Disclaimer: All characters and settings are part of J. K. Rowling's creation :)
Harry Potter sat behind the teacher's 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 Delacour, 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 towards 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.
"Hey, buddy. 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.
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?" he asked.
"I don't know."
There was little point in trying to reason with a sulking boy. Harry didn't try harder. He simply nodded and moved to pat Scorpius' arm.
The boy flinched away, startling Harry and a few children around them. That wasn't a normal reaction to an absentminded touch. Harry inconspicuously pulled his hand back and away from Scorpius. "Maybe, after you color it, you will like it," he said with a gentle lilt to his voice so as to not scare the pale boy. "Show me when you're finished."
Scorpius didn't say anything.
"Okay, Scorpius?" Harry urged.
"Mhm," Scorpius mumbled reluctantly.
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 naptime. 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 so highly of all the cooking games and freeze tag attempts. He just appeared disinterested all the time.
Harry sat beside him one afternoon as they got ready for naptime. "Why don't you play with the other children, Scorpius?" he asked.
"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. "He's so quiet."
"Probably thinks school is beneath him," Ron muttered.
"Really, Ron," Hermione tsked. Then she asked Harry, "Is he rude or just quiet?"
"Just quiet. But sometimes it translates to rudeness, I guess. I don't think he means it, though."
"Draw him out, then. Talk to him about things boys like to talk about."
So that's what Harry tried.
"Do you have any brothers or sisters, Scorpius?" 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 as he nodded. "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 studiously, 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 without pretending to hide his exasperation. "You shouldn't be nice to me," he finally said.
Scorpius scowled at the page.
Harry blinked in dismay. What had the child meant? "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.
"Scorpius," Harry tried again by reaching out and attempting to turn the boy.
Scorpius jerked his arm out of Harry's grip and scooted away quickly before hunching over and pressing his hands against his ears so he could read in peace. Harry glanced up at Gabrielle as his stomach churned.
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 he was the coolest boy in school."
"He's not that cool."
"He is. Mum said so! She said he beat all the bad people. She says he's cool."
"Then why's he a teacher?"
"Because he's cool."
Harry smiled privately.
"Why's he cool?"
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 mutely. To emphasize his intentions, he even shuffled back a bit.
Fortunately, most of the kids weren't old enough to understand body language all that well. 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 Potter?" one of the boys asked incredulously. "I thought everyone knew about it."
"Know what?" Scorpius asked.
"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 when he beat the bad man. And he-"
"Is he nice to you too?" Scorpius sullenly 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 fervently.
Harry was startled out of his project when he heard a strangled gasp followed by rustling of blankets. Looking out at the sea of his students, he found Scorpius sitting up straight-backed and unmoving. Worried that the boy had been woken up by a nightmare, Harry hurried over to him as quietly as he could. He didn't want to wake any other children up unnecessarily.
"Hey, buddy," he whispered as he knelt down next to the boy.
Scorpius' chin trembled and his fingers curled into the shirt. His eyes were screwed shut.
Then a soft alarm rang by the desk, causing Harry to look up. "Oh," he murmured in realization as he pulled out his wand and flicked it to switch off the muted trill. The alarm was indicative of bedwetting. Scorpius wasn't scared. He was just embarrassed. "Hey, it's alright," Harry assured the boy who was trembling from holding back his tears. Harry waved his wand at the sleeping bag and the boy, drying both instantly. "See?"
Scorpius let out a muffled sob and scrambled up in an attempt to run. Run to where, Harry didn't know. He stopped the boy before he could take more than two steps and pulled him by the hand. Scorpius pushed Harry back fiercely, but Harry didn't let go. "It's okay, Scorpius," he said with a calm shake of his head. "It happens sometimes. You don't have to be embarrassed."
"L-let go," Scorpius said heavily.
Harry released the boy, expecting him to run away. But Scorpius stayed put with his hands clasped in front of him and his damp lashes fluttering in an effort to stop his tears from falling.
Harry's heart went out to the poor child who was trying so hard to be independent and grown-up. "Don't want to sleep anymore?" he asked. Scorpius shook his head. "Okay," Harry seceded. "Then you can go read a book until naptime is over."
Scorpius scurried away before Harry had even finished that sentence. He plopped own in front of the small bookshelf and grabbed the first book he could get his hands on. Then, while making sure Harry couldn't see him clearly, he opened the book blindly while wiping his cheeks dry.
Harry closed his eyes in defeat. He wasn't getting through to this boy…
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.
"My 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 correctly.
Harry knelt down next to the chair and patiently explained, "I want to see how you draw it."
"Oh." 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. "Wh-Wait, how-How did you do that?" he asked in disbelief.
"Ah, but that's a secret I hold close to my heart," Harry said dramatically.
Scorpius seemed torn. 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… I want to draw that one," he said, pointing at Harry's star. "Can I draw that one?"
"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?" Harry asked lightly.
"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," Harry praised. "Then I suppose I will just have to share my secret with you, right?"
"It's not a secret. I know it's not a secret," Scorpius exposed with ease, narrowing his eyes at his teacher knowingly and eliciting a soft chuckle from the man. The boy sure was prudent like a Malfoy.
Harry watched from the entranceway 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 by the front gate. Scorpius, however, had not yet been claimed. Harry wondered if he should call someone.
He pushed off the wall and strolled over to Scorpius as nonchalantly as possible. "Hey, buddy," he said quietly so as to not startle his student.
Scorpius paused and looked up at Harry, squinting when the sun got in his eyes. "Why do you call me that?" he asked. "Buddy?"
Harry shrugged. "I call everyone that, I guess," he murmured. "Don't want me to?"
"It's okay," Scorpius answered.
"Do you want me to call home?" Harry asked as he sat down on the steps. "See where they are?"
"It's okay," Scorpius repeated while shaking his head. "Nanna forgets to look at the clock sometimes."
Scorpius nodded solemnly. "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," he mumbled.
Harry locked his elbows behind him and leaned back while examining the boy and going over that statement. "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 drop. "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?" he asked slowly.
"Trouble from your family?"
Scorpius frowned in confusion. "My family?" he intonated in surprise. "No."
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. "Huh?"
For the first time, Harry saw a genuine expression on Scorpius and he couldn't help laughing.
Scorpius opened his mouth 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 the mind to ignore her and continue with this really strange conversation he was having with Harry Potter. But he was a Malfoy, after all. He narrowed his eyes at Harry calculatingly and then turned around to leave without another word.
"Bye, Scorpius," Harry called out.
Scorpius shunned him and kept stomping off. If he wanted to make sense of things, he would have to learn more about his teacher. His nanny would be the best person to ask. "You are late," he muttered.
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry," she cooed as she reached down to hold his hand.
"Who's Harry Potter?"
"Harry Potter? You don't know?"
"I want to know."