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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36. The Best Birthday

Scorpius's hand was sweaty, but Rose refused to let him slip away, and in return, he refused to let her fall. It was Friday morning of their first week back at Hogwarts, and Scorpius and Rose were running down hallways and up moving staircases, past singing portrait people and through looming house ghosts. They were among few students to have woken before sunrise, having just dismissed the fifth and sixth year Prefects they'd hosted in their first Head Boy and Girl meeting together.

The announcement had been made at the Welcome Feast on September 1st, which of course Rose had missed thanks to Arthur's funeral. Scorpius had let McGonagall break the news to Rose of her appointment as Head Girl, as well as to Hugo and Roxanne for being named the latest Gryffindor Prefects. All of the school's student leaders had met in a classroom on the castle's first floor just half an hour ago, and though Scorpius wasn't sure how well he had done in expressing the direness of the present danger in the magical world, Rose seemed to think that the whole thing had gone swimmingly.

At least, Scorpius assumed that was the reason for Rose's sudden blast of energy and excitement as she pulled him along so quickly that, for a while anyway, he wasn't sure where they were going. Of course, she could have been doing this for a different reason, which turned out to be the case when Scorpius found himself in the corner stacks of the still empty library's restricted section. That was when Rose pushed his back against a bookshelf and pressed her lips to his, her breath minty from spearmint toothpaste and her teeth chillingly sharp against his flesh.

"Rose," he mumbled through desperate attempts for air. "Rose, slow down for a minute."

But his plea didn't work. Rose wasn't giving up now, and he hadn't expected her to. After all, she'd been like this all week – mauling him at every opportunity and claiming that she wanted to take their relationship to the next level. She'd never explain why she suddenly wanted this even when Scorpius asked, though he already knew the answer. She wanted them to experience everything they possibly could together before it was too late... before she was gone.

Still, Scorpius knew better than to let her have her way. This was her way of coping after what had happened to her family and what had almost happened to her. She wanted to move faster just so that she could feel like she was actually moving. Scorpius understood that, because he'd done the same thing when he'd pushed her away a few summers ago, running faster than he ever had and going through his transformation far too hastily because it was the only way he felt alive while under a deadly threat. Because of that, he didn't want to say no to Rose now, but he knew that he had to. It would be a mistake for them to make love for the wrong reasons, regardless of how much each of their bodies seemed to be begging for it to happen.

In hopes of distracting Rose as her fingers twisted themselves around his perfectly knotted tie of emerald and silver, Scorpius said, "Maybe we should talk about the meeting. I mean, Hugo seemed a bit off-"

Her lips shut him up rather quickly, and before he opened his eyes once more, his tie was falling onto the floor as the candles in the windows suddenly flickered with fire. Madam Pince must have just come in to open the library for the day, but Rose didn't seem to notice. All she could say in between pecks lining Scorpius's cheekbones was, "He'll be fine. Anyway, he doesn't want my help."

"Yeah, but maybe he needs it," Scorpius argued. Hugo had been quiet and dismissive at the meeting, which was unsettling to see from a kid whose personality was normally so extreme that it bordered on obnoxious. "You know he'd never admit to it if he did."

Rose completely ignored this comment, too focused on the buttons of Scorpius's shirt to administer what he was saying. She hadn't been so aggressive with him – in fact, not remotely so – this past summer, but then again, she'd been preoccupied with her friends' and family's well-being rather than her own. Now, the only person who seemed headed for mortal peril was her, but Scorpius also knew that her friends and family were still the only subjects that could surpass the power of her fear.

So, Scorpius kept pushing Rose in the opposite direction than where she was pushing him. He babbled on and on about Hugo whenever he had the chance, muttering things like, "I could talk to him if you want me to," and, "Maybe he just needs to understand how much he deserves the Prefect title."

Unfortunately, the pushier he was, the pushier Rose became. She made sure to hardly ever give his lips the opportunity to open without her help, and he was having more and more trouble not answering her. At one point shortly after his shirt had been taken off, she had her hands locked with his and steered them to the small of her back, and he couldn't resist any longer. His nose was lodged in the crook of her neck, the scent of raspberries wafting from her silky smooth hair, and his heart was pumping against his scarred chest like a rabbit's foot thumping atop the dirt. Her shirt was off in a matter of seconds.

Once it was over, however, the gesture made Scorpius flinch, and he told himself to lean back and close his eyes, if only to protect her innocence. And as he felt her breath growing hotter, heard her steps growing closer, and sensed her hands reaching for his, he thought back on what he'd said about Hugo and grimaced to add, "You know, I think Lily needs to understand the same thing. We both saw her eyes peering through the door."

Unlike Hugo, who hadn't expected to earn such a responsibility, Lily hadn't earned any but had most definitely expected to. Granted, she was happy for Hugo and Roxanne, who happened to be her two best friends, but it also wasn't hard to see why Lily might feel so scorned. That was what Scorpius wanted to get across to Rose as she made a desperate and attempt to gain enough of his attention to make him open his eyes, explaining, "She's already been through enough, and you know she blames McGonagall's decision on her furry little problem. The rest of the school may not know the whole truth, but there are still plenty of rumors going 'round. And then on top of everything, just imagine how worried she is about Al."

Rose froze at the sound of Albus's name. Scorpius hadn't thought of it before, but of course it made sense that Al was the only one who could tear Rose away from her physical desires. Neither she nor Scorpius had discussed him since Rose had arrived at school, but they could both feel his absence; it was the first time they'd ever been at Hogwarts without him.

As he heard Rose's back thump against the opposing shelf – a sign that she had finally given up – Scorpius hung his head toward the floor and slowly reopened his eyes. The floor's wooden panels were shining beneath a rising sun, looking almost as if they were melting into a river of magma. Two white shirts were floating in the liquid fire, and Scorpius reached down to save them from the flames before their hems were singed. He held the larger of the two in his left hand, careful not to crumple it too much, and used his right hand to bring the smaller shirt back to its owner.

Rose was looking straight at him, and as Scorpius whipped his eyes past her flat stomach and the chest that was covered in a skin-toned bra, and met her gaze like lightning striking a tree branch. Though neither of them blinked, Scorpius saw through his peripheral vision Rose's arms inching upward against the books that were rarely handled, and he gently pulled her shirt back over her head. She had loosened her tie on her own rather than take it off completely, so now Scorpius tightened it, pinning on her Head Girl badge and leaving just enough room between her neck and her collar to kiss her still exposed skin.

