Title: Blackberry Magic
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Fluff, canon with DH but not the epilogue (except for the existence of Scorpius)
Summary: In which Harry makes a discovery about Draco Malfoy that makes him determined to help. If he can figure out how.
Author's Notes: Based on the prompt of "blackberry" from chaincrank. Thank you for the holiday gift! I'm afraid this fic wasn't quite as short as I thought it would be.
"Did you hear that Malfoy quit?"
Harry stopped tossing his wand in the air and catching it and blinked at Ron. The result was that the wand hit him on the head and rolled down the desk. Harry winced, but retrieved the wand before it could fall on the floor. There were some inanities that he couldn't bear to practice. Ron was already chuckling about the tiny bruise that Harry could feel forming on his forehead.
"Why?" Harry asked. Malfoy wasn't the best Auror around, but he didn't need to be. After all, someone had to stay behind and do paperwork, and Malfoy had been content to do that rather than risk his precious hide in the field. Or, Harry had to admit when he was being fair, he did that because the Head Auror kept neglecting to assign him a mission and no one wanted to partner with him.
But who wants to be fair?
"Apparently something's wrong with his magic." Ron snickered and sat down behind his desk, propping his feet up on it. Harry heard the sound of crumpling parchment, and wondered absently who would remind them not to do things like that now that Malfoy was no longer here. "I'm not surprised. If I went that long without casting any spells except the Summoning Charm and the one that heated my tea, I think I'd lose my touch, too."
"That's strange," Harry said. "I returned his wand to him. You'd think he'd be able to use it again, or else he would have come to me and complained about not being able to make it work and demanded to know what I'd done to it." He was still a bit irritated that Malfoy hadn't bothered to reply to Harry one way or other when Harry had sent his wand to him.
"You talk about that too much," Ron said. Harry scowled at him. Ron went on, not as impressed by this as he should be. "Well, you do. And I don't know if it has anything to do with his wand or not. He was really secretive about it, apparently. Left a letter of resignation on Letcher's desk and ducked out before anyone could stop him and ask him why he was leaving."
Harry kept his conviction that he would avoid Head Auror Daniel Letcher the same way, with less excuse, to himself. He was nothing like Malfoy. "I reckon it doesn't matter," he said, and reached over to retrieve the crumpled report from under Ron's boot. "Now, should we try to finish this one before Letcher comes looking for answers himself?"
It should have been as easy to dismiss the mystery of Malfoy's resignation from his head as he'd told Ron it was. But Harry found himself wondering, and thinking, and listening to every bit of Malfoy-related gossip that filtered through the Department.
"I heard that he inherited a fortune from another relative, one of his mother's, and that he left to become the man of leisure he always wanted to be," said Paula Linburgh, a tall blonde woman with brilliant blue eyes whom Harry knew Ron admired. She sighed. "I wish I had enough money to be a woman of leisure."
"You wouldn't know what to do with that free time," said Alison de Hamal, Paula's partner and current competitor for the title of most arrests. She shifted, and the large jeweled bangles that she only wore in the office clattered on her wrists. "Now, I heard that he wanted to spend more time with that little son of his."
"Son?" Harry asked, leaning across the table spread with teacups that separated them. "I'd forgotten he was married."
Alison gave him an emphatic nod, seeming glad to have a new subject to talk about. "I think most people, including Astoria Greengrass, wanted to forget about it," she said, and launched into the rich, husky tone that she used when she was telling a particularly juicy story. "They married far too young, to oblige their families, and Astoria had barely had their little boy Scorpius before she was applying for the divorce. She only said that she felt threatened by her husband's family and the Dark magic around them. Well, who was going to refuse her a divorce after that? They gave it, and she escaped to the Continent somewhere. I think I heard of her in Italy the other day, with a handsome lover—"
"I wish I could have that, too," interrupted Paula with a sigh.
Harry was more interested in the son. "Scorpius is his name?" he asked. I see the Malfoy tradition of cruel names continues.
"I know, isn't it awful?" Alison rolled her eyes. "But since it's a constellation and Draco is also the name of one, I suppose he did it to oblige his mother. Merlin knows, there are more awful things they could have come up with."
"Not many," Harry muttered, and then shook his head. He was wandering down irrelevant pathways, at least if his quest was to understand why Malfoy had resigned. "But why were there all those rumors that he'd lost his magic, or that there was something wrong with it?"
"Who said that?" Alison shrugged. "I don't think anyone knows the truth of that. You know he didn't have a partner, and hardly anyone spent more than a few minutes in his company any day. Not much time to notice if something was going wrong, there." She closed one eye in a slow wink at Harry. "On the other hand, maybe Letcher knows a bit more."
