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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22. Mercy Underfoot (2/2)

"A second ago, you said that didn't matter!" Ilana responded. She was smiling, for she knew just as well as Scorpius how embarrassing it would be to put Mercy Golding on the house team. "Look, she likes James, and she wants to impress him. This would be the perfect opportunity for her. I'll even suggest it to her if you want me to. No grovelling necessary."

With a sigh, Scorpius complied. "Thanks," he said. At least this would make tryouts slightly more interesting.

Wanting to change the subject now, Scorpius asked Ilana, "So, you and Al are still friends?"

Crossing her arms, Ilana shot back at him, "You and Rose are still separated?" Scorpius took this as her way of saying that Al wasn't any of his business. He understood, and so he didn't press any further.

He wouldn't have had the chance to anyway, since at that moment, two seventh year boys ran into the common room in hysterics, and their screaming quickly gathered all the Slytherins around the couches, anxious to hear what was going on.

"The Flock's growing," said Salem Keyes, the larger, burlier of the two, with dark hair and olive skin.

"And the Daily Prophet is all over it," added Aaron Goodall, who had lighter and longer hair than Salem, and was usually less outspoken. Both he and Salem were Chasers on the Quidditch team, so Scorpius knew them well. They had yet to talk to him this year, though, as had most of Scorpius's classmates and teammates alike.

Aaron, who had a copy of the newspaper in his hand, started to read from the front page as the crowd silenced, "'The Flock has officially spread its wings. While leader Astoria continues to lie low in hiding, her followers have taken control of the mission to form a Pureblood world. Last night, two Muggles were murdered in the town of Little Whinging, Surrey. Knox Rookwood, grandson of Death Eater, Augustus Rookwood, was spotted fleeing the site by a Mr. Dudley Dursley, neighbor to the murdered Muggles and cousin of none other than Harry Potter, Head of the Auror Department at the Ministry of Magic. When asked if Astoria may be trying to send a message to Mr. Potter, the latter refused to comment. Though the Auror Department is clearly taking the matter very seriously, with both Astoria and Rookwood now on the run, it seems to be just a matter of time until the next tragedy strikes.'"

After Aaron had finished reading, it took a moment for the students to take in the news. Once they did, questions were being asked left, right, and center, half of which seemed to be directed at Scorpius. Most of these were just rhetorical, more like pointed accusations than questions, so Scorpius tried to ignore them as he thought about what this meant for Harry.

Astoria was most definitely trying to send him a message. Harry had been tracking her for the past month or so, and this was her way of telling him that she wasn't afraid, and that she could find means to mess with him before he could even figure out where she was. But what was her secret? How was she hiding from Harry, from the entire Ministry, with such ease? Scorpius felt like he, more than anyone, should have the answer to this question, but he didn't. The entire student body had been expecting him to come up with some answers too, but he never had any.

"What town did he say they were from? The Muggles?" Ilana asked from beside Scorpius. He had practically forgotten she was still there, which was an effect she seemed to have on most people.

"Er, Little Whinging," Scorpius replied. "Why?"
Ilana didn't appear to have heard Scorpius's question, for as soon as he gave her the name of the town, she had disappeared. Still, her voice had brought Scorpius's ears back into focus, and he was now hearing the questions from everybody else.

"Augustus Rookwood," Salem muttered then, peering over the paper in Aaron's hand. "That name sounds familiar."

Aaron responded, "Wasn't he the one who murdered-" but was interrupted.

"Fred Weasley... Senior," Al finished for him, walking toward the crowd from where he had been standing in the corner, silently looking in on everyone.

"Oh, sorry, mate," Salem sighed as Al came closer and took the newspaper from Aaron. Al was of course relatively friendly with both boys, since before today, he had been their fellow Chaser.

"No worries," Al replied. With a shrug, he added, "It's not like I ever knew him." He then looked at the paper quickly before tossing it into the fire and walking away. This was not the usual Albus. Al was the one who was always overly concerned about news in the Prophet. He was the one who always analyzed it, having the mind of natural Auror. He never just tossed important articles aside.

As if on cue, the crowd dissipated then. Everyone went back to what they had been doing before, most of them eyeing Scorpius on their way. It didn't matter, though. Scorpius didn't care about any of them. He only cared about his best friend, and he couldn't help but wonder if that person even existed anymore.

She was good. In fact, she was really good. Mercy was a natural flier, and had sharp hand-eye coordination to boot. As Scorpius watched her score six goals in a row at tryouts, getting past Keeper Lindsay Doyle with ease and working well with the smitten Salem and Aaron, he tried to remind himself that this was a good thing. All the other teams would be stepping up their games this year following Slytherin's win, so Scorpius needed to step it up as well. Last year, he had practiced like a fiend, and he had performed exceptionally well at each and every one of his games, but his team had lacked unity. With Mercy's skills, Scorpius may be able to pull everybody together this year. Unfortunately, he still found himself wishing he had Al instead.

Once Mercy and the only other prospective Chaser (a first year who hadn't scored at all), were finished, Scorpius called up the Beaters. There were four contenders this time, as young Slytherins, all of whom possessed more than enough aggression necessary for the position, had been preparing to take the spot for years. First up, flying alongside current Beater, Madison Bulstrode, was a well-built fifth year boy. He used the bat well, nearly knocking Scorpius off his broom a number of times, but he had no idea that he was meant to pass the bludgers as well. After him came two slightly smaller third year boys, both of whom were spry and wicked fast, but lacked the strength required to hit the bludgers with great power. Scorpius rolled his eyes at the last prospective, who was a scrawny, dark-haired fourth year named Arnia Samuels.

As was expected, Arnia was at first very hesitant of the screaming bludgers, instinctively swerving away from them whenever one came her way. Scorpius was about to call it a day, accepting the fact that he'd have to take the burly show-off, when Arnia's bat finally made contact with a ball. The bludger came straight from center field, so it hadn't been a very difficult shot. What amazed Scorpius is how much force the tiny girl put behind it, exhibiting more energy than the two third years had displayed combined.

"That's enough!" Scorpius yelled with a smile after seeing the hit. Granted, Arnia would need some training to become comfortable with the sport, but Scorpius couldn't resist the little ball-buster.

The team and the rookies assembled on the ground within moments, all anxious to hear Scorpius's decision. "Okay," he started, his voice unexpectedly filled with a bit of excitement. "First off, thanks for trying out. You were all really great, and I think I can speak for the whole team when I say that we appreciate the enthusiasm, and as always, will appreciate any continued support.