As soon as Scorpius looked away from her, Rose's hands were back on his abdomen, but they weren't rough or demanding this time. Instead, they were light and fair, as was her soft whispering in his ear. "He was there, you know... At the funeral. Al was there. He told me where to find James. He helped me."

This was the first Scorpius was hearing of Al's presence at the recent funeral, but he didn't question why Rose had waited so long to tell him, nor did his assume that she'd just been seeing things. He believed her, so he didn't need any proof. The only thing he wanted to know was if any of the Potters had been informed of Al's whereabouts, so he asked simply, "Did you tell anybody else?"

"No," Rose shook her head before adding, "And I don't plan on it. He wouldn't want me to. I'm not exactly sure why I still feel like I need to abide by his wishes, but I do. I suppose I just want to hold on to the few parts of him that I still understand."

They said no more to each other, Scorpius nodding as Rose let her confusion sink in. Before long, the first period bell was ringing, and though Scorpius never had class on Fridays, Rose had to head off for Arithmancy. They said goodbye in a long hug, Scorpius's bare arms flexing against Rose's shoulders. Next time they'd see each other would be at the Quidditch team captains meeting during their lunch hour, and Scorpius only hoped that this meeting would be better than their last.

In the meantime, Scorpius got himself fully dressed and made his way out of the restricted section and into the study area beside the library's Transfiguration section. Once there, he sifted through some shelves until he found a couple of books that McGonagall had recommended for him and tried to dive right in. His mentor had instructed him to do some research on both registered and unregistered Animagi to see if there had ever been one to practice magic while in transfigured form. Scorpius's training in the area had been going well so far, though he'd had some difficulty with the Patronus Charm. Still, that was nothing compared with the dead end he'd come to as soon as he'd tried the Vanishing Spell on himself, which had been the long-term goal since he'd first started learning from McGonagall last fall. He could perform it perfectly as a human, but his falcon wasn't so keen to disappear.

However, reading about Falco Aesalon and Morgan le Fay was far easier said than done. Scorpius couldn't keep focused with his thoughts rushing from Rose's half-naked body that he'd barely let himself see, to Al's unfathomable loyalties, to Hugo and Lily's obvious depression every ten seconds. Within twenty minutes, Scorpius's books were laid across the floor and his head was buried in his lap, his forehead rubbing against those sweaty palms of his.

"Scorp, are you okay?" said a voice in a low register, sounding much like a young boy who was still in his last stages of puberty. Realizing this, Scorpius didn't need to look up to know that it was Nigel who'd taken a seat at the other side of the desk.

When Scorpius did manage to look up, Nigel's giant blue eyes were staring through red-tinted lashes at the already exhausted boy across from him. In hopes of comforting Scorpius, whom Nigel had grown to be friends with late last fall through a terrible Quidditch blow-up, he said almost squeakily, "You know, it'll be the weekend really soon."

With a laugh, Scorpius reached across the table to pat Nigel's shoulder in thanks, but didn't admit to feeling so lost, changing the subject by asking, "How are you doing, Nigel Creevey the Beast?"

"I'm all right," Nigel lied. He too seemed to want to change topics, leaning forward to tell Scorpius secretively, "Actually, I was hoping to show you something I've been working on this past month."

"Oh, great!" exclaimed Scorpius, thankful to have a reason to procrastinate a little longer. But when Nigel looked around the rest of the library to see a few curious Ravenclaws staring at them, Scorpius lowered his voice to say, "You have my full attention."

In response, Nigel sat up so that he could take something out of his back pocket and then placed a narrow stick of wood on the table. The wand was about a foot long and had a grip that protruded in rows with sharpened ends that looked an awful lot like talons, its exterior painted a shade of white as pure as snow. When Scorpius looked to Nigel for permission, the boy granted it willingly, allowing Scorpius to pick up the wand and see how it felt with his hands clasped around it.

Nigel seemed just as curious as Scorpius was to see the latter's fingers touch the white wood, and they were both surprised by the way the air suddenly shifted around them. Holding the wand, Scorpius felt as if all gravity had disappeared, like he was flying through a sky that had no pressure whatsoever, knowing that he could go as long and far as he pleased and that there would be absolutely nothing to barricade his path.

"This is incredible," were the only words Scorpius managed to speak, but they were also the only ones Nigel needed to hear. He was smiling from ear to cherry-colored ear as Scorpius asked, "How'd you do this? I mean, I thought you were still tinkering with the ownership problems."

Scorpius had asked Nigel if he could try to make a few wands last spring, in the hopes that they could garner enough replacements for everyone who would potentially be fighting in a battle against the Forbidden Flock. Nigel had been excited to give it a go, since he'd always been fascinated by wandlore, but for most of the summer all of the wands he had made only seemed to work for Hugo. That is, until he'd accidentally given one to Al, who must have passed it on to Knox to use to murder Arthur.

"I am," Nigel replied, "But after everything that happened with Al, I realized something. I'd already been carving different woods and infusing different cores into the wands, but I'd always use the same tools to make them, and I'd always have them varnished in that same potion Hugo gave me from his dad's broom polishing kit. So, that varnish helped them all work for Hugo, and I think Al's worked because I'd given him the one made of dragon heartstring. Once I figured that out, I decided to do things a bit differently, and that's how I made this one – one that's meant for you."

Scorpius had known that the wand would be his as soon as he'd touched it, but he was still taken aback by Nigel's gesture. All he could do was stare at the thing that looked so simple yet felt so powerful as Nigel explained, "The core's white unicorn hair that Holly found for me, the wood's from that maple tree outside the Bird's Nest, and the varnish was made with the simplest base yet: rain."

It was perfect. It was, quite literally, made for him, and Nigel had done so brilliantly. The last thing Scorpius wanted to do was part with it, but he and Nigel had agreed a while back that any wand Nigel made would be kept by him and only him until a war broke out, just to make it easier to keep track of them all. But as Scorpius held out his hand with the wand sitting on his open palm, Nigel didn't take it.

Instead, Nigel closed Scorpius's hand around the wand and told him, "Keep it. Lately I've been thinking, and regardless of how many people seem to disagree, I'm pretty certain that two wands would be stronger than one."

Scorpius had never considered such a notion, nor had he ever heard it from anyone else, which immediately seemed ridiculous considering how logical it was. It especially made sense when Nigel added, "I mean, that's true about people, right?" His tone was downcast and dejected like a fresh pile of mud still recovering from a blast of pounding pellets.

