[This is a work of ‘fanfiction’, essentially a tribute to the world created by JK Rowling. No infringement of copyright is intended, and neither is any commercial exploitation.]
Scorpius wasn’t certain how to take Rose’s last remark. Extravagance didn’t come naturally to him. He had grown up in a home where pennies were unfailingly pinched. When he had first shown signs of magic, he had often heard his father say that it was going to take all he could do to pay for his son’s education at Hogwarts. When Scorpius had heard that there were scholarships available for students with good grades, it had been his over-riding ambition to top the year so that he would be the recipient of such a scholarship and his education could pay for itself. That was why he had worked so hard, read so much and practiced so often. By the end of the year, teachers were already referring to him as the ‘best student they’d had since the Granger girl’, and since the ‘Granger girl’ had passed out from Hogwarts twenty years ago, Scorpius had considered this rather high praise.
Magic, unlike money, came easily to him. He knew his father had married his mother so as to move away from the magical world while still maintaining a pureblood connection. Yet the family history was not a secret to him, thanks to his grandmother. He knew about the noble and most ancient house of Black, the old Lairds of Malfoy Manor and about the aristocratic scions of Irish kings, the Greengrass family. His cousin Estelle, the daughter of Nigel Greengrass was in his year at Slytherin and his Aunt Daphne had married the son of the Italian minister for magic. His father avoided meeting relatives – “Such few as we have left, my boy,” Draco Malfoy used to tell his son, “are either as crazy as your grandfather or won’t acknowledge us in public.”
So when he found himself able to do things with his wand that his elders could not, he never thought twice about being generous in expending that ability. Scorpius enjoyed helping his friends with their homework. He often worked on using the various branches of magic together to craft new things. He’d been particularly proud of the rose he’d gifted to the girl he adored. He remembered gathering all the courage he could find in his heart (which, as this story has recorded already, wasn’t a whole lot) and walking over to the Gryffindor table on the morning of Valentine’s Day the previous year. She had been sitting between Albus Potter and Elk Moose and opposite James Potter. Martin Lovegood, the Ravenclaw who Scorpius in his pessimistic moments considered his rival for Rose’s affections was nowhere in sight and he had taken this as a particularly good sign.
“I say,” he had said softly with a gulp. No one seemed to have heard, because James was opening one of the two dozen or so heart-shaped cards that had been delivered to him and it was making a sound like a banshee in heat. He tapped Rose’s shoulder hesitantly. She didn’t seem to notice. He did it again. Unfortunately this was just the moment when Elk Moose was trying to reach across Rose for the butter and instead of tapping Rose’s shoulder he had tapped Elk’s head.
“Oh hullo, Malfoy. What’re you doing here?” the gigantic Moose had greeted him cheerily.
Like wretched jacks-in-the-box, the Potter brothers had dropped whatever they were doing to look at him. His hopes of discreetly asking Rose to spare him a few moments were gone.
“I was…um…wondering if I could speak to Rose for a few…”
“Sod off, Malfoy,” drawled James with a lazy flick of his hands.
“No, I mean to talk to her and I will,” Scorpius had replied.
“When will you ever learn?” retorted Albus. “Now get out of here before we forget that we shouldn’t be hexing fellow-students over breakfast.”
“I’d get you before you could start thinking about what spell to use,” said Scorpius dismissively. “Rose, would you…”
“What is it you want to say, Scorpius?” Rose had asked in a not-unkind tone.
“It’s nothing really, Rose, just that – well, it’s Valentine’s Day and…”
“MALFOY!” James roared, getting to his feet with a start and upsetting a platter of omelette in the process. “How dare you address our sister like that?”
“She’s your cousin, Potter, not your sister,” he had replied firmly, “and I’ve always been very respectful towards her.”
“Go away before I actually do something!” Albus had gotten to his feet and was holding his wand in his hand, too.
“Listen, guys – cool down.” Moose seemed to be the only voice of reason. “Malfoy, say whatever it is you want to say here in front of us and if it’s respectful, as you say, I’m sure James and Albus won’t get in your way. Sit down, old chaps.”
The Potter brothers sat, albeit reluctantly. Scorpius closed his eyes. This was never how he had imagined this scene would go. He was to have asked Rose to join him for a walk in the grounds, to have led up to this and finally presented her with his labour of love. Instead he found himself in the middle of the Great Hall, with at least a dozen eyes goggling at him. Still, he didn’t seem to have a choice in the matter.