"Now, down to business. I am happy to announce that Mercy Golding will be joining the Chasers for the season, alongside Arnia Samuels, who'll play Beater." The girls gratefully shook Scorpius's hand and took their new jerseys, Mercy looking unaffected as she let down her hair and shook it with confidence, Arnia shocked but ecstatic. "Congratulations," added Scorpius, not failing to notice that the would-be glares from all the other rookies had been replaced with dumbfoundedness as they stared at Mercy with their jaws dropped to the ground. The girl may induce some unity after all, Scorpius thought to himself.

At that, the team left the field, but Scorpius stayed to pack up the equipment. This was normally a sub-captain's job, but of course Scorpius didn't have one at the moment. He had a few minutes of peace to himself, thinking about a potential training schedule for Arnia, before Rose arrived, ready to set up for Gryffindor's tryouts.

"Hi," Scorpius said to her just as soon as he had forced the bludgers back into the chest. He didn't know what exactly had prompted him to speak as he stood up to face her, his hands stuffed in his pockets, but in the back of his mind, he was glad that it did.

"Hi," Rose reciprocated, placing her own chest and Keeper pads on the ground. "Did tryouts go well?"

"Yeah, really well, actually." The conversation was already awkward, since once again, Scorpius couldn't say what he needed to.

"Good," Rose nodded. She averted her eyes from his, looking around the field, and then commented, "It's a beautiful day."

She was right. The sky was bright blue, the exact shade of Rose's eyes. Noticing how open and still it was, Scorpius had the sudden urge to be his falcon self so that he might fly around the entirety of Hogwarts, something he'd always wanted to do. Realizing that that was exactly what he should do at this very moment, Scorpius asked Rose, "Do you have some time? Before everybody else shows up?"

"Sure," Rose answered. "Why?"

"I want to show you something," Scorpius said, slowly backing away from her. Now, her eyes were transfixed on him, though her feet remained glued to the grass. "This is a part of what I did this summer; the first of many things I have to tell you."

Rose didn't say anything as Scorpius turned around and started running. As the adrenaline kicked in and instinct took control, Scorpius transformed smoothly and spread his wings as far as they dared to go. As he gained altitude, he directed himself around the tower stands in the pitch, gliding from one to the next with the energy provided by the trailing wind.

Then he went further, flying past the Astronomy tower to discover that, luckily, James and Lysander weren't there. He then swerved atop the courtyard, overlooking all the students walking in and out of the castle gates. Finally, he came to the Black Lake, which he proceeded to fly over, his talons not far from the water's surface so that he could feel the mist soak through his feathers. Then he turned around, heading back to the pitch where Rose was waiting for him.

She was spinning in circles when he got back, trying to catch a glimpse of his return. When she spotted him, Scorpius set his aim and dove, dropping straight downward only to angle forward at the precise moment that allowed him enough room to transfigure back into his human form and land steadily on the ground, mere inches away from Rose.

As Scorpius panted to catch his breath, Rose seemed just as exhausted. She hadn't budged, even when Scorpius had looked as though he might fly straight into her, but she still looked rather shocked. Of course, she had known that Scorpius was an Animagus, for he had returned her ring as a falcon, but the confirmation, along with seeing the transformation in person, was surely a bit surreal.

Scorpius waited for Rose to say something this time, desperately wanting to know what she thought about his uncanny ulterior self, but she didn't speak. Instead, she put her hands on his face, just as she had a few nights ago, and traced her fingers over it. She started with his eyebrows, then his cheekbones, and then his ears and his neck, familiarizing herself with the boy she had just seen disappear.

When her fingers touched his lips, Scorpius leaned toward her, hoping they might embrace, but jerked his head back when he heard chattering from behind him. The moment now ruined, Scorpius looked angrily at James, who was leading his team up the field, his arm locked around Mercy, clad in her new jersey with James's same number: 7.

Fortunately, the two were much too preoccupied with each other to notice Scorpius and Rose, and instead headed over to the locker room, which they proceeded to enter whilst snogging their faces off.

The rest of the team approached Rose, but Scorpius was far enough away from her now so that it didn't look as though they had just shared a potentially intimate moment. As soon as Scorpius spotted Lily amongst the crowd, he decided it was time to leave, and so he walked off the field, overhearing an energetic Hugo announcing his excitement for the tryouts to his sister. Just hearing Rose's name made Scorpius want to turn around and kiss her before he had to leave, but he refrained from doing so. In the meantime, he decided that he'd try to take things slow with Rose, maybe start out with something just short of a kiss. And if and when they did kiss again, Scorpius promised himself that he would make sure the moment was as magical as Rose deserved it to be.

"PASS!" Scorpius yelled. "PASS!" He repeated a few moments later. When Aaron finally listened, Salem scored, and Arnia knocked Lindsay off her broom seconds later. Watching the Keeper clutch her stomach and start to turn green, Scorpius announced, "All right, done for the day!"

The players graciously flew to the ground and headed to their lockers to change. It had been an admittedly exhausting first practice on an extremely early morning, and hadn't been all that successful due to a certain missing player.

"Hey, Aaron, are you sure you haven't heard anything from Mercy?" Scorpius asked Mercy's fellow seventh year before he ran off. (Nobody stayed behind with Scorpius this year, not that he expected them to.)

"No, sorry," Aaron replied. "I'll see her in class, though, and I can tell her you want to talk to her."

"Thanks." Then Aaron was gone too, and Scorpius was left alone, already regretting his decision to give Mercy a spot on the team. He hadn't had much of a choice, and she was bound to know that. The girl wasn't particularly bright, but she was manipulative. If she decided not to come to any of the practices this season, it wasn't as if Scorpius could kick her off the team in punishment, since he didn't have anybody else.

At that, Scorpius quickly packed up the equipment and headed off the pitch. On his way back to the castle, he passed by Hagrid's Hut and considered knocking on the giant's door, but decided not to. It didn't feel right to visit Hagrid without Al and Rose, especially since they were the ones who usually had to convince Scorpius to make the short trip to the hut in the first place.

Lost in the thought, Scorpius almost didn't notice Ilana standing beside one of the stones that made up the sundial at the top of the hill. Since she didn't make a sound, Scorpius walked right past her, but then spotted her dark hair in his peripheral vision just as he was stepping onto the wooden bridge.

