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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45. The Falcon Lament

He was weightless. His senses were stronger than ever and his mind was at peace as the cries of phoenixes echoed out of his ears and into those of the living. The birds were replaced by a swishing breeze and creaking doors and heels tapping on brick, and he listened to the noise as his ears twitched under the permanently risen sun. The sweaty palms and broken wings and sinking heart were replaced with the kind of nothing that was more comforting than frightening, and he felt the numbness beneath his colder than usual skin. Those he'd been fighting for were replaced with those who'd died fighting for him, and he saw the loss as he opened his mother's eyes. The heaving lungs inside his chest were replaced with feathers freed from gravity, and he breathed companionship as his need for oxygen disappeared. The burning fires and healing snows were replaced with a lightly spitting rain, and he tasted clarity as the crevices in his lips became glaciers of the purest ice. He was dead.

But in that death was, someway, somehow, some form of existence. Through the ice Scorpius could see something – not the bright, yellow light that was always referred to by those who had heard stories of the other realm, the dropping of the veil, the crossover and the in-between; rather a sunset of eyes that had long since closed. That sunset stretched all the way around Scorpius's body as he lay flat against the ground, with its brown and green and blue. Beyond the air, everything was red. The rough bricks under his face that felt neither warm nor cold. The thresholds of familiar shop entrances in the distance. The sun.

The more aware Scorpius became of the brick surface beneath him, the more he realized that this was real, even if it was happening inside his head, and that if it was real then surely it must matter. This mattered just as much as everything in his life had, from being born only a few rooms down from his best friend to falling limply into the arms of the girl he spent his live falling madly in love with. He didn't quite understand a lot of it yet, and so perhaps that meant that he never would, but Scorpius knew in his gut that it still mattered. It was his gut that had given him the most invigorating magic he'd ever experienced, from vanishing himself to becoming an Animagus to doing both at once. He couldn't feel that same magic in his gut anymore, but he also didn't miss it. He didn't miss a lot of things.

As he slowly pulled his elbows back and pushed himself up to a sitting position, Scorpius practically smiled at the sight he was presented with. The brick continued from the ground to the walls and even the ceilings, for he was positioned in the middle of an alley, diagonally centered between a closed junk shop and an open door that, though now red, Scorpius remembered as being hauntingly black. The door stood ajar between two concave windows and below a hanging sign that read Ollivander's: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC.

Scorpius had been exactly eleven years and five months old when he had first stepped into the wand shop that looked so different now. He hadn't been accompanied by anyone, since Astoria had been distracted by the sight of Teddy Lupin trying on robes through the window of Madam Malkin's and Draco had had to work. The ancient wandmaker, Garrick Ollivander, had just come in from a fight with his son, but he was careful not to let his personal life infiltrate his working environment. As soon as Scorpius introduced himself by voicing his full name, Ollivander had three potential wands sitting in their boxes on the glass countertop. The first had been short and black, and while it was successful in heightening Scorpius's emotions, its over-exaggerated effects wore off quickly until he willingly let it go. The second drained all his power with a single flick of his wrist, and it was Ollivander who suggested they try again. Scorpius wound up keeping the third – wind-chafed willow with a dull edge – but it never truly chose him, much like Ollivander's son who simply refused to choose his father's same profession. Little did he know at the time, the wand that would choose Scorpius hadn't yet been made.

Now, Scorpius found himself physically searching for that wand as he stepped inside the shop for the second time. His hands were fumbling for pockets, and as soon as he realized that he was completely naked and wished that he wasn't, a pair a of light pants appeared around his legs with a matching T-shirt to cover his miraculously unscarred chest. Nigel's wand never appeared, however, making Scorpius wonder if he would ever see the white maple again.

"You will, even if not in the way you want to. We all will." The voice belonged to a man around Draco's age, with mousy brown hair and painfully ordinary features. He was standing behind the register, in front of a mirror that Scorpius couldn't see, alongside his similar-looking wife. They were the Creeveys, and they appeared in death as they always had in life: together.

Because he wasn't sure how Dennis could have possibly known what he'd been thinking, Scorpius assumed that the Creeveys were answering a slightly different question and egged them to elaborate by asking, "Do you have to wait to see the people you left behind, or can you see them whenever you want to?" He was thinking about Rose, of course, and Nigel and Colin, and his dad, and Harry, and everyone. He hadn't once considered that he might return to them since he'd awoken on that brick surface outside, but he did hope that he could still have glimpses, moments, almosts with the ones he loved, even if they would never be enough.

It was Natalie, Nigel's sweet and unafraid mother, who answered, "Oh, you can see them all the time, like we see our boys. You can feel them, too. Always." She was smiling from cheek to cheek as she took a step away from her husband to reveal the mirror they'd been blocking before. She didn't need to gesture toward it to make Scorpius look.

"Colin's still in the forest, but Hagrid's protecting him," said Dennis, but Scorpius couldn't see anything. "Nigel's at the pitch; he's still upset, but he'll make it through." The more he spoke, the less Scorpius wanted to listen, because everything he said sounded more like denial than hope.

Scorpius was still staring at his own reflection when Natalie added, "And Hugo – he's almost there. It isn't far now." There was an unexpected part of Scorpius that desperately wanted to see Hugo again, to see if he was okay and to tell him that even if he and Hermione didn't make it to Rose in time, everything would still work out. Scorpius was waiting for her here, and he had forever to wait.

Yet again like he could read Scorpius's mind, Dennis said suddenly, "You can see the ones who are already here, too, just like you're seeing us right now. I've seen my father, the milkman, and my older brother, the boy who died too young. Everyone you love is here somewhere; you just have to know where to look for them."

I must not be looking in the right place, thought Scorpius, his eyes still set on the mirror that showed him nothing but the usual icy eyes and snowy hair and cold skin. He was beginning to grow frustrated as he continued to search the mirror to no avail, but like every other negative emotion that had threatened to unhinge him, this one vanished before it could cop hold of him. That was when his focus returned and he saw it.

