Blood of Birds

Note: Hi! The following is a 2nd generation Harry Potter fanfiction, with main characters being Rose Weasley, Scorpius Malfoy, and Albus Potter. It will be comprised of four parts, the first of which will follow Rose. There will also be seven one-shots (or side-alongs) following other characters at points throughout the series, each uploaded separately. I've also taken the liberty to include a few re-quotes, courtesy of JK Rowling and Steve Kloves of course, to pay homage to the original books and films. So without further ado, here is Chapter 1. Happy reading!

~ Lauren

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27. Christmas Behind Closed Doors (2/2)

She was standing in the middle of her bedroom looking positively giddy, biting her lip to refrain from squealing with happiness after seeing how the meeting had gone. "You were amazing," she said once Scorpius was back on two feet. "You and my dad."
Scorpius blushed and said, "Thanks. And you're right; Ron was really great." At this point, Scorpius had come closer to Rose and had his arms wrapped around her waist.
"I know," she said with surprise. "I've more than forgiven him for what he did this summer. Gosh, I can't even believe I was ever mad at him... And to think only last week I was terrified of coming home this Christmas. Look at how it turned out now!"
Nodding, Scorpius raised his eyebrows and teased, "You know, it's not over yet."
She looked to him questionably as Scorpius walked over to her bed and pulled out a single piece of paper from underneath the mattress. Before he handed it over, though, Rose sighed in exasperation and said, "Oh bugger, I left James's cloak downstairs before I had dinner. I should probably go get it-"
"Not now," Scorpius interrupted her. He gave her the letter and explained, "Nobody will notice it. And anyway, I still need to give you my gift."
That seemed to shut Rose up, as she took the letter and sat on the edge of her bed. As Scorpius settled in next to her and watched her read, he tried to recall every word he'd written the night before, under the light of his wand, while she was fast asleep:
Dear Rose,
This past summer, I wrote you a letter that was filled with lies. I can't possibly express to you how much I wish that letter had never been written or sent. I can't possibly apologize enough for the pain it caused you, but I hope that over time, I might be able to make up for it. To do that, I figured I'd start with a letter... a letter that I should have written you this summer instead of the one that I did... a letter filled with truth.
You are still, Rose. All my life, I've been moving. I've been hiding, flying, and leaving. I've gone from living in a broken home to not knowing if I even have a home. I tried to find one at Hogwarts, and though I loved it there and still do, I've never been fully accepted. I've always felt trapped being in Slytherin, and there are plenty of people in the school who only see me as my parent's son. I tried to find a home with the Potters, a family that I always dreamed of being a part of. But I never quite fit in there either. They already had Teddy, their own stray, and they didn't need another one. I tried to find a home out on my own in the woods, but I've never felt so lonely or lost. Then I found you and your family, and I realized that this is the home I've been looking for. You're it, Rose. You are my home.
You are still, Rose. When everyone else is falling, breaking, or trying to fight off the pain, you are still. You stay grounded, you don't break, and you wash away the pain. You're always there for your family, for your friends, and for me. When I couldn't fall asleep last year, you lay by my side. When I lost myself this summer, you found me. When I came back to Hogwarts and started falling and breaking all over again, you waited for me to pick myself up. And in the meantime, you grew stronger and stronger, so much so that I know that if I ever fall again, I won't have to get up on my own. You'll be there to carry me through.
You once told me that if something comes back to you, it's yours forever. Well, I've come back to you, Rose. And this time, I'm not moving. I'm not hiding, flying, or leaving. I'm not falling, breaking, or trying to fight off any more pain. I'm here for you, and I'll go wherever you will go, because I'm ready now. I'm ready to hold you, and to never let go. I'm ready for forever. I'm ready to be still.
I love you,
Scorpius
When Rose's eyes stopped shifting and once Scorpius was sure she had finished reading, he whispered, "Happy Christmas, Rose."
She looked back at him with loving eyes and pink cheeks. She didn't say anything as she leaned in and kissed him, and then she didn't stop kissing him. He reciprocated, not bothering to think as he let his body take control. Soon, his hands were wrapped in her hair and hers were at his waist, tugging on his shirt.
