Title: Friends Old and New
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco, past Harry/Ginny and Draco/Astoria
Summary: Being the wizarding world's foremost expert on ghosts means that Harry has to work with some unexpected people.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? Mostly.
Word Count: 10.800
Author's Notes: Many thanks to my wonderful beta and friends for putting up with me.
Over the years, Harry had found that peace was something terribly hard to find. There'd been the media, then marriage, then children, and because that wasn't probably enough, there came the ghosts. Some of them were nice about it, but most were obnoxious, wanting to be heard, thinking they held the absolute truths and wanting to make them known.
It had come as a shock to Harry that not all wizards saw all the ghosts, or that some ghosts could choose not to be seen. He'd later learned spells that worked with his innate ability to see ghosts – he was fairly certain that particular ability had something to do with the resurrection stone – and when the letters he got about his work with ghosts finally surpassed in number the ones about him finishing Voldemort, he quit the MLE and started working with ghosts.
It was a strange work, but it was also peaceful, because the ghosts weren't in a rush, like everyone else was. Once Harry gave them his undivided attention, it was nice – they talked, Harry cast his spells and explained why they shouldn't haunt a house, or why their relatives really wanted to see them again, even if there were curses used in the distant past – and Harry enjoyed his work.
Everyone around him had gotten used to this, as well. They didn't understand him, but they didn't ask questions and didn’t complain. After the divorce, James followed Ginny around on her tours – he'd always dreamed of doing that, but they had feared he was too young for it and kept postponing it until the divorce was finalized - Lily stayed with Molly when Ginny was away, because everyone agreed it was wiser to have her stay with someone who could constantly supervise her, and Al was with Harry.
"Dad?" Al patted his knee to make sure he had his attention. "There's a man in our fireplace and he seems worried."
Harry got up, rubbing his eyes slowly. He knew Mr. Hengeworth was around to make sure nothing bad happened, but still, it was unforgivable that he drifted so deep into his own thoughts that he didn't hear the Floo.
"You go to bed, Al," Harry said as the two of them walked towards the kitchen, where the Floo was. "Maybe Mr. Hengeworth will tell you a story –"
"He left, said he remembered a meeting in London and he had to leave. Went through Mrs. Black's portrait and she squeaked." Al covered his mouth and began giggling. "She then said something I'm not allowed to say and went quiet."
Harry shook his head and smiled. "Go ahead and I'll come up after I'm done with the Floo call. Find a nice book and I'll read to you a bit."
Al beamed up at him and dashed off on the stairs, making enough noise to wake Mrs. Black again. Harry ignored her protests and walked into the kitchen, then crouched in front of the fireplace. Years of working with ghosts hadn't mellowed him enough that he wasn't surprised by who was there, but at least he didn't react too badly.
"Potter." Malfoy bit his lower lip and looked behind him, then back at Harry. "Can I come over?"
Harry was too surprised by the request to say no, and a few moments later Malfoy was in his kitchen, dusting off his pajamas.
"I know it's late, but things are… getting out of hand." He looked around, but Harry doubted he saw anything, because he was frowning and his mind seemed to be far away.
"Sit down," Harry said. "I'll go say goodnight to Al and I'll be back in a moment."
Malfoy nodded absently and Harry quickly went up the stairs to Al's bedroom. He was up in his bed, with a stack of three books by his side, grinning widely as he saw Harry come in.
"I can't read now," Harry said softly, sitting on the bed. "The man in the Floo needs to talk to me and you should go to sleep."
Al's nose scrunched up and Harry knew a tantrum with tears and fists was coming on, and he put a finger on Al's lips. "You're tired, Al, and you'll fall asleep without it. Please be a good boy."
Al nodded without conviction, but Harry knew he was going to behave. "Thank you." He kissed his forehead and gently arranged the covers around him. "Sweet dreams."
Al closed his eyes, and Harry quickly made his way downstairs where Malfoy was re-arranging the tea and sugar cups on the table.
"These things are ghastly," Malfoy said, and Harry had to admit that they were. They were shaped like bees, but had pink wings that fluttered when someone touched them. They had been a present from Molly, hoping this way Lily was going to eat when she was visiting Harry, as if playing with the bees would make her forget she refused to eat.
"They're supposed to help Lily eat better," he told Malfoy and put them away. "What's going on?"
"There is a ghost who's been talking to my son, Scorpius… I thought he was some senile old ghost who got trapped somewhere until now or something, but… he's teaching Scorpius things and I can't see him, none of the other ghosts know of him…" He was pacing again, his hands clenching into fists then unclenching. "This evening, I was telling Scorpius about my day, with jokes and well… things he would understand, and I mentioned that my secretary forgot to pack something." He bit his lower lip and looked into Harry's eyes. "You have to understand I've never said this in front of him, and neither did any of the portraits or ghosts. He asked me if she's a mudblood."
Harry remembered first hearing the word, and he closed his eyes. "How can you be sure? Maybe you were drunk and said something or-"
"I do not make a habit of getting drunk, and when I drink a bit more, I make sure Scorpius doesn’t see me. And rest assured, I had nothing to say about muggle borns at those times. The portraits and ghosts are forbidden to say that by a spell embedded in the house. They cannot say it, no matter how much they might want to."
"Somewhere else? An elf, a guest –"
"I'm certain it was this ghost, but even if it wasn't, I'm worried about it. I can see… Scorpius is changed and I don't like-" He looked away with something very close to disgust. "I don't trust the Ministry's expert."
Harry wondered what had made him more trustworthy than her. "I have had a lot of cases, Malfoy, and I have to have some time for myself, for Al and Lily and James. The Ministry's expert knows the job and I'm sure she would be great."
"She came to the Manor two weeks ago, cast a few spells to call the ghost to her, and when the ghost didn't appear, she wanted to take Scorpius to St. Mungo's for tests. Acted like he was delusional and … I Obliviated her, but she won't set foot in my house ever again."
Harry was torn, because he had planned not to take any job that needed more than a day or two to be solved, and partly because he didn't want to work with Malfoy, not even for his son, which of course made Harry feel worse, because a boy was a boy, regardless of who had fathered him, and he deserved a chance.
"How old is he?"
Malfoy frowned, as if it were of no importance. "Eight."
"I'll come for an initial assessment. If I get along with him, I might consider accepting this."