The reflection wasn't actually him, no matter how similar it seemed. This boy was younger, a child at most, perhaps even an infant. He had all of Scorpius's born features, but none of his earned marks – no crooked nose from years' worth of bludger bangs and brawls with his best mate, no bags under his eyes from chronic insomnia. He was still completely innocent with his pink-colored ears, untouched and far too ignorant to feel unwanted. Scorpius had never liked kids for that exact reason: for all the things they had yet to know. This one was no exception.

The sight of the boy made Scorpius turn around, blocking himself from the mirror and wishing in the back of his mind that the glass would magically crack and that the boy would suffer the same fate as any other mistaken idea, lost in the wasteland of time. But now, after it had been taken from him, there was no magic. And here, in this forever, there was no time.

It was the absence of time that made Scorpius return his attention to the Creeveys, being careful to avoid the sight of the mirror as he looked between the pair. "I'm sorry," he told them as sincerely as he could, though nothing in this world seemed as sincere as he remembered things could be. "I'm sorry I couldn't give you more time – time with your sons, or even just time to say goodbye."

"No amount of time would have ever been long enough," replied Natalie, Dennis's nose resting against her temple, just below the roots of all her curls. "And you had other lives to manage."

"Aye," Dennis continued for her, "Just as you have other deaths waiting for you now."

Scorpius didn't understand what he was insinuating right away. It wasn't until the Creeveys stared mindlessly into the distance and through the windows of the wand shop that Scorpius followed their mutual gaze and saw the lit street awaiting his return. This was Diagon Alley, not just Ollivander's, which meant that there were other shops on the street with their own doors open.

Figuring he would see them again soon, Scorpius didn't say goodbye to Dennis or Natalie before marching back onto the brick and directing himself down the road. He passed the second-hand robe shop that he suspected the Creeveys had probably used once or twice, then the Magical Menagerie where he had bought his pet ferret before his second year at Hogwarts. He considered going into the store now, wondering where Ally might be after leaving her in his Slytherin dormitory yesterday morning. Or, was that even yesterday anymore? Deciding he didn't want to know, Scorpius made himself keep moving until he came to Gringotts Wizarding Bank, its columns standing tall across from the narrow entrance to Knockturn Alley.

There was a wind blowing, from where Scorpius didn't know, as he watched the double doors of Gringotts closing from the inside by an aged goblin with silver hair and yellow eyes. Curious as to why he was being shut out, Scorpius ran toward the door and stuck his hand through the inch-wide opening just in time to ask the rather grotesque creature, "Who are you? How did you get here?"

The goblin stared up at Scorpius's tall figure with a disdainful smirk that made him look as if he was about to spit at Scorpius's feet. "That's none of your business, boy," he said in a husky growl.

Scorpius backed up a bit, his hand still holding the door open, to give the goblin more room before he argued, "Of course it's my business! I – I just need to know where, or when, you came from." Most goblins were employed by Gringotts through the Ministry of Magic, so if this one had died on the battlefield like Scorpius and the Creeveys had, then that meant that the Ministry had awoken from its mysterious sleep. Maybe Shacklebolt had ordered all his men to war, maybe he had come in to save the day, maybe it was all over by now.

Something between a chuckle and a grunt came out of the goblin's mouth then, for he too was able to read Scorpius's mind. "We're all waiting for something here, but you'll learn soon enough that having hope in this world is immaterial. Some of us have been here longer than you were alive, and we're still waiting."

"Waiting for what? More gold?" Goblins were said to only care about money and finances, hence why they were such perfect employees for the largest wizarding bank.

"Not gold, boy," answered the goblin. "Silver. Silver and rubies." Then he pushed hard on the door once more, but Scorpius was twice as strong as him even in his weightless state.

Wondering why the goblin was so adamant on keeping him out, Scorpius asked with more than a hint of desperation, "Why are you so scared of me? I'm good. I'm not like the other Malfoys or Slytherins. I'm good, I promise you. I'm different." He had no idea where any of these statements or pleas were coming from. Al had always been the bitter one – the one to tell people he wasn't in fact a black sheep, that he could have been sorted into Gryffindor even when he hadn't actually been given the choice at all. Scorpius had been given the choice, and until now, he'd never really considered that he might have chosen wrong.

"Do I look like I care which Hogwarts house you were sorted into?" sneered the goblin. That comment was enough to make Scorpius back away completely, the goblin peeking past him and toward Knockturn Alley to say before he closed the door, "And don't lie to yourself by believing you're different. What makes you any different from the two of them?"

Searching for the subjects of his accusation, Scorpius craned his neck around until he spotted two winged shadows hovering below the sign shaped as a pointed finger that led into the street to which his mother used to disappear. Scorpius recognized Wynn instantly, even though he looked years younger than he had when Scorpius had helped James and Ilana kill him. A woman was standing by his side, but Scorpius was more focused on her shadow than he was on her. Wynn's was small and lighter than all the red, but the woman's was massive, maybe even bigger than she was. Its wings were wide, its talons sharp, and its beak pointed. It was an eagle, but to Scorpius it looked a whole lot like the falcon that sat in his own wake.

Was it possible that the goblin was right? Was a falcon just as ferocious as that eagle? Was Scorpius just as murderous as Wynn had been? It had taken three young wizards to take the albino down, and even then it hadn't been easy, but a single hit made by a single woman had sealed Scorpius's fate. He had killed and he had been killed, just as Wynn had, and yet here he was, standing on the good side in this city of blood while Wynn and his eagle hid in the darkness. Perhaps he should join them there.

These thoughts were interrupted by the wind that blew at him again. It was hitting him straight on, making his Malfoy necklace rattle against his collarbone as if it had weight even when he didn't. Wrapping his fingers around the family crest, filled with black and green and silver serpents, Scorpius thought about the many people in this family who might have joined Wynn in Knockturn Alley without any protest or regret, and he thought that while he may not be different from them in reality, he could still wish to be in his dreams... in his actions.

He continued on without looking back, passing another couple shops until he came to Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions on his left and Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor on his right. Scorpius probably would have headed inside Madam Malkin's if it weren't for the gorgeous young girl he saw ordering a scoop of ice cream on the other side of the street.