He had practised this Summoning charm a hundred times. He held out his right hand, half closed into a fist and muttered, “Accio Ice Rose” under his breath. Sure enough, the rose materialised in his hands, beautiful, shapely and perfect just like the Rose he was going to give it to. Its petals were a deep shade of red, the stem and the two leaves Irish green, with a few drops of water frozen on them to resemble dew. The gasps he heard around him were sufficient reassurance that it was as striking a gift as he had hoped it would be. He allowed himself a small smile of self-satisfaction.
Then he looked from the rose in his hand to the one before him and his smile vanished. If he had ever wondered what the expression ‘with a face as black as thunder’ actually meant, he certainly had the answer before him. He held the gift out towards her, hands trembling. She didn’t make a move. He looked around. Albus was looking at the gift open-mouthed, as was Elk. Hugo, Rose’s pesky little brother had also turned up from somewhere and was casting an appraising eye at it. It was James who finally broke the ice.
“What do you mean by giving this to her, Malfoy? You’d better explain yourself,” he had said in the voice of a person trying very hard to restrain his anger.
“It’s a gift,” Scorpius had replied weakly.
The Potter boy had stepped onto and over the table and now stood confronting Scorpius.
“This is a very expensive gift, isn’t it Malfoy?”
“No, it isn’t. I swear it isn’t – it’s just water from the…”
“It costs five hundred galleons at Swishkins & Swartlot’s in Diagon Alley,” Hugo Weasley, the uber-capitalist, had provided his two knuts worth.
“If you think you can win over our sister – yes, that’s exactly what we consider her – by giving her extravagant gifts and then guilt-tripping her into God-knows-what…”
“Shut up, Malfoy. Just – just get lost, would you?”
“I will not,” he had replied, standing his ground, “I’ve made this myself, it’s for Rose and I mean to give it to her.” He sidestepped past James and walked over to her. “This is for you.” He watched as she took it from him in a daze and held it limply in her hand.
“Don’t accept it, Rose,” James had said. “He will expect you to do him favours if you do!”
“I’m not asking for any favours, you pompous bastard!” Scorpius had said in a raised voice, drawing his wand from his cloak.
“Stand back, Albus, I’m letting him have it this time!” James almost shouted.
Out of the corner of his eye, Scorpius had noticed Professors Longbottom and Nott advancing from the teacher’s table towards where they were standing.
“You couldn’t hit me with a barge pole, Potter,” Scorpius had reverted to his sarcastic tone.
James raised his wand, but before he could cast a spell, Rose had stepped between him and Scorpius.
“Back off, James! Scorpius, I can’t accept this. It’s too expensive.”
“I haven’t bought it for five hundred galleons or any such thing, Rose. I made it myself with a few easy spells.”
He remembered she had seemed to take a deep breath on hearing this.
“You’d better go away, Scorpius. Whatever it is you’re trying to prove, I’m not interested. Please don’t talk of this again. In fact it would be better if you never spoke to me again.”
Around that moment, he had felt a firm hand on his shoulder as Professor Nott had led him to his office and assigned him a week’s detention for provoking a fight in the Great Hall. He later found out that Professor Longbottom had given the Potter boys a month of the same. He had no idea whether she had even kept the gift – until this evening.
He hadn’t spoken to Rose till Easter and even after that their interaction had been limited to a few sniping comments and the occasional jibe. That was, of course, until today.
Scorpius wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad about the way things had panned out. On one hand, it had been a wonderful evening – after nearly a year, he had got to spend some time with Rose. On the other, it had been a puzzling sort of evening, and he had felt himself lurching from one place and one situation to another. When he had found James’ Invisibility Cloak in the Astronomy Tower, the only reason he had actually gone there was because he had seen Martin Lovegood sneaking around in the corridor and had suspected that he was going to rendezvous with Rose. Following him, he had found that Martin had only being going to the Astronomy Tower to retrieve some charts he had forgotten there. However, they had both got a little more than they had bargained for when Martin discovered James Potter in flagrante delicto with a Hufflepuff girl. In the fracas that ensued, James had tried to curse Martin, who had deflected the spell at the girl. James and Martin had continued duelling down the stairs leaving a purple-coloured and very shocked teenage girl languishing in the tower. Scorpius had tripped over the Invisibility Cloak as he tried to make a stealthy escape and ended up dragging it with his feet the better part of his way towards the Slytherin rooms.
From there to standing outside the Hogwarts school door, looking at Rose and James staring at each other and knowing that things were likely to get uglier, Scorpius definitely felt that he had been through quite a lot.
* * * * * *
“Can I help you, James?” Rose asked. Scorpius thought he detected a touch of impatience in her voice.
