Yes, this fic is totally based on Sleepless in Seattle, although I altered it quite heavily to force it into the magical world and my own amusement. It's nearly epilogue-compliant, except that a certain person won't make it to appear on Platform 9 3/4 for Albus' first year at Hogwarts.
22 December, 2016
Harry scowled and wondered if using a Cleaning Charm would help or hinder his efforts to coax loose the remnants of the Yorkshire pudding that stubbornly clung to the edges of the metal dish. Probably hinder, he decided, knowing that he was pants at Cleaning Charms and the roasting tin would be lucky to survive such an attempt.
The puddings had turned out surprisingly tasty, but the mess left behind had been daunting. A bit of concrete-like dough resisted all of his scrubbing efforts and he considered Vanishing the entire damned tin and buying a new one.
He pictured Hermione clucking her tongue at him and murmuring, "Wasteful." He sighed heavily and kept scrubbing.
"…the holidays can be a lonely time for people, despite being surrounded by friends and family." The voice issued from the radio on the counter. The Wizarding Wireless Network had expanded after the invention of wizaphones. Talk shows and advice networks warred with music and prize-of-the-hour stations. The words caught Harry's attention and his hands stilled. "If you are one of those, we would love for you to call in and talk to us. We want you to know that you are not alone and that we care about you here at WW-Ten."
Harry wrinkled his nose and resumed scrubbing. Sure, they cared. They cared about their ratings and the number of advertisers they could suck in. The announcer had a kindly, almost sultry voice, but Harry doubted she knew anything about true loneliness.
He sighed and set the stubborn tin aside. He would deal with it later. What he wanted now was to sprawl on his sofa and stare at the fairy lights on the Christmas tree, and indulge in a little bit of self-pity and a lot of alcohol.
The radio announcer began talking to a man from Newbury who was alone for the holidays because his girlfriend had run off with his best friend. Radio gold.
Harry used his wand to fill the roasting tin with water and then heated it to near-boiling. It could soak overnight and would hopefully not be so bloody difficult to clean in the morning. He dried the plates with a spell and stacked them in the cupboard. It was three days before Christmas and Harry was home alone with Albus. James and Lily had gone to the Weasleys' to spend time with their cousins, but Albus had little in common with either Rose or Hugo, and preferred to stay with Harry. It worried him, sometimes, that his youngest son was such a loner.
"You should hang about with other friends," a caller advised the man from Newbury, "and go to a New Year's Eve party. Meet someone new."
"That is good advice," the sultry-voiced announcer said, "and try not to dwell on the infidelity of your former friend and lover. Not all people are inconsiderate and horrible, so try to look for the good in those you meet and keep your past from colouring your future relationships."
Harry made a huffing sound. Advice was easy to give, but not so simple to take. "Yes, Bob," he muttered, "go on out and find yourself someone new right away. Bloody ridiculous."
"Good luck, Bob," she said, "and Happy Holidays. Our next caller is someone rather special. Hello, James from Selsey. How are you this evening?"
Harry started for a moment and then shook his head. It couldn't be.
"And how old are you, James?"
The tension Harry had been nearly unaware of dissipated. His James was nearly thirteen; he would never claim to be younger than he was, not even on threat of death.
"Almost eleven. You are close to adulthood, James. You sound very grown-up. Why did you call in tonight?"
"To increase your ratings," Harry muttered and put the utensils away.
"Well, you said the holidays can be lonely and I think my dad is really lonely, especially right now, so I called to see if you know what I can do. I hate that he's sad all the time."
Harry shut the door quietly, heart clenching despite his cynical desire to mumble, "Child exploitation."
"And why is your father sad all the time? Do you know?"
"It's because my mum died."
Harry drew in a sharp breath.
"I am sorry to hear that, James. Was it recent?"
"About three years ago."
Oh god, Harry thought as a horrible realisation stole through him. Selsey, and James.
"Three years? And he is still sad?"
"Yeah, he might be sad because they fought a lot before she… before she died. I think maybe he thinks it was his fault, or that he could have done something to save her. Or maybe even that he wishes he could say he was sorry again."