"Speaking of which, how are you and Hugo doing these days?" asked Scorpius. He was trying to be sensitive while at the same time empathetic, because the last thing he wanted to do was make Nigel uncomfortable, though he could sense that Nigel needed to talk.

"He's fine," Nigel replied, immediately changing the subject to just Hugo rather than the two of them as a couple. "Not sure how he feels about being Prefect, but I know I'm happy for him. Mostly, I'm just worried about our big Patronus lesson coming up, because he's been having so much trouble thinking of happy memories ever since Mr. Weasley died."

Scorpius had nearly forgotten about the fifth year Patronus lesson, as well as Harry and Ron's arrival that would come with it. Maybe it would be good for Rose and Hugo to see their father again, considering how each of them was coping in such unpredictable ways. Such was evident when Nigel sighed deeply and said, "I just don't know what to do anymore."

"Yeah," agreed Scorpius. "I don't know what to do either."

It was another hour before lunch started, but Scorpius and Nigel didn't say anything else to each other. Scorpius was too busy trying out simple charms on his new wand, and Nigel only had a few more minutes to waste in the library before he headed off for Muggle Studies, his least favorite class as of late. Still, the lonesome hour passed quickly enough, and soon Scorpius was on his way to Katie Bell's office, eager but even more anxious to see Rose again.

Rose was already there by the time Scorpius arrived in the cramped room, filled with miniature pitches on every surface and broken brooms hanging from the high ceiling. There were four chairs facing Bell's desk, and Scorpius took the one beside Rose without question. He had known she'd be early, since for as long as he could remember Rose had held the unique philosophy that if she wasn't five minutes early, she was late.

"Scorpius, good to see you again!" exclaimed Bell as she held out her hand for him to shake. Scorpius hadn't been looking at her, since he was too focused on Rose's pale and silent disposition, but he responded to his old instructor nonetheless. Bell had always liked him, and he was the only captain who'd had any experience with these meetings before.

Pranav Patil, seventh year Keeper for Ravenclaw, and Roddy Matheson, fifth year Chaser for Hufflepuff, would be replacing Lysander and Lorcan, respectively. They sauntered inside a few minutes later, one of them dark-skinned and distant, the other fair and over-excited. Once Bell calmed Roddy down, the four captains silenced and waited for Bell to pull out her scheduling boards. Across the table from her, Scorpius stole Rose's hand from atop her thigh and squeezed it tight. She smiled ever so slightly, but he saw it and he knew that it was enough.

"All right, so the first order of business is going to be rather unfortunate for some of you, but it seems we must deal with it," Bell announced, peaking Scorpius's interest immediately. "Apparently, Neville – er, Professor Longbottom, I mean – and his fiancée would like to marry here at Hogwarts, on the Quidditch pitch at Christmas time."

Scorpius had already heard from the Potters that Neville and Luna were planning a winter wedding, but this was the first he was hearing about it taking place at Hogwarts. It was most probably a good idea, since the castle would be the safest place from Astoria for the couple as well as their guests, though Scorpius realized faster than his fellow captains what this would mean for the year's games.

"We'll have to move up the first match to the end of this month to give them time to prepare the space," continued Madam Bell. "September the twenty-ninth looks like our best bet. That way, the second match can take place toward the end of October, and we can hand over the pitch before any snow falls."

September the twenty-ninth was Rose's seventeenth birthday. Scorpius had been too busy trying to think of how to pull her away from thoughts of Astoria that he hadn't started planning a surprise, but now he wouldn't have the time to anyway. The first match was always Gryffindor versus Slytherin, and he had three Chasers to find at try-outs before he could even start training his team.

Discouraged, Scorpius sunk into his chair and rubbed his forehead with his free hand. He didn't know how he'd manage his own team, let alone what this would mean for a day Rose had been looking forward to for years. After all, this meant that they'd be competing against each other, and they'd never done so as a current couple or while both captains. This time, it was Rose's turn to squeeze Scorpius's hand.

Sensing his worry, Bell asked concernedly, "How much time will you need, Scorpius? Realistically, I mean."

For a while, Scorpius thought about his response. He figured that he might be ready by the second match, but surely not beforehand. If he were to switch with another team, it would also mean that Rose wouldn't have to worry about competing against both her boyfriend and the toughest team to beat. She'd still need to find a new Seeker in time, which was arguably the most difficult Quidditch position to fill, but Scorpius could help her with that. Surely, there were plenty of underclassmen who'd be rearing to replace the infamous James Sirius Potter, and possibly even a few older students who hadn't made it through try-outs in previous years.

At that precise moment, Scorpius's mind was flooded with a brilliant idea. Sitting up in excited anticipation and thinking aloud, he said, "I can do October, but there's no way I can find three Chasers in three weeks, even if I split the try-outs with Arnia." Arnia Samuels was his sub-captain this year – a tiny fifth year Beater he'd been pleasantly surprised by last season – but she was still new to the sport, and the last thing he wanted to do was give her too much responsibility too quickly.

Bell understood, since she and Scorpius had been working together for years. With his word, she turned to Pranav and Roddy and waited for one of them to volunteer their team for the first match. Pranav was a bit of a coward and was far too concerned for his team to do so, but Roddy was more than willing to take on the challenge. Thus, it was decided that Gryffindor would compete against Hufflepuff first, followed by Slytherin versus Ravenclaw in October.

The captains were dismissed to organize their teams as soon as they came to a conclusion, but Rose walked out of the office looking even more distraught than she had when Scorpius had found her inside. Leaning against the railing of a moving staircase, she looked to him helplessly, her blue eyes absconded with light shining through the stained glass windows that made up the hall's ceiling, her hands shaking with nervousness.

"Rose," said Scorpius calmly once her hands were back in his, steady as could be. "Hey, you're all right. Everything's going to be fine."

She met his eyes as he willed her to, but she wasn't seeing all that he was hiding in them. "I can't form a team in a month, Scorpius!" she claimed, but she was wrong. "I don't even know where to start," she added, wrong again. "I mean, I won't even have time to host a try-out!"

Scorpius's lips curled up at the corners upon hearing her last statement. When she asked him why he was smiling, he twirled the ring on her right hand and directed it to his neck so that he could put his own hands around her waist to say, "Because you're right. You won't have time to host try-outs, and that's exactly why your new Seeker's going to have to be the one who came the closest to making the team last year, regardless of what position they were trying out for."