Walking back toward her, Scorpius followed her gaze to face Hagrid's Hut once more, where a door was now opening to reveal Hagrid and Albus, locked in a tight hug.

"One second, he's encouraging the entire school to blame you for everything that's happening, and the next, he's holding Rose to comfort her or having tea with a professor," Ilana whispered, her eyes still locked on Al. "I just can't figure him out."

"Funny," Scorpius laughed. "He and Rose used to say the same thing about you."

Ilana looked at Scorpius now, her green eyes the exact same shade as the ones Scorpius had found a friend in so long ago. Ilana wasn't wrong; Al was acting strangely, but Scorpius didn't want that to give Ilana a bad impression of Al. Scorpius would never want to hurt Al by ruining his chances like that.

With a serious, pleading tone in her voice, Ilana asked, "Is he a good guy, Scorpius? Or is he just playing me like he is you?"

Glancing down at Al, who was now slowly walking up the stone path, Scorpius said sincerely, "He's the best guy I know." Then, looking back at Ilana, he added, "You like him, don't you?"

Almost imperceptibly, but still enough for Scorpius to see, she nodded.

"Well, he likes you too, you know," Scorpius informed her. He wasn't great at playing matchmaker, but Ilana looked like she could use some encouragement.

"I know," responded Ilana. "That's the problem." And in a flash, she had turned around and was already half way across the bridge.

Scorpius didn't bother to run after her, and instead took his time in getting to the Transfiguration classroom. Even with the lagging, Scorpius was still one of the first to arrive, with the exception of Rose, who was standing in the doorway, trying to decide where to sit.

So far this year, Rose had sat with Lucy in Transfiguration, one row behind the front, where Scorpius had his own desk (one he used to share with Rose). Walking up from behind her and trying to remain unseen, Scorpius watched Rose tentatively walk up to his desk and take her old seat.

Smiling, Scorpius followed Rose's path and sat down beside her, where they stayed completely still until the rest of the students had filed in, followed by Professor McGonagall in her Animagus form: a brown tabby cat.

McGonagall quickly transformed and instructed the class to work on a set of two new spells, the first being to conjure a flock of birds with the Avis spell, and then to duplicate the birds with the Geminio spell. The professor then began to walk around the classroom to observe the students at work.

Scorpius performed both spells silently and soon had ten yellow birds circling his head, while failed attempts around the room were accompanied by incredible bangs and bursts from people's wands. Rose, who had always loved this spell, had some birds pretty quickly, but then couldn't manage to duplicate them.

Noticing Rose's frustration, Scorpius decided that now might be a good time to speak, and so he turned to her and said, "Rose, you're concentrating too hard. Just look at the bird and imagine it cloning itself. It's all in your head."

Rose did as she was told, but it didn't work. Still wanting to help, Scorpius suggested, "Here, I'll do it with you. This time, don't even look at the bird. Just look at me." He didn't know how this could possibly work, but he knew that Rose could see through him. So, he figured she might be able to do exactly what he did if she just looked at him.

Looking at Rose, who was now staring back at him, Scorpius gripped his wand and pointed it above his head at the birds, then said, "On the count of three. One, two, three, Geminio." And with two simultaneous pops, the birds multiplied.

Rose smiled and laughed, and Scorpius felt as if his heart had suddenly warmed a few degrees inside his chest. She was constantly teaching him, fixing him, and so it was new to be the one teaching her. It felt incredible, but the feeling didn't last forever.

"Well done, Ms. Weasley, Mr. Malfoy," McGonagall said, approaching Rose and Scorpius from behind.

Blushing, Rose replied cordially, "Thank you, Professor."

McGonagall then addressed Scorpius and said, "Remember, I'd like to meet with you tonight. Come to my office first thing after dinner," and walked off again.

Scorpius sighed. Somehow, he had managed to forget that McGonagall had scheduled his first private lesson for tonight. He had secretly been hoping to spend the evening with Rose, if not to tell her everything, than at least to be around her. Glancing at her now, he could tell from the shrunken eyes that she had been hoping for the same thing. Unfortunately, that would no longer be possible, so Scorpius would have to make up for it during the day instead.

Following Transfiguration, and after Rose came back from Muggle Studies, Scorpius had lunch with her in the Great Hall. Luckily, Al wasn't there to give them any grief, though Rose had no idea where he had gone. She seemed to be just as confused by Al's recent behavior as Scorpius was.

"He was like this all summer, though," Rose mentioned at some point. Scorpius had been avoiding the topic of this summer, but Al seemed to qualify as neutral territory.

"What d'you mean?" Scorpius asked in response. He knew from Rose's letters that Al had been secretive, but he and Rose had stopped writing after less than a month, and Lily hadn't ever mentioned anything out of the ordinary.

"Well, it was like what he said to you the other day," Rose explained. "We were searching everywhere for you. The thing is, he took it really far. There were a few times where he was gone all day, but he wouldn't tell me where he was going until he'd already come back, and this one time, he told me he'd gone all the way to the Leaky Cauldron, only he'd already claimed to have checked there just a few days before."

"So what, you think he was lying?" Scorpius asked. "You don't think he was looking for me at all?"

For a while, Rose didn't answer, and Scorpius could tell that she didn't want to. She didn't like talking about her best friend behind his back, and neither did Scorpius, but they were both worried about him. After a while, Rose took a deep breath and went back to the conversation by asking, "You don't reckon he's been going off with Ilana, do you? I mean, she wasn't at his birthday party, but that might not mean anything."

Scorpius didn't want to disappoint Rose, for he knew that she was hoping Al had lied for Ilana rather than for something worse, but Scorpius didn't want to add another lie to Rose's already heavy load. "No, I don't think so," he said. "I don't think much of anything's happened between them, at least not yet."

"Yeah, I figured as much," Rose said, her head down in defeat. "I mean, even if that was the case, it wouldn't explain the way he's been treating you lately." She was out of ideas, and Scorpius had never had any to begin with.

Still, Scorpius wondered if Al really needed an excuse for his anger toward him. Scorpius would be angry too, if their roles were reversed. "He's mad at me, Rose. I can understand that. I didn't expect it, but I can accept it."

"No, Scorpius, it's more than that," Rose argued. She seemed adamant about this, so Scorpius listened as intently as he could, even if Rose's words hurt to hear. "He doesn't want anything to do with you. He says he can't look at you anymore, and he doesn't want me anywhere near you. It took a lot of convincing for me to make sure he didn't snap at you in Transfiguration today, when I sat with you. I think, in the end, the only reason he agreed was so that he wouldn't have to face you again. It's like he thinks you're his enemy."

