Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his whole world belong to J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Books, Warner Brothers, and possibly a few others I've forgotten. No profit is being made and no harm is intended.
A Better World
(In which there is understanding.)
The child was lost, of this, Draco was certain.
No more than three or four years old – around the same age as his own son, the boy wandered along the walk, bundled in a puffy, blue Muggle coat, a knitted hat with earflaps tied under his chin, a matching scarf that dangled almost to his booted feet, and a pair of mittens buttoned to his coat, flapping at his wrists as he trundled along. He did not seem frightened, though Knockturn Alley was no place for such a young child on his own, especially one dressed in such a fashion.
Instead, the boy was looking into shop windows, and hopping over the cracks in the walkway, paying no attention to his surroundings at all. Draco watched, waiting for an adult to emerge from the dark entrance of the alley and find their lost child, but the boy continued on his path, and nobody appeared to reclaim him.
This was none of Draco's business, he knew. He didn't have time to stop and steer the boy back to safety; after all, he himself wasn't supposed to be on this stretch of road, lurking in the shadowed archway of an abandoned storefront. He'd promised Astoria he would keep away from Knockturn Alley, and he'd kept his promise – more or less – for the last five years. More or less, because he didn't come into the unsavory area to browse the selection of Dark objects or attempt to purchase restricted potion ingredients. He did, however, come to watch, eyes keenly taking in the clientele, watching for familiar faces that might be interested in disrupting the hysterical peace which had overtaken their world.
Not because Draco was interested in joining such a movement, and not because he was on some extended mission for the Light to sniff out a resurgence in Voldemort sympathizers. He watched because now he had a son, and he would be damned if he would let his son grow up in a warzone, and if someone got it into their fool heads to start a revolt, Draco wanted to know so he could snuff it out before anyone could fan the flames. Scorpius would have a better world.
The Ministry was complacent, the fools. They were confident in their ability to squash out a new Dark lord, should one arise, but remained lax on their surveillance of Knockturn Alley. Turning a blind eye would be their downfall. So Draco took up the watch where the Ministry would not. Any time he caught hints of pureblooded mutterings on stealing back that which had been taken from them, he slunk into the alley, where the landscape was almost unchanged from the years when he would show his face here instead of hiding behind a shadowy hood.
But now, instead of spying on his former schoolmates and associates, Draco was watching the small child on the other side of the street as he finally looked back over his shoulder and realized he was lost. The boy froze, his small features morphing from a look of carefree curiosity into blatant fright.
"Daddy?" he called, his small voice quavering.
And Draco remembered the time his Scorpius vanished in the labyrinth of hedges in the back garden just a few months prior. And how when Draco found him after twenty minutes of frantic searching, thrashing through the hedges, screaming his son's name – his expression: lower lip quivering and pools of tears gathering at the corner of his hazel eyes, a level of despair on his face that no child his age should ever wear.
The little boy called for his father again, turning to look about him in case he had just misplaced his parents for a moment.
Draco's throat ached at the memory of Scorpius, of how once he'd been found, he'd been inconsolable for over an hour, and Draco had been full of impotent rage that his son had learned the sensation of being lost in the world so early on, certain that there was no end to the maze and that nobody would ever find him.
Draco thought about Scorpius, a miniature version of himself, but sweeter because of Astoria's influence and her playful eyes looking out through his face, and how he would do anything for his son, even if it meant his death.
And when the little boy across the street began to cry, he remembered how he felt when he was sure he would never find Scorpius in the maze, that the bushes would come alive and eat him, or that some long forgotten hex or jinx would activate and hurt him. What if that had been Scorpius out there on the street, wandered away from him or Astoria, lost and afraid? He knew he'd want someone to find him and keep him safe until they could be reunited.
A cloaked figure darted in the little boy's direction like a shark scenting blood, and the child shrank back against an overflowing rubbish bin, mouth agape in a silent scream.
The street was passing under Draco's feet before he realized he'd left the anonymity of the shadows. "Get. Back," he snarled as he overtook the slouching figure. The hag under the hood shot him a look of loathing, an afternoon's amusement lost, but scurried away as he brandished his wand.
The boy remained in a cowering ball as Draco approached.
"Don't be frightened," he said, dragging his hood back from his face as he knelt down. Hoods had scared him as a child, the swath of black where there should be a face, and he thought perhaps they scared this boy as well. "Are you lost?"