“You’re late!” James replied.
“I know. Still, it’s a Hogsmeade weekend. Aren’t we traditionally a little lax?”
“I don’t see any reason to be lax when you’ve been out gallivanting with that…that Malfoy!”
Scorpius allowed himself a small smile and entered.
“It’s not what you think, James…”
“You stay out of this, you snake.”
“James, I wasn’t gallivanting or anything of the sort. In fact, Scorpius here has been very helpful.”
It clearly wasn’t the right note to strike.
“Helping you, is it? With what, I might ask?”
“None of your damn business, James,” replied Rose, colouring. “Now let me pass.”
“You look here, young Rose…”
“Stop patronising me, James,” Rose almost screamed.
“I’m not being patronising – I’m just looking out for you. You’re entirely too independent and you spend too much of your time hanging around with boys.”
“One of whom is your brother, James. And you’re not one to talk much about the kind of company you keep.”
“At least I don’t stagger late back to school with a death-eater’s son.”
“Stop right there, Potter.” Scorpius strode up to his adversary. “There’s no need to drag my father into this.”
“You should’ve thought of that before you dragged my father’s niece into your twisted little life.”
“Stop it, James. You’re being a prick.”
“Stay out of it, Rose. I’m still dealing with this louse here.”
The next moment James was thrown off his balance as a stunner hit him squarely on the chest. Scorpius looked around in wonder at Rose, who was looking a little stunned herself.
“Should I be thanking you?” he asked, in a polite voice.
Rose shook her head. Her cousin was struggling to his feet before her.
“I suppose I’ll be leaving you two to sort this out,” went on Scorpius, “don’t want me intruding in this little sibling reunion, I’m sure.”
Rose also began to walk slowly away towards the Great Hall.
“Yes, I think that would be best. Get up, James – don’t pretend it hurts or anything, I know it doesn’t.”
“I’m giving you detention, young lady!” roared her cousin.
“Shut up, James. Prefects can’t give detention. You can report me to Professor Longbottom if you like. I doubt he’ll find me guilty of any rule-breaking, seeing as how you can’t prove that I have broken any school rules.”
“I can certainly give you an imposition, though. Two chapters from Ancient Runes! And I’m writing to your parents tonight!”
“Fine. Go ahead. I can’t stop you. I’ll submit the lines to you tomorrow morning,” she replied, and then, turning to Scorpius who had almost disappeared into the corridor that led to the Slytherin dungeons, added, “Oh by the way, Scorpius – do tell Estelle that I’d love to meet her by the lake tomorrow for tea and a game of chess. It’s been a while since I beat her.”
The blond boy only smiled in return, but if he didn’t say anything, it was only because he was too happy for mere words.
* * * * * *
It would have been an exaggeration to say that Scorpius woke up bright and cheerful the next day – firewhiskey and having a memory modified tends to lead to a slightly heavy head even in the best of men. Nonetheless, by the time he had showered and descended to breakfast, he was feeling distinctly chirpy. In fact, when he encountered his cousin Estelle, a round-cheeked, pleasant-faced girl with brown hair and spectacles at the Slytherin table, he actually went so far as to say,
“What ho what ho what ho, old girl! Isn’t it a lovely morning? The lark is on the thorn, the snail is on the something or the other and all’s well with the world!”
“Gone off your rocker finally, o cousin of mine?” asked Estelle, her gaze not budging from the morning’s Daily Prophet. “You do realise that it’s a dashed sight cold and that we have double potions to begin the day with.”
“Ah yes, there’s that. But on the other hand, you have something to look forward to. Rose Weasley” - and here Scorpius did try his level best not to say her name in a fawning way – “has invited you to catch up with her for tea and a game of chess in the evening.”
This time Estelle did look up from her newspaper.
“Has she now? And are you going to be a part of the proceedings as well?”
“I might inadvertently drop by,” the boy nodded as he poured some milk into his glass.
“And what am I? A third wheel?”
“Oh come now, Estelle! You and Rose get along pretty well and you’re both ruddy good chess players too. What’s so odd about being called to play a friendly game?”
“For one thing, you’re the messenger. For another, Rose and I will most likely face off in the house competitions next month.” The girl shook her head and sighed, “Still, can’t turn down a challenge I suppose. I’ll send her a note.”
Scorpius nodded approvingly as his cousin scribbled a note and commandeered a passing first-year to carry it to the Gryffindor table. Things were definitely going his way.
Potions took up the whole morning, with Professor Nott seeming particularly pleasant. In fact everyone seemed particularly pleasant, even that normally insufferable Martin Lovegood (The Ravenclaws shared the class with the Slytherins).
