2 September 2017
Dear Mum and Dad,
I was Sorted into Gryffindor! The Sorting Hat didn't even mention Slytherin. The ride in the boats wasn't very scary at all, but the Giant Squid nudged the boat next to mine. I know what you're going to say, Dad. I shouldn't have worried because James just lives to wind me up all the time.
Funny thing, though, Dad. People kept pointing and whispering. Not just at me, but at Rosie, too. Why is that? Why were all those people staring at the train yesterday? I noticed that when we went to Diagon Alley to get my school things, too. Have they always done that and I'm just seeing it now?
There's this other boy in my year – Scorpius Malfoy – that got Sorted into Gryffindor, too. He doesn't seem too happy about it. He wouldn't talk to anyone last night at dinner or in the dormitory.
I'll owl you soon and let you know how my classes are.
p.s. – Mum, I forgot my extra jumper in the car. Could you send it to me? It's colder up here than at home.
Albus Potter tied the letter to a school owl and watched as it flew out the window. It was somewhat early on a Saturday morning, but Albus wasn't one to have a lie-in. He heard a rustle in the straw behind him, and spun around, not expecting anyone else to be up so soon. It was Scorpius. He called an owl down to him, tied a letter to its leg, and sent the owl off, watching it fly through the circular window, much as Al had done, albeit with a much more pensive expression.
Al openly stared at Scorpius. He had never seen anyone so… pale… before. All his Weasley uncles all had various shades of red hair, like Ginny and Lily, as did Arthur, Molly, and his grandmother Lily. Fleur was blonde like that, but she had something of a glow about her. Katie had golden hair, and Penny's was light brown. Bronwyn was dark, like Harry, James, his grandfather James, and him. And Teddy… well, Teddy could have hair any color he wanted, but was usually some eye-straining shade of turquoise. Al idly wondered if Scorpius ever went outside. Ginny and Molly made them go outside during the summers. Al mentally shook himself. Ginny said it was rude to stare at people, but Scorpius didn't seem to notice Al's scrutiny.
'What?' Scorpius snapped.
Albus jumped. It seemed Scorpius had noticed. 'N-n-nothing,' Al stammered.
'Staring at the misfit Malfoy?' A hint of bitterness crept into Scorpius' voice.
'No,' said Al truthfully. 'Just spent most of my life around redheads.' He gestured toward Scorpius' white-blonde hair. 'Haven't seen many that… blonde…' Al finished lamely. He turned to leave the Owlery.
'My father is not going to be happy when he gets my letter.' Scorpius voice made Al pause.
'All Malfoys are Sorted into Slytherin,' Scorpius explained softly. 'And here I am, a bloody Gryffindor.' Scorpius started to leave. 'I'm sure he'll send a Howler. Embarrassment to the family and all,' he mocked, scrambling down the stairs of the Owlery. Scorpius headed toward the lake, with Al trailing behind. He couldn't imagine getting a Howler from his father. Ginny had sent one to James last year, but that was only because James threw a dragon liver at someone else in Potions, and it had hit Professor Williams, the teacher, in the back of the head. Ginny had been livid, while Harry had been rather amused by it all. James had a temper, and it usually got him into some sort of trouble, more than his pranking with Fred and Jacob did.
Scorpius stopped by the lake and sat on the bank, staring moodily across the water. 'There have only been two others in my family who weren't in Slytherin, besides me. And both of them were disowned.'
'Really? Who were they?' Al asked, alight with curiosity.
'Well, they were both cousins on my grandmother's side. One of them was her cousin, Sirius Black. He went into Gryffindor. The other was her niece, Nymphdora Something. I think she went into Hufflepuff. But we don't talk about them,' he said in a voice that intimated it was a horrible family secret.
'I know Sirius and Nymphadora!' Al said excitedly. Scorpius raised a pale eyebrow, and said nothing. 'Yeah, Sirius was my dad's godfather. He died years before I was born, though. Dora is my… well, Teddy is my dad's godson, and Dora was his mother. She died in the battle of Hogwarts in the second war. Both her and Teddy's father.' Scorpius stared at him in open-mouthed shock.
'You know them?' he sputtered.
'Well, yeah. They're family,' insisted Al.
'They may be blood-relations of mine,' Scorpius said shortly, 'but they're not family.' Al's mind reeled. He could not imagine not speaking to anyone in his family. 'I don't want to be someone my family never speaks of,' whispered Scorpius. 'Can't they change what House I'm in?' he asked desperately.
'It shouldn't matter what House you're in,' said Al, standing up, and brushing the grass from the seat of his jeans. 'It's the choices you make in life,' he said, parroting his father's words from the day before. He left Scorpius sitting morosely on the shore of the lake, and went inside the castle for breakfast.