"Peppermint toad please," Arnia Samuels requested from a counter that had no scooper employed behind it. Even so, a generous cone-full of the treat presented itself to Arnia without further ado, Scorpius standing right beside her in shock as she reached out for the floating flavor that had always been Rose's favorite. But the arm that the petite girl had stretched out seemed to shrink before Scorpius's eyes until it was a baby's hand, a drop of sweat pouring down its palm like Scorpius's would always do, before he'd come here and stopped sweating altogether.

Scorpius had to shake his head and shut his eyes tight to stop picturing this second child, but eventually Arnia's arm returned to her and Scorpius found her smiling as she swallowed a large gulp of her ice cream. Following her to a bench outside, Scorpius never broke eye contact with her chestnut orbs as he sat down and asked, "What are you so happy about? You're not supposed to be here!" He had spent weeks last year training her to be the Beater he believed she could be and she had proven her hidden ferocity. She was supposed to have been fierce in battle too. She wasn't supposed to have been killed.

"Neither are you," she said with another bite. "I was really rooting for you, Captain."

"Really? That's funny, because, you don't seem all that upset to me." She wasn't even looking at him at this point. Her eyes were set on the red sun that was in the exact same spot it had been in when Scorpius had woken up here, her lashes blinking peacefully and her dark brows curved upward at their ends.

She was still staring at that sun as she laughed before she even started telling her story, almost as if it didn't matter if the story was funny to anybody else so long as it was to her. "It is funny, isn't it? Life.

"You know, when I was little – blimey, I must have been five or six years old – I used to have these dreams, these, these nightmares. As soon as I'd fall asleep, I'd be in this other world all of the sudden. It was a world completely black, void of any colors but the stars that were so far away they were probably already dead. And then there was the earth, and it was a beautiful planet, with its brown and green and blue. My favorite part was the white from the snow and the clouds, because it was so incredibly different from the blackness surrounding it. It was light. It was pure. It was good.

"It wasn't always there, though. The white would disappear and then reappear as the earth spun around in space, spinning and spinning and spinning. It never stopped, and neither did I. I was just there, locked in space, watching as the earth spun and knowing that it would never end. I'd just have to keep watching it spin around while I waited all alone, knowing the entire time that what I was waiting for would never come. In my mind, that was what death was: dark, alone, and infinite.

"I spent a lot of my life running from that nightmare, which didn't seem to end even after I woke up. I mean, that must be why I was so good at hitting those bludgers even when I had terrible aim; all I wanted was to send any stupid spinning ball as far away from me as possible. But being killed had nothing to do with all the strength I'd built; I was killed in seconds. And then I came here, and look at this place! It isn't dark or alone or infinite. It's light. It's pure. It's good."

Scorpius didn't know what to say. He was happy that she was happy, to be certain, but for whatever reason he couldn't bring himself to feel the same way. Careful not to take the peace away from her, he stood from the bench and placed an admiring kiss on the top of her head before leaving her behind. Her story had terrified him, and though he supposed he too was grateful that he wasn't lodged somewhere in space for all eternity, he was slowly beginning to realize that he didn't particularly like it here either.

Desperate for something constant, some moment, some memory regarding the woman he felt more tethered to with every step he took down this road, Scorpius soon found himself in Flourish and Blotts, Diagon Alley's one and only book store. He closed the door himself once he was inside, leaning back against it to catch his breath as he escaped from the persistent wind. But as his breathing grew slower and deeper, he realized that he wasn't smelling that familiar parchment smell that Rose so loved. In fact, he couldn't smell much of anything.

Books were piled every which way he looked, but Scorpius wanted more. If not more physical books, he at least wanted to be closer to them, to feel them in his hands the way he used to see Rose with her own books walking down the Hogwarts hallways and would wish that she was holding him. As soon as this desire became clear in his mind, a whole stack of books was thrust into his open arms by an old man with a specific shade of hair Scorpius would know anywhere.

"Ah, Scorpius, good of you to stop by!" shouted Arthur Weasley as he rushed behind a crowded shelf and left Scorpius to try to balance his new load, which turned out to be far easier than it should have been.

Once he had them in order, Scorpius followed the sound of Arthur's voice and asked, "Stop by?" Was this merely a stop along a planned journey, and if so, where was he meant to be headed?

"Well yes, you won't be staying long, of course," Arthur said in a mumble, his attention focused on perusing the book shelf that Scorpius was now standing beside as well.

As Arthur continued to essentially ignore him, Scorpius took in the sight of this energetic, active senior and tried to remember the last time he'd spoken to him. Scorpius remembered the day Arthur had died quite well, for he had been staying at the Bird's Nest and none of its inhabitants had taken the news lightly. Ron had quickly jumped into denial by working on hundreds of unnecessary "household chores," while Hugo had broken down and locked himself inside a bathroom. Hermione had banged on that bathroom door for hours on end, begging for Hugo to come out if only so that she could hug him, and Rose had tried to be the rock holding her family together even though they'd already fallen apart. Before that, though, Scorpius had never actually spoken directly to Arthur, since last Christmas had been too hectic for a visit to the Burrow and he had never taken a Muggle Studies class at Hogwarts. All he knew of Arthur was the love he'd seen through others' eyes, just like all the love he had now was stored in memory.

Scorpius was about to ask again where Arthur thought he might be off to next, but then grew too distracted when Arthur stood back up with a fresh hardcover in his hands. After blowing off some of its dust, the man inspected it with the same blue eyes he'd passed down to Rose and smiled before exclaiming, "Finally! Merlin's beard, I can hardly believe it!"

Walking closer so that he could gain a better view, Scorpius had to read the book's title from the top of a page as Arthur moved on from the cover to flipping through pages in the middle. Squibs, Floes, and other Almost-Muggles, it was called, and as Scorpius read it for a third time he was quite certain that he did not in fact know what it was referring to. Squibs were non-magical folk born to magical parents, the opposite of Muggle-borns, but what were floes?

"Sea ice that has broken from its sheet," Arthur answered before Scorpius had the chance to voice his question, his head still buried in the text. "Or, in this case, magical folk who lose their magic."