It didn't take long for Rose to understand what Scorpius was insinuating. "Hugo," she gasped after little more than a moment of thought. When Scorpius nodded, she argued, "But he could never play Seeker; he's not a good enough flier!"

"Which is why you and I are going to spend all month training him." It was the perfect plan. Rose needed something to distract her from worrying about Al and herself, and Hugo needed something to look forward to. Best of all, Ron was going to be here at the end of the month, which meant that he'd probably stay to see the match, and the only thing Hugo had ever wanted more than Nigel was to play Quidditch with his father cheering from the stands.

Rose seemed to calm down just thinking about it, whispering to Scorpius with a tone as sincere as a promise, "Thank you for helping me – for helping everyone, even when we're too proud to ask you to."

"You don't need to thank me, Rose," Scorpius told her. "I'm the lucky one here, because your pride is one of the many things about you that I still seem to understand. And I plan on understanding every part of you for a very long time." When she smiled, he leaned down to kiss her, and this time she was listening to all of what he was trying to say. She understood that, so long as he was around, he would make sure that she had the best birthday ever.

Over the course of the next three weeks, Scorpius taught Rose what it was like to be a Seeker, and in turn she relayed the training on to Hugo. The youngest Weasley had been hesitant about taking on yet another time commitment (since he too had started using his mother's old time-turner just so that he could attend all of his classes), but he'd nervously agreed at the mention of his father's name. Ron's presence would add a whole new level of pressure, but if Hugo was anything like his sister, he'd work well under such circumstances.

Now, Scorpius just hoped that his and Rose's preparations had been enough and that Hugo was ready, because it was already the day before the match. Yet again, Scorpius had woken up early that morning, though not for any sort of meeting. Today, he was headed into town to meet Harry, who'd just arrived for the Patronus lesson that would take up most of the day, in a shadowy corner of the Hog's Head Inn. Normally, Scorpius had private lessons with McGonagall scheduled at this time, but she'd cancelled on him for the second week in a row. He would have been concerned about such, especially considering Astoria's recent attack and just how much Scorpius was struggling with the Vanishing Spell, but the prospect of seeing Harry was enough to focus on for now.

Harry was seated in a small room just off the entrance, where there sat a single wooden table with nothing but two candle stubs atop it, a stone floor so dirty that it may have just as well had no floor at all, and two small windows covered in dust that were separated by a portrait of a young girl Scorpius didn't recognize. She looked to be an early teenager – striking cheekbones around still rosy cheeks, long blonde hair pinned back the way only mothers could pin it, in a blue dress that was traditional yet flat-chested – and her sweet smiles were all Harry could see as Scorpius walked in.

When he did manage to catch his attention, Harry stood up and gave Scorpius a grand old hug, then ordered them both some crumpets before sitting back down and asking anxiously, "So, how've you been?"

Scorpius saw right through Harry's fake interest, however, as soon as he felt the floor shaking beneath Harry's tapping heel. Cutting straight to the real question, Scorpius answered, "I haven't heard a word from him."

The tapping stopped instantaneously, along with Harry's curiosity. Scorpius had been surprised that Harry had even shown up for the Patronus lesson with Al still missing, but he probably felt as though he needed to be here for Lily's sake. She was who Harry asked about next, clearly concerned what with the upcoming full moon, but Scorpius assured him that regardless of how worried she was about her image, her safety was being well looked after by both Neville and McGonagall.

"And she's still planning on flying in the match tomorrow?" asked Harry.

"Oh, definitely," Scorpius stifled a laugh. He hadn't talked much with Lily this year, but that didn't mean that he'd forgotten who she was. "She wouldn't miss Quidditch for the world, and if anything, people are even more scared of her now than they were before."

Unfortunately, Harry didn't take that joke so well. His sense of humor was nowhere to be found as he muttered, "Mmm, that seems to be a theme in our family these days."

"What, fear?" asked Scorpius.

"People fearing us. After what happened at the funeral, people see James and wonder if it's really him. The Magpies wouldn't have kept him on the team even if he hadn't hurt his shoulder again, and now he doesn't know what to do with himself. Lily still thinks she's a monster, as does the rest of Hogwarts I'm sure, and Al's spent too long running to have any hope of retribution. The worst part is that I don't even think he wants it, no matter how many times I try to get it for him."

Scorpius couldn't look at Harry like this. His idol, his mentor, his father in so many ways, was as broken as he'd ever been. All the Potters were, and it was the fault of Scorpius'sfamily. But no. No, he wasn't part of Astoria's family anymore. If he was part of any family, it would be the Potters or the Weasleys, because they had trusted him when few others had. The least he could do was return a bit of that trust.

"He does want retribution," Scorpius announced after a minute of stretched-out silence. He knew that Rose didn't want anyone to know what he was about to tell Harry, but she was just being stubborn. She wasn't here now to see Harry's sunken eyes that had turned the color of overcooked peas, or the black hair that was now half grey. Rose couldn't see how much Harry needed just a speck of hope to hold on to.

"I thought you said you hadn't heard from him..." Harry's tone wasn't accusatory, but was rather cautionary. He didn't want to jump to conclusions too quickly, especially when they had to with his youngest son.

"I haven't, but I think Rose has." Harry was half-way out of his seat as Scorpius explained, "She didn't want anyone to know, but apparently he was at the funeral. I mean, obviously he played a part in kidnapping James, but Rose seems to think that he also helped her. He showed her where James was being kept so that she could let him out to help her escape."

As soon as Scorpius had said enough for him to get a clear picture of what had happened, Harry was on his way out of the inn, bumping past a waitress who was babbling grumpily about not having crumpets in such an establishment and slamming the front door in his wake. Scorpius was about to run after him, however, when the girl from the portrait said to him rather dreamily, "Don't bother with him. He's never been one to give up once he's set his mind on something, even worse his heart."

Sure enough, the girl was right, since the next sound Scorpius heard was a Disapparition pop from the other side of the window. Still, he was curious to know what Harry's plan might be, so he turned to the portrait and asked, "Where does he think he's going to find him? And how do you know anything about Harry, anyway?"

"I suppose he'll start at the church and go from there," the girl replied. "And as for how I know so much about the Potters, well, being a wallflower has its perks. For example, I know just as well as you do that Harry will never find his son before his son finds him, but I also see what you can't. I see the powerful pathway that your friend has already found, but that you haven't even started looking for yet."