At lunch he had the pleasure of catching James’ eye and watching the beastly Potter boy give him a glare. Scorpius didn’t fear James, but nonetheless he stuck close to Estelle that day. His cousin was a no-nonsense type of girl and could generally be relied on to prevent any excessively untoward happenings.
The class after lunch was Herbology, which the Slytherins shared with the Gryffindors, and Scorpius was particularly looking forward to it. He had a vague notion that if he played his cards right, he could walk with Rose to the lake and thus insert himself into the proceedings ab initio, as it were.
Once in class, things went on as they usually did. Professor Longbottom gave a lecture on the importance of the Circulous Ferntonian which had the interesting property of emitting cool air as the temperature around it rose, which made it very popular in tropical climes. Rose managed to catch hold of Estelle and confirm the invitation that Scorpius had issued, which he duly noted.
At the end of the class, Professor Longbottom closed by giving them a two foot essay to write and asking Rose and Albus to stay back after class. Scorpius walked out of the Greenhouse and loitered behind the rest of the students, hoping to catch hold of Rose as she left.
His hopes weren’t belied. Rose and Albus did emerge barely five minutes later. Albus ignored him and walked on, but Rose stopped to talk to him.
“Hey, Scorpius, wait up!” she called out.
He waited up, only too glad to do so.
“Would you apologise to Estelle on my behalf? The plan for this evening’s off.”
“Yes, off. Uncl – I mean, Professor Longbottom just told us that Ms. Patil, one of my Mum’s oldest friends is in town and wants to meet us today evening. You must’ve heard of her – she’s a model and stuff. So anyway, that means this evening is just not possible – can’t turn down a Professor’s invitation. You do understand, don’t you, Scorpius?”
“What about tomorrow? Or later this week?”
“Well, I don’t know. There’s a lot of homework too these days. And James will probably find ways and means to give me more lines if he can. I’ll send a note to Estelle when I have the time. Ok?”
“I guess,” he replied. He waved as she bounced off towards the castle, presumably to get ready for the evening.
Scorpius followed her at a slower pace, slouching considerably. The day had gone from being wonderful to very bitterly disappointing in a matter of seconds. The euphoric sentiment that had sustained him through the day having evaporated, he suddenly felt very hungry. There was usually food to be had in the Hall at this time, so he headed there, only to find that he was rather early. James Potter and a dark kid who Scorpius didn’t know by name were sitting at the Gryffindor table, ostensibly studying. He had just about turned to leave to return to his common room when the sound of his name being called by Potter grated upon his ears. Scorpius turned.
“I say, Malfoy, I was wondering if you’d care to join me for a Wizard’s Duel sometime? I’m not in a particular hurry, so you can name your place and time, but I do think I need to teach you a lesson.”
Scorpius hesitated. He was usually ready with a sarcastic reply for the remarks and threats that the Potters threw at him and even had answers for the occasional hexes that they tried to shoot in his direction, but a direct duel was another matter. For one thing, Scorpius was not a dueller. He knew he was a very accomplished Wizard for his age and all that, but he hadn’t ever used his magic in a straight combat situation. James, on the other hand, was a crack fighter and the President of the school’s Duelling Club. For a moment Scorpius thought of refusing the challenge, but then he considered what rumour, aided by the Potter Propaganda Machine would do to his reputation, and took a decision.
“Very well, Potter. Some people will look askance at your challenging someone a year younger than you to a duel, but it’s in keeping with your bully persona, after all. I’ll write you when I get myself a second,” he said, and strode out of the Hall.
Scorpius didn’t stop until he had reached the Slytherin common room, which was unfortunate, because if he’d been a little more observant, he’d have seen Estelle engaged in a passionate kiss with Martin Lovegood in the corridor opposite the kitchens.
He did meet his cousin a little later when she arrived in the common room, flustered and with hair dishevelled. But being a boy, he did not notice anything out of place.
“Don’t bother getting ready for that match with Weasley, Estelle,” he said. “She’s called it off, and I’ve managed to get myself into a duel.”
“A duel? Who with?”
“James Potter? You’re as dead as a fish on a marble slab.”
“Thanks for the encouragement, cuz. Will you be my second?”
“One of those days, huh, kid?” Estelle said, ruffling his hair affectionately, “Lose a date and get called into a duel with the best duellist in Hogwarts at the same time.”
“No one said it’s easy being Scorpius Malfoy,” he said, managing a grin, “I just wish someone had told me it would be this hard.”