Title: Changeling Child
Pairing: Harry/Albus Severus, James Sirius/Scorpius, (past) Harry/Ginny
Length: 14, 813 words
Summary: Ginny loves Harry to the point of dangerous obsession, and she’s willing to do anything to keep him—even drain her child’s magic. When her efforts fail to save her, or tie Harry closer to her, she leaves behind a Squib son… and Harry swears Albus will have anything he wants in recompense.
Warnings: slash: male/male, incest, chan, character death—not main character, age disparity, sexual relations (Al is 16), slight bashing, pureblood customs.
The hall was silent except for a single wail from an infant’s throat. Witches and wizards tensed as they strained to listen, all knowing exactly what was going on behind the door. The maternity ward was supposed to be a place of joy, of happiness. With magic, there were rarely stillborn children or deaths, and even the few Squibs who were born could not be identified until much later in childhood. It was a place of love and new life—but that was before Mrs. Potter had been wheeled in with her husband and eldest child in tow.
The Healers had refused to believe it at first. It was not uncommon for a magical child to come early, but for a mother to die from it—and for her magic to try and suck the life force from the child was the most heinous act that could be committed in the wizarding world. A child’s magic was sacred, and for a mother to steal her child’s—it shouldn’t even be possible.
But it was. The head Healer had watched in horror as she did everything she could to separate Mrs. Potter’s magic from her second child’s, all to little avail. “How is this possible?” she shouted to her assistant in desperation. “How can—?”
Her husband had provided the answer, his voice nothing more than a desperate rasp. The famed Harry Potter refused to look at his pleading wife’s face as he explained about the diary, of Voldemort, and the Healers realized what had happened. Ginny Potter’s body had been controlled for almost a year while her magic was still developing, and was now mimicking it. What made it worse was that draining the child’s magic wasn’t an accident—Mrs. Potter clearly had control, but all she kept on whimpering was that she didn’t want to die, that she wanted Harry, and all with a maniacal gleam in her eye.
Harry Potter divorced her using an ancient pureblood ritual right then. His ex-wife, now the nameless and shamed Ginny Weasley, died a few minutes later with the child still in her.
“Get him out,” the head Healer called, gesturing to the savior of the wizarding world. She didn’t look back to see if her commands were being followed, instead cutting into the corpse’s belly to try and save the child, who would now be little more than a Squib.
The wail of the child caused everyone to come out of their stupor, and shoving through everyone, Harry Potter entered the room, his son James Sirius on his hip, ready to see his new child.
“Is he alive?” he asked desperately, looking about, his eyes sliding from the corpse of his ex-wife. “Is he—she—is—?”
“Yes,” a Healer responded with a sad smile, bringing the small bundle with black hair to his father. “A baby boy.”
A smile instantly tugged against Harry Potter’s lips, and he set James down on a chair, holding out his arms for his second—and final—son. “Is he healthy?”
The Healer, an Isolda Marchbanks, shook her head. “We have to keep him for observation. He’s several months premature and with the loss of his magic…”
She trailed off and Harry only nodded, looking lovingly down at his precious little boy. He knew what she would say. A child’s magic helped keep them alive, warded off sickness, and his child wouldn’t have that—all because of her. He couldn’t even think her name, disgust rolling through him at what she had done. She knew how much children meant to him, how he felt little more than simple affection for her.
The last two years of their marriage had been rocky at best. Ginny had become irrationally jealous at his unconditional love of their son, and had gone so far as to try and send him to her mother’s to live when she claimed that they needed to focus more on being in love than on children. Their second child had only been conceived when Harry desperately tried to placate her seven months before when she had sent James off without telling him.
The baby gurgled and Harry blinked, looking down into green eyes so like his own. “Hello, handsome,” he murmured, pressing a kiss to the baby’s smooth forehead.
“Dada,” James Sirius called out, clapping his hands, and Harry turned to his eldest and smiled.
Taking a seat and being careful not to disturb the baby, Harry angled the child so that James could see his little brother for the first time.
“He’s a gift,” Harry carefully explained, his throat tightening painfully. “A gift from magic, Jamie, and we must love him with all our hearts.”
“What is brother’s name?” James lisped, his brown eyes wide under his messy mop of auburn hair.
“Albus Severus,” Harry answered quietly, looking back at his newborn son. He was truly a gift from magic. She had stolen his magic, but still he had survived, lived through it, and he was all the more precious for it. He hated her for taking his son’s magic; it was the most wondrous force in the world, it had saved Harry as a child, but he would make certain that Albus would never want for anything. He was denied his magic, but Harry would make certain that his world was magical and full of love, just as it should be.
For the next three and a half months, Harry and James practically lived in the maternity ward. Harry had donated enough Galleons over the years that a small private room was set up for them so that they could be close to Albus Severus, and he spent long hours teaching James how to carefully play with a baby, and how to be gentle since Albus wouldn’t have magic to protect him as he got older.
Within the first week Harry had sent in his resignation to the Auror Department. Everything was for Albus now, for his childhood, and Harry refused to spend long hours chasing dark wizards when he could be at home, teaching Albus Severus that being a Squib wouldn’t shame the family and that he was loved completely for it. He knew that there would be a choice Albus Severus would have to make at some point—whether to fully enter the Muggle world or exist on the fringe of the magical one like Filch or Mrs. Figg. It was a decision a father hoped his child would never have to make, but when the time came, Harry would be completely behind his youngest son.
Ron, of course, was the first to object. Somehow St. Mungo’s had been able to keep Harry’s and her presence from the general public as well as Albus Severus’s birth, but Ron came storming in, demanding to know why he was being pigheaded. Ron was still in Auror training, having worked for several years at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and he was always desperately trying to catch up to his best mate.
“I have different priorities now,” Harry murmured, tucking James into bed. It was mid-evening and James had fallen asleep making funny faces at Albus Severus, which made the baby gurgle.
“What does Ginny say about it?” Ron persisted, reaching out and tucking an auburn colored lock behind James’s ear.
Harry immediately stiffened at the question, though his mate didn’t notice it. “She has no say in it.”
“Hardly,” Ron protested. “You know she likes the idea of being married to the star Auror, and you’re a shoo in for head one day, mate. I mean, it’s not like you don’t have house-elves to take care of James and the little one when it’s born. Ginny will go on back to the Harpies—“
“No, she won’t,” Harry corrected. “She died, stealing my second child’s magic.” The words came out blunter than he had meant them, but Harry couldn’t help it, the anger and the hurt still too fresh from Ginny’s betrayal.
There was a long silence. “Don’t joke about such things,” Ron whispered darkly, and Harry shrugged.
“It’s not a joke. She went into labor and stole Albus Severus’s magic, trying to stay alive. No one here has ever seen anything like it and she wouldn’t—” A sob escaped his throat, and he turned away, staring at his sleeping son. “She wouldn’t stop even when I begged her, she kept on stealing his magic. She took it all, Ron. My son—he’ll never—h-hold a wand and have sparks fly from it—go to Hogwarts—fly on a broomstick—and it’s all her fault.”
Harry was startled when a fist collided with his cheekbone. “Don’t,” Ron seethed, hitting Harry again. Somewhere in the background Harry became aware of James waking up and crying out at the sight of his uncle punching his father. He could feel blood pour grotesquely down his cheek, and he didn’t doubt that he looked frightening. James had already suffered seeing her bloody and screaming before they could rush him out of the room to the care of others while Harry tried to save his son’s magic and her life before he realized she wasn’t worthy of living—not after the atrocity—
“Stop,” he shouted, reaching for his wand and ducking away from Ron’s fist again. “James—” he tried to reason, which stilled Ron’s movements slightly, although the disgust and hatred remained in his eyes.
“She’s my sister—your wife—”
Harry shook his head adamantly in denial, his fringe falling into his wild eyes. “I divorced her—she’s nothing—not after—”
Ron sucked in a sharp breath and he looked as if he had been stabbed. “You didn’t—” he whispered, his voice hoarse. “Harry—”
“Dada,” James whimpered from his bed and Harry instantly rushed to him, carefully cupping his head and kissing his nose gently.
“I’m here. I’m safe. It’s all right,” he murmured lovingly, and his little boy reached out to touch his bloodied cheek.
“Uncle hurt Dada,” he whined, fat tears forming in his eyes.
“Daddy’s fine,” Harry assured him, not saying anything about Ron. Ginny was no longer his wife, no longer James’s mother, and the Weasleys were no longer related to him or James through blood or marriage. Wizarding divorce was absolute and horrible and was never entered into lightly. To be divorced was to shame an entire family for generations upon generations—if Ginny had lived she wouldn’t have even had her maiden name, no money, nothing. She would be worse than a house-elf in the eyes of society, but Harry didn’t care. Not after what she did to his Albus Severus, his perfect son with black strands of hair and bright green eyes.
“How could you?” Ron said, his voice dejected, but Harry shook his head.
“I think you should leave. You’ve upset Jamie and—well—my decision is final. Everything is for Albie. I’ll give him everything I can since she stole his magic.” The words caught painfully in his throat, but he looked away, blinking back tears. He leaned forward and kissed James’s head.