Before Scorpius could ask what she could possibly be referring to now, the girl was gone, disappearing into the depths of her frame down a road leading straight for the horizon. Trying not to think about her riddle, Scorpius left the inn without even touching the toast that was brought in place of the crumpets and ran back to the castle, where he blasted through the front doors and into the emptying Great Hall just in time to warn Ron of Harry's departure.

Ron seemed nervous enough as it was before Scorpius gave him the news, but luckily Rose was there (she'd had breakfast with her father) to reassure him that he didn't need Harry and could perform the lesson all on his own. Once he regained his confidence, Ron ordered all of the fifth years to gather round, so Scorpius and Rose left the hall, wishing luck to the Gryff Group on their way out.

"Why exactly did Harry have the sudden urge to run off somewhere?" asked Rose once she and Scorpius were back outside, having decided to use their mutual study period for one last pep talk on the Quidditch pitch before tomorrow's match.

"Oh, I dunno'," responded Scorpius. He hated lying to Rose, but he also wasn't prepared to explain why he'd gone against his word just yet. Coming up with an excuse that would hopefully satisfy her curiosity, he said, "I think Mercy needed his help with something."

Rose groaned at the mention of Mercy's name, which secretly pleased Scorpius. Rose hardly ever disliked people so blatantly, but when she did, it made her seem more human, and in that sense even more perfect, to him. But when she didn't stop glaring at the sky and kicking at the grass, Scorpius took her hand and said, "Sorry I mentioned her. And don't worry; you'll get your turn soon enough."

"Yeah, so long as I make it through the match tomorrow," she said as they stepped onto the field. The day was warm and bright and everyone else seemed to be in class, so they had the place to themselves. Still, the goal for today wasn't so much to enhance Rose's flying skills, especially since she wouldn't have time to relay them to Hugo. If anything, Scorpius just wanted to help put her at ease.

So, when Rose grabbed her red Nimbus 2021 from the shed beside the Gryffindor locker room, Scorpius stopped her from mounting it and said, "Actually, I was thinking we might ride my broom today."

"The both of us?" Rose asked. They'd never flown on the same broom before, but Scorpius had been thinking lately that it might be a good idea to try out. Practically, it would take Rose out of her comfort zone in terms of flying, and then of course, there was the less practical reason for sharing a ride.

Shrugging, Scorpius told her, "Yeah. So long as you don't pounce on me mid-flight, that is."

Biting her lip, Rose pushed his chest so hard that he might have fallen to the ground if she hadn't pulled him back by his tie to whisper in his ear, "I make no such promises." Then she grabbed the Falcon Flyer from his hand, wrapped her leg around it, and leaned forward as if to take off.

Her feet were just about to push off the ground when Scorpius hopped on behind her and said hastily, "Well, I suppose I'll just have to take my chances then!" and wrapped his arms around her so that they surged forward simultaneously, headed for the clouds.

After only a few seconds flying with Rose, Scorpius found himself wondering why he'd never done this before. The extra weight was hardly noticeable, but what he did notice were the windy strands of hair that were fighting their way out of Rose's tightly knotted braid and the way she'd speed up and lose control ever so slightly whenever he kissed her neck. The best part came when he moved his hands up her sides and then brushed the length of her arms until his own hands were clasping hers, which were tightly wrapped around the tip of his broom. As soon as their skin touched and his hands connected to the Flyer through hers, they started moving ten times faster than they'd been going before, but because the magic was coming from the both of them at once, this time they could control it.

They flew all around the castle and across the whole of the Black Lake, where Scorpius steered the broom close enough to the surface for Rose to reach toward the water and shoot splashes at his face. When she took back the reigns, she led him into the Forbidden Forest, gliding a few feet atop the floor so that Scorpius was caught in the middle of a runway of thestrals about to take off into flight.

Soon, they were following the whole herd out of the forest, with the smallest newborn too curious about these mysterious humans to stay away from biting the broom's plumage every so often. For a while, Scorpius and Rose made a game out of it, slowing down to let the horse get close and then speeding up before she had the chance to actually munch off a piece of the broom. They didn't turn back around until they came to the border of protective spells that McGonagall had warned Scorpius not to pass. He pulled them back once he noticed the marked treeline, though he idled for a while before reaccelerating just to see if there was anything waiting for them in the distance. Luckily, the only thing they could make out was the giant bulge of grey and black that they assumed was made up of the thestrals, not even considering that it could be home to something much darker than the skeletal horses.

The ride back was slow, neither Rose nor Scorpius wanting the morning to end. It was the first moment they'd shared since the summer in which they both felt so incredibly free, and they wouldn't trade that feeling for anything. Scorpius had accomplished the impossible by getting Rose to feel freedom again, but he had only done so because she'd let him. Just like Nigel had said, they were twice as strong together as they were apart. Nothing could stop them now.

That is, nothing but the thought of the third wheel they were missing. They hadn't had any reason to think of Al until they flew past McGonagall's office window and Rose screamed at Scorpius to stop moving. He had been steering them home, so Rose had been able to watch the castle take shape around them, and she claimed to have seen something, or rather someone, in the Headmistresses' quarters.

"What is it, Rose?" Scorpius asked as he backed up, looked through the window, and saw nothing but a darkened, empty office filled with old portraits of sleeping Headmasters.

"I thought I just saw Al," she admitted.

Scorpius took one more look through the window, but once again he was sure that no one was there. When he saw Rose begin to question her own sanity, he tried to console her by saying, "Maybe you just saw the black of Severus Snape's hair."

"Yeah. Maybe." Rose wasn't convinced.

She still seemed shaken by the time they were back on the ground. Scorpius hated to see her mood change so suddenly, and when she refused to talk more about what she'd claimed to have seen, he assumed that she had been caught in a spiral of Al thoughts all over again. It wasn't her responsibility to worry about him anymore, nor was it Scorpius's, but he knew that they would both continue to do so anyway. They would worry about their friend until it started to mean something.

That was what made Scorpius admit to something of his own. He hadn't been planning to tell Rose until after her birthday, if at all, but he didn't want to keep such a little white lie from her. He just wanted them both to be free. So, as he ordered his broom to fly back to the Slytherin common room, he gained Rose's attention so that he could say, "Look, I know you miss him. I do too, and I think we always will. But I don't think we'll be the ones to find him this time, Rose, no matter how much you want us to. That's why I told Harry about how you saw him at the funeral."