Harry snorted. He might have an interest in Malfoy, but he wasn't mad and thus about to ask Letcher to pay more attention to him than his case load and reports already warranted.
"Malfoy doesn't strike me as someone who tells more than he has to," he said instead.
"He never did," Paula interposed. "Even though I was always friendly to him and tried to let him know that I didn't think less of him because he stayed behind a desk, he always scowled at me. I think he liked me less than some of the people who just threw their paperwork at him and turned away."
See? Harry chided himself. There's no reason for you to be curious about someone who's so rude and solitary. He probably just decided that the Ministry was too common for him and resigned because of that.
But the mystery pursued him anyway, gnawing on the root of his mind.
Looking at the request he'd been handed, Harry had to admit this was new—and not just because he was being asked to go into the field during a time when Ron was resting in St. Mungo's, recovering from an Apparition that had Splinched one of his ears. The request asked for Harry to go to Malfoy Manor, where there was "a minor disturbance."
Harry smiled as he picked up his wand and strolled out of the Ministry. A minor disturbance meant odd magic, possibly Dark, but no one wounded or dying. These were his favorite kinds of cases, because it meant that he could indulge his curiosity and perhaps only deal with people who had done something a bit stupid, rather than people who were trying to kill him. As Harry grew older, he had acquired more objections to people trying to do that.
And I might get a chance to ask Malfoy why he resigned, he thought, as he Apparated.
Even though he hadn't been to the Manor in years, the Apparition coordinates of the place seemed engraved on his marrow. He landed easily in front of the gates, which were open, and started to walk across the gardens. He was actually halfway across them before he realized what was wrong and stopped to stare.
He should have been able to see the Manor by now. Instead, he saw one undifferentiated bank of green, tangled vines and brambles and dangling leaves climbing around one another.
Harry whistled under his breath and lifted his wand in front of him as he edged closer. His first thought was that someone had reversed time—accidentally, of course—around the Manor, and returned it to the wild place it had been thousands of years ago.
Then he shook his head. The Ministry was fairly good at estimating how much magic had been expended in various incidents, and there was no way that time reversal could be called minor. They would have had several teams out here by now, including one of Obliviators in case any Muggles had noticed anything unusual.
As he got closer, he could see gleams of white and bronze under the green, and relaxed. The Manor was still there, and probably unchanged, unless the vines had done damage to it. It looked as though a greenhouse experiment had got out of control and simply crawled all over the house.
Harry bit his lip. Malfoy was a Potions master, wasn't he? Probably one of his less tame plants had eaten the protection spells and expanded.
He raised his wand, in case someone could see him through one of the overgrown windows, and set up a bright flurry of scarlet sparks. Then he cast Sonorus and called out, "This is Harry Potter, from the Ministry. Are you all right?"
No response. Harry shrugged and walked closer. There were no obvious signs of blood or pain; the brambles didn't even seem to have broken the windows, but simply grown from the walls. He would wait to panic until he saw that someone had been hurt.
Only when he stood right next to them did he realize the nature of the brambles. Here and there, rich dark fruit shimmered on them. Harry smiled in bemusement, more charmed than he cared to admit. They were blackberries.
He cleared away enough vines that he could see the front door. He knocked briskly and then moved out of the way of the protective ward that promptly tried to singe his hair. The wards still work, he noted. This magic is organic to the building, not foreign to it.
No response, and Harry sighed. He hoped Malfoy wasn't going to be difficult about this because he resented that Harry was the Auror on the case. "Harry Potter," he called again. "I was asked to investigate a minor magical disturbance. Can I help you?"
The door opened at last. Malfoy stood there, his arms folded so tightly Harry was surprised he could breathe. "We're all right," Malfoy said. "A Potions experiment gone wrong, that's all. I can clear it up in a moment."
Harry had given up on believing most people who talked to him years ago. Malfoy had all the classical signs of a lie—darting eyes, jumpy muscles about the mouth, the constant shifting—not to mention eyes that showed the whites like a wild horse's and actual froth on the corner of his lips. Harry raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure that you don't need any help?"
Malfoy shook his head. His face was slack with misery now. "Don't try to cast any magic on the brambles," he added as Harry lifted his wand. "It just makes them grow."
Harry nodded and selected one small bramble. "Finite Incantatem."
The bramble promptly shivered and withered, vanishing into a thin line of wood like smoke. Blackberries plopped to the ground in a number of purple splotches, left behind for some reason when their anchor was gone. Harry looked pointedly at Malfoy. "It makes them grow?"
