“Professor Malfoy? The bell has rung.” A voice interrupted his thoughts, a blond-haired boy... looking very much like a past classmate... He distinctly remembered the arrogant blond who’d all but swaggered up to be Sorted. Draco frowned.
“Boy, what’s your name?”
“Richard Smith. Is anything the matter, Professor?” the boy replied unflinchingly. Draco raised an eyebrow, and then turned to address the rest of the class.
“Charms are not just silly incantations and are not to be overlooked. They can be extremely powerful, like the Fidelius Charm, for example, which can wipe a person or place completely off the map, unless the Secret Keeper gives up the location. Memory Charms too, can permanently wipe a person’s mind clean like a slate. Of course, these are much higher-level charms, and you’re only first years.
“Now, we start the lesson proper, from the basics. The levitation charm will do for starters.
“Firstly, the wand movement. A simple swish and flick of the wrist. On the count of three. One, two, three.” He looked around the room, taking note of the standards of his students.
His students. It was funny how much responsibility he felt for them already.
“Fair enough. Now for the incantation: Wingardium Leviosa. The stress is on the ‘o’, not the ‘a’. Again.” They chanted in-sync with him. “Now try it with the wand movement.”
By the end of the lesson, two Ravenclaws, a Hufflepuff and a Slytherin had perfected the charm. The Slytherin had been that Smith boy. He had been the second. Coincidentally, Draco himself had been the second in class during is his year as well. Granger had been first, he thought dourly, but with a little amusement as well. After all this while, he still wanted to compete with Granger. Some things don’t ever change.
The bell rang and he dismissed the first years, reminding them to practise, all the while paying attention to that Smith boy. As much as he didn’t like to admit it, the arrogance, the swagger... all seemed too familiar. He’d been like that. Boastful, determined to be at the top of the class, but still second place.
A few minutes later, the fourth years entered the classroom, chattering noisily as they settled into their seats, and the thoughts of Richard Smith moved to the back of his mind.
As Draco made his way back to his room before lunch, he spotted Hermione along the corridor. She, too, had just finished her lessons.
“Hi, Draco!” she greeted cheerfully. “How was your first day of lessons?”
“They went smoothly enough,” he answered curtly. He still wasn’t quite used to this ‘friendly’ Granger. It was a bit odd, to say the least.
“Good, good. I think mine went better than expected. I managed to cover one and a half lesson plans. I do hope that no one got left behind though. I was worried my lesson pace would be too slow and they would get bored, so I sped up...” Hermione continued, not seeming to notice that Draco was only half-paying attention. “The seventh-year lesson is stressful though; I worry about their N.E.W.T.S. So... what about you?”
“What? I said they were okay.” Draco was slightly miffed at her incessant questioning of his lessons.
“Oh, okay then...”
They walked for a moment in silence again, due to Draco, then he spoke.
“Why are you... so nice?” he finally blurted out. His replies had so far consisted mainly of monosyllabic words and maybe a grunt or two.
“What’s wrong?” A frown marred her forehead.
“We are—were—enemies,” he reminded her.
“No. You were Harry and Ron’s enemy. You were a bully,” Hermione stated bluntly.
“Then, why bother talking to me?”
“Oh, Draco,” Hermione let out a noisy breath. “Why is your world still so black and white? To put it simply, there’s no point in holding old grudges. It’s tiring, and I’m an old woman; I don’t have that sort of energy to waste hating you. I’ve told Harry and Ron so many times, and now, you too. There are shades of grey, you know.”
Draco was stunned by Hermione. Again. Firstly, she’d called him by his name, and secondly, after Hogwarts, he’d never really thought much about Potter and Weasley; frankly, he didn’t even know if he’d still consider them his enemies. Granger was right.
“I guess,” he mumbled. He still held his suspicions, but he let the matter drop.
He set his books down, and then headed for lunch.
Along with the start of the term came the start of Quidditch practice. Draco anticipated watching the Slytherin team in action. It had been a long time since he’d last watched any Quidditch actually, at the Quidditch World Cup, four years ago.
The Slytherin captain was Christopher Nott, Theo’s grandson. He had a rather commanding presence, big and bulky, but unlike Montague, he had the tactical genius and leadership skills, it seemed, as he instructed his players firmly. He knew exactly what he wanted. Draco instantly liked the seventh year, not just because he was the Seeker.
As he sat in the stands watching them practise, a figure walked over and plopped down next to him.
“Look over there.” She motioned towards the left of the pitch where there were seven students clothed in scarlet Quidditch robes and holding brooms.
“It’s just like second year all over again,” Draco said.
“Maybe, but watch.”
To Draco’s surprise, the Quidditch captains of the rival teams actually had a civil conversation. Though he couldn’t hear what they were talking about, a few moments later, the Gryffindor captain walked back to his team and after a brief conversation, the team headed back inside. There hadn’t even been an insult thrown either way.
“The two of them, Christopher and Jamie—that’s the Gryffindor captain—are actually best friends, believe it or not. I suspect the Gryffindor team will have their training later in the evening. So it all works out,” Hermione said.
Draco kept silent and watched as the swirl of emerald robes rose into the sky.
Lessons went along as well, but Hermione’s speech during the Quidditch practise had made him realise something.
Nowadays, the students of Hogwarts actually mixed with students of the other houses. Sure, in his time, there had been inter-house friendships, but usually, the houses mainly stuck to their own. But now, the dining tables where always an assortment of reds and blues, yellows and greens. Along the corridors, he could see that as well. It was a disconcerting phenomenon, he felt. It seemed unnatural to him.
Another thing he observed was that the students acted as if there had never been a war, one that would never have destroyed the whole of wizarding Britain, if Potter had not saved them all.
That incensed him. Didn’t they know how many people had died? How many had suffered? They treated it like any other war, like just another part of history to be studied for exams then forgotten.
He actually ranted about this to Hermione during one of their conversations. They seemed to be having quite a few of them.
“I just don’t understand! It’s like some sort of stupid History of Magic lesson to them!”
“You have to understand, it is history, for them. And for us, it has become history as well. It’s a part of our history. It’s not that they don’t care, but it’s because they truly have no idea what it really was, that’s why they’re so indifferent. We have no way—and definitely no desire—for them or anybody to experience such a thing.
“Think about the war before ours. How do you think our predecessors thought about us? It’s the same thing over again.”
Draco mumbled incoherently. He could see where she was coming from. But... sixth year... the Dark Lord... Crabbe’s death, they still weighed heavily on his mind.
But he couldn’t come up with anything, and Hermione soon changed the conversation to a lighter topic: lessons.
The first Hogsmeade weekend was approaching. Draco checked the schedule to see which professors were to be chaperones. There were professors who had to go, as well as those who did it on a purely voluntary basis. He had been scheduled... and upon further inspection, Granger had been too.
On that Saturday, he watched as the students passed through Filch Junior’s inspection line. He really looked like his father at this moment, prodding each student, demanding them to turn out their pockets, Mrs. Norris II by his side.
“Hi!” Granger appeared by his side. “I guess we’re scheduled together today. Do you have any plans?”
“Not much...” He was thinking of spending the day at the Hog’s Head. There wouldn’t be many students, unlike the Three Broomsticks; quiet, and perfect for leisurely reading.
“I’m thinking of visiting Tomes and Scholls, to buy some references I looked up which the library doesn’t have. It might be useful for the students. Honeydukes would be nice too, but we can’t eat too many sweetmeats at our age, can we?” Granger laughed.
Finally, the long line of students ended and Draco followed them out.
“Why don’t you come along with me to the bookstore? I’m sure there’ll be something that strikes your fancy! It’s one of the most comprehensive bookstores in the Wizarding World!”
“I do not think...”
“Yes, don’t think about it! Do something impulsive for once. I know I’m not the best example, but sometimes, the best memories occur from spontaneity.”
“Come on!” Granger dragged him along the route toward the bookstore opposite of the Hog’s Head.
So that was how he found himself in the bloody teashop, surrounded by horrible pink furniture and frivolous frills. Granger had wanted to go to the Three Broomsticks with their purchases, but he’d objected (“It’s too crowded and rambunctious! Why not the Hog’s Head?”), which she’d shot down (“The glasses!” she shuddered).
Why was he sticking with Granger anyway?
“It would be better if we just went our separate ways...” he muttered.
“Don’t be such a nag! I’ll pay for our first round of drinks!” Granger chirped.
“What would you like, dearies?” the plump, but kindly lady asked.
“A hot chocolate and an apple tart, please,” Granger ordered. “Draco?”
“A mint tea, please.”
“No treats for you then? The custard puffs are delicious, I must say,” the lady coaxed.
“No, thank you.”
“Okay then! I’ll be back with your orders shortly,” she sang cheerily.
“Isn’t she nice?” Granger said when the lady had left.
Draco grunted, taking out a book he’d bought.
The afternoon passed by fairly well, apart from Granger’s bouts of nattering. And in the end, when they finally stood up to leave, he’d paid for everything. It was just basic manners. Really.
And he hadn’t gone bonkers. That, in itself, was an achievement.
It was the day of the Slytherin-Gryffindor match. The stands were crowded with Quidditch fans and non-fans alike. Everyone always watched the sure-to-be monumental match. This year, however, it was rather earlier than expected, in early November.
In the week building up to the match, there had been several harmless pranks played on the Quidditch team members, all in good fun to attest to their good-natured rivalry.
The Gryffindors had found themselves without Quidditch hoops for practice one day. In return, none of the Slytherin players could find their robes after their practice. Then, there were the assortment of jokes from Weasley’s Whizard Wheezes.
All in all, it had been a light-hearted week.
But now, as he sat in the stands, he was ready to all-out cheer for his ex-house. Granger had even decided to turn up for the match, her red-and-gold scarf showing where her loyalties lay.
“Finally got your head out of the books, eh Granger?”
She pretended to look affronted.
“This is a school-wide event. Of course I would attend it.”
They sat in silence amongst the noise for awhile, watching as the other spectators got settled down.
“Let us have a wager, Granger. If Slytherin wins, you will help me grade the year-end exams.”
“That’s just juvenile, Draco. It’s all just friendly competition these days, nothing serious.”
“Is that doubt I sense?” his lips turned upward in a smirk.
“What do I get then, when Gryffindor wins?” She raised her eyebrows.
“I will be generous. List your terms then.” He raised an eyebrow in return.
“To be fair then, the terms will be the same.” She turned to face the pitch. The players were walking out of their locker rooms. “Go Gryffindor!” she shouted.
Draco cracked a grin at her antics and turned to watch the scene as well.
This was going to be an interesting match.
The rivalry on the pitch had turned into a rivalry between himself and Granger. The score was seventy-seventy, the snitch no where in sight. Bugger.
There had been a few glimpses of the golden-winged ball but each time, it had escaped both Seekers’ clutches.
The game had been going on for an hour already, both sides looking equally matched; the players didn’t seem the least exhausted.