They had to separate themselves momentarily for Rose to pull Scorpius's shirt over his head, but then it was on the ground and they reconnected. Scorpius spent a minute kissing her neck before he pulled away and let her look at him. He closed her eyes as she traced her hands over the scars he'd earned from his transformation, then grabbed his necklace and used it to pull his lips back to hers.
The two of them were so engrossed in each other, so completely oblivious to the world around them, that they failed to hear Ron's footsteps coming up the stairs or his booming voice as he yelled, "Rosie, you might want to take this before your mother finds it!"
Rose and Scorpius didn't notice any of this until the door opened and Ron was standing in the doorway, dropping James's Invisibility Cloak onto the ground, widening his eyes, and asking in what seemed like slow motion, "What...?"
Rose and Scorpius were still upright, but they were on her bed, and he was shirtless, and they had been snogging... a lot. And when they both realized what that must have looked like in the eyes of a father, Rose jumped off the bed and ran up to Ron, trying to push him out of the room and as far away from Scorpius as possible.

Meanwhile, Scorpius hurriedly searched for his shirt and threw it back over his head. He wasn't fast enough, though, since Ron had pushed Rose aside and was standing right in front of Scorpius once his head popped out the top of his collar.
"What were you just doing?" Ron asked with a finger pointed at Scorpius's chest. "Why are you even in here?"
"I-" Scorpius started but couldn't get the words out. Ron had finally learned to trust him, and now he had betrayed that trust and would most likely never earn it back.
"He's been spending the nights here," Rose answered for him. "But Dad, we haven't done anything, I promise," she frantically tried to explain, but Ron had stopped listening a while back.
"Get out," he ordered Scorpius, turning his pointed finger toward the door and the stairwell that followed it.
Scorpius didn't waste a moment before walking past Ron and Rose and then running down the stairs. He could hear Rose bounding down the steps behind him, followed by Hugo's voice asking what was going on from his bedroom on the second floor, but Scorpius didn't stop. He kept descending until he came to the entryway, where Hermione was standing, looking between Scorpius and the assembly line of people crashing down the stairs in confusion.
"Oh, no," she said when she pieced everything together. "He found you?" Of course, Hermione had known all along that Scorpius had been sneaking into Rose's room every night; nothing could get past her.
"He found me," Scorpius confirmed, his hand on the doorknob that could get him out of here before Ron had the chance to tear him into a million tiny pieces and scatter them across his brother's dragon farm in Romania.
But Hermione was blocking the door from opening, and then Rose had caught up to them and was saying, "Scorpius, don't go. You can't leave."
"Rose, I have to," Scorpius argued as he heard Ron's powerful, steady footsteps coming from the top of the house. "I'm sorry."
Scorpius had a hand on Rose's face and she had closed her eyes and was breathing in his scent one last time when Hugo made it all the way downstairs and stated, "No, you don't, Scorpius. You don't have to go."
Scorpius wasn't sure what the youngest Weasley was talking about, but Rose seemed to understand, since she opened her eyes wide and shot a warning look at her brother as she said, "Hugo, don't. Now is not the time."
"Yes, it is, Rosie," said Hugo, glancing up at the stairs to see that Ron had gained ground and was now standing on the second floor landing. "Now is the perfect time."
Scorpius was still confused, as was Hermione, but neither of them asked for an explanation. Before long, Ron had made it to the very last step and was looking down at Scorpius with intense fury. "I thought I told you to get out," he fumed.
"Ron!" Hermione yelled at him, shocked by his anger. But she wasn't able to draw Ron's attention away from Scorpius.
Hugo attempted to do so as well, taking a stance right in front of his father to block him from the others, who had all backed up against the wall of the entryway. Hermione, Rose, and Scorpius waited for something to happen, for Ron to blink or for Hugo to speak up, since they weren't sure which would happen first.
It was Hugo. Ron's eyes were completely fixed on Scorpius right up until the moment Hugo opened his mouth and said, "You think this is bad? You think this was some big secret? You're going to punish Scorpius for having a place to sleep at night?"
Ron finally turned away from Scorpius and looked at Hugo, but he hadn't lost his previous train of thought. He only seemed determined to get Hugo out of his way as he said, "Hugo, stop. This isn't of your concern."

Now, Ron's eyes were back on Scorpius, but Hugo wasn't giving up. "It's not really any of your concern either!" he shouted at his father. Then he took one enormous breath and added, "And while we're on the topic of secrets, you should probably know that I'm gay."