Malfoy closed his eyes. He looked far more defeated and desperate than Harry thought blackberries, or even having to accept help from Harry, warranted. "You'll know it all in the end, anyway," he said in a toneless voice. "You might as well come in."
Harry had never thought that he might be sitting at the Malfoys' formal dining table across from Draco Malfoy. On the other hand, he would have found that comfortable compared to the current setting. He and Malfoy were sitting around a tiny, cramped table instead, in a room so crowded with family portraits Harry could feel his skin blistering from their scornful gazes.
Malfoy toyed with the teacup in front of him and didn't look up, so Harry sighed and began. "When you cast spells, it makes blackberries grow?"
Malfoy looked up, or rather let his eyes rise as slowly as though he were staring into his executioner's face, and nodded. "It was only a few spells at first," he muttered. "The more powerful ones. Then it started happening every time. I quit because I couldn't bear anyone finding out about it in the Auror Department, where I already had a name for weakness and cowardice. Of course you had to come along and ruin that dream." There was a flash of sullen resentment in his eyes.
"But what causes it?" Harry asked. He glanced down at the teacup that Malfoy had put in front of him, but didn't touch it. That resentment made him think Malfoy might choose a few different ways to be rid of his unwelcome guest.
"The fact that my wand has never changed its allegiance back to me," Malfoy said, putting a hand over his eyes. His voice was bitter, more bitter than the poison Harry was contemplating. "It worked slowly for me, or randomly, when it worked at all. Then the blackberries came." He lifted the hand from his left eye, enough so that he could glare at Harry, as if this was really all his fault.
Harry shook his head. "Why blackberries?"
"I don't know." Malfoy seized his teacup and drained the contents, then leaped to his feet and began to pace back and forth across the room. Harry pulled his feet back uneasily, in case of a collision. The place was already small enough without this. "They're as random as anything else my wand has done."
"What caused the growth of the brambles today?" Harry was trying to keep his voice calm and unthreatening, but he also had to shove his chair away from the table and turn so that he could watch Malfoy more fully.
Malfoy paused, his mouth twitching, or at least the side of his mouth that Harry could see, since he stood with his face in profile to Harry. "My son fell from the staircase on the second floor. I cast the spell to try and cushion his fall without thinking." Malfoy snorted and put his hands on his hips, shaking his head. "I'm a failure as a parent. Nothing happened except the brambles. A house-elf saved him instead."
"You're not a failure as a parent," Harry said quietly, unexpectedly touched and shaken by Malfoy's tone. "That just means that you care about your son and wanted to help him."
"With magic that's useless." Malfoy took the hawthorn wand out of his pocket and tossed it to the floor. "I ought to step on it and end this," he murmured.
Harry stood up and kept a careful eye on Malfoy. "Maybe I can help you," he said. "After all, the blackberry bramble withered when I cast the spell on it."
"I've been to Ollivander himself," Malfoy said. "He couldn't help me." He turned to face Harry, holding his arms defensively in front of him, as if about to strike out. Harry swallowed, aching with uncomfortable pity. For a wizard like Malfoy to think of fighting with his hands, matters must be desperate. "Do you think that you know more about wandlore than him?"
"Well, what's the alternative?" Harry asked. "Just to cower in your house for the rest of your life?" Malfoy sneered at him but didn't respond, so Harry added, "What kind of example is that for your son?"
Malfoy lifted his hands higher, and his glare was murderous. "Don't you talk about my son. Don't you dare."
Harry glanced at the door of the room. A blond little boy, maybe five years old, was leaning there, staring up at them with curious grey eyes. Harry wondered if Malfoy had ever looked that small, that innocent.
"Scorpius." Malfoy's smile was strained. "Why didn't you go to bed? You know that you have to."
"Moldy didn't order me to," Scorpius said, logically enough. Harry held back his snort, because he thought that Moldy was probably a house-elf and hadn't chosen his own name. Scorpius stepped into the room and looked up at Harry. "You're Harry Potter," he said. "Daddy's told me stories about you, like the time you saved him from dragons in the fire."
Malfoy took a quick step forwards and then turned, as if he didn't know whether he wanted to strangle Scorpius for revealing that or protect him from Harry.
Harry felt his face soften. Malfoy was quivering with the tension, all the pointy angles that maturity had streamlined from his expression returned again, his hands clenched at his sides. Harry imagined what it must be like to leave the Ministry, the one source of guaranteed income the Malfoys had now with the Ministry watching their vaults like falcons, and then he imagined what it must have been like for Malfoy to work for the Ministry in the first place.
He pictured Malfoy with his wand upraised, trying to save his son, knowing it was useless but having to try anyway. Harry knew he would have.