He glanced at Granger. She looked completely calm. He, on the other hand, was ready to bite his nails. He didn’t like losing, and definitely not to Granger.
“Ten points to Gryffindor!” the commentator said. That didn’t help matters.
“Is that the Snitch? Yes, it is! Both Seekers have spotted the Snitch!”
The blur of red and green robes whizzed past them, focused only on their task.
“Come on...” Draco muttered. He snuck a glance at Hermione. She too, seemed to be sitting up straighter.
The next minute, the game was over.
“Cole catches the Snitch! Gryffindorrrrrrrr wins the match!”
“Well... Better get ready your extra quills, Draco,” Granger said.
Draco mumbled incoherently.
“It was a good game, honestly. Nothing to be ashamed of,” she said kindly.
As he walked off, a thought came to his mind. Hermione? When had that happened?
He shook his head. Must be the excitement of the game messing with his mind.
“Smith, see me after class today,” Draco said. He noticed the way the other students shot looks at Smith and each other. It read: what did he do now?
It was the last lesson of the day anyway. He needed—and wanted—to discuss the boy’s behaviour. The stark similarities to his younger self made him feel a sort of kinship to the boy, and he didn’t want him to make the same mistakes. It was up to Draco to help him.
After the lesson, as Draco was neatening up the pile of essays that the students had submitted earlier, Smith strolled over to his desk, as Draco had requested.
“You wanted to see me, Professor Malfoy?” he drawled. Merlin! Had he been that repugnant as well before?
“I would like to discuss your attitude, Mr. Smith. I do not know it, but I suspect you treat all your teachers similarly.”
“What’s it to you?” Smith said defensively.
“Well... you remind me of a young boy of eleven. Me, actually. I do not usually partake in these sharing sessions, but as your professor, I am obliged to... assist you in your personal growth as well as your academic growth.”
“That’s very... uh... nice of you, Professor Malfoy,” he started sarcastically.
“Have a seat.” Draco gestured to a nearby desk, interrupting him. He wasn’t going to make this easy, was he? “What do you think of your classmates?”
“Bunch of duffers, they are.”
Draco raised an eyebrow.
“You think you’re better than they are?”
“I know so.”
“Really? Why?” Maybe the situation was a little greater than he’d assessed earlier.
“If you haven’t noticed, I am good at academics. No, I’m bloody great at them. Why should I be stuck with these other first-years who are such slow learners? I work hard for my results, true, and I deserve them. The others just don’t bother.”
“And what about Esther White?” Draco asked cautiously.
The boy scowled.
“Fine. Maybe I’m not at the top of the class, but I am second. Stupid Muggleborn thinks she’s all that.”
“Is that what you really think, Richard? Frankly, Professor Granger and I had such a relationship ourselves. Now, as I look back, I believe that if we had pooled together our knowledge, we could have done even better. Is that a better option than being jealous of another’s results?”
“That’s just daft.”
“Why do you say so?”
“I would be helping her get better.”
“But you would benefit as well.”
“True, but why would I want to willingly help my competition?”
“Think of it as an investment, Richard. In the end, both of you win. Now, I will be giving the class an assignment. Pair work. I expect the two of you work together to give me the bloody best essay in the school, due end of term. It can be on anything related to the Charms field. There is much to be discovered. No less than three feet. Noted? I’ll be speaking to Ms. White shortly as well.” The pair work idea had been completely improvised, but Draco didn’t know any better way to get his two brightest students to work together.
“Okay then. That is all for now. You may return to your dormitory.”
Draco watched as the sullen boy stalked out of the classroom, feeling please with himself for setting up the foundation of a partnership that would hopefully last.
The days whizzed by, and Draco found himself talking to Granger more often. After all, they were closest in age. She was smart, he knew, and all of their conversations were highly engaging.
He also realised that he began to notice little quirks she had. Like, as she read, she would bite her lip, or when she was swamped by marking papers, her hair would seem especially bushy and she would start muttering under her breath.
He found himself staring at her sometimes, but usually, he caught himself before she looked up. Most of the time. However, there had been that one day which she’d caught him.
“What?” She brushed a strand of hair back. “Something on my face?”
“No. I just blanked out for a moment.”
“Aww... the workload getting too much for you?” She gave him a bright smile, which caused him to feel nervous.
“Why are you so bitter, Draco?” Hermione asked suddenly.
They were talking in the teacher’s lounge, having gotten distracted from their primary focus of marking papers. It seemed very much like a common occurrence, but a welcome one. Making out chicken-scratch wasn’t easy on old eyes.
“What? Why did you say that?” Draco frowned.
“Because it’s true. Your fury with the students, the fascination with the war; your bitterness is written all over your face. I’m surprised you allowed Scorpius to marry Rose.”
“I am not bitter,” Draco announced defensively. “And Scorpius can marry whoever he wants; it’s not up to me.”
“You are. And that’s why you came back here. It all makes sense now,” Hermione pushed. “You needed to get relief from your own feelings of resentment.”
“Don’t analyze me, Granger. You don’t know me, and I’m not one of those books to pour over,” Draco said coldly. He quickly got up, nearly upsetting the teacups on the table.
He caught a glance of Hermione shaking her head as he left the staff room, to retreat—what a word to use—into his own.
Draco thought about what she had said. The Winter Break was starting, and as he was pretty much free—no lessons, no students—he spent it thinking. And to his horror, he realised that Granger was right. He wanted, no needed, to make amends.
He didn’t want to turn out like his father who had never quite gotten over his ‘fall from grace’ at the Ministry. And what about his longstanding grudge with Potter and Weasley, just because Potter had rejected his offer of friendship during their first year and Weasley, despite being born to poverty, had become his best friend? He hadn’t seen hair nor hide of them in so long and he still felt resentment?
Then in his sixth year, blinded by the prospects of glory at first, bragging to the Slytherins about his task from the Dark Lord. Arrogance. Finding out that he was merely a pawn in the Dark Lord’s eyes, struggling not to get killed. Dealing with Crabbe’s death the following year, since Draco had been the one to go after Harry and the glory in the first place.
Suddenly, he felt very overwhelmed by the rush of thoughts and emotions that hit him harder than a Hippogriff. He did feel guilty, and he’d run like a coward.
That was the reason why he’d cooped himself up in the Manor all these years, pushing away his family. Now, he was truly alone.
But he could do something about it. Face his problems, stop running.
He strode to Minerva’s office and knocked.
“Minerva, I have a favour to ask of you.”
“What is it?”
“I would like to talk to Dumbledore’s portrait for a while if you don’t mind.”
Minerva raised a questioning eyebrow, but she replied, “Yes, okay. I was just about done here anyway.”
Draco thanked Merlin that Minerva McGonagall was not a witch that would pry into another’s business. He turned towards the former Headmaster of Hogwarts.
“What is it, Draco?” he asked kindly, his blue eyes shining.
“I’m sorry, Headmaster.” Draco said. “Sixth year. Plotting to kill you all year.”
“I told you, I knew what you were doing. And I didn’t stop you.”
“But it was still me who did it. It’s my fault that you died.”
“To tell you the truth, Draco. I was already dying anyway.”
“But... you’re Dumbledore.”
“Ahhh... everyone will pass on, Draco, it’s just a matter of time. Mother Nature’s joke on us, I guess. Letting us live in splendour, but taking it all away from us after we’ve worked so hard.”
Draco sunk into a nearby chair.
“But since this apology really means so much to you, I’ll accept it.”
“Thank you, Professor.” Draco looked up at the man, and for the first time, he knew his words were sincere.
“Just a question, Draco. Why did you come back to Hogwarts?” Dumbledore’s gaze turned serious.
“To teach, of course.”
“I know. But why?”
Why did everyone keep asking him that? Couldn’t it be because he just wanted to bloody teach?
He was stuck, though he had been searching for an answer ever since Granger had mentioned it.
“To tell you the truth, I still don’t know,” he finally said.
He’d once heard someone say that if a person used the term ‘honestly’ or ‘to tell you the truth’, it was likely that they were lying.
But he truly had no answer to the question... or did he just not want to face it?
“I’ll be taking my leave now. Minerva would most probably like her office back.”
Dumbledore’s portrait laughed.
“I daresay she’s glad to have some excuse to leave the room; she’s been working far too hard. I think it may be time for her to retire soon. And then, she’ll need a replacement.”
Draco didn’t know if it was hopeful wishing, but he thought he could see Dumbledore look meaningfully at him.
“Ms. Granger loves teaching too much to ever give it up, Draco. Well, it was good to see you. Goodbye, and Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas to you too, Professor.” Draco pulled open the door. “Thank you, Minerva, for letting me have that talk with Professor Dumbledore.”
Minerva merely nodded before locking herself back up in the room.
Draco slowly made his way down the spiral staircase, feeling his knees creak a few times. Age was catching up, magical or not.
He bumped into Hermione at the bottom of the stairs. She was all packed and ready to go home.
“What are you doing this Christmas, Draco?” she asked pleasantly.
“I’m going to visit my son, Scorpius,” Draco decided.
“Well, have a safe trip! And Merry Christmas to you!”
Draco sat on the train feeling more nervous than he’d ever felt before. He’d not even replied to Scorpius’ owl to say that he was going, because initially, he hadn’t been planning to go. But now, because of stupid Granger and the guilt she had placed on his shoulders, he’d hastily packed his bags and hopped on the last train home.
And now, he was fretting over what his son’s reaction to him would be. He hadn’t seen him in several years—four to be exact. And, to Draco’s horror, he hadn’t even missed his son much. What kind of a father was he? One who couldn’t even resolve his own guilt, or at least push it aside, to take care of his own son. That was why Astoria had left him right after Scorpius’ graduation. All his emotional energy had been channelled towards his guilt, leaving nothing left for his son and wife.
And time had just marched on as he wallowed, forty years passing like that.
Draco looked out the window; all the trees were gone. Now, they were whizzing past buildings. He would be reaching home soon. But he wasn’t too sure he could face what was imminently coming for him.
Just as he reached his destination, a pretty owl swooped down, dropping a note at his feet.
I hope you’ll have a joyful and blessed Christmas with your family this holiday. ‘Tis the season to be jolly!
Merry Christmas once again!
Draco scowled. She knew full well that she had been the one to incite this sudden change of character in him. Yet, he still shoved the piece of parchment into his pocket.
He stood in front of the simple, yet welcoming, cottage. It lacked much of the grandeur of Malfoy Manor; there definitely weren’t going to be any peacocks, now or ever. It was so unlike the manor, Draco wondered how in the world his son made such a change. He’d Apparated straight from the station. It wasn’t small by any means, and the casually-maintained garden was big enough to play informal Quidditch if they wanted. Other than their cottage, there wasn’t another house in sight.
He’d never been to Scorpius’ new home in Hampshire before, but Scorpius gave him the address in every letter.
