. "Oh!" she said brightly once he'd done one complete round. "How ingenious!"
Ron looked at her, baffled. The others, saving Astoria, looked at her in varying degrees of befuddlement as well. Astoria smiled. "That was Scorpius' idea," she said. "Other people can get theirs engraved with whatever names they want, but Draco's a bit paranoid after the life he's lived. He wanted it to be more difficult to figure out. He let Scorpius come up with the code so it'd be easy for him to remember. As he was only eight at the time, I think his choice was brilliant."
Luna nodded cheerfully. "Quite! The code and Draco for having Scorpius choose it. He really is quite bright."
"And loyal," Astoria added.
"And brave," Harry said softly.
Ron looked around distastefully at all the Malfoy-love-and-affection. He rolled his eyes and let his head fall back in exasperation, then narrowed his eyes at the shimmering charmed obviously-made-by-a-child star ornaments hanging from the chandelier over their heads. Then he looked at the centerpiece of the table, the charmed-to-be-everfresh bouquet strewn with stars in the shapes of a bug thing, a snake thing, and large, sparkling lone stars - and it struck him.
"Draco," he counted off. "Scorpio," he said with mounting comprehension. "And Astoria means star! You're all stars!"
There was a pause around the table, and then everyone groaned at once while Hermione said, "Honestly Ronald. An eight-year-old came up with it!"
"To be fair to Ron," Harry said seriously, "Scorpius is really clever." And then he couldn't keep his straight face any more than the rest of them.
"Don't listen to them, Ronald," Luna said magnanimously. "I think you did excellently."
Ron buried his face in his hands in misery. He hated Malfoys!
"Dad?" Scorpius called from the entrance to his and Astoria's bedroom.
Draco cracked open an eye and groaned, vision split but focusing slowly on the painted wall, then his freshly recast wrist, then the coverlet mussed around him. "What d'ya want, Scor?" he murmured breathily.
"Dad, can I sleep in your bed with you?"
"It's the middle of the day, Scor," he replied. "Also, you're twelve."
Undaunted, Scorpius padded into the room. "But Mum's making me go to bed on account of my harrowing adventure," he complained. Then more quietly, "And I... don't..."
Heaving a great breath, Draco twisted to look his son in the face, mildly surprised to see him mere inches from him. He blessed Ginny Potter's skill with a healing charm and swept Scorpius into one arm to swing him over to the wall side of the bed, marveling at how heavy the kid had got. Only four years ago, it wouldn't have even winded him, swinging his little boy around. Scorpius sighed and curled up facing him.
"Can we have Rose and Rose's mum and dad over for dinner?"
"Can we have duck?"
"Ask your mother."
"Mum made me go to bed too, on account of my harrowing adventure."
"Mum's cruel, papa."
"Isn't she? But when she asks, shall I tell her you kept me up chattering?"
Draco smiled wearily. "I might."
Scorpius wrinkled his nose at him and lay quiet for a moment, and Draco watched him expectantly. "Dad?"
"Scor?" Draco sighed.
"I'm not mad at you any more."
Draco smiled sleepily. "Good. And all it took was a violent kidnapping."
"I saved your life. You owe me now."
"Nope, now we're even. I gave you life in the first place, remember?"
"Oh, right. Can I have a new broom anyway?"