"Sorry for what, James?"
"I guess mostly that he wasn't a good husband. Or maybe because he fancied men. You know, like maybe he wanted a husband instead of a wife. I heard them fight about it once."
"Fuck," Harry murmured. "Albus." He fled the kitchen, looking for his son. The living room was empty, so Harry took the stairs two at a time. It was too much to hope that there was another ten-year-old boy living in Selsey whose mother had died, and who had witnessed his parents arguing over the possibility of his father being gay.
He flung open the door to Al's room. Wide green eyes met Harry's and Albus mumbled into the wizaphone, "Um… I have to go."
"Wait, James!" The announcer's voice issued from the portable radio on Al's dressing table.
Harry took the wizaphone from Albus with a look that promised retribution. He spoke into the mouthpiece. "I'm sorry, but James is up past his bedtime and this conversation is over. Good evening."
"Is this James' father?"
"Yes, and if you don't mind I would like to get back to wallowing in sadness."
Albus picked up one of Lily's stuffed animals and hid his face behind it while Harry tried to pretend his flippant words weren't true. Maybe he really was fucked up.
Draco rolled his eyes and sent an absent hex at a fairy, who squeaked and brightened, wings flapping as she shone for all she was worth. The wireless was disgorging a maudlin sob story about some motherless boy with a sad father.
"Scorpius, must we?" Draco asked.
"Shush, I am listening to this," Scorpius said with a quelling look. Draco's eyes narrowed with annoyance, even though he recognised where Scorpius had got such a look—Draco saw it frequently in his own mirror.
About to inform Scorpius that one did not shush one's father, Draco's attention was snared by the words, "…or maybe because he fancied men." His censure turned into a laugh.
"Salazar, no wonder he's sad, the poor man."
Draco shook his head, listening with half an ear until a resonant voice issued through the radio and he realised the boy had been caught airing his father's dirty laundry on public radio. "Someone is in trouble."
Yes, and if you don't mind I would like to get back to wallowing in sadness. The voice was deep and tantalisingly familiar. Was the man someone Draco knew? He began to sift through his friends and acquaintances. Did any of them have children named James?
"How old is that child?" Draco asked.
"My age," Scorpius replied. "I hope his father isn't too hard on him. He was only trying to help."
"…accept our condolences on your loss, sir. Please know that I am only here to assist you however possible." The woman's voice was soothing and contained a quality that made her seem trustworthy. Draco wondered if a spell had been invented that could travel upon radio waves.
"I'm pretty sure you're only trying to increase your ratings, but thanks," the man said. Draco reluctantly admitted a grudging admiration.
"How did it happen? Your wife, I mean?"
Draco nearly gasped at the temerity of the woman. He half-expected an angry response, which would have fed right into the hands of the radio drama-mongers. After a shocked silence, the man responded, "It was sudden. An illness no one saw coming and no one knew how to combat. One day she was fine and the next she was gone."
Draco's hands clenched. He wished the man had simply hung up. It was nearly Christmas, for Salazar's sake. No one wanted to listen to this depressing nonsense.
"That's dreadful," the announcer said. "And you… loved her?"
"Of course I loved her."
The man's response was clipped and likely issued through clenched teeth. "Yes, even though. I am attracted to both men and women, although it is really no business of anyone's outside of this house." Draco could picture a glare sent at the man's son. "My wife was insecure about it before she died, but it had nothing to do with how I felt about her. I miss her. Very much."
"Thank you, sir, for having the patience and the charity to explain rather than hang up on me, as you likely wish you had done. It is apparent, to your son, at least, that you are still grieving, although three years is a long time. Do you think that you will ever love again?"
"I have no interest in dating, nor in trying to replace my wife. My only concern now is to provide the best possible life for my kids."
"Begging your pardon, sir, but if your son is worried enough about you to call in to a radio show and discuss the fact that you are always sad… Perhaps causing your children to worry about you is counter-productive to your intention."
There was a long silence and Draco thought the man had finally hung up on her. His eyes met Scorpius', to find his son's brow wrinkled and a concerned look upon his face. And then the man spoke again. "Yeah. Yeah, maybe you're right. Goodnight."
