A/N: New Chapter guys, enjoy :D
"Harry there you are" Harry jumped awake at the voice and blinking groggily at Hermione as she sat down next to him. Ethan mumbled at the disturbance but then simply shifted and continued napping ensconced in Harry's arm.
"We've been looking for you, and here you are asleep" She gestured towards his slumped state.
"Yeah, well I'm shattered, he's shattered so I thought we'd take a nap" Hermione looked over his appearance. His clothes were mismatched and rushed and his eyes drooped slightly, the bags underneath them pronounced and obvious.
"Well you do look tired, are you okay?" She leaned forward in concern and scrutinised him slightly. He fidgeted under the attention and looked down at the sleeping child.
"Yeah, I'm fine Hermione, he was just up all night and we were in such a rush this morning, I haven't even got him out of his pyjamas yet" She nodded at him in understanding and started to stroke Ethan's dark hair.
"Yes I guess that comes with having a child"
Harry stretched his arms up and away from his body creating a wide arch before letting out a contented sigh. "Better get him changed then" He mumbled and plucked the child from his lap. Ethan grumbled and snapped into awareness, letting out an irritated whine. Harry simply shushed him and began to search for the onesie he threw in this morning.
"Harry... Is there any point getting him dressed? He's comfy like that and by the time we get to school he'll be asleep again anyway"
Looking at the toddler's patterned pants and shirt, the Gryffindor nodded in agreement and settled down again.
"You're right I guess I'll stick a jumper on him though...just in case" Hermione laughed slightly and handed him a light blue cotton jumper. Thanking her with a smile, he turned to wrestle it onto the squirming child.
"So where's Ron then?" He said, glancing over her shoulder at the young witch. She was rearranging his rucksack to a more organised system as opposed to the clutter previously.
"With Neville or Ginny I imagine"
"So how come you're here?"
"Well after the prefect meeting, Ron and I left to sit with Ginny and Neville, but afterwards I thought it best if we find you...so here I am" She finished the explanation at the same moment of her tidying and gave to luggage a satisfied pat. Harry had also managed to dress Ethan and had moved over to sit next to his friend. She took the boy from his arms and cuddled him against her chest, the child giggled and clutched her robe while she smiled fondly at him.
"And Ron?" Harry questioned, noticing their trio was missing its third. The girl gave a sniff of disapproval and stuck her chin out.
"He said, and I quote 'I'd rather brave Nev's freaky plant than Ethan in that mood" Harry laughed, clutching his stomach while Hermione glared at him.
"I don't blame him. He's being good now, but give it an hour or so and my ear drums will be bleeding"
Hermione's expression of disapproval dissolved into slight amusement and she nudged Harry's side. "You're being as dramatic as Ron now, surely he's not that bad, and he's being quite pleasant for me right now"
"Oh, Hermione I'm not, he's being nice now because he's napped but come back later and see how cooperative he is" He defended taking the child back out from her arms. "I honestly don't know what I'm going to do about sleeping and things, the lads won't put with a screaming two-year old at three in the morning, especially with it being O.W.L s year" He sighed and rested his chin on the mop of soft brown hair beneath him, ignoring the fidgeting with his clothes.
"Yes, that is a problem. Surely the professors will provide some sort of separate room to accommodate a toddler so you don't disturb others"
"I…haven't actually spoken to anybody about Ethan staying, I'm just assuming they'll say yes" He confessed sheepishly, recognising how disorganised he had been.
"Oh Harry honestly, this is a hugely important matter, why on earth haven't you spoken to, if not the headmaster, then at least Professor McGonagall. There are so many things that need to be addressed; babysitting, accommodation, safety measures, restrictions and the like. Not to mention your O. , when on earth are you going to find time to revise" She ranted getting steadily more worked up as she realised how complicated the process was going to be. Harry watched her wide-eyed as the thoughts that had been running through his mind for the past few days suddenly bombarded him, demanding a solution. What would he do? What if they couldn't get their own dorm? How is he going to get a routine with all the work? What if someone hurts him?