Scorpius had never heard of such a thing. Blood purists would argue that Muggle-born witches and wizards were in fact born as Muggles and only gained their magical ability upon stealing a wand for themselves. This point could easily be proven invalid with the likes of witches and wizards who could perform magic without wands, including Half-bloods like Tom Riddle or Muggle-borns like Lily Evans Potter who had been known to perform magic before even realizing that they were magical. What Scorpius couldn't think of any example for were witches and wizards who had somehow lost their magic. He didn't understand how such a thing could possibly occur, let alone why or when.

But because there was half a book written about them, Scorpius questioned himself and soon asked Arthur, "Has there ever been one – a floe, I mean?"

"I don't know," replied Arthur as he was coming up on the final few pages. Then he paused on one that was completely blank and added, "Perhaps just not yet."

Anxiously, Scorpius extended his hand in the silence and Arthur placed the book into his open palm with the utmost care. Finally, Scorpius gained a glance at the cover, where a magically moving photograph was centered in a frame of encrusted gold. The picture showed a young boy with a head full of bushy red hair and crooked glasses covering, yet again, icy eyes. Scorpius stood transfixed as he watched the boy run a tiny hand through his hair, but dropped the book until it thumped on the floor when he saw the author's name signed across its border that read: Hugo Weasley.

Scorpius raced from the bookstore like he used to run through the Potters' woods, stopping in the middle of the street to let himself keel over and catch his breath, if only because hebelieved he was exhausted even though no such feeling existed here. His throat was choking on the brown air and blocking his mouth from taking in any of it, but once he realized that his nose was open his breath returned to him, and so too did the wind. It felt odd to consider just how much Scorpius wanted to walk against that wind when he had never wanted to before. In life, he'd always done as he was told, done what he was supposed to do, been who everyone wanted him to be. But in death, everything was different. He had no one to please, not even himself.

Knowing this, he stood up straight once more and started walking until he could see the final turn of the street – the one that led into the Leaky Cauldron – and stopped upon hearing the caw of an owl. Almost instantaneously, Scorpius was sheltered from the strengthening wind, straddling the threshold of Eeylops Owl Emporium and wondering if he should have come in at all when he saw the back of a girl's head with beautiful blonde hair. Next to her was a snowy owl with a black beak and amber eyes, and Scorpius wanted to run away up until the moment the girl turned around and turned into a woman.

Without hesitation, Scorpius collapsed into his grandmother's arms. They were much less frail than he remembered them to be; she was able to support him without a single sign of protest. She looked and felt younger than she had the last time Scorpius had seen her, which had been the night he'd left Malfoy Manor at the beginning of the summer before his sixth year at Hogwarts. He hadn't known then that he would never see her again, but in retrospect he was quite pleased with the conversation they'd had. He'd walked into her bedroom feeling more confused than ever after being picked up at King's Cross Station by both Draco and Astoria, only to Apparate home and find them fighting again. Narcissa was always the person Scorpius went to when his parents fought, ever since he was little and would wake up to the sound of their yells in the middle of the night. She would comfort him and help him fall back asleep even when no one else could, and that day she had listened when no one else had.

That was why, now, Scorpius used his time with his grandmother to express a whole new sense of confusion. They broke apart slowly and Scorpius was staring at the deep dimples formed by her smiling red lips as he asked in the same voice he'd used at six years old, "What's happening to me?"

"You're fighting back," she answered, still smiling, her hand still holding Scorpius's. "Every time you leave another lost love one, you grow closer to the ground, to time, to truth."

This explanation brought Scorpius no clarity. He was just as confused as he rubbed the eyes that should be tired but weren't, looked on at Narcissa's necklace from which hanged a crest that should have been the same as his but wasn't, and asked, "But – but what does that even mean? What does any of this mean? What does this bloody crest mean?!"

Now that she had a more reasonable, more answerable, question to address, Narcissa pet the white owl once more before heading past all the lone tree branches and empty bird cages as she walked Scorpius out of the shop, all the while telling him, "Mine comes from the Black family: Toujours Pur, meaning 'Always Pure.' And yours is the Latin Malfoy sigil:Sanctimonia Vincent Semper, 'Purity Will Always Conquer.'"

"And do you believe what they say? About pureness?" asked Scorpius. He had never thought to ask his grandmother if she personally believed all that his parents did, mostly because she'd never thought to ask him. Now, though, as Scorpius felt the touch of her arm around his shoulders but failed to feel her warmth, nothing seemed more important than knowing where he came from.

"I used to." Narcissa had steered Scorpius onto the street by now, but even with the wind and even with her admission, he didn't attempt to shrug her off. He wanted her there with him; he always would and she knew it. That was what made her feel comfortable enough to continue with, "I used to believe that Muggle blood was scum, and that belief was strong enough for me to disown my blood traitor cousin and even my sister, Dromeda, when she married that Mud-blood of hers."

They were coming up on the Quality Quidditch Supplies shop as a middle-aged couple walked past them. The man was very handsome behind his unkempt hair, with skin so pristinely new that Scorpius suspected he may have been highly scarred in life, and he was staring at Scorpius with furrowed brows and squinted eyes as if he could see all the boy's secrets. His hand was clasped tightly around his wife's, whose pink hair blended in with the sky and whose smile was contagious as it met Narcissa's with a curt nod. They looked happy as they disappeared in the direction from which Scorpius had come, and as he watched them he felt the odd sensation that he knew exactly where they were going.

As if Narcissa felt the same, she said then, "But after everything that happened, all of the family members I was never able to meet and then lost before I wanted to, I realized that blood purity was a silly thing to start a war over. Although, I suppose too that the things wars are started over aren't really the things responsible for all the casualties. One person can convince just about anyone to follow them if they have a strong enough excuse for their anger, and it's that one person who is responsible for everything that happens because of their so-called cause."

Just from listening to her for that single minute, Scorpius knew that his grandmother was right. The Second Wizarding War wasn't about blood status so much as Voldemort's rise to power, and the same could be said now about Astoria. She bore a single mind, but once corrupted, it had earned the power of thousands. And Al had proven himself just how hard it was to reverse that kind of corruption.