Rose and Scorpius both released their breaths just as Ron and Hermione held theirs back. It had worked flawlessly; Hugo had gained every last speck of attention his father could give, and Hermione too had taken a step toward her son, riveted by his words and smiling at his confidence.
Before Ron could say anything, the knowing Hermione put her arm around Hugo and said, "I'm so proud of you." But Hugo, along with Rose, had expected Hermione to react well; it was Ron's reaction he was waiting for.
But no such reaction came. Ron looked to Hugo in silence, not saying a word nor moving an inch. While the others waited for him to show some sign of acknowledgement that he had in fact heard Hugo's confession, Scorpius stood back by the door, right in front of its side windows.
He soon found himself gazing outside, and was looking up at the maple tree to see that familiar crow staring back at him, illuminated by a light on the front porch. Though Scorpius still didn't know what Luna had been talking about regarding the bird, he had to agree with her that it was a little strange. After all, it was almost January... all the birds should have been long gone by now.
As Scorpius tried to gain a closer look at the bird, he noticed that it wasn't just any common crow. Seeing its thin, greyish beak and peaked head, Scorpius remembered seeing this type of bird before, in and around Malfoy Manor. But there was usually a flock of them; he'd never seen one on its own.
And at this thought, Scorpius panicked. The bird outside wasn't just a crow. It was a rook... Rookwood. And it wasn't alone; its entire flock was there somewhere... the entire Forbidden Flock.
Just as Scorpius was about to warn the Weasleys, his fears were officially realized when the bird took off from its branch and flew to the ground, transfiguring itself into a dark, hooded figure before landing in the snow and disappearing with a pop.
"Dad, say something," Hugo was begging Ron. "Please, say something. Anything?"
"I think he's in shock," Rose stated nervously about Ron while Scorpius turned back to them and took a step forward to join the group. When she saw his pale face and empty eyes, she added, "I think they're both in shock."
Once Hugo deciphered whom Rose was speaking of, he asked about Scorpius, "What is he in shock for?"
Though Hermione refused to turn away from the still numb Ron, Rose turned her focus to Scorpius and put her face right in front of his as she asked, "Scorpius, what's going on?"
Scorpius needed a moment. He needed a moment to think things through. He needed a moment to be scared. He needed that moment, because soon he wouldn't have any left. Soon, he'd be outside fighting alongside the Weasleys, and he would have to be a leader. He wouldn't have any time to be scared. So, just for that one moment, Scorpius let the fear penetrate his every nerve. He let it wrap itself around his body like a boa constrictor, let it flow through his veins like a virus, and let it tear at his heart like the inescapable pull of death. Then, just as soon as he was immersed in it, Scorpius shook it all away and came back to life.
"They're coming," he said, as the blood pumped straight into his forehead and as he wrapped his hand around the wand that he'd been storing in his pocket.
This time, it was everyone else's turn to go into shock, but Ron was finally pulled out of it. "How do you know?" he asked, moving past Hermione and Hugo so that he could look out the window. Ron was in full-on Auror mode now, and any grudges he may have had against Scorpius or Hugo had been put on hold.
"I saw Rookwood Disapparate in the front yard just now," Scorpius answered. At this point, Rose had joined them at the window and Hermione and Hugo were locked in a tight hold on each other just behind them.
"How many will there be?" asked Rose, her wand already out while her free hand clasped Scorpius's.
"There were at least five the last time," replied Ron, referring to the Creevey attack from that summer. But whether there would be five, ten, or twenty, Scorpius already knew that they wouldn't be able to hold them off for long. This wouldn't be as big as the war they'd been preparing for, but Astoria clearly wanted something from them, and Scorpius knew that she wouldn't stop until she got it. After all, he was the same way.
Ron, Rose, and Scorpius turned away from the window at the same time in order to face the others as Hermione claimed, "We need a plan." Hugo nodded from within her arms, which he didn't seem to want to get out of anytime soon.
"Not a plan, Hermione," Ron shook his head. Plans never worked out the way were supposed to. In fact, they were almost meant to be broken. "What we need is a strategy."
Already one step ahead of Ron, Scorpius was looking at Rose with a pained expression. "You have to use the cloak," he told her apprehensively.