And then that Malfoy had a son at all, someone he had to protect from the rest of the world…
"I'll help you," Harry said, his voice hushed. "Of course I'll help you."
And it might have been the sound of his voice, or something else, but Malfoy looked at Harry as if he wanted to believe him, and as if he was tasting hope for the first time in years.
"You're taking a leave of absence from the Ministry?" Ron goggled at him across the desk.
"What?" Harry asked teasingly, smiling at his partner and best friend as he threw a few reports he had to finish into a satchel. "Don't you think I deserve one?"
"It's not that," Ron said. He knew as well as Harry did that Harry hadn't taken a personal holiday since he started working as an Auror, only the ones he was forced to take because no one else would be at the Ministry. "But I just got back on the job, and you'll abandon me when we would have gone out and investigated a bloody brilliant case together?" He folded his arms and pouted.
Harry laughed. "Ron, can I remind you that you describe most cases we take with only the first of those adjectives, not the second?"
Ron sighed in aggravation. "Oh, of course, get into grammar where I find it difficult to follow you." Ron insisted on maintaining the pretense that he couldn't understand some things that Harry knew he comprehended perfectly, such as what adjectives were. "Fine. But why?"
"Because I have to help Malfoy with a problem," Harry said. He saw no reason to be less than honest. After all, he was fairly proud of what he was doing, and he had innocent motives, and Ron and Hermione would find out sooner or later. The only problem might be if they tried to intrude at Malfoy Manor, but Harry didn't think they would. "Apparently, I did something nasty to his magic when I returned his wand to him." Harry had promised Malfoy not to give specifics of the situation to anyone else, because Malfoy rightly feared the mockery from Ron might be endless.
Ron stared at him, then rolled his eyes. "I'm not even going to ask," he said. "Because you have that look on your face that means you're going to be stubborn and mysterious, and I know better."
Harry reached out and rubbed Ron's shoulder. He also tried to ruffle his hair, the way that Hermione and Mrs. Weasley did frequently and Ron hated, but his best mate ducked out of the way in time, watching him suspiciously. Harry grinned at him. "Thanks."
"If you say so," Ron said dubiously, and he turned back to paperwork as Harry left the office with a delicious sense of freedom.
"There's nothing you can do."
Harry ignored Malfoy's pessimistic voice behind him as he pointed his wand at the blackberry brambles. They had already withered once when he cast a spell on them; he didn't see why it wouldn't work now. Malfoy had probably got too used to living in a world of utter negativity. "Finite Incantatem," he said.
The nearest bramble vanished, like before. But it was more loaded than the other one had been, and so it dropped a veritable rain of blackberries on their heads. Harry squeaked and tried to duck out of the way.
He'd underestimated how close Malfoy was standing to him. He collided with him, and they both stumbled around the lawn and sat down on the doorstep while Malfoy's outraged shout of "Potter!" was still ringing in the air.
Harry felt juice dripping down his face, and began to laugh. He touched a finger to his face, then brought it to his mouth and licked the sweet liquid away. It was too ridiculous. That was what he had to do, or he would end up getting as angry as Malfoy was over something it just wasn't worth getting angry about.
"Potter," Malfoy repeated, voice more ominous than before.
Harry turned and looked at him—only to find his face and hair decorated with small explosions of what looked like purple-black birdshit.
He tried. He really did. He bit his lip and sat still, as though that would somehow combat the giggles that he could feel building up inside. He even clapped one hand across his mouth, because he thought, conscientiously, that he should keep Malfoy from noticing his amusement if he could, that it would be a kind thing to do.
But the laughter burst out anyway when Scorpius looked through the door and said innocently, "Daddy, why did you dump a pie over your head?"
Malfoy stalked through the door to the shower in icy silence and didn't speak to him for five hours, but Harry considered that it was worth it—and not only because all the blackberry brambles had vanished from the Manor.
"But why blackberries?"
Harry rolled his eyes and looked up. His face hurt from hours of peering into a dusty book on magical theory that Malfoy had insisted he scan for any mention of blackberries, or just of fruit. It was Harry's idea that his face hurt like that because he didn't change his expression much when he read magical theory; his face just settled into lines of boredom and stayed that way.
"Why not?" he asked. Malfoy glared at him, and Harry sighed. "Really, I think you're making too much of this. It's a random side-effect of my using your wand. For all we know, it could have been pumpkins, or your magic could have failed to work at all. It probably doesn't matter what kind of fruit it was, as long as we manage to give you back control of your magic at last."
"If we don't know why it's blackberries," Malfoy said insistently, leaning forwards over the table that separated them, "then we can't possibly solve the problem."