"And anyway," Narcissa voiced Scorpius's thoughts for him, expressing them more eloquently than he would ever have managed to, "Purity doesn't have to describe blood status. Personally, I'd like to think that it doesn't have to have anything to do with magic at all. Rather, purity should be about the soul. The purest type of person is one who would wake up from death only to be willing to share the little hope he had left with the first person he saw. It is one who would give up all that makes him him – his family, his magic, his life – to protect the one he loves most. It is one who would sacrifice his life not for pure blood, but for shared blood, for brothers' blood."

They had made it to the entrance of the Quidditch shop, and at the other end of the long room full of brooms and balls stood James Sirius Potter, his neck turned over tensely and his jaw clenched as he ferociously polished the handle of his Firebolt. Transfixed by the sight that suited James so perfectly, Scorpius felt himself floating away from Narcissa and toward the young man who'd died by his side.

Scorpius was standing inches away from James by the time the latter noticed his presence. He must have seen the blond out of the corner of his eye and, once he did, he put down his brush and varnish and looked straight at Scorpius with a sinister glare. "You shouldn't be here," he said without breaking eye contact, and for the first time since Scorpius had woken, someone seemed surprised to see him.

"Well, 'should' is quite the loose term around here," Scorpius joked, but James refused to hear it.

"What are you doing?" he asked upon ignoring Scorpius's statement, this time walking around the table holding his broom so that he could be closer to Scorpius, which only made Scorpius all the more terrified.

Scorpius was about to respond by saying that he was just doing whatever his gut told him to do, following the only road that stretched in front of him, when James spoke for him. "You're giving up!" he yelled. "You flew through one dense cloud and you've let it swallow you whole. You've let her win."

With that, Scorpius was less terrified. Now, he was angry. "No, I didn't!" he argued, taking his turn to puff up his chest and point fingers. "I didn't let her win; Astoria killed me!"

"Oh, really? And it was a fair fight, with you struggling to hold on until the last second, writhing in pain, screaming in agony, covered in blood but still alive, still being the leader you were made to be, still searching for those blue eyes that were worth doing absolutely everything for? Did you really fight hard enough for her?"

"OF COURSE I DID! I flew to her, and when I made it inside I fired every spell I knew at Astoria to get her away. I tried to disarm her and stun her and petrify her, but she was always one step ahead of me. She saw me even when I was invisible, and I had nowhere left to hide. I flew to Rose, and I fought for Rose, but I died. End of story."

At that, all of the memories came flooding back to Scorpius – not memories from his haunted childhood, or from his first trip to Diagon Alley, or from his grandmother's hugs. These memories were from the seconds before he woke up amidst the red. He remembered the green racing from Astoria's wand until it smacked him straight in the chest. He remembered falling, transforming mid-air just like he had two summers ago, falling until he hit solid ground on his human back and had nowhere left to fall. Mostly, though, he remembered Rose – her weak body crouched around the pensieve when he flew above her head, her penetrating scream echoing across the broken marble when he fell to the floor, her voice strong even through its cracking when she stood up after he couldn't. He didn't see any more after that, and worst of all, he never saw her eyes.

All those people – Dennis and Natalie, Arnia, Arthur, Narcissa – had all been here for him, like angels on his shoulder, but James – James had been the devil on his back. And as Scorpius rushed out of the store, he cursed James for challenging him, just like he always used to do on the Quidditch pitch, because it had taken three years for Scorpius to catch the snitch before James and even then his team had never managed to beat Gryffindor. Off the pitch, James was arguably just as competitive and just as infuriating. He pushed Scorpius to the brink by setting Lysander's sights on Rose, tortured him in his sixth year by refusing to let him anywhere near the fragile Lily, and watched him falter as James encouraged Mercy to work as a spy and convinced Nigel to give into his buried rage. But every time James pushed, Scorpius would push right back – he would earn Rose's love while Lysander begged for it, he would be a friend to Lily when she was convinced she'd lost everyone else, he would learn to work with Mercy and would teach Nigel how to stand up for himself – and usually he'd come on top. Usually, he'd win.

He was beginning to think that James knew all this, that the only reason James was so forceful with him in the first place was because he knew Scorpius was capable of goodness, of something better than he started with, of loving and being loved in return. Scorpius was born out of ambition, raised by determination, grown through hardship and pain. He knew better than anyone how to keep going, how to fight, how to stand up, and he never gave in, not ever. It didn't have anything to do with his pure blood or tailored wand; he as a mere human being was capable of magic.

Scorpius was deep in this thought by the time he made it to the door of the shop, and was about to cross the threshold and move on to the final person he knew must be waiting for him, when he saw another child. This one was a boy, with light hair and even lighter skin, and he came zooming past Scorpius on a miniature broom, his round hands flopping through the air in ecstasy and his tiny shoes about to drop to the floor thanks to their untied laces. Scorpius didn't like this one any more than the others he'd seen so far, but for the first time he thought he understood why. It wasn't the tiny shoes or the jumpy walk or the whining cries. It wasn't how happy they always looked; it was that one smile was all it took. It wasn't that there was no bottom line; it was that they had so much time. It wasn't that they thought they could fly; it was how much they tried. It wasn't how different they were from him; it was how alike they were, because Scorpius never gave up either. At least, not until now.

There were only a few shops left on Diagon Alley before the Leaky Cauldron, and it was the last one Scorpius rushed into... the apothecary. Sure enough, he found McGonagall sitting peacefully in an armchair on the inner side of the window with her feline alter ego curled up in her lap. The old woman was still thin, still wrinkled, still pasty white, and Scorpius looked at her and then down at himself, in these pristine clothes he didn't recognize and this fake skin that held no stories, no memories, no proof of life, and ranted aloud, "I am just dust!I'm just dust and dirt and NOTHING! I know you want me to go back there, but I can't do it! I can't handle anyone else dying and I don't deserve a second chance because I already wasn't good enough. I can't find her or save her or rescue her; I – I already tried and I failed and I have nothing left! I have NOTHING. I am NOTHING. She deserves more than nothing; she should have something, she should have everything!" Rose was the ocean and he was just a stone. She was the sky and he was just a raincloud. She was his sun and he was the redness that surrounded it when it set.