Her words stung, making it difficult for Scorpius to consider what was going on with Al in a rational way. Not being able to help himself, Scorpius dropped his head into his hand and rubbed his eyes. When he faced Rose yet again, he realized that he may just have to bring up this summer after all, so he said slowly, "I left him, Rose. I never sent him a single letter, and then I hid right behind his house without bothering to make any contact with him. He's my best friend, and I just left him."

His eyes were tearing at this point, but Scorpius didn't care. Rose had seen worse, so he continued, "I left both of you. I'm just always leaving people." He meant it in more ways than one, which he knew Rose would understand.

Just like the other night, Rose's fingers were so close to touching Scorpius, and he knew that she wanted to reach out to him. Rose was a natural at comforting people, but Scorpius hadn't given her permission yet. No matter how much he wanted to, he still wasn't ready.

But Rose did manage to console him with words, as she replied sternly, "No. People are always leaving you." She didn't get the chance to say more, since the bell rang to signal the next class, and everyone still in the Great Hall began the frantic rush out.

Scorpius and Rose gathered their things calmly before heading up to the Astronomy Tower for their night class. Al had dropped Astronomy (as N.E.W.T. level wasn't required to become an Auror), so Scorpius and Rose took two adjacent telescopes for themselves without protest.

For this class, Professor Patil instructed the students in their first independent constellation study, walking them through the set-up before letting them find, name, and classify a given constellation on their own. To make things more interesting, the first student to complete the task was to be named for one of the stars within the mystery constellation.

Though Astronomy wasn't her favorite subject, Rose went right to work, leaving Scorpius to watch her with pure enjoyment. At first, he tried to copy what she was doing, focusing the telescope gradually and drawing what he saw, but Rose went much too quickly for him to follow.

Once she was happy with her focus, Rose stuck to drawing, mapped out her entire view of the night sky, and began separating all the stars into their respective groups, looking for the one full constellation that would earn her a star. By the time that Rose circled the constellation on her map and wrote its name at the top of the paper, Scorpius had just started drawing.

Curiously, instead of calling Professor Patil over to give the answer, Rose finished the task and just stood there, silently staring at her scroll. When Scorpius noticed that she was finished but wasn't doing anything about it, he turned away from his own work and asked Rose, "Don't you want to tell her? Vane could get it any minute now." Myriam Vane was a Hufflepuff, also in sixth year, and she tended to do well in Astronomy.

Rose looked back at Scorpius, but didn't do as he suggested. Instead, she said, "What I said before, about people leaving you... I'm not going to be one of those people. All you have to do is believe me."

"Rose, wh-" Scorpius was confused, but he didn't get to finish his question.

"Professor, I think I've got it," Rose announced then, holding up her paper and handing it over to Patil when the teacher came near.

"Let me see here, Ms. Weasley," mumbled Patil. "Ah, yes, you have circled the correct constellation. You named it as Scorpius, which is also correct. Congratulations, and I'll be contacting the Ministry to name your star shortly!"

When Scorpius heard the name of the constellation, which was the one he had been named after long ago, he understood. With Rose's star, she would now have a permanent place within the Scorpius constellation; she'd never leave.

As Patil announced Rose's win to the rest of the class, Scorpius reached out his arm and took Rose's hand in his, which proved to be the perfect first step he'd been hoping for. Touching her again gave him the familiar sense of companionship and even safety. For the first time since last spring, Scorpius actually felt like he and Rose stood a chance of ending up together after all. They had been through so much over the past year, and Scorpius knew some of the biggest struggles were yet to come, but he also understood now that everything would be easier if they had each other's hands to hold onto.

After the other students rolled their eyes at Rose's win and then went back to their own work (they wouldn't be dismissed until they named the constellation themselves), Patil turned back to Rose and added, "You may go now, Ms. Weasley. It's good you finished so quickly, as I was asked to inform you that your father has arrived, and is waiting for you in Professor Longbottom's office. He said he came early in order to wish you a happy birthday. Did you really turn seventeen today?"

"No," Rose responded with a glance at Scorpius. They had both spent the day together because they knew it was a special one, though neither had mentioned the reason behind it. "I'm only sixteen, actually."

"Well," Patil said, quite shocked at how young Rose was in comparison to the rest of her class, "All the more impressive, I suppose. Anyway, I hope you have a good night, and make sure to say hello to your father for me. We seem to have lost touch over the years, but I'll always remember him as my very first dance partner, regardless of the fact that I'm not sure what he was doing qualifies as dancing."

Rose raised her eyebrows in surprise at this. She and Scorpius were used to Professor Patil speaking more than was necessary, but tonight she had reached a whole new level. "Er," Rose responded hesitantly, "Sure, I'll let him know."

And with a smile, Patil was off to check on Vane, who had recently finished. Rose was just about to leave to meet Ron when Scorpius grabbed her arm and said, "I didn't forget, you know. I'm just not ready yet. Soon, but not yet."

"Okay," Rose nodded, not at all disappointed in Scorpius's explanation. She was patient, but Scorpius could tell that she too knew they would reunite before long, and that it was just a matter of time. "I'll see you tomorrow, then."

"See you tomorrow," Scorpius agreed. And as he watched her go, he prayed that he'd be ready to tell her everything soon.

"Malfoy, get back to work!" Patil yelled at him. It took him the rest of the hour to finish his own map, and he was one of the last to leave the tower and head downstairs to the Great Hall for supper.

As soon as Scorpius took his spot at the Slytherin table beside a quiet Ilana, he could hear the fish-mouth sound of snogging coming from his left. He didn't even need to turn his head to know that it was Mercy and James, but decided to address them nonetheless.

During the split second that their mouths weren't plastered together like double-sided tape, Scorpius cleared his throat to gain their attention. Mercy, who was closest to Scorpius, turned toward him, though James continued to whisper nonsense in her ear.

Choosing to ignore Mercy's distraction, Scorpius asked defiantly, "Where were you this morning? I posted the practice on the bulletin board in the common room, and I know for a fact that Aaron reminded you of it, so don't tell me you didn't know."

"I didn't," Mercy argued, pausing to laugh at James before she explained, "Goodall's a twat, and he always has been. I've never listened to a word he's said."

"And you don't check the board?" Asked Scorpius, ready to roll his eyes. He knew that she could get away with anything because he desperately needed her on the team, but he hoped that she wasn't smart enough to realize it.

