The war is in full blast when Draco Malfoy returns to Hogwarts.
It is breakfast time, and like most armies, the Order of the Phoenix prefers to march on a full stomach. At first, Remus thinks the mixed scent of cedarwood and juniper berries that is quintessentially Draco is merely an intense sensory flashback. Then the doors to the Great Hall open and a small contingent walks past the sentries. He shoots up, scraping his chair back from the head table, and the others present pause in their eating, follow his focused gaze. More than one startled swear word is uttered.
The group comes to a halt before them, and it is entirely Lucius standing there in a swathing of black garments, long pallid hair falling around hostile pointed features. Then the light gaze flicks to Remus and something relaxes in Draco's expression, hauteur draining to defiance. The pitter-patter of a soft heartbeat makes Remus abruptly aware of the other life cradled within Draco's arms.
Harry Potter moves forward bearing a wand, presents it to Dumbledore with a quiet murmur,
"He surrendered to us."
It is noticeable however, that the four Aurors flanking Draco haven't sheathed their wands.
The Headmaster rises to his feet to take the offering, and turns an amiable countenance on his ex-student. He shows no surprise, only mild enquiry, as if this is an unexpected guest arriving for brunch rather than the son of his enemy's greatest lieutenant.
"Mr Malfoy, how may I help you?"
Something hot flashes in the grey eyes and Remus winces at this inadvertent repetition. Draco's answer is hesitant though, uncertainty an unfamiliar rider in that voice.
"Professor Dumbledore. I wish to ask for asylum."
"You want what?"
Behind Dumbledore, Ronald Weasley almost screeches in outrage. A smirk slides across Draco's face, situational familiarity restoring him to balance,
"Asylum. And amnesty."
The latter an almost careless afterthought.
"Headmaster!" With just one word Ron makes his absolute opposition known.
"Quiet please, Mr Weasley," Dumbledore says, "Why, Draco?"
The single query covers a multitude of issues. Draco's smile vanishes.
"There was to be a Dark Magic ritual. The De Novo. You have heard of it?"
"Ah," Dumbledore looks slightly ill, "And this was to be the sacrifice?"
His gaze falls to the bundle within Draco's arms.
"My son. Mine and Pansy's."
Draco clutches the baby tighter, as if to hide him from view of the world.
"But your father... ?" Dumbledore asks.
Draco spits words like hexes,
"That bastard! He would have murdered my son, his own grandson, just to please some stinking abomination who never should have been resurrected."
The wormwood of hatred thickens the air so heavily Remus can almost taste it.
Surprise and suspicion, however, paint the faces of his companions at the depth of Draco's venom against the father he has always publicly adored, and the leader he has always vociferously supported.
"Albus. Perhaps we should take this somewhere less public?"
Dumbledore nods at Remus's calm suggestion and turns to leave the table. As ever, they all follow him.
The room has effectively split into three camps. After a brief raised eyebrow at the vibrant scarlet and gilt decorations of the ex-Gryffindor common room, Draco ensconces himself and his child in the large armchair beside the fireplace. Snape stands beside him to the left, a giant raven on his shoulder. Dumbledore and the two Ministry Liaisons seat themselves on the chairs and couch opposite whilst Harry, Ron and various Aurors mass in a little herd between the two groups.
Remus pauses for a moment, then goes to sit in the armchair next to Snape. Draco watches him cross the room with something like relief on his face. Harry eyes Remus and scowls, jerks his head, beckoning Remus to his side. Remus frowns in negation, anger stirring at the peremptory summons.
Before Dumbledore can speak, Ron fires off,
Draco is silent for so long it seems he won't reply. By the time he does, no answer is really necessary.
"We decided it was more likely I would be able to win free. She stayed behind to buy us time."
"More like you left her there," Ron sneers.
Draco's eyes glitter and his mouth opens in a snarl. The baby whimpers, disturbed either by the harsh voices or the stiffening of his father's body around him. Draco instantly looks down, face melting into a softness none of those present have witnessed before. Except, perhaps, Remus and Snape.
"Shhh, Gervaise, it's alright."
He shifts his son in his arms. The Malfoy white-blonde locks are visible amongst the parted cloak as Draco strokes the baby's cheek.
"You called the kid Gervaise?" Harry sputters, "That's worse than Draco is!"
Draco glares at him, any gentleness now a dissipated mirage.
"It's an old family name, Potty. Traditional. Not that I expect one of your bac…"
"Gentlemen!" There is no evidence of the twinkling buffoon about Dumbledore at the moment, "Draco, we know what we can do for you. What can you do for us?"