“Where’s her body?” Ron questioned from closer to the door, as if he were leaving. “I want to see—”
“A pauper’s grave probably,” Harry whispered. “I have no idea.” And he didn’t give a damn after what she had done to his child.
When he heard Ron finally leave he knew that he had lost his best mate forever and with him the only family he had known as a child, but one look at James’s sleeping face and the remembrance of Albus Severus’s pulled him through. They were his family now, they were everything, and they would have the happiest and most loving childhood that any doting father could give them.
Harry smiled as he carried Albus Severus on his hip, the toddler hugging him lovingly as the family dog, a sweet Labrador named Snuffles after his late godfather, ran up ahead with James who had just turned six years old.
“Snuffy!” Albus called happily, causing a contented rumble of laughter to escape from Harry’s lips, the dog turning and wagging her tail happily at the youngest of her puppies. Snuffles had just sort of appeared in their lives about a year back. No one had previously seen her in Godric’s Hollow, but she trotted up into the back garden and looked into the screen door so imploringly that she melted the two Potter boys’ hearts almost immediately. James had begged and begged for Harry to let them keep her and Albus Severus had even added to the pleas by banging his spoon on the table with a large smile on his face. Harry had been unable to refuse both of his magicians, as he liked to call them, and after assuring himself that the stray was safe and friendly, she became the fourth member of the Potter clan.
Today they were going out for a picnic as it was one of the first warm days of spring and it was relatively dry. Albus Severus loved the outdoors and enjoyed watching his brother ride around on his toy broom, although James could never seem to cajole him into riding with him. For all his three years of age, Albus seemed to understand that he was somehow different from James, but he never cried about it. Instead, he would look at his father with large green eyes and ask for some magic, and Harry would pull out his wand and Transfigure one of his toys or Conjure small birds to swirl around his head. He’d pulled Albus Severus onto his lap and tell him how much he was loved and wanted, and Albus would always snuggle closely to Harry’s warmth, a smile on his lips at the wonder of the magic around him.
“Come on, Daddy!” James called as he scurried ahead, looking for the perfect picnic spot near the small stream. “I’m hungry!”
Albus giggled and clung closer to Harry who bestowed a lingering kiss on his forehead.
“Coming!” Harry shouted back, a grin breaking out on his face. James, from what he could tell, was so much like his namesake, full of life, a bit spoiled, and rambunctious.
“Coming!” Albus echoed. “Hurry, Dada. Hurry.”
“I’m hurrying,” Harry assured him as Snuffles came toward them and circled behind Harry as if to herd them along. “I’m not a sheep,” he grumbled good-naturedly at the dog, who continued to circle them happily.
“Found it!” James called from a short way up ahead, and Harry looked up to see him laying out the blanket as best he could. His arms were still chubby with childhood and his legs short, but he made a valiant effort.
In a few short strides, Harry had joined him and he carefully set a smiling Albus Severus down. “There you are, my magician,” he said. “And what a fine blanket, Jamie. Thank you.”
James puffed out his chest proudly before sitting down next to his younger brother and pulling him close.
Harry could only smile at the brotherly affection between them. James adored being an older brother, always looking out for Albus, and even though he hadn’t started performing accidental magic yet, he still took his role as the magical brother seriously, wanting Albus to miss out on nothing. A moment of sadness passed over Harry when he remembered that day all those years ago when Albus Severus was born and he had told James that they would love Albus Severus because he was precious and show him that the world was full of magic, even if he couldn’t perform it himself.
With a flourish of his wand, Harry unpacked the picnic basket that Winky had prepared for them, and Albus clapped his hands together gleefully. “Magic,” he whispered in awe, and Harry nodded at him.
“Yes, magic—just for you.”
“For me?” Albus asked, his green eyes shining with mirth.
“Of course,” Harry answered, winking at James momentarily—who had pulled Albus onto his lap, although the younger boy was squirming a bit. “You make my world magical, Albie.”
“And mine,” James added seriously for a six year old. “All magic because of you.”
Albus hugged his brother and then fell off of his lap, toddling over to Harry and flinging himself into his arms. “Dada,” he sighed as Harry hugged him close and breathed in his familiar scent. It was unbelievable just how much he loved his second son, his ray of sunshine, the child who had barely escaped her—and through her, Voldemort—alive.
The three sat under the afternoon sun, eating sandwiches and drinking pumpkin juice, Snuffles trying to steal morsels from their fingers when she thought they wouldn’t notice.
“Where’s Mum?” Albus Severus finally asked as he finished eating a large oatmeal cookie, chocolate smeared across his left cheek. His large eyes looked imploringly at his father, and Harry could only sigh. He knew the question would come, he had just hoped that it wouldn’t be for several more years.
“We don’t have a mum. We’re Potters,” James explained proudly, nodding his head.
Harry took a long sip of pumpkin juice. “You had a mother—once,” he answered, glancing at James to see if he remembered. The proud lift of his chin showed that he did, but that he would never admit it. “She—I divorced her, Albie.”
Albus Severus’s nose scrunched up.
Snuffles nudged his shoulder, and Albus couldn’t help but laugh when the mothering dog began to lick his face.
“I—she hurt us very dearly, Albie.”
“Where is she?” he asked quietly. Snuffles now wagging her tail had collapsed at his feet.
“She died, Albie. She died a long time ago.”
Tears filled Albus’s eyes and Harry immediately pulled him into a warm embrace. He closed his eyes in pain and only opened them to check on his eldest, and was glad to see that he was only looking at his younger brother in worry.
“Did she love me?” Albus asked with all the insecurity of a small child, and Harry fought back a sigh. She hadn’t loved Albus, that was the problem, and she had thought so little of him on the day of his birth that she had done the unthinkable—and he hated her for it with the very being of his soul, as much as he loved his two sons.
“It doesn’t matter.” His voice broke and he was startled to feel tears falling down his cheeks. “She doesn’t matter, Albie. I love you, more than life itself. You’re my little boy. My magician. Your smile makes the world magical.”
“She h-hated me,” Albus wailed pitifully, burrowing further against Harry, his small hands shaking as his body was wracked with sobs. “That’s why she left. I was a Squib!”
“No,” Harry denied. “No, that’s not it at all, Albus.”
Harry looked to the heavens, searching for answers, but none came. He glanced over to James who was sitting quietly, a frown on his handsome child-face. He was holding Snuffles close to him and petting her head, but his eyes never left his little brother. His eyes were old, and Harry had to close his in pain. James’s brown eyes reminded him of his own as a child, and showed that he knew what she had done to Albus Severus, that he still remembered although he had only been three years old when Albus Severus was born. Still, he remembered, and the hurt and the pain over what had happened to his beloved brother still lingered there.
“She was dying,” he murmured, “and she tried to stay alive.”
Albus Severus stilled but Harry could feel the tears dropping onto his chest.
“I don’t know why she did it—but she stole your magic, trying to stay alive. I couldn’t stop her, the Healers couldn’t stop her—it shouldn’t have been able to happen, Albie. I’m so sorry.”
The little boy stilled and pulled away, looking into Harry’s eyes with a child’s questioning gaze. It was clear he couldn’t quite comprehend what Harry was saying, but Harry refused to lie to his son, to paint a fairytale or a half-truth.
“Why?” he asked, his head cocked to the side.
“I don’t know,” Harry admitted, leaning forward and kissing his son’s upturned lips lightly and then nuzzling their noses together. “I don’t know, Albie.”
That was the first night that Albus Severus had nightmares and Harry crawled into bed with him, holding him close and smoothing his messy hair away from his forehead.
“I love you,” were the first words out of his mouth when Albus Severus awoke, blinking sleep from his eyes. He kissed Albus’s forehead lingeringly and held him close.
He moved back to his own bed a little over a week later, only to awaken the next morning to find Albus Severus curled up against him, his small nose pressed against Harry’s shoulder. Harry watched him in awe and wonder as his youngest slept, and was amazed at how much he adored Albus Severus and how he had become his whole world. Albus Severus never moved back to his room, instead crawling into Harry’s bed in the middle of the night until, finally, the day before he was to start at the local primary, he dressed himself in his favorite dragon pajamas and climbed into Harry’s bed and demanded a bedtime story.
Harry only laughed and read from the Tales of Beedle the Bard, after calling out to James who hurried in although, at eight, he claimed he was much too old for stories. James kissed his brother goodnight, hugging him close and waving his hands over his eyes while whispering nonsense words to get rid of bad dreams, and then hurried off to his own room. As James had started performing accidental magic at the age of six, it was certain he would go to Hogwarts and so he had a private magical tutor who taught him the basics of simple charms, mathematics, and the magical laws that everyone lived by. Albus Severus would sometimes sit in, a wide smile on his face as he asked excitedly about dragons and goblins.
“Little stage magician,” Harry sighed as he climbed into bed next to his youngest. Albus was turned on his side, his stuffed dragon Fafnir held tightly against him. “Your toys will be lonely without you.”
Albus Severus shook his head determinedly. “No, they won’t. I told them that I sleep here now and they were happy.”
“They were, were they?” Harry questioned, laughing to himself. “But you’re a big boy. Shouldn’t you want your own room even for part of the night?”
“No,” Albus disagreed. “I love you too much to stay away.”