Harry spent a moment admiring Malfoy's face. Reading certainly didn't harm it. He looked as cool and polished as he had when they first sat down, as if he'd spent an afternoon strolling around a pool and sipping sweet drinks.
"I don't think that's the way magic like this works," Harry said temperately. He didn't really want to row with Malfoy, but on the other hand, he didn't want to see him spend more time than necessary worrying over a small matter. "After all, some of the other stories we've read about people with conquered wands had their wands growing phoenix feathers, or every spell exploding in bright sparks. Just because none of those were blackberries doesn't make it any less random."
"There must be a reason it was blackberries," Malfoy continued, exactly as if he hadn't heard Harry, staring out the window of the library.
Harry sighed. "Look," he said, standing up and drawing his own wand, "why don't we try that technique Ollivander told us about? What do we have to lose?"
Malfoy turned an agitated stare on him. "Ollivander said that was only for cases where the magic was better understood," he snapped. "He doesn't know why my spells grow blackberries, so—"
"He didn't say that," Harry interrupted. "I read that letter as well as you, and he didn't say that anywhere."
Malfoy moved a few steps closer to him, his eyes so narrow that he looked like a ferret peering around a corner. "Who has more experience with theoretical magic?" he asked in a low, dangerous voice. "Me or you?"
"I don't know, actually," Harry said. "I don't think you've done much research on theoretical magic since you became an Auror."
That led to clenched fists and Malfoy striding out of the library. Harry thought about following and apologizing, but he wasn't in the mood right now. He sat down and stared at the book on the table again.
Harry looked up, surprised. Scorpius usually watched him between the bars of the banister when he first arrived and then ran back up the grand staircase to his room. Harry had thought he was either very shy or afraid of Harry, and hadn't tried to seek a closer acquaintance.
But now he stood in the center of the library doorway and gave Harry a solemn look that Harry could imagine on a younger version of Malfoy's face. He tried to smile at him. "Scorpius. Is there something I can do for you?"
"Be a hero," said Scorpius, coming closer and looking at Harry so intently Harry almost raised a hand to rub at his teeth. "You were a hero once. You saved my dad. You saved loads of other people. So do it this time."
"I'm trying," Harry said. "But your dad needs to cast a spell at the same time I'm casting one so that we can get rid of the blackberries, and he won't. He keeps insisting that we need to understand things better first."
Scorpius blinked. "Oh. Is that all? I know why he won't. It has nothing to do with understanding," he added virtuously, looking proud of himself for knowing.
"What, then?" Harry leaned towards Scorpius in interest, with only the faintest twinge of guilt that he was tricking information out of an innocent child. He'd been debating about this with Malfoy for a week now, not getting anywhere.
"He's afraid," Scorpius said. He had the sense to glance over his shoulder, as if Malfoy was about to charge back in and reprimand him for exposing such a dreadful secret. "I see him looking at his wand sometimes when he doesn't think anyone is watching. He hardly uses any magic because he's so afraid. And Grandmama says that he cries out in his sleep sometimes."
Harry grunted. He hadn't seen much of Narcissa Malfoy, who had made him one cold bow and after that stayed out of his way. "That's strange. Do you know why he would be afraid of the magic?"
Scorpius paused, looking troubled. "I think it has something to do with the other wand," he said.
"The other wand?" Harry frowned. As far as he knew, Malfoy didn't have another wand, from Ollivander's or any other wandmaker; he only wanted to use the hawthorn one. That was what had caused all the trouble in the first place.
"Well, he talks about it sometimes," Scorpius said, as if he could sense Harry's doubt. "And rubs his fingers through his hair, and talks to himself. He doesn't know I'm there, listening. 'The other wand,' he says over and over."
Harry caught his breath. "Scorpius, listen, this is very important," he said, crouching down so that he could stare into the little boy's eyes. "Do you think he could be saying the Elder Wand? Instead of the other one?"
Scorpius blinked. "Maybe," he said. "What does elder mean? I thought it was a tree."
"It is," Harry said absently, while his mind raced. Auror-trained, his first impulse was to be suspicious. Had Malfoy accepted his help to try to learn something more about the Elder Wand? Did he know that Harry knew where it was hidden? Would he try to trick him into revealing it?
But Harry rejected that idea almost as soon as he had it. He'd been trying to help Malfoy for a fortnight now, and Malfoy hadn't once mentioned the Elder Wand or Dumbledore or anything that would naturally bring the subject up. In fact, he had avoided the war as though it were a foul disease both he and Harry had once had, and didn't even talk about his father, who remained in prison.
