Draco loosened his tie a little further and confidently stepped into the centre of platform nine and three quarters. He could hear the rumbling sound of the Hogwarts Express as it moved into the station and the chugging sound steadily decreased as the train gradually slowed down. The whistle sounded loud and clear, and as the locomotive approached the buffer stop, the breaks hissed and screeched.
It took another few moments for the train to come to a complete stop. A large cloud of white smoke enveloped the engine for a minute or two, and when it slowly began to dissipate, the doors to all carriages opened slowly and within seconds, floods of children, most dressed in ordinary Muggle clothing, pushed through the narrow doorways, and filed onto the spacious platform. The train personnel helped to unload the trunks and animal cages, and Draco moved further down along the platform, craning his head to spot Scorpius.
He casually greeted a few of the parents with either a nod or a smile and most returned his polite sign of recognition. While nobody had forgotten about the war, it had no place here on King’s Crosses’ platform nine and three quarters. Today, everyone only cared about hugging their children and welcoming them back home for the summer after another long year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was officially coming to an end. Classes had ended several days ago, but for the students, the school year didn’t end until the train arrived in London and they stepped out onto the platform. It had always been like this, and old tradition that everybody honoured but nobody truly understood.
Draco had walked almost halfway down the platform when he finally spotted Scorpius. His short blond hair was thoroughly dishevelled and he wore a pair of skin-tight dark grey jeans, Slytherin-green Converse Chuck Taylor All Star shoes, a classic black Rolling Stones tongue t-shirt, his Slytherin tie, which hung loosely around his neck, and a leather jacket that matched the colour of his jeans.
What gave Draco pause, however, wasn’t his son’s edgy Muggle outfit, he was used to those, and his apparent obsession with Muggle rock bands from the eighties and nineties, or even the stark contrast between how he, Draco, had dressed when he’d been Scorpius age and how Scorpius dressed now at the tender age of sixteen.
No, it was the despondent look on his son’s face that instantly tugged at Draco’s heartstrings and had him see red. He watched as Scorpius, despite already having spotted him, turned his head, averted his eyes and then lifted his arm to swipe the back of his hand across his eyes.
Draco pressed his lips tightly together to mask his displeasure at seeing Scorpius so upset. After his mother’s long illness and her death, it had taken Scorpius a very long time to find the will to smile again, and while Draco understood that ups and downs were part of anyone’s life, he still loathed to see his son hurt. To know and see that his own flesh and blood was distressed caused Draco physical pain and a great deal of mental anguish.
Resting his wand hand on the small of his back, Draco clenched his fist and tried his best to control the intense desire, he felt, to seek revenge and hurt whoever had upset Scorpius.
Scorpius exited the train and as he stepped onto the platform and sluggishly approached him, Draco saw him turn his head. He followed Scorpius’ gaze and noticed it settle on a wild mop of dark hair that belonged to none other than Albus Severus Potter, Scorpius’ best friend, fellow housemate and the boy he shared a dorm with.
Draco resisted the urge to smirk.
For the last five years, all of Scorpius’ letters had been filled with pages upon pages of Potter this and Potter that. Each holiday, the name Al frequently echoed through the halls of Malfoy Manor as the two boys chased each other down the corridors, fighting to make it out onto the grounds to mount their brooms and shoot off into the sky to chase a golden snitch or toss a quaffle back and forth. While that mayhem went on, he and Harry usually escaped into his study and quietly shared a tumbler of Firewhiskey or two as they desperately tried to resist the urge to jump each other’s bones.
Considering how inseparable Scorpius and Harry’s youngest boy usually were, Draco couldn’t quite understand why Al had stepped off a different train carriage and walked over to greet his father without as much as a backward glance at Scorpius or a lengthy goodbye.
Draco shook his head and patiently waited for Scorpius to stop staring at the back of Al’s head with the kind of longing gaze that screamed: please turn around, please tell me you don’t hate me.
When Scorpius finally made it over to him, Draco wordlessly engulfed him in a bone-crushing hug and kissed the top of his head.
Scorpius huffed a deep breath of air against his chest, and Draco felt his son’s arms wrap themselves around his waist and he reciprocated the embrace. He was genuinely grateful that Scorpius, despite being a willful, headstrong teenager, still allowed him to shower him with this kind of public parental affection, and hugging Scorpius that little bit tighter, he ruffled the impossibly messy mop of blond hair that persistently stuck out into all directions.