Harry stilled and he looked at his son for a long moment. It was a moment too long as Albus’s eyes began to fill with tears.
“Don’t you love me?”
“Of course,” Harry quickly reassured, pulling Albus against him. Albus sighed happily and pressed himself closer as he did every night. “You know how much I love you, Albie. My little Albie.”
“Then I want to stay. I’ll come in anyway. You and magic keep my nightmares away.”
Harry could hardly argue against that.
The next morning at breakfast, James sat concentrating on the palm of his hand as Albus Severus looked at him in confusion.
“What—?” he asked, but James just shushed him, staring at his hand and ignoring his beans on toast.
Harry chuckled at the sight, suspecting that James was after a bit of fun or mischief to make his brother laugh. He had the Marauder spirit but instead of malicious pranks that Harry knew his father had gotten into, James Sirius only wanted to make his younger brother’s life more magical. The tutor wasn’t expected for at least another hour anyway, and they were only eating so early so that Harry and James could walk Albus to the bus stop. Harry wasn’t quite certain what he would do with himself without his youngest at home all day, though he suspected he’d probably just burn fan mail, though he was considering writing a novel just to pass the time. He could do worse with himself, and it didn’t matter if it was ever published. He had more than enough money to support himself and his sons for several lifetimes, and he wouldn’t make the mistake of entrusting their childhoods to anyone else, even if she hadn’t—
“Aha!” James exclaimed and Harry looked over to see blue and magenta sparks dancing about the palm of his hand.
The plate he was holding fell to the floor with a clatter, but he hardly noticed. He’d never seen such an impressive display of underage magic without a wand. It was unheard of as far as he knew.
Albus was laughing and clapping in happiness and James smiled winningly at him.
Harry’s heart broke just a little, but he forced a smile onto his face and congratulated his eldest. He only wished that he could one day congratulate Albus, though he knew that would never come to pass.
“I don’t want to go,” James whispered dejectedly as he sat cross-legged on Harry and Albus’s shared bed in the master bedroom of the cottage. Before Albus Severus had been born, the family had resided in Grimmauld Place, but he soon realized after her death that London was just too public of a place. Anyone could find them—and reporters did. Her abominable act and the fact that Albus was now a Squib had somehow leaked to the press within a year, and Harry had moved them away to the house where he had been born, after renovating it. Although there were other magical inhabitants in Godric’s Hollow, the Potters were left alone and with the many wards against intruders and fans, they lived a relatively peaceful life.
“You’ll love Hogwarts,” Harry argued as he sat down across from his eldest. He glanced toward the door, hoping that Albus took several more minutes brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed. “Why the change of heart?”
James looked away and toward the door.
Ah. Albus Severus.
“He wants you to go,” Harry argued. “You know he does.” He leaned forward and brushed the falling tears from James’s face.
“But he can’t follow me.”
“No,” Harry agreed, pulling his son into an embrace and brushing his fingers through James’s ginger hair. It was as messy as his ever was. It was the one Potter trait both of his sons shared. He was only thankful that neither of them resembled her. James had Harry’s mother’s hair and his father’s hazel eyes. The only thing Weasley about him was the freckles, which Harry adored. “Sometimes, though, brothers can’t follow each other everywhere. You couldn’t follow him to primary and you won’t be able to follow him to Eton, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t love Albus and that he doesn’t love you.”
“But he doesn’t have magic,” James gasped out and Harry held him closer.
“No.” Sadness ripped through Harry but with practiced ease he pushed it away. “But we love him just the way he is, just as we love you just the way you are—with magic. Magic is beautiful, James. Don’t give it up.”
“But Albie,” he tried again, and Harry rocked him on the bed, even after Albus came in and hugged his brother in sadness, somehow understanding his worries.
That night Harry slept with both of his sons in his arms, one on each side of him, and he had never been more content.
“Write to me,” Albus begged at breakfast the next morning as he petted James’s new owl, Emrys.
“Every day,” James agreed with a crooked smile. He held his wand tightly in one hand as if he were afraid that it would break if he would drop it, and Conjured sparks all throughout breakfast to make Albus smile as much as he had when they were younger.
“There won’t be any of them, will there?” he asked in worry later when they piled into the car. Albus insisted on sitting in the backseat with Snuffles and Emrys. Although Snuffles was getting on in years, she still adored her puppies as much as she ever did, and flopped happily in Albus Severus’s lap so that he could scratch behind her ears.
“The Weasleys?” Harry questioned, and James nodded nervously.
Harry sighed. “Three of them,” he informed carefully. “You might not remember them, but there were Victoire, Dominique, and Louis. I think Louis is a year or two ahead of you, so you probably won’t see much of him. Oh, and then there’s Molly, and maybe George’s eldest.”
James bit his lip and looked out the window. “They won’t talk to me, will they?”
Shrugging, Harry glanced at his eldest in worry. “I don’t know. They might. If they bother you, go to your Head of House. I’ll write whoever it is a letter about the situation, and the divorce is common knowledge. Also, Teddy will be there—and he’ll protect you, Jamie.”
James smiled at the thought of Harry’s godson, who was one of the few regular guests at Godric’s Hollow. Teddy doted on James and Albus Severus, viewing them as cousins or younger half-brothers, and was terribly overprotective of both of them and their happiness.
Fortunately there were no reporters at King’s Cross, and Harry herded his sons onto platform nine and three quarters. The familiar scarlet steam engine was resplendent and families milled about the platform. Harry recognized a few of the faces he saw, although he greeted no one.
Harry held Albus close to him as the train pulled away and James hung out of a window, waving to them until he was finally out of sight.
A sniffle caught Harry’s attention and he turned Albus Severus around until he could see his tearstained face. “Hey, now,” he murmured, kneeling down in front of his remaining son, the light of his life. “He’ll be back for Christmas.”
Albus nodded and looked away, but tears still flowed freely from his bright green eyes. “I want to go,” he confessed and threw himself into Harry’s arms.
“I know, I know,” Harry soothed, hugging his son close. “I’m so sorry, Albie.”
“Why did she hate me so much?” he sobbed, and Harry could only hold him closer, kissing the top of his messy black hair repeatedly.
“Harry?” a voice called, but he didn’t look up, his entire attention on his heartbroken son.
“Every breath you take is magic,” Harry whispered into Albus’s ear. “Every smile you give, every laugh. It’s the greatest magic there is, Albie. I love you so much.”
He sniffled against Harry’s shoulder. “Is it bad that I hate her? The one who would have been my mum?”
“No,” Harry countered immediately, pulling back and looking into Albus’s wet eyes behind his cute little glasses. “Never. It’s not wrong. It’s understandable.”
“Did you love her?”
“Once,” Harry conceded. “But not half so much as I love you, Albie. I’ve always loved you more, always, my stage magician.”
A watery smile quavered on Albus’s lips. Harry cupped his face and leaned forward to gently kiss a tearstained cheek, when a long-familiar form came into view behind his son.
“Harry,” Bill greeted, his hair pulled back in the same ponytail, although he wasn’t wearing an earring. “It is you.”
Carefully, Harry hoisted Albus Severus into his arms, and he felt soothed when his son’s arms came around his neck.
“Bill,” he replied warily. “I assumed you’d be here.” He looked behind his once brother-in-law to see the ethereal frame of Fleur, who had grown in beauty if that were at all possible over the past decade.
His former brother-in-law’s eyes centered on Albus for several long moments, and he nodded. “We miss you at the Burrow. It’s not the same without you and Jamie.”
Throat going dry, Harry glanced away. “How is everyone?” he finally inquired. “Ron? Hermione?”
Albus Severus buried his face against Harry’s neck at the mention of the names. He had asked about a year ago about her family and Harry had told him. There was no way he couldn’t. Albus was too precious for half-lies and untruths. If he asked, he received an answer, no matter how painful it was for Harry to give it.
A fleeting smile passed Bill’s lips, which made the ancient scar stand out more on his once handsome face. “Good. Little Rose has grown up well and they had a son a few years afterward. They named him Hugo after her dad or something. Ron’s an Auror now and Hermione works at the Ministry. Something about Magical Creature rights.”
“Sounds like her,” Harry reluctantly admitted. He remembered Rose as a baby. She had been born just about the time she had found out she was pregnant with Albus Severus. Harry and she had been named godparents, but that meant little now. Ron and Hermione were godparents to James but they hadn’t seen him in years. He turned and looked Bill right in the eyes and saw the sadness in them, but the warmth of Albus Severus in his arms reminded him of what Bill’s sister had done to his precious Albus, to all of them. “Goodbye,” he murmured and he turned, setting Albus down and taking his hand.
“Who was that?” Albus asked hesitantly.
Albus caught his gaze and offered a small smile that caused Harry’s heart to completely melt again. “Could we go to Florean’s for ice cream?”
“Don’t you think it’s a bit early for that?”
Grinning toothily, Albus Severus shook his head and it was clearly decided. Florean Fortescue’s it was.
The two fell into a new routine over the next few months while James was away. More and more of Albus’s toys migrated into Harry’s bedroom, and they gave up any pretense that Albus didn’t actually sleep there, curled up against Harry. The dark nights were precious to Harry. He knew that in a few short years Albus Severus would grow up and want his privacy, but until then he would hold his precious son close and be soothed by the sound of his beating heart. He was such a miracle, just surviving, and Harry thanked magic for it every day.
