Chapter revised in 2020
Harry Potter sat behind his desk with a quill in one hand and his eyes raised from his book to scan the room of twenty five-year-old children who were busily drawing masterpieces. The new school year had started just three days ago and at least half of his students were already settled in. Those were the children he and Gabrielle, his partner in crime and teaching, would never have to worry about.
The other half would prove to be a bit more difficult.
First there were the few who thought drawing hour was for throwing small pieces of rolled up scrap paper at each other. Then there were the few who liked to draw on other children's books rather than their own. Then there was the handful that thought that wandering towards the toy box was acceptable.
Harry walked up to the table by the window, peeking over his students' heads to look at some drawings. There really was no structure to this assignment, of course. It was simply to gauge each student's level. He noticed that many of the children just scribbled on the paper with no purpose while others tried to impress each other and their teachers with their grown-up painting skills.
There was always that single frustrated artist.
Harry knelt down next to Scorpius Malfoy and watched the boy blink rapidly with his chin tucked to his chest.
The teacher had been somewhat startled when he found out that Draco Malfoy's son was going to attend such a 'lowly' and unstructured school. He had thought that nothing but the best private tutors would be good enough for the young Malfoy prince. However, this boy was more of a mouse than a prince. He never spoke, always stared at his feet and mumbled his answers through barely parted lips. He looked like a Malfoy, but he acted like a Pettigrew.
It wasn't long before Harry started to feel sorry for the kid. He examined the picture. It wasn't that bad. Scorpius had drawn a large, irregular sunflower surrounded by jagged clouds. He hadn't even started coloring it in yet. It seemed just penciling an outline had reduced him to tears.
"Let's try something here, shall we?" Harry murmured as he eased the pencil from Scorpius' tight fist. The boy quickly wiped his damp eyes and looked away. Harry smiled to himself as he rounded a few petals, erased a few errant lines and made a few clouds fluffier until the picture looked presentable. "Perfect, see?" he said encouragingly, moving the paper towards Scorpius.
The boy nodded his head.
Harry bit the side of cheek when he realized that Scorpius didn't think it was okay at all. "Alright, what should we do to make it more perfect?"
The boy shrugged.
There was little point in trying to reason with a sulking boy. He held back a sigh instead. "Maybe, after you color it, you will like it. Show me when you're finished."
The boy remained silent.
"Okay?" Harry urged.
"Mhm," Scorpius mumbled with reluctance.
In the upcoming weeks, it soon became apparent that the students favored playtime and drawing hour more than the time they spent on academic learning. Gabrielle and Harry were always exhausted come nap-time. This year's class seemed to be much more energetic than the classes they had taught before.
Harry occasionally watched Scorpius play. The boy was always alone. He didn't make friends well because he never smiled. He also never talked to his peers. If someone tried to play with him, he never pulled a tantrum. He would simply stand aside and let his classmate grab the toy right out of his hands. Gabrielle had tried instigating a few playgroups in an attempt to include all the shy children. Even so, Scorpius didn't seem to think much of all the cooking games and freeze tag attempts. He spent most of his playtime by himself.
Harry sat beside him one afternoon as they got ready for nap-time. "Why don't you join that kickball game this afternoon, Scorpius? I heard they need more players."
"That's okay," Scorpius answered while getting under his blanket and rolling away from Harry. He was the only child who didn't bring a stuffed animal to school to hold while sleeping.
"Malfoy's boy, Scorpius. Strange kid," Harry told Hermione and Ron as he bounced baby Hugo on his lap.
"Probably thinks school is beneath him," Ron snorted.
"Really, Ron." Hermione frowned at her husband's insensitive comment.
Harry continued. "He's just so quiet. Rude and polite at the same time."
"Maybe he doesn't know how to talk to you?" Hermione offered.
So Harry kept trying.
"Do you have any brothers or sisters?" he asked, even though he already knew the answer.