The house was bursting with the shrieks of children; his grandchildren. He had noted the names of his grandchildren, but he wouldn’t be able to tell who was who. There were four, though there was another one on the way. Obviously Scorpius had embraced the Weasley way of producing a mini population boom.
Deciding that there would never be a perfect time, he fisted his hand and knocked. Then, he waited.
“Dad?” a messy-haired Scorpius asked. He looked visibly shocked, but the expression changed to one of happiness within seconds.
“Hi, son.” Draco was surprised at the easy manner the term of endearment rolled off his tongue, despite not having used it for a long time. It gave him a warm feeling in the pit of his stomach; like drinking a mug of Butterbeer, but sweeter.
“Gracie, come here.” Scorpius caught a giggling red-headed girl who looked about three as she ran past him into his arms. “Greet your grandfather,” he instructed.
“Hi, Grandfather!” Gracie greeted easily, though she’d only seen him a handful of times before. She peered at him curiously.
An awkward ‘hello’ later, Scorpius spoke up.
“We weren’t expecting you,” Scorpius said.
“I know. It was a last minute decision.”
“Come on in. We’ll have a room set up for you in a minute.”
“I was intending to go back to the Manor after a visit, actually,” Draco said.
“I insist, dad. It’s been too long, and you still have to meet the rest of the family. Let me get your trunk.” Scorpius waved his wand in the swish-and-flick manner and the trunk rose.
They walked through the hallway, passing by the kitchen and into the sitting room. Two children ran past them, shouting about something or other.
“Just have a seat here.” Scorpius gestured towards the slightly worn out sofa. “I’ll set up your room.”
Scorpius walked off with his trunk in tow. Draco observed his surroundings while waiting.
There were many, many pictures of the resident family, on holidays, at Quidditch matches (notably many at Puddlemere United matches); family events...The newest picture included a visibly pregnant Rose who was currently smiling widely at him and waving. There were pictures which included many of the Weasley brood. He even saw several featuring Potter and Weasley, and of course, Granger. But there weren’t any with him, and that left a sour taste in his mouth, despite it being his own fault.
A small figure tugged at his robes. “Who are you?”
“There you are, Holly!” Rose waddled into the room, not having noticed Draco yet.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “Mr. Malfoy!”
“Hello, Rose. You look well.”
“Er... thanks. Hi. Holly, say hello to Grandfather Draco.”
“Hello, Grandfather Draco,” she recited obediently. “You look old.”
“Holly! That was very rude of you! Apologise, please.”
“Sorry, Grandfather Malfoy,” she said with well-practised ease.
“I’m really sorry about that, Mr. Malfoy,” Rose apologised.
“It’s alright. She’s just being frank. Age has really caught up to me.”
“Have a seat,” she proffered. “Would you like anything to drink? Eat?”
“Some Chamomile tea would be nice.”
“I’ll be right back. And Mr. Malfoy... it’s really nice to have you here. I’m sure Scorpius feels the same way,” she said, before she headed off.
Holly remained in the room, seating herself beside him.
“How old are you, Holly?” Draco asked. The last time he’d heard about her was when she was three... but that had been a few years ago.
“I’m turning five this year, on Christmas,” she said proudly, stressing on the number.
“Five is an important year.” Draco nodded seriously.
“I know. Mama says I’ll be able to ride a broomstick then.” Her eyes shined at the prospect. “But Aries can ride a real broomstick already! He wants to join the Gryffindor Quidditch team when he goes to Hogwarts next year. He’s turning eleven next year.”
“I wish I could go to Hogwarts next year too. But Mama says I’m too young.” She looked put out by that statement.
“Holly!” Two boys dashed into the room. “Where were you? We were supposed to be playing tag and you disappeared. Gracie too.”
“Grandfather Draco’s here,” she said simply by means of explanation. The two boys, both with the blond Malfoy hair, turned to look at him for a moment, before, Draco assumed, the elder one spoke.
“Good evening, Grandfather.” He nudged his brother conspicuously.
“Hey!” his brother exclaimed before turning to Draco. “Good evening, Grandfather.”
“Good evening. I presume you are Aries, and you, Aquila.”
“Yes, sir,” they said simultaneously.
“Well, Holly. It seems like your brothers are missing you. Why don’t you three resume your game?” Draco said.
“I want to stay with Grandfather Malfoy.” Holly pursed her lips. “He’s nice to talk to. Go along now.” She dismissed them with a dainty wave.
The two boys muttered something about ‘stupid girls’ and turned to leave.
“So why didn’t you come for my other birthdays, Grandfather Draco?” Holly inquired.
“I’m sorry, Holly. But from now on, I’ll come for every single one of them. Deal?” Draco didn’t know why he’d made such an impulsive promise; he might not even come over next year.
“Mr Malfoy, here’s your tea.” Rose entered, carrying a cup.
“Thank you, Rose.”
“I do hope Holly’s not being a bother.”
“On the contrary, she’s very enjoyable company.” Draco smiled at his granddaughter as he said that. She promptly beamed back at him.
“Er... Good. Excuse me; I have to get dinner ready.” Rose walked out of the room. Mr. Malfoy wasn’t so intimidating after all.
Holly, on sitting next to him during dinner, made the potentially-awkward dinner much easier to deal with as she chatted obliviously to him throughout. Finally, Scorpius managed a word edgewise when she was chewing.
“How’s the food?”
“It’s delicious. Rose, you must have gotten it from your grandmother; I heard she is a superb cook.”
“Oh, it’s nothing much,” Rose said. “Simple fare.”
“You should wait until Thursday. You’ll be blown away by the food Rosie can really cook,” Scorpius said, his hand moving to squeeze his wife’s hand tenderly.
“I’ll be waiting in suspense then,” Draco said, helping himself to another piece of bread.
“Come on, Holly. It’s time for bed. I think Grandfather Draco is tired as well.” Scorpius appeared at his room door.
“But...” Holly protested. “Dad...”
“Go along now,” Scorpius said. “Mama will be waiting to tuck you in. You wouldn’t want to miss your bedtime story, would you?”
“Oh, no. We’re going to read the Quidditch chapter tonight in Hogwarts: A History. Goodnight, Grandfather Draco! Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite!” she shouted as she dashed out of the room.
The two men watched as she disappeared down the hallway.
“She really likes books, doesn’t she?” Draco said.
“Yep. Hogwarts: a History is her favourite. She’s read it five times. Probably knows it by heart, too.”
“Well, how are you, son?”
“I’ve been good.”
“When is the baby due?”
“April. We don’t want to see if it’s a boy or girl though. We want it to be a surprise.”
“You would think after so many, you would not be surprised anymore. But the children are really something special.”
“They are bundles of energy, but Rose and I have never felt happier. I—and Rose—also hope that you’ll be there as well.” Scorpius looked at him.
“I... I will be there. Do not worry, Scorpius.”
A grin so wide broke onto his son’s face, and Draco could feel his own mouth quirking upwards.
“That would mean a lot to me, dad.”
“I see Holly’s taken to you quite well.”
“She’s usually the quietest, but she’s taken to you like a fish to water.”
“She is a Malfoy after all. Malfoys stay together.”
“I’ve never heard that adage before. But it’s a nice one. We should keep it.”
“Anyway, how’s work? I heard that you got a teaching post at Hogwarts.”
“I did. Charms professor. The students are... what can I say? They’re still children.” Draco noticed his son looking away, a pensive look in his eyes.
“Dad... Why did you finally come this year?” Scorpius asked abruptly. Draco looked at his son, and he saw, for the first time, the effect of what his own guilt had done to his own child. Scorpius was torn. He had wanted a father for so long, but he had never had one. Draco knew that somehow Rose had managed to be the one to patch him up, but his sudden reappearance had ripped open the healed wounds again.
“Well... someone told me that I have been holding on far too long and that I should make amends,” Draco started. “I know it will take a long time to build that bridge between us, since it never was started, but I do want to make that attempt.
“I am sorry, son, for not coming to any of your Quidditch matches, for missing your marriage, the birth of your children. I am sorry, for everything.”
“We’d better start building that bridge then.”
The next day, Draco was awoken by Holly jumping on his bed. Needless to say, that definitely woke him up.
“Wake. Up. Grandfather. Draco,” she chanted as she bounced up and down.
“Holly!” Rose bustled in. “I’m really sorry, Mr. Malfoy.”
“It’s alright.” Draco sat up. “I’ll take care of her. I’m sure you have much to do.”
“Yes, yes,” Rose mutter absently, walking back out the door.
“Now, Holly, just let me get ready. After that, we can have some breakfast together. Is that alright with you?”
“OK! I’ll get the cornflakes and milk out.” She dashed back out the door.
Draco walked to the bathroom at the end of the corridor; it was still relatively early, and no one was using it.
After a quick shower, he made his way to the kitchen to join Holly for breakfast.
“Grandfather Draco! Here’s your bowl!” She brandished a bowl filled with cornflakes and milk at him, nearly spilling some on the table in her exuberance.
“Thank you, Holly.”
She beamed at him again and started eating her own breakfast; she had waited for him.
Draco felt a prickle of emotion. He couldn’t tell what it was, but it had been a long time since he had breakfast with family. It felt... nice.
The rest of the morning was spent leisurely, consisting mainly of Draco talking to the effervescent Holly and watching over Gracie, a duty which basically entailed playing with her. Gracie was the only red-head of the four children. Somehow, the Weasley red-hair gene had cheated in the gene pool and appeared in this generation as well. Or maybe the Malfoy gene pool was not as pure as had previously been claimed.
At lunch, Scorpius made an announcement.
“We’ll be going to the Burrow for dinner tonight, dad, and I’d hoped that you would join us.”
“Er...” The question completely threw Draco off-guard; he hadn’t included seeing the Weasleys, especially Potter and Weasley, during his impulsive holiday.
“That would be nice.” His mouth moved, but his brain was panicking. What had he agreed to? They would most probably throw him out of the house on first sight.
Even Rose looked stunned with his easy reply.
“Oh. That’s great! I’ll just Apparate over to inform Grandmum.”
Later, after lunch, Draco was sitting at the dining table, talking to Holly. The boys were somewhere in the house, Gracie in her cot, and Rose was busy in the kitchen.
“So, where have you been all these years, Grandfather Draco?” Holly asked. “Why haven’t you come to see me before?”
“I was busy, but I’m not now. I’ve realised family is more important than anything else. You need to know that too, Holly,” Draco told her seriously.
“I couldn’t imagine living without Mama and Dad and Aries and Aquila and Gracie and the new baby,” Holly said honestly. “Even though Aries and Aquila are mean to me sometimes,” she added as an afterthought.
“Hey, Holly!” a boyish voice called out. “Want to practise some passing?”
“Aries wants to be a Chaser; I’d rather be a Beater though,” Holly explained. “Even though I can’t fly yet, Aries says it helps to train something called ‘eye-hand coordination’ though. So we just play with a normal ball.