"Pff, check the board," James mumbled from somewhere beneath Mercy's hair.

Laughing at him once again, Mercy said in the most innocent of tones, "I haven't exactly been to the common room in a while. You know, otherwise occupied."

This time, Scorpius did roll his eyes. Under his breath, he commented sarcastically, "Oh, that's just lovely." Strictly speaking, students weren't allowed to sleep outside their dormitories, but plenty of sixth and seventh years made it their life goal to break that rule. James and Mercy were probably the only students who managed to break it almost every night.

Turning his attention back to Mercy's attendance, Scorpius suggested, "All right, well how about I tell you personally about all of the practices from now on? That way, you'll be sure to know about them."

"Sure thing, Rose Petal, go ahead," Mercy replied, but she clearly wasn't listening, too busy receiving a hickey on her neck from James.

Refraining from commenting on the nickname, Scorpius swerved his head to try to make eye contact with Mercy and said, "Look, Quidditch is a big commitment. We practice every other day in the fall, and if one player doesn't show up, the whole team suffers. I'd appreciate it if you could understand that, or at the very least, respect it!"

James, who had resurfaced now, decided to interject with, "Lay off her, Scorp. If she can make a practice, she'll go; if she can't, get a sub. Just stop blaming all your team's problems on her."

"My team's problems?" Scorpius fired back. James had no right to belittle him about Quidditch, even if he was on a professional team now. "What do you know about my team? You're the one who's too busy shagging people to pay attention to your own team's weaknesses, let alone Slytherin's!"

James didn't budge at the accusation, but merely leaned forward and said smoothly, "Oh, my team is very much under control, and I think you'll be in for a real surprise come November."

Scorpius didn't exactly thing Hugo and Roxanne Weasley, who were surely the new Beater and Chaser for Gryffindor, would prove to have any exceptional hidden skills, but Scorpius continued to listen anyway.

"And as for you guys," James continued, "It's common knowledge that Doyle's got nothing on Rose, and don't even get me started on what losing Al will do to you. As for your new members, I approve of Mercy of course, but what's with your Beater? Confidence is key, Scorpius, and let me tell you, she's got none. You'd have been way better off with the fifth-year, even if he was dumb as a doorknob."

Scorpius was about to spit back to defend his team, but his jaw dropped when he realized that James seemed to know all about Slytherin's tryouts, including Arnia Samuels, who had been the one player Scorpius had been trying to keep secret until the first match. He normally expected James to know all these things with his regular spying, but Scorpius had flown past the Astronomy Tower just after the tryouts, and James hadn't been there.

Wondering where James could have possibly gotten all this information from, Scorpius turned back to Mercy, who had a very prominent smirk stained on her porcelain face. "Did you tell him everything, or just what was most important to hide from him?" Scorpius asked angrily. He wasn't the type to get mad easily, but Mercy was really pushing his buttons at this point. After losing Al along with his prefect position, not to mention his life-long relationships with the other two Potter children, Scorpius wasn't about to watch his Quidditch team be pummelled on by a girl who might pass as a world-class veela.

"Relax, Story Boy," Mercy shrugged at him, using an even cruder nickname this time. Scorpius didn't ever appreciate being linked to his mother, especially in such a nonchalant manner. "And stop pretending like you can control me. You need me way more than I need you, so I wouldn't be complaining about me missing practices. The less I go to, the less James knows about them, so really, it's a win-win."

Oh yeah, she's smarter than she looks, Scorpius thought to himself. And as terrible as it was, she made a good point. Acting as a full-on spy for Gryffindor meant that the less she knew about her own team, the better. That hardly qualified as a 'win-win', but at this point, Scorpius didn't have any other choice but to accept Mercy's ultimatum.

"Right," Scorpius swallowed his pride. "A win-win."

"Brilliant," Mercy smiled. She and James then stood up and left the hall, Mercy whispering to Scorpius on her way out, "I'll see you at the match. Anything more than that, I can't promise, but hey? At least I'm more loyal than your so-called best mate."

Scorpius was well aware that it was Mercy's intention to leave him seething over someone other than her, but he still let it take hold of him. Al was the first person he wanted to blame for his sad excuse for a Quidditch team, and he had to remind himself that he had been the one to drive Al away. But was deserting him this summer really reason enough for Al to, as Rose claimed, to see Scorpius as his enemy, even after five full years of friendship? Maybe Rose was right... maybe there was something worse going on with Al than she and Scorpius knew. And as his best friends, they should probably try to figure out what it was before it was too late.

Turning back to his food but having lost his appetite, Scorpius mumbled to Ilana, "You're right. I can't figure him out either."

Ilana chuckled slightly, and then Scorpius bid her goodnight and left the hall, on his way to McGonagall's office for their first meeting. He wasn't quite sure what to expect from the evening, so he found himself rather anxious about it as he stood on the moving steps that spiraled their way to the office.

Once he made it to the top, memories began to flood the back of his mind, each frame shooting toward him from various points in the entryway. He hadn't expected to feel so uncomfortable here, but seeing the griffin-shaped knockers made Scorpius think of Shunpike's slimy hands banging them with excitement, and the two large doors reminded him of the disappointed faces he had once met behind it. Last year, when he had been accused for the murder of Argus Filch (though clearly, he had been completely innocent), everything that happened from the time he was pulled out of his History of Magic exam to when Shunpike locked him up in a tower cell had been a blur, but now it was strikingly clear. He remembered every second of it, though he desperately wanted to forget.

"Scorpius," greeted McGonagall at one point, though Scorpius hadn't noticed her open the doors. "I thought you might be hesitant to knock. Please, come in."

Scorpius followed the Headmistress inside, where he tried to focus on the cages of animals that were so like the ones in the Transfiguration classroom, along with the cupboard in the corner that enclosed the pensieve Harry had told Scorpius about once before. He wished he could use it now, to free his mind of that painful day last spring when he himself had questioned whether or not he had murdered someone, and just hadn't been aware of it.

"I apologize for the memories," McGonagall told him sincerely, now standing with Scorpius in the middle of the circular room. "I hope you know that you're here now for much more respectable reasons, and I promise you that you're completely safe this time."

Scorpius nodded, unable to speak just yet. Instead of conversing, McGonagall led him to the chair in front of her desk and gave him a moment to sit and gather his thoughts. Eventually, Scorpius managed to separate the past from the present, and looked at McGonagall (still standing beside him) to let her know that he was fine now.