“Welcome home, Scorp.”
Scorpius mumbled something entirely incomprehensible, and they hugged for another minute or so, before Draco gently loosened the tight bear hug, and summoned one of the Manor’s elves.
A small male elf named Winnie, dressed in a neat black and white suit, almost immediately appeared at his side and Draco instructed him to take all of Scorpius’ things back to the Manor. The elf nodded meekly, and with the help of a bit of elven magic, Winnie shrunk Scorpius’ sizeable black trunk, took the empty owl cage, and the case with Scorp’s Firebolt Supreme, then disappeared into thin air.
“Aren’t we apparating back to the Manor, dad?” he asked.
“Later. For now, a small detour.”
Draco shook his head.
“No, nothing magical. Come.”
He wrapped his arm around Scorpius’ shoulder and smiled when he felt his son’s arm sneak around his waist. Together, they walked towards the barrier that separated platform nine and three quarters from the rest of King’s Cross station, and after taking a short moment to orientate himself, Draco pulled his son into the direction of the exit that brought them to King’s Boulevard.
It was a warm summer’s day, and the sun still shone brightly. Squinting, Draco retrieved his sunglasses, and once he’d shielded his eyes, he reached into the left pocket of his black trousers and wrapped his fingers loosely around a piece of paper. A mumbled incantation later, he’d transformed the paper into a second pair of sunglasses, which he handed to Scorpius.
They quietly strolled down the broad walkway, crossed one of the bridges that led across the Grand Union Canal and brought them to Granary Square. From there it was only a short walk along Wharf Road until they reached their destination, Ruby Violet’s famous ice-cream parlour, that offered spectacularly natural, lip-smacking exotic ice-creams using organic milk and fresh fruit.
When they reached the door, Draco reached for the handle and pulling it open, he motioned for Scorpius to step inside first.
His son took off his transfigured sunglasses, and placing them on top of his head, he grinned broadly. His eyes were still a bit bloodshot, and he looked sad, but there was a small spark of happiness in his eyes.
Draco smiled and, on the inside, he performed a small victory dance. On the outside, he remained as cool as a cucumber.
Apparently, age didn’t matter when it came to ice-cream as a means to heal a child’s bruised heart.
“How would you feel about ice-cream, hot drinks and a three-tier afternoon tea tray?”
The grin that spread across Scorpius’ face was the only answer Draco needed, and together they headed over to the counter. They had to queue for a short while, but eventually it was their turn to order and Draco asked for cheese twists, mushroom vol au vents, mini spinach and parmesan quiches, mini strawberry and Genoese sponge ice-cream sandwiches with chocolate garnish, Belgian chocolate shells with a Genoese sponge infused with Chambord and a layer of raspberry jam topped with ice-cream swirls and chocolate, a three-tiered ice-cream cake with chocolate, raspberry and Maxi Moo-Moo layers of organic milk ice-cream adorned with raspberry and crystallised viola, as well as a selection of ice-cream chocolates, a large ice-cream tea for Scorpius, and a strong cup of coffee for himself.
Draco had to hand over a wad of seven ten-pound notes to pay for their afternoon tea, and after the waitress ensured them that she’d bring their drinks and food over to them within half an hour, they left to find a place to sit. Scorpius pointed to a quiet corner table for two near the window and nodding in silent approval, Draco followed his son, and they sat down.
“You have an agenda, dad.”
Scorpius promptly called him out on his decision to delay their trip home in favour of ice-cream in Muggle London.
He deliberately pretended to be a bit thick.
“I’m a Slytherin, too, remember?”
“How could I forget? A bold choice to wear that tie with your outfit.”
Scorpius looked down at his tie and shrugged.
“Gives the whole thing bit of an edge,” he said.
Scorpius grinned lopsidedly.
“You’re just jealous.”
Draco rolled his eyes.
“Like I could pull off a look like that at my age,” he said.
Scorpius laughed, though it still didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“You don’t look a day over forty-two, Father.”
Not because his son had reminded him of his age but because he didn’t like it when Scorpius called him father. It didn’t suit their relationship. It wasn’t them; it had never been and would never be. Thankfully, Scorpius only did it to mock him.
“Gee, thanks, you little tyke.”