"What?" Rose responded furiously to Scorpius's request. "I'm not going to hide; I'm going to fight! You're the one who should be in the cloak. I mean, she's probably coming for you,after all."
"Exactly!" Scorpius practically screamed at her. "I'm the one who will need to fight her off, and I can't do that if I'm worried about you the entire time. Please do this for me, Rose. Please be still for me."
Rose sighed and looked around Scorpius to her father, who told her, "Do as he says, Rosie."
With that, she finally complied, turning back to Scorpius and kissing him as if it was the last time they would ever kiss. When they broke apart to catch their breaths, Rose whispered, "Don't get caught."
"I won't," Scorpius promised as he watched Rose run up the stairs to fetch the cloak.
Hermione was quick to yell after her, "And get Harry! Use the coins!" to which Rose waved a hand behind her in confirmation.
Just as soon as she was gone, the remaining four marched out the front door and into the yard, lighting their wands on the way. "So, what's our strategy?" Hugo asked. He was still standing close to Hermione, but he had a new-found certainty in his voice. He may have been young, but he was more than ready for this.
When Ron failed to come up with anything, Scorpius spoke up, deciding to use a metaphor that he knew each of the Weasleys would understand. "We play it like chess," he said.
He was about to explain further when Ron finished for him, "We corner them."
Ron gave Hermione a single look and she understood, glancing back at her family before she ran off to their right, taking up the wing of the property. Scorpius tried to give a similar look to Hugo, who nodded and said, "I'll cover the left, then."
That left Ron and Scorpius, and before the latter could claim his coveted position, Ron said, "As for me, I'll be a knight."
Scorpius didn't argue with him. Rose had been right: Astoria was surely coming after him, and that didn't make him the knight. That made him the king.
Before Ron stepped forward to take his spot in the front, he turned around to Scorpius and said defiantly, "Whatever you do, stay behind me."
"Whatever you do, don't get killed," Scorpius reciprocated. And when Ron laughed and smiled with a full, genuine grin, Scorpius knew that he'd already gained back Ron's trust. Whether it had been from the way he'd protected Rose, the idea to fight the Flock as if fighting on a chess board, or the joke he'd just made with Ron, Scorpius wasn't sure. Maybe it was even a combination of his actions. Either way, Ron seemed to understand that Scorpius still stood firmly on the right side, and so from this point forward, they would work as a team.
It was a good thing too, since at that moment, the birds came. The first thing Scorpius noticed was the sound of a harsh caw, and it was followed shortly by a louder, more radiant and sinisterly high-pitched shriek from what could only be a hawk. Sure enough, Scorpius looked up at the starry sky to see that same, gorgeous, golden bird that he had been inspired by that summer. She was flying beside the camouflaged rook, and Scorpius knew all too soon that the bird was Astoria.
He cursed himself for not noticing all the signs before. Scorpius had to have inherited his transfiguration skills from somewhere, and Draco had most definitely never had any. And the markings! Those pure markings that Scorpius remembered so clearly, could only have come from an Animagus bird. Astoria's disguise also explained why Harry couldn't catch her; he'd been trying to follow her Apparitions, but little did he know, she wasn't just Apparating. She was flying.
"It's her!" Scorpius called out to Ron as the latter gazed up at the sky. He didn't need to be told twice, as Ron had his wand pointed at her before she even landed on the ground, already transformed into her regal but frightening human self.
"We meet again," she slithered at Ron, and soon the two of them were firing silent spells at each other from across the yard, fresh sparks igniting from their wands every few seconds.
Meanwhile, Knox Rookwood seemed to be under the impression that he could sneak up on Scorpius from behind, but Scorpius had sensed him coming. Just as Knox was about to attack, Scorpius spun around and yelled, "Stupefy!"
Knox, who was indeed wearing a long, dark cloak that kept his olive-colored face and dark features well-hidden, shot the spell away with ease. Then he began walking toward Scorpius in long paces, seemingly not in any hurry as he flew all sorts of jinxes his way.
Scorpius dodged them all physically as he ran away from Knox, toward Hugo's side of the yard. He was at a loss for spells that he could use against Knox, since all the ones he was any good at couldn't possibly be powerful enough to ward off Rookwood. Still, while Scorpius may have been rubbish at defensive spells, he made up for it with his talent in transfiguration. That's what made him think of the snow.