James was of course sorted into Gryffindor and his letters home were all to Albus, telling him of magic, and how frightening Headmistress McGonagall was.
Albus spent his weekends carefully writing back to his elder brother and insisted that they send James a packet of sweets every week, as Albus said that life wasn’t worth living without Daddy’s Fudge. The days were long and lazy when Albus was away at school and Harry was content to tidy the house and cook. He wondered what the Dursleys would say if they could see him so domesticated.
He’d heard that Dudley had married and even had children, as frightening a thought as that was, but he was certain the feeling was mutual. As the empty days continued, he finally began to write as he had once thought he would, beginning with his own story and the letters that came wrapped around eggs or flew down the chimney. He didn’t know what he would call it, or whether he would ever publish it. Certainly not in the wizarding world. That would be an absolute disaster.
Still, the highlight of his day was when he would leave the cottage in the afternoon and wait for Albus Severus to arrive home, a large smile on his face. He knew that Susan Bones—er, Flint; she’d somehow gone and married the previous Slytherin captain, of all impossible things—watched him, but they never approached each other. He seemed to have an unspoken truce with all of the wizards inhabiting Godric’s Hollow. They didn’t bother him and he didn’t hex them. It was simple and effective. The Muggles, however, were a different matter. Whenever he went out, someone always invited him to tea the next day, and in a moment of weakness he finally gave in to pretty widow named Mrs. “Call me Alicia” Borne.
She was pretty, with long brown hair and wide hazel eyes, but Harry barely looked at her, instead enjoying the tea and biscuits that he didn’t have to make (or have Winky get for him).
“Such a nice boy, your Albus,” she began. “I believe he is in the same class as my Stephen.”
“Er, yes. Albie’s mentioned him a few times.” Albus was shy and yet had no trouble finding a small group of close-knit friends, although he didn’t think Stephen was one of them.
“You have another, don’t you?”
“Yes,” he answered carefully. “James Sirius. He’s away at boarding school in Scotland.”
She smiled prettily at him and crossed her legs slowly, but Harry’s eyes didn’t follow the calculated movement. “What interesting names you Potter men have. Albus—Sirius. You all must be scholars.”
Harry could only laugh and looked out the window, wishing that Albus were home and they were baking cookies, tossing flour at each other until they had to go hose off in the back garden with Snuffles.
“I don’t like her,” Albus told him petulantly that night as he crawled into bed, laying himself across Harry’s chest. “That woman who was standing with you and touching your arm.”
“No,” Harry agreed. “Neither do I.”
Albus sighed out in contentment and snuggled closer. Harry watched him as he drifted off to sleep and wondered if he had seen anything so beautiful in his life.
Harry didn’t realize he was dreaming until a small hand lovingly caressed his cheek and sweet words were whispered in his ear. Groggily blinking, Harry felt tears fall down his cheeks and darkness met his vision. “Wha?” he asked groggily, and a light kiss was pressed against his wet cheek.
“Daddy,” Albus sighed, hugging Harry carefully. He was draped over Harry as usual, his mop of black hair tickling Harry’s nose. “You were crying.”
Harry nodded as he wiped away his tears.
“I don’t want you to cry. Never. I love you too much.”
Fumbling for his wand, Harry cast a gentle Lumos! and a ball of light appeared to reveal his eleven year old son. Albus’s worried green eyes looked wearily at him, and Harry reached for his glasses so he would be able to see a little better, although Albus Severus didn’t reach for his own.
His dream rushed back to him, the screaming, the blood, the realization that his wife was stealing their son’s magic. A fresh wave of grief washed over him and he pulled Albus close to him.
“My stage magician,” he murmured brokenly. “I love you so much.”
“Love you,” Albus agreed, clutching at Harry’s shoulder. The night had been warm for late August and so Harry had stripped down to nothing but boxer shorts, which had Albus blushing for some reason. A light kiss was pressed against his skin, and he shivered, wondering at his strange reaction.
They lay there for several long minutes, Harry running his fingers through Albus’s owl nest of hair. Still, however, Albus didn’t fall back into slumber. “Hush now. You need to sleep, Albie,” Harry tried to coax, but Albus shook his head.
“I’m scared,” he admitted quietly, and Harry pulled him closer until he could feel every line of Albus’s young body.
“Eton is nothing to be afraid of,” he whispered. “You’ll be the mysterious younger son of the elusive Lord Black, and you’ll make plenty of friends.”
“They won’t be like us—and it’s not Hogwarts,” Albus murmured desperately, and Harry pulled him up until he was staring into owlish green eyes.
“That doesn’t matter,” he promised. “I love you just the way you are, my Albie. You’re perfect.”
Albus shook his head. “No, I’m not. I can’t play Quidditch like James or have a wand or—”
“Albie,” Harry sighed, laying him down against the pillow and then leaning over, kissing his forehead gently. Albus arched into the tenderness and he reigned kisses across his youngest’s face as he had once done when he was smaller, delighting when Albus began to squirm and squeal in happiness. He paused after brushing their lips together and looked hesitantly into his son’s eyes, only to see love shining out of them.
“Love you, Harry,” Albus murmured, startling Harry so much that he sat up completely.
Albus remained on the bed, spread out decadently with disheveled hair and flushed cheeks. He frowned slightly. “Did I say something wrong, Daddy?”
Automatically, Harry shook his head. “No, Albus. You just startled me.” He let himself be tugged back to the bed and wrapped his arms carefully around Albus who burrowed against him.
“You’re mine, right? Even if I go away, you’ll always be mine.”
Harry felt himself relax as they came to more familiar conversation. “Of course, Albus. I’ll always be your father—yours and Jamie’s.”
“No,” Albus disagreed. “I know, but you’ll always be mine. Not Mrs. Borne’s or Miss Robbins’—just mine—” A gentle kiss was pressed against his shoulder again and Harry stilled. “Mine,” Albus Severus repeated desperately, looking up into Harry’s shocked green eyes.
“Albie,” he murmured, but was silenced when soft petal-lips pressed against his.
“Love you, always you,” Albus whispered and buried his head under Harry’s chin. Harry barely noticed when tears of joy fell from his eyes and he held Albus close, promising himself that he would always be Albus’s as he had never loved anyone more than his precious son, even if the world damned him for it.
Albus was almost cheerful at breakfast the next morning, scratching behind Snuffles’ ears as he ate toast and marmalade with one hand.
“Chew, Albie,” Harry chided as he set two glasses of pumpkin juice in front of his sons. James Sirius smiled up at him and Harry tweaked his ear in response. In two days time, he’d be seeing his eldest off on the Hogwarts Express for his third year. If things had been different, it would have been Albus’s first day as well, but he pushed the thought away. Albus was perfect just the way he was, and knowing Albie he’d probably become obsessed with History of Magic and terrify poor Binns by following him around, asking questions. Although McGonagall had finally seen reason and dismissed him in favor of someone alive, the ghost still haunted his old classroom and gave lectures to anyone who happened to be there.
Rose Weasley would start that year, he remembered, joining the offspring of Bill, Percy, and if he remembered correctly George. There were far too many Weasleys to keep track of and part of him was glad that he no longer had to try with various non-nieces and nephews, as they now were.
Divorce was a strange thing in the wizarding world. It still amazed him just how complete it was. With his divorce from her, James Sirius and Albus became pure Potter, and James had even lost his brown Weasley eyes in favor of his current hazel ones. No wonder divorce was so scandalous when it actually occurred.
“I’ll send you plenty of owls,” James promised to a grinning Albus, “and copies of my History of Magic notes.”
“Our historian,” Harry agreed as he finally sat down to breakfast with his own meal now that his sons were served completely. Ever since James went off to Hogwarts, Harry insisted that he cook breakfasts when both his sons were home, much to Winky’s displeasure. Harry liked the feeling of providing completely for his two sons. “You’ll probably go off to Oxford or Cambridge and get a first in it, and became famous.”
Albus laughed at the thought. “You’ll write, won’t you, Daddy?”
“Every day, if you want,” he promised kindly, reaching out and caressing Albus’s cheek. Albus’s breath hitched at the contact and their eyes met for a long moment, before Albus blushed and looked away.
James looked between them curiously and then shrugged, turning back to his eggs. “What are you again, Dad? A Lord?”
Harry laughed. “A Marquis,” he corrected, “in Muggle terms, which means that to Muggles you two would be Lord Potter, or whatever my secondary title is, and Lord Albus Potter.”
Albus scrunched up his nose. “How strange.”
“Muggles,” James sighed, as if that explained everything. Albus threw a half-eaten piece of toast at him, complete with marmalade. James squawked indignantly and barely managed to avoid it by throwing himself to the ground. Snuffles glared at him when he almost landed on her tail.
Two hours later and the three of them were dressed to Muggle perfection, Harry even going so far as to sport a suit, just to make a good impression for Albus’s sake. He knew a lot of parents would just send their children, but he wanted to drive Albus himself and James insisted on coming along.