A barn owl tapped imperiously on the kitchen window of the Potter house. Ginny looked up from the Saturday newspaper, eyes narrowed at the unfamiliar owl. She set the paper down and went to the window, opening it to let the owl into the kitchen. It flew to the perch in the corner, and held out its leg. Ginny untied the letter and offered the owl some water and a handful of owl treats before glancing down at the envelope. It was Al's promised letter from school. She propped it against the vase in the middle of the table. It could wait until Harry came home. There had been reports of a band of neo-Death Eaters somewhere in Ireland. He hated to go work on weekends, if he didn't have to, but he needed to strategize with the Auror team who had been assigned to spy on the group.
'It's too quiet in here!' came her daughter's voice in protest from the sitting room, where she was lying on her stomach on the hearth rug, reading for a class in her Muggle primary school.
'Get used to it. They won't be back until Christmas,' Ginny replied, taking the newspaper into the sitting room.
'I could start playing the drums,' Lily suggested brightly.
'Over my dead body,' retorted Ginny.
'But Mum, don't you want me to become the next drummer for the Weird Sisters?' Lily wheedled.
'I thought you liked the Weird Sisters.'
'I do. I'm just not sure I want my child to be one of them.'
'Hear from Al yet?' Lily changed the subject.
'Yes. We just got a letter.'
'What did it say?' Lily bounced up from the rug and landed on the sofa next to Ginny.
'I don't know yet,' Ginny laughed. 'I'm waiting for your father to come home so we can read it together.'
'Oh.' Lily frowned in disappointment.
'Don't worry, Lily. He'll be home later.'
'When will that be?' Lily retrieved her textbook from the hearth rug and rejoined Ginny on the sofa.
Ginny rubbed her temples slowly. 'I don't know,' she confessed. 'Dinner, hopefully.' She patted Lily's knee. 'If he's not home by then, you and I can read it.'
Satisfied, Lily opened the book and resumed her reading. Ginny tried to read the newspaper, but her attention was repeatedly drawn to the waiting letter, holding news of her youngest son's Sorting. She was almost as anxious as Lily to read its contents. Even though Harry had assured him it didn't matter, Ginny knew the idea of Al going into Slytherin made them both cringe a little.
Harry pasted a smile on his face while Ginny read Al's letter during dinner. But inwardly, he winced at the questions Al had asked. They were the same ones he'd attempted to ask when they had gone to Diagon Alley to buy his things for school, but Harry had brushed them off with noncommittal murmurs. Ever since James was born, he'd tried to keep his past – his exploits, as Hermione drolly called them – quiet from his children. At least until they were older. Much, much older. Of age older.
If nothing else, he had wanted James, Al, and Lily to have as normal a childhood as possible, without the burden of being Harry Potter's children on top of it all.
Most of the Weasleys didn't talk about any of the things that had happened before or during the last war. In fact, they hadn't really said anything to their own children, either. Fred and Jacob had once asked George why he was missing an ear. George merely told them it was an accident and hastily changed the subject.
Ginny folded the letter and tucked it back into the envelope. Harry silently cleared the table and began to wash the dishes in the Muggle way. Ginny noticed the deliberate way he methodically washed each plate or glass and stacked them on the counter to dry. She sent Lily upstairs and picked up a dry tea towel from a drawer and began to dry the dishes. 'I know this letter has you spooked,' she said casually. Harry shrugged in reply. 'It's going to be a lot harder to keep everything from them now,' she continued. Another shrug. 'We're going to have to tell them sooner or later.'
Ginny put the plate she had just dried away and set the towel down. She reached over and forcibly removed the plate that Harry had determinedly been trying to wash the pattern off and grabbed his arm, turning him to face her. 'Would you rather they learned about it from us, or someone else?' she asked. They heard a faint pop as someone Apparated beyond the back garden gate.
Harry pulled himself out of Ginny's grip and went into his office. He slammed the door closed and paced restlessly around the small room. He skidded to a stop and punched the wall behind his desk, trying to splinter the oak paneling. Grimacing at the pain in his fist, he did it again. And again. He started to punch the wall one more time, but the sight of his bleeding and rapidly swelling knuckles made him pull the punch. He stood there, cradling his injured hand, staring at the wall, panting from his bout with it, raging inwardly that his past was going to pull his children into its tide. 'Hand hurts, does it?' drawled a voice behind him.
Harry spun on his heel. Ron stood in the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest. 'A bit,' he allowed.
Ron pulled his wand from a pocket and aimed it carefully at Harry's hand. 'Episkey,'he murmured.
