Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Angst, some mild violence, epilogue-compliant
Pairings: Harry/Draco, past Harry/Ginny and Draco/Astoria
Summary: Harry's life has become an endurance run, through the remnants of his stressful divorce, his strained relationships with his children, and his increasingly complicated job. Yet it seems what's going to complicate it most is saving Scorpius Malfoy's life. Since Scorpius is underage, Draco assumes the debt—and he is determined to pay Harry back. Now if only he could find something Harry actually wanted.
Author's Notes: This story began life as a one-shot idea, which means it won't be that long. Though the summary suggests angst, I also intend for this story to have some humor.
Chapter One—The Saving of Him
"That's it," said Ginny's solicitor, leaning back in his chair and beaming at both of them. "You are now officially divorced."
Harry sighed in relief, rubbing his temple, and then winced when he saw the way Ginny glared at him. Okay, in retrospect, he supposed letting that sigh out wasn't the most diplomatic thing to do.
"Thank you," Ginny said, but since she was glaring at Harry, it was obvious the word was directed only to the solicitor. She gave Harry an icy nod and stood up, turning around. Harry thought about calling after her, but what could he say? They had agreed to act civilly in front of the children, never to use the children against each other, and to have a perfectly equal division of time when it came to holidays with James and Albus and all the time with Lily, who wouldn't go to Hogwarts until next year. There was nothing else to arrange, nothing else that mattered.
Harry stood up and gathered his own papers. His solicitor hadn't been able to attend the meeting this morning, but since it had been a final one to acquire signatures and nothing else, that didn't matter, either.
Harry glanced up and smiled a little at Ginny's solicitor, an older man with a long silver beard whose name Harry could never remember. "Yes?" The man had been fierce on behalf of Ginny when he had to, of course, but he hadn't really been bad. It helped that there was only so much to argue about. Harry had left the house to Ginny, not caring to live in a place where every piece of furniture would remind him that it hadn't been forever, and while she had naturally wanted some money, there were already laws on the books about how much of a family vault's money could be given to an estranged spouse. It had come down to details, and Harry had let the solicitors handle those.
"Sometimes, it just doesn't work." The solicitor actually reached across the table to pat his hand. "I've just seen that expression on the faces of so many people," he added, apparently deciding that Harry needed to know how the man had known what he was thinking. "As they try to figure out what went wrong, what they could have done to prevent the breakup of their marriage. Sometimes there's nothing. In my opinion, this was one of those cases."
Harry rolled his shoulders a little. He wasn't going to say it if he could help it, but he did have to admit that it was comforting to hear that from someone, that it might not be entirely his fault.
Other things are, though, he thought, and managed to smile at the solicitor. "Thanks," he said. "I appreciate it." He turned away and made his way to the Floo connection on the far side of the room, checking his watch. Just enough time to get to Diagon Alley and buy that broom for Lily's birthday before he needed to return to work.
Harry winced. He stood in the middle of the Burrow's drawing room, in a litter of birthday presents and cake and the moving photographs of every member of the family that had been hung on the walls since the kids started being born, and Lily was staring at him with the Nimbus 3000 in her hand and that heavy look in her eyes that told him he had fucked up. Again.
"You're welcome," he said, and tried to smile at her. Lily stepped it up to a glare. Harry winced again. "What's wrong?" he asked, and in a whisper, because he didn't want to embarrass Lily by making a big deal of this right now.
"I wanted the Nimbus 3002. Not the 3000." Lily held up the broom once, then flung it to the floor. She managed to make it look like she was casting it into a pile of birthday presents, though, so no one else reacted. Lily went on watching him, though, and the way her brown eyes clouded reminded Harry too much of the way Ginny had looked when she told him she wanted a divorce. "Why don't you pay attention to what I say?"
"I'm sorry," Harry said, bowing his head. He felt slow and stupid and clumsy and desperate, but he knew that he couldn't say a lot of what he was thinking, because it would make the situation worse. And self-pity wouldn't help, either. He forced his attention back to Lily. "Can I do anything to make it up to you?"
"Turn back time," Lily snapped, and flounced off to the kitchen, where there was still ice cream left.
Harry watched her helplessly, then noticed Molly watching him and tried to cover it up with a nervous smile. "Reckon that didn't work out the way I thought," he told her, since she had heard the whole thing and it was silly pretending otherwise.
"Many things don't," Molly said, and gave him a complex smile before walking after Lily.
Harry ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. He knew that Molly wanted to sympathize with him, and she'd probably had her own hard moments raising her children. But it was difficult for her to do that when Harry had divorced her daughter, and when Harry was the one who had made the mistake.
Harry's wrist rang. Harry sighed and pushed back the cuff of his sleeve to look at the bell hanging there. It was large and silver, with a sharp little blue pendulum hanging from it. As Harry watched, the words streamed out of it into the air, blue letters on a scrolling silver ribbon. Suspected kidnapping of a Wizengamot member. Report to the Auror Division immediately.