“Would you like to join us, Grandfather Draco?” Holly looked at him expectantly.
“I don’t mind watching you all play.”
“We’ll be playing around the back. Come on.” She grabbed his hand and dragged him behind.
“Grandfather Draco will be joining us,” she announced when they saw Aries. He nodded, but didn’t look too pleased.
“I tried to get Aquila to join us, but all he wanted to do was read some thick book.”
Draco stood near the house as he watched the two play. The age gap didn’t seem to bother either one. Aries never got irritated with his younger sister, no matter how many times she dropped the ball or how many bad passes she made; he just encouraged her.
“I’m tired!” Holly exclaimed, sitting down on the ground.
“Don’t do that! Mum will get mad if your robes are dirty,” Aries said. “C’mon, let’s go back inside.” He reached out and carried her in his arms. “You’re getting too heavy for this.”
He walked past Draco, ignoring him. Draco strode quickly to catch up.
“You are a good teacher, Aries, and a good brother,” Draco said. Aries grunted in reply.
“Holly said you wanted to be a Chaser?” Draco attempted conversation again. Another grunt.
Draco was slightly put off; this was harder that he’d thought.
“Just stop talking to me, OK?” Aries snapped.
“Did I do something wrong? I apologise if I did.”
“Yes, you did. Just stand for a moment, Holly.” He placed his sister down. “You did when you didn’t show up for Holly’s birth, and again when you didn’t come for Gracie’s. And I suspect mine and Aquila’s as well. You should have seen dad! He was so excited for Holly and Gracie, but he was hopeful as well. Hopeful that you would turn up. But you never did. And later, I hear dad asking mum if it’s because he’s a bad son. But he isn’t! You’re the one at fault! You’re the bad dad!
“You never come for any family event, and suddenly you do? And you want to be included right away? Impossible!”
Draco gaped. The perceptive ten-year-old had stunned him with his words.
“If given the choice, I wouldn’t even want to call you my grandfather,” he spat out.
“Stop bullying Grandfather Draco!” Holly shouted; tears were beginning to pool in her eyes. A worried look crossed Aries’ face and he bit his lip. Had he gone too far?
“Go inside, Holly,” he instructed.
“No! You’ll just bully Grandfather Draco more! He’s nice, and you’re just being a big, fat bully!”
“You are right, Aries. I have been a bad father and a bad grandfather as well. I hope to rectify that, but it will take time. I have to ask for your patience for that. Is that alright?” Draco said.
“Um...” Now the boy was taken aback, but a moment later, his face was set into a scowl again. “You can say what you want, but you have to prove it first. C’mon, Holly. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Holly shook her head vehemently.
“You go. Grandfather Draco needs me to comfort him. You’ve been mean. Let’s go, Grandfather Draco.” She tugged at his robes, leading him away.
“Holly, go with your brother for a while. I’m going to take a walk.”
“Will you be okay?”
“Yes. Go along now.”
Draco wandered to the front of the house and sat on the bench near the front door.
He’d been a bad father, he knew, but the effect of someone—a mere boy—literally shouting the fact at him made him feel guiltier than ever. Children had this strange way of doing things that made people feel ten times worse. How was he ever going to make it up to Scorpius and his family? It had been a stupid idea to visit them. Stupid Granger and her stupid, stupid interfering ideas. He hid his head in his palms; he didn’t know what to do. It was too overwhelming.
“Hi, dad.” Scorpius’ voice broke into his reverie. “Aries confessed what he did. I was quite shocked that he felt that way. I had no idea. It shows what a father I am, huh?”
“He was right.”
“But you’re trying to fix it now; that’s what’s important, dad,” Scorpius said.
“Nothing can make up for what I did. You lost a father figure during your childhood! I was supposed to be a role model. Instead, I just could not let go of things already past.” Draco scoffed.
They sat there in silence.
“Dad, even though you weren’t there a lot for me emotionally, I understand why. A war always has repercussions on its survivors, and you won’t be an exception, no matter how hard you want to be special.” Scorpius cracked a grin.
Sometimes, he wondered who was older, Scorpius or him? His son was too damn profound at times.
“You needed time to get over it, I understand. And at least you still have the chance to make it up to me and the children, right?”
“Thanks, son.” Draco turned to Scorpius, ruffling his hair. When was the last time he’d done that? It’d been too long.
“I’m trying to act like a father here. At least give me points for trying.”
Draco stood awkwardly near the back of the crowded room. He disliked crowds, and he could see several of his students here, making him feel even more uneasy. Mostly, he’d received overly polite ‘hellos’, but he’d kept to himself the rest of the time. He wondered why he was even here.
“Hello, Draco,” Hermione greeted warmly. “Sorry I wasn’t able to talk to you earlier. Molly’s been frantic in the kitchen. So how are things going over with your family?”
“Peachy,” Draco said sarcastically.
“I noticed that Holly has taken a liking to you, though.” She motioned to the girl who was currently immersed in a game with her numerous cousins.
“What are you even doing here anyway? Weasley has already left you,” Draco said caustically.
For a moment, hurt flashed across her face. Then it was gone.
“Rose and Hugo are still very much a part of the family, you know,” she informed him tartly.
“But you don’t feel anything whenever you have to see Weasley’s thick face at these family gatherings?” Draco pressed.
“No. Not anymore. Why dwell on such things? And for your information, Ron and I still remain good friends.
“Anyway, aren’t you hungry? Mrs. Weasley’s cooked up an absolute feast; she’s really outdone herself this year—from the turkey to the Poire Belle-Hélène. Everything looks delicious!”
Once again, Draco found himself on the receiving end of Hermione’s incessant prattle.
“Granger, would you just keep quiet for a moment?” he said irritably.
“Don’t be such a Grinch, Draco,” Hermione said.
Though Draco had no idea what in Merlin’s beard a ‘grinch’ was, he disliked the sound of the word.
“Don’t use such daft Muggle terms on me, Granger,” Draco shot back.
“You sourpuss. Let’s just get some dinner.”
“Potter. Weasley,” Draco acknowledged. Somehow, he’d found himself queuing up in front of two-thirds of the Golden Trio. Granger had wandered off somewhere with some relative or another.
“What are you doing here?” Weasley snapped.
“Your daughter, Rose, invited me,” Draco said calmly. “I believe it had something to do with the fact that we are relatives now.”
“We’re not relatives,” Weasley spat out. “Rosie, you did that?” he exclaimed incredulously; Draco noticed Weasley’s protruding ears reddening. Apparently, age wasn’t enough to simmer the famed Weasley temper.
“Yes, dad. Mr. Malfoy is, after all, part of the family,” Rose said patiently.
Weasley muttered something about ‘gits’ and ‘ferrets,’ but Draco, deciding to be the bigger man and not make a scene, ignored his rants. Potter, however, seemed to have matured from his Hogwarts days.
“Hello, Malfoy. How have you been?” he asked politely.
“Good. What about yourself?”
“Same. Well... see you around, Malfoy.” Potter, having gotten his plate piled up with food, walked off in a general direction after Weasley, while Draco headed the opposite way.
The rest of the dinner was rather uneventful, though bustling with activity. Draco returned back to his corner, observing the scene.
“Draco, coffee?” Granger asked as she walked over to him.
“No thank you.” Draco disliked coffee; even the smell made him want to gag. Then he remembered something he wanted to ask her. “Why are you so nice to me? And none of that stuff about ‘forgiving and forgetting’ and ‘letting bygones be bygones.’”
Then, he saw it fleetingly. Pity. He saw red.
“Really. Did you feel the Gryffindor spirit to help people in need? I don’t need your inference, Granger,” he spat out.
“It wasn’t—” she started. “You should have seen yourself when you just entered Hogwarts. You looked lost, like a first-year. You needed help.”
“Not your help.”
“Okay, maybe it was wrong for me to presume you needed my help, but you look better now. And in time, you’ll look like new.”
“So I’m just some sort of project to you?” he said scathingly.
“No! No, you’re not!” Granger insisted.
Draco gave a bitter bark of laughter.
“You disgust me, Mudblood,” he sneered. Draco turned and Apparated away, missing the hurt lacing her features.
He sat in his room that night thinking. It seemed like confrontations with Granger always led to some sort of self-reflection time for him, something he rarely did on his own volition.
Was he that pitiful-looking? Why didn’t he even realise it? The thought of people perceiving him in such a manner made his skin crawl. He was Draco Malfoy, for Merlin’s sake!
But then, the rational side of his brain reminded him, hadn’t nothing but good come out of it? Because of Granger, he had met up with his son, his grandchildren—family that would have remained apart if not for her pushing. Did that mean that she was right?
And now, since he had started on his quest, he felt he couldn’t just give it up now. He needed to get rid of the load on his shoulders.
His parents had moved to France a couple of years ago, to Lille. Apparently, his mother enjoyed the metropolitan lifestyle that the wizards had adopted from the Muggles in that area. Fancy her liking the fast-paced lifestyle at her old age. His father had just followed his wife over, though secretly Draco thought he was fond of the lively lifestyle of people there as well.
He Apparated to the small town house they had there, near the Jardin des Plantes de Lille. Once again, he was nervous. Pressing his lips together tightly, he gripped the knocker and knocked.
Moments later, he caught sight of his mother’s silvery-blonde hair, so similar to his own, through the window.
“Draco?” His mother opened the door, eyebrows raised ever so slightly.
“Mother,” he greeted stiffly.
“Come here.” She reached out and pressing her lips onto his cheek.
“Who is at the door, Narcissa?” he heard his father call. This was the larger barrier he had to cross.
“Draco. He’s come to visit!” Narcissa replied. “You look thin, dear. Hogwarts food not good enough?” she trilled, as she combed his hair with her fingers, as she did when he was two. Then, she fussed over his robes, patting them down. He allowed her, but only because she was his mother.
“Boy,” Lucius greeted, when he had wheeled himself to the door. Lucius had been confined to a wheelchair a few years back, when magic no longer had any effect on the growing pains of arthritis. He looked... in poor health. His pallor hadn’t improved much since the last time Draco saw him, five years ago. Still as pale as ever, a translucent sheen, not dictated by the Malfoy genes. His face had thinned even more, cheekbones poking out, stretching the skin.
His mother on the other hand looked happy. Happier than he had ever seen her in the Manor. This lifestyle did her good.
“Come in, come in!” Narcissa’s hands delicately fluttered about. “Lucius, bring him to the sitting room. Milly! Make some tea for us!” she ended her spiel in a commanding tone.
When they had settled down onto the luxurious couches, Lucius spoke up.
“So, why have you finally come to visit, boy?”
“Oh! Lucius. Don’t talk about such things,” Narcissa dismissed the awkward question—or was it an accusation?—airily. “Draco, have some tea. How is teaching so far?”
“It has been fair. I think it will be getting more stressful next term as the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s draw closer though.”
