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



24. Draco's Distress (1/2)

19 – Draco's Distress

"Say it," she whispered. He could just make out her smile with the light of the rising sun.

"Rose," he replied. And then they watched the deluminator in Rose's hand as a tiny, blue ball of light emitted from it and floated right between their chests. It stayed there for a while, as if it didn't know how to take Rose to Scorpius when she was there already, and then dissipated back into the light-holder.

"That's incredible," said Scorpius, marveling at the magic. He wasn't a fan of what had happened that summer after the deluminator had brought Rose to him, but he couldn't deny how brilliant it actually was, or how useful it could be in the future.

Thinking the exact same thing, Rose said, "So, if we're ever apart again, for whatever reason, all you have to do is say my name and I'll find you. I'll rescue you. I promise."

Scorpius kissed her; he couldn't help himself. They'd been here all night, trapped on their oasis island in the middle of the Black Lake, talking and kissing, then talking and kissing some more. Neither of them had gotten any sleep, but they hadn't wanted to. They had been apart for so long and now they had to make up for the time they'd lost.

"Your turn now," Rose said as they broke apart. They were filling each other in on their lonely summer and fall, piece by piece. "I want to know about your transformation. What did it feel like?"

Scorpius grimaced at the thought, making Rose take his hand in hers to show her unflagging support. With a deep breath, Scorpius explained, "It was terrible. I mean, the process was… excruciating. But now, I'm so glad I pushed through it."

Rose smiled, just as proud of Scorpius as he was of himself, before turning serious once more and asking, "And when did Lily find you?"

Scorpius hadn't been looking forward to this part of his explanation. Surprisingly, though, Rose had accepted the lies he'd written her in his last letter, just as soon as he promised to never lie to her again, even if for good reason. Maybe, if he was lucky, she'd understand what had happened with Lily as well.

"It was right after I'd made my first full transformation," Scorpius began. "I'd tried to do too much too quickly and ended up hurting myself pretty badly. I made it back to my tent, but then I must have collapsed. Next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground in a pool of blood and was staring up at her. She had me drink this potion she stole from Al's and, slowly but surely, I healed. She visited me almost every day, bringing me food and things, but I never told her about the transformation, and we rarely talked about Astoria."

Rose nodded, telling Scorpius in a single gesture that she understood, but he could tell from her squinting eyes that she still had questions for him. "You said she found you when she was playing Quidditch at her house?" Rose asked.

"Yeah. My tent wasn't far from Godric's Hollow."

"So, why there?" asked Rose, this time looking more hurt than curious. "I know you wanted to protect me, but you could have just gone to the woods behind my house." It wasn't that she didn't respect his attempt to keep her out of danger; it was solely the fact that he didn't feel the need to be near her that stung somewhere deep in her chest.

Scorpius didn't want to answer this question either, but he had promised to be honest with Rose. So in keeping that promise, he replied, "I went to your house, actually. In fact, it was the first place I went. I wasn't thinking about protecting you yet; I just needed to talk to you, after what happened with Astoria. But then your dad answered the door, and he…"

"He asked you to leave?" This was the first time all night that Rose's voice had taken an even remotely angry tone. Ron had already tried to keep them apart once before and Rose wasn't about to stand by after it had happened again.

"Not exactly," Scorpius said quickly, hoping to dissipate Rose's frustration with her father. Ron had been doing the right thing, even though he hadn't done it in the best way. Scorpius felt empathetic about it, though, since he hadn't exactly acted much better himself. "He just didn't want you to get hurt. If I had stayed with you, Astoria might have come for me the very next day, and I can tell you now that she wouldn't have spared you or your family to get to me. Your dad was the only one thinking ahead, that's all."

Rose seemed to be listening, but Scorpius could see the corners of her eyes itching to roll themselves around. After spending a moment to grasp Scorpius's revelation, Rose stated, "I'm not going to let him get away with this. He made a promise…"

"And he kept his promise," Scorpius argued. Ron had said it himself that night; he had sent Scorpius away so that he wouldn't have to order Rose to stay away.

"Look, if you want to blame someone, blame me. I'm the one who lied to you, in more ways than one," he added, thinking of omitting the finding of Rose's ring in the Forbidden Forest, refusing to tell Rose about Astoria's attempted suicide, and finally, the letter from that summer. He wasn't going to punish himself for it anymore; he had done enough of that. Still, a part of Scorpius almost wanted Rose to punish him, just so that he could stop feeling so guilty.

Once again reading his mind, Rose put a hand on Scorpius's cheek and then pressed her forehead against his while whispering, "I don't want to blame anyone. I just want the truth; the whole truth."

"And now you have it," Scorpius said with sincerity. "And as of right now, you'll always have it from me." He would never lie to her again, of that he was certain. He trusted her enough to tell her everything, and she was strong enough to take it.

This time, Rose kissed him. When their lips parted for a moment, Scorpius chuckled and whispered, "I'm starting to be pretty thankful that it's still the weekend. Let's just stay here all day."

Rose leaned away from him at that and sighed heavily. "I wish I could," she began to explain, "But I've got a prefect meeting in a half an hour."

Scorpius could feel his smile curve downwards in disappointment, and Rose must have seen it too, since she immediately offered, "I could just skip and ask Bobby to fill me in later."

"No," Scorpius argued. Of course he wanted her to stay with him, but he wasn't about to tear her away from her meeting. In fact, Rose's schedule reminded Scorpius that he wasn't exactly free all afternoon either. "You shouldn't skip the meeting. And anyway, I just remembered that I have to meet with McGonagall soon."

"Really?" Rose asked curiously. "How is that going? She's training you, right?"

Scorpius had shown Rose some of the skills McGonagall had been helping him with, using transfiguration while in Animagus form. He had forgotten to tell her about the Order, though, a subject which he himself often tried to forget, until McGonagall would mention the impending meeting he was to host for the Hogwarts faculty.

"It's going well," Scorpius replied after thinking about it. "I mean, the magic is amazing, and she's a brilliant teacher, of course."

"But?" Rose sensed that there was more to Scorpius's description than he was letting on.

"But," Scorpius caved, "She's also informed me that I'm to be the new leader of the Order of the Phoenix."

Rose's mouth dropped in surprise, but she didn't say anything while she waited for further explanation.

"The Order's trying to gain as much power as it can right now, mostly awareness and followers and such. There's a core alliance as well, with McGonagall, Harry and Ginny, your parents, and a couple others. But I'm leading all of it, or at least, I'm supposed to be."

"Supposed to be?"