Hermione looked up at Harry and trailed off her lecture as she noticed his increasing distress. The teen had his brow scrunched up and his mouth down-turned, clutching Ethan against his chest,
"Harry? Are you alr-"
"What am I going to do?"
"Harry calm down, I didn't mean-"
"How can I calm down? I'm going into this completely unprepared, who knows what could happen!" He stared at her, gesturing wildly in his panic with one hand, the other still grasping Ethan against him in a protective embrace. Instead of responding with a serious suggestion, like she normally would, Hermione simply began to laugh. Harry stared at her incredulously "What are you laughing at?"
"Oh Harry, you're always going into situations completely unprepared, I honestly can't remember the last time you had a plan for something"
"You probably have a point there, but it's not the same thing"
"Oh yes, I'm sorry they were only matters of life and death" She replied dryly
"Yes, I know, but it was my life, this time it's about him" He had clutched at Ethan and thrust him towards Hermione, as if to emphasise his point. The toddler grinned and waved his stubby arms at the curly-haired girl.
"Mione!" He crowed clapping his hands and wriggling in his father's hold. Hermione giggled at his actions and scooped Ethan into her arms, bouncing him slightly and nuzzling his soft hair.
"Hello darling, you have a good sleep?" She hummed into the strands. In response he wrapped his miniature fist around a handful of light brown curls and repeatedly tugged, letting out peals of giggles every time they sprang back into place.
Hermione left him to his amusement and turned back towards Harry, only gently prying his fingers away when he got too rough.
"Harry, you need to relax, sure there may be some problems or issues but I doubt anything too major and nothing we can't handle anyway" She placed on hand on her friend's knee, using the other to tuck the child she was holding safely against her chest, and then stared at him in earnest. "You're not going to be alone in this Harry, we'll be here to help you, okay?" A grin tugged at her lips as she watched the tension drain out of his frame. He smiled at her, a smile full of fondness, gratitude and relief that they were actually friends. It was definitely one of his better decisions over the years.
After a slight squeeze of his hand, she broke the moment by rising up from her seat and hefting Ethan onto her hip.
"Right, let's go to the other carriage, there are some introductions to be made"
She strode out after a single backwards glance, cooing and murmuring to Ethan as he babbled on at her. Harry scooped up his son's backpack and followed down the corridor, and though he was aware of the stares (nobody was even attempting to hide them), for now they didn't bother him. He was okay.
"3, 2, 1, Houston we have lift off! Woooosshhh" He gripped Ethan's waist and raised him into the air and swooped him around the carriage, making various rocket noises as he did. Ethan stretched his arms out and kicked his legs, laughing in joy at the game. "Oh no, Houston, We have a problem" He began to jiggle the boy gently "We're going to crash!" He swung Ethan about slightly and then pulled him into his chest and collapsed back on the cushioned carriage seats
"Oh no Daddy" The child shrieked while Harry made explosion like noises "Again! Again!" He demanded wiggling his arms. Harry conceded and hoisted himself up off the seats, thrusting Ethan back up into the air.
"It's a miracle, the rocket has been fixed. It can now resume its flight to…" He paused and glanced up at his son "Where shall the rocket go?"
"To the jungle!" The Gryffindor announced and resumed the play, laughing along with his delighted child. Harry started to re-enact a scene from jungle book when an amused voice sounded from the doorway.
"What on earth are you doing Potter?"
Harry stopped, ignoring Ethan's whines, and turned towards it. Draco Malfoy stood leaning against the wall, his eyebrow raised and mouth turned in a smirk. Harry noticed that, for once, his usual goons were absent and the boy was alone but seemed fairly unbothered by it.
"Decided to get a jump start on making a fool of yourself?"