Rose had had her head hanging down, but she looked up as Scorpius finished speaking. "You did what?" she asked through squinting eyes that were filled with the bluest betrayal.

Scorpius didn't repeat himself, instead just waiting for the magma to flow over once more. It came in due time, with Rose soon putting the pieces together and asking as she shook her head in disbelief, "Blimey, that's why Harry left this morning, wasn't it? Because you gave him a reason to!"

"I gave him hope, Rose!" Scorpius talked back at her, trying and failing not to raise his voice. "I gave him what he needed."

"That doesn't change the fact that you did it behind my back!" Her hands were gesticulating through the air with fury, her legs slowly backing away even though Scorpius wasn't attempting to come any closer to her. He was fine right where he was.

Sighing, he replied, "Only because I didn't want you to feel like you'd lost that last part of him you were trying to hold on to. I wanted you to keep the promise you made to yourself, even if I had to be the one to break it."

"Except that you didn't," stated Rose sadly. Before she turned around to walk back to the castle by herself, she added, "I broke it the moment I told you."

Scorpius stared at the track of footsteps she left behind until the closest one to him dried up in the dirt. Then it was his turn to trudge up the hill to the castle, dragging his feet across the courtyard like there were twenty pound weights attached to his ankles and only stopping in the Entrance Hall because he saw the two Weasleys he had yet to hurt arguing by the double doors.

Fifth years were filing out of the Great Hall around them, but Ron and Hugo didn't pay them any mind as the former said in his most fatherly form of advice, "You'll get it tomorrow, Hugh. You just need to get some rest first, that's all."

"No, Dad," Hugo fired back at Ron, his eyes teary and his arms limp at his sides. "I'm not going to get it, because I suck at applied magic. You know what Professor Smethley told me last week when I couldn't think of a memory that was happy enough? She told me I was trying too hard. I mean, what kind of criticism is that? What does it mean to want somethingso badly that you push yourself further away from it?"

Hugo was gone before Ron could respond, though he did run down the hallway to see if he could find him. He wouldn't, though; only Rose knew where Hugo would be going now. In the meantime, Scorpius noticed that the only fifth years left at the entrance to the hall were what remained of the Gryff Group, Roxanne and Lily hesitantly heading off for their dormitories and leaving Nigel glued to the marble floor.

Scorpius didn't give his actions a second thought before he approached the kid whose overgrown hair was blocking his vision and asked, "Nige, are you okay? You know, it'll be the weekend really soon."

Nigel met Scorpius's gaze with a courteous smile as he slumped his back and said pitifully, "My Patronus was a koala. It was quite ferocious, actually." That made Scorpius smile too, until Nigel added, "But it didn't feel very powerful without its kangaroo."

"Come here, Bud," Scorpius told him as he pulled Nigel in for a hug. It was going to be a long night for both of them, and an even longer day tomorrow, but all they needed was a moment of hope to carry them through.

Scorpius was the first person in the stands the next morning. He hadn't slept at all, since he knew Rose wouldn't have wanted him to fly through her window last night, and the Room of Requirement had been closed. It was never easy for him to fall asleep without her there, especially when he was lying next to Al's deserted bed.

Breakfast had been taken off the table as well, because Scorpius dreaded the idea of ruining Rose's day before it had even started. He knew that she needed time, so he intended to give her as much of it as he possibly could. Still, that didn't mean that he was going to miss the game. He already had the perfect seat: the front row of the tower closest to the Gryffindor goal posts, the perfect view of Rose.

Rose was the first player to show up on the field, though she didn't see Scorpius staring down at her. She was too focused on sneaking Hugo inside the locker room. Keeping new players a secret from other teams was tricky but well worth it, because that way the opponents would have no idea what to expect, just like what had happened last year when Slytherin had lost terribly in the face of the Gryffindor Beater who was just as teasingly ferocious as his Patronus animal. Plus, Rose and Hugo didn't want Ron to know that both of his kids would be flying until they soared onto the pitch.

As the rest of the Gryffindor team arrived – Lily wearing buckets of make-up to cover her scars and not looking at all proud to be wearing the sub-captain sleeve on her red jersey, Fred and Roxanne blowing dung-bomb bubbles from their father's joke shop into the air, Nigel with his cheeks and ears so red they looked like they'd been painted, and Bert McLaggen taking up the rear as the team's newest Chaser – so did Ron, and it turned out that he and Scorpius thought alike.

Ron found him in his tower seat and took a place beside him, saying, "Thanks for letting me spend the morning with our girl. I wanted to give her the watch before the game started." It was tradition for witches and wizards to receive watches when they came of age, but because Scorpius had been estranged from his mother and since his father was never one to give gifts, he hadn't ever gotten one himself.

"Oh, it's no problem," Scorpius shrugged as he looked at what Ron was wearing. He was red enough as he was, but he'd added an old scarf from his days at school, as well as what must have been George or Ginny's knitted sweater with the 'G' now meant for Gryffindor, and had a giant foam finger that yelled out cheers all by itself.

Smiling, Ron peered over the edge of the tower to make sure he wasn't missing anything (he wasn't; the Hufflepuff team and a few eager viewers were just striding in) before he pulled something from his back pocket and said, "Well, that reminds me: I actually have one for you as well – a watch, that is."

Scorpius couldn't believe what he was hearing, and so he was shocked to turn to his side and see the watch Ron spoke of held flat in his open palm. Ron had never even liked him, and though he hadn't been frugal ever since he'd started earning his own money, he still didn't spend easily. For a minute or so, Scorpius wondered if he should even take it, but then Ron said, "It was Hermione's idea. She figured you might not have one of your own."

Pulling up the sleeve of his red shirt to show Ron his naked wrist, Scorpius raised his eyebrows and said, "She was right, as always." Then he turned his hand over and let Ron drop the watch into it, clasped the silver chain above his left hand, and shook Ron's hand with his right.

They both then turned back to the pitch, which was now slowly filling with the rest of the student body as well as the Hogwarts faculty and staff. Soon, Ron and Scorpius were joined by Lucy, Holly, and Colin, all of them but the latter decked out in Hufflepuff colors, and just as Ron began to ask where Hugo was, the players started circling around a risen quaffle.

All anyone could see from the tower were the players' backs, so Ron didn't yet know that the tall, lanky Gryffindor flying just above his teammates, with the number two plastered to his uniform, was actually Hugo. It was a clear day again, though, so by now the Hufflepuff team would have been able to recognize him. If anything, that would just make them more confident, but like what had happened with Nigel, they didn't know what they were in for.