Malfoy frowned, an annoyed frown that was probably going to evolve into something a lot nastier, so Harry interrupted his thought process before it got to that. "I'm not saying no, but I can't say yes when I don't know what's going on. I meant what I said about the-"
"No need to explain," Malfoy said, walking towards the Floo. "Come for your initial assessment when you feel like it." He disappeared a moment later, his glare etched into Harry's brain for the rest of the night.
"What are we doing today?" Al asked, letting drops of milk fall from his spoon and causing splatters of different sizes in his milk bowl.
Harry added Al's favourite cornflakes and ignored his sounds of protest. "You can't eat just milk, and I thought we could go to the park, see if any of your friends are back."
He'd expected Al to be enthusiastic, or at least smile, but instead he frowned and forcefully pushed the cereals to the bottom at the bowl, watching as the air bubbles surfaced. "Would we have enough time, with you working?"
"I'm not working today. I just talked to the man yesterday and I'll go to his home another day."
Al shrugged. "I thought it was urgent." He swirled his spoon in the bowl slowly, and Harry knew he was going to say something more, something he found important enough to warrant such a pause. "If it wasn't, why did he come at bed time and why did you see him instead of reading my story?"
"He didn't say anything about it being urgent…" though Al was probably right. Malfoy wouldn't have come if it hadn't been urgent and Harry had dismissed him without even considering if it was urgent. "I should go there today, to see if it was urgent and he just didn't say."
Al sighed. "So no park today." He was moving the flakes around so they formed patterns, and from where Harry was standing, the one he was working on looked very much like a bat.
"How about I take you to Grandma Molly, and you can play with Lily a bit-"
"I'm not playing with her dolls!"
"And then I'll come and take both of you to the park. It'll be great."
Al shrugged, but the thought that Molly usually had something sweet around, or that if he whined long enough, she would make something probably convinced him to willingly get his backpack.
"Let's go. And be nice to Lily and whoever might be there, alright?"
Al nodded dutifully and Harry put his arms around him and Apparated.
Harry Apparated in front of Malfoy Manor and waited for a few minutes, hoping that there were some wards he had triggered and Malfoy would send someone to see him in. He'd considered borrowing Pig when he dropped Al off, but his habit of breaking things had remained over the years, and Harry didn't want to think how Malfoy would react if Pig broke some of his family's old vases.
He waited there for a couple of minutes then decided no one knew he was there. He considered going inside, but he didn't trust the Manor enough to go inside unprepared, so he sent Prongs instead.
"Tell Malfoy I'm outside and I'd like to talk to him," he said and waited.
It took Malfoy a minute at most to appear next to Harry, looking disheveled and uneasy. "I… didn't any of the elves come to get you?"
Harry shook his head. "I didn't owl before, because I wasn't –"
"Let's go inside. I don't know what the elves are doing and I should be around if Scorpius decides to come out of his room." He seemed panicked, but not like a disaster was about to happen. More like something wasn't right and he knew a disaster might happen.
"I realized this morning that things might be urgent," Harry said as they walked into the Manor, the place more imposing than Harry remembered it. Then again, he hadn't had the chance to admire the architecture the last time he'd been there.
"Yes, I considered telling you, but then you started on how you – never mind. Last night Scorpius and I argued about his friend and he locked himself in his room, and I came to you because I knew I had to do something and…" He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "He's a good boy, Potter, and before this everything was perfect. He was always nice and polite and… Now he has moments when he explodes, and I don't know what to do, and I want to know who that ghost is and that he won't get Scorpius to murder me in my sleep some day."
"I'm sure it's not that bad," Harry said, knowing all too well how boys could be and how difficult it had been sometimes to get James to behave.
Malfoy sighed and stopped in front of a big mahogany door. "That's what I tell myself when everything is fine. But I can't ignore this and… I have to know at least. Know what that ghost is telling him, know who it is, know what to expect." He knocked twice, loud enough to wake anyone on the corridor. "Please open the door, Scorpius."
There was nothing but silence from the other side.
"Are you sure he's in his room?"
"The elves should notify me if he comes out. I suspect they're fixing the dining room, and that's why they haven't greeted you. After the war, we had to sell most of them, and we're left with two old and quite senile elves, so…" He knocked again, louder. “Scorpius, open the door."
There was a muffled thump, as if something was thrown against the door. Malfoy didn't seem terribly impressed, as if this happened quite often.
"Scorpius, I'm opening the door." He took out his wand and waved it over the door handle, and the lock opened with a soft click. Malfoy turned the handle and opened the door a little, without stepping in.
Another loud thump came from the door, and Malfoy pushed the door open all the way.
The room was big, but not as big as Harry had expected it to be, considering the size of the Manor. There was a four poster bed, a closet, a couple of low tables and more toys than Harry had ever seen in a boy's room strewn all over floor.
"Are you out of shoes to throw?" Malfoy asked and walked into the room, towards the bed.
Scorpius was sitting on the bed, clutching a pillow and looking at Malfoy with something between apprehension and defiance. "This is my room," he said after a brief pause. "You shouldn't have come inside without my permission."
Harry had expected Malfoy to say something about the house being his, or Scorpius being his son, but instead, Malfoy said "After what you did last night, I wanted to make sure you haven't hurt yourself while breaking your room apart."
"You took my wand. And if I had, you would have been too late. For all you know, I could have been dead –"
"Don't say that." Harry couldn't see Malfoy's face, but he was fairly certain he was pale and clearly upset.
Scorpius seemed to understand that, as well, because he looked down. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I was upset last night," he added, still looking down. "You shouldn't have said that about him. You know I-" Then he looked up again and finally noticed Harry. He frowned, turning to Malfoy.
"This is Mr. Potter, and he is here to talk to you about your friend, since you've determined I'm not good enough for that."
Scorpius blushed, and since he was just as pale as Malfoy, it was painfully obvious that he was uneasy. Harry smiled and, walking to the edge of his bed, extended his right hand. "I'm Harry Potter."
Scorpius' eyes widened, and again he looked at Malfoy. Harry couldn't guess what Malfoy did, or how he looked at his son, but Scorpius promptly got down from his bed and politely shook Harry's hand. "I'm Scorpius Malfoy. It's a pleasure to meet you, sir."
"Nice to meet you, too."
Scorpius smiled, and Harry understood what Malfoy had meant. On his own, Scorpius was a very nice boy, with no malice and apparently no impulses to do anything outrageous, like James had.