“I’ll send you a toilet seat,” James promised with a grin when they finally arrived, Albus staring up at the school with fear and awe.
“Don’t be silly, Jamie,” Albus responded primly. “What would I do with a toilet seat?”
Harry could barely contain his laugh, remembering how Fred and George had promised Ginny the same thing his first year at Hogwarts. His heart constricted at the thought of his lost friends and of Fred’s early death. Fred II must be at Hogwarts now and probably was a Gryffindor, knowing the Weasleys.
Pulling Albus close, Harry hugged him goodbye for the final time. “I’m only a phone call away,” he promised, remembering the telephone he finally had put in when Albus Severus began primary school as a telephone number was needed for registration, not that he called anyone. James had a Muggle-born friend that he’d sometimes ring up and Albus would occasionally receive calls, but with both of them gone, the phone would be little used.
“Love you, Harry,” Albus whispered, and Harry clutched him close.
“Make me proud and have fun.” Harry dropped a kiss on Albus’s upturned lips, wishing to keep his son safe at home but knowing that it was time for him to go out into the world and learn among Muggles. He’d be great one day, Harry knew, as surely as the Sorting Hat had once known that he’d be great a quarter of a century earlier.
Harry could barely keep the tears from falling as he and James drove away, his eldest son leaning out the window and waving desperately even when Harry knew Albus could no longer see them.
That night Harry couldn’t sleep. The bed was empty for the first time in years, and he missed the sound of Albus’s sighs and the feel of him curled up against him in the night. At five in the morning he finally gave up and padded down to the kitchen, making himself a cup of tea. He sat at the kitchen table and stared out toward the foggy moor, hoping that Albus was sleeping peacefully and was well.
James was subdued that day and walked around the house in a bit of a daze. He was already packed, thanks to Winky, who mothered the three of them far too much.
“Right,” Harry sighed, opening up the sports closet and ignoring the set of Quidditch balls. “Cricket.”
Turning his auburn head, James looked at him with a smile. Cricket, for whatever reason, was Albus’s favorite sport. He watched it religiously on the telly and insisted that he was going to be a great cricketer and follow in the Potter family tradition of being good at games. James had made Chaser his second year and Harry had of course been Seeker.
“I’ll bowl!” he announced with a grin and a few minutes later they were outside in the dappled sunshine, running about and mucking up the rules as Albus wasn’t there to keep them on the straight and narrow.
That night the two sat in front of the fireplace, drinking Butterbeer and tossing the cricket ball between them lazily. “He’ll be all right? With Muggles?” James asked, his voice uncharacteristically hitching in emotion. “He’s my little brother.”
“I know,” Harry soothed, reaching up and brushing his fingers through James’s thick fringe. James had just begun to wear glasses, his eyes descending into the characteristic blurriness that all Potters appeared to be cursed with. “And, yes. He’ll be fine. It’s an adjustment, but he’s getting the best education possible. He’ll never want for anything.”
“Except for magic,” James whispered brokenly.
“Except for magic.”
Father and son stared into the fire, and James sighed sadly. “He loves you, you know,” he finally admitted, not looking into Harry’s eyes.
“I know,” Harry answered, thinking he meant a child’s love for his parent. “And I love both of you. You’re my family.”
James shook his head, his profile partially illuminated by the flames. “No,” he argued. “Dad, Albie’s in love with you. Has been for years, and he finally told me last week.”
Harry stilled and dropped the cricket ball from his suddenly limp grasp. “Jamie?” His throat was inexplicably dry.
“I’ve known for years, of course,” James continued as if Harry hadn’t spoken. “How could I not? Albie is everything and I’ve always wanted him to be happy. I love him so much but I was always so afraid that without meaning to, I’d leave him behind. But he’s in love with you, Dad—and I want Albus to get whatever he wants.”
Harry tried to answer, but nothing came out of his mouth.
“I’ve looked it up,” James continued on hurriedly. “Old Binns is good for something. Half-bloods never, and of course Muggle-borns look down on it.” There was a slight sneer in his tone that surprised Harry, though he quickly realized that James was only angry at their ignorance, as he would never hate anything Muggle because of Albus Severus, whom he doted on. “Anyway, purebloods do and the Blacks. Cousins, siblings, parents and children—Magic protects them and it’s accepted. Please, Daddy. He loves you so much, and he’s my little brother, and I don’t want him to be left behind. I want him to have as much magic as possible—”
“Shh,” Harry soothed, reaching over and taking the Butterbeer from James’s slack grip. He tugged on his arm and James quickly came over to the couch and hugged his father tightly.
“Please,” he begged. “You’re everything to Albie. He’ll never stop loving or wanting you.”
“I know,” Harry whispered.
He never said the words, but James instantly relaxed. The next day Harry drove up to London and saw his eldest off on the Hogwarts Express. He ignored Ron and Hermione who had their two children in tow, and only hung around to wait for Teddy who wanted a lift back to his flat in Muggle London. He’d insisted that he move somewhere where Albus Severus could visit without feeling uncomfortable. There had been some rumor that he had been dating Victoire Weasley at the time and they’d had an argument about it and promptly broken up, but Harry had never asked for specifics.
His eyes met Draco Malfoy’s and they nodded to each other. James followed his gaze and Harry noticed with some perplexity that James’s stare lingered on his son, who looked a great deal like Draco.
With a sigh, he watched the train pull away, and he went home for the first time in eleven years completely alone.
Mistletoe hung above the bed and Harry stared at it for several long moments, not quite comprehending.
“Harry,” a quiet voice said from behind him, and he turned to see Albus Severus standing cautiously at the door to their shared room. He was biting his lip, causing it to be plump and pink. Harry had difficulty taking his eyes from it.
“Albie,” he murmured in response, his eyes drinking in the form of his twelve-year-old son. He was home for Yule from his second year at Eton and was all grace and long limbs, his hair as untidy as ever atop his head.
Slinking forward, Albus stood directly in front of Harry and looked up, his green eyes shining behind his frameless glasses. “Love you,” he whispered as if it were a prayer, intertwining their fingers.
Reaching out, Harry cupped Albus’s face, angling it up slightly. “You know I love you,” he murmured in response, and it was true. Albus Severus was his entire world, and somehow over the years he had fallen irrevocably in love with his youngest son, who tended his heart so carefully.
A half-smile formed on Albus’s lips. “But are you in love with me?” he questioned, and Harry leaned down and captured his soft mouth with his own. The kiss was sweet and gentle and chaste, just as Albus Severus was. Harry pulled Albus closer to him, their fingers still intertwined, and sucked in the gasp that escaped his lips.
“Is that answer enough?” he asked when he finally pulled away.
Albus looked at him in dazed joy before leaping at Harry so that he stumbled and fell back against the bed. A laugh escaped both of them as Albus settled on top of him, his legs straddling Harry’s waist. One sweet kiss later, that was nothing more than what they had shared as father and son for years, and Albus settled on top of Harry, closing his eyes for sleep.
“Come on, Albie,” Harry sighed, shifting him slightly. “You’ll be cold if we don’t get under the covers.”
“Nuh-huh,” Albus whined as he burrowed closer. “All I need is you.”
Harry ran his fingers through the tuft of hair at the nape of his neck and waited for Albus to fall asleep. When his child’s breaths finally evened out, he carefully rolled Albus off of him and then tenderly tucked him between the sheets. In his sleep, Albus whined and reached out for him and, after looking at the mistletoe in amusement, Harry crawled into the bed next to Albus and curled around him, protecting him from any nightmares that might come.
Christmas morning was filled with gingerbread and spiced cider. Snuffles, in her old age, padded around and flopped her tail, bumping into furniture constantly as she was now blind. James hugged her close and petted her until she harrumphed in happiness, her tail thumping against the rug in an irregular, tired pattern.
“Oh,” James gasped when he came to a strange present that was wrapped in silver. His eyes were wide behind his glasses and he looked up at Harry in question.
“Who’s it from?” Albus asked excitedly, clambering over the discarded wrapping paper and nearly crashing into his older brother. “Someone from school?”
“Er—yeah,” James answered carefully, once again looking at Harry.
“It’s all right,” Harry murmured, giving his sons an understanding smile. “I’ve told you that you can be with friends with anyone you want.” Even Weasleys, he added mentally. He never forbade James from befriending anyone, not wanting the prejudices of past generations and the war to infect his son. He just preferred it if he never had to think of his former family ever again. “Who’s it from?”
“Scorp,” he whispered, a blush creeping across his cheek. “He’s thirteen, though,” he added, causing Albus to burst out into laughter.
“Is he your boyfriend?” Albus asked, hooking an arm around his brother’s neck affectionately. “Is he the one you’re constantly writing about? The Ravenclaw who doesn’t notice you exist?”
The blush that deepened on James’s cheeks was answer enough.
“Well, clearly he must notice you,” Harry answered with a wry grin. “My son. Growing up and fancying someone.”
“I am fifteen,” he answered, puffing out his chest much like Ron would when they were still children.
“Just,” Albus teased, and Harry couldn’t help but chuckle.