Harry flexed his hand a few times. 'You've gotten good at that,' he remarked.
'Thanks. Comes in handy at the shop.' Ron dropped into a battered armchair and draped his legs over the side. 'Want to tell me why you're trying to tear out a wall with your bare hands?'
'Al sent a letter home.'
'So did Rosie. Asked a bunch of questions about why there's a memorial to Fred in the Great Hall. And why people kept staring at us at Platform Nine and Three Quarters. She also wondered why it got dead quiet when she and Al went to be Sorted.'
'Ginny reckons we need to tell them.'
'So does Hermione.'
'Damn. I hate it when they're both right like that.' Harry gave a half-hearted smirk, and sat heavily in the chair next to Ron, stretching his feet out in front of him, letting his head fall back. 'I wanted to wait. I didn't want them to know all that so soon…' He trailed off, not sure how to complete his thought.
Ron looked at him sideways and asked, 'What have you told them? You've had to tell them something…'
'Not much. Just that we fought in the last war to get rid of a man who had ideas about how wizards and witches should be.'
'So… nothing about the Philosopher's Stone?'
'No,' said Ginny, who had been standing in the doorway. 'Nothing about the Chamber, either.'
'Or the Triwizard,' added Harry.
'Or the Department of Mysteries,' said Ginny.
'Not the first battle at Hogwarts.' Harry met her eyes.
'Or the second battle.' Ginny walked into the office and came to stand next to Harry's chair.
Harry reached for his wife's hand. 'Nor the Horcruxes, or Hallows, either,' he added as an afterthought.
'Remind me again how we reached adulthood?' Ron said.
'Sheer dumb luck, I think,' replied Harry.
Ginny folded herself to the floor at Harry's feet, her head resting on his knees. 'We should tell them,' she said. 'All of them.'
'Ginny…' protested Harry weakly.
Ginny looked up and felt her throat close at the pained expression on Harry's face. 'We have to,' she said pleadingly. 'We can't keep it from them anymore. Not with so many at school now.'
Harry pulled his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. 'All right,' he said simply. 'Do we write a letter, go up to Hogwarts…?'
'Christmas,' Ron said. 'When we can get them all in the same room at the same time. Then we only have to do it the one time. They can wait that long. And it buys us some time…'
Your mum and I are thrilled that you're in Gryffindor! And Rosie, too.
We know there are a lot of things you want to know. And we're going to tell you. I promise. Just hang on until the Christmas holidays and we'll answer anything you might want to ask.
And be nice to Scorpius Malfoy. He's in for a rough ride…
Mum will send your jumper on Monday.
After Sunday lunch at the Burrow the next day, the children still at home were sent outside to play in the paddock. The adults lingered around the table with cups of tea, while Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny exchanged uneasy glances, unsure of how to bring up their plan.
'What's up with the four of you?' Charlie asked suspiciously. 'You're acting like a Kneazle in a room full of rocking chairs.'
'We got letters from Al and Rosie,' Ron said, with a sidelong glance at Ginny and Harry.
'They have a few questions,' interjected Ginny.
'Lots of questions,' added Harry.
'We,' Hermione said, indicating the other three, 'feel we should tell all of them everything.'
'Do you think they're old enough?' asked Molly.
'Will they ever be?' said Harry, dully.
Bill studied the scarred tabletop. 'They should hear it from us and not a History of Magic class,' he said to Molly, leaning his chair nonchalantly on its back two legs.
'You mean none of you have told them the whole story before they went to school?' asked Arthur in amazement. All the heads around the table shook their heads no. 'You're all barking,' he said mildly.
'We didn't want to burden them with it, Dad,' defended George.
'I thought I raised you to be smarter than that,' said Arthur.
'What do the rest of you think?' Harry asked. 'Katie? Bronwyn? Penny? Fleur?'
'It's about time,' said Bronwyn. 'I've wanted to explain things to our lot for ages. I'm running out of ways to change the subject with Isabella.'
Katie nodded in agreement. 'It's kind of difficult to send them off to school, knowing you can't control what anyone else will say. And one of Al's yearmates is Malfoy's son?'
'Yes. In Gryffindor, too.'
'Wow,' said Penny. 'That's a surprise.'
'We were sort of waiting for a signal from you, Harry,' said Charlie. 'Seeing as how most of it's about you.'
'But it isn't about me!' Harry protested. 'I couldn't have done it without help.'
'None of us had to die, mate,' pointed out Ron quietly.
'So, is Christmas okay with everyone?' asked Ginny, sensing things were taking a downward turn.
'It's fine, Ginny,' said Bill.
Harry felt as if the walls were closing on him, making it difficult for him to breathe. 'Fancy a fly, Ron?' he asked, too casually, before heading for the broomshed. Without waiting for Ron, Harry kicked off the ground, flying like he did in school.