Scorpius frowned at him and chancing his luck, Draco reached out and put his hands down on top of Scorpius’ hands. He squeezed them lightly, and when Scorpius turned his head to look out of the window, he gently prompted his son to look at him but didn’t repeat himself when Scorpius didn’t listen.
“Don’t get mad, but I’m a bit worried about you, Scorp. It hurts me when you come home from school crying, and try to walk past me, hiding the tears on your face. Will you tell me what happened, please?”
Scorpius pressed his lips together and shaking his head, he stubbornly continued to look out of the window.
“It’s nothing, Dad,” he mumbled, “I’ll be alright.”
“I’m sure you will, I’d still like to know though. Perhaps I can help.”
A few minutes of silence past between them, then Scorpius slowly turned his head and looked at him. His silvery-grey eyes were swimming with unshed tears, and Draco swallowed past the rapidly growing lump in his throat.
“Why do people like hurting each other?”
Scorpius’s voice was low and filled to the brim with pain. His bottom lip quivered, and he blinked rapidly to ease the burn in his eyes.
Draco swallowed a sigh.
“It’s hard for me to explain how humans find the pleasure in causing people pain, my darling, but you have to remember, that there’s more to the story, and sometimes we just don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors.”
Scorpius nodded, and reaching for a purple paper napkin, Draco quietly handed it to him.
Scorpius took it, dapped his eyes with it, then blew his nose loudly.
Another few moments of somewhat uncomfortable silence past between them, then a waitress approached them and served their afternoon tea. Draco politely thanked her, and adding some sugar to his black coffee, he observed Scorpius, who listlessly toyed with the metal straw inside his ice-cream tea.
Draco reached for a mini spinach and parmesan quiche, and taking a bite, he chewed slowly, then swallowed.
“Be brave, my little one, I know you can be strong, ‘cause you’re just like your mom.”
Scorpius lifted his head and looked at him. His eyes were filled with sadness, and the corners of his mouth had a downward slant to it.
“Rose and I are just friends, dad, but Al’s acting like she’s my girlfriend or something. I’ve told him that there’s absolutely nothing going on, I don’t fancy her, never did, but he just won’t believe me. Every time he sees me talking to her, he storms off in a huff and won’t talk to me after.”
Draco smiled softly.
He finished the rest of his quiche and drank a bit of his coffee.
“Perhaps he’s a little jealous, darling.”
Scorpius huffed out an exasperated sigh.
“Why? He doesn’t have a reason to, and I really don’t understand why he insists on being a completely vexatious prat. Rose is my friend; she’s never been more to me.”
Only Scorpius would call his best friend a vexatious prat.
“I can think of a reason, my darling,” he said.
“What reason? He’s an irksome bastard.”
Draco clicked his tongue.
“Now, now, Scorp, stop the name-calling. I’m certain Al wouldn’t like hearing you talk like that about him, especially not behind his back. You’re best friends.”
Scorpius reached for an ice-cream chocolate and stuffed it into his mouth.
“Were best friends. I’ve told him I’m no longer putting up with his idiocy.”
“Best friends are hard to come by, my darling, don’t discard this one just yet. He’s a good boy. Tell me, when did he start getting jealous about you and Rose being friends?”
“He’s been funny about Rose and me being friends all of last year, but I thought nothing of it. She’s his cousin, and it’s not like he fancies her or anything. This year though, especially after Christmas, he’s been full of snide remarks about her and me and on the train ride back to London, he accused me of snogging her in the library late last night.”
Draco took a sip from his coffee and took a mushroom vol au vent from the tea tray.
Scorpius looked positively outraged.
Draco merely shrugged.
“It’s just a question, my darling, no need to get worked up about it. I wouldn’t dream of telling you who you can and can’t kiss.”
Scorpius defiantly crossed his arms over his chest and glowered at him from across the table.
“I did not snog Rose in the library, what a truly disgusting thought!”
“Why is that a disguising thought, Scorp?” he asked.
Scorpius continued to glare icy daggers.
“She’s a girl!” he exclaimed.
Draco forced himself not to grin but struggled to remain completely serious.
“There’s nothing wrong with snogging a girl, my darling.”
He paused and quickly raised his hand to silence Scorpius when he opened his mouth to protest.
“There’s also nothing wrong with kissing a boy, Scorp.”