However, if Malfoy thought the Elder Wand was connected to the problem with his wand somehow, he might have avoided bringing it up precisely because he thought that Harry would be suspicious and not want to help him if he said something. And it would fit with his general air of stubbornness about trying the courses Ollivander had suggested when Harry had written to him; he might already know, or think he knew, that they wouldn't work without access to the Elder Wand.
"What are you going to do to my Daddy, Mr. Potter?"
Scorpius was still standing in front of him, looking up with eyes that were so large Harry felt he could lose his memory in them. He had to be careful of that. He didn't want to hurt Malfoy or his son. If Malfoy was hiding information, that might indicate he ultimately didn't want to be helped after all.
But the vision Harry had seen of Malfoy protecting his son the first time he had visited the Manor a fortnight ago was still strong in his mind. He wanted to honor that vision, to give the man who had inspired it some aid and some peace.
A plan to do that glided into his mind, and he smiled at Scorpius. "I'm going to take him to visit Hogwarts," he said.
"I thought that Scorpius might like to see the Quidditch Pitch, and the Forbidden Forest, and all the rest of it," Harry said that night at dinner, in return to Malfoy's outraged demand about why Harry had proposed to take his son to the school. "After all, he'll be attending Hogwarts someday. Unless you've decided to send him to Beuaxbatons?" He pushed the fish on his plate, which was in some kind of thick red sauce, around, and waited for Malfoy's answer.
For long, silent moments, Malfoy sat there, face shadowed. Then he nodded. "I can see that," he said. "But giving you sole charge of Scorpius is impossible. I would want to come along and make sure that he doesn't wander off or get in trouble."
Since this was exactly what Harry had wanted in the first place, he contented himself with a small nod and a smile. "I wouldn't have it any other way," he said, and pushed the fish around on his plate again.
Malfoy stared at him too hard for a few minutes. "The fish isn't poisoned, you know," he said.
Harry smiled at him again, more broadly this time. "I know, but it's too rich for me."
Malfoy sniffed and looked down at the plate. Harry was grateful to see that he already seemed more relaxed than he'd been when the dinner started. Scorpius had gone to bed, or else Harry would have looked at his face, to see how it reflected his father's.
To see more than that, really. Scorpius was a sweet child, quiet and solemn and polite on the surface but becoming friendlier the longer he knew Harry, and he had responded with flattering excitement to the suggestion that Harry might take him to Hogwarts.
And seeing his father in him isn't the least part of his charm, Harry thought. He could have wondered why, but he preferred to scrape some of the sauce off the fish and eat another bit of it. It tasted better that way.
"It's so big."
Harry watched the way Scorpius's eyes widened and his hands rose as if that would help him embrace or at least make sense of the castle, and smiled. Scorpius looked the way Harry had when he had seen Hogwarts for the first time, except more innocent and wondering, because he was younger. Harry nodded to the Forbidden Forest. "You see that? Werewolves and centaurs live there."
He wondered a moment later if he should have said that, because Scorpius spun around and stared at the Forest with an open mouth. The last thing Harry wanted was to scare him, especially with Malfoy hovering in the background and watching him as if he expected Harry to hurt Scorpius any moment.
But then Scorpius said, "Wow," and started running towards the Forest as if it possessed a special property of attracting stray small children.
Malfoy rolled his eyes and scooped his son up, holding him firmly even when Scorpius fussed and kicked his legs. He didn't fuss, much. Harry thought he would have learned long ago that good manners were required. "Now you've done it, Potter," Malfoy said. "He'll be demanding stories about the Forbidden Forest when we get home, and Mother will disapprove."
"Well, just tell them to him when she's out of the room, then," Harry said placidly, and turned away when Malfoy glared at him. "Now, are we going to the lake first? Or to Hagrid's hut? Or around the castle?"
"Not to the hut," Malfoy said, with a certain frigidity in his voice that reminded Harry of what he had once disliked about the man. "I won't have my son introduced to that savage."
"What savage?" Scorpius demanded, looking as hungry as he had when Harry told him about the Forbidden Forest.
"Well, now you've done it," Harry said, and gave in. "Fine, let's go around the grounds first. You'll get to see almost everything that way, Scorpius, and then you can decide which one you want to look at more closely, all right?"
Scorpius nodded, his eyes wide. Harry began to lead them around the grounds, counting steps and angles under his breath and answering as many questions as he could; Scorpius tended to babble them at such high speed that another one was on the way before Harry could pick which one he had wanted to answer. Even Malfoy relaxed and began to join in, correcting Harry's account of some games between Slytherin and Gryffindor when they had both been Seekers.
Then a gleam of white came into view, and Harry sighed in relief. They were here, and it didn't even look contrived.