"Well, I haven't actually led any meetings yet, though I do have one coming up. But I'm supposed to be gaining support from the rest of the school, only nobody really wants to follow me." Scorpius wasn't trying to sound pitiful, though it may have come across that way. He just didn't know what he could do at this point, to get people to understand that he was on the good side rather than the bad. "I'm not exactly a natural leader."

Scorpius was looking down at the ground, one hand anxiously pulling threads out of the blanket he and Rose were sitting on. His other hand, however, was being squeezed by Rose in an attempt to gain back his attention. Upon feeling the sharp chill of her ring sink into his palm, he looked up and into her eyes as she said, "Just because you're not a natural leader doesn't mean you can't learn to be. People will follow you, Scorpius. They just need to find a reason to first."

Nodding, Scorpius thought about what that reason could possibly be. Nobody had any proof that he was acting as a spy for Astoria, but he didn't have anything that would prove otherwise either. Right now, all he had was Rose… but perhaps that was it? Over the past week, Scorpius had banned together an entire crew of followers to help him with his serenade, all of whom had done it for Rose. People cared for Rose, even looked up to her. Maybe, with her by his side, he could rally enough of the students, at least most of the Gryffindor ones, to believe in him.

And so, with this thought in mind, Scorpius asked Rose a question that he rarely asked of anyone. "Will you help me?"

With a single kiss, Rose answered his question and said, "I will. You know I will."

Scorpius drew her drew her back into him, clasping a hand behind her neck and steering her toward him. As they embraced yet again, Scorpius could feel Rose getting on her knees and trying to stand up. Eventually, she did so, breaking apart from him and standing tall with a guilty expression.

Scorpius knew what she was thinking before she said it, for he knew that she was about to leave him to go to a prefect meeting with Al, and so she must be wondering what to say to him. After rubbing her tired eyes, she asked, "I should tell him, shouldn't I?"

"Yes," Scorpius replied, standing up so that he could face her again. It would be good for Al to find out from her, rather than anybody else. Thinking this, Scorpius asked, "I should tell Lily, shouldn't I?"

"Yes," Rose agreed. "And soon." Hugo and Nigel had helped with the reconciliation, so it was only a matter of time before they spilled the beans to Lily.

"But I should go," Rose sighed.

Scorpius wanted to plead for her to stay, but he wouldn't let himself. Instead, he kissed her forehead and then stood still and closed his eyes, saying, "Just go. Go, before I catch another glimpse of you and decide to make you stay."

As Rose's laugh filled his ears, Scorpius felt her hand run down his arm until it reached his own hand, which she squeezed once more before saying, "I'll find you later," and walking away.

When Scorpius opened his eyes, Rose was gone. Automatically, he felt lonely without her, but distracted himself by cleaning up their oasis, putting everything in the bag Colin had dropped off there, and then headed back up to the castle through the crisp December air, a permanent smile etched across his still exhilarated face.

He arrived at McGonagall's office earlier than they had scheduled, and so the Headmistress wasn't alone when Scorpius entered the room. Off to his right stood McGonagall with Professor Smethley, the two of them bent over an abnormally empty mirrored cabinet.

"It has to have been a student," Scorpius overheard Smethley mumble to McGonagall. "No one else has come into the castle recently, and I can't imagine that anyone on the faculty would ever do something of the sort."

"Yes, I believe you're right," agreed McGonagall. "Though I pride my predecessors in the security of this office, it has been broken into before. I would be fooling myself if I proclaimed otherwise."

As soon as McGonagall had finished her sentence, Scorpius knocked on the wall to announce his presence. He wouldn't have minded to keep listening, but he also didn't want to intrude rudely. "Hello, Professors. Er, I came for our meeting. I'm sorry; I know I'm a little early."

"Oh, that's all right, Scorpius," McGonagall said as she turned to see him there. "Please, come in. Professor Smethley and I were just discussing the disappearance of my pensieve."

"Your what?" asked Scorpius once he came closer to them, where he now remembered an old stone goblet full of shimmering liquid used to sit.

"My pensieve," McGonagall repeated. "It is an old tool of Hogwarts that was passed down through generations of Headmasters. It allows one to review memories, either from their own mind or any other source."

Scorpius had grown curious at this point, itching to know who might have taken the pensieve. Smethley, on the other hand, was merely confused, looking between McGonagall and Scorpius with astonishment at how honest McGonagall was being with the boy. Noticing Smethley's questioning looks, McGonagall told her, "He is the leader of the Order of the Phoenix, Sylvia. It is my job to keep him informed. After all, I answer to him now. We all do."

Feeling belittled, Smethley addressed McGonagall weakly and said, "I understand. I suppose I should leave you two to your discussion, then. I'm afraid there isn't much more I can do regarding the pensieve, anyway." And without another word, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher was gone.

Watching her go in a flash, Scorpius commented, "She's terrified of you."

"No," McGonagall laughed. "She is terrified of you."

When Scorpius looked back at McGonagall with furrowed eyebrows, she explained, "It seems that the Sorting Hat's proclamation has once again taken shape. You see, this pensieve was most likely stolen by a student, and while I do not know whom that student might be or what they intend to use it for, I am positive that they did not form the idea alone. I believe Astoria has a spy here at Hogwarts, and Smethley believes that that spy might be you."

Scorpius froze as McGonagall walked around the room and sat calmly at her desk. He remembered very clearly the words of the Sorting Hat's most recent song, and at the time, he had even considered that he himself was the spy, since so many already believed this to be true. Of course, having a teacher believe it made Scorpius's anxiety about leading the Order far worse, not to mention the fact that yet another student in the school may be working under Astoria's control. What had started out as such a happy morning had suddenly taken a rather terrible turn.

"What does this mean?" Scorpius asked once he gathered his thoughts and was able to move once more. He had taken a seat across from McGonagall now, eager for her to provide him with some direction.

"Well," McGonagall sighed, "It means that I was wrong. I told you in September that it didn't matter that people had no interest in following a person they believed to be a criminal, because I truly thought that they would eventually come to their senses and see that they had no other choice."

"But they still aren't choosing," Scorpius stated disappointedly. It was one thing to have most of the of-age students' support, since many of them had already signed up to be a part of the Order, but that still left the majority of the school skeptical of their bona-fide trailblazer.

"No, they are not," McGonagall shook her head. "The faculty meeting is only a few days from now, and with Professor Smethley sensing danger, we can be sure that some of the other professors might listen to her. Meanwhile, all the students will be going home for the holidays soon, and I don't want them filling their parents in with nonsensical information regarding the likes of you and the Order. The last thing we need is masses of people questioning your motives and forgetting who the real source of danger is."