The screaming started as soon as the whistle blew, and as Lily took the quaffle for Gryffindor, Rose and Hugo staked out their territory in the high skies. It was when Hugo flew up to the goal post on a rusty old Cleansweep that Ron finally made out his face, and once he regained consciousness after going momentarily speechless, his cheer was louder than any Scorpius had ever heard.

Watching the game through Ron's eyes made it even better than Scorpius could have hoped for. Gryffindor was ahead by thirty points within the first ten minutes thanks to the free pathway the Hufflepuff team always made for Lily, and anyone who did dare to go near her had to answer to Fred and Nigel, who when combined with bludgers were arguably even more frightening than a rumored werewolf.

"And that makes forty points for Gryffindor as Chaser Lily Potter scores yet another goal against Hufflepuff!" announced Lila Jordan from the commentating tower as Lily threw the quaffle through a ring from behind, making the ball hit Hufflepuff's clueless Keeper on the head before rebounding into Roxanne's waiting arms.

Not much was happening on the other side of the field, though Rose had made a couple of impressive saves from Roddy Matheson earlier on. Hugo was still keeping a close eye out for the snitch, doing exactly as Scorpius and Rose had taught him by waiting in one place for the tiny ball to find him, though on second glance Scorpius could see why Smethley may have accused him of trying too hard.

With every gust of wind or sudden gasp from the crowd, Hugo would turn his entire broom around, paranoid that the snitch was right in front of him. Scorpius knew how much pressure Hugo felt at this moment, for he remembered his own first game vividly. He remembered how young he'd felt in his second year and how impressive James already was as Gryffindor's MVP. He remembered twisting and turning on his unsteady broom and being pounded by November hail. He remembered seeing the snitch and reaching for it, only to be blindsided by Sam Thomas's bludger before waking up in the hospital wing next morning, a terrified Rose and highly entertained Albus at his bedside. Scorpius's first game had been bad enough, and his father hadn't been there.

Hugo lucked out for another hour or so, though, during which time the snitch wasn't spotted by either of the Seekers or Scorpius, who couldn't help but scout from the stands. Meanwhile, Rose only missed one attempted goal from Hufflepuff while Gryffindor continued on their scoring streak, so now the match was one hundred to ten for Gryffindor. It was as soon as Lila announced such that Scorpius and Hugo spotted the snitch at the exact same time.

It flew right past Ron's oblivious ear, and he only noticed the buzzing ball when Hugo came rushing straight toward him. He turned just in time to avoid hitting his father in the face, and then Ron started cheering again as Hugo followed the snitch out of range, the Hufflepuff Seeker not far behind. The crowd went silent with anticipation as everyone waited for either of the Seekers to return from the horizon from which they'd disappeared, and even some of the remaining players went relatively still, but whispers started once people began to realize that the boys had been gone too long.

A good twenty minutes had passed, Bert McLaggen had made his first goal, Rose had been too distracted to block Roddy from making his second, and still there was no sight of Hugo or his fellow Seeker, whose name Scorpius didn't know. With every passing moment that they were gone, the area they'd left behind grew darker, both figuratively and literally. Not only did Ron's fists clench tighter together and Nigel inch ever closer to the sidelines, but the sky also went from blue to grey and Scorpius could feel goose bumps growing on the skin underneath his long sleeves.

Undoubtedly worried now, everyone from the pitch to the stands went frozen as the chill spread, and just about every head turned toward the Hufflepuff goal posts when a scream came from the area. A few seconds later, the yellow Hufflepuff Seeker came zooming back toward the stands, but he didn't look excited enough to have just caught the snitch and won his team the match. He merely looked scared, and his teeth were chattering even more than Scorpius's were.

Ron was the first to mumble the word 'dementors' under his breath, but by that time Scorpius had already realized what was taking place. Hugo must have broken the protective perimeter when he'd gone after the snitch, and that grey blob Scorpius had seen with Rose just yesterday wasn't the herd of thestrals they'd been flying with after all. The worst part of everything was that even though some now understood what was happening and would be able to run away before the creatures found them, Hugo had already been found.

Panicking, but coming across as quite calm thanks to his bounty of experience with high-pressure situations, Scorpius turned to Ron to talk through a plan. But of course, by the time he looked for him, Ron was already gone, and a minute later his voice was announcing through Lila's megaphone, "EVERYBODY REMAIN CALM! All those able, including uniformed players, please evacuate the site in an orderly fashion and head for the castle immediately. Those of age, prepare to perform the Patronus charm. We are currently under attack from the dementors of Azkaban Prison. I repeat: we are under attack from dementors."

People listened without question as McGonagall took the microphone from Ron to let the Auror organize everyone so that they would have the best aim for their charms. There were only a few underage wizards who remained in the stands, including Lily, Roxanne, and Nigel, who flew to Scorpius's tower and joined Lucy as they awaited further instruction. Scorpius had to convince Holly and Colin to leave, eventually giving in since they knew that Colin wouldn't be able to defend himself, but Scorpius wasn't planning on heading for the castle or staying in the stands.

Rose was still on her broom when Scorpius looked toward the goal posts to find her. She had been looking for him as well, and all it took was one nod from her to know that he had the right idea. With her permission, he started to climb on top of the tower barrier in front of his row, but Nigel was quick to try to stop him.

"What do you think you're doing?" he yelled as Scorpius stood atop the fencing like he was about to jump off a cliff.

"Just trust me on this," replied Scorpius. Looking down at Nigel so that he wasn't staring at the long fall to the grass, he added, "Two wands are more powerful than one, right?" Then he winked once and jumped.

Nigel leaned over the fence just in time to see Scorpius land on the back of Rose's broom and fly off in the same direction Hugo had gone. If anyone in the stands was protesting their idea, neither Scorpius nor Rose could hear them. All they could hear was each other's hitched breathing, the howling wind, and the quiet murmuring of the hollow ghosts that were currently sucking out Hugo's soul.

Just as Scorpius had suspected and as Rose had correctly assumed, the dementors were stationed right inside the protective border, fifty or more of them floating eerily around something Scorpius couldn't see as if they were a hurricane and the invisible prey was its eye. Rose stopped flying once they were around ten meters away from the cloaked guards, and Scorpius rubbed her arms in hopes of warming her up while also reassuring her that she was doing the right thing. If they waited long enough, the dementors would be able to smell them.