“Then you must take care of your health,” Narcissa said. “Drink more tea.” She filled his cup to the brim.
“Did you know that Astoria’s here as well? Living two houses down. The dear girl!” Narcissa informed him. “She comes by often to visit and take care of us old folks. Always with a new wizard in tow, though!” Narcissa giggled. “But they’re never as charming as you of course.” She looked at him meaningfully.
“Astoria and Draco have been separated for more than ten years, Narcissa. Let us talk about more recent happenings, shall we?” Lucius intoned. Draco was glad for that; Narcissa was rather stuck on the idea that the two would reunite someday. No matter what, he couldn’t tell her that it would never happen. Even though he and Astoria had parted on amicable-enough terms, he knew that they would never get back together.
“Oh! yes. Draco, why don’t you tell us about school then?”
Draco obliged. Then, they moved on to other topics—life in France, Narcissa’s most recent trip to Paris... Narcissa had a few unsuccessful attempts at steering the conversation to Astoria, failing that, and shooting him a reproachful look. The conversation was mainly dominated by Narcissa, who interjected every few sentences with a comment or two which would result in a five-minute monologue. Draco glanced at his father once or twice; Lucius’ face remained as stony as ever. He bit his lip, and then quickly retracted his teeth, remembering that his mother hated that action.
Finally, it was time to leave; it was getting dark.
“I should get going.”
“So soon?” Narcissa said.
“You probably have dinner plans.” It was common for them; even in Wiltshire, his parents often went out for dinner with others in their social circle.
“I nearly forgot! We do. Come on, I’ll walk you to the door.” Narcissa fluttered towards the door. Ah, his mother.
Lucius gave a curt nod.
When they’d reached the door, Narcissa embraced him tightly. Draco finally relaxed, taking in his mother’s hug.
“Do come back to visit us often alright, dear?” she told him. “Your father, though he’s not too obvious about it, misses you too. You are our son after all, dear. And... I honestly don’t know how much longer he has...” She looked sad as she gave him a light peck. “Think about what I said about Astoria earlier as well. Goodbye, Draco. Merry Christmas, son.”
“Goodbye, Mother. Merry Christmas.”
Draco walked down the sidewalk feeling much more light-hearted than before. He’d missed his parents, he realized. How could he have not known that though? They had been a constant presence as he grew up. And only now he realized their impact in his life?
But he felt saddened by his own father’s response. He wasn’t expecting any grand gesture, but a smile or something might have been nice, though highly unexpected. He knew his father was stuck in a rut similar to his, and he needed to show him somehow that family was the most important thing, and not power or status. He was still learning however, and it would take some time for him to teach his father that as well.
“Draco?” a female voice called.
Draco was only mildly surprised at how she looked as young as ever; she had always been highly conscious of her looks, despite being blessed with good genes. Her hair was still as blonde as ever, not a strand of white in sight, perfectly coifed into loose waves that fell mid-back. She looked as delicate as a flower, her high cheekbones prominent and the slight upturn of her nose.
The robes she wore seemed like the latest fashion, he presumed, since he wouldn’t know. Apparently, silk linings were the ‘in’ thing now, along with the shorter hemlines.
Yes, she was still Astoria all right.
“Like what you see?” Astoria winked at him, smirking in that one-of-a-kind fashion she had. “So... what are you doing here?”
“Visiting.” He nodded to his parents’ house.
“Oh, really. That’s nice. Are you busy now? Do you want to have dinner together?”
“You are not busy?”
“I’d planned to have a simple, quiet dinner. But plans don’t always follow accordingly, do they?” she grinned at him ruefully. Knowing Astoria, her idea of simple defied what other people classified as normal.
“Come in. I’ll have dinner ready quickly.” She ushered him into the house.
Draco followed her into her house. The house, despite the décor, essentially had the same layout as his parents’. Except hers was filled with many more pictures on the walls of her many trips abroad, her being an avid photographer. She had always enjoyed travelling, especially during Scorpius’ school year.
The thing about Astoria was that she was able to take action. That was something he liked about her. Draco was more laidback, though if needed, he could take the helm.
She’d insisted that Draco have a tour of the house, she leading the way, describing every picture. He noticed that there were quite a few pictures of them as a family, when they had the rare picture-taking opportunity, as well. Having not seen those for a long time, he really paused to look. Baby Scorpius in his arms with him smiling. Then there was another of Scorpius at three, flying a toy broom. He really stopped when he saw a picture of himself carrying a year-old Scorpius. He realized something. Back then, the remorse he felt now had already been present. Yes, Scorpius’ birth had been a distraction for awhile, but it had come back in the end. At this point, he really realized the magnitude of the situation—one that Granger had immediately caught hold of, despite them having a less-than-friendly relationship nearly all their lives.
Dinner, as Astoria had said earlier, was a quiet affair. Soon, he found himself seated at the small but quaint two-seater table in her dining room.
“So why did you finally decide to come here?” she asked.
“It was just something I had planned to do,” Draco said honestly. Anyway, it was impossible to lie to your wife of twenty years.
“Someone must have started this whole business. Who was it?” she pressed.
“A colleague,” he fudged. Astoria looked at him. “Hermione Granger.” She still could make him feel guilty with that one look of hers. Some things didn’t change much.
“Granger’s working there as well?”
“Arithmancy. She is still as bossy and as know-it-all as ever though.”
“No, really. I never thought that she would give up her Ministry job and the chance to campaign for her precious House-Elves.”
“Don’t worry. She is still very involved in spew.”
“S.P.E.W.,” Astoria said mock-testily. “At Hogwarts?”
“Not so much, since they all still remember her vain attempts to free them. Personally, I think what is more offensive are the articles of clothing, rather than her attempts to free them.” He forked up a piece of chicken. Astoria certainly could cook, though she had left it to the House-Elves in the Manor in the past.
For a few moments, there was just the clinking of cutlery against porcelain, then Astoria spoke up.
“So, how have you been?”
“Good. What about you? I heard from my mother that you have been busy?”
“So many men, so little time.” She gave him a cheeky smile.
“I am surprised you settled in France, actually. And why not Paris?”
“Too many crowds. Here, it’s metropolitan without the overwhelming traffic. And this neighbourhood is a nice, quiet place to be at night. Near enough to the excitement.”
Draco nodded. That was valid.
“It’s a good idea. Practical as well.”
As dinner drew to a close, he spoke up.
“Astoria, I need to apologise. I was a lousy husband; I never cared much for your well-being. All the while. But you still stayed, for Scorpius. I could not imagine if you were not there for him. I would have destroyed him. At least with you around, you allowed me to keep my son by my side. Thank you.”
“Anything for Scorpius, you know that, Draco,” was all she said. He knew that too; they’d made that pact when Scorpius was born. But he still felt the need to say it.
Draco’s conversation with Astoria over dinner actually made him feel regretful that he had missed his opportunity with her. But he saw how her current lifestyle pleased her; he couldn’t take it away. That would be selfish. Merlin! He sounded like a bloody Hufflepuff. But the dinner conversation was easily the most delightful one he’d ever shared with his ex-wife.
“Well, good night, Draco.”
“Same to you too, Astoria.”
Then, she did something unexpected. She leant down and brushed her lips across his. He blinked, taken aback. Just a gentle peck, and when he blinked, she had already righted herself. They hadn’t kissed for many, many years, even before she’d finally left.
“Just wanted to see if it would still be the same,” Astoria said, smiling softly. “But it’s better. Age does alter things.” She smirked at him, that famously alluring one of hers. “Merry Christmas, Draco.”
Draco just blinked again. Indeed.
It was Christmas Day. Once again, he’d been awoken by a bouncing Holly who’d insisted that he immediately come down to watch her open her presents. So he complied. Dressed in his black pyjamas, he’d followed the excited girl to the sitting room.
The rest of the family was there as well. Draco suspected that the children had been the ones to wake them; he saw Rose stifling a yawn.
Holly’s pile was twice as big as today was her birthday as well.
“OK... you can open your presents now,” Scorpius said, stifling a yawn.
The children moved into action at once. For the next few moments, there were the sounds of paper tearing and shouts of glee that followed. Even Gracie who didn’t know what was happening was happily ripping up the discarded paper in a similar fashion as her elder siblings.
He’d ordered presents for them by owl post; thankfully they’d come the night before.
For Aries, he’d gotten an autographed Falmouth Falcons poster after pulling some strings. He’d pried this valuable piece of information from Scopius earlier. Ever since that outburst however, Aries always seemed muted around him. For Aquila, a strategy book on Wizards’ Chess; he was a true Weasley. For Holly, a toy-version of the Snitch, and for Gracie, a talking teddy bear.
He was especially pleased with himself when he saw their expressions. Gift-giving could actually be joyful.
Later, he sat at the kitchen table, looking out of the window. Snow was falling lightly.
“Whatcha looking at, Grandfather Draco?” Holly bumbled up to him.
“Watching the snow fall. Can you see how it covers everything? It even makes the bare trees beautiful.”
“I want to see too!”
Draco smiled softly at her as she propped herself onto the chair. The winter did bring marvellous things.
“Son, we should talk,” Draco said. It was the night before he would take the train back to Hogwarts.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you that. Time really whizzed by, didn’t it?”
“Yep.” Draco looked away. “Scorpius, I...”
“It’s not your fault. Both parties are at fault,” Scorpius interrupted.
But you did try. I just didn’t make any effort, Draco thought.
“I just wanted to say, I hope we can still keep in contact with one another when you go back. I hope to see you here next Christmas, and the next, and so on. And you’ll always be welcome to our house as well,” Scorpius said.
“Thank you, son.”
And that was all that needed to be said.
The train ride back to Hogwarts was an uneventful one. He and Granger were the only teachers on it; the rest were students who’d gone home over the Winter Break, chattering about their Christmas holidays. They all seemed so happy. It was overkill to the point of nauseating.
He chose to sit in a different compartment from Granger, instead, sitting with a gaggle of gossipy Ravenclaws. Though their squeals and giggles were jarring, the thought of sitting in the teachers’ compartment with Granger as company, seeing her sympathetic face, was even more unappealing.
Most of the ride was passed reading, only pausing for lunch and a toilet break.
He was never so glad to see the imposing figure of Hogwarts castle in the distance; his ears were saturated with girlish screams.
He hurried to his room, wanting to distance himself from the girls as soon as possible. What had slipped his mind, however, was the fact that Granger’s room was opposite of his, and he found himself stuck in an awkward situation, with him facing her. He was still furious with her, and ignored her hesitant smile, choosing to roughly pull open his door and close it with equal force. Childish, he thought later.
The house-elves had delivered his trunk to his room, so all he did was take a shower and head to bed. Lessons would begin again the next morning.
He was well-rested and ready for another term. It was a little sad that it would be without Granger’s company, though that thought incensed him more than saddened him.
“Smith, how are you and Ms. White progressing with the essay?” Draco inquired, one day after his lesson.
