Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the last chapter of Marathon. I thank everyone who's read this far, and I hope that you enjoy the ending.
Chapter Fifty-Seven—Scorpius's Birthday
"Happy birthday, Scorpius!"
Harry joined the chorus with the rest of them—Draco, Jamie, Al, Lily, and a few other students invited from Slytherin House, all Draco had really thought was appropriate to greet his son for a party in Harry's house. For that matter, it hadn't been simple persuading Pansy Parkinson or Theodore Nott to let their children visit Harry Potter. Harry suspected they'd only given in because Al had been in Slytherin for the last few years.
Scorpius, who had just come through the doorway into the big drawing room on the ground floor, opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Then he turned and punched Al in the shoulder, maybe because Al was standing the closest.
"You said that our dads had something really serious to talk about," he hissed. "You said that to make me worry."
"Don't be a child, Scorpius," said Vesta, Pansy's daughter, who, Draco had told Harry, was a little older than the rest of them, the way that Hermione had been older than him and Ron. "That's just the way pranks are." She reached out and gestured to the side where the table with the big cake was set up. It was a chocolate cake with liquid chocolate gushing over the sides continually, forming a tiny moat, and then rising back up to flow down again. She looked as though she was the one who had arranged everything, Harry thought. "Isn't this nice? Isn't this what you wanted?"
Scorpius nodded reluctantly, and walked up to the cake. He kept a cautious eye on Harry, as though he suspected he would pull some Muggle custom on him. Harry shook his head, smiling, and stepped back out of the way himself, to reveal the huge size of the cake that Scorpius hadn't been able to see from the doorway.
Scorpius's mouth dropped open a little again, and he stood there until Francis Nott poked him in the back. "Honestly, are we going to get to eat this year or not?"
Scorpius muttered something that made his father scowl at him, and then marched up to the cake. For a second, he contemplated the flowing chocolate. Then he turned and looked at Harry. "How much did this cost you, Mr. Potter?"
The room went so quiet and tense that Harry thought he could have closed his mouth and swallowed ice. Draco was looking at Scorpius in a way that made a clear promise of how much trouble he would be getting into later.
But Harry could tell the truth, and for whatever reason, this was a question that Scorpius needed to ask. "Nothing, since my house-elf made it."
Scorpius went on looking at him. Then his mouth relaxed, and he reached forwards and picked out the little sugar fountain to which the flow of chocolate returned each time. When he popped it into his mouth, Harry could hear the sand-like crunch all the way across the room. He restrained a wince. Scorpius didn't have to eat all that sugar at once, but even this could be a sort of test, to see how Harry reacted.
"Delicious," Scorpius said, and drew his wand, casting a spell that began to cut up the cake into the precise number of pieces that there were guests.
That left all his children as well as Harry with a much bigger piece of cake than he wanted them to have, and Draco clutched his plate as though it was a shield instead of holding the actual cake. But all the children ate theirs happily enough, chattering, and Scorpius received good wishes and laughed at jokes graciously. Harry noticed his eyes were darting around the room, though, and caught Draco's gaze.
"Looking for gifts, of course," said Draco, his eyes bright and soft.
Harry nodded. He thought once that behavior would have disgusted him, reminding him of Dudley, but now he saw a lot more clearly than he had a few years ago. A normal kid who wanted presents wasn't a spoiled brat.
Growing up with presents hadn't been Harry's fate, but so what? That made it good reason to be grateful that the children of this generation would never have a reality that was close to Harry's childhood.
The gifts began arriving, mostly borne by Kreacher, as soon as everyone had finished their cake (or, in Harry and Draco's case, handed some of it off to kids rather than eating it). Vesta had got Scorpius a version of a Foe-Glass that was a mirrored snake instead of a simple mirror; it would crawl around his bed and hiss when enemies got near. Francis had bought a book of Quidditch advice that Scorpius eagerly seized, and spent ten minutes talking with Francis about before opening anything else.