Scorpius shook his head. He didn't bother to look up from his picture book.
Harry flicked invisible lint off his trousers. "Pets?"
The young boy shrugged.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Harry prodded.
Scorpius finally looked up at Harry. "I don't know what to say," he said plainly.
Harry was shaken by the point-blank answer, but he tried not to show it. "I see." He realized that he was being too nosy and getting into personal affairs. That answer was definitely not a typical one. "So if you could have a pet, what would you like?"
"I don't want a pet."
"Not even a fish?"
"Not even a fish," Scorpius muttered. He looked down at his book and glared at it, perhaps hoping for his teacher to go away if he ignored the man for long enough. But Harry was just as stubborn. Scorpius flipped the page in his book deliberately and Harry didn't budge. Then Scorpius exhaled in exasperation. "You shouldn't be nice to me," he finally said.
Scorpius scowled at the page.
Harry blinked in dismay. What was that supposed to mean? "Why shouldn't I be nice to you?" he asked.
"Because you shouldn't," Scorpius maintained, now resorting to actively turning his back to Harry. He scooted away quickly before hunching over and pressing his hands against his ears so he could read in peace.
Harry spent the rest of the hour preoccupied by what the little Malfoy boy had said, how he had said it, and wondering why he would say such a thing. Harry wasn't oblivious to the treatment of 'war criminals' around him, he knew how the Malfoys, Lestranges, and Carrows were treated these days. But for a five year old to say something like that was so unnerving.
Harry's attention wandered when he heard his name being mentioned in the passing.
He saw a group of children sitting huddled in one corner of the room, exchanging stories and giggles. Listening in on them, he realized that they were talking about him.
"My mum said that Harry was the bravest boy in all of Hogwarts."
"He doesn't look that brave to me."
"He is. Mum said so! She said he would fly so fast on his broomstick and kill all the Dementors."
"Then why's he a teacher?"
"Because he can do whatever he wants. He's Harry Potter. He's really cool."
Harry hid his smile.
"What's so cool about him?"
The children turned as one to look up at Scorpius in wonder. Scorpius stood his ground with his hands at his hips and his lips pursed into a determined line. Harry was taken aback immensely by the initiative the child had taken in asking the question despite not being included in the conversation.
While some of the children turned back around nervously, a few smiled up at Scorpius, beckoning him to join them. Scorpius shook his head. To emphasize his intentions, he even shuffled back a bit. Harry had been flinching through the whole fifteen-second scene, wondering if it was time for him to intervene yet.
"You don't know about Harry?" one of the boys asked incredulously. "I thought everyone knew about it."
"That he's really nice," a girl chimed in. Harry looked down while blushing modestly. Just in time too because the children now turned their attention to their teacher, admiring him from afar. "My brother said that I'm so lucky that I get to be in Harry's class. He said that Harry was still a little boy, he was called the Chosen One. He fought a lot of monsters. He knows a lot of spells. And he-"
"Is he nice to you too?" Scorpius interrupted.
"Yeah!" was the consensus.
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry watched Scorpius scuff his shoe on the floor for a few moments before turning around and walking back to his solitary corner. He pretended not to notice when the boy glanced at him.
A couple of months into school, Harry chanced upon Scorpius' art once again during drawing hour. The boy must have drawn at least twenty stars on the page and was in the process of coloring around the points with a dark blue crayon to make a sky. Harry arched an impressed brow. "Hey, buddy… Who taught you to draw that?" he asked.
"Nanna," Scorpius mumbled.
He looked up at Harry, searching the teacher's face to make sure there were no signs of condescension. Once he was satisfied with Harry's genuine smile, he looked at his picture uncertainly. "Okay," he said with a polite nod, which only caused Harry to smile wider.
"Can you show me how you draw it?"
Scorpius appeared dubious. "You already know how to draw stars," he guessed.
Harry knelt down next to the chair and patiently explained, "I want to see how you draw it."