"We'll go to the dining room," Malfoy said, "and we'll expect you there after you're dressed."
Scorpius nodded and quickly walked to the door to retrieve his shoes. With a shake of his head, Malfoy exited the room, and Harry followed him as he heard the dresser drawer open.
The dining room was mostly repaired. The table and chairs were as good as new, the walls were clean and the windows were in one piece, but pieces from a mirror were lying on the carpet, and the old frame was broken, a half of it still hanging on the wall, the other half on the floor by the mirror shards.
"Did Scorpius do that?"
Malfoy nodded as he took a seat at the table. "He has a wand, one that has belonged to my great-grandmother." Malfoy sighed and took a sip of tea. "I had a wand when I was young, one I found in the house, and my father didn't know about it. I suppose he thought the elves were casting for me, and I never dared speak of my wand, fearing he might take it from me."
"It helped me a lot, and the spells I cast with it were basic, nothing worrisome. I didn't have anywhere to learn other spells, since my father's library was well protected and the only spells I saw cast were harmless."
"So you gave one to Scorpius thinking it would be the same for him."
Malfoy nodded. "He learned Reducto yesterday, and he tried it on one of his toys. I heard the explosion and went to check on him, and found out about it…" Malfoy poured himself another cup of tea and drank slowly from it. "We fight on and off, I say something and he closes off, then three hours later he says something and… Last night, at dinner, I forbade him to talk to that ghost, and he got upset, and screamed at me, and cast Reducto on his chair and the mirror."
Malfoy nodded."I'm not sure what I'd do if he tried to cast anything at me. It's… he's got quite a temper, and when he feels wronged, it's ten times worse."
"I know. James was the same. He even… he used to come up with things that hadn't happened, when talking to someone else, and he always made something small into a huge issue." Harry wondered if he still did that since Ginny had stopped telling him about it.
"How did you get him to stop doing it?"
"I'm not sure if he's doing it anymore. He's living with Ginny, and since Ginny is travelling so much, he's away for a long time. When we meet, it's special enough for him to behave, if he's still doing it."
Malfoy nodded as if he understood, but before he had the chance to say anything, Scorpius walked in, wearing a rather formal green robe. Malfoy raised an eyebrow at him, but Scorpius only shrugged.
He looked at the broken mirror for a moment, then sat at the table. A breakfast plate appeared in front of him, and the tea pot was refilled. Scorpius began eating in silence, not looking at either of them, and Harry wondered if Malfoy was waiting for him to apologize, or was planning to make him feel bad in front of Harry.
"Mr. Potter is an expert in ghosts and he agreed to come here and talk to us about your ghost and perhaps even talk to him."
Scorpius nodded, and Harry understood why Malfoy had left the mirror there: as a reminder that temper tantrums could cause damage.
"Now, you know there are some things about your interactions with him that I disapprove of, and I had hoped I could discuss with him, but as it's impossible for me to meet him, I hope Mr. Potter will be able to clear up some things."
Scorpius looked up, ready to protest, but then turned his eyes back to his plate.
"I ask you to be polite and answer Mr. Potter's questions."
Scorpius nodded, without looking up.
Malfoy sighed, but didn't say anything in reply to Scorpius' almost-rudeness. "I will be in my study if you need me. Call for Banny or Jinky if you need the house elves," he told Harry, then left the dining room.
"Jinky is better," Scorpius said after a few moments of silence. "Banny is strange and even Dad has to fight with her sometimes. They're both crazy, but Banny more so."
Harry smiled and nodded. "I've met a few strange elves."
They didn't speak for a few minutes, Scorpius busy pushing the food around his plate in a way that Harry found very familiar. Harry had no idea what to say to Scorpius, because he knew he needed his trust, and he was almost certain that asking a question Scorpius would find dumb wasn't going to help him.
"Did Dad ask you to get rid of him?" Scorpius suddenly asked, looking at Harry with panicked eyes. "Cause I won't let you do it."
"Get rid of him?" Harry shook his head. "Your father asked no such thing, and even if he did, I wouldn't do it."
Scorpius calmed down at that, and pushed his plate away. "I think he hates him, and I don't know why."
"Does your friend have a name?" Harry asked, and was surprised to see Scorpius shake his head.
"He didn't tell me. I've asked, but he pretended he didn't hear me. He's not… he's not like all the other nagging ghosts, who walk through you as if you weren't there, and who ask stupid questions." He paused for a minute, and Harry waited for him to say what he'd probably wanted to say for a long time. "I know my dad thinks it's silly to have a ghost as a friend, but I don't think it is."
"I don't think it's silly, either."
Scorpius' eyes widened and Harry smiled, knowing his chances of meeting this ghost had increased significantly.
"I have a friend who is a ghost and who is helping me take care of my son."
"Oh. How old is he?"
"Well, ghosts don't have ages per se, and it would be –"
"I mean your son."
"He's eight and his name is Al. I have a daughter, who's six and a son who's nine. Lily and James."
"Will you bring them here?"
"I'll have to talk to your father about it."
Al had always disliked Ginny’s uniform, for reasons Harry couldn't quite comprehend. They hadn't discussed it, either, because aside from Harry, it seemed that no one else noticed it, but seeing the way Al was glaring at Scorpius – who was once again wearing very expensive formal robes – Harry realized they needed to talk about Al's problem with clothes soon.
"Welcome to Malfoy Manor," Malfoy said slowly, studying Al. He looked at Harry and shook his head, a soft smile on his lips. "Scorpius has planned this very carefully, so I suggest the two of you go on," he added, smiling at Al. "And take off the robe, Scorpius."
Al walked forward to Scorpius, looked at him and whispered something that neither Harry nor Draco heard. Scorpius' response was equally silent, and after a moment, both boys left the room.
"That was odd," Harry remarked, staring at the door they'd walked through. "Al isn't the most… enthusiastic boy, but…"
"I managed to find out that Scorpius wanted to show off his nice robes, hence his wearing formal robes for both your visits. Perhaps Al doesn't enjoy this festiveness?" He smiled and shook his head."I guess we should be thankful Scoprius didn't like the one he wore to Father's funeral that much."
Harry frowned. "That would be… odd."
"They're dark green with green trims," Malfoy said, smiling. "Just so you don't wonder for your next visit."
Harry nodded. "Where will we talk to the ghosts?"