The first to leave the group was on the far outside, and it looked almost as if it was communicating with another across the crowd as it turned its hood toward Rose and Scorpius and then back to its companion. This went on for a while, with more and more of the dementors abandoning their current prey in the hopes of feasting on double the meal. Once ten of them had set their sights on Rose and Scorpius, they started to fly toward them, and Rose's furious shivering grew worse as she said confidently, "Tell me when."

"You'll know," said Scorpius. He waited for ten more dementors to look their way, the first ten only a yard away now, before he grabbed his two wands and slid one into each of Rose's hands, then covered his hands around hers like he'd done when they'd gone flying yesterday. Slowly, so as not to make the broom swerve, he directed Rose's arms into the sky and pointed them at the dementors. Together, they remembered how they'd felt flying above the lake yesterday and yelled, "EXPECTO PATRONUM!"

Two birds came flying from the wand with more determination than Scorpius realized he had, one of them grand and white and the other dark and quick. The songs of Rose's cardinal filled the air and warmth gradually returned to Scorpius's purple fingers, but he was focused on the victim who had suddenly become visible beneath this newfound shield.

Hugo was lying limp on his broom, his head falling onto its end and the snitch fluttering in the hanging hand that was pulling his body toward the ground. The most disturbing part of this sight, however, was the snow-like sphere the size of a golf ball that was hovering just above his open mouth. He didn't have much time.

Trying to hold on to the happy memory, Scorpius closed his eyes to block Hugo from his mind and yelled at Rose, "KISS ME!"

She didn't ask why he needed her to do so before she turned her head and met his lips with the flavor of the ripest, most pungent wild raspberries. Their Patronus charm strengthened with the kiss, and Rose was sure to keep it going even after they broke apart and Scorpius let his now sweaty hands slip away. Her safeguard allowed him enough time to leap off the broom, transform mid-air into his falcon self, fly below Hugo just as his broom stopped floating, and push him up toward his hovering soul before dragging him back to the pitch by his talons. Rose flew alongside him the whole way there, even after Scorpius used the Vanishing Spell on himself to make sure that Ron's awaiting army didn't see him. As it turned out, Scorpius didn't need any wand at all to perfect the spell. He just needed reason.

Just like what had happened to Scorpius following his first Quidditch match, Hugo woke up in the Hogwarts hospital wing, this time with his father, sister, and boyfriend at his bedside. He didn't have any external wounds, but internally he looked to be on the verge of death. Even so, his exhaustion didn't stop him from asking if Gryffindor won the game, to which Rose and Ron nodded while rolling their eyes. There was no way Rose was keeping him on the team.

The only thing Ron could think of to ask through his tears was, "Why did you do it?" Hugo hadn't needed to keep going after the snitch. He hadn't needed to break that barrier. He hadn't needed to bring in the dementors that Ron had had to lead off the premises as soon as Hugo had been rescued.

With his hand in Nigel's, Hugo looked straight into his father's eyes and responded, "I needed to be good at something. I needed you to see."

Scorpius was standing in a far-off corner so as not to interrupt, but as Hugo admitted his best-kept secret – better kept than even his love for Nigel, the boy he'd pushed away upon wanting him too much – Rose turned around to lock eyes with Scorpius for a moment. He knew then what she was trying to tell him. She was sorry for ever blaming him; she had just needed him to see.

It was finally Ron's chance to set Hugo straight, and he wasn't taking the responsibility lightly. With one giant inhale, he started crying again as his jaw quivered to say, "Hugo, I want to tell you something, and I want you to listen as closely as you possibly can, and I want you to remember every word of it."

When Hugo nodded okay, Ron went on with, "Now, I remember how much I used to think of myself as second best – never as funny as my brothers, never as smart as your mother, never as brave as your Uncle Harry. I even used to wonder why I was so bloody awful at Quidditch." He paused before putting a hand on each of Hugo's resting shoulders and saying with eyes wide open, "I hope you know that I never once wondered that about you."

They must have hugged for hours, though Scorpius would never know for sure. He left the hospital wing as soon as Rose felt ready to go, squeezing Nigel's shoulder on the way out. Once they were alone in the hallway, Rose and Scorpius had the chance to hug each other as they verbally apologized for ever having fought the day before, going on to promise to be completely honest from now on, regardless of any protective motives. Then Scorpius wished Rose a Happy Birthday and asked, "You want to see your present?"

Sighing, Rose laughed and said, "So badly."

With a wide smile, Scorpius led her up seven flights of stairs until they were pacing in front of the wall that opened into the Room of Requirement. Unfortunately, it was closed yet again, but Scorpius tried not to question it as he decided to give Rose her present right then and there. It was a simple piece of paper, folded in half along a perfectly straight crease, but the words printed on it were exactly what Rose had been waiting to hear.

"To Miss Rose Weasley," she read aloud, "Scorpius Malfoy, leader of the Order of the Phoenix, and his counterparts are ever so pleased to invite you to join his core alliance, made official upon the eve of your seventeenth birthday."

Rose wasn't able to express what this meant to her, but Scorpius didn't need her to. He knew how powerless she'd been feeling this past month. That was why she'd distanced herself from the title she'd been waiting for her entire school career, why she'd pushed Scorpius so far physically without discussing it beforehand, and why she'd grown so angry with him when he'd done what he determined was the right thing to do by telling Harry about Al. She just wanted to feel strong for herself the way Hugo had wanted to for Ron. Now, she could be strong for everyone.

The three words she did manage to say to Scorpius in response to the letter he'd given her were, "I love you."

"I love you, too," he replied as he leaned down to kiss her. Then he pulled away, jerked his head toward the entrance to McGonagall's office that sat at the other end of the hall, and asked, "Now, how about we go host our first official Order meeting... together?"

Scorpius had his arm outstretched, and Rose took his hand willingly as she nodded and repeated, "Together." Then they walked down the wall, stated the password to the gargoyle guarding the revolving staircase, and made their way up the tower.

McGonagall's doors were closed, but that had never stopped Scorpius from barging in before. He didn't even bother knocking before he opened to doors to let Rose inside, but he froze when he practically ran into her atop the threshold. She hadn't stepped all the way into the office, and when Scorpius looked toward the center of the room, he could see why. Standing across from McGonagall's desk was Albus Potter, and the sight of him made Scorpius's hands start sweating, because no matter how much power Rose and Scorpius could create together, Al still had the power to make them slip away. He still had the power to make them fall.

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