The boy snuffled, tears and snot streaking down his upper lip, and nodded hesitantly.
"My name's Draco. What's yours?"
After another moment of hesitation, the boy said, "Albie."
"What's your surname?" At the boy's blank look, Draco tried again. "Last name?"
"Potter?" Draco repeated in shock. "Is your daddy Harry?"
Albie nodded. "You know Daddy?"
"Yeah, I know your daddy," Draco said, allowing himself a moment to take in this new information, placing the fingertips of one gloved hand on the ground to keep himself from tipping backward in surprise. He was both amazed and annoyed that Harry Potter couldn't keep track of his children.
Albie sniffled again, wiping at his face with his coat sleeve. Draco fished a monogrammed handkerchief from his pocket and held it up to the boy. "I bet that's making your face cold," he said. "You want to use this one?"
Harry Potter's son stared at him, still unsure of the situation, but then took the offered hankie with a quiet thank you, and dabbed at his face, doing nothing but smearing snot on his chin and cheeks.
Draco took a crawling step forward. "You want me to…?" he asked, putting out his hand. "And then we'll go find your daddy."
Albie stood still as Draco took back the handkerchief and cleaned off his face, not even complaining when Draco scrubbed at his upper lip until his nose was red. When Draco finished, he stuffed the dirty hankie into one of his pockets and held out his hand. "Ready to go, Albie?"
The boy's skin was like ice when his small fingers curled around Draco's hand, and he nodded again, still sniffling. Draco thought of Scorpius, and his heart hurt. He knew his son was at home, safe under the watchful eye of Astoria. Potter must be going out of his mind with fright.
At the mouth of Knockturn Alley, Draco paused, looking around. Diagon Alley was crowded with holiday shoppers, and people swarmed in packs up and down the street, colorful cloaks and coats lending to the festive atmosphere of the day. Finding Harry Potter at Diagon Alley would normally be easy – one simply had to look for the crowd; but today, there were crowds everywhere.
He glanced down at Albie. The top of the little boy's head was level with Draco's hip, and as he would have done with Scorpius, Draco bent and scooped the boy up, resting him at his waist. "Be easier to see him now, right?" he asked. Albie nodded, his bright green eyes scanning the crowd. "Remember where you were when you saw him last?"
"Unca Won's," Albie answered after a moment of thought.
"Uncle Ron's?" Draco echoed, turning to look in the direction of the joke shop. He was impressed and aghast that such a small child had made it so far on his own. Weasleys' Wheezes was near the far end of the alley. "Where were you going?"
"T' see the owls."
"You wanted to see the owls?" Draco asked, thinking of how Scorpius had run off into the maze chasing after their crup puppy, a fourth birthday gift from his grandparents. The puppy, named Bludger, had been licking away the tears on Scorpius's face when Draco had found them huddled beneath a weather-pocked statue.
Draco started in the opposite direction, back toward the joke shop. Even if Harry wasn't there anymore, had gone in search of his son, at least there would be a trusted relative with which to leave the boy, though Draco decided he would miss the opportunity to rile up his former schoolmate for this shortcoming.
But before Draco had made it halfway to his destination, he heard a commotion ahead, shouting over the general ruckus of the crowd, and he spotted Harry's distinct shock of hair as he emerged from a shop four doors away. At the same time, he saw a billowing curtain of red as Harry's wife – the Weasley girl – threw open the door to the shop across the street from Harry, her terrified voice fading as she darted inside.
Harry's magically magnified voice boomed over the crowd, frantic. "Albus!"
Draco raised his free arm, trying to get Harry's attention. "Potter!" he shouted, at the same time that Albie called out for his father and started to struggle, and Draco had to lower his arm to keep the boy from squirming out of his grasp and disappearing into the crowd again. "Hang on, there, mate. I'll get you to your daddy. Just settle down."
But Albie kept squirming, calling, "Daddy! Daddy!"
Draco couldn't get his wand up to his neck for a handy Sonorus Charm, not with the wiggling, squirming bundle at his hip, so he started to shoulder his way through the crowd, trying to shield his small charge from getting squished. "Potter, I've got him!" he shouted. "POTTER!"