A soft click ended the conversation and the announcer cleared her throat. "Goodnight, sir. We wish you well, James, and hope that you and your father find the happiness you both deserve. And now a word from Circe's Smile, the potion that will keep your teeth white and your smile bright."
Scorpius let out a breath. "You should find him."
Draco turned off the radio with a flick of his wand. Sentimental hogwash. "Find who?"
"That man. James' father. He sounds nice."
Draco gave Scorpius a penetrating stare. "Scorpius. I am with William."
Scorpius rolled his eyes. "William is boring. I was talking to Aunt Pansy—"
"And that is your first mistake," Draco said as he got to his feet. "Have I not told you never to speak to that woman?"
"I speak to her all the time!"
"And thereby disobeying my excellent advice. Don't let it happen again. Now, off to bed with you."
"But, Father, aren't you curious? He sounded so terribly sad. And James is my age."
"Bed," Draco ordered in a voice that brooked no argument.
Scorpius huffed a long-suffering sigh, but he got to his feet and shuffled towards the door. "Goodnight. Father."
"Goodnight, Scorpius," Draco said and shook his head. Scorpius needed to get over his dislike of William. After all, it was only a matter of time before they formally bonded. William had hinted about it often enough recently.
Draco freed the fairies from glowing and went to bed.
Harry sank down on Al's bed and stared into the darkness. After long minutes, a small voice asked, "Are you angry at me?"
Harry looked over his shoulder at Albus, who clutched the furry toy to his chest as if he were much younger than the "nearly grown-up" ten-year-old he was. Harry reached out and ruffled Al's hair.
"No. I'm not angry. I guess I just never realised how much my being sad affected you."
"You're not always sad," Albus said in his peacekeeping tone. He had always been the calm one, the mediator between his fiery brother and sister, and the one who defused angry situations.
"But I'm sad often enough that it's a problem."
"It's not a problem! I just thought maybe there was something I could do. To help."
Harry dropped an arm over Al's shoulders and pulled him closer. "You did help. You gave me something to think about and I promise that I'll try not to think about the past so much. Your mum was… really special. But I don't think she would want me moping around all the time and bringing you guys down."
Albus poked him in the ribs. "She would probably give you a hex."
Harry tickled him under the arms. "She probably would," he agreed as Albus squealed and squirmed away from his fingers.
"Dad! Stoppit! 'M not ticklish!"
"Obviously not," Harry said and made a claw with his fingers. He extended it towards Albus, who shrieked and scrambled away, laughing. Harry chuckled and withdrew his hand. "Goodnight, Albus."
23 December, 2016
Scorpius Malfoy was a man with a mission. He hadn't known what that mission was until late last night when everything had suddenly become crystal clear. For months, Scorpius had been discontented and restless. The cause was obvious, of course, because Scorpius was not a stupid boy and he knew very well the origin of the dark cloud hovering over Malfoy Manor and tainting everything he knew. What he hadn't known was what to do about it.
Not until a boy's voice had come through the radio with the answer to all of his problems.
Scorpius had a mission: to get his father a new boyfriend.
"Aunt Pansy?" he asked as casually as possible.
"Hmmm?" Good; she was distracted, reading some article in the Prophet.
"If someone called in to a radio station and you wanted to write them a letter, how would you find them?"
Aunt Pansy looked up from the newspaper. "What on earth are you talking about?"
Scorpius sighed. She did not yet have that sharp-eyed "what are you up to" stare that he dreaded, but if he wasn't careful it would turn into that and his plan would be suspect.
"Well, I was listening to the radio and this boy called in asking a question about the new Weatherby Windstorm Series 5000 broom and the announcer was completely wrong in what she told him." Scorpius resisted the urge to elaborate; already he was pushing the limits of lying. Keep it simple, was the adage to remember. Ironically, Aunt Pansy was the one who had taught him that rule. "Anyway, I wanted to write to the boy and explain that they were wrong and answer his questions. Maybe get a new friend." Scorpius winced at the last; he hadn't meant to say it and definitely had not intended to sound so wistful. To his surprise, it provoked a positive reaction.