Scorpius promptly shut his mouth.
He uncrossed his arms and wrapping his fingers around the glass container that held his ice-cream tea, he nervously fiddled with it. A faint pink blush appeared on his face, and he averted his eyes.
“My darling, you are free to kiss whomever you wish to kiss. Boy or girl, it’s all fine with me.”
Draco wanted to reach out and take Scorpius’ hand but resisted the urge.
Silence settled around them, and Scorpius drank some of his tea.
After a while, he made a quiet confession, mumbling the words against the metal straw in his tea.
“I don’t know who I want to snog, dad.”
“You’re only sixteen, Scorp, you don’t have to know yet. You’ve got time to figure it out.”
“I do know that I don’t want to snog Rose. Can I be honest with you, dad?”
“Always, you’re my blood. You know you can tell me anything.”
Scorpius looked down at his hands and admired his fingernails as though he’d never seen anything so impressive in his entire life. He hummed and hawed for the longest time, and Draco patiently waited for his son to work up the courage to tell him whatever he wanted to say to him.
“Promise you won’t be mad?”
This time, he did reach out and clasped his fingers around Scorpius’ hand, squeezing it tightly.
“There’s literally nothing in the world you could tell me that would make me mad, my darling.”
“Rose tried to kiss me last night in the library, but I told her I didn’t like her that way. She said that was OK and I may have told her that I don’t think I’ll ever like a girl that way, you know the way that I’ll want to kiss her like you used to kiss mom when she was still with us.”
Sensing that there was more to the story, Draco smiled encouragingly. At the same time, he fondly remembered his wife’s kisses. She’d been a genuinely great kisser, and he’d always enjoyed stealing a snog or three from her.
“Dad, can I ask you something?”
“You’ve kissed boys before, haven’t you?”
“Hm, I have. You know I have.”
“What’s it like?”
“No different from kissing a girl, my darling. A kiss is a kiss, and where two sets of lips and a pair of tongues is concerned, genders really don’t matter.”
Scorpius let out a sigh.
He stuffed another ice-cream chocolate into his mouth and looked thoughtful.
“Dad, if I kissed a boy during a game of Truth or Dare, and I liked it, does that mean I’m gay?”
Draco chuckled softly.
He gave Scorpius’ hand another squeeze, then pulled away.
“If you kissed a boy and you liked it then you liked it. It means just that, nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t define you in any way, my darling.”
“That boy kissed like a Hippogriff, but I still liked it.”
“I really don’t know what a Hippogriff kiss is like and I’m not especially interested in finding out, but I’m glad to hear that you liked it.”
“Sometimes you act like you were born last century.”
Draco laughed even harder.
“I’m afraid I was, Scorp, I was born in 1980, you know that.”
Scorpius rolled his eyes.
“It just means he was kind of rough. You know, loads of teeth and stuff. Maybe, you should go out more, kiss more people.”
Draco bit his bottom lip to stop himself from smirking.
He wasn’t quite sure how to react to his son advising him to go out and kiss more people, but he was most definitely highly amused.
“Got it, loads of teeth and stuff,” he said.
Scorpius went back to glowering at him.
“Don’t make fun of me.”
Draco raised his hands in mock surrender.
“I’m not. I would never. Not about this. You’re allowed to like whatever kiss you want, my darling. Personally, I prefer a gentler approach and then something more passionate, but you already, very eloquently, reminded me that I was born last century.”
Helping himself to a cheese twirl, Draco took a bite from it, then placed it on his plate and chewed slowly. He washed it down with a sip of coffee, then folded his arms in front of him.
“So, you kissed a boy, and you liked it. You don’t think you like kissing girls, or at least you didn’t like kissing Rose. Perhaps you haven’t yet found the girl you do want to kiss. Anything else you’d like me to know?”
Scorpius shook his head.
He took his fork and helped himself to a large piece of ice-cream cake, and for a while, he focused all of his attention on the sweet treat in front of him.
Draco motioned for the waitress to refill his coffee, and she reached for a carafe of steaming hot black filter coffee and arrived at their table. Offering her his cup, Draco held it perfectly still while she filled it to the brim with his favourite beverage of all time, and once she was done and excused herself, he thanked her.
When they were alone again, Scorpius looked up, then spoke up.
“Yes, my darling.”