There was at least a foot of the white magic on the ground, and it was just powdery enough for Scorpius to create a miniature blizzard with it. So, when he came closer to Hugo, Scorpius stopped in his tracks and yelled, "Pick up the snow!"
Hugo was in the midst of fighting off a young woman who looked to be about Knox's age, and who had similar features but with big, bulging eyes. He seemed to be dodging her attacks more than forming his own, much like Scorpius, so Hugo was thrilled to see any sort of help come his way.
"Wingardium Leviosa!" Hugo pointed his wand at the ground, causing what must have been every single snowflake to shoot upwards and levitate in the air.
Once he, Hugo, and their attackers were surrounded in the snow, Scorpius directed his wand at the girl coming after Hugo and screamed with all his might, "Oppugno!"
At his command, the flakes grouped together to form razor-sharp pellets that then shot at the girl and knocked her to the ground. Scorpius then drew them away and pointed toward Knox's direction, but the attacker had already vanished.
The next thing Scorpius knew, Hugo was yelling, "RUN! Get them back to the house!" and he and Scorpius were doing just that, sprinting back to where Ron and Astoria were still dueling, trying to keep Knox and the girl from spreading too far out.
But when Scorpius turned around, he realized that they were luring away more attackers than just two. The forces had doubled now, and Knox was in the forefront of the group, spitting fire from his wand with rage.
Hugo kept picking up the snow as they ran, tripping some of the Flock while attacking the others, but it wasn't doing enough. When Scorpius saw a look of terror in Hugo's face, he was met with a rush of adrenaline that freed his mind with a new-found clarity. He had an idea.
As Hugo kept running to his father, Scorpius stopped to face his enemies as he said directly into Knox's fire, "Aqua Erecto!" The spell shot a gigantic jet of water into the flames, and then Scorpius was able to control it, making it rain onto the ground so that it formed a small stream in which each of the attacker's feet were immersed.
Next, Scorpius held his wand at an angle that pointed toward the stream, and produced a spark of green lightning with the incantation, "Verdimillious!" Scorpius watched anxiously as the electricity from the lightning spread through the stream like ripples, causing an incredible current to rush through each of the four Flock members until they were rolling on their backs and twitching.
To finish his off his perfectly executed idea, Scorpius transfigured the still-floating snow pellets into tiny shards of ice and then wrapped them around the group of bodies in a giant, circular wall that would pierce through anyone who tried to escape from it.
Unfortunately, as Scorpius stepped forward to examine his work, he quickly saw that one had already escaped. There were only three people within the trap; Knox was missing. Scorpius turned his head in every direction to see where he'd taken off to, looking both on the ground as well as in the air, but he didn't see a thing.
He didn't see a thing... he didn't see Hugo. Now it was Scorpius's turn to panic once more, running away from his prisoners and back to the front of the house, where Hugo had been headed before. But when Scorpius arrived to see Ron writhing in pain atop the snow with Hermione huddled over him, he realized that Hugo wasn't there, and that he wasn't the only Weasley in trouble.
"Don't touch her!" Scorpius threatened Astoria, who was standing above Ron and looking down at Hermione with a hideous scowl on her face.
Astoria ignored Scorpius, but Hermione heard him in time to stand up and meet the Forbidden Flock's leader. Scorpius stayed where he was, his feet cemented into the earth, as he watched the two commanding women come face to face with one another from a few yards in front of him.
While he waited for one of them to address the other, Scorpius tried to figure out what to do next. He could transform and try to attack Astoria as a falcon, but he wasn't sure that he should give away his hidden identity just yet. Plus, his magic wasn't yet strong enough to actually be used while in his Animagus form.
So Scorpius stayed put, hoping that he could come up with something before Astoria really went after Hermione. But just as Scorpius glanced back at Ron, he noticed that Ron's eyes were open again, and then he was winking at Scorpius. Ron was staying still in the snow, but he had his wand ready.
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," Astoria told Hermione, bringing Scorpius's attention back to her.
Hermione followed Astoria's orders, rolling up the sleeve on her left arm to reveal a slightly faded scar that Scorpius almost thought formed a word on her skin. As he took a few steps closer as if in a trance, he saw that his hunch had been correct: branded into Hermione, in plain, sharp lines of dark magic, was the word 'Mud-blood'.