Before he was aware that she'd moved, McGonagall had an arm on each of his shoulders, her glasses had been replaced with the clearest vision, and she wasn't speaking so much as preaching, "What is the earth made of if not dust and dirt? What is the earth if not something to set the sun – her sun – against? Who are you to say that you are nothing when to her you are everything? When you are everything to the people you have just now walked away from without looking back? When you are everything to the people who will surely die if you fail to live?"

He had to go back. This couldn't be it; this couldn't be the end; there had to be more. It had taken seconds for him to fall when it should have taken years, and even years wouldn't be enough. He had a lifetime left in him – a lifetime of fighting, a lifetime of choices, a lifetime of love for that girl he left behind. He would never give up on her, not ever. And there was something else he needed to do, too. There was someone whose story needed to end far more than his did, and he needed to be there to make it happen. He needed to rid of that corrupt blood so that the purity could return, just as James had done for Albus. He needed to finish Astoria, because there was no way she'd already finished him.

But how? He was dead, he even remembered dying, so how could he possibly go back now? Dead was dead, and nobody could bring people back from that, or so Rose had always said. But Rose learned from Ron the way Scorpius learned from Harry, and Harry was proof positive that people could come back from the dead. He was the boy who lived, and if one's love for him could bring him back then maybe Scorpius's love for another could do the same.

His eyes went from vacant to fully aware as they searched for McGonagall and as Scorpius asked her, "How do I do it? How do I fall asleep? How do I wake up?"

"Simple, really," answered McGonagall. "You keep walking against that battling wind, like a lone piece of sea ice breaking from its sheet."

Immediately reminded of the book Arthur had shown him and that he'd then run from in all haste, Scorpius asked in realization, "A floe? I have to lose my magic?"

Sitting back down, McGonagall nodded solemnly and said into the distance as if she was thinking through the puzzle of a long con, "You united the three Deathly Hallows: the Potter cloak was given to you, you defeated Albus and in so doing won the Elder Wand, and the ring has belonged to you since your heart has belonged to Rose."

Scorpius was staring at McGonagall intently because she was his sage, and because he had never even considered all the things she told him now. He never suspected the ring might be more than it seemed, but it made all the sense in the world to him now, because it had been the defining object of his life for the past three years. He knew of the wand's unique power, of course, but he had never wanted that power for himself after seeing what it had done to Al. He had always admired James's Invisibility Cloak, but after perfecting the Vanishing Spell had never needed it for himself. And somewhere deep inside him, he had known about the infamous Deathly Hallows from the stories his father had read him and the biography of Harry he'd read himself, but he had been far too preoccupied with leading the entire Order of the Phoenix to realize that the Hallows were real and were right in front of him.

He finally looked away from McGonagall to inspect some of the objects he was surrounded by now, from the barrels of slimy stuff on the floor to the roots and powders lining the walls and bundles of fangs hanging from the ceiling. Meanwhile, his ears never left the sound of McGonagall's voice, which droned on in understanding. "Wizards have of course united the Hallows before. There was Dumbledore, who had each of them at various stages of his life and the wand for the majority of it, but he never did carry them together. Harry was the same, even though unlike Dumbledore, he at least mastered them each selflessly, which Dumbledore failed to do for any but the wand. You have done what the two of them could not: united the Deathly Hallows all at once without any selfish intent whatsoever. At the time, you did not even know they existed."

"So then, what exactly does that make me?" asked Scorpius as he brushed his fingers over a bucket of rose thorns and was more disappointed than amazed when not even a harsh prick made him bleed.

"That makes you immortal, only..."

Scorpius cut her off. "Only I already died."

"Yes," replied the advisor, "which is why you cannot be offered immortality in any world but this one, where you would remain only to shuffle the dead onto their next journey. But perhaps – perhaps if there is no way to return to a life in the magical world, you might return to a life in the Muggle one."

Scorpius was holding up a vile of Amortentia, the love potion, when McGonagall finished speaking. He couldn't smell the potion anymore, not the raspberries or the burning driftwood or the seawater. He could only see its translucent liquid, which was fogged by his reflection that wasn't really a reflection at all. It was another child's face with more of his same eyes and same features. McGonagall was by his side as soon as he wanted her to be, and so he asked her, "Who do you think they are?"

"I cannot know for certain," she answered, "But I have a theory that they may be your future. They may be glimpses of what is to come, reminders or evidence that there is more to a wizard's life than potions and spells. Children are made by the love of two people; they are manifestations of life's magic. We all are."

There were feathers next to the potion, long and white and ethereal, and as Scorpius refrained from touching them too, he thought about McGonagall's explanation. He could live without the potions and the spells, but there was a part of the magical world that he dreaded having to give up, and McGonagall was quite possibly the only person who might understand why. So, he asked then, "More to life than transfiguration?"

McGonagall let a hissing cat drop from within her grasp before answering, "Sometimes we have to sacrifice our talent to go on loving, and believe me, doing so is far more rewarding than sacrificing a love simply to maintain one's talent." She sounded like she was speaking from experience, making Scorpius wonder why he'd never asked more about her life in all of their private lessons together last year. Maybe it was selfish that he hadn't shown any curiosity, or maybe it was a sign of respect that he trusted her enough not to ask too much of her. Now, though, as he was about to embark on a road no one had ever wandered down, he felt he had to be sure that he was doing something right.

As it turned out, he didn't need to ask. She answered in due time, "My mother suppressed her magic after she married my Muggle father, believing that it was better for him to be left in the dark about such matters. Having grown up an observer of her heartbreak and subsequent envy when I and my brothers received our letters of acceptance to Hogwarts, I chose differently than she did when I too fell in love with a Muggle. I was eighteen and he was handsome and I was proud enough to believe that my life could be more than just him, but I would learn in later years that I was wrong. Nothing, not even magic, is stronger than love."