“I first fancied someone when I was thirteen,” he told James with a half-smile. Albus stilled and looked over at him warily, but when Harry held out his hand for him in reassurance, he quickly relaxed again. “Her name was Cho and, well, when we finally dated during my fifth year she wouldn’t stop crying, so it was short-lived. I did ask her to the Yule Ball, though she went with someone else.” The image of Cedric Diggory passed over his mind’s eye unbidden, but he felt little pain at it anymore, after so many years.
“Did—did you go with our—her—instead?” Albus asked, his eyes wide in curiosity and wariness.
He shook his head. “No, she went with Professor Longbottom.”
James gaped at him. “Really?”
“Really,” Harry answered. “Now, who is this Scorp and what has he given you?”
“Er—right,” James answered, carefully unwrapping the gift as if it were precious.
A note fell out of it, and Albus quickly snatched it up, reading it aloud. “For you and your favorite brother. Hmm, that’s nice.”
James, however, didn’t answer, instead gasping as he unwrapped a pair of mirrors.
“They—they’re—” he began, and then looked at Albus, a blinding smile on his face. “They’re two-way mirrors so we can talk to each other when at school.”
Albus immediately launched himself at his brother, and Harry quickly caught the mirrors, carefully wrapping them up again and giving them to Winky, telling her to put them somewhere safe in James’s room. They were too precious to have anything happen to them. As his sons chatted happily together about how to keep them a secret at Eton, Harry picked up the note that had come with them, surprised at the sloping elegant hand. Albus Severus hadn’t read all of the note, leaving off the initials that stirred something in Harry’s memory: S.H.M.
“Is Scorp a Malfoy?” he found himself asking James later that morning when they took a break from presents to have breakfast. “Draco’s son?”
James paled at the question and looked down at his chocolate croissant.
“I don’t mind,” Harry added. “If you fancy Scorp, then I’m happy for you. Why would you think otherwise?”
“But the Weasleys hate the Malfoys,” he murmured. “I overheard Louis telling Rose that there was a feud, and even the Potters were involved, and—”
“That’s nonsense,” Harry cut in, angry at the Weasleys for continuing the generations-long animosity. “Draco Malfoy and I did not like each other at all at Hogwarts, but I respect him and his family immensely.” The words were difficult to say but he still pushed them out. “We’ve had several differences of opinion”—to say the least—“but Scorp’s grandmother saved my life during the Final Battle, and I spoke for the entire family at their trial after the war, much to Ginny’s displeasure.”
The sound of a teacup shattering on the table caused him to look at Albus, who was staring at him in dismay.
“Albie?” he questioned, as he pushed his chair away from the table to hurry over to his youngest. “Are you hurt?”
Albus shook his head, holding out his hands to Harry to show he was unharmed. “I’m fine, Harry,” he whispered, leaning forward so that Harry would kiss him. Their lips met chastely as Harry reassured himself that Albus was fine. He heard Winky near them picking up the teacup and cleaning up the tablecloth. “Just startled. W-who’s Ginny? Is she—?”
Harry sighed, and glanced at James Sirius, who was watching them avidly. “Yes,” he answered carefully. “Her name was Ginny Weasley, and she was the youngest of the seven Weasley children.”
“Oh,” Albus whispered. “And she didn’t like the Malfoys?”
“No,” Harry answered, leaning forward to kiss Albus’s lips once more in reassurance before retaking his seat. “She used to the cast the Bat Bogey Hex at Draco Malfoy constantly.”
Albus Severus glanced at his older brother. “I don’t like her then,” he decided. “Scorpius sounds nice and he seems to fancy James. How many times have you asked him to Hogsmeade?”
James scowled and took a bite out of his croissant. “He’s in his second year, even though his birthday’s in October, so he can’t go.” A silly grin broke out on his face at some memory. “I think he’s weakening, though. I send him an owl every Saturday, and he’s obviously read them, and whenever I go I bring him back his favorite candies from Honeydukes.” He smiled at Albus, who grinned back.
“I can’t wait to meet him,” he declared. “He’ll be at the platform, right, Jamie?”
Nodding, James took a sip of his tea. “Should do.”
That night, Albus slipped into bed and traced the contours of Harry’s face lovingly. “Will you take me to Hogsmeade?” he asked cautiously as if afraid of the answer.
“I thought you didn’t like Hogsmeade,” Harry replied back sleepily, delighting in Albus’s gentle caresses. “You were so upset when I took you when you were seven and you couldn’t see the castle.”
“I know, but—” Albus bit his lip and looked away, although his fingers never left Harry’s cheek.
“But what?” Harry questioned, reaching up and cupping Albus’s cheek lovingly, willing him to look back at him.
“You can’t kiss me if you take me on a date anywhere else,” Albus confessed. “Or—do you not want—?”
“Of course I do,” Harry denied emphatically, startling Albus who jumped. “You know I love you.”
“Yes,” Albus agreed, finally meeting Harry’s gaze. His beautiful green eyes were full of tears. “Yes, but I’m a Squib—and Muggles don’t—”
“I’m not a Muggle,” Harry countered, wrapping an arm around Albus’s waist and pulling him down until their noses brushed each other lovingly. “We live by the laws and rules of wizarding England, Albie, and we’re allowed to love each other as we do.”
A smile blossomed across Albus’s face and he leaned down and kissed Harry gently. Harry ached to kiss Albus Severus more deeply, to truly claim those sweet lips, but when he admitted to himself that he had fallen in love with his son, he promised himself that Albus would set their pace. He would never hurt his precious Albus Severus, and would wait a century if need be just to kiss him as a lover would.
“This summer,” Harry promised, “when it’s warm and we can walk around together, I’ll take you to Hogsmeade. We can even go to Madam Puddifoot’s where there’s too much lace and hold hands like couples do—and we’ll send James off to stay with some friends for the day so it’s just the two of us.”
“Just the two of us,” Albus murmured as he kissed Harry again gently, pressing closely so that Harry could feel his warmth underneath the covers.
As Albus drifted off to sleep, Harry gently pushed a silver betrothal ring onto his son’s finger—his true Yule gift. Albus looked down at it, his eyes wide, before kissing Harry again, his lips gently parting for the first time. “I love you,” Harry swore, and for the first time he saw complete trust and devotion shining from Albus’s eyes. Albus finally, truly believed him, and they fell asleep in each other’s arms, smiles on their faces.
Albus Severus cried out for joy when the Hogwarts Express finally came into sight. It was the summer after James’s sixth year, and Albus was fourteen years old and the most beautiful creature Harry had ever laid eyes upon. He was dressed completely in cricket whites as he and a bunch of Eton friends had all agreed to play a game that afternoon in Hyde Park, and Albus Severus had only nipped out for a half hour to greet his brother and drag him along to watch the end of the game before it became too dark to play. As “Lord Albus” was one of the most popular boys in his class and the best bowler Eton had apparently seen in decades, the group had happily taken a respite for afternoon tea while their leader and comrade took off to get his brother.
The steam engine pulled into the station and Albus craned his neck to catch any glimpse of his brother. The betrothal ring gleamed proudly on his left hand, where he hadn’t taken it off since Harry had slipped it on two years earlier.
“Be right back,” he said excitedly as he turned to kiss Harry lingeringly with an awareness that showed that he was finally growing up. Harry forced himself to pull away before he lost himself in the sweetness of it, and watched happily as Albus Severus bounded toward the train that was now coming to a stop.
He watched as flocks of students crowded around the windows and then began to pour out onto the platform.
The sound of a throat clearing near his shoulder, however, caused him to turn to see a blushing Hermione, who had become rather plump over the past few years.
“Harry,” she greeted, and Harry sighed, nodding in her direction. She pursed her lips and pushed her bushy brown hair that was falling out of her bun behind her ear. “How are you?”
“Fine,” he answered carefully, keeping one eye on the train and Albus. A flash of pale blond revealed that Scorpius had just emerged, and Harry knew that James Sirius would be close behind him. The two were inseparable now and Scorpius had even been over to the cottage a few times.
“I-I was hoping to catch you,” she admitted. “Rose is very fond of James. I think she finds him handsome, but he refuses to speak to her, and I was wondering if you could talk to him. They are cousins after all, and—”
“No, Hermione. They aren’t cousins,” Harry replied coolly and carefully. “My sons no longer have any Weasley blood.”
“Perhaps legally,” she conceded, “but biologically—”
“Biologically as well. Really, Hermione.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter. It’s better if they’re not cousins. We wouldn’t want to become inbred like the Blacks, now would we?”
Harry glared at her, but she stood firmly. “What are you implying?”
“Only that Rose is fifteen and has fallen in love with James somehow, Harry. They’re constantly bickering from what I can tell from her letters and from what I’ve heard, not unlike Ron and I when we were their age—”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Harry countered, turning away and seeing that James was now embracing Albus warmly, Scorpius standing to the side and smiling at the scene. Draco Malfoy and his wife—Astoria, Harry recalled—were a little ways off. He frowned. James was wearing wizarding robes, and he couldn’t really wear them out to Hyde Park unless they said it was for some fancy dress party.