Scorpius understood instantly that this had been a product of Bellatrix Lestrange's torturing of Hermione – the same torture Harry had told Scorpius about, the same torture Ron had used as a reason to resent the Malfoy family for more years than Scorpius had been alive, and the same torture that Draco had finally apologized for only a couple of hours ago. Scorpius finally understood what Draco had actually meant when he'd said that he couldn't erase the scars that had been carved in both himself as well as those around him.
But it was Astoria's scar that came as an even bigger shock for Scorpius. He recognized this one right away, because it was the same one he had seen on his father before, and the same one Draco had alluded to in the core alliance meeting. The only difference was that Scorpius had never known that his mother had also been a death eater. In fact, he had a feeling that this was the first time Astoria was revealing her Dark Mark to anyone, with the exception of her ex-husband.
"Beautiful, aren't they?" sneered Astoria with an ounce of wonderment in her voice. She admired both her and Hermione's scars, so much so that she added, "If only every witch and wizard could be so lucky to have one."
Both Hermione and Scorpius winced at the suggestion, and as soon as they did so, Ron decided to take his moment. He was swiftly up on his feet and was now standing in between the women, one arm keeping Hermione behind him while the other pointed his wand at Astoria's chest.
"Nobody threatens the likes of my wife or what she stands for in front of me!" Ron snarled through clenched teeth.
For a moment, Astoria trembled with fear, but Scorpius could see that she was faking it. She was just pretending to be scared, and she wasn't very good at it. After about thirty seconds, she couldn't hold her laugh in any longer, and began chortling at Ron as if she was having the most entertaining night of her life.
Ron stood his ground all the way up until Astoria said, "Nice try, Weasley. But didn't you notice? Somebody's missing..."
Scorpius thought back to Hugo just in time to see Knox emerge from behind his favorite tree with a wand-less Hugo in tow, one hand pointing his wand at Hugo's cheek while the other covered the boy's mouth as the young Weasley screamed and fought against him.
"You've all been most impressive, I must admit," Astoria said as Ron lowered his wand and looked to his son. Hermione had gone completely pale and looked like she'd stopped breathing, while Scorpius tried to focus on Astoria's voice, because her threats were the only things that were keeping him from giving up.
"Really, Scorpius," continued Astoria, addressing her son for the first time all night, "The lightning was a nice touch. But I'm afraid, it just wasn't good enough."
That was enough to get him moving again. That was the snicker that Scorpius needed to get his blood flowing. That was enough to get him to disobey Ron's orders and walk in front of him, getting so close to Astoria that Scorpius could feel her cold breaths on his face.
"That wasn't good enough, huh?" he spat at her. He shot up his arms and surrendered, asking, "You want more? Huh?"
Astoria didn't reply, but her lips were slowly curling up at their tips as Scorpius went on. "I know what you want," he said, thinking back to her words from that summer. "Me."
Hugo, who'd been pretty still in Knox's arms up until now, suddenly started kicking against Knox's shins and bracing his arms against Knox's shoulders to try to break free from his grasp. Hugo could tell that Scorpius was about to hand himself over to save him, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Astoria was laughing again, and it made Scorpius's heart shutter. This was the only trade he could make, the only thing he could do to keep Hugo from getting killed, and so he prayed that Astoria hadn't changed her mind.
"I did want you," Astoria admitted. "But I'm not certain that I still do. Knox?"
Though Astoria didn't look at her right-hand man when she called on him, Knox seemed to understand what she wanted. His eyes were on Scorpius quickly, and though Scorpius had a hard time seeing them, he almost thought they were narrowing some as Knox tilted his head down and then back up again, as if surveying Scorpius from his toes all the way up to his forehead.
"You do not," Knox stated simply once his eyes were back to his normal size. Scorpius had no idea what Knox had just done, but Astoria seemed to trust him, since she shrugged her shoulders and started walking, circling around Scorpius, Ron, and Hermione in the same way that Scorpius had once circled around her.
"I wanted you for a number of reasons," Astoria began to explain, her words still directed at Scorpius even though she had gained the undivided attention of Ron and Hermione as well. "One of those reasons seems to have disappeared, so I shall have to look elsewhere for it. Perhaps the more important reason, however, was to use you as bait."
Scorpius glared at her with as much hostility as he could muster, but she kept going. "You see, what I really want, what I've really been trying to get a hold of all this time, is Harry Potter – or, more precisely, his hold on the Ministry."