"Well, if they won't believe me, maybe they'll believe somebody else," Scorpius suggested, thinking of Rose. With her, three of the four houses would be behind him in no time. Slytherin, on the other hand, was most likely a lost cause.

Smiling, McGonagall clasped her hands and leaned forward to say, "I've been thinking the exact same thing."

Doubting that she'd really been thinking the exact same thing, Scorpius waited for more explanation. When McGonagall pulled a sheet of paper out from her drawer and handed it to Scorpius, he read the phrase, Sign of Support, printed across a drawing of a phoenix that flew out of flames and off the page before returning on the other side of the paper.

"I've had my Head students inform the prefects of their newest assignment," McGonagall started. "They have all agreed to try to gain as many signatures as they can from their respective houses. They'll be posting the sheets in their common rooms this evening, and they are currently waiting in the hallway for you to give them further instructions of what to tell their students."

"So, what," Scorpius asked, "We're just supposed to ask people to sign a paper and hope that that means something? Hope that that means they've pledged their loyalty?" The idea seemed slightly naïve, though it wasn't as if he had a better one.

"Signing this paper is signing a contract, Scorpius. It's making a promise. I'm not about to put every student in this school under the Unbreakable Vow, so right now, a promise is the best we can do. You just have to make sure that the prefects listen to you, so that the rest of the school can listen to them."

Scorpius didn't reply, and instead just nodded. Even with Bobby Dormer, Rose would be sure that Gryffindor earned the most signatures. Lucy would get plenty from Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw probably wouldn't be bad, either. Then there was Al, and Scorpius already knew that there was no way he'd be willing to offer any help, especially once Rose told him that she and Scorpius were back together.

"You should go talk to them," McGonagall woke Scorpius from his reverie. "They should be here by now. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon, and don't forget that the faculty meeting has been scheduled for this Wednesday."

"Right," Scorpius stood from his chair. "Okay. I'll see you tomorrow, then."

He was just about to step over the threshold when McGonagall called after him, "Oh, Scorpius, I've been meaning to ask how you're doing. I seem to remember you being rather broken only yesterday."

It felt like years had passed since yesterday's disastrous Quidditch match that had ended with the entire Slytherin team (except for Mercy) hospitalized for injuries inflicted upon them by Nigel, who happened to be Gryffindor's new Beater. Come to think of it, Scorpius's newly mended ribs were still quite sore, but after being with Rose all night, his joy had overwhelmed his pain.

"Actually, Professor," he answered, "I've never felt more whole."

And with one last smile from McGonagall, Scorpius was out the door and on his way down the spiral staircase to the seventh floor hallway. The prefects were huddled in a group a few yards in front of the gargoyle, Lucy chatting lazily with her Hufflepuff counterpart, the two Ravenclaws silent and tapping their feet with impatience, Patty Parkinson sneering at Muggle-born Bobby Dormer, and Rose whispering something to a crossed-arm Albus in a far corner of the hallway.

"Scorpius," Lucy said cordially, the first to notice Scorpius's appearance. Once she spoke up and Scorpius stepped closer to address them all, the rest of the prefects turned toward him, though Rose and Al still seemed distracted by their own conversation.

"Hi everyone." Scorpius tried to put a smile on his face, but it felt unnatural. When a few of the prefects snickered with disrespect, Scorpius tried to get to the point. "So, I'm sure Molly and Lorcan have filled you all in about this Sign of Support campaign that the Order of the Phoenix is launching. And, well, seeing as I'm now a part of the Order, it's my job to ask each of you to help raise awareness of the group."

At that, Scorpius handed his pile of sign-up sheets to Lucy, who in turn passed them to the other prefects. Then he continued, "The campaign's pretty simple. Just tack the papers up in your common rooms and give a little speech to everyone telling them what the Order stands for-"

"And that is?" cut in the girl from Ravenclaw.

Scorpius was caught off guard, and almost found himself looking to Rose for help in answering the girl's question. He wasn't one for eloquent explanations, with the exception of when he spoke to Rose. But when he looked to her now, she wasn't there to find, her face turned away from him and staring at Al, who had his own facing the floor.

Curious to know if Al's harsh temperament was in reaction to learning of Rose's reunion with Scorpius, the latter had to tear his eyes away from his friends' direction in order to revert his attention back to the Order. "Er," he started, "We're a defensive unit. We stand for tolerance, acceptance... peace. But we can't achieve any of that alone, which is why we need all the support we can get."

"We'll get everyone we can," Lucy promised him. After helping Scorpius with his plans to serenade Rose, Lucy had become rather convinced that Scorpius would be a brilliant leader, and had decided that she and Lorcan would do all they could to support him in this daunting task.

At that, Lucy and the other Hufflepuff prefect ran off to their common rooms, the Ravenclaws and Bobby following suit. Al had gone off as well, leaving Patty to have to run to catch up, and Rose far behind in his wake.

Scorpius, still feeling anxious about the campaign and suddenly worried about his friends, approached Rose hesitantly. "I'm guessing that you told him?" he asked once he was close enough to Rose to take a loose strand of her hair and tuck it behind her ear.

Rose looked up at him disappointedly before replying, "He didn't say anything. He just stood there with his head down, like he couldn't look at me anymore."

Secretly, Scorpius had been hoping that Al was beginning to forgive him, especially after Harry had promised to talk to him about it. Now, though, it seemed as if that hope had been a complete waste of Scorpius's energy. Al wasn't anywhere near forgiving Scorpius, and in turn Scorpius had now given Al a reason to distance himself from Rose.

Taking Rose's hand in his, Scorpius said sincerely, "Rose, you don't have to do this. You don't have to choose between us. I could never ask you to give up your best friend for me."

"No!" Rose responded sternly. "Scorpius, you're my best friend too, and I'm not letting you leave me again. Anyway, Al will realize eventually that I'm here for him, no matter what."

"Yeah, okay," Scorpius nodded. "I just wish he'd realize the same about me."

"He will," promised Rose. When Scorpius smiled slightly in hopes of convincing Rose that he believed her, she breathed in sharply and shook away her grief. "Anyway, what's done is done. Now I just have to tell James, which should be easier. Oh, did you get a chance to tell Lily yet?"

Scorpius shook his head, explaining, "I've been with McGonagall this whole time."

"Right," Rose responded, her thoughts not entirely present. "How'd the meeting go? Any news, other than the campaign, I mean?"

Though Scorpius had temporarily forgotten McGonagall's problem with the pensieve, he now recalled what his mentor had warned him about. Not bothering to question whether or not he should tell Rose, Scorpius said, "Yes, actually. Something's been stolen from her office. She says Astoria may have found a new spy."