Scorpius grabbed the pencil and set about drawing a painstaking star without another word. He drew one small triangle and then an upside-down triangle on top of it, trying to get all the corners pointing the right way. Then he showed it to Harry.
"Well, this is how I draw my stars," Harry said as he grabbed a scrap paper off the table and drew a five-point star without lifting his pencil.
Scorpius' eyes went wide. He flicked his eyes between his star and his teacher's star. He realized after comparing the two that his teacher drew a much more grown-up star than he did. "I want to draw that one," he said, pointing at Harry's star.
"It's tough," Harry warned. "Think you're up for it?"
"Mhm. I want to draw that one," Scorpius insisted.
"And why do you like stars so much?"
"Because, because they're pretty," Scorpius announced. This was the first time Harry had heard the boy talk so much in one go. "And my mother's name is Astoria."
"Oh, so you're drawing these for your mother?"
"Yes. She likes stars too."
"That's awfully nice of you. Then I suppose I will just have to share my secret star technique with you."
"It's not a secret. I know it's not a secret." Scorpius narrowed his eyes at his teacher knowingly and eliciting a soft chuckle from the man. The boy sure was shrewd like a Malfoy.
That evening, Harry watched from the entrance as Scorpius walked along the length of the stairs one at a time with deliberate slowness. The boy would occasionally look up to scan the quiet street with his sharp eyes and, when he saw no one, would go back to watching his feet as he walked. Almost all the children had gone home by then, the few stragglers meeting up with parents at the front gate. Scorpius, however, had not yet been claimed.
Harry pushed off the wall and strolled over to Scorpius as nonchalantly as possible. "Hey, buddy."
Scorpius paused and looked up at Harry, squinting when the sun got in his eyes. "Why do you call me that?" he asked. "My name is Scorpius."
Harry held in a chuckle. "Don't worry, I haven't forgotten your name." He then shrugged. "It's just something I call you kids, I suppose. Don't want me to?"
"It's okay. I don't mind."
Harry sat down on the steps. "Is your nanny coming to pick you up today?"
"Yes. Nanna forgets to look at the clock sometimes."
"You don't have to wait with me."
"Why don't you want me to be nice to you?"
Scorpius stilled for a moment with his chin tucked against his chest and his shoe scraping against the rough cement steps. But then he kept walking his solitary path along the edge of the stairs. "Because… no one's supposed to be nice to me."
Harry locked his elbows behind him and leaned back while examining the boy. "I'm not supposed to?" he echoed.
Scorpius shook his head.
"Who told you that?"
"Scorpius. Who told you that?"
Scorpius looked up at Harry. "Nobody," he maintained. "And I like playing on my own."
His expression was both honest and resigned, making Harry's heart sink. "I see." He glanced away while trying to think of a sensitive way to approach this topic. "Will I… get in trouble for being nice to you?"
"Will I get in trouble with your mum and dad?"
Scorpius frowned in confusion. "Huh?" He seemed surprised. "No. I don't think so?"
Harry nodded. Maybe this was something he had to chisel away at. "You know, you're practically my family," he remarked.
Scorpius spun around to face Harry fully, his eyes as wide as saucers and his mouth agape.
For the first time, Harry saw a genuine expression on Scorpius and he couldn't help but laugh out loud.
Scorpius started to call Harry out on that statement, but he got distracted when he heard his name. He glanced back to find his nanny waving at him by the gate. He had half a mind to ignore her and continue with this really strange conversation he was having with his teacher. But he was a Malfoy, after all. He narrowed his eyes at Harry and then turned around to leave without another word.
"Bye, Scorpius," Harry called out.
Scorpius ignored him and kept stomping off. If he wanted to make sense of things, he would have to learn more about this weird Harry Potter. His nanny would be the best person to ask. "You are late," he huffed.
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry," she cooed as she reached down to hold his hand.
"Harry? Harry Potter? You don't know?"
"I want to know."