“We’re actually working on our final draft already. We’ve gone over the minimum by quite a bit, if you don’t mind, Professor.”
“That is not a problem. What is important is this: Have your feelings towards your classmates—all of them—changed?”
“Well, I do know now that people will learn at different speeds. I might not like it, but I’ll accept it—grudgingly.”
“And how do you feel about yours and Ms. White’s collaboration?”
“It’s a good idea of yours, Professor. I’ve learned a lot from this. And you were right. It’s not all about the competition.”
Draco smiled at his answer.
The rest of the term whizzed by quickly; he was fairly busy, especially with the O.W.L.s and the N.E.W.T.s approaching. Essays had to be marked by the dozens, and students still had to be taught. Thankfully, this made run-ins with Granger rare and few as, he suspected, she was equally up to her nose. That was seemingly the only ‘good’ thing he had going for him.
During the term, he had also pondered over some issues as well, particularly concerning Potter and Weasley, since he’d last seen them at the Burrow. Obviously, Weasley still nursed a grudge against him, but he felt that perhaps, it was time to make amends, as he’d done with his family. He would be the bigger man and settle their ancient dispute once and for all. It was rather incredulous that an immature grudge that had started on their first day at Hogwarts had held so long, neither party willing to grow up and give way. He scoffed at himself, thinking of his first-year self. What a git he had been.
And now, with the Easter holidays drawing closer, he wanted to bury the hatchet.
It was a cowardly choice, he knew, visiting Potter before Weasley. But it was definitely the lesser of two evils. Potter was more accepting; more likely to see reason.
Getting there wasn’t a problem; everyone knew where Harry Potter lived—his place had been covered by not only housekeeping magazines, but the Daily Prophet as well. People were actually paid to do that. And people actually paid to read that drivel.
As a regular subscriber to the Daily Prophet, and the Evening Prophet as well, via owl post, Draco was well informed of Harry Potter’s dwelling. Godric Hollow, his parents’ place.
It was a handsome house, he had to admit. Not as big as the Manor, obviously, but a substantial size. It was two storeys high and had a garden large enough for a game of Quidditch. There was a graveyard in the distance, next to a church. Most probably where the Potters rested, Draco thought.
He walked up to the front gate, nervousness prickling at him again. He’d done this before already. Apologise for being a prat. Simple.
The jitters ceased, however, when he met with Weasley’s deep scowl creased onto his face.
Draco was thrown a dilemma. Go in, and do as he’d planned, though Weasley was most definitely not in that plan, or pretend to be walking by. After a fleeting moment of deliberation, he bit the bullet and pushed open the gate.
“Good morning, Weasley,” he said evenly.
“What do you want, Malfoy?” Weasley bit out, the tips of his ears flushing pink already.
It was so reminiscent of their Hogwarts’ days that Draco had to smile a little.
“You arrogant bastard!” Weasley all but lunged at him; not only were his ears flaming red, his face matched his hair too. Potter, who had watched the earlier exchange, was prepared, rushing over from his position near the house, and held him back.
“He’s not worth it, Ron,” Potter said. Draco was affronted. Then to him, “Why are you here, Malfoy?”
“Relax, Weasley, I mean you no harm.”
“I just wanted a word with Potter, and since you’re here, you as well.”
Potter’s eyebrow rose.
“Okay...” he started unsurely. “Let’s go inside then.” He led the way back.
Draco observed that the house held a very familiar feeling for him. He wasn’t sure why.
“Have a seat.” Potter gestured to a sofa. “Ginny went out with a few friends, so we have the house to ourselves. Do you need a drink?” Ever the courteous Potter.
“He doesn’t deserve one!” Weasley spat out.
“That’s fine, Potter. I’ll just get straight to the point. I’ve... I’ve...” Draco stuttered. The words seemed stuck in his throat. Why had it been so much easier with Scorpius earlier?
“I know what you’re here for. Hermione told me,” Harry interrupted his attempts at speaking. “She’s a bright one, that Hermione. She knew you would do this. Some time sooner than later, she’d said.”
“What did Hermione say?” Ron demanded, voicing his own question, but more for the latter part of Harry’s statement.
“I’ll explain later, Ron. But Malfoy needs to come to terms with this first.”
“You’re encouraging him to stay on longer? I can’t take this. Bye, Harry.” Ron Apparated off, a storm cloud on his face.
“That makes things more troublesome for me,” Draco muttered.
“It’s not supposed to be easy, Malfoy. And I agree with Hermione. This feud between us has lasted too long. You know why Hermione’s so carefree, unlike us. She let it all go, after the war. We, on the other hand were weighed down by all this.
I know this will be an awkward proposition, but I’d like to offer you a truce.” Potter stuck out his hand.
Draco was relieved. He grasped Potter’s hand tightly.
“So... what did Granger tell you?” Draco asked, voicing his curiosity.
“She just wrote me a letter. She told me about the question she’d posed to you at the beginning of the year, that she wanted to help you because she could see that the question had caused you to rethink some matters. And about lessons, of course.
“Now, Ron on the other hand... here’s how to deal with him.”
Draco returned back to his room at the Leaky Cauldron that night. Then, something struck him.
He now knew why Potter’s house had evoked that feeling. It was the same feeling that he got in Scorpius’ loving family.
Now, a day later, he was in the Leaky Cauldron, fingers gripping at his robes to prevent them from drumming the table. He was supposed to meet Potter here and Weasley as well. He’d been here for ten minutes already; it was better to be early, he’d decided. But now, as he glanced round the bar once more, he wasn’t so sure. He’d tried to distract himself by ordering a drink, but it had been tossed down far too quickly. The next one had gone down too easily as well.
His eyes darted to the door when the bell screeched out, announcing a customer. Immediately, he spotted Weasley’s flaming hair. Draco grimaced inwardly when he saw a frown on Weasley’s face. That didn’t look too promising. Hadn’t Potter told him that the plan was to pretend to bump into them here? Weasley wouldn’t have been that bright to figure out their undeniably flimsy ploy, could he? If not for the lack of time, Draco would have much preferred to plan it out in detail.
He reached for his fourth drink as Potter and Weasley made their way to the bar, watching them draw nearer out of the corner of his eye.
“Mafoy,” Potter said, seating himself beside Draco. Weasley slumped down on Potter’s other side, ignoring Draco as predicted.
“Potter.” He signalled to the barman to pour the two a drink.
“Change of plans,” Potter muttered.
“When have you two become so chummy?” Weasley demanded, not bothering to keep his voice low.
“Just accept the free liquor, Ron. Goblin mead, the best there is.” Potter lifted his own tankard, taking a long drink.
Weasley glared at Draco, as if accusing him of something.
“It’s not poisoned, Weasley,” Draco drawled.
“Wouldn’t be your first time trying to do me in.”
“Ron...” Potter started.
“One Firewhisky,” Weasley ordered.
“I’ll be finishing that then.” Draco reached over for the tankard and downed half of it.
Even in the dim lighting, Draco could see Weasley reddening. Potter nudged him.
“If you want one, you could ask,” Draco supplied helpfully.
“I don’t need your beer, Malfoy,” Weasley spat.
Stupid, stubborn git. Draco sensed that Potter was getting a tad worried as well. Blast the Gryffindor stubbornness.
“C’mon, Ron. You’ll have to get over it sometime. Hopefully in this lifetime,” Potter coaxed.
Potter had told him. Draco frowned. No wonder he was sullen. And one thing was sure: never trust Potter to become his Secret Keeper. The git couldn’t keep a secret save his life!
“Another one, for my mate here,” Draco told the barman.
“I’m not your mate!” Weasley said caustically, unintentionally reaching for the newly appeared mead.
Five tankards for Weasley later... he was definitely red; thankfully, not from anger.
“You’re a bloody prat, Malfoy,” Weasley said. “But a bloody nice one. Did I just say that? I must be drunk...” he giggled.
“You’re getting there,” Potter muttered to him.
“Obviously.” There was no need for subtlety any more.
Draco decided there would never be a better chance. It was time. He walked over to Weasley.
“I’d like to propose a truce.”
“Truce?” Weasley said slowly, as if he didn’t know what it meant.
“Yes. A truce. A cease-fire,” Draco said impatiently, gripping Weasley’s shoulders, to keep his head from lolling about. Potter nudged him again, but he continued facing Weasley.
“For the good of our families. What do you say?”
“You never really cared for Scorpius or your grandchildren before. Why now, Malfoy?” Weasley slurred.
That stung, Draco thought. It was true, but even a drunk man could point out his faults so easily.
“What do you say, Weasley?” Draco repeated, his fingers nearly digging into Weasley shoulders.
“Gerroff me,” Weasley said. Draco ignored his comment.
“What’s your answer?” he pressed.
“Yes. Yes. But only for my grandchildren.” Weasley roughly shrugged his hands away. “Harry... you don’t want that anymore...? I’ll finish it for you...” he lifted up the half-drunk tankard.
“He really enjoys his liquor, does he?” Draco said.
“Yep. But it brings laughs at parties, so nobody minds. And potions make hangovers non-existent. Oh, look. There he goes.” Weasley’s head landed on the table with a thump. “I should get him home. Help me get him to his feet, will you?”
“I have got to say... Very Slytherin of you, Potter, getting Weasley drunk like that. I would have gone for another more elaborate plan though. This was rather crudely-conceived,” Draco said, placing Weasley’s arm around his shoulder. He was heavy.
“Just be glad that you’ve got this chance,” Potter grunted. “I’ll get it from here.” He hefted Weasley over, so that he bore all of his weight. “Goodnight, Malfoy. Though if side-along Apparation causes him to vomit, I’ll be expecting a bottle of that goblin mead.”
“Done deal. Goodnight, Potter.” Draco threw five galleons on the bartop. They had really managed to drink quite a fair bit that night. Though the main culprits had been he and Weasley.
And they disappeared with respective loud pops.
For once, he had to thank Merlin for Gryffindors’ sense of self-righteousness which had them needing to stick their noses into everything. If not, Potter wouldn’t have offered, and the truce between Weasley and himself would have never occurred.
But there was someone he still had to meet.
He stood in front of a small grey headstone, overrun with weeds. The sun was beating down on his back, but the cooling breeze soothed it all. The Crabbes had long moved away, leaving their son, his friend, behind. Perhaps just looking at the stone, the words etched on it, brought too much pain. He wouldn’t have known, however; he hadn’t seen it before.
He’d only come for the funeral, stayed for an hour, maybe less, then left without saying goodbye. And he’d been standing in the back, away from everyone. Goyle had been there too, but they hadn’t mourned together for the loss of their friend. He hadn’t kept track after that of where Goyle had gone either.