And that was enough. With that, Scorpius was sure. So, yet again without looking back, he gave McGonagall a kiss on the cheek and then exited the store. He wasn't sure just how he knew what to do next, but know he did. He was only on the street of Diagon Alley for a few steps before he was inside once more, this time standing in the middle of the Leaky Cauldron, at the center of a table that was wiped clean but for the three powerful objects that were laid before him: a long, bumpy wand, a cracked black ring, and a perfectly folded cloak. Scorpius took them all in as he waited for something to happen, but his focus was caught on the ring as a deep voice sounded out of nowhere:

"Centuries have passed since I laid eyes on these three,

Them and those brothers and their keen eyes that found me.

Two went rather insane, but one I treated as an old friend,

And together we waited for the day my turn would end.

I had high hopes for the man with the silver beard;

He was old and wise and never completely disappeared.

But he failed to unite all three at once and took only the wand for good,

So even in death he could not stand where you now have stood.

Then there was the young boy with his tendency for trouble,

And though he conquered them all, the stone was left in rubble.

None of that matters now, though, not now that I have you-

You and your snowy heart, so unique and pure and true.

I've watched the Hallows be handed to you, for you never do ask;

You simply broaden your shoulders and complete the given task.

Well, now it is my turn to pass you down an order:

Take the realm I've guarded, oversee this brick-based border.

This is the difference between a blink and goodbye;

Death is at your doorstep, as true as any lie.

Take the friends you've found here down that familiar road,

Then return and wait for others to lead to their new abode.

Their songs will be good for you, with all those lyrics of depravity.

You seem awfully grave for a boy with no gravity.

Just stay focused and you'll find your way,

Keep on the right path and you won't go astray.

Stop thinking about the ones you love on the other side

When there are so many here who have already died.

The magical world you left is just a grave of dreams,

While the Muggle world is not as simple as it seems.

You are safe here in the in-between, where you have earned immortality.

Do not let your memories deny the loss you know of fatality.

This is what you have been meant to do since your first and final breath.

You, Scorpius Malfoy, are the one true Master of Death."

When the voice subsided, the wind picked up. It didn't seem to matter that Scorpius was inside or that none of the windows were open in this bleakly lit drawing room, because this piece of gravity was stronger than ever and it was adamant to push Scorpius back down the magical, red brick road. But Scorpius's decision had been made before the old master had spoken, long before he'd been warned of Muggle simplicity or the unbearable grief attributed to the loss of a loved one. Scorpius needed no reminding of the loss that he knew he was sure to feel again soon, but he also knew that that loss was worth something. It was worth the love, and Scorpius knew that Rose wouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon. She was too strong to give up even after he had, and he refused to wait here for her for all of eternity like Arnia had waited in her dreams, so he had no choice but to return to her.

As the wind continued to push and as his decision continued to solidify, Scorpius turned his head in every direction to search for some way out, or some way forward. And forward was the direction he chose, because McGonagall had told him to walk against the wind rather than with it, and because that was the direction in which he saw a little girl turn the handle of the inn's front door and run out into the raining day and onto the colorful Charing Cross Road, the Muggle side of this in-between.

Scorpius followed her because he knew that he was supposed to. These children were a part of him, were quite possibly even his, and this one in particular was different from the rest. She had sandy freckles crossing her nose and strawberry blonde hair that fell in gentle waves down her back. Her arms flailed about beneath the rain like wings breaking through the air and next to her left dimple was a birthmark in the shape of a flying bird. Scorpius didn't even notice the wind disappear as it was replaced with the rain, and he left the powerful Deathly Hallows for the freckles on that child's face because they were just as powerful. Kneeling beside her as she danced with more innocence than he could imagine, he found himself un-clasping his necklace and carefully transferring it to a much smaller neck, because she was the purest thing he had ever seen. Best of all, she had her mother's eyes.

"Avis," spoke that beautiful, sing-song voice in a sure whisper. Then, only a second after but harsher this time, "Oppugno!"

Scorpius heard the flapping of small wings in the air as Rose's magically-made bird flew for its target with fury. He tried not to let his eyes open regardless of how much they were already fluttering, so as not to blow his cover. He didn't feel much different than he had when he'd been killed and had still had magic in his blood – he was still tired but was fueled by a pounding adrenaline, was still sore in his joints and arms and now also his cracked back, was still scarred and hurt and in love with all of it. He knew in his gut that he was different, though, that he wouldn't be able to perform magic even if he had his wand, which was now being used by Rose as she duelled with Astoria.

A spell fired at Rose then, but sounded like it smashed into an existing half of a wall or a stump of rubble, for Rose was panting as she ran out of the way. Around Scorpius was a whole batch of broken glass and marble and stone, rough and cold against his aching but finally warm skin. Above him was the night sky, and its own cold air was soothing. He could no longer hear the phoenixes, though, and assumed that they had flown off once they saw all the spells spewing into the darkness.

"CONFRINGO!" Rose yelled, her bare feet scraping against the rocks. A moment later, Scorpius heard a giant explosion from what must have been the far side of the room, for it echoed against the few walls that still existed and that closed the Room of Requirement off from the rest of the castle.

Unfortunately, the blast must have missed Astoria, for she was laughing after the sound dissipated. "Nice try!" she called out to Rose while spewing yet another deadly curse. Rose avoided once more, but Astoria wasn't finished yet. The next spell she sent Rose's way was a hit, and it produced one of the most torturous screams of pain that Scorpius had ever heard.

She was still screaming and he was beginning to shuffle amongst the rubble, prepared to jump up and run to Rose if need be even though he was completely defenseless, when Rose was hit a second time and was sent soaring backward until she landed only a few feet from where Scorpius lay. She was so close now that he could hear her heavy breathing, and he tried to put weight into his own so that she could hear him too while they waited for Astoria to approach the two bodies she'd broken.

When Rose made no sign that she'd heard him and also wasn't sounding as if she was trying to stand, Scorpius decided that it was time to open his eyes. Turning to where he knew she'd be, he opened his ice to her sky. She'd already been staring right at him, but now her watery eyes opened wide with shock as her mouth upturned into a smile. Silently, Scorpius tried to tell her that she should get up and keep fighting no matter how weak she was, because he couldn't fight for them anymore, but then he glanced down at her hands and saw that her wand – his wand – was gone.