Harry stopped, his head swiveling in every direction, wide-eyed and pale. Draco raised his hand for just a moment as Harry's gaze swept his way, and he then secured Albie again before the boy toppled out of his arms. Harry's eyes latched onto him, and he clawed his way through the crowd of gaping spectators.
In a moment, Harry was there, shuddering and struggling not to cry. All of Draco's snide words got lost as Albie reached out for his father. Mute, Draco passed him to Harry.
"Oh my God, oh my God," Harry said, crushing his child against him. Albie buried his face in Harry's shoulder, little legs wrapping around his waist like he was never letting go again. In a moment, Harry looked up, his green eyes shimmering with tears of relief. Draco knew that relief, remembering how Scorpius had flown at him and clung to him, small little fingers pressing into his back, and tiny legs almost crushing Draco's ribs. Draco hadn't wanted to let Scorpius go ever again.
To Draco, Harry said, "Thank you, Malfoy. Thank you so much." His voice was soggy with unshed tears. "You found him. Where was he?"
"Knockturn Alley!" Harry repeated, shocked. "Anything could have happened… thank God you found him."
Draco cleared his throat, trying to gather enough sarcasm to make a comment. Any comment. Something about tracking spells, or paying attention, or mustering a level of competence that was required when watching a small child for more than five minutes.
But he couldn't, because when Scorpius had wandered off into the maze, it had been Draco who was supposed to be looking after him. He'd been distracted for just a few moments, shooing peacocks out of the vegetable garden, and when he'd turned around, Scorpius was gone. He understood Harry's delirious relief at finding his child, and so he let it go. Instead, he was gracious, and he said, "You're welcome."
"You don't know how much…" Harry said, unable to finish his thought as he began to examine his son for ill wear. But Draco did know. As a father, he knew.
"He wanted to see the owls," Draco said.
"The owls," Harry groaned. "He always wants to see the owls."
"My boy is the same way about crups."
Harry looked up from his examination, and his expression was odd. Draco was out of practice reading the expressions of the Boy-Who-Lived, but he thought he was reading comprehension, or perhaps understanding. Harry said, "That's right. You've got a son, too. Scorpion?"
"Scorpius," Draco corrected. "Four years old this past May."
"Albus turned four in August." Harry squeezed Albie, and prompted, "Say thank you to Mr. Malfoy for finding you."
Albie squirmed and tucked his face even further into Harry's shoulder, shivering.
"There's no need," Draco responded, and then added honestly, "I'm glad I was there."
Harry's wife burst through the circle of faces around them, sobbing in relief. As she wrapped one arm around her boy and the other around her husband, Draco eased back through the crowd, and once he was clear enough to Apparate, he went home.
Astoria was teaching Scorpius how to tie his shoes when Draco found them in the solarium. For a moment, he watched from the doorway. His son's brow wrinkled in concentration, the tip of his tongue poking out the corner of his mouth. And Astoria, with her light brown hair hanging free around her face, was bent over, her entire world shuttered off to everything except the deft hands of their boy as he brought the shoelace over and around.
But then Astoria pushed her hair back behind her ear and saw him.
"Hello there," she said with a sweet smile. "Back so soon?"
"I missed the both of you so much I couldn't stay away."
Astoria gave him the private smile that was meant for only him, the one that made him warm in his stomach. Scorpius looked up, cheeks dimpling, and as Draco started across the warm, sunny room, Scorpius stuck out his foot, proud.
"Look, Da, I did it!"
"That's my boy," Draco said, taking time to look at the loose knot. "Such a fast learner. Must take after your mother." Then he knelt and tugged Scorpius into his arms. He held them there as long as the little boy would allow, and then let him go ruefully when Scorpius giggled and pushed his way free.
"Everything okay?" Astoria asked, perceptive as always.
"Yeah," Draco answered. "Just got reminded of the maze, today."
"Oh," she said, understanding. "But he's fine now. Everything is fine."
"Yeah, it is." Draco watched as his son's fair head bent over his other shoe, fingers working to tie the lace.
His son would have a better world, Draco was sure of it. And because of Scorpius, Draco's world was better, too.
Author's Notes: This story was born from a random thought in the shower, which was, 'How did Draco and Harry come to have a mutual - if grudging - respect?' Plus, I was really sick of reading stories with the 'arranged marriage / Draco is a jerk to his wife and distant to his son' cliche.