Aunt Pansy's features, which had glazed over slightly at his mention of broom specifications, softened into the "oh-you-poor-boy" look with which Scorpius had an extensive familiarity. "I suppose you could write to the radio station," she said. "They track the wizaphone numbers of everyone who calls in as a standard practice. They might be able to call the boy back and get his address. They probably wouldn't give it to you, but they might forward a letter if you sent it to the station."
Scorpius nodded. "Then I will try that. Thank you."
She gave him the pitying look for a moment longer and then smiled and returned her attention to the paper. Scorpius pretended to read the book in his lap, but he was mentally composing a letter to the man from the radio, the man with the kindly voice.
Chimes sounded throughout the house. Albus lifted his head and listened to see if his father would answer. The chimes sounded a second time and Albus grumbled to himself. Of course the bloody phone only rang when his hands were full.
"Answer it, Dad," he muttered and tried to get the paper to stay in place while tearing off a piece of spellotape. Honestly, wrapping packages would be so much easier if he could use magic. Stupid bloody underaged magic statute thing.
After the third chime, Albus abandoned his package with a groan of annoyance. It could be Aunt Hermione calling, and if one of them didn't answer she would be over in a tizzy demanding to know what was wrong. And where the hell was his father, anyway?
Albus skipped down the steps three at a time and snatched the wizaphone from the wall.
"Hello?" he asked.
"Hello, this is Teresa Redstone calling from Wizarding Wireless Station Ten. I am looking for someone named James who called the station last night. Is this the correct number and are you James, or possibly his parent or guardian?"
Albus inhaled and then looked around sharply to see if his father was anywhere in sight. He lowered his voice. "This is James."
"Thank you so much for taking my call, James. May I speak to your father?"
"Um… he's not here right now," Albus said. Maybe his father had gone out to the garden. He would not have left the premises completely without telling Al.
"Oh, well, we have a bit of a situation here and would like his authorisation for something. Can you have him call us when he gets back?"
"Sure," Albus said, heart sinking. He knew his father would never call them. A terrible, evil idea came to him and he said, "Wait! Here he is now. Hold on."
Albus set the phone down and raced across the room to the roll-top desk that was permanently cluttered with an assortment of papers. Where was it? He ripped open the centre drawer and rifled through a jumble of items. He was sure it had been—there! Albus snatched it up and ran back to pick up the phone.
Albus affixed the button to his throat and said, "Hello?" His voice was high-pitched, as though he had just sucked in a mouthful of helium. He winced and turned the dial on the button before trying again. "Hello?" This time a deep, almost too-deep, voice issued forth.
"Mr… I'm sorry, but we do not know your name. This is Teresa Redstone…" She repeated her spiel and Albus waved his hands in the air, willing her to get on with it whilst he peered this way and that, alert for his father's return.
"Yes, yes, how can I help you?" Albus asked in what he thought was a passable imitation of his father's impatient mode.
"After your son called the station last night, we were flooded with phone calls. Today we received a large quantity of mail, most of which is addressed to you or to your son. We were hoping to receive your authorisation for us to forward it on, if you would be so kind as to give us your address, of course."
"That is excellent news. May I have your name and address, then?"
Oh shit. His name. Uncle Ron said everyone in the wizarding world knew his father's name. "Ron," Albus blurted before he remembered that his uncle was nearly as famous as his father. His eyes darted around the room. "Black!" he finished, fixating on a black jacket hanging on the coat tree. "Ron Black. I live at 223 Songbird Lane, Selsey. In Sussex."
Albus heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs and nearly panicked. He didn't know if any mail would find them with the wrong name, but he had no time to puzzle it out.
"Thanks, bye," he said and hung the phone carefully on the wall before pretending to be engrossed in the voice-changing button.
His father clapped him on the shoulder as he passed. "Did the phone ring? I was enlarging the closet and thought I heard it. I figured you would get it."
"I did. Advertisers," Albus said and shrugged. "I told them we didn't want any."
"Good boy," said his father and kept walking. "Hungry?"
"Starved," Albus said and put the button into his pocket with a muffled sigh of relief.