Understanding, she walked around the desk and sat on the other side to face Scorpius. "All right," she said, her tone growing more serious and less personal now. "Let's start by talking about the rebirth of the Order of the Phoenix, and what that means for you."

"Okay," Scorpius blurted out. He was more than happy to learn more about this, since as of now, he had no idea what his actual position would be within the defensive organization, let alone who else was involved.

"Ron and Hermione Weasley were the first to send out word about the Creevey attack this summer, and they have since been making plans to reform the Order with survivors from the Battle of Hogwarts, hoping to meet with as many as they can on a regular basis," explained McGonagall.

"And what are the meetings about?" Scorpius asked.

"Assigning tasks, mainly. Right now, the goal is to simply raise awareness of the Forbidden Flock and hopefully gather more people than Astoria can, but very soon, people will be given specific roles to play that will help to defend the magical world against un uprising." McGonagall was very methodical in relaying all this information to Scorpius, and didn't seem to have any fear regarding this potential uprising, which was obviously more than just potential.

"Right," Scorpius said, his nerves tingling slightly. He wasn't nearly as relaxed as McGonagall, but hopefully he could learn to be. After all, he had come back to Hogwarts so that he wouldn't have to fight this war alone, and McGonagall was already being a huge help in that department. Scorpius just hoped that he could be what the people needed him to be. Curious, he asked, "So, who exactly have they already contacted? How big is the Order right now?"

Well prepared, McGonagall took a sheet of paper off the top of a pile on her desk and handed it to Scorpius. It was a list of people in the present Order, and was quite extensive, ranging from the expected Weasleys and Potters, to other family names that Scorpius recognized from fellow Hogwarts students, to every single Hogwarts professor, to names he didn't recognize but that had been written with Ministry titles. There were even a few current Hogwarts students, all of whom were over seventeen now, including James, Lysander, Lorcan, Aaron, Salem, and even Mercy. Interestingly, Ilana was one of the few current seventh years not on the list.

"And, does everyone have an equal position, or is there a leading group of some sort?" Scorpius asked. He hadn't forgotten that McGonagall had recently informed him that he was to be the overall leader, but he was hoping that he'd have a bit of adult support to back him up.

"Yes, there is," McGonagall said, ready for this question as well. "At the moment, the core members are Ron and Hermione Weasley, Harry, Ginny, and James Potter, Ted Lupin, Luna Lovegood, Dennis and Natalie Creevey, Professor Longbottom, and myself."

Scorpius nodded. It was a pretty good group of people, most of whom he'd met before. Granted, Harry wouldn't be around much so long as he was hunting Astoria. Ron and James would be no fun to work with, and Scorpius was somewhat surprised to hear James's name at all, considering how much time he'd have to devote regardless of whatever job he earned with the Magpies. The Creeveys and Luna Lovegood were the only people he hadn't met yet, but he had heard about Luna, and figured that the Creeveys must be good, brave people if they had signed up to be Order leaders after they had seen first-hand how powerful Astoria was.

"Also," McGonagall added, "Your father has requested to join. I told him that I wanted to speak with you about it first. If you are all right with it, I'll have an Auror make sure he isn't hoping to spy for the Flock."

This was the biggest surprise yet. Scorpius hadn't spoken to Draco since he had kicked him out that summer and had subsequently lost hold of Astoria. He knew that his father was still in love with his mother too, but he had also gained quite a bit of faith in him after Draco knocked Astoria out all on his own.

"Yeah, I'm all right with it, as long as Harry is," Scorpius complied. He knew that he was supposed to be the sole leader, but he wanted everyone to get along too, and Draco and Harry were known to have been childhood enemies. Thinking this, Scorpius nearly laughed aloud at the way generations seemed to repeat themselves.

"Oh, don't worry, Potter's not the one you'll have any problems with," McGonagall warned him.

Of course, Scorpius thought... Ron.

Deciding to change the subject, Scorpius asked, "So, you're sure I'm to be the leader of all this?" He was being self-deprecating, but that was the only way he could be honest.

"I'm positive," McGonagall replied, looking Scorpius straight in the eye. "As is Harry."

"But I'm not even of age," Scorpius argued. There were usually strict rules about this sort of thing, but he had a feeling he may be an exception.

"You will be soon enough, and the Order's meant to be undercover anyway."

"Okay." He was running out of excuses at this point, so he decided to comply. "Well then, what do I do?"

"Good question," McGonagall smiled. It was a small gesture, but it managed to make Scorpius feel a little better about the whole situation. "I've organized an inner-Hogwarts meeting that will take place a few weeks from now, for the entire faculty at the school. You'll need to inform them of any sort of inside information, and then assign them all tasks, either to help secure the school or aid in the rest of the Order."

"Right," Scorpius mumbled, trying to take it all in. He just kept reminding himself that he'd captained a Quidditch team for the last year, and really, how much more difficult could the Order be? Then he lied to himself by pretending that it wouldn't be any different at all.

"Until then," McGonagall continued, "I'm going to train you in both Transfiguration as well as Defense Against the Dark Arts."

"Okay." He wasn't afraid of the Transfiguration training, and actually felt quite honored to be McGonagall's protégé, but the DADA was sure to be an embarrassment.

"I know this is a lot of responsibility, Scorpius," McGonagall told him upon seeing his wide eyes. "Being expected to both lead and fight, but you have to know, we are not relying on you. We're supporting you. We understand after the last war that sometimes one designated person must lead the rest, even if that person is significantly inexperienced. We've all accepted that you are the next chosen one, and we want to help you succeed. All right?"

"All right," Scorpius agreed, and he wasn't lying this time. After a lonely summer, all he wanted was some much-needed support, and now he was being given exactly that. It was bound to do him wonders, and he found himself questioning how he could have ever thought that he could do this on his own.

"And I know you're worried about the other students, but they'll come around before too long," McGonagall assured him. "Pardon my harshness, but they don't have much of a choice."

Scorpius laughed at this, a whole-hearted, nerve-tickling laugh. It had never felt so good.

"Let's get to work, shall we?" McGonagall brought him back to the task at hand, having returned to her normal, stoic self. "Now, did you read that book I gave you last spring?"

"Oh, yeah, I did actually." Scorpius had almost forgotten that McGonagall had been the one to give him the idea of becoming an Animagus, if slightly indirectly. "I read it pretty thoroughly, in fact."