"One under the Imperius curse?" Rose asked with concern, no doubt thinking of last year's Vincent Goyle, who'd carried out Astoria's bidding against his own will and was now suffering the consequences in Azkaban Prison.

"I don't know," said Scorpius before Rose could become too worried. "Smethley's looking into it."

Rose was already in mystery-mode at this point, but Scorpius couldn't let her try to solve this now. Doing so would only give her an excuse to think more about Albus, since the two of them always discussed these matters together while Scorpius pretended to listen. In an attempt to take Rose's mind off the subject, Scorpius announced, "I should go find Lily. Meet you in the Great Hall later?"

Rose barely had the chance to nod before Scorpius leaned in and kissed her. Something felt wrong as his lips touched hers, though, making him feel as if he was kissing a ghost. When he leaned away from her, he was surprised to see that although Rose's face had gone pale and her eyes were shifting, there wasn't a tear on her face, nor any welling beneath her eyelids.

Scorpius quickly sensed that he wasn't the only one who had changed that summer. Rose was stronger than she used to be, already refusing to break down when she clearly wanted to. She seemed unwilling to let the red patches under her eyes ever glimmer with tears again, and though Scorpius was proud of her for such determination, he still wanted her to know that she need not hide her emotions from him.

"Rose," he said, holding onto her arm. "What's in your head right now? I know this isn't just about Al, let alone what McGonagall told me. Please, Rose, talk to me."

With her eyes locked on the marble floor, Rose sighed and answered, "Al's not speaking to me. Lily surely won't be speaking to me. I sure don't feel much like speaking to my father. I just don't think it's going to be the best Christmas, that's all."

Christmas was Rose's favorite holiday. She'd always loved it, though Scorpius had no idea why. He'd had a couple of pleasant holidays with the Potters before, but last year's catastrophe had almost been worse than the lack of celebration he'd experienced growing up at Malfoy Manor.

Speaking of which, Scorpius doubted that he'd be invited to the Potters again this year, being that Al wasn't speaking to him either. He'd probably stay at school and spend most of his time with Ally and McGonagall, meaning that Rose would be left on her own to brace Ron and later the Potters, come Christmas morning.

Not knowing what else to say, Scorpius merely stated to Rose, "You'll make it through. You always do. Plus, I'll be here when you get back."

Somehow, his words managed to put a smile on her face, if only a slight one. "Thank you," she whispered in his ear before gently pushing him away and adding, "You should go. We don't want Lily finding out about us from somebody else. Meanwhile, I've a campaign to launch."

"That you do," Scorpius laughed. Running a finger through her hair, he said, "Just focus on that for now, okay? We can deal with the hard stuff later... together." Having Rose back meant that Scorpius had a partner again, somebody he had learned to lean on, but also somebody he had to be sure to let lean on him.

And with one last nod, Rose turned around and headed to the Fat Lady's portrait, which she shortly disappeared behind.

Scorpius then headed downstairs, hoping that he might run into Lily at some point. Instead, though, he practically collided with Hugo and Nigel, who were walking hand-in-hand in the opposite direction.

"Scorpius!" Nigel shrieked upon seeing him, a perpetual smile on his face. Hugo merely laughed at Nigel's extreme cheerfulness.

"Nigel, Hugo," Scorpius greeted them as he backed away some. "How are you?"

They looked at each other knowingly before responding in unison, "Fantastic." Scorpius was pleased to hear it.

"And what about you?" asked Nigel.

"Yeah, did it go well with Rose?" Hugo added, a hint of a threat underpinning his especially gleeful tone. He had been relying on Rose a lot lately, so Scorpius was pleased to see that now that Hugo was back on his own two feet, he understood that it was time to be the protective brother Scorpius always knew he could be.

"It went brilliantly," replied Scorpius, receiving a congratulatory pat on the back from Nigel and eyes that seared with warning from Hugo. To the latter red-head, he added, "Don't worry. I won't break her again."

Hugo made the smallest smile as he said, "I know you won't. After all, she's a whole lot tougher to break now than she was last spring. We both are."

"I can tell," Scorpius agreed. The Weasley siblings, once so incredibly fragile, now seemed ready to take on the world. It was a good thing too, since like Rose had said, they'd need all the strength they could get if they wanted to make it through the holidays.

After giving Scorpius and Hugo a moment to connect over their shared love for Rose, Nigel nudged Hugo and said with a shrug, "We should get going. We don't want to keep your grandfather waiting."

"Oh, you're probably right," Hugo agreed. "See you later, Scorp."

Scorpius almost let them go before he remembered that he was currently in the midst of looking for their friend. When he realized that they might be able to help him find her, Scorpius whipped back around and asked, "Wait! Do either of you happen to know where Lily might be?"

Nigel shrugged his shoulders in response, but Hugo tilted his head to the floor guiltily. Scorpius understood that Lily might be hiding from Hugo today, but that didn't mean that Hugo didn't know where she was. Hoping to pry an answer out of him, Scorpius asked, "Hugo?"

Hugo kept his head down as he answered, "She might be on the bridge; the stone bridge." From the tone of his voice, Scorpius could tell that this was a spot where Hugo had spent many hours with Lily, and a place that he had tried to avoid today. Now that Hugo was with Nigel, there was nothing he wanted more than Lily's support, but he and Scorpius both knew that she would never give it to him. Or at least, not so soon after hearing the revelation.

"Thank you," Scorpius said before he left Hugo and Nigel, headed for the stone bridge that overlooked the Black Lake.

The day had grown much foggier since that morning, dark clouds forming atop the canyon that lay beneath the bridge. Scorpius could just make out the shine of Lily's hair blowing on the other side of the stone wall that was punctured with glassless windows. She was breathing deeply, her cold air forming puffy clouds of its own in the wintry sky as she shivered and huddled beneath a Gryffindor sweatshirt that was much too big for her.

"I don't feel much like talking, so if that's why you're here, you might as well leave now," Lily stated to the sky, not bothering to address Scorpius as he leaned on the open sill next to hers.

Scorpius didn't respond. If Lily didn't want to talk, then he wouldn't make her. They both knew that it was enough for him to just be there with her, if only for this one afternoon. Plus, Scorpius figured that there was nothing left to tell her. She'd probably been on the bridge all day, and it had the perfect view of the island where Scorpius and Rose had spent their night and most of this morning. There was no doubt in Scorpius's mind that Lily had seen them there, and he had no intention of reminding her of the pain that had surely made her feel.