Ginny stood in the paddock, shading her eyes with her hand. Katie came to stand next to her, familiar with the ways in which reliving the war made one behave. 'Is he going to be all right?' Katie asked.
'He will be,' Ginny replied with much more confidence than she felt.
Harry didn't speak much after lunch, and stayed quiet the rest of the afternoon, retreating to the bedroom he shared with Ginny as soon as they Flooed back to their house. 'Mum?' whispered Lily.
'Is Dad okay?' Lily's face creased in a worried frown.
'Yes, Lily, he's fine. Just has a lot on his mind right now.' Ginny wrapped an arm around Lily's shoulders. 'Do you have any homework left for school?'
'Mum, why do I have to go to a Muggle primary school?' Lily's mutinous expression was eerily familiar.
'Lily…' sighed Ginny. 'Not tonight, all right? You've only got two more years left until you can go to Hogwarts.' She ran a hand through her hair. Homework?' she asked pointedly.
'No, Mum. I finished it yesterday.'
'Good. Go on up to bed, all right?'
'Fine. Good-night, Mum.'
'Night, Lils.' Ginny kissed her daughter and followed her up the stairs. She turned at the top of the stairs to her bedroom. Harry stood in front of a window, hands braced on the sides. She slipped her arms around his waist, feeling the tension begin to drain from his shoulders. 'I know why it bothers you, but you knew we'd have to do this eventually…'
Harry sighed and turned to face Ginny, as he perched on the windowsill. 'Do you remember the Triwizard? And the year after?'
'Do you remember the looks and the rumors? Like I had gone crazy?' Ginny nodded. 'I don't want to see those looks on the faces of my children.'
'You won't,' she murmured, and began to pull him to their bed.
'How do you know?' he asked harshly, allowing her to tow him along.
'Harry,' she began, resting her forehead against his. 'It won't change how they feel about you. Because who you are to them isn't going to change. You will still be their dad. But at least they will know who you were and how you got here. They deserve that.'
Harry cupped the back of Ginny's head and kissed her. 'I don't deserve you,' he said against her lips.
'True,' she teased. 'But I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.'
Harry sat on the edge of the bed, pulling Ginny down to his lap. 'Why do you put up with me again?'
'Because I need you. And you need me.'
'I love you.'
'I love you, too.'
Dear Mum and Dad,
Why do we have to wait until Christmas? Can't you just write to us?
I know you're feeling impatient and that we're trying to brush you off, but the kinds of answers you deserve should be given to you in person.
I promise, we'll answer every question you might have the best we can.
Is it true Scorpius Malfoy was Sorted in Gryffindor?
Rose wadded up the letter from Hermione and stuffed it into her schoolbag. 'What did they tell you?' she asked Al and James.
'Same thing they said to you. Keep your hair on and all that,' James said, pushing his empty plate to the side. 'Did either of you know Dad and Uncle Ron got special awards?' he asked suddenly.
'No,' said Rose. 'How did you know that?'
'Went into the trophy room on a free period last year. And there they were. Plaques with the names of Harry J. Potter and Ronald B. Weasley engraved on them.'
'Did you ask Dad about it?' asked Al.
'Tried to, during the Easter hols, but he changed the subject.'
'We'll need to remember that one, then,' said Rose briskly.
The rest of the Weasley cousins gathered at their end of the table, dragging Parker from the Hufflepuff table. 'Did you get a weird letter from home?' demanded Jacob, as he fell into the bench, loading his plate with food. Parker, Victoire, Madeline, and Isabella all nodded.
'I wonder what's going on,' Isabella said frowning.
'There's obviously some sort of secret they'd like to tell us later,' stated Parker loftily, earning hoots from his cousins. 'They've likely come up with some sort of plan, and are trying to stay on the same page.'
'You don't honestly think every single one of our parents is actively keeping secrets from us?' snorted Fred. 'That's almost way too coordinated for our family.'
'Yeah, I don't think we're capable of keeping secrets without a good Fidelius as a whole,' observed Madeline.
'You know…' began Victoire. 'Now that you mention it, every time we ask them something about their days in school, especially Uncle Harry, Uncle Ron, Aunt Ginny, or Aunt Hermione, they all find something that has to be done immediately.'
'Right,' said James firmly. 'Rosie, get out some parchment and a quill,' he ordered. 'We're going to start making a list of things we want to know.' He waited for Rose to unearth a spare scroll of parchment and a usable quill from her bag. 'First thing… Where did Dad get that scar on his forehead?'
The others gathered closer and began to murmur questions to add to the growing list.