"I thought we could take care of two things at once and I've summoned them to the Portrait Hall."
Harry nodded and followed him through endless halls until they reached a hall that was wider than any corridor, and long, with portraits on both sides.
"It was customary for each Manor to have a Portraits Hall, back when the painters weren't found in every city and each family member had only one portrait. Now…" He gestured to the empty canvases, seeming almost disappointed. "They've turned from wise old men and women to gossips and meddlers. Jinky!"
An old house elf appeared, dressed in a pillowcase that was stained with bright colors. "Yes, Master Malfoy?"
"Call the ghosts and the portraits."
She nodded, but didn't disappear. "What if they is refusing to come?"
"They've promised to come, and they'll be very sorry if they break this promise."
Jinky nodded, though she didn't seem terribly convinced, and disappeared.
"They do this all the time, and the ghosts are just horrid. When Astoria was living here, they used to come to our bedroom when…" He made a vague gesture, but Harry was thankful he didn't go into great detail. "We didn't see them, of course, and the next day they'd repeat what we said, especially the more… intimate things."
"That's… unusual. The ghosts I've met weren't…" He made an equally vague gesture, not sure if Malfoy was going to accept members of his family being called crazy. Which they definitely were.
"I thought you knew Myrtle."
"Oh. The ghosts died young."
"There is a charm that you could try, to make sure it doesn't happen again," he offered, wondering if meeting all the ghosts in the Manor was such a good idea. He'd expected mature, responsible ghosts, pureblooded prejudices aside.
"It won't be needed, at least not until Scorpius grows older," Malfoy said, shrugging, and Harry wondered what had happened to Malfoy's wife.
Before he had the chance to say anything about it, a soft mumble went through the room and all the portraits came to life, as several ghosts floated into the room.
"Finally!" One of the ghosts said, and Harry's practiced eye recognized a young ghost, somewhere around fourteen. "I was starting to think we'd scared off your –"
"Khelleth! You shall not further dishonor this house with your suggestions and –"
"Oh, but they're not suggestions, are they, mother?" The young man cackled, floating in front of a portrait of an old, thin woman. He grinned widely and turned to Draco, who was looking on with an air of resignation. "We all know he's a poof," he said, blowing air into Draco's face as he said the last word.
Malfoy gulped visibly and turned to Harry. "I apologize for-"
"No need, I can understand perfectly why you'd need to know about that ghost containment spell."
There was surprise on Malfoy's face, but only for a moment. He smiled, looking like he was trying very hard not to laugh. "Yes, I was hoping you would."
The ghost seemed affronted, but didn't dart off as Harry had expected him to. "That would be terribly rude, Draco. I know you're jealous of me, but surely you're not that-"
"I wouldn't call it jealousy, and I certainly am that determined to get you to stop this nonsense. Now, Mr. Potter has some questions for you."
There were a few surprised murmurs, but a few moments later, Harry had the undivided attention of all the ghosts and portraits in the Hall.
Al and Scorpius were looking at some book, expressions of awe on their faces, and Harry couldn't help but wonder if Malfoy or himself had looked like Scorpius or Al that at their age.
"Can't believe how much they look like us," Malfoy whispered, the first words he'd said after the disappointingly useless meeting with the ghosts and portraits. He'd been subdued, like he'd hoped they could find out something new, that Harry would find something to work with, and was very disappointed that wasn't the case.
"Yeah," Harry whispered, wondering for how long they could watch the boys before they were noticed. "Lily and James have a bit of both of us – Ginny and me, I mean – but Al…"
Malfoy smiled. "I remember when I realized how much Scorpius looked like me. I had always seen him as him, not comparing him to anyone, and when I saw the resemblance… Astoria-" He took a deep breath and turned his attention back to the boys. "Scorpius hasn't had a lot of friends, and that's partly why he's so taken with this new ghost friend. Why I'm so worried about it. I'm glad Al came."
Harry wanted to say that he was glad, too, but he thought it sounded dumb, and he didn't want to say anything dumb, not when Malfoy was close and almost friendly.
"Thank you for not freaking out when Khelleth said that," Malfoy whispered.
"Would have been very hypocritical of me," Harry replied, and for a moment he wondered if Malfoy wasn't afraid of saying something dumb, too.
The snow seemed, for the first time in three weeks, light and playful instead of heavy and menacing. James' sudden illness had brought the family together like only pain and worry could, and Harry would have given anything to spare them the worry and suffering.
He'd been around all the time, forgetting all about Scorpius' ghost as soon as Malfoy replied to Harry's letter, telling him that of course he understood, and Harry shouldn't worry.
Standing in front of the Manor's gates, Al's mittened hand in his, Harry wondered what had happened in the past two weeks and if Scorpius and Malfoy had been alright.
"You came!" Scorpius greeted them as soon as they walked inside, wearing a winter cloak, mittens and a strange black hat.
Malfoy smiled at them, a little more restrained than his son, and Harry noticed his cloak was on a chair, as if he was getting ready to leave. "Scorpius thinks that a snowball fight would be the perfect activity for this evening, and I agree with him."
Al smiled, and Harry knew he missed his fights with James, when they had the Burrow's surroundings to themselves, running and throwing snow at each other, the house and anyone who dared step outside.
"It's a brilliant idea!" Al said, and started explaining the rules he'd had while playing with James as Scorpius led the way towards the gardens.
"How are you?" Malfoy asked, and Harry was surprised to realise his tone was caring and understanding. As if he knew what it was to have a sick child and fear for his well being. But then, he probably did.
"It was really bad for a couple of days, but he's a fighter and he's better now. He's staying at the Burrow – his grandparent's house – and Lily's there, and Al and I stay there now."
"Would you like to stay inside? I can get Jinky to watch over the boys. I know I was knackered when Scorpius was sick."
Harry shook his head. "I've been inside for so long, a little fresh air would be great."
They walked to a bench and sat down, the wood kept as warm and dry as if it were summer. They watched the boys run behind hedges covered in snow and throw big snowballs at each other, laughing loudly and yelling at each other after misses.
"How was Scorpius?" Harry asked after a few minutes. He was dreading the answer, fearing that the Reducto Incident had been repeated somehow.
"It seems that Scorpius' friend was a Hogwarts student, and he loved the castle. Scorpius started reading about it, and I got him to talk about it. I told him some stories about the castle, the professors…" he turned to look at Harry, frowning. "Did you tell your children about the war?"