Jamie handed Scorpius his own wrapped gift so delicately that Scorpius seemed to understand what it was, and opened it gingerly. It was a glass vial, glowing gold.
"Felix Felicis," said Jamie, and smiled at him. "Don't spill it."
Draco narrowed his eyes and stepped forwards. "If there's any stolen ingredients in there, you're not keeping it," he told Scorpius.
Scorpius cradled the vial against his chest and looked as though he wished he'd already swallowed a drop of it. "How can I tell? It's not like the ingredients are all separate and I can see whether they were stolen or not."
"I wouldn't do that, Mr. Malfoy," Jamie said. "Not now."
Draco exchanged glances with him on a level that Harry felt he didn't get, and that was mildly frustrating, that he didn't even understand his own Gryffindor son as well as Draco did. But whatever Draco saw in Jamie's eyes seemed to have convinced him, because he nodded and managed to smile. "Then that's a very handsome gift, and a very expensive one. Say thank you, Scorpius."
"Thank you," said Scorpius, and while Harry didn't think he'd ever had any particular reason to be fond of Jamie, he was smiling now. "I won't drop it or lose it or waste it, I promise."
Jamie nodded again, and turned as if he knew that Al was standing right next to him and wanted to give his gift to Scorpius next. Al marched somewhat ceremoniously forwards and offered Scorpius a book-shaped package. Harry raised his eyebrows. He would have assumed Al would get Scorpius something that had to do with Quidditch.
On the other hand, as he had reminded himself more than once, he and Al weren't that similar.
Scorpius tore the packaging eagerly open, maybe anticipating that it was another Quidditch book like the one Francis Nott had got him. But his mouth fell open when he saw what it was, and he shook his head a little, looking up at Al. "How did you even know I like them?" he whispered. "It's not like I told you."
"No, but I can watch you," Al said, and punched Scorpius's shoulder. "When you're best friends with someone, you just know."
Scorpius finally turned the book, on Vesta's impatient order, so that everyone else could see it, and Harry saw that it was about hippogriffs, and how to make one respect you enough to become your friend. Harry stifled a snicker. Draco's face had locked in frozen lines, but he cleared his throat a second later and said, "Matilda Higginbottom? I think I remember hearing of her. A first-rate Magical Creatures scholar."
Apparently that was praise, and mitigated any disapproval that Scorpius might have sensed in his father's voice, because he beamed at him and nodded. "Yeah, isn't it great?" he confirmed, flipping through a few pages. "She says that you can lure hippogriffs with dead weasels, look!"
Before Scorpius could turn the book around, and maybe show them a picture that Harry could feel Lily shrinking from, Draco said, "I think you would like to receive your gift from me, Scorpius?"
That was a tone Harry had never heard him use before, let alone around his son, and it made Scorpius put down his book instantly and pay respectful attention. "Yes, sir," he said quietly. "I would."
Draco nodded and snapped his fingers at Kreacher. Kreacher nodded, bowed, and vanished, then came back with a flat, small package that he handed to Draco with reverence. Draco held it out to Scorpius.
"I saved it for this birthday because this birthday means that a Malfoy is mature enough to handle certain responsibilities," said Draco. "Like taking care of a bloodline artifact."
Scorpius's head came up, and for a second, the eye contact between Draco and his son locked out everyone else in the room. Harry wondered if he was the only one who saw the way that the lines and corners around Draco's eyes softened with love for Scorpius.
Then he decided that he hoped he wasn't the only one, because that would mean Scorpius didn't recognize the loving expression on his father's face, either, and Harry didn't want that to be true.
But Scorpius nodded and smiled in a way that meant he must have been able to see, and he put out a hand. "Let me see it, Father," he said softly.
Draco handed the gift across to him. Scorpius opened it, with a care that made Harry wonder if he already knew what it was. If he didn't, he at least recognized it. He gasped and looked at Draco with his mouth open.
"You're ready to take care of one of the properties now," Draco said. When Scorpius turned his hand, Harry saw that there was a long, thin golden key in the middle of the lacquered box Scorpius held. "I'll escort you there in the morning, and introduce you to the house-elves. You'd best hope that you please them."