With another genuine smile, the professor replied, "I had a feeling you might." She then motioned to the center of the room, which felt very open with its high ceiling, and added, "Go on then, show me your better half."

Scorpius stood from his chair reluctantly, not completely sure that he'd be able to transform on command in front of his greatest mentor. He was already a little shaky, but had done an impressive transfiguration with Rose just the other day, so it might work after all. Walking over to the door, where he'd have the most room to take off, Scorpius closed his eyes and turned into his falcon once more.

He took a few wide turns of the room to get to the top of the domed ceiling, where he folded in his wings, took a small hop in the air, and then made his signature dive down to the floor, where he transformed mid-flight to land steadily on his feet in the exact same spot he'd taken off from.

He quickly turned to McGonagall to see her expression. She had a knowing smirk on her face, but Scorpius could tell she was impressed when she said, "I see you can fly. That is quite the bonus."

Scorpius shrugged and said, "It's not bad. I've got to keep it a secret, though, since I didn't exactly register. Plus, I wouldn't want to give my biggest weapon away, would I?"

"Ah, now you're thinking like an Auror." That was high praise coming from McGonagall. "In fact, I don't think you should tell or show anyone else, just in case."

"Well," Scorpius said guiltily. He didn't exactly count Rose in this matter, since he was completely certain she wouldn't tell a soul, but he thought it might be best to inform McGonagall of Rose's knowledge anyway. "I already told somebody. Well, I told Rose. Rose Weasley."

McGonagall sighed, and it was the first sign of disappointment she'd displayed yet, but Scorpius was okay with that. He understood that McGonagall was skeptical, but he knew showing Rose had been the right thing to do if he wanted their relationship to survive. "I suppose we'll have to trust her, then," said McGonagall. "And as for the 'secret weapon', I think it could use some improvements... accessories, if you will."

"Accessories?" Scorpius had no idea what she was talking about.

"I seem to recall that you did well with the Vanishing spell last year?" McGonagall asked, to which Scorpius gave a nod. "The invigilator at your OWL exam mentioned that you were even able to use it on yourself."

"Well, half of myself," Scorpius corrected. "And I haven't exactly practiced much since."

"That's all right," McGonagall said. She was pacing now, and eventually turned back to Scorpius, crossed her arms, and said, "You don't need to be invisible yourself, but I don't want you revealing your Animagus form until the precise moment, assuming a war arises, of course."

She paused then, so Scorpius took the opportunity to ask, "Wait, do you mean to say that I'm going to learn to vanish myself as an Animagus?"

"That's correct."

"How? My wand disappears when I transform." Like his clothes, his wand was not a part of his falcon, but returned just as soon as he became a human again.

"It does not disappear, Scorpius, it merely becomes part of you, much like the magic already is," McGonagall explained. "Of course, I don't know of any Animagi that are able to channel that magic, but as I said to you once before, you're the most talented Transfiguration student this school has seen in over a century."

Trying not to let the compliment get to his head, Scorpius asked, "So, if I do end up being able to vanish myself, my Animagus self that is, does that mean that I would be able to do other magic as well? As in, I could duel Astoria entirely as a falcon, so that I could dodge all her attacks more easily?" When Scorpius had decided to become an Animagus, he had done it to give himself an edge against Astoria, but he had expected it to be more of a defensive escape plan rather than an offensive strategy. Now, it could be both.

"That's exactly what it means," confirmed McGonagall. "Which is why we're going to have to start with the simplest spells. In other words, back to the basics."

"You mean, match into a needle?" Scorpius asked, remembering his very first Transfiguration lesson from six years ago.

"Precisely." At that, McGonagall opened a drawer in her desk, took out a small, narrow match, and set it on the table in front of Scorpius. "I think we'll just try this for today. Transform into your falcon, you can perch yourself on the desk if you like, and then think about the spell just as if you were performing it silently. As I'm sure you remember, it doesn't require any wand movement, so you shouldn't have to do much more than think about it."

Scorpius did exactly as he was told. As a white falcon, he placed himself atop the desk and looked down at the tiny match. He pictured the object turning into a sharp needle, much like the feathers that had once pierced through his skin, and transferred all his focus onto it. Nothing happened; the match was still a match.

When McGonagall looked up to find a white falcon staring at her in desperation, she realized Scorpius had tried and failed, and said to him, "Don't worry, it was only your first try. Neither of us has ever seen this done before. If it helps, I tried it myself this morning and couldn't manage it."

That doesn't help!, Scorpius thought. That only worried him more. He had gotten excited about this possibility, and now it seemed as though it might be out of reach.

"Let's just think about this for a moment," suggested McGonagall. "When you're performing a spell, or any type of magic for that matter, where does it come from? You hold your wand in your hand, but where does its spark take root?"

It took a second for Scorpius to realize the question wasn't rhetorical, but when he did, he gave it some serious thought. For him at least, any successful attempt at a spell came from deep inside his abdomen, like a gut instinct. He hadn't understood that until he had injured his stomach this summer, for he remembered feeling very vulnerable then. He couldn't have done any magic anyway, since he was outside of school at the time, but it felt almost like he had lost all the power he'd ever had.

Since he couldn't answer verbally, Scorpius slowly wobbled toward McGonagall and knelt his head at her stomach. Understanding his implication, she said, "I think you're right. So this time, try to emulate that feeling."

Scorpius gave a nod and then backed up to his previous position. He imagined the transformation of the match all over again, but this time he forced himself to act on it, making his stomach respond to the thoughts in his head. Almost instantly, the match formed a beautiful silver coating, and its once rounded head sharpened like a nail.

"Well done, Scorpius," McGonagall said as Scorpius became human again. "Well done."

Scorpius was exhilarated. He wanted to keep going, he wanted to do more, but he knew that he needed to learn his limits (his summer experience had taught him that as well). Still, he had to ask, "When can we meet again? We'll have to do animals into goblets next."

"That we will," McGonagall said with a hint of a chuckle. "We can meet as soon as next week, but I don't want to interfere with your Quidditch schedule."

"Oh, well, we usually practice in the morning before the sun gets too hot, so any evening is fine," Scorpius replied. He was happy to have a new goal, a new destination.

"All right then, same time next week?"

"Brilliant."

Scorpius had just turned to leave when McGonagall added, "Oh, and Scorpius? You have a visitor."

And at that moment, a knock was heard on the door, and it magically opened to reveal Harry Potter standing in the entryway. "Sorry I missed the meeting," he said, winking to Scorpius as he stepped inside the office.