This time, Ron glowered at her, saying, "Harry's been following you for months now. If you wanted him, all you'd have to do is turn around!"
Astoria shot Ron a rather arrogant look, as if what Ron had just said was the most idiotic thing she'd ever heard, and Hermione explained for her, "But Harry would never just hand over the Auror department."
"Exactly," Astoria nodded. "I always wanted to get to Potter, but Godric's Hollow is much too protected, so I couldn't very well attack his family. Initially, I thought that if I captured Scorpius, Potter would try to rescue him. When that plan fell through, I had to think of another way to lure Potter out of his office, so I attacked the home of a Squib child and injured his second-in-command in the process. That worked quite brilliantly, but I still had no leverage against him. Then I decided to have Knox pay a visit to Little Whinging, which seemed to give Potter the wake-up call I'd been waiting for."
Following the Muggle attack, both Scorpius and Harry had thought that Astoria was trying to get him off her trail. Little did they know, she wanted him to keep following her, so much so that he would no longer have time to keep his position at the Ministry. That way, he would have to hand over his responsibility to someone else.
"The wake-up call to hand Head over to me," Ron added.
Astoria stopped walking when she found herself in front of Ron, and put a hand on her chest, proud of herself for all that she'd accomplished. With twinkling, blue eyes, she said in a disgustingly sweet tone, "And now you're going to hand it over to me."
"Like hell!" Hugo managed to scream through Knox's hand. Unfortunately, he paid the price for his bravery, earning a slap across the face from Knox that made tears rush down Hermione's cheeks.
But the slap had an ever greater effect on Ron. He looked at his son, helpless and endangered, and seemed to understand that there wasn't any decision to be made. Scorpius could see that regardless of how Ron may have felt about Hugo's recent coming out, Ron would do anything to protect his family, and Hugo was a part of that family and always would be.
So, without question, Ron looked into Astoria's eyes and said, "I'll give it to you. If you leave my family alone, I'll give you anything you want."
"I thought you might," commented Astoria as she held out her arm for Ron to take.
He did so willingly, clasping his hand over the Dark Mark etched into Astoria's skin, ready to make the Unbreakable Vow. But just as soon as Scorpius questioned who would actually be performing the spell, since both Knox and Astoria had their hands full, he heard groups of footsteps coming from his left.
The three attackers that Scorpius had trapped in his ice enclosure had escaped somehow, all unscathed as they approached their leader. But as they came forward and took their places behind Astoria and Knox, none of them presented themselves to form the bond between their master and Ron. That was until a fourth member, no doubt the one who had freed the rest, came out from behind them and made Scorpius question everything he'd ever known.
This boy was a great deal younger than the others, which was obvious even with his hood on. It was the way he walked, with short, carefully placed strides that were filled with uncertainty and self-consciousness. And when he did pull his hood back, his light skin practically shone against his black hair, and his eyes – light green, a color that was always sorely missed in wintertime – were as bright as the stars. There would be no mistaking him, even if Scorpius hadn't spent over five years as his best friend.
Albus Potter had the Elder Wand pointed at Astoria and Ron's locked arms without making eye contact with any of the Weasleys or Scorpius. They all stared at him, though, completely dumbstruck as to where he had come from, and what he was doing here. Scorpius was the most shocked of all of them, and before he really knew what was happening, he was stumbling backwards, but something managed to catch him before he fell.
Scorpius could feel Rose's invisible arms holding him steady. He could hear her harsh, fearful breaths as she witnessed the same betrayal that Scorpius was seeing. She was carrying him, just as he knew she would, and so he extended his hand for her to take so that they might carry each other.
Hermione was the first to speak, her hands clutched around Ron's free arm as she asked, "Al? What are you doing?"
But Al didn't respond. He was transfixed by the task at hand, but not in the way that somebody under the Imperius Curse might be. He was more focused than that, and Scorpius could see how much energy it took him to keep from breaking that concentration.
"Go on, Albus," Astoria whispered. "Do it."
Upon her command, a thin, transparent string came from Al's wand and wrapped itself around Astoria and Ron's arms. Then he finally spoke, firstly directing his question at Ron. "Will you, Ronald Weasley, relinquish your position as Head of the Auror Department at the Ministry of Magic, to be replaced by Astoria indefinitely?"