Harry sighed and gestured towards Ethan, who was sucking on his fist and grumbling to himself, probably on the fact that his game had been interrupted.
"It may have escaped your notice but I've actually got a child with me, and you know what children like to do Malfoy? They like to play games. So despite what you like to believe I don't go around making monkey noises for the fun of it, I'm very obviously playing with Ethan"
Lip curling at the sarcasm and condescension in the answer, Draco looked down at the child he had met a few days before. The kid hadn't changed in anyway and was still rather cute despite its untidiness, granted that was probably Potter's fault for not taking better care.
"So you actually did bring him? That was… rather stupid"
"I'm sure you'd know all about that" Harry muttered under his breath as he took a seat. He turned and rooted around in his bag for a snack to give to Ethan, finding a small tub of fruit that he decided the two of them could share. Settling Ethan on his lap, he pulled the lid off and grabbed a few grapes, popping one into Ethan mouth before chewing on another himself. He looked up when Malfoy cleared his throat.
The teen was slightly annoyed that he hadn't left, choosing instead to step inside the carriage and watch him, but unsurprised. The Slytherin always had some sort of point to make, regardless of whether or not people wanted to hear it.
"Is there something you wanted?"
"As a matter of fact there is"
"If it's to insult me some more then you can leave"
"Oh Potter it would be a waste of an opportunity not to insult you, seeing how easy you make it"
"Oh go away Mal-" Harry started, already done with the conversation. His words were stopped by Draco's interruption
"But I do have something specific to say" Harry rolled his eyes and made a 'get on with it' gesture as he swallowed down a piece of orange, the other student huffed slightly but carried on. "There's to be some… changes at Hogwarts this year after your little declaration at the end of the tournament" Harry paled at his mention of the incident and instinctively held Ethan tighter, seeking comfort.
"What changes?" He asked warily, eying Malfoy. He may be messing with him, trying to scare or anger him, however as Harry watched him he saw that the rich teen seemed rather serious and although he did wear a slightly smug grin (But that just seemed to be Malfoy's default expression) He didn't appear to be mocking.
"The Ministry has become unhappy with the way things are at Hogwarts, they're going to make some changes"
"Wait, the Ministry? What have they got to do with Hogwarts" He was confused now, as far as he knew the Ministry had little control or involvement in the school, Hermione hadn't told him otherwise. Then again, maybe it would have been smart researching these things for himself, who knows what kind of resistance he and Ethan will meet.
"Honestly, Potter" Was Malfoy's reply, rolling his eyes "Are you completely unaware of what your little announcement has done? What people are saying?"
"And what are they saying?"
"That you're a liar, attention-seeker, half of the population hates you" He watched smugly as Harry tensed at the words, growing more agitated. "And as for the Headmaster, most say he's gone mad, senile in his old age, definitely unfit to run Hogwarts" Harry jumped to his feet in protest.
"What do you know Malfoy? Neither of us are lying and you have no idea what happened" He near yelled at the blond boy "Oh except for whatever your Death eater father came out with, I bet he really trussed that story up saying how great it is to serve the Dark Lord. You'll be nice and obedient when the times comes I'm sure" The last few sentences were mocking and malicious and entirely too personal, but then wasn't that how Malfoy always insulted him?
He couldn't help but notice how Malfoy's smug look dropped, replaced by sharp anger and resentment as he spat out his reply.
"You think you're so high and mighty Potter, defeated the Dark Lord, won the Tri-wizard Tournament and now taking in a baby that isn't yours. You get so angry when people try to tarnish your perfect image, how dare they judge you? They know nothing" his rage dulled and he simply stared at Harry with a blank look "It seems you need to learn a lesson in hypocrisy" He walked towards the exit but stopped and turned in the doorway "Your child has been upset since we started this disagreement"
Harry looked down to see Ethan with his hands in front of his face and tears marking tracks down his cheeks as he stared at them in trepidation. He'd been so wrapped up in his argument he hadn't even noticed his son's discomfort.