As Dumbledore's tomb came more and more to dominate the landscape, Malfoy quieted. Scorpius still asked questions as fast as ever, not seeming to notice that anything was wrong, but Malfoy's face had pinched itself shut, and he had tightened the hand he had on Scorpius's shoulder. Harry turned, as if casually, and said in a bright tone, "Well, there's the final resting place of Albus Dumbledore. Did you want to see it, Scorpius?"
Scorpius didn't disappoint him. He nodded enthusiastically and rushed towards the tomb, waving his arms over his head. Harry turned to Malfoy, who had narrow lips and pale cheeks and a firm stare that was actually hard to meet.
"Did you intend to simply torment me with the troubles of my past when you brought me here?" Malfoy asked quietly. "I had thought better of you. Perhaps I shouldn't have."
Harry shook his head impatiently. "There's something you need here," he said. "I don't know if you ever planned to tell me you needed it, but since I knew where it was, and you wouldn't tell me the truth, I had to more or less ambush you."
Malfoy frowned at him, but Harry turned away and walked after Scorpius. Scorpius was already squinting, lips moving as he tried to read the inscription on the tomb, and looking back for someone to explain it to him. "Is Headmaster Dumbledore really there?" he asked, eyes wide and shining, when Harry came up and knelt down next to him.
Harry had to smile at this evidence that Malfoy had raised his son with a sort of reverence of Dumbledore. "Yes," he said. "And right now, he's going to give us a gift."
Scorpius stepped back, then lunged forwards again, caught by a little child's terror and fascination at the thought of the dead rising at the same time. "Really?" he breathed.
"Really," Harry said, and then stood and walked around the tomb.
He let his hand touch the white stone lightly, wondering for a moment if it would work after all. He'd been part of the team that repaired the damage Voldemort had done to the tomb in wresting the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's hands, and he'd taken the opportunity to enchant one particular stone that would open a door for him in case he ever needed to come back. But that was years ago now, and he hadn't studied the spell very well before he cast it.
And perhaps I can't remember where it is, either, he thought wryly, letting his hand slide around several times before he hit the right stone and cracks appeared in the side of the tomb.
"Potter? What's going on?"
Harry glanced over his shoulder and found Malfoy holding Scorpius as if he was ready to run. He probably thought Dumbledore was coming back from the dead to get revenge on him. "Relax," Harry said simply. "This is the hiding place of the Elder Wand, and I'm just making sure that we can access it."
Malfoy closed his eyes and turned away. Harry wondered why, and then decided it was just too overwhelming for him to pay attention to this, after all.
He waited until the door, which was small and low, opened all the way, and then stepped inside, blinking. The passage from the dazzle of sunlight to the utter darkness in the tomb made it hard to see. Harry had a panicked moment of thinking the Elder Wand was gone before he managed to spot it, still clutched in Dumbledore's hands, exactly as he had left it.
Harry reached out to the bones without hesitation. He had no fears that Dumbledore would resent them for coming here. After all, this was a man who had engineered his own death in such a way that it would do the most good to the living, and who had intended to take the Elder Wand from the world forever. He wouldn't resent offering one more gift to people he'd spent his life serving.
The wand felt oddly slick and cool in Harry's fingers, as if it belonged to a living owner who could still sweat. Harry rolled his eyes over the wand's odd ways and then stepped back into the light.
Malfoy had come a little closer, but still looked ready to run. But he'd stayed, Harry thought, knocking dirt from his boots before he approached Malfoy and his son. (Scorpius looked simply thrilled). That said a lot about him, the way he'd tried to protect his son even when he knew his spells wouldn't work had.
"Here," Harry said, holding out the Elder Wand to Malfoy. "What do you need to do with it? Did Ollivander tell you, or did you get the idea from a book you read?" He couldn't help the tiny accusing note that crept into his voice. They could have made progress on this a lot faster if Malfoy had told him the truth from the beginning.
On the other hand, if he had, you wouldn't have got to spend this fortnight in Malfoy Manor. And that wouldn't be a good thing.
Malfoy simply looked at him, mute, for some time. Then he whispered, "You're offering the Elder Wand to me. You showed me its hiding place. Why?"
That's why he turned away, Harry thought, as he studied the way Malfoy's eyes flitted from his face and rested on the ground. He couldn't deal with the fact that I showed him such a secret.
"I trust you," Harry said. "I like you. And you need help." He held out the wand again, and waited.
Putting the last of those reasons where he had was probably the reason Malfoy reached out and accepted the wand, Harry thought. He wouldn't want to be thought of as needing charity.
How do I know that? And, as Ron would say, how do I know that he's not going to try to become Master of the wand now?
I don't. Harry leaned against the tomb and waited. But sometimes you have to take a chance.