Ron looked at his nephew questionably, but when he saw Hugo out of the corner of his eye, he told Al, "I will."
Al addressed Astoria next, asking, "And will you, Astoria, withhold from ever bringing harm to Hermione or Hugo Weasley, from either your own hands or those of any other member of the Forbidden Flock?"
Unlike Ron, Astoria didn't hesitate to answer, "I will."
Then the transparent string sunk itself into Astoria and Ron's skin, and Hugo was immediately released from Knox's hold. He quickly buried himself in his mother's arms, but it was Ron whom he looked to with gratitude, and it was Ron's arm that he refused to let go of.
As Scorpius looked in on the scene playing out before him, he couldn't help but worry about the fact that Rose's name had been left out of the vow. Astoria didn't know that she was there, of course, since Rose was under the cloak, and so she hadn't been granted the same protection that Hermione and Hugo had.
Scorpius kept thinking about this as Astoria and her flock began to walk away, marching backwards in perfect unison while Astoria said to Ron, "It was a pleasure doing business with you."
But they all stopped walking when they noticed that Al wasn't marching with them. He had finally looked up to meet Scorpius's eyes, which had been locked on him since the moment he'd appeared. He still didn't say anything, but Scorpius didn't need an explanation.
Al was the Hogwarts spy. The letter Scorpius had seen him receive in early summer had been one of many correspondence letters from Astoria. The searches Al had gone on for Rose, claiming to be looking for Scorpius while he'd been missing, were really just trips to meet with Astoria. The time Al had brought up the Forbidden Flock in Defense Against the Dark Arts class had been meant to instill fear in the Hogwarts students while also making them question Scorpius's motives. And all of Al's anger toward Scorpius, including his quitting the Quidditch team and refusing to support the Order of the Phoenix, had just been strategy. People liked Al; they respected him and they listened to him. And so by blaming Scorpius for all of his problems, Al had turned everyone's suspicions away from himself and onto none other than Astoria's own son. It was all so obvious to Scorpius now that he knew Al's true motives, and he couldn't stop blaming himself for underestimating his envious and powerful friend.
"Come along, Albus," Astoria suddenly yelled. She was growing impatient, one of her many fatal flaws that Scorpius had learned of long ago.
Al was about to walk away with Astoria when a pop came from the driveway and everybody turned their heads to see Harry Potter standing before them with an impressive assembly of Aurors at his side. It seemed as though the coins had worked their magic.
Astoria and Knox transformed into their bird-selves and flew atop the Aurors until they were well out of firing distance, and the rest of the Forbidden Flock Disapparated from the yard. Harry most likely would have been able to stop them had he not been so distracted by the sight of his son standing in their midst.
"Al?" Harry asked, just as shocked to see him there as the Weasleys had been, but a hundred times more hurt.
Al cocked his head in every which way, looking at Harry, then at the cluster of bodies that Ron, Hermione, and Hugo had formed, then at Scorpius, then at the now visible Rose, and back at Harry. He looked completely lost as he tried to decide what to do, where to go, who to run to. So, instead of running to any of them, he ran away, his feet flying through the snow and into the woods that lined the property.
Harry went after him, not stopping to talk with Ron on his way. Left with the gang of Aurors, Ron walked over to them to give them the news, Hermione and Hugo by his side the entire time because they still wouldn't let go.
Every nerve in Scorpius's body told him to transform. He wanted to fly after Al and Harry so that he could catch up with them. He wanted to talk to them, to Al, so that he could understand what was going on. He wanted to, but he didn't. He didn't run because Rose was standing beside him, and he couldn't leave her. He didn't run because he understood that Harry needed to speak to Al alone. He didn't run because for once in his life, Scorpius needed to be still.
As snow began to fall from the sky, flying through the air with the wind, Scorpius refused to walk through the blizzard. He chose the fight instead of the flight. He chose to be still with Rose so that they could fight the pain together. He chose to hold Rose's hand while they thought through everything that had just happened. They thought about all the time they had spent crying over each other and breaking down while they had failed to notice their already broken friend. They thought about all the signs that Al had given them, but that they'd chosen to ignore. They thought about all the hope they'd had, and all the times they'd wished to know the truth. But as Scorpius had learned time and time again, one should always be careful for what they wish for . It might just come true .

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