Harry closed his eyes. He wanted to stay here and be with his daughter, but on the other hand, he was excellent with kidnapping cases, and the last time he'd chosen to skip one and remain with his family instead, two children had ended up dying and a woman had been cast into a coma for the rest of her life. No one had said anything to blame him in the office, but no one had very carefully said anything. And there were eyes on Harry from all directions the next day when it turned out that he'd turned off his wrist-bell so that no one could request further help.
I don't know what to do. My children need me, but if someone else's children die because I'm not there…
Harry spun on the spot and Apparated. He had the feeling that Lily wouldn't welcome either a farewell or an attempt at explanation right now, and the Burrow hadn't had anti-Apparition wards since the war. They lived in a safe world right now.
Safe for some people, anyway, Harry thought, and then he was opening his eyes and hurrying towards the nearest Ministry entrance, while the bell on his wrist chimed and retailed more information—location, name of the Wizengamot member, possible location of the kidnapper, possible motives.
This was his job. This was the thing that let him earn money, since the Potter "fortune" had turned out to be far more limited than he'd thought, and he rather thought he should hold the Black fortune in trust for the next person to inherit it.
Letting distractions creep in to his thoughts was dangerous, here. Harry shaped his mind into a single, clear, focused weapon.
But before he did, he allowed himself the single frustrated, wistful thought, I wish I knew how to make things right as effortlessly with my family as I do with my colleagues.
"Get under the Cloak, quick."
Harry nodded and slid the Invisibility Cloak back over his head. He'd come to Hogwarts for Albus's Quidditch game, and caught Albus coming out of the school already in Slytherin robes and with his broom over his shoulder; Harry had thought they could have a few private words together. But the last time he'd been here, people had swarmed him and stared at him and refused to pay attention to the Quidditch game, and Albus quite understandably wanted him to stay out of sight.
"Good luck," Harry whispered, as they stepped onto the field and he could be reasonably sure no one would hear him. They were all shouting and waving their arms instead.
Albus's face relaxed for a second, and he reached out and tried to pat Harry on the arm, although because of the Cloak, he missed and hit his shoulder more instead. "Thanks, Dad." He hesitated, then whispered, "Just stay out of sight."
"Right," Harry said, and faded back, watching as Albus trotted to the middle of the pitch, waving at the members of the Houses and the professors and what looked like multiple family members here. Ginny was here with Lily, Harry knew, somewhere. Another good reason to stay out of sight, so that they wouldn't feel like Harry was intruding.
Scorpius Malfoy passed Harry, a Beater for the Slytherin team just as Albus was Seeker, and behind him came a tall boy Harry thought was probably related to Marcus Flint. Harry had to quick-step out of the way, since no one could see him, and ended up behind the Hufflepuff stands. He could watch from here in comfort, and he hoped he got to see his son kick Gryffindor arse. Things would have been awkward if Jamie had wanted to go out for Quidditch, but although he was a talented flyer, he described Quidditch as too slow and boring. Harry was afraid his ambitions included breaking his neck in a trick instead.
It seemed like no time before both teams were aloft, scarlet and green robes whipping around them, the players circling each other, diving and twisting and performing all sorts of stunts that had felt a lot less dangerous when Harry was the one performing them. He swallowed and kept his eyes on Albus, biting his lip. He hadn't been a good father when he tried to shout Albus down and keep him on the ground when he was ten. Now that Albus was twelve, it would just be worse.
Scorpius Malfoy was a good Beater, Harry noted absently, aiming the balls consistently at the Gryffindor team when he could, but spending more time and effort protecting the Slytherins. Considering that Harry's son was Scorpius's teammate, and the Gryffindor Beaters seemed to aim at him most often, Harry applauded Scorpius's dedication.
But he was watching Albus when a shout and a cry came, and that meant he lost a precious moment whipping his head back around to face Scorpius.
Who was falling.
Harry stared, and then glanced around wildly. Why wasn't someone doing something? Oh, a few Slytherin team members were turning their broomsticks, but they were too far away, and the rest had thought the cry was part of the game and kept right on trying to get at the Gryffindors. The Gryffindors didn't try to help, of course. And people in the stands screamed and stared, but no one was trying to help.
Harry drew his wand and began to chant, voice steadier than he had thought it would be when Albus's best friend was falling to his doom. Well, it was true that he knew more spells to save someone than most people would, and he'd been under a lot more pressure. "Caelum!"
Scorpius went flying back up into the air, as more space opened before and behind him, the way the spell was supposed to do. Harry then cast a Cushioning Charm beneath him, choosing a patch of grass rather than the area of the stands that Scorpius would have hit otherwise, and finished with the Feather-Fall spell. Scorpius came drifting down like a leaf, washing back and forth, and landed on the cushioned grass with no more bad effects than the fear that was written on his face.
Harry tucked away his wand and sighed. Maybe using both the Cushioning Charm and the Feather-Fall had been overkill, but he would rather do that than not use something and have Scorpius be hurt.