"Sort of." It had been a difficult thing, with Ginny wanting her children to know, especially about Harry's part, and Harry hoping he could ignore the war, pretend it had never happened and let the children find out about it from the history class. "We explained what they needed to know to understand what was going on."
"I feel I should tell him," Malfoy said, staring right ahead, "but what would he understand at this age about a war? I was fifteen and I didn't understand. But if he goes to Hogwarts, he'll know and he'll hate me." He got up and kicked at the snow, watching as the blown snow fell on the settled snow. "I think he'll hate me anyway."
Harry and Ginny had talked about the war and the kids, and how Hogwarts was going to be, but Harry had always been a little afraid of speaking his mind then, because it was Ginny who had had the normal family, Ginny who always knew what to do. Looking at Draco Malfoy, he knew they were very much alike. He felt he didn't have anything to fear.
"I think he'll understand in time, even if at first he might not be comfortable with some things."
"My father was a bastard," Malfoy said tightly. "He loved me, but his love was… and I loved him back. I respected him, I adored him, and I never ever thought about judging him. Not when I was old enough to realize he was wrong, not when Astoria mocked me for my feelings for him, never until the day he died. That's when I told him… said some things I never thought I would. Blamed him, cursed him. I hoped Scorpius would never feel that way towards me, and I know that he will."
"I was ashamed of my father," Harry said softly. "I don't think parents and children are meant to be… perfect. Nobody is. But love makes people get over a lot of things, and Scorpius loves you very much."
"Not like he has many choices."
Harry wondered if Malfoy had been afraid when Harry came over to talk to Scorpius. Maybe he'd feared his son would like Harry more.
The Manor was warm and inviting, and the boys seemed very happy, snuggled under their blankets, mugs of hot cocoa held tightly in their hands. Malfoy was sitting by the fire, in a large armchair, and Harry thought he was still thinking about their earlier discussion.
He wanted to tell him to look at Scorpius, enjoy his happiness and set aside worrying, but he knew it would be pointless. Malfoy was going to let go of it only when he wanted to.
"Dad, did you and Mr. Malfoy go to Hogwarts together?" Al asked, and judging by the way Scorpius was looking at him, they'd talked about this.
"Yes, we were in the same year," Harry said slowly, looking at Malfoy.
"And you're friends," Al stated, as if there was no way it could be untrue. Malfoy kept silent and Harry did the same. They were almost friends, and judging by how personal some of their conversations had been… "Why haven't we visited before? I mean, Scorpius told me no one came here before we did and we could have come."
"Many things have happened," Malfoy said, getting up. "Potter and I weren't friends at Hogwarts, and many would say we were as far from it as possible. But we've grown up now." He looked at Harry and smiled; a weary, tired smile, but a smile nonetheless. "And you will always be welcome here. Your brother and sister, too, if they want to come."
Both Al and Scorpius smiled brilliantly at this, and Harry was certain they were anxious to start making plans as soon as they finished their cocoa. They began whispering right away, heads close and foreheads almost touching, and Harry was very happy he'd brought Al here, because he'd never gotten along quite this well with any of his other friends.
"Have you had a chance to research those spells?" Malfoy asked softly, handing him a glass that contained whiskey, probably.
Harry accepted the glass and took a sip, feeling a wave of warmth engulf him. "Yes, I did. I found something we should be able to cast, but we'd need access to the room."
Malfoy looked at Scorpius as though he was afraid. "He won't be able to tell that we've been there, right?"
"Unless he comes in while we're casting, no. It's a harmless spell, as far as ghosts spells go, and we'll just… ask him to come. Nothing harmful, nothing dangerous."
Malfoy nodded. "This should work, right?"
"If you want me to promise it will work, you'll be disappointed, because I can't. There are many –"
"Dad?" Scorpius was standing next to the sofa, helping Al get out of his blanket, with the cocoa cups empty on the floor. "Why aren't you calling Mr. Potter by his name?"
"Some habits are hard to break," Harry said before Malfoy had the chance to say anything. "It doesn't mean we're not friends."
There was a spark of amusement in Malfoy's eyes, but he didn't say anything. Scorpius shrugged and together with Al left the room, the times when he explained where he was taking him long gone and replaced by trust.
"I don't think I could call you by your name," Malfoy said after a few moments.
"It's not like that would change anything."
Malfoy shrugged, and Harry shrugged back, knowing that it would change a lot of things, but that he didn't have the courage to suggest it.
"Most ghosts live in one place because they choose to, or because they have a very strong connection with that place." Harry circled the room and set the standard spells against the ghosts he already knew in the house. It would be disastrous if Khelleth decided to check up on them in the middle of their casting, or worse, when they were talking to the ghost. "Some of them, though, are forced to stay in one place. It's almost like a containment spell, and I've released two ghosts from such spells." He checked the spells and stopped in front of Draco.
He'd started thinking of Malfoy as Draco, because for some reason it made him feel closer. More welcome, even if the other man had no idea of what was going on in Harry's head.
"They were grumpy and vengeful, but once they were freed, everything was alright."
"If this is the case with Scorpius' ghost and we free him, would he run away? I know he's a bloody pest, but if he doesn't come back to Scorpius, I'm not sure what… Scorpius will be upset."
"I've talked to them and they were quite reasonable. And pest as he might be, this ghost does seem to be fond of Scorpius."
Draco nodded and took out his wand. "Ready?"
Harry nodded and with an ample wave of his wand, Draco muttered Exibeo, which was an old, obscure spell that allowed a stranger to cast spells on a family home and anything that resided in it. Harry spared a moment to wonder if it was just Draco's worry that made him agree to this, or if he trusted Harry enough to know he wouldn't cast anything harmful, then cast his own spells to create the pull for the ghost.
As was the case with all ghost spells, this one affected each one differently, and Harry squashed his worry and focused on the casting. The pull, as he called it, had been compared by some to the Dementor's need to go where happiness was, except that in this case it was a lot more benign. The ghost would feel he had to be somewhere, and that somewhere happened to be Scorpius' room.
He'd considered casting from a different room, but they didn't know of any other where the ghost had been, and the chances of casting in every other room in the Manor without success were big.
"It's done. Now we just have to wait for him to come here."