His voice was threatening, but Scorpius must know that kind of threat, because he reached out and clasped Draco's hand hard. Apparently that was the substitute for a hug. In the middle of everybody with everything going on, at least, Harry thought.
"Thank you," Scorpius whispered. He cleared his throat a moment later, apparently disconcerted with his own open display of emotion, and turned to Harry. "And did you get me anything, Mr. Potter?" His grin said that Harry didn't have to.
"Well, yes, I did, although the gift is shared with Lily," said Harry. He caught Draco's eye. Draco nodded. Well, good. Harry hadn't thought he would really be able to hide the gift from him, though he had smuggled it carefully into Grimmauld Place. "And it's not one that Kreacher brought in. So I'll have to go get it."
"Kreacher is sparing Master Harry the trouble," Kreacher interrupted, and snapped his fingers. In a moment, Harry and Lily's gift appeared in the middle of the drawing room, staring around at everybody with its tongue hanging out of its mouth.
Scorpius exclaimed softly. "It's a Crup," he whispered, and reached out his hands. The puppy ran to him at once, wagging its tails. "But I've never seen an all-white one like this one that had dark eyes." He looked at Harry.
Harry smiled. "Apparently the all-white ones are pretty rare, and some people think they're bad luck. But they're smarter than a lot of other Crups, and it can learn more words. That's what the man I bought it from said, at least."
"And I helped Dad pick it out," Lily added, in a wistful tone. She'd spent the last few days playing with the puppy, and Harry thought she would have been happy to keep it and go on playing with it. "So it's a gift from me, too."
Scorpius gave her a little bow which made her giggle. "Thank you, my lady." He held the puppy close. It licked his cheek. "I think his name might be—no, something to do with snow is too common. I'll have to think about it. Hmmm." He ruffled the fur on the Crup's back and smiled at Harry and Lily at the same time. "Thank you again."
"You're welcome," said Harry, relaxing. Draco had said no to a broom, but apparently a pet wasn't forbidden, and he could hardly say that Scorpius wasn't mature enough to take care of a Crup when he had given Scorpius a whole house. "Now, do you want to eat dinner here, too? Your dad wasn't sure you would want to."
Scorpius had barely opened his mouth to answer when Kreacher appeared among them again, standing in the straight, quivering posture that he adopted when someone unannounced made a firecall. Harry caught his breath. If this was Robards, he would shut the door so that his guests didn't hear and then blister the man with what he really thought of him.
But instead, Kreacher said, "Unspeakable Miss Greengrass is being in the fireplace, Master Harry Potter."
From the sharp way Draco's breath drew in, in turn, Harry didn't have to make any guesses as to who that was. He put a hand on Draco's arm, then asked, "And she said she wanted to speak to me?"
Kreacher gave a disgusted little toss of his ears. "Master Harry Potter is being substantially correct."
"Good," said Harry, and nodded at both Draco and Scorpius, who looked a little pale. "If you'll excuse me?" He followed Kreacher to the library.
Astoria Greengrass, as she'd apparently gone back to calling herself after her divorce, was waiting for him in the fire.
She wore a grey robe like most Unspeakables, but her hood was pushed back enough to show her face. She had a pretty one, Harry had to admit, even though it had a kind of pinched look that he wouldn't have been attracted to on Ginny, or on Draco if he had still had it. Her hair was long and blond and gleaming, and hung around her face in straight, neat lines, as if it wouldn't dare do anything else.
"You wanted to speak to me?" Harry asked, and shut the door.
Astoria spent enough time studying him that Harry wondered if this was an excuse to see the man who had dated her former husband and was holding a birthday party for her son, and she would shut down the fire without speaking. But finally, she shook her head and murmured, "I wanted to reassure you on the matter of your wrist-bell. My colleagues took an unacceptably long time to investigate. But that is understandable, when they were being hindered by one of their own."