“Are there any rules about wanting to kiss your best friend? Is that something that’s okay or is that rather frowned upon?”
“It’s frowned upon when your best friend doesn’t want to kiss you back, my love. When they do, you’ve nothing to worry about, except, perhaps, trying to find the courage to tell them that you’d like to kiss them.”
Scorpius blurted his confession out, forcing the words out in an incoherent, messy jumble of word vomit.
“Have you told Al?”
Scorpius shook his head.
“I thought about it, but the last few months he’s been so completely unreasonable that there never seemed to be a right time to have that conversation. Also, I’m kind of scared to tell him.”
He added more sugar to his coffee and took a few sips.
“If I may offer my humble opinion, I don’t think you’ve anything to worry about, my darling.”
“What makes you say that?”
Draco chuckled softly.
“You’re a smart boy, Scorp, think, you’ll work it out.”
Scorpius furrowed his brows and for the next ten minutes or so he remained reticent.
Draco simply sat back, drank his coffee, occasionally looked at Scorpius, but mostly just gazed out of the window and the throngs of Muggles passing by outside. The weather was still perfect and it was almost a shame that they were spending all this time inside an ice-cream parlour, but having an honest heart to heart with his son was higher up on his agenda than basking in London’s early summer evening sun. There would still be time for that either later this afternoon or during the two-month-long summer holiday.
Eventually, Scorpius broke the silence, and when he did, Draco smiled and nodded as he listened.
“Dad, do you think Al fancies me?”
I don’t think so, I know so, Draco mused, but the words never made it past his lips.
Instead, he shrugged.
“What I think or don’t think really doesn’t matter here. What matters is what you think.”
“If I think about it carefully, then he’s kind of been acting like he has a bit of a crush on me.”
“Perhaps he does. People only tend to get jealous when they care deeply about someone.”
He drank more of his ice-cream tea, then looked a bit saddened.
“Why didn’t he tell me?” he mumbled.
“Probably for the same reason you didn’t tell him you thought about kissing him, my darling.”
“But I wouldn’t have laughed at him.”
“Well, Scorp, he doesn’t know that now, does he? Also, remember what I told you earlier? We never know what goes on behind closed doors in another person’s life. Maybe he’s having a tough time coming to terms with what he wants. You know, when I was younger, I spent many nights alone, pining over someone I loved very much. I had no way of telling them how I felt. Your grandparents wouldn’t have accepted it, he wouldn’t have accepted it, not back then, nobody would have. There would have been no future for us.”
“Did you ever tell him?”
“Yes, darling. A couple of years ago, I finally plucked up the courage and told him how I felt about him when I was much younger.”
“Did he mind?”
Draco shook his head and smiled.
“Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, he confessed that he’s felt the same way about me for almost as long as I’ve had feelings for him, so, if I may offer you a simple piece of advice, my darling, don’t wait more than twenty years to tell someone that you care about them. I can’t promise you that every conversation with the person you like will end happily, but I can promise you that for as long as I’ll live I’ll always be there to take the demons away and many, many moons from now, when I’m not around anymore, you’ll be okay on your own because you’ll be a strong and independent young man and you’ll handle everything life throws at you, I’m absolutely sure of that.”
Scorpius blinked, and Draco heard and saw him trying to hide a sniff.
A weak smile curved his mouth upward, and Draco reached out to squeeze his hand supportively.
“I think you should owl Al, or text him, and let him know that you’d like to talk to him. Then, tell him that his words hurt you, but do it calmly, and also explain to him how you feel. It might not be the easiest conversation in the world, but you’ll feel a lot better knowing he knows.”
“Understandable, but I promise you, I’ll be there. You are my blood, my darling, if there are any pieces to pick up and any demons to chase I way, I’ll be right there at your side.”
“I want to take a bit of time to think about what I want to say to him.”
“Take a week or two. Figure it out, we can talk it over, and when you’re ready we can arrange for you to meet Al somewhere in London, or he’ll come over to the Manor, or you floo over to Godric’s Hollow. We’ll work it out.”
“Dad, you are the absolute best.”
He finished his coffee and then rose from his chair.
Rounding the table, he ruffled Scorpius’ hair affectionately and pressed a kiss to his temple.
“Thanks for the high praise, my darling. I’ll be right back. Wait here, alright?”