“It’s hardly ridiculous. Ron and I were mad for each other since we were fourteen, and you and Ginny—”
“I was never in love with her,” Harry quietly admitted, knowing it was the truth. Before he had loved Albus Severus, he had thought he had been once, but now he knew the truth. He’d loved the idea of her and she was in love with him. He might have been content if she hadn’t stolen Albus Severus’s magic and had lived—but he would never now. He would never trade Albus’s sweet kisses for anything in the world, and only admitted to himself Ginny’s usefulness in that she had given him James and Albus. Someday, when Albus was older, he hoped that there would be more children—but that was many years in the future.
Hermione closed her eyes painfully at his admission, but didn’t refute it. “They bicker and she fancies him. Please, I know what Ginny did was wrong—”
“Despicable,” Harry countered, his eyes lingering on Albus’s smiling face.
“And I can understand why you broke off from the rest of us, but don’t punish Rose for it. Maybe this can begin to heal—”
“Hermione,” Harry interjected, and she quieted, pushing her joined hands to her mouth to stop herself from continuing. The familiar gesture caused the ghost of a smile to taint Harry’s face. “I’m sorry about Rose, but James has been dating someone for several years. He’s very much like his grandfather and seems to have fallen in love at first sight with an eleven-year-old.”
Her eyes widening, she looked at him in confusion. “What are you talking about?”
“I think Rose forgot to mention that.”
“I don’t believe it. Rose is very thorough, and she would have mentioned if James fancied some witch or was taking one to Hogsmeade.”
Harry sighed and nodded toward James who had wrapped himself around Scorpius Malfoy from behind, his head settled possessively on his shoulder as the two chatted with Albus. Albus was gesturing wildly and from his movements seemed to be describing the rules of Cricket to the Malfoys.
Hermione gasped. “He—”
“Yes,” Harry responded. “Granted, they’re still young, but the Malfoys and I have little doubt that in a few years—”
“Oh,” she whispered. “And you approve?”
He turned toward her quickly, a grimace on his face. “Of course I approve. My son is happy, and that’s all that matters.” The two old friends stared at each other for several long moments, until Harry felt someone embrace him.
“Harry,” Albus Severus greeted, turning up his face and smiling brilliantly. “Mr. Malfoy said that Scorpius can come and watch us play Cricket, as long as he’s home by lunch tomorrow.”
“Er—does Scorpius have something to wear other than robes?”
“Hardly,” Albus laughed. “James said they’ll just say it’s some sort of hazing exercise or something if asked. It will be all right.”
Harry nodded and waved his acceptance at the Malfoys, who nodded in turn.
“Bloody hell, they’re snogging again, and they’re not even saying goodbye.” Albus hugged himself closer to Harry and reached up to kiss his lips lightly. “How come we never snog?”
Hermione gasped from beside him. Harry ignored her and instead leaned down to kiss Albus lingeringly. “You’ve never seemed inclined,” he murmured, nipping Albus’s bottom lip before pulling away. “James! Scorp!”
The two hurried forward, pushing James’s trunk and owl cage forward. The Malfoys seemed to have disappeared with Scorpius’s luggage. Harry didn’t think either James or Scorpius would mind as Scorpius loved wearing James’s old sweats and Quidditch jersey whenever he came to visit.
“Who’re you?” James asked Hermione curiously, looking her up and down.
“Hermione Weasley,” Harry answered. “Rose and Hugo’s mother.”
James made a face at that. “Could you tell the Weaslette to stop sending me poems? I’ve told her a hundred times, but she doesn’t seem to listen. I mean, they’re great fun. We have them on the wall in the dorm in order of which is the worst, though they’re all ghastly, but I’m tired of having to burn them every few months.”
“Oh,” Hermione squeaked, before hurrying away, casting an accusing glance at Harry over her shoulder as she rejoined her family.
“What was that about?” Scorpius asked when they piled into Harry’s car and made their way toward Hyde Park.
“Rose is in love with James, and she wanted me to pave the way,” he answered truthfully. “I set her straight, though.”
James gagged at the thought, and Albus Severus burst out in laughter.
The game of cricket lasted well into the evening, and James finally had to pry Albus away from his school friends when it had grown so dark they couldn’t see past their own noses without the aid of lamps. At one point James had even tried his luck at bat, but had struck out easily, cursing Albus for being too good. His robes had been scuffed up, but it was nothing that Winky couldn’t easily fix. Although she was now getting rather old, she was still spry and had a good two decades in her. Snuffles, sadly, had passed on, but James and Albus Severus were already discussing what type of dog they would like to get next. James insisted that Albus have the final choice as he was soon to be “the mistress of the house” and Albus chucked a ball at him in retaliation.
Harry was startled when he walked into the master bedroom that night and saw Albus sitting there, still in his cricket whites.
“Albie?” he asked in concern, but Albus didn’t respond, instead standing up and drawing his white jumper over his head.
Moving forward determinedly, he pressed himself against Harry and claimed his lips, opening his own tentatively in a silent invitation. Groaning, Harry pulled them closer together, tugging Albus’s shirt from his trousers and letting his hands reach up to caress the skin of his back.
Albus gasped, but pushed closer and for the first time, Harry let his tongue slip gently into Albus’s mouth, tasting chocolate and summer rain. They stood there, molded together decadently, and Harry coaxed Albus into full kisses, their tongues sliding against each other questioningly and with all the caution of new lovers. “Am I doing it right?” Albus moaned as he pulled away, his eyes wide and dilated.
“Perfectly,” Harry answered, kissing Albus once again and angling his head down for the best access to the perfect mouth.
They lay entwined together that night, Albus rousing himself every so often to press insistent kisses against Harry’s waiting mouth. “When will we make love?” he whispered finally, well past midnight.
Harry stared at him lovingly and reached up to caress his cheek. “When you’re ready,” he promised.
Albus Severus smiled sadly and then nestled closer to Harry. “Jamie and Scorp make love,” he confessed and Harry sighed, having suspected it for about a year.
“Scorpius is nearly a year older than you are,” he reminded Albus carefully, “and not everyone’s ready at the same time.”
“No,” Albus agreed. “Jamie went mad with waiting, though. He used to call me up on the mirrors after their trysts in broom closets and complain about how horrible it was waiting. In the end, I think Scorp got tired and just seduced him one night at Malfoy Manor.”
Harry groaned. “Some things a father doesn’t need to know about his son,” he chided, but Albus only laughed at him.
“How old were you?”
“Eighteen,” Harry answered immediately. “The war had just ended—and, well—”
“Ginny was seventeen, then?” Albus Severus questioned, his voice hesitant.
“No. It wasn’t Ginny,” Harry admitted quietly. “It was a Muggle boy, about my age. I never saw him after, but I needed to be alone and went to a club. He was there—and—well—”
Albus pulled away and looked into Harry’s eyes, reading them carefully. “And you still married her?”
“I wanted a family,” Harry admitted, “and I wanted the mother I never had, and she was the closest I could find.”
“But she didn’t want to be a mother,” Albus said perceptively.
“No, not really,” Harry agreed. “But she gave me Jamie and you, so I can’t be sorry I married her—although I hate her for what she did to you.”
Albus leaned down and kissed him achingly slowly. “I don’t mind,” he admitted. “You fell in love with me when I was a Squib. If she hadn’t—you might never have.”
It was Christmas again, but it was the first not spent at the cottage in Godric’s Hollow. Albus Severus nervously shifted in the passenger seat of the car, but Harry held his hand lovingly.
“What if I can’t—?” Albus murmured in worry, but Harry quieted him with a loving look.
“I’ve already talked with Lucius Malfoy,” he assured him. “The wards have been changed to allow you in, and the house-elves have been warned that you may need extra assistance as you can’t use magic.”
Albus took a deep breath and nodded. Because of the heavy snows that winter, Harry had been a day late in picking up Albus Severus for Christmas Hols from his sixth year at Eton. Albus had hit a growth spurt the summer before, and now was nearly as tall as Harry and James, although Harry was happy that Albus was still able to nestle against him perfectly.
“How many guests are there?” he asked several minutes later. The family half-kneazle was curled up on his lap and he was petting it distractedly. Albus, after much consideration, had decided that they should get a dog once they had their own children—and James had readily agreed, smiling happily at his father at the suggestion. “Does that make them my siblings or my nephews and nieces?” he asked impishly, only to have Albus toss a book at his head.
“Two dozen or so,” Harry responded. “Jamie and Scorp wanted a private wedding.”
“Well, it is the social event of the season,” Albus reasoned. “Jamie’s been sending me clippings from the Prophet all term.”
“I can’t believe they’re doing it while Scorp is still in school,” Harry replied. While Scorpius was now seventeen, he still had a year and a half left. He and James, however, wouldn’t hear of waiting. The previous summer they had picked out a cottage in Godric’s Hollow that they could afford with limited assistance from both Harry and the Malfoys. “All Potters live in Godric’s Hollow,” was James’s reasoning. He was a magical archaeologist and was apprenticed to one of the best and spent much of his time up in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland.
Malfoy Manor was as resplendent as Harry remembered, and was without the horrible shadow of Voldemort hanging over it. Peacocks ranged across the manicured lawn, causing Albus to gawp at them. The half-kneazle, who didn’t have a name other than “Cat,” looked out the window at them hungrily. Harry hoped the creature wouldn’t actually kill one of the birds. They looked expensive.