"That's perfectly fine," said McGonagall as she stepped forward to greet Harry, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "I filled our boy in on everything he need know for now. I must say, though, I'm glad to you have back, Potter."

"I'm glad to be back, Professor," Harry reciprocated, "If only for a day." Scorpius had completely forgotten that Ron was here, and that that meant that he and Harry had come to the school to teach the fifth years the Patronus charm. Last year, they had arrived early the morning of the lesson, but it seemed they had decided to spend the night this time.

"Ah, it is Minerva now, Potter," McGonagall scolded Harry. "I haven't been your teacher for twenty-five years."

"Well then, I'm glad to be back, Minerva," Harry repeated.

"Much better. Well, I'd better be off to remind Professor Smethley about tomorrow, but please, take your time here. I know Scorpius would very much like to speak with you." And then McGonagall was gone, leaving Harry and Scorpius to talk alone with one another.

Immediately, Harry reached out to Scorpius and gave him a hug. Scorpius had been longing to talk with him ever since he had gotten back to Hogwarts, for he always understood things more clearly when he spoke to Harry about them.

The first thing that came to Scorpius's mind as they broke apart, though, was actually something he had been concerned for Harry about, rather than himself. "Hey, are you doing okay after those murders in Little Whinging? I know you grew up there."

"Oh, I'm fine," Harry said, leaning against the desk to face Scorpius, who had sat back down in the chair. "The whole thing gave my cousin Dudley quite the scare, and I'm definitely not happy about it, but there's not much else I can do at this point."

"Yeah, but don't you think she was trying to send you a message? I mean, it would be too much of a coincidence otherwise."

"I'm sure she was trying to send me a message," Harry agreed, "But that doesn't mean it worked. At least, I'm not going to back of her trail, if that's what she was hoping for."

"But maybe you should," argued Scorpius. He didn't like that Harry was chasing Astoria. It wasn't just about the danger of it, but also the fact that it meant Harry wasn't around to protect everybody else, and that included his own family.

"No, I can't," Harry said surely. "I'm not going to send Ron out again, and none of the other Aurors have enough experience."

"But you can't follow her forever!" Scorpius insisted. Somebody would have to take over at the Ministry if he was gone much longer.

"Sure I can," Harry said with a shrug, as if it was the easiest decision he'd ever made. "Look, I told you before, I can't protect everyone I love. Dudley and his family are the only Muggles I know, and I put plenty of protective spells on them a long time ago, so Astoria won't be able to touch them. Ginny can hold her own if Astoria's daring enough to actually go to Godric's Hollow, and we've got plenty of capable neighbors. The best thing for me to do is capture Astoria and the rest of her Flock before they hurt anyone else. All I have to do is step down at the Ministry and I can take all the time I need."

"Step down?" Scorpius asked. "And hand Head over to someone else?"

Harry nodded. "Ron's ready for it."

Scorpius didn't agree, but he didn't argue back. Harry was more informed of Ron's skills as a wizard than Scorpius was, and he knew their friendship spanned a lifetime. Still, he couldn't exactly imagine Ron as Head of anything.

Sensing Scorpius's weariness, Harry explained further, "Look, I'm not scared of her, not even after what she did. If anything, I'm just furious. I'm going to find her, Scorpius, one way or the other, and the more time I have to look, the faster I'll be. And if I manage it, you won't have to confront her at all."

The idea of having no war was quite intriguing to Scorpius, so he definitely saw Harry's point. Even so, the selfish side of Scorpius really just wanted to have Harry around, for the next few months were sure to be excruciating. Thinking this, he asked Harry, "But, who's going to be here raising all the awareness?" Harry was the original Chosen One, and the most respected of any wizard in the world. People listened to him, and they always would. Scorpius didn't have that same kind of loyalty from his peers.

"You are," Harry answered. "You're the leader now, Scorpius. You get to raise your own army."

"Yeah, but nobody's going to listen to me!" Scorpius was growing frustrated now. "They all think I'm a fraud."

"Not everyone does."

This was true. Scorpius had just had a terrific lesson with McGonagall, and he had her support, but that was only one person. He wasn't asking for the world, but having his best friend back might help. "Sure they do," he said. "Even Al does."

Harry didn't respond to Scorpius's question immediately. He had most likely just come from visiting his son, and Scorpius didn't want to fuel a fire between them, but it might be worthwhile to warn Harry about Al's mysterious behavior. "He hasn't forgiven me, for abandoning him this summer," Scorpius explained. "In fact, he's not speaking to me at all, except when he has to. At first, I thought it was just because he felt left out, but it seems like something more now, like there might be something going on."

Harry thought about this for a moment, but eventually said, "Honestly, I don't think there's anything else going on. Al always feels like he's under a tremendous amount of pressure, sort of like he's perpetually stressed. He doesn't know why he feels that way, so he looks for excuses for it. You see, to him, forgiving you would just get in the way of that. He wouldn't have anyone to blame anymore, for not being chosen prefect when it actually counted, for not excelling at Quidditch like the rest of his family…" Harry paused here, looking away from Scorpius and squinting his eyes. "For feeling like he's lost his own father to somebody else."

Scorpius immediately felt an immense amount of guilt pile atop his shoulders. He understood now that failing to contact Al this summer had just been the tip of the iceberg. Al had been jealous of him for years, even though Scorpius hadn't purposefully created the situation. He had never expected to be picked as Slytherin's prefect last year, or to ever excel at Quidditch. More importantly, Scorpius had never tried to steal Harry away from Albus. He had just needed a father, and Harry had been there.

"Look, I'll try to talk to him about it tomorrow," Harry offered. "It's probably a good idea to remind him that I love him anyway, and with our family so dismantled at the moment, he sure could use his friend, just like you could."

Scorpius nodded in thanks. Trying to put himself in Al's shoes, he thought aloud, "I suppose forgiveness isn't exactly easy to conjure, especially for a wrongdoing that's been growing for five years." Rose always forgave people easily, but that was in her nature, and Al's nature was completely different.

"Actually, Scorpius," Harry responded, "I don't think forgiveness is ever easy to conjure, even if the wrongdoing only lasted a second. The thing that makes someone easier to forgive is whether or not they ever meant to hurt you in the first place. Albus will realize that eventually."

"You think so?" Scorpius asked hopefully.

"Oh, I'm sure of it," said Harry. And just like the end of every conversation Scorpius had with Harry, he felt a whole lot better than he had before.

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