So, as the snow started falling and shortly turned into a blizzard, Scorpius and Lily didn't speak. They just waited, staring out across the lake until Scorpius could almost swear that he saw a part of it freeze. And as the two of them stood there together, one lonely heart beating beside one that had recently been reformed, Scorpius decided that he'd finally forgiven Lily.

It was simple, really. She'd done wrong and Scorpius had paid the consequences for her rash and ill-thought actions, but he had still won in the end, while Lily had been left with nothing. And he wasn't willing to let her feel alone because of all the people she'd scared off, because he knew better than anyone how that feeling could tear a person apart.

He was about to tell her this, having decided to break their vow of silence if only for a moment, when Lily said rather loudly (so that Scorpius would hear her over the shrilling wind), "Everybody's moving on, and I'm just here. Freezing... frozen."

Lily, the girl full of life, had just admitted that she couldn't keep up, that she'd fallen behind. Scorpius could barely believe the words that were coming out of her mouth, yet he was sure that he had heard correctly. Lily really did believe that she'd lost herself, but Scorpius knew that that wasn't true. Just because everybody else in her life was changing didn't mean that she had to as well.

He didn't know how to make her believe this too, but he was damn well going to try. So, he said, "When I was lying in that tent, bleeding to death, I couldn't stop thinking about Rose. I was sure that she would come for me, that she would save me, and that everything would be okay again. I needed her to pick me back up, because somehow I'd fallen behind. And she never came." He finally turned to her as he finished, "But you did."

This made her look at him, which is exactly what he wanted her to do as he explained, "There's always going to be somebody who will find you and pick you up when you fall. It's just not always the person you think it will be. And sometimes that feels wrong, but other times that person might end up being the one you needed all along." Scorpius didn't know what would have happened if Rose had found him instead of Lily. He didn't know if he would have survived just as well, but a part of him was convinced that Lily had been meant to find him there. After all, what Scorpius had really needed then was his family, and that's what Lily was to him.

With a snicker, Lily asked, "I suppose you're not going to be the one to pick me up?"

"No," Scorpius stated. "I'm not." As much as he wanted to help her, all he would do would cause her more grief, and Lily didn't need that. That was what made Scorpius walk away, pushing his body against the wind and keeping his shivering hands stuffed in his pockets.

But Scorpius didn't make it very far before Lily screamed his name and then crashed into his chest. He was immediately overcome by her warmth, but it was the whisper of, "I'm sorry," that convinced him to wrap his arms around her.

She was the one who finally pushed him away. "Please, don't think of me as just somebody that you used to know."

Scorpius laughed, because it was so impossible, but also because it was so sad. He never thought he'd witness Lily Luna Potter begging somebody to be her friend. With her, the grovelling usually came from the other end.

"I won't," Scorpius answered before Lily became too offended by his chuckling. "I love you, Lil'. I just don't love you the way you want me to."

Her brown eyes were muddy, darker and duller than the golden wood they tended to resemble. They were wide open, unblinking and showing no sign of leaking with tears, when Lily asked, "What do I do now?"

"Find your friends. They haven't changed, Lily. They still love you, and they deserve to be loved back. And no matter what you might think right now, you deserve the same." She'd find somebody eventually, of that he was positive. She'd find the kind of love with someone that would induce jealousy for generations to come. But for now, she was still so young, and she still had her own kingdom of fourth years to rule. Nigel might be able to gain Hugo's attention for a while, but he'd never replace Lily as Hugo's queen.

When Lily nodded, Scorpius walked her back to the castle, but left her at the hallway of the moving staircases, Lily heading up to the Gryffindor tower to change her clothes while Scorpius made his way to the Great Hall to meet Rose for supper.

Rose wasn't there yet when Scorpius arrived, so he walked over to the Slytherin table and took a seat next to Ilana. A plate of food appeared as soon as he touched the table, a warm roll of bread with steaming soup and a glass of pumpkin juice. Just seeing it all made the frozen hairs on Scorpius's arm fall back against his skin in relief.

"You look like an igloo," Scorpius heard as he gulped back his soup. Ilana wasn't one to hold back on the insults, but this time Scorpius probably deserved it, what with the piles of snow he could feel melting off his shoulders.

"Yeah, well, I feel like one too," Scorpius managed to reply after swallowing. Shaking off the cold, he added, "But I've been meaning to thank you. Things went really well last night, and Nigel told me that you were the one who pulled everybody together. I seem to owe you quite a lot at this point."

"Don't mention it," Ilana shrugged off the compliment. "So, what's this whole Sign of Support campaign about? That girl prefect just pitched it in the common room, but nobody seemed to be listening."

"Why am I not surprised?" Scorpius mumbled before saying, "I just need signatures, but I doubt I'll get any. I don't suppose you'd sign it, would you?"

Ilana looked at him blankly as her hand gripped the book she'd been holding more tightly. When Scorpius glanced at its cover, he noticed that it was the same book he and Rose had given Al last year, the one all about potions that had an unmistakable stain smeared across its binding.

Scorpius didn't get the chance to ask Ilana if Al had lent the book to her, nor did Ilana get the chance to respond, before Rose popped herself down next to Scorpius and distracted him with a cheerful 'hello'. Ilana disappeared as soon as Rose had caught Scorpius's attention, but he didn't forget that she had failed to reply to his original question.

"I am happy to announce that I have collected a signature from each and every Gryffindor student," Rose said before noticing that Scorpius was still lost in thought. Once she sensed this, though, she asked much more seriously, "Scorpius, what's going on?"

Scorpius let himself blurt everything out before he could even think things over. "Ilana. She's of age, but she's not in the Order. Everybody else is, but she's not."

Rose was waiting for more explanation, but Scorpius was still processing. Ilana had been a good friend to him this year, and he almost felt connected to her in some strange, symbolic sort of way. But she was also so mysterious. He didn't really know anything about her, and McGonagall had said that one of the students might be acting as a spy. Was it possible that Ilana was being his friend because she was supposed to get closer to him? And if so, how did Al fit in to all of it?

"You think she might be the spy?" Rose asked when she finally caught on.

"No," Scorpius stated instinctively, but then shook his head and said, "I don't know. Maybe. But she couldn't be. Could she?"

"I don't know," Rose shrugged. "We're not really that close. Actually, I don't think I've spoken a word to her since last spring."

Scorpius tried not to think about it. It was unfair of him to accuse Ilana of something he had no proof of. Plus, since when had he become so paranoid? It seemed as though ever since McGonagall had warned him about this possible spy and Rose had freaked herself out about Al and Ron, he couldn't shake the feeling that this blizzard might be blowing danger their way, and fast.

"Never mind," Scorpius told Rose. He had other things to focus on, just as he had reminded Rose earlier that day. "You said you got a lot of signatures?"