Albus Severus was unusually shy as they entered the hall, looking about at the grandeur and the moving portraits. He grasped Harry’s hand, entwining their fingers together possessively.
“Dad!” James called as he rushed down the staircase into the foyer. “Albie! I thought you’d never get here!”
Scorpius was two steps behind him, a laugh barely contained. “Let them breathe, Jamie.” He came up and claimed Albus in a hug as soon as James released him.
“One moment,” James said as Scorpius was about to lead everyone upstairs. He tucked away his wand and held out his hands and, snapping his fingers, white smoke rose from his fingers and swirled into the shape of a small bird that flitted away before dispersing.
Albus Severus grinned at him, immediately relaxing at the familiar pastime of his brother’s magical displays.
“Happy Christmas, Albie.”
The wedding was stately as anyone would expect of a Malfoy ceremony, but James and Scorpius could barely conceal their smiles of joy despite the many formalities.
“It will be your turn soon,” James teased the two of them before slipping away with his new husband.
Albus smiled sadly, looking down at his betrothal ring. He blushed when he caught Harry staring.
“What’s wrong?” Harry asked, kissing him lightly in full view of everyone. It was a poorly kept secret that the two were in love, and Harry had even once heard Narcissa Malfoy tell her daughter-in-law how much she approved of the connection, saying that they were acting as Blacks had for generations.
“I’m still sixteen,” Albus Severus murmured, tears in his eyes. “And in the Muggle world we can never—”
“That doesn’t matter,” Harry countered immediately, threading their fingers together. “We live in the magical world.”
“I don’t,” Albus reminded him sadly. “I go to Eton, and then hopefully Cambridge—”
“You’re still a Potter,” Harry whispered, kissing his nose gently. “We’ll get married when it’s right for us, and we’ll walk with our heads held high for the rest of our lives.”
“And children? I can’t—” He bit his lip and looked away. Harry knew, however, what he meant. Because he was a Squib, he could never carry children, not even if he took the Gnascum Potion.
“Then I will.” And it was true. Harry wanted children with Albus, desperately, as long as Albus wanted them as well.
A smile shone across Albus’s features and he claimed Harry’s lips desperately. The two of them soon slipped away and Harry drove them back to Godric’s Hollow, Albus asleep on his shoulder. He carried Albus across the threshold and up to their room, laying him carefully on the quilt.
He fell asleep with dreams of their children in his mind.
Albus Severus’s first book on early magical history was published with much fanfare before he finished his sixth year of Eton. Harry had known he was working on some project and that history was always his favorite subject, but until the acceptance owl fluttered in the day after New Year’s, he had no idea the specifics.
“Are you angry?” Albus asked, and Harry only kissed him gently, showing him how happy and proud he was.
In April, Harry managed to have Albus excused from his studies for a week when his publishers insisted on a few signings around magical England. His book was widely popular, surprisingly, for the subject matter, and had received accolades from several magical historians for its innovative look at history.
“I guess you won’t need to go to Cambridge if you don’t want to,” James teased over dinner the first night Albus was back. He and Harry had walked over to James’s cottage, which was near the center of town and had a full rose garden in the front, as Scorpius loved flowers.
“Hardy har har,” Albus disagreed. “I’m interested in all history, especially magical-Muggle relations from before and around the Norman Conquest.”
“You have no idea how many letters I’ve gotten about you,” James continued. “Flitwick even wrote me a book, practically, about your book. They all want personal autographed copies. It’s insane.”
Albus Severus paled considerably. After the book was published, Harry had Winky sort through the mail and file it accordingly so that Albus wouldn’t be bothered by exuberant well wishers. He was, after all, still in sixth form. It seemed his fans had found another outlet from the polite replies they received from the Potter household.
“I know. This one boy turned out to have a brother who was a Muggle-born. He came up to me in class and asked for my autograph. It was embarrassing.”
“Really?” Harry asked, and Albus nodded.
“And he was Head Boy.”
James laughed outright. “Another Potter celebrity,” he toasted and that finally brought a smile to Albus’s face.
“You could soon be another,” Albus pushed, watching his older brother blush. “Don’t think I don’t know that you’re a finalist for funding for your own dig in Cornwall.”
“It’s hardly come through—”
“But it might, and if not, then another will. I know from Daddy that you keep on upstaging your superiors with your knowledge and care in the field.”
Harry startled at being called ‘Daddy’ by Albus, but instantly relaxed. He knew the two of them had a complex relationship. They were in love and yet father and son, and sometimes acted in different roles depending on the situation. He leaned forward and kissed the back of Albus’s head to show that he didn’t mind the reference. Albus turned and smiled back at him, catching his lips sensuously for a long moment before James coughed abruptly at the display.
Albus grinned apologetically at him.
“Gods, I miss Scorp,” James moaned, and the three Potters burst into laughter.
Flourish and Blotts was filled to the brim the next day when Harry and Albus Severus arrived for the book signing. Albus’s agent was none other than Scorpius’s aunt, Daphne Greengrass, who had never married and was far too happy in magical publishing to ever thinking of having her own family. Albus Severus had approached her without Harry ever realizing it, and as they were family by marriage, Daphne had done everything she could to secure Albus the best deal—and made Albus independently wealthy in the process although he was only sixteen years old.
The crowd went absolutely wild at the sight of him. Albus had dressed carefully in a Muggle suit and had a fountain pen for his signings, saying that he never much cared for quills especially after using pens for years at Eton. Harry was surprised to see that many of his fans were Hogwarts-aged witches who would stare at him with stars in their eyes.
“Is this usual?” Harry whispered to Daphne as yet another stuttering witch left after slipping him her Floo address.
“He’s considered the most eligible bachelor under the age of thirty,” Daphne informed him. “Not only is he your only single son, but given that he survived his birth, it’s common knowledge that he would have been the most powerful wizard of his generation, and his children will probably inherit the magic as it’s still in his magical make up, although he can’t access it.”
“He’s wearing a betrothal ring,” Harry argued petulantly, and Daphne laughed.
“Albus only has eyes for you,” she assured him as Albus blushed and brushed off yet another star-struck witch, who appeared to be Rose Weasley. Her mother Hermione was standing behind her with a stack of books. One appeared to have several notes sticking out of it, and Harry wasn’t surprised when she gave it to Albus and told him that his book needed revising as he hadn’t given enough attention to creature rights.
“She’ll never change,” Harry sighed.
“I doubt it,” Daphne agreed.
Hogsmeade was no less crowded, and Harry was happy when he was finally able to whisk Albus Severus away to the Three Broomsticks for an early dinner and several Butterbeer-flavored kisses.
“No more,” Albus begged when he saw someone approach him with a copy of his book, and Harry kissed him once more to take his mind from it.
“Er—aren’t you—” The girl blushed to the roots of her dark hair.
“Yes, I am,” Albus answered carefully, taking out his fountain pen.
“No, I meant—you’re both Potters.”
Harry sighed. A Muggle-born or half-blood, then.
“Yes, we are,” he answered.
“Father and son,” she reiterated, almost stammering.
“Who do you want me to sign it to?” Albus asked, taking the book from her slack grip. He opened it up and a moving photograph of him smiling shyly met Harry’s eyes. No wonder half of the witches at Hogwarts had fallen for Albus. He was absolutely stunning in the photograph.
“Roxanne Weasley,” she answered. “Er—we would have been—”
“Cousins,” Albus answered carefully nodding. “Are you in Gryffindor, as well?”
“Yes,” she answered proudly. “All Weasleys are, even little Hugo who we thought would end up in Hufflepuff of all places, and Rosie, who’s the top student in her year.”
Albus huffed. “My brother-in-law pulls in the top grades,” he corrected, “and I heard that Rose didn’t even make prefect.”
“That was a misunderstanding,” Roxanne replied sheepishly, looking away. “Look,” she began when Albus handed her back her book. “I know you’re not part of the Clan anymore, but you’re welcome to come to Aunt Ginny’s memorial in August. August 29 at Ottery St. Catchpole. We all gather around and tell stories about her and—er—your dad.” She had the decency to blush. “I think she would like it if you and James came.”
Albus frowned at her. “I doubt that. She almost killed me purposefully the day I was born. She’s no relation of mine.”
The hesitant smile fell from Roxanne’s face and she nodded. “Well, the invitation is there.” She made to move away, but then turned and looked between them hurriedly. “A Weasley would never shag his father, by the way. It’s kind of disgusting.”
Harry clenched his jaw and unsheathed his wand. “I think you should leave,” he told her calmly.
“I’m not a Weasley,” Albus whispered that night as he lay in Harry’s arms.
“No,” Harry agreed, kissing him passionately.
“Must we wait any longer?” Albus begged, running his hand up Harry’s chest.
Breath catching in his throat, Harry shook his head. He could never deny his Albus Severus anything he desired, including the love between them. Carefully, they undressed each other, kisses turning passionate and full of longing. They moved against each other, moans mingling between them, and when Harry finally slid into the tight warmth of Albus’s body, he felt such joy and completion that he almost wept.
That night they lay completely entwined, full of peace and love. Magic sparked between their fingers and when Harry awoke to see the lazy purple and gold sparks, a smile erupted on his face and a gentle hope filled his heart for the future.