Draco switches his attention to Dumbledore, answers seriously,
"I can give you names of spies, sympathisers. What the main players are like, their strengths and weaknesses, the way they think, their probable reactions. Also some of the supply depots and overseas contributors, things about the day-to-day running of the war. I don't know much about the main plans or strategies, only what I picked up from casual conversation and social events," Draco pauses before continuing, more than a touch of bitterness staining his voice, "My main duties were to keep out of Father's way around the Manor and produce the next Malfoy heir."
There is a quiet snickering from Harry before Ron bursts into speech,
"And you expect us to believe that? That you've spent the war organising cocktail parties? You left school to become a Deatheater!"
Ron's words are thick with disgust, the youth before him symbolising everything he hates and reminding him of everything this war has cost him – friends, a brother, a carefree adolescence. He strides up to Draco, towering over him. Ron's tall, heavily muscled stature makes Remus realise how small and light Draco actually is, how much his personality enlarges him.
"And now just because you ask we're supposed to give you protection? Forgive some murdering Deatheater scum? We should just toss you both back out there and let your own kind give you what you deserve."
The urge to tear Ron's throat out slams into Remus's chest, viciously strong and sickening. He doesn't realise he's growling until Snape touches his arm lightly, murmurs,
For once it is Draco who is calm,
"The Dark Mark was given to me against my wishes, whilst I was still a minor. I had no choice in the matter – refusing would have been suicide. And though I'm sure you would have nobly declined, I'm no Gryffindor hero."
The last word is a hundred leagues away from being a compliment.
"And the rest of it?" Ron insists.
Draco looks up at him and thirty generations of Malfoys' sneer down at the lower classes.
"I've done nothing you haven't," is all he says.
Ron's fists clench.
"Enough, Ron. Sit down please."
From shared battles, Ron recognizes the dark edge to Remus's voice and turns, startled to have it directed at him. The set expression on the normally placid face is highlighted by the appearance of gold flecks in Remus' eyes. Ron takes a couple of involuntary steps backwards, bumps into the cold fireplace.
"Albus," Remus continues, "I think it would be foolish to disregard the advantage Draco's intelligence can afford us."
"You can't give him sanctuary just like that. He's a Deatheater!"
Remus winces at the outrage in Harry's voice and the disappointment in his eyes - the disbelief at Remus so readily defending the bane of Harry's schoolboy years. Past allegiance and protective instinct rage against each other before Remus catches the slight taint of fear and turns to find stormy grey eyes fixed on him. It is an easy capitulation.
"And so was I, Mister Potter," Snape's voice is pure ice beside him, "Are you saying I have not proved myself?"
The conversation degenerates from there.
Eventually Dumbledore calls a halt. The Malfoys are to be given asylum. Draco will be granted amnesty and interrogated under Veritaserum. He and Gervaise will live under house arrest at Hogwarts afterwards, until such a time as is left unspecified.
In truth, it is more than Draco expected, although the only thing he is truly grateful for is that they won't separate him from his son. He smiles his thanks at Snape as he is escorted from the room, but the look he directs at Remus evokes white blooms, wet skin and never-uttered promises.
Draco is sleeping when Remus comes to take him away.
Curled up around Gervaise, the pain and fatigue of the past month show in the smudges beneath his eyes and the pallor of his too-thin face. He looks older than he is, and it is difficult for Remus to remember Draco is barely twenty, little more than a child really. He looks wary and hard, even in slumber. But he is old enough to have his own child. Old enough to have done many things.
Remus folds himself quietly into the chair beside the bed and watches. Watches and thinks.
Firstly he thinks of time and how it is measured in cycles, but weighed by quality.
Then he thinks of survival and of sacrifice.
Finally, he thinks of fathers and sons, and of how well each might know the other.
Gervaise wakes, unfocused gaze disturbing when paired with the usually penetrating Malfoy eyes. Even at the baby's minute motions Draco stirs into consciousness, moans sleepily and burrows his face into the pillow. The nape of his neck gleams palely, shorn of the long locks that made him a lesser copy of Lucius. The nakedness of that length sinks into Remus's groin. He reaches out, strokes. Draco turns his head and smiles, that sugared smile Remus remembers so well. Matched with the unguarded look in grey eyes, for the first time Remus truly recognises the expression of desire.
"They've finally finished with you," Remus says, "I'm here to take you to new quarters."
"Our new quarters?" there is a second, more subtle question underlying the words.
Bright petals unfurl in the pit of Remus' stomach, doubts and reservations veiled in their shade.
"Yes," he replies, "Our new quarters."