He bent down, wincing as his knees cracked. He cleared some of the weeds that were covering the headstone, still wondering how to start, or even if he should break the silence. One weed led to another, and soon, he found himself tending the area. Weed after weed he plucked, tossing them to one side. Yes, he could have used magic, or even called a gardener to come down, but it was kind of relieving, actually, having something to do to distract himself from awkwardly staring at the words. And also, it made him feel as if he were finally doing something for his friend, and not just using him, as usual.
He did it so that he didn’t need to think about the Fiendfyre, furious and biting, red-hot, devouring Crabbe whole. So that he didn’t need to think of how he hadn’t said goodbye, or how he’d left Goyle, his best friend, alone to mourn.
Hours passed before the place looked decent. A pile of weeds stood a little distance back from the newly-polished headstone, courtesy of himself. He looked around. The sun was about to set. Had it been that long?
There was a slight burning sensation in his eyes. He blinked rapidly. Merlin! He was actually crying! A tear escaped, rolling down his cheek, finally absorbing into his robe, leaving a small, but dark stain.
And then, Draco was ready to speak. He bent down again, and facing the headstone, he spoke.
“Crabbe, mate... I never really treated you and Goyle like equals, always imploring you two to do the worst things. I was such a git back then, maybe I still am now, but I am going to change that. And I can’t believe it is because of Granger. Laughable. Her and her stupid question that caused this whole fiasco.” Draco sighed, running a hand through his thinning hair.
“I regret lurking—hiding, more like—in the shadows during your funeral. I was such a little bastard, thinking only of myself then. Your parents, Goyle, we all were feeling the pain; I was not the only one, but I felt it was so. Arrogant and selfish, like I’ve always had been.
“But I want to change that. Funny. Change at such an old age. A leopard never changes its spots, was that the Muggle adage? But what do Muggles know, right? I do feel that I’m changing. It’s slow, subtle, but I know it.
“It’s too late to say anything now, and maybe I’ve come here out of my own selfishness still, but I need the closure, Crabbe, and I hope you understand. You are thick at times, but you have been a friend—my friend—throughout. Despite me making use of you, you and Crabbe still stuck by. If I could redo everything, I would. I would stop you from uttering that curse; I wouldn’t make use of you again.”
He lifted himself up with great difficulty; his age was really catching up to him. He dusted off his robes, picking off the piece of grass that had gotten itself stuck on his sleeve.
“Goodbye, Crabbe. I will be seeing you soon.” He turned.
“Draco?” a voice rumbled.
Goyle grunted. He looked as large and intimidating as ever; age hadn’t changed him much, apart from a few white whiskers.
“How have you been?” Draco asked.
“Fair enough. Manager of the Tornadoes for ten years. Won the Cup seven of those years.” He grinned. Oh, yes. He had heard about that briefly. Surprised him at first, because Goyle had never been the sharpest tool in the box.
“You have done well. I... have to go,” Draco said, though he really didn’t have to. He didn’t know how to face Goyle, despite the relief from talking to Crabbe.
“See you around then.”
“And Draco? Crabbe would have been happy that you dropped by. Me too.” Goyle gave him a tentative, but friendly, smile.
The guilt evaporated.
“I am too.” Draco Apparated away.
He had enjoyed a day at the Leaky Cauldron, relishing the ability to sleep in without having to mark any essays. Then, a frantic Scorpius had Apparated into his room (he’d informed Scorpius earlier of his plans). Rose was going to have the baby.
And so, he spent the last day of his holiday in St. Mungo’s, trying to calm down a pacing Scorpius, and hold down a bouncing Holly.
“We’re going to have another baby!” Holly said, in rhythm with her bounces. “I hope it’s a girl, Grandfather Draco. There are too many boys at home!”
“I’m sure you’ll love your sibling all the same, whether it’s a girl or boy, right?” Draco said.
“Yeah... But it would be nice to have a sister...”
And so, Gabriel Malfoy was born that day, at twelve o’ clock in the afternoon. Holly at once began cooing over the baby, despite her earlier wishes.
Then term began once again.
It seemed that the fifth and seventh years had finally awakened from their slumber and finally kicking into action. The extra homework came in, unending questions were asked, more lessons requested, and no one fell asleep during class anymore. That was the thing he was most grateful for. It got a little annoying when students did that.
He was glad to see that though. His first batch of students, they needed to succeed. He didn’t want to be a failure.
Then, a month after Spring Break, Minerva called him to her office. She wasn’t there when he knocked, so he pushed open the door. Professor Snape’s portrait was eying him down his long nose.
“What?” he said irritably.
“You are a fool,” the portrait said tartly. “You may look like an eighty-year-old man, but on the inside, you’re a mere boy.”
“I am only sixty-two years old,” Draco retorted testily. Did he really look that ancient? He had taken meticulous care to use potions to slow down his aging!
“Whatever age, it doesn’t matter. My opinion still stands.”
“Severus is right!” the portrait of Phineas Black nodded violently. His own relative was calling him stupid?
Draco glared at the portrait, but Phineas Black ignored him.
“Minerva wouldn’t hire a duffer to teach,” Draco shot back.
“Not in the brains department,” Phineas said impatiently, “the—”
“That’s quite enough, Black!” Severus cut in. “He’ll figure it out on his own. Eventually.”
“What do you intend to say? Spit it out!” Draco snapped.
Draco scowled. Blasted portraits. He quickly rearranged his features, though, when Minerva appeared in the doorway.
“You requested to see me?” Draco said when she entered.
“I’ve observed some kind of tension between you and Ms. Granger recently. Before, you two got along well enough, but now, you don’t even exchange greetings. I expect my teachers to, at the very least, converse amicably, but you two...” She shook her head.
Ah, the ever-astuteness that Hogwarts’ Heads were blessed with. Perfectly annoying.
“It is nothing,” Draco said. “Just the work piling up, I suppose. You know Granger. She always needs to be the best. She has got a competitive streak in her.”
“True. Well, it seems that I was worrying for no reason. However, if there is... I would advise you to resolve it quickly, Mr. Malfoy.” But her eyes showed how she truly felt about the situation. “Have a nice day.”
As he turned to leave, he could swear he heard a ‘fool’ pass Phineas Black’s lips once again. He scowled.
He walked down the path to the hut. Hagrid’s hut. He’d never been inside before. But he still remembered the baby dragon he’d seen when he’d peered in that one time.
The half-giant was still teaching Care of Magical Creatures at Hogwarts. Hopefully fewer students had been harmed since his time. He’d hadn’t had much interaction with him so far. More precisely, none.
He knocked at the large wooden door, hoping that Hagrid would be in.
“Who’s ther’?” a rumbling voice called. Draco heard the sound of a chair scraping the floor, and then heavy footfalls coming closer.
“What d’yer want, Malfoy?” Hagrid said gruffly when he saw him.
“Could we go inside?”
“Yer no’ afraid o’ dirt?” Hagrid looked mockingly at him.
“I suggested it, right?”
“C’mon in then.” Hagrid turned. Draco followed him in.
“You can sit ‘ere.” He gestured towards a crudely-made chair.
Draco gingerly sat down.
“If yer don’ like it, you can stand,” Hagrid said sharply.
“It’s fine.” Draco settled onto the chair.
“Wha’ yer ‘ere for anyway?”
“At the beginning of the year, Granger told me I was bitter, and to change all of that, I would need to make amends. And I realized that one of the people to whom I owe an apology is you.
“I was downright rude to you... and after fifty years, I see it now.”
He glanced at the half-giant.
“Yer were a downright bugger, Malfoy, but tha’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever hear’,” Hagrid said, a large, fat tear rolling down his cheek, getting lost in his bushy beard.
“Now, get out of here, yer,” Hagrid said, brushing away the incriminating tear brusquely. “An’ remember to thank Hermione for tha’.”
Draco quickly excused himself, saying a hasty ‘goodbye.’ But he wasn’t about to fulfil Hagrid’s wish just yet. He couldn’t.
It was the last Hogsmeade weekend of the year and he’d volunteered to chaperone.
Now, he sat in The Three Broomsticks, a mug of Butterbeer in front of him. Madam Rosmerta suspiciously eyed him every few seconds. The previous Hogsmeade weekend, he’d been there as well. He’d nearly gotten the shock of his life when he entered, finding a furious Madam Rosmerta who immediately chased him out of the shop, throwing mugs at him.
Later, he’d gone back, and very cautiously asked for her forgiveness. She had, reluctantly, accepted it. But now, he could see that she was still wary of him. He knew some things took time, and he knew he needed to wait. And he could.
He was sitting by the window which granted him a view of both the happenings outside and in the shop. He took a sip of his Butterbeer, letting the warm creaminess wash over him (just as delicious as ever) as his thoughts wandered.
He couldn’t believe it. He had been away at Hogwarts for almost a year. Incredible. And, very much to his surprise, he realised that he enjoyed teaching. Very much. Despite the endless stack of essays to mark, the rowdy students, lesson planning, he felt good about what he was doing: education young children. Trite, but true. He actually felt his heart swell with pride when a particularly weak student was finally able to perform a charm that had stumbled him for many weeks.
He nodded as Richard Smith greeted him. The boy still reminded him of himself when he was younger, but much less mean now, after several more talks with him. Draco noticed that Esther was with him as well and the two were engaged in a heated discussion. Most likely about some spell or potion that they’d read about in the library. His little scheme at the start of the year had worked.
A bushy brown head walked past the window and entered. Granger.
He wasn’t angry at her anymore, per se, but something in him just couldn’t bring himself to talk to her yet. Guilt? Stubbornness? He didn’t know.
He missed her, yes, their casual talks on anything and everything or just sitting together in silence in the teachers’ lounge, reading or marking papers. All those activities had ceased though, ever since... Now, they just camped out in their own rooms.
But they still hadn’t said as much as a single word to each other since Christmas.
He watched as she made her way to the bar and ordered a drink, chatting merrily with Madam Rosmerta. Then, she glanced at him. Or so he thought.
He was fighting the urge to lift a hand in greeting, but she turned back to Madam Rosmerta. So maybe she hadn’t been looking at him. He couldn’t suppress the disappointment he felt.
And maybe he still wasn’t ready to forgive her... or himself.
He turned back to his own mug of Butterbeer. A Firewhiskey would have been better though.
The term was coming to a close. The examinations had passed and been marked. Draco was particularly proud of a group of first-year Hufflepuffs that, at the beginning of the year had been unable to levitate even a book, but were now able to perform cleaning charms with ease.
As he sat at the teachers’ table with the rest of the professors, he had a bird’s eye view of the students. By now, he could recognise many, if not all of them. The end-of-the-year feast was something he was looking forward to. Earlier he’d seen the house points. Hufflepuff was in the lead, though Slytherin was not far behind. Maybe things had changed in the time span between then and now. Just by a few points.
“Students,” Minerva said, her voice magically amplified by ‘Sonorus.’ “Now that we’ve all settled down, I would like to announce the House Cup winners for this year.”
The chatter ceased immediately; the students, including the first-years, knew Minerva by now.