"It appears he dislikes confrontation" The words seemed observational and yet the end of the sentence dripped so heavily with sarcasm that Harry flinched "I'm sure you'll be an excellent father"
With that Malfoy plastered on an arrogant grin and the tension that was apparent in his every muscle seemed to slide away as he left the compartment and sauntered down the hallway. Harry stared after him with the irritation that always accompanied interactions with Malfoy and closed the door that the other wizard had left wide open. If he'd stayed in his friend's compartment that wouldn't have happened, Ron would have most likely run the Slytherin off before he could get a sentence out. But Ethan had gotten bored started to fuss, then cry when Neville tried to pick him up. Harry left then, placating them with promises of returning when Ethan was asleep.
Now Harry had to cheer the boy up because of his distraction, he huffed out a breath. It was partly Malfoy's fault as well, he was always goading him. Harry wondered about the other boy's reaction to his comments, maybe he had hit quite close to home. He sighed and sat back down checking his watch.
It was a couple of hours until they'd reach Hogwarts and Harry wasn't sure what to do. If Malfoy was right about the public, bringing Ethan might get a more hostile reaction than he had thought. If people were calling him an attention-seeker, what would they say when he turned up with a baby?
He would have to think properly about this, get the others reactions on how bad the backlash from declaring Voldemort to be alive was and find out how it might affect Ethan. He also needed to work out what the changes were that Malfoy had been talking. Dropping his head back against the seat, he groaned in frustration. As if things weren't complicated enough already.
It was just after eight 'o clock when it was announced that they'd soon be arriving at Hogwarts. Harry had spent nearly the last hour discussing the implications of what he'd learnt with her and the conclusion hadn't been very great. They'd decided that there wasn't much they could do about public opinion; Harry would just have to deflect the negativity as much as possible and try to explain himself to those who would listen. The main objective was to protect Ethan and attempt in some way to keep too much attention off him, but to be honest Harry knew that was highly unlikely.
They pulled up at the station and Harry grabbed Ethan's bags, leaving the trunk as usual, re-adjusting his grip on the sleeping child as he shrugged the luggage onto his shoulders. He took a deep calming breath, savouring these last few moments of peace before the inevitable chaos that usually went down within his life.
"C'mon Harry, time to go" Hermione coaxed smiling encouragingly at him. He smiled weakly back and exited the compartment, then the train. The station was bustling with activity, students finding friends, grabbing things they'd left and trying to get past. Lucky for Harry the journey always tired people out, so most couldn't be bothered to notice him. This left them able to get to the carriages without trouble.
Harry stopped when they reached them, staring in confusion and wonder at the skeletal, almost grotesque, creature standing at the front. It was reined and hooked onto the carriage, and its horse like appearance made it obvious that these things would be pulling them towards the castle. Harry was curious why they needed them when the carriages had been travelling under their own steam for years.
"Harry, what on earth are you staring at? Get in its freezing" Hermione called from inside, Ron following with a grunt of agreement.
"These…things at the front of the carriage, what are they?" He called back as he tentatively stretched out his hand to brush its side.
"What are you talking about Harry? There's nothing there"
"No, there is look!" He gestured to the large figure beside him as Ron ducked through the door and hung out the side. He followed Harry's hands and stared at the spot but then turned to give his friend a look of confusion and exasperation.
"She's right mate, there's nothing there, just like every year before. Now get in before you both freeze"
"I swear I'm not mental, it's seriously right the-"
"He really isn't mad" A soft voice interrupted, automatically catching everyone's attention. She was an odd looking girl, blonde, petite and pretty. She wore a Ravenclaw uniform and had a friendly, if not slightly distant smile. The oddest thing about her was the jewellery; cork necklaces and vegetable (Carrots? Turnips?) earrings. "They're called thestrals; they can only be seen by those who've witnessed death"
Harry stopped still, his hand freezing from where he was petting the creature. Ron looked away awkwardly and Hermione cleared her throat.