Harry blinked, coming to earth with a painful bump. "You mean—you're telling me that someone in the Department of Mysteries was a traitor? Obstructing them?"
Astoria nodded gracefully. "He had interfered with your wrist-bell and sent the messages. Only an Unspeakable would know how to tamper with one. Once I pointed that out, they looked in the right direction. He is also the one who helped them gain entrance to the Department of Mysteries and slipped them some variations of our own inventions, which they improved to use in battle." She looked Harry full in the face now. "So you see, it was something we should have prevented, our own internal affair, and nothing to do with you."
Harry's heart was pounding hard. "Are there lots of other things around here that have nothing to do with me?" he asked.
Astoria's face was bright, but she said nothing for long enough that Harry got a bit uneasy. Then she shook her head. "I believe they have more to do with you than me. I only wanted to reassure you that we had the situation well in hand, and neither the Unspeakables nor the Aurors will trouble you any longer." She paused. "I trust you have your situation well in hand?"
Speechless, Harry could only nod.
"Well. You might tell Scorpius from me that he will receive his gift when he goes home. It is something that cannot be sent safely by owl or firecall, and I cannot leave work at the moment."
Harry just nodded again. Astoria inclined her head to him and vanished into a mass of sparks as the Floo connection closed.
Harry lost track of time, standing there, until someone knocked. Someone, ha, Harry thought as he went to open the door. Of course it's Draco. I know his knock.
"What did she want?" Draco asked quietly, stepping in at once and looking around as if he thought Astoria had come through the Floo and was lurking in a corner somewhere.
"To see what was going on and who had you now, I think. And to tell me that they found out an Unspeakable was the one sending the wrong information through my wrist-bell and letting the Spiders into the Ministry. And she wanted me to tell Scorpius that he'll get his gift when he goes home."
Draco's eyes locked onto his face. He opened his mouth a little, shut it, and ended up saying nothing.
"No," said Harry, shaking his head at once. "This isn't the end of anything. Your Unspeakable ex-wife doesn't intimidate me, and just because it's Scorpius's birthday and you promised to pay me back by then doesn't mean things are ending between us." He stepped forwards and let his hands rest on Draco's shoulders. "You don't consider anything ended between us, I hope?"
"I don't know if the debt is paid," Draco whispered, his hands coming up to clasp Harry's. "I hope it is. I feel like it is."
"Good," Harry said. "I feel like it is, too."
"But then what comes next?" Draco was still whispering, as though he was afraid someone would break in on them if he didn't sound soft enough. "After the debt, I don't have words for what comes next. It used to be marriage. But that didn't work out for me, either."
Harry didn't laugh, only because the moment, so joyous to him, was so uncertain to Draco, and could be ruined by something like that. He just leaned in and rested his chin on Draco's shoulder instead, and let Draco's eyes peer, almost unfocused, into his face.
"I think that what comes next is love," Harry said. "It's a good word for it."
Draco hesitated once, but it was the hesitation of surprise, not fear. Or so Harry thought. He did try to think what he would do if Draco wanted to run for it, but he didn't think he would.
Instead, Draco reached up and carefully framed Harry's face in his hands, and they enjoyed a staring contest every bit as intense as the one Draco and Scorpius had had when Draco gave him that key. Harry smiled softly at him.
"With my son and your children and the Weasleys and our ex-wives and all," Draco whispered.
"I hope not always in the same house," Harry pointed out. "But yes, and my past, and yours, and the Malfoy heritage, and the Potter fame. Not to mention a house of mixed Gryffindors and Slytherins. But yes. I do mean that."
Draco stared at him in silence a moment longer, and then said, "More Slytherins than Gryffindors."
"I think we'll get along," said Harry. He didn't know if the moment had gone by yet, the one he couldn't ruin, but he couldn't help reaching out and drawing Draco into his arms anyway.
And Draco came, and if his voice had still been a little uncertain, at least his arms around Harry were strong and tight, and his lips were warm.
And when he whispered, a moment later, that he loved Harry, Harry had no problem saying it back. He never would.