“With a stunning total of one thousand and three hundred and four points... Hufflepuff wins the House Cup!” She flicked her wand, and instantly, the décor in the great hall changed to display banners of yellow and black, the Hufflepuff colours.
Cheers were heard from all four houses, the loudest, of course, from the badgers. Draco clapped as well. Granger had been right at the beginning of the year. Students really didn’t care about which house they were from anymore. It was... strange, but refreshing. And after a whole year spent with them, he understood now.
“Congratulations, Hufflepuffs. Keep up the good work. To the other three houses, you’ll never know what may happen next year. Now, let us eat!”
“Dumbledore?” Draco said quizzically as he stared at the portrait in front of the teachers’ common room. It was after the end-of-year feast and he was about to pack his things. He would be leaving tomorrow.
“I wanted to speak to you, Draco.”
Draco looked around; the hallways were deserted.
“Wouldn’t an office be a better place?” he said uneasily. He didn’t know what exactly Dumbledore was speaking about, but he certainly didn’t want any teachers or students walking in on their conversation. It seemed kind of ominous.
“Very well. Follow me.”
Dumbledore darted portrait through portrait, seemingly forgetting that Draco would have some difficulty catching up.
“Here’s an empty classroom.” And he disappeared, presumably into the room.
Draco pushed open the door. The room showed disuse; the desks were stacked to one side, collecting dust. Even at the entrance, he could see the room hadn’t been touched in a long time.
“Notice the room? Everything has been kept away neatly. It would have been a much nicer-looking classroom, perhaps five years ago when it was closed away, but due to the fact that it hasn’t been opened, everything just remained,” Dumbledore commented.
“Well, your situation is similar to this. You’ve kept everything away so many years back, leaving dust to gather, but it can be seen immediately when someone just takes the time to look. Just some food for thought for you.”
Draco didn’t like the way Dumbledore eyed him, and he moved from his spot.
“Well, what did you need me for?” Draco asked, after he’d conjured up a comfortable chair.
“As you know, Minerva has been singlehandedly heading Hogwarts for the past few years. I daresay that she feels her age catching up with her, and though she won’t admit it, she would like to retire in the near future.
“I think you would be a suitable candidate to be the next Headmaster of Hogwarts,” Dumbledore stated.
“What?” Draco was stunned.
“I believe Minerva has had these thoughts as well. You have the ability to lead the school to greater heights—please excuse the use of that clichéd term... if only...”
“What?” he repeated, but more as a demand this time.
“This is in regards to what Minerva talked about with you two months back. Your situation with Ms. Granger. It’s come to my knowledge that you have embarked on some sort of task to make amends,” Dumbledore started.
Had he been that obvious? He had been in Slytherin for Merlin’s sake! He was supposed to be sneaky.
“Minerva told me,” Dumbledore said, in response to his unasked question. Now, Minerva knew as well? Draco frowned. Was his life on the Wizarding Wireless or something?
“I didn’t want to bring it up then, since you were busy preparing your students for their examinations. But as the examinations are over and as summer break draws close, I would like to ask you again: why did you come back to Hogwarts?”
“To deal with unfinished business,” Draco stated firmly. He now knew the answer.
“Have you completed everything? How are you faring?”
“Must we discuss such matters? They are not important.”
“Yes.” Dumbledore looked stern for once; his blue eyes weren’t twinkling merrily.
“Well, I did what I had to do. I made amends.” Draco shrugged.
“With who?” Dumbledore probed further.
Not the subtle type, is he? Draco thought.
“Scorpius and Rose, my parents, Crabbe and Goyle, Hagrid, Madam Rosmerta... Even you, Professor!” Draco listed out generally. He didn’t feel comfortable going into too much detail. It was private.
“And I am very glad for that. And how do you feel now?” Dumbledore questioned.
“I feel... lighter. No more burdens,” Draco answered easily.
“Are you truly sure? Haven’t you forgotten anyone?”
Draco checked off his mental list.
“Perhaps a certain Ms. Granger?” Dumbledore supplied after a moment.
“Why does she need one?” Draco demanded.
“You were, after all, the biggest bully toward her during your Hogwarts days, you know. I don’t know what happened between you two, but I reckon that your actions warrant an apology too.”
“She treated me like a project; something she had to get her interfering self involved in.”
“Aren’t you the least bit grateful that she did so? It seems like you’ve only benefitted from it.”
Draco stood up.
“That is of no relevance!”
“If so, why are you so fired up, Draco? It shows that you feel something for the situation at hand.”
“Ridiculous! Completely absurd!” He started pacing around the classroom, a hand running through his hair.
“If I’m not mistaken... she should be in her room, packing her trunk to go home...” Dumbledore ventured.
“I just remembered; I should get packing as well. I will talk to you some other time.” Draco would have dashed out, but his age didn’t allow him to do so. Darn it! The old coot and his sly ways!
He knocked on the door impatiently.
“Granger, open up!” he called, still rapping the door furiously.
“Malfoy?” a frown creased her forehead, showing her puzzlement.
Draco bit his inner cheek; it had been a long time since she’d referred to him as that and not ‘Draco.’ In fact, she’d never once called him that during their first year of teaching. Had she really been that hurt by his words?
“Are you busy right now?” he asked.
“No... I just finished packing, actually.”
“Can we go in?” Draco gestured into her room.
“Oh! yes. Come in. Have a seat.” She waved to the chair. She herself settled onto her bare bed, crossing her legs at the ankle. “So, why did you come to find me?”
Draco struggled to find words.
“I... You see...” he stuttered. Mentally, he was appalled with himself. He hadn’t stuttered since he was ten. How embarrassing.
“Ioweyouanapology. Sorry, Granger, for being such a git all those years back. And now as well.”
She arched an eyebrow.
“I came to say sorry. Dumbledore was right. You were right. The guilt was eating at me; it always had been. I saw it in Astoria’s house, that one picture, and many of the others.
“I do not even know how I lasted so long. That’s the reason why I came back to Hogwarts. It’s where everything started, and where everything needs to end.
“It has, I feel. I never imagined that I would visit my son again. And the thought that Potter, Weasley and I could make peace? Absolutely unthinkable. Though you ought to advise Weasley to cut back on the beer; he can’t drink, though the duffer thinks he can.
“And visiting Crabbe’s grave, meeting unexpectedly with Goyle. This was all because of you. Hell, I even met up with Astoria.
“I just want to say... Thank you, Granger, as well. Your stupid question at the start of the year catalysed all these happenings. You gave me back my family. Scorpius and I are talking. My parents are happy. Astoria is too.”
“Really? That’s great to hear, Draco.” She looked at him.
Draco’s heart thumped. She’d used his name. Did that mean that she’d forgiven him?
“Also, I never really got to finish my side of the bet...” he trailed off.
“Well... there’s always next year, Draco!” she dragged her trunk to the door. The house-elves would bring them to the train in the morning.
“Thank you, Hermione.” Hermione. He liked how the name rolled over his tongue. That was nice.
She just smiled at him.
“Well, this is pleasant. Us talking again,” Hermione mused. They were seated in the train, waiting for it to go. “The last time we were in the same carriage, it was the start of the year, and we’d been talking too.”
“True.” Draco, though relieved, was still slightly apprehensive. His outburst at Christmas had been harsh. Even if she had seemed to forgiven him, he wasn’t too sure he could forgive himself yet. It was, perhaps, the last thing that he was truly sorry for.
“Draco.” Hermione broke into his thoughts. “I forgive you. Don’t worry about it anymore.” She reached out and touched his shoulder, sending tingles down his arm.
“I know you didn’t mean it, that it was out of anger. You’ve had a lot to deal with, and perhaps, it was just the wrong place at the wrong time to release your stress. It’s not very healthy... but we can work on that.” Hermione shot him a bright smile. He’d missed that.
They chatted a bit after that, but most of the ride, they spent it reading their own books, occasionally speaking. Solitude always seemed nice with Hermione.
The train finally started slowing down, signalling that they were due to reach London anytime soon. He began to pack his books and other things. Hermione did likewise.
Soon, the train stopped. They’d reached Platform 9 ¾.
“Well, I guess this is goodbye, Draco,” Hermione said.
“Goodbye, Hermione,” Draco said.
Just as she turned to leave, Draco called out to her.
“Maybe some time during the holidays, you would like to join me at the Manor for some tea?” it was completely out of the blue, something Draco would have never expected himself to say to anyone, much less Hermione.
The smile she gave told him her answer.
“I’d love to.”
Unexpectedly, she briskly walked over, giving him a brief hug.
“I’ll... uh... send you an owl,” Draco said.
Draco Apparated home, his trunk magically shrunk so that it fit into his pocket. He paused at the front gate.
He couldn’t believe that it had been a whole year since he’d last seen his home. He hadn’t even missed it much; everything else had distracted him from thinking about the Manor. Lessons, Hermione, Crabbe, Goyle, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Madam Rosmerta, Potter and Weasley, Scorpius, Holly...
It seemed almost incredible, all the things that had transpired in a single year. Then he realised—his birthday was coming up. Sixty-two seemed like a long time ago, and within days, he would be sixty-three. Yet, sixty-two had been such a packed year; so many things had been accomplished, and he felt that he could finally start living again, despite being at the grand old age of sixty-three. Leopards could change their spots. They just needed the right incentive... or the right person.
He had been given a new lease on life—one that he’d never thought he would get. Because of one bushy haired, know-it-all girl, who had grown into a bushy haired, know-it-all woman. He was really grateful to her, and he hoped to show that to her through his actions.
He observed the green garden, the peacocks, everything was in place; the House-Elves had kept everything in order. Looking at everything, he felt a sense of calmness wash over him.
He wandered through the gates, into the house. The floors were spotless. After being away for so long, the white marble tiling seemed almost blinding, compared to the stone Hogwarts floors, and the dark wooden ones of the rooms.
He slowly made his way up to his bedroom, his knees occasionally cracking. Ah... age.
As he entered, he noticed an eagle owl at the window sill. He went over to untie the letter attached, petting the owl, which flew off with a loud hoot.
Hope you’ve reached home safely. I was wondering... Maybe one day during the holidays, we could come by. Holly asks to visit you constantly.
Hope you’re doing well.
P.S. Holly drew a picture for you. She’s very proud of it.
Draco unrolled the bit of parchment attached, unveiling a very child-like drawing.
In the picture, there were seven people. Scorpius, a very pregnant Rose, Aquila, Aries, Gracie, Holly... and him, holding on to her hand. They were all sporting big, happy smiles. It was very obviously drawn by a child, but the subjects and the effort made it a masterpiece.
At the top of the picture, she had written: Grandfather and us, a happy family.
Draco’s smile reflected the one drawn on the parchment as he made his way to find a frame that it would fit. The drawing would be right up together with the paintings of Da Vinci and Botticelli.
Though he hadn’t thought about it much, it was nice to be back home. And this summer promised to be a warm one.