By now, Madam Hooch was waving her arms and shouting, and all the players were paying attention. People immediately surrounded Scorpius, Albus dodging down from the sky without a care for the Snitch that almost hit his ear. Harry relaxed as he realized that a bunch of people had already scooped up Scorpius and were carrying him in the direction of the hospital wing.
One of the people who had run towards Scorpius and now followed the group was Draco Malfoy. Harry blinked, then rolled his eyes at himself. Of course it was possible that Malfoy would want to see his son fly, just like Harry wanted to see his.
He came rudely back to reality when he realized that people were peering around the stands and chattering like a treeful of monkeys. They wanted to see where the spells had come from, who had cast them, if the person who had cast them had done something to make Scorpius fall off his broom in the first place so he could be a hero, and so on.
Harry shook his head. It was no wonder that the conspiracy theories in the Prophet sold so well, with this kind of audience in the wizarding world to embrace them.
But he didn't want to stay here, as silly as he found them. If someone searched and found him, that would increase the publicity for him, and Albus would be hurt, again, that Harry had disrupted a Quidditch game. Harry moved smoothly backwards, keeping the Cloak bundled tight around him, and out between the gaps left in the crowd of chatterers and searchers and anxious students and parents. As soon as he could get beyond the gates, he Apparated. He would owl Albus later to find out if Scorpius was okay.
Harry stumbled into the middle of his drawing room, yawning desperately and trying to tie his dressing gown tighter around his middle. He was so trained to respond to the sound of the Floo in the middle of the night that clothes were a secondary consideration.
Right now, though, it was Albus, and that made Harry cast a small Knotting Charm at the robe just so there wouldn't be any more repeats of what was known around the Burrow as the Unfortunate Towel Incident. He knelt down in front of the fire and nodded to Al to show that he was there if not completely awake yet. "What is it? Is Scorpius okay?"
Al's face softened. "Yes, he is. Thanks." He hesitated, then blurted, "Mr. Malfoy is here and asking if you saved him."
Harry blinked. "Why would he think it was me?" He would say this for Malfoy, he had moved on after the war and never seemed to care one way or the other that Harry was alive. There seemed to be no reason for him to jump to conclusions and assume that Harry was either everywhere, or trying to ruin his life.
"Because he asked me if I saw who it was, and I sort of turned bright red and showed him I knew," Al mumbled.
Harry smiled fondly at his son. Neither of them was any good at lying, and although Al hated it because it was another way he was like Harry besides his looks and playing Seeker and he'd already spent enough of his life in his famous father's shadow, at least Al knew about it and was prepared to deal with it. "All right. You can tell him. I don't care. What?" he added, because Al's face had twisted.
"It is a big deal," Al said quietly. "You saved Scorpius's life. It's a life-debt."
Harry blinked some more, then shook his head. "I owed Mr. Malfoy a couple of life-debts, or his family, anyway. And he owed me some. We've never tried to do anything with them."
"This is different, because Scorpius is twelve, Mr. Malfoy says." Al turned around and looked at someone Harry couldn't see, then turned back, nodding. "You have to be of age to claim your own life-debts. Mr. Malfoy will have to fulfill this one because Scorpius is my age. He wants to know what you want."
Can he make me into what Ginny needs? But Harry stopped himself before he said it. That wasn't fair to say to one of his kids.
"I can't think of anything he could do for me, Al," Harry muttered. "If he wants to, why doesn't he owl me? I can think of something tomorrow."
Al nodded. Then he hesitated again. Harry waited patiently, recognizing the signs of an Al with something more to say.
"You won't tell anyone else about this, will you?" Al whispered. "Because then everyone is going to know you were there and start asking me why I didn't tell them."
"I won't say anything," Harry said quietly. "That's why it would be a good thing to have Mr. Malfoy owl me, because if he's talking about it in the hospital wing or the Slytherin common room, someone's going to overhear and start spreading gossip."
Al glared at Harry. "Not all Slytherins gossip! I thought you knew that."
Harry restrained a sigh. Always saying the wrong thing. He wondered vaguely if he would have felt the same way about his parents, if they'd lived. "Sorry. I meant that someone will overhear no matter what, if we talk about this aloud. An owl will avoid that."
Al relaxed and shook his head. "Sorry, Dad. I just—my best friend almost died today, and you saved him. I'm happy for that, really I am. But sometimes I wish it was someone besides you doing everything, you know?"
Harry nodded. For the short time Ginny had been a Quidditch player that Al could remember, it had been better for the kids, because it meant they had two famous parents instead of one. "I know. For what it's worth, Mr. Malfoy probably feels the same way."
Al grinned and lowered his voice. "He did say, Not your father? When I told him that I knew who'd saved Scorpius, I mean."
Harry laughed. Al had imitated Malfoy's tone of voice with what had to be absolute perfection. "Tell him to owl me," he repeated. "And I'm very glad Scorpius is okay."
"Okay." Al smiled at him and disappeared from the fire.
"Love you," Harry whispered after him, and went to bed. The next day already promised a lot to think about, and Harry wanted a clear mind.