"Loads," Rose smiled. She seemed to understand that he wanted to drop the subject of Ilana for now. "You have more support than you think you do."

"I guess so." Scorpius was grateful for all the help Rose had already given him with this campaign, but he still wondered if Gryffindor would be enough.

Changing the subject once again, he asked, "Are you doing all right?"

Rose answered him with a kiss. "I'm doing all right."

Scorpius shifted in his chair and was about to ask Rose if it'd be okay if he left her to go to sleep early when she said, "Go. We were up all night; you have reason to be tired. I'll be fine. I'll probably just eat supper with James and then go to bed myself."

"You sure?" If she asked him to stay, he would.

"I'm sure." She gave him one last kiss just to prove it, and he squeezed her hand as he stood up and walked out of the hall.

On his way into the Slytherin common room, Scorpius was bumped in the shoulder by a red-faced, loudly laughing Mercy, clad in a Montrose Magpies jersey with her hand extended out to an invisible space.

Scorpius scoffed at her, knowing full well that Mercy was sneaking James in for the night, no doubt under his Invisibility cloak. He hated to think that Rose wouldn't have anyone to eat with after all, but he knew that she'd manage.

So, Scorpius carried on through the common room, passing by the usual stares of suspicious Slytherins and finally approaching the bulletin board. He stopped here before going to his dormitory to check the campaign sign-up sheet. As Scorpius had expected, the sheet didn't have a single name on it. What he hadn't expected was the feeling of disappointment that came with it.

Later that week, with the aid of Professor McGonagall, Scorpius hosted the Order meeting for Hogwarts faculty. They were still in the middle of the Sign of Support campaign, but McGonagall had wanted to gather the teachers together before the term ended. Though Scorpius had been rather nervous about this night for quite some time, it didn't go nearly as badly as he'd anticipated.

All the professors had gathered themselves in McGonagall's office, the Heads of Houses seated on either side of her and Scorpius, the rest forming a semi-circle in front of them. None of the teachers were at all disrespectful toward Scorpius, though he did receive a few pointed looks from Smethley when he tried to give her orders. Luckily, Hagrid had a way of shutting them up with a single grunt every time Scorpius spoke.

After a couple of hours, they managed to talk through everything McGonagall had on the agenda, each teacher being assigned a job to do in order to not only help raise forces for the Order, but also for preparation to defend the castle if it were to be attacked. McGonagall wasn't willing to take any chances after what had happened in the Second Wizarding War, and Scorpius was undeniably grateful for that.

Professor Flitwick was the first to be given a task, and he would be involved in securing the school under highly powerful protective charms. Scorpius also suggested that he set aside a few Charms classes to teach all of his students these spells so that they could place them on their homes, since most of their families wouldn't be aware of such technical charms, not to mention the Muggle families that might be the first targets.

Pontner, the Potions professor, was up next. McGonagall informed her that she'd be in charge of brewing both goblets full of Felix Felicis, 'Liquid Luck', as well as antidotes that could be stored in the Hospital Wing, while Neville Longbottom was asked to grow some natural herbs that might aid in the treatments. Smethley was responsible for training both her students as well as out-of-practice professors in the art of dueling and would also be giving lessons on the subject to interested witches and wizards in London over Christmas break.

Binns was to rally all the ghosts he could find, while Patil and Trelawney kept their eyes out for signs of an invasion. Arthur Weasley was given the special task of visiting all the homes of the Muggle-born children over Christmas to inform them of the Forbidden Flock as well as the Order, and to ensure them that they and their children were being put under the best possible protection.

Hagrid was the last to be assigned a task, and his was arguably the most daunting of all the others. Not only was he asked to corral all of the Hogwarts game, but he was also responsible for speaking to the centaurs and spiders, training the thestrals, and seeing if he could gain the support of either the dragon breeders in Romania or the giants that had hidden somewhere in eastern Europe. When Hagrid seemed overwhelmed by his assignment, Scorpius reminded him that he could ask his students for help, and Hagrid agreed to put both Colin Creevey and Lorcan Scamander to work.

Once all the assignments had been handed out, some of the teachers began to reminisce over the last war, bringing up problems they'd had that might want to be avoided this time around. Though it was rather morose to speak about a war as if such a thing was already predetermined to take place, Scorpius understood that as long as he was in school, and as long as Astoria was supposedly after him, Hogwarts was the most likely candidate for the outbreak of a war to take place. Plus, Scorpius appreciated being let in on all of the design tactics and flaws that he would never have considered otherwise.

He was quick to write down some of these topics, ranging from the lack of floor plans of the castle and similar lack of defensive strategy, to the lack of space to hold the wounded, to the lack of replacement wands for all those who'd lost theirs during battle and then died upon being rendered defenseless. Though Scorpius didn't suggest any solutions to these problems during the meeting, he had tons of ideas rattling through his head that he made sure to note down.

After all, the Marauder's Map would be an incredibly useful tool if Scorpius could convince James to share it amongst the core alliance, let alone if he could figure out how to make duplicates for everyone. A strategy could easily be devised amongst the core alliance, and Scorpius would hopefully have Harry's help for that. More space could be made for the wounded if the school were to be given more medical supplies that could be stored in the dungeons or the Great Hall. (Scorpius had a feeling St. Mungo's might be willing to give a sizable donation if he were to remind them how early they'd discharged a certain murderous woman.) And as for the wands, well, Scorpius didn't think it would be too much of a challenge to convince Nigel to take up wand-making as a new hobby.

As Scorpius kept these plans to himself, however, McGonagall tried to reassure all the professors that enhancements would be made to the castle's facilities in due time, but that for now the focus was on raising awareness and keeping the students safe over the holidays. Once everyone accepted this and promised to make good on their assignments, McGonagall dismissed them for the night, Hagrid giving Scorpius a hug before he left and Neville agreeing to stick around longer to discuss something with McGonagall and Scorpius.

Neville was the only professor other than McGonagall who was also in the core alliance of the Order, so Scorpius assumed that was why McGonagall had him stay behind. His theory was confirmed when McGonagall sat back down at her desk and said, "We need to discuss the next Order meeting."

Scorpius and Neville turned their seats around to face McGonagall as the latter filled Scorpius in on her newest plans. "Professor Longbottom and I have discussed this at length, Scorpius, and we've agreed that a core alliance meeting should be held over the upcoming holiday break."

"Oh?" Scorpius asked. Break was starting next week, meaning that this meeting would take place relatively soon. Scorpius had been nervous enough for this meeting, and one with the core alliance, for which there was so much more responsibility involved, was sure to be far more nerve-wracking.