"Ollivander said," Malfoy whispered, "that the Elder Wand was exerting an influence of sorts on my wand. It's a unique combination of circumstances. I was master of the Elder Wand for a while, and then you overcame me. I was master of the hawthorn wand for a while, and then you overcame me. I need to cast a spell with the Elder Wand on the hawthorn one that will break the influence." He cast a look at Harry, and there was pride and indecision and anger burning in a flame as dark as blackberries in his eyes. "I need to ask your permission to cast the spell."
Harry smiled at him, warmth bounding through his veins. "You have it."
Malfoy stood there for so long that Harry wondered if he was going to refuse after all. But Scorpius was looking up at him with big eyes, and touching his father's wrist with one hand as if he was going to offer comfort despite all the reasons that Malfoy should be offering comfort to him. Malfoy finally kissed him on the forehead and set him down, then drew the hawthorn wand.
Harry tensed a little, automatically. But since he had leaned against the tomb and was waiting calmly before Malfoy looked at him, he didn't think it mattered.
I do trust him, he thought, as Malfoy held out the two wands crossed, with the Elder Wand above the hawthorn one. But it takes a while to overcome the habits of a lifetime.
"Iubeo scipionem," Malfoy murmured.
The Elder Wand acquired a sullen yellow glow, and Harry had to squint as it built. He heard Scorpius gasp. Malfoy stood in the middle of the glow, as firm as a young tree, and forced the wands slowly towards each other.
Harry thought he could see the Elder Wand actually wriggling and struggling in its haste to get away from the spell that Malfoy was trying to make it perform, but it didn't succeed. Malfoy brought his hands together, and the hawthorn wand and the Elder Wand pressed on top of each other like the arms of a cross.
"Iubeo scipionem," Malfoy repeated again, this time in a larger voice. Harry thought he could see Scorpius forming the words with his lips, and hoped that wouldn't be a problem later.
The glow returned, but it was blue this time, and spun around the crossed wands like a falling star. Then it centered on the Elder Wand, which definitely spasmed now. The blue glow passed into the hawthorn wand, and Harry thought he heard a loud click, the kind a lock might make as it came open.
The hawthorn wand shook itself out of Malfoy's hand and hovered above his head. It had all the glow now, which had turned a rich, deep blue, the color of cobalt. Malfoy looked up at it with something like a reverent expression, and reached out to touch the bottom of the hawthorn wand.
It stopped shining and fell into his hand. At the same time, the Elder Wand fell quiescent, and Harry heard a whispering sigh pass his head. He hoped that was the death of all the influence that it had over Malfoy's wand.
Malfoy turned to face him, and held Harry's eyes for a long, wordless moment. When he glanced down at Scorpius, Harry felt as if he had been touched with the sting of a flying whip.
"Abluo," Malfoy whispered, and tapped his son's scalp with the hawthorn wand.
A small shower of dirt fell out of Scorpius's hair. He reached up with a little squeak and touched his father's wand, running his fingers over the wood with what looked like an expression of wonder. Harry had to bow his head and close his eyes in order to deal with what he was feeling at that moment.
And no blackberries appeared, as he could confirm for himself with Malfoy's explosive breath and the lack of them when he opened his eyes.
"Wonderful," Malfoy said. He looked down at the Elder Wand and then hastily handed it back to Harry. "Put the bloody thing away, would you? Before it decides to do something else because it's angry about being deprived of its power."
Harry nodded and turned back to Dumbledore's tomb. It took no longer to restore the wand to its position in Dumbledore's hands than it had taken to remove it, and then he stepped back and stroked the enchanted stone to shut the door.
When he faced Malfoy again, it was to see the cold, aloof mask Malfoy had used on him whenever they met in the Auror Department and when Harry first came to the Manor. "I'm sure that you'll be leaving now," Malfoy said coldly. "And that you won't require me again. Thank you for your help."
Harry leaned forwards, hooked a hand behind Malfoy's head, and kissed him on his startled mouth.
It was as it should be, just a tentative, sweet brushing of lips, and then Malfoy spluttered and said, "What the fuck was that, Potter?"
Scorpius giggled. "Daddy said a bad word," he said, and Malfoy looked humiliated.
Harry shook his head, smiling. "Something I wanted to do," he said. "And whatever you want to make of it. See you in the Ministry, Malfoy." He nodded to Scorpius, then swung around and started walking up the path that led away from the tomb, rejoicing in the way the sunlight poured over him and the sky blazed more brilliantly blue above than he could remember it doing in some time.
Sometimes you just have to do something that has the potential to change the world.
Then he heard two sets of pounding footsteps come after him, and, smiling, turned to meet them.