Draco nodded and sat on Scorpius' bed, studying the room. There were toys all over the place, but some of them seemed to be set for play rather than thrown around. There was a large railway and a small toy train that looked a lot like the Hogwarts Express. The railway was partly set up, partly arranged in a pile, and Harry knelt next to it.
"He's fascinated by Hogwarts, and when he saw that in a shop…" Draco knelt next to him and pointed at the pile of railroad blocks. "They're selling them in small boxes, with the equivalent of ten miles in each box, and there's one box every two weeks." He waved his wand and the other pieces aligned to the already set parts, clicking into place. Draco waved his wand again and the landscape around the tracks appeared, with hills and trees and everything as Harry remembered it from his car ride to Hogwarts.
"This is amazing," he breathed and pointed at the train. "Does it work?"
"Of course it does." Draco touched the steam engine and there was a small puff, the carriages were surrounded by tiny whirls of smoke, and the train started moving along the tracks. "We think they'll give a Hogwarts model of sorts when they're done with the railroad, and I Scorpius is hoping to have a miniaturized Hogsmeade soon."
"This is brilliant!"
"What do Al and James play with, then?"
"They have games, you know, stuff like exploding snap, and they're outside a lot. They play games outside, work on a tree house with Arthur… We tried to get them to do stuff together, especially since the age difference between them isn't that big. "
"Scorpius told me that James is travelling with his mother."
"Yeah, that's a more recent thing. He fancies himself a great Quidditch player, though he doesn't have a broom yet. Not that I know of."
Draco smiled and watched the mini Express happily huff on the track, and Harry wondered if Al had even wished for toys like Scorpius'. He knew he would have if he'd known they existed.
He got up and walked around the room, inspecting the countless pirate ships that were more or less in one piece, the armies of elves and goblins that were neatly arranged under the window, facing each other as if ready for battle.
"Is this a historical thing?" Harry asked, pointing at it, and Draco laughed.
"That was a set, as well, and its creators were certain that that's what had happened at some point during the goblin wars." He got up and walked next to Harry, and cast Agoat the figures. They began moving, some kind of odd tactic making them spread out and try to attack on the flanks. Problems was, both sides tried the same thing and soon enough, they were arranged in one line, not knowing what to do.
"It didn't. I sent a letter and they explained they had been at Hogwarts."
It took Harry a moment to understand, and when he did, he burst out laughing. "Binns."
Draco nodded, smiling. "The children can 'direct' the troops, and it would be useful for history classes, race inadvertences aside." His gaze turned serious and he got up, walking to the nearest table. "When I bought that, I thought of my father and what he would have… used those for." He began toying with something on the table, but since his back was to Harry, he couldn't see what it was. "Don't you feel… Don't you remember what happened here when you come to visit?"
Harry got up, leaving the goblin and elven armies alone as they glared at each other. "I think of it sometimes, but since I haven't been in the dungeons…" He walked to the table and took in the things strewn about, from mismatched socks to a snow globe.
Draco seemed to notice the socks a moment after Harry did, and he quickly banished them with a frown.
Harry took the snow globe and turned it upside down, watching as the small snowflakes fell around the Basilisk model inside. "Did you buy any Muggle toys for Scorpius?"
Harry turned the globe back to its normal position and watched the snow falling back down, and seeing a basilisk in such a peaceful and fairy tale setting was so surprising, that for a moment he didn't realize Draco hadn't answered.
Draco looked at something he seemed to find equally surprising, though it was just a Prefect's badge.
"I was asking you if you bought any Muggle toys for Scorpius?"
"I tried, but he got angry when they didn't do anything, and when I tried to charm them, they –"
"What are you doing here?" Both Harry and Draco whirled around to see Scorpius standing in the doorway, fists clenched at his sides. "What are you trying to do to him?"
"Nothing." Draco walked towards him, but stopped after a couple of steps. "What –"
"Khelleth told me you were casting something and that you were keeping him away from this room. Are you banning the ghosts from my room?"
"No," Harry said, before Draco had the chance to consider lying. "We were calling for the ghost to come here, so we could talk to him."
"Maybe that's what you know, but that's not he wanted to do." Scorpius seemed ready to burst with anger, and Harry was certain that had he had his wand, he would have done something already. "Why do you want to get rid of him, Father? Do you want me to be alone and friendless?"
"Scorpius, you know very well that I-"
"Get out of here! Get out of my room!"
Harry ended the spell before Scorpius had the chance to say anything else, and gently guided Draco towards the door. "It could only get worse if we stay longer, Draco," he whispered as soon as they were outside, and allowed Draco to lean on him.
Dinner that evening was tense, and some part of Harry wanted to be home, where everything was fine, or better, go and have dinner with Molly and Arthur, joke with James and Lily and be with his family. But Draco seemed lost, avoiding looking at Al and Scorpius and Harry knew he needed the support.
"I'm sorry," Scorpius said when they were done with dinner, and judging by the way Al was looking at him, the apology had been greatly influenced by him. "I shouldn't have thrown you out of a room that is in your house."
Harry wondered if Scorpius was aware of how wrong he was to think that was what had upset Draco, but he didn't say anything. It wasn't his place.
"Your room is yours, as much as my bedroom is mine. I… I'm sorry you don't trust my word." Draco got up and quickly left the room, and Harry got up to follow him.
"What does he mean? I was upset he was there, casting those spells," Scorpius asked, looking honestly surprised.
"He said the spell wouldn't harm the ghost, and you said he lied. You said he lied to me about his intentions."
Scorpius blushed and looked down. "I say things when I'm upset, things I don't mean."
"Perhaps you should tell him that and apologize for them."
Scorpius hunched his shoulders and seemed to be as lost as Draco was, so Harry squeezed his shoulder and said softly, "He loves you, Scorpius, a lot, and it's easier to upset someone who cares about you."
Scorpius nodded and with a final squeeze, Harry left in search of Draco.
He went to his study, the Portrait Hall and all the other rooms they'd been in together. The he realized Draco would have gone to his bedroom instead of some random room, and decided asking the house elves where Draco's bedroom was would be a lot more productive than him wandering around searching for it. He called for Jinky first, and when she didn't respond, he called for Banny.
"Banny might be doing something for Master Potter," she began, an odd look in her eyes, "if Master Potter be doing something for Banny."
"I beg your pardon?"
Banny nodded with conviction and took out a sock – one of the socks Draco had banished from Scorpius' table, actually – and thrust it at Harry. "This be no good, I wants one of Master Draco's."