"Well," Neville piped in, "It seems time now that word is getting out about the Order for the leaders of the group to sort out some things. It'll be much less hypothetical than this meeting was, since the discussion will be on more practical terms: How close Harry is on Astoria's trail, what Hermione can tell us about Shacklebolt's plan to defend the Ministry, which Aurors Ron thinks might be ready to go after the other members of the Forbidden Flock, things like that. Really, we just all need to be on the same page, and we need you there to make sure that that happens."

As Scorpius tried to keep up, his brain still buzzing from all the war talk of the last hour, he nodded and said, "Okay. So, the meeting will be here, then? At Hogwarts?"

Neville wore a guilty expression as he let McGonagall take back the reigns. "Actually, Scorpius," she said. "Hogwarts is going to be completely closed this Christmas."

"What?" Scorpius practically spat at them. "You can't close Hogwarts!" Where was he supposed to go if the castle was on lockdown?

"Well, to be fair, I will stay at the castle," McGonagall defended herself. "But everyone else has been asked to make arrangements to stay elsewhere. We thought that it would be best to protect both you and the school by separating you during your most indefensible time."

Though the idea made sense, Scorpius had one rather large problem with the plan. "But if you're staying at the castle," he asked, "And everybody else is meant to leave, where will the Order meeting be? And where exactly am I supposed to stay?"

"I will not be attending the meeting," stated McGonagall curtly. Scorpius was about to ask why the hell not when McGonagall added, "You are more than capable of running things on your own. You proved that tonight. And do not worry about where you will stay; we've already made arrangements for you."

From the tone of her voice, Scorpius could tell that he wouldn't like what he was about to hear. Sure enough, Neville informed him of the terribly ironic location in which the meeting would take place. "I've asked Ron and Hermione to host the meeting in their house."

Scorpius felt like puking upon hearing Ron's name and knowing what his face might look like when Scorpius showed up at his doorstep again, not to mention the argument that Ron and Rose were bound to get in the moment she stepped of the train at King's Cross. Just to be sure that he'd heard correctly, Scorpius asked, "And Ron has agreed to this? To letting mestay at his house?"

"No, you won't be staying there," corrected McGonagall. That made more sense. "As a matter of fact, you won't technically be staying anywhere."

Scorpius didn't even bother asking what she meant this time. Luckily, McGonagall sensed his confusion and continued, "Ron and Hermione have been told that you will be spending certain days of the vacation in their home with them, including Christmas morning and Christmas day, which is when the meeting will take place. On the other days, however, as well as every night, you will be hidden in your Animagus form, which no one but Professor Longbottom and the younger Ms. Weasley will be aware of."

It didn't take long for Scorpius to comprehend what exactly McGonagall meant by what she was saying. She didn't want him staying with any family over Christmas, since it would only put a target on them from Astoria's eyes. His Animagus offered the perfect camouflage, allowing Scorpius to quite literally disappear whenever he needed to. As for the long, cold nights, Scorpius understood when McGonagall winked at him that he'd be able to sneak in to Rose's room, so long as he kept his presence hidden from the rest of the Order.

Well, Scorpius thought, this was sure to be interesting. On the one hand, he was glad that he'd have Rose with him, and that he'd be there to support her if and when she decided to address her father about what he'd said to Scorpius that summer. On the other hand, Scorpius wasn't so thrilled about spending any more time in that house after his experience there last Christmas, especially if it meant hosting an Order meeting with Ron, but without McGonagall there to cool the air between them.

Hoping to hear that Harry might be able to attend the meeting, Scorpius asked Neville, "So, will the entire core alliance be coming? Other than Professor McGonagall, that is."

"No," Neville replied, much to Scorpius's disappointment. "Harry's not willing to abandon Astoria's trail just yet. But everybody else should be there."

Scorpius didn't feel the need to hide his obvious sigh. Harry was the person he wanted to be there more than anyone else, so to hear that he wouldn't be, and that Scorpius would be completely alone in a room full of witches and wizards far more powerful than him, was even more daunting than Hagrid's assignment had been.

Trying to remember who exactly was part of the core alliance in hopes of realizing that there might be somebody he could lean on, Scorpius thought of someone he'd nearly forgotten about and asked, "Is my dad going to be there?" Scorpius wasn't completely sure if he even wanted Draco at the meeting, especially if it meant that he and Ron would be arguing the whole time, but he did think that it would be good to see him.

the chess piece, as well as his skin. He didn't notice. He didn't care.

"He hadn't told me where upstairs I was meant to go, but I already knew. I could feel it, almost like something was pulling me into her room. And when I got there, I wasn't surprised. All I felt was guilt. And I just collapsed. But when I tried to take her hand, it didn't feel like her. It felt more like a rock."

He needed to hear his father say it. He wouldn't believe it until Draco said the words.

"I think that's when it actually sunk in. That was when I finally understood what had happened, what Astoria had done, what I'd let her do. She murdered her. She murdered my mother. She murdered your grandmother."

Scorpius's strong, powerful, and crumbling hold on his knight crushed the chess piece into tiny, sharp blades of rock as he fell to the ground. He let his hands separate and sink into the snow at his sides, the blood from his palms flowing into the white magic and turning it a brilliant shade of red.

His family had officially fallen apart. His home had been broken, his support system had died, and his mother had taken a side. She'd chosen hate, and in doing so had murdered any speck of love the Malfoys had had left.

Scorpius must have sat on the snow for an eternity, since at one point Draco grew so worried that he started a fire with his wand to keep the two of them from catching some sort of hypothermia. Once he'd determined that they'd be kept warm enough, he joined Scorpius on the ground and just sat beside him.

Neither of them moved. Neither of them spoke. Neither of them cried. They just sat there, Scorpius's white collared shirt forming a camouflage in the snow, and Draco's blazer forming a camouflage in the night sky.

After a good hour of stillness, silence, and numbness, Draco managed to pull enough energy from the fire to say to Scorpius, "I don't think I should leave you here alone. I'll ask McGonagall if I can have a bed in the hospital wing. Maybe we could stay in the castle over Christmas as well."

"No," Scorpius stated. Speaking was easier than he'd thought it would be, but his order did sound more like a croak than a word. It wasn't that he didn't want Draco there, though. He just didn't want to change McGonagall's plans for him, and that meant that Draco would have to find somewhere else to run away to. Scorpius wasn't about to show the world that he was suddenly close with his father just to have Astoria blow up that relationship as well.

"Scorpius," Draco argued. "I know what it's like to think of nothing else but a person's death, during every minute of every day. I won't let you go through that alone."