"Oh right" Harry's voice was shaky and he clenched his fist, drawing it away from the animal. The images that he'd been trying so hard to block pushed to the forefront of his mind and he shook his head to shove them away. It was only the girl who saw with a sad smile, the curious tilt of a toddler's head and his tiny fingers reach out to brush against the leathery skin of the thestral before he yawned quietly and returned to sleep.
Harry walked away from the thestral and entered the carriage, the blonde girl following behind him. Though it was a tight squeeze the group managed to sit comfortably as it set off towards the castle.
"So… who are you?" Harry addressed the girl, but before she could answer Hermione interrupted.
"Harry, this is Loony- I mean Luna Lovegood" She looked down as her friend frowned at her for the slip-up, Luna however seemed unbothered. "She's in Ginny's year"
"Oh you know Ginny?" Ron asked, more interested now it that it related to him.
"Yes, she's very nice" Luna answered. Her voice had a dreamy quality, as if she wasn't quite paying attention to what she was saying. Ron snorted.
The ride was mostly silent after that, only broken up by Harry introducing Ethan, and Luna making some comments that he didn't fully understand. Honestly, Harry was assuming that that would be a regular thing around the fourth year.
They reached the castle a little after everyone else, being one of the last carriages to leave, but Harry knew he wouldn't be able to attend to Welcoming Feast anyway. He had to talk to a professor, preferably McGonagall about Ethan being there because he knew he'd have no chance of talking to the Headmaster. Luckily as he was walking towards the Great Hall, he saw his head of house making her way towards the chamber where the first years are kept. He hurried after her.
"Professor! Professor McGonagall!" He called out; she stopped and turned to him.
"Yes, Mr Potter?" Then she looked down and saw the child in his arms "Oh for Heaven's sake" She muttered under her breath as he approached.
"I need to talk to you Professor, it's quite important" He gestured down to Ethan with a sheepish smile. She fixed him with a stern look and appeared as if she were about to reprimand him.
"I think that is very true Mr Potter, but as you can see right now I have other duties to attend to"
"Oh yes of course, when could we-"
"If you would head up to my office and wait for me there we will discuss it after the feast"
"Okay, great, thank you Professor" He smiled at her and turned to leave but she stopped him.
"I hope you understand that this was a very reckless decision Mr Potter" Her voice was matter-of-fact as she spoke these words and Harry frowned but nodded once at her.
"I've been told Professor"
She left then through a door to collect to this year's hoard of nervous eleven-year-olds. Harry shuffled back to the doors of the Great Hall where Ron and Hermione were waiting for him.
"I spoke to Professor McGonagall" He informed them and Hermione looked instantly pleased.
"What did she say?"
"That I'm to wait in her office and she'd discuss it with me after the feast"
"Sounds like you're in trouble mate" Ron added, his tone wary. Harry blew through his nose and his shoulders drooped.
"Probably" He agreed, knowing that none of the Professors would have anything good to say about Ethan's presence.
"Do you want us to come with you?" Hermione's offer was nice and he felt warmed by their support but he knew they shouldn't.
"No, you two stay here, I'll be okay" They both looked displeased at this and about to protest "And you could find out what these changes are, maybe the Headmaster will announce them"
"Oh good idea, Harry" Hermione conceded "Right fine then good luck"
"Yeah, good luck Harry, we'll see you later"
They both hugged him and gave Ethan a kiss before walking towards Gryffindor Table and seating themselves next to friends. Harry left and climbed the staircase towards the office.
"Hopefully it won't be too bad Ethan, they might take it well" The child snored lightly, snuffled and then scrunched up his face as if he'd seen or smelt something unpleasant. Harry bobbed his head in agreement. "Yeah you're probably right kiddo"
A/N: Great I hope you liked, I hope you liked Draco. Favourite and review xxx