"You want me to give you one of Draco's socks?"
Banny nodded again, a hopeful look on her face. "Banny do anything for you if you give Banny a sock of Master Draco's."
"Why do you want his sock?"
She seemed offended by the question, but instead of disappearing as Harry feared she would, she answered. "I can't get one from Master Draco and still be his elf. But I wants it because I likes Master Draco very much."
"How am I supposed to get a sock from him?"
"Banny thinks he wouldn't lock his closet when you is around."
Which meant that not only did Draco know about this passion of Banny's, but he had to take measures against her stealing socks from him. It was strange on a level Harry didn't want to contemplate.
"I need to get to his bedroom to do that."
"Banny takes you there. And when you brings Banny the sock, you can ask for what you want."
Harry nodded, hoping that Draco was in his bedroom and he wouldn't be forced to search for socks under Banny's watchful eye.
Luckily for him, Draco was in there, but his eyes were red and puffy and Harry looked at Banny suggestively. With a loud sigh, she disappeared.
"She asked me to steal one of your socks when I called for her," Harry said, wondering if his warning would do any good.
"She's a bit odd… what did you want from her?"
"To bring me here, though she thought I came to get that sock."
Draco smiled weakly and patted the bed next to him. Harry sat slowly, wondering if he should mention what he'd told Scorpius or not. Considering how good Scorpius was at apologizing, there was a chance that he was going to make things worse, so Harry decided to explain what had happened after Draco's departure.
Draco listened without saying anything until Harry was done. "He gets that from me, you know. The temper, the rushing into things without properly thinking," Draco said eventually. "I know he doesn't mean some of the things he says, but I can't pretend he didn't say them, and how can I be certain he doesn't feel that way?"
"When I was at Hogwarts I was certain I hated you. For a long time, you were the worst thing that happened to me, you were there every day, in every corridor and I… I thought I hated you."
"Do you think you didn't?"
"I never truly hated you. Wished you'd been less of a prat, but never hated you."
Draco leaned towards him a bit, enough to be obvious he was reaching for Harry, but enough to retreat without embarrassing both of them if Harry didn't lean forward, too. It was such a simple gesture, and so straightforward, that Harry smiled, wishing all things could have been the same between them.
He leaned forward and kissed Draco, closing his eyes as Draco's right hand touched his nape and began caressing the hair there as if it were the most important thing in the world.
"Draco?" he asked softly, his forehead touching Draco's, his lips brushing Draco's lips as they moved.
"I just…" He brought his left hand to touch Harry's cheek, and Harry waited patiently for him to finish exploring, enjoying the feathery touches and Draco's closeness.
Morning came entirely too soon, leaving Harry tired and almost cranky. He walked into the dining room just as Al was exiting, a grin on his face.
"Morning, Dad," he said happily. "Scorpius is apologizing to Mr. Malfoy," he said with a bit of pride in his voice and Harry wondered whom he'd inherited his peace making skills from.
"You convinced him to do it?"
Al shook his head. "I just made him pretend I was his dad and got him to say everything, from beginning to end. He's not very good at talking when he's nervous."
Harry nodded, smiling. "You did a very good thing, Al."
Al beamed at him just as Scorpius came out of the room, blushing and smiling.
"Good morning sir," Scorpius said, without pausing to hear Harry's response. He just smiled at Al and walked on, as if stopping would ruin the moment somehow.
Al shrugged, grinning, and went off after him, and Harry entered the dining room. Draco was sitting at the table, a cup of tea by his left hand and the Prefect's badge in his right hand.
"I got this from Scorpius' room yesterday," Draco said without looking away from it, and Harry wondered if he's said his 'good morning' before leaving bed, when Harry had been too sleepy to hear it.
"Your Prefect's badge, right?" Harry sat at the table, and a full plate appeared in front him.
"No, this was my father's. I discovered it when I was young and it was… it was like a trophy. When Father was away, I used to wear it and pretend I was an Auror." He smiled ad shook his head. "My mother saw me once, but she didn't say anything."
"You think Scorpius found it, or… took it?"
"A bit of both," Draco said, but he didn't seem upset, so Harry continued eating his breakfast and waited patiently for Draco to say everything he wanted to say. "I think he discovered a place I assumed was hidden," he said after a few minutes. "How do you feel about a little trip to the dungeons?"
Draco frowned and shook his head. "Sorry. Not the part where the prisoners were. We have some rooms in another side of the Manor, the cellar, where the wines are held, and where the elves keep the things they need. Sorry."
Harry nodded, but only because this was about Draco and Scorpius, and he knew it was going to be harder for Draco to go alone.
Draco waited for Harry to finish his breakfast, though he was obviously anxious to get going, and had he not mentioned the dungeons, Harry would have gladly given up eating the rest of his breakfast. He knew that Draco saw this house differently, that somehow he'd managed to get over the fact that Voldemort had lived here, that people had been incarcerated in the dungeon and that at least one of them had been tortured, and while Harry knew he would never get over those things, he understood Draco moving on. Draco had happy memories from before and after those incidents, and if he was afraid of walking in his own house, he would go barmy.
"Ready?" Draco asked when Harry was considering pouring himself another cup of tea.
Harry nodded and got up, trying to smile and failing miserably.
"I meant it about the dungeons. Come on, you'll see."
They walked in silence for a few minutes through some unfamiliar corridors, then started walking down an endless staircase.
"This was done by some great-great grandfather who loved stairs. Of course, by the time his wife agreed to it and the Manor's magic was modified to allow the change, he was too old to be able to walk down the stairs. Every Malfoy since then felt they were below their dignity and nothing happened down here, as far as they were concerned."
Harry paused to rest for a bit and leaned on the cold wall. "I can understand why they wouldn't want to go down all these stairs. Or better yet, why they wouldn't want to go up."
Draco grinned. "So you can understand why, when I was five, I realized my father would never come downstairs, looking for me."
"Yes, I do."
"He couldn't Apparate, either, because he'd never been there and didn't know anything about the place."
Harry nodded and continued walking. It was a good thing the stairs weren't high, because then he would have stopped there, or demanded that Draco Apparate them to their destination.
"I went down there when I was upset, or when I found something and wanted to add it to my collection. I’ve… had a thing about taking things I found, and I knew my parents would be upset about some of them." Draco stopped and turned to look at Harry. "I wasn't stealing them, not really, but instead of returning what I found, I brought it down here."