"Why not?" Scorpius asked. He'd accepted his father's change of heart toward him, but that didn't mean he'd forgiven him for the childhood he'd made Scorpius endure. "I've been alone for as long as I can remember, and you didn't seem very concerned about it before. Nobody was, except for Narcissa."

"I know that," Draco admitted. "And I'm sorry." He didn't try to convince Scorpius to let him make up for his absence or the pain he'd caused on his son. He was too sympathetic for any of that.

Still, Scorpius didn't want to inflict any more weight onto Draco's shoulders. He was carrying enough guilt as it was. So, to subside that, Scorpius said, "And anyway, I won't be alone."

Draco didn't know whom Scorpius was referring to as his companion, and Scorpius took a moment to decide whether or not he should reveal Rose's identity. In the end, he went with his gut and said, "I'm seeing Rose Weasley. Actually, I'm not just seeing her. I'm in love with her."

This caused an effect on Draco that Scorpius hadn't seen coming. With the way he'd been acting lately, Scorpius had hoped that Draco might accept his alignment with the Weasleys, but Draco did no such thing. Instead, he was quickly on his feet and was walking away from Scorpius, only to turn around suddenly and say sharply with a rather threatening tone, "I'll see you at the Order meeting."

Well, Rose had been right about that, then. This was going to be one hell of a Christmas.

Scorpius was like a ghost as he made his way back to the castle. McGonagall must have left the gate open for him, for he had no trouble getting inside even though it was surely past midnight. Though he wasn't thinking about where he was headed, Scorpius let his feet lead him downstairs to the dungeons, where he walked through the long, empty hallway to the point of entry into the Slytherin common room.

He had his head down as he entered what he'd expected to be an empty room. But when he saw shadows laden across the carpet, he lifted his head to find nearly every Slytherin student piled into the room, the underclassmen falling asleep atop one another on every couch or chair available, and the older kids chatting to each other between yawns.

They all noticed Scorpius's appearance around the same time. As they looked to him with the same pitiful expressions as all the paintings in the portraits had shown, Scorpius realized that they had all stayed up and gathered together because they were waiting for him. And for the first time all year, Scorpius felt nothing but support from their overwhelming stares.

As they woke up and went silent, Mercy approached Scorpius and said, "We'd all like to apologize. None of us wanted to believe you when you said that you weren't a part of your mother's Flock. But we understand now that you couldn't possibly be working as her spy, not after what she did to your grandmother."

Scorpius glanced down at Mercy's hands, one of which was holding the same magazine Neville had received earlier, which must have had an article detailing Narcissa's death inside. In Mercy's other hand, however, was a single sheet of paper that Scorpius recognized immediately.

Upon seeing Scorpius take notice of the sheet, Mercy handed it over to him and said, "We all signed it, almost every single one of us." Mercy was one of the seventh years who was already part of the Order, but that was an allegiance to the right side, not to Scorpius. Her signature was now on the very top of Slytherin's Sign of Support campaign, followed by the names of various other Slytherin students. The only ones that seemed to be missing as Scorpius perused the sheet were, of course, Albus Potter and Ilana Higgs.

But Scorpius wouldn't fret about that now. He had plenty of other things to worry about, and so he wouldn't let something so trivial stop him from shaking Mercy's hand and nodding to the rest of the group in thanks as he walked to his dormitory. They'd all finally found a reason to follow him, but he couldn't help but wish that that reason hadn't been his grandmother's death.

This thought was in the forefront of Scorpius's mind as he opened his bedroom door to find Albus waiting for him by his bed. Before Al could say anything, Scorpius countered, "I'm not in the mood for an argument." Al hadn't yet addressed the topic of Rose with Scorpius, but Scorpius had just been waiting for the moment to arise.

Surprisingly, this wasn't the moment after all, since instead of yelling, Al replied softly, "Neither am I."

Scorpius looked up at Al then. His green eyes were surrounded by puffy, pink skin. His sharp jawbone was clamped tensely, and his black hair looked like it hadn't been washed in days. Something was definitely still going on with him, and it looked like he might have even spent the night crying.

"I'm sorry about your grandmother," he said sincerely.

Scorpius didn't reply as he tried to figure out why Al had suddenly become so sympathetic. He managed to get somewhat of an answer when Al handed Scorpius a glass jar from his bedside table and said, "Rose came to me about an hour ago, and she told me to give this to you. She said that you would know what it meant."

The jar was filled with Rose's classic bluebell flames, but somehow she had shaped them in a way that they formed a slowly burning rose petal. Beneath the floating embers sat a still golden needle. This was her way of telling Scorpius to come to her, and giving him an idea of how to do it.

Scorpius was almost out the door when he heard Al say, "I'm not going to stop being her best friend, even if she's willing to forgive you when I'm not."

Turning his head to the side but not completely facing Albus, Scorpius responded with, "Good. She needs a friend right now." He decided not to add the part about him needing one too.

Scorpius retraced his footsteps back up to the castle's open gate, where he quickly transformed into a falcon and flew through the night to the Gryffindor tower, which he circled around a couple of times before spotting Rose's open window and flying through it.

He was quick to transform back into a human as he landed rather ungracefully on her bed. Luckily, none of Rose's roommates woke up and Rose swiftly shut the window with her wand and drew the bed curtains closed around them. Then, just as Scorpius felt his body beginning to shake and a well of tears forming behind his eyes, Rose took him into her arms and held him while he grieved.

For the longest time, he couldn't stop shaking. Scorpius had been holding in all of his emotion before, and now it was seething out of him uncontrollably. He hadn't needed his father to stand by his side through this; he'd needed Rose.

"What does it feel like?" she asked as the shaking subsided, though Scorpius was still wrapped tightly beneath her, his tears dripping into her hair. "The pain?"

Scorpius remembered Rose's question from the other morning, when she had asked what his transformation had felt like. He hadn't answered in much detail then, but he could now. Because he remembered exactly how it felt: every piercing needle, every snapping nerve, and every shrieking cry. He remembered each and every second of that pain, but somehow, this was worse.

This time, there weren't any feathers that cut like razors, bones that crushed like shards of metal, or skin that burnt like the coarsest rope. This time, all he felt was his heart, shriveling at an exponential rate until he had to wonder where it had gone, and until every breath he took was an arduous fight to hold onto his last pocket of life. Much like his chess piece that was now gone forever, he was crumbling from the inside out.

"It feels like I'm disappearing." To himself, he added, and you're the only thing that's keeping me holding on.

And because she could see right through him and read his mind, she whispered, "Don't worry. I'm not letting go. I won't ever let go."

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