Harry nodded, smiling, because this wasn't as surprising as Draco seemed to think it would be. He was surprised that Draco had managed to keep it a secret and hadn't bragged about one thing or another.
"My father's Prefect badge was in this room I have, and that's where I left it twenty years ago."
"Is it possible you forgot you put it somewhere else?"
Draco shook his head. "It was his, and I was certain I would be lectured if he knew I nicked it. And when I went to Hogwarts and got my own…"
"Made your own…"
Draco burst out laughing. "Yes. Now you know why I had such a fondness for badges."
Harry laughed, because fifteen years later it was funny and knowing what he knew, it was even funnier. The stairs ended then, and Draco proudly presented his room, which was through the first door from the stairs, small and dusty, full of small and useless objects.
Harry could see broken toys, a few magazines, some snow globes, and a large trunk filled with things he couldn't identify yet. It reminded him of his cupboard, a little, and he wished Draco would understand that dark, damp places full of clutter held no appeal for him, especially if they were in Malfoy Manor's dungeons.
"This is where I had the badge, and I think Scorpius has been coming here," Draco said. "Are you ok?"
"I'd rather go back upstairs, if we're done here."
"I need to look for something and then we'll go. Here." He conjured a chair, and gestured for Harry to sit in it. "I would have thought you'd be alright with a place like this."
Harry shook his head. "Bad memories from childhood."
Draco nodded, probably too absorbed by his task to ask for more details, but Harry was alright with it. He could understand Draco being fond of this place, but thoughts of his cupboard always made him bitter and cranky, and he really didn't want to snap at Draco because of it.
"It's not here," Draco said a few minutes later, and Harry quickly got up.
"What isn't here?"
"It's a bit complicated, but I think I've found Scorpius' ghost." He didn't seem upset, but not terribly pleased, either. "Let's go find the boys."
They were back in Scorpius' room, and both Al and Scorpius were looking apprehensively at them. Draco seemed to be thinking about something, and he didn't notice the way the boys were behaving.
"Draco?" he asked eventually, and Draco looked up, surprised.
"Sorry, I was trying to remember something. Scorpius, have you ever been in the room by the elves' staircase?"
Scorpius started shaking his head, then probably realised his father had found out about it somehow and he wasn't really asking if he'd been there, but rather if he's honest enough to admit it. "Yes. I thought I was allowed."
"You were. You are. It's just that I never expected you to find it. Have you been there?" He asked, turning to Al, and Al nodded quickly. "Well, then, I'll tell you what that room is. Was." He sat on the floor, and after a moment, the boys sat in front of him. He patted the floor next to him, and Harry sat down, as well.
Draco smiled at them then began telling his story. "When I was young, my mother and father were rather busy, and I was, as you can imagine, easily bored. I didn't like my toys and I was always looking for new things to play with, new things to do. And whenever I found something interesting, I brought it to my bedroom, and put them in the trunk you saw in that room. I first kept the trunk in my room, but when my father started coming there, telling me all sorts of things and looking around, I felt I needed to put my treasure somewhere safe. I discovered the room one day when I was chasing Banny, and I took everything I ever collected there."
"Did you stop this when you came to Hogwarts?" Harry asked.
"Not really. I put all the Snitches I caught there, and some of the badges as you know," he said, smiling. "I used to go there whenever I was upset, and…" he took a deep breath and looked at Scorpius. "I used to spy on my father sometimes. Go to his study door and listen in, watch the people who came to talk to him, enjoyed when they seemed to be frightened by my father." He shook his head and looked at Harry. "I did a lot of stupid things as a kid, as Harry will be able to tell you, and I've wanted to be like my father, doing as he did and saying what he said. One day, I heard him say a spell and take a wisp of something white from his temple, then store it in a bottle."
Scorpius and Al seemed fascinated by that, and Harry was curious to know what spell he had used, and what that had to do with Scorpius' ghost.
"I, of course, tried to imitate him and do the same. It took me a few days to realise that he wasn't just taking those wisps out after saying the spell, he was also saying something before, and it was what he said that was recorded. When I realised that… I tried doing it, and talking about the things that happened to me was calming, and a bit better than talking to Vince and Greg." He looked away and Harry put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing softly.
He knew there were a lot of things Draco kept back, because he couldn't tell the boys, but it was obvious that he'd been lonely and he'd used Lucius' spell to take his mind off that loneliness.
"I put the white wisps in a bottle, and kept adding to it until my sixth year came, when I didn't feel like talking about anything. With –" he shook his head. "That's a story for another time. I left the bottle in the room, and I think you found it, Scorpius."
Scorpius nodded, and he looked at Draco as if he'd seen him for the first time. "That was… I mean, he's you?"
Draco nodded. "I didn't remember the bottle and the spell until I saw my father's prefect badge, and then I went to the room to check for the bottle."
Scorpius seemed a little disappointed, as if his friend had been taken from him, and Draco reached out for him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "I was right to be worried, you know. If… if you were to meet someone who was just like I was back then, I'd be worried, because I wasn't a good boy."
"But I... I liked him, and he wasn't mean or anything. I mean, you weren't," Scoprius mumbled, and Draco put a hand on his shoulder, drawing him closer.
"My parents believed in some things that were wrong, they thought that some wizards were better than others just because of who their parents were, and for a long time, I believed that." Draco smiled bitterly. "I believed I was better and always right, and I never knew differently until it was almost too late. I trust you, Scoprius, and I trust your judgment, but there are some things you don't know, and without knowing them, you might repeat my mistakes."
Scorpius nodded, but he still looked miserable, and he looked like he would have left the room, had it not been his bedroom.
"Maybe we should go," Harry said softly, and Scorpius looked at him gratefully. Draco must have noticed it, because he got up and with a frown, followed Harry out of the room.
"I should have taken the bottle," Draco whispered as soon as they were out, "but he was already upset, and I…"
"We can talk to him about that later. Maybe it would be best to be around when he opens it, instead of taking it."
Draco nodded, and Harry put his arms around him, squeezing gently.
"I thought he'd… I didn't expect him to be upset."
"He'll get over it, and then he'll go into that room and find something else, and then you'll have another reason to be worried."
"He'll take Al with him," Draco said, smiling, "so both of us will worry."
Harry twined their fingers together and smiled, placing a kiss on Draco’s temple. “We’ll worry together, then."