They gulped together as they understood what was coming for them, but they also smiled together because at least this time they had each other when it happened. Astoria was there before long, kicking at Rose's side and making Scorpius bite his cheek in order to keep from pouncing at her, and searing her eyes into Rose's already crushed chest.

"You are a mess," Astoria stated as if she hadn't been the one to make her so. She was right, though; Rose was a mess. The more Scorpius noticed the blood trailing down from her left ear, the massive cuts spread across all four of her fingers, the purple bruise around her knee below the place where her perfect dress had been torn, the more he wanted to show his face to Astoria and spit in hers.

"Well, there's only one way to fix that, isn't there?" mused Astoria, and at that Scorpius had had it.

Astoria's wand was pointed at Rose, who was still lying flat on the ground, when Scorpius hopped into a standing position and yelled her way, "Like hell!"

During the time that Astoria was distracted by the sight of the boy she'd killed, Scorpius was able to maintain her eye contact as he rushed to Rose and helped her up. She clung onto him, tearing the collar of his shirt slightly and heaving into his shoulder as she bit her lip from all the pain that was coming back to her.

"Another boy who lived." Astoria was gaping at him, but not because he was her son and he was alive. She was surprised because his existence proved that she wasn't as powerful as she thought she was. Trying to suppress her own questioning, she shook her head and blinked a few times before saying, "Well, that doesn't change anything, does it? Now, I'll just have to kill you a second time, and then a third if need be."

Rose was about to scream at Astoria, maybe even leap for her eyes so that she could scratch them out herself, when the sound of a door opening came from the remaining wall and the voice of Scorpius's father shouted, "You're not going to kill him!"

Two pairs of eyes whizzed around to see Draco, with only Rose keeping her gaze on Scorpius because she was too scared of losing him again, and Scorpius realized that he was crying as he saw the glossy tears running down Draco's cheeks from afar. He looked weary and was also relatively battered, with more torn clothes and unwanted scrapes. His breaths were nearly as heavy as Rose's, making Scorpius wonder just how Draco had actually made it through the castle and inside this highly locked room. He could only imagine that Draco had fought all on his own, cunningly as usual of course, and had kept guessing at potential rooms until that door appeared.

"Really?" Astoria asked Draco, bringing Scorpius back to the present. "I killed him once already; what makes you think I won't do it again?"

Draco, of course, had no idea that Scorpius had already been killed, but he shrugged aside the insinuation as he answered, "Because he is your son, Story! It's impossible not to see that... not when he has his mother's eyes."

Scorpius was holding Rose's hand while his shoulder supported most of her weight, and his grasp on her tightened when Astoria asked vacantly, "Whose eyes?" then turned back to face the man who had once been her son and ignored her ex-husband's shouts of protest.

Running toward the trio and screaming all the while, Draco's noise made it nearly impossible for Rose to hear Scorpius's pleading, but he plead with her all the same. "Go," he said as he tried to look her in the eye, Astoria's wand currently pointed at their conjoined fronts. "You have to run or she'll kill us both. Please, please go."

Rose merely shook her head, both refusing to leave him while also being unable to move from all the torture she'd undergone, so they just held each other as they awaited their fate. It came as a shock to both of them when Scorpius saw, through the corner of his eye, Astoria turn around and point the wand at Draco before he was close enough to save his son and stated as simply as she'd spoken all night, "Avada kedavra."

Draco fell to the floor without another word, and Scorpius was fixed on his father even while a portrait that was barely hanging on the closest wall swung open to reveal Hermione and Hugo. Rose gasped in relief to see them but didn't race to their sides, partially because Astoria was blocking her way but mostly because Scorpius was still and needed her to be too.

It took less than a minute for Astoria to take in the sight of the Weasleys and understand that she was in danger. They couldn't be touched by any Flock member, including her, and together they were strong enough to kill her if they wanted to. Before they could try, she transformed back into a golden hawk and was flying into the night, off to continue doing her own damage rather than become a victim to it.

Hermione embraced Rose wholeheartedly, careful as only a mother could be not to hug too tight, giving Scorpius the perfect opportunity to crouch down next to Draco's body and say goodbye. Tears were still flowing from his eyes, but he needed to look at that premature white hair and hold onto those tense hands just one more time. He had never truly been able to let Draco be his father, and he knew now that that was all Draco had ever wanted to be. He wanted to be Scorpius's father and Astoria's husband, and even though a combination of those desires – his love and willingness to sacrifice himself for Scorpius, as well as his faith that Astoria would still do the right thing – had ended up killing him, Scorpius was fairly certain that Draco wouldn't have wanted it any other way. This way, he died a hero.

"I'm sorry," Scorpius whispered to him as he folded Draco's hands across his chest. He hadn't wanted to witness any more losses when he returned to this cruel earth, especially this one. Still, he wasn't going to let death halt him in his destiny; he would leave Draco here where so many of his worst decisions had been made, knowing all the while that his father would see Narcissa soon and that together they would move on to a better place. "I love you."

Scorpius wasn't sure how much time had passed when Rose was holding out her hand and he was pulling himself back up, allowing her to lean on him once more. She had his wand back by now and was trying to give it to him, but he shook his head no. "It won't work for me anymore," he told her, and though she didn't understand what he meant, she also didn't question it.

Instead, she wiped the tears from his cheeks in the quietness, Hermione and Hugo busy searching for her old wand and lost deluminator as they gave the two some space. "I – I'm sorry. I shouldn't be crying," Scorpius told her sincerely. He shouldn't let himself be so weak in front of her, not after she'd been so strong and had held back her own tears for so long.

Shaking her head, Rose leaned deeper into him so that she could kiss the tears as they fell and then craned her neck to meet her eyes with his so that she could say, "You're alive." Tears were no sign of weakness. Since birth, when parents wait to hear the cries of their newborn child, tears were a sign of health, of strength, of life.

Scorpius gave into them upon knowing this, allowing another tragedy to flood his mind if only because he needed to be the one to inform her of it. So, with her eyes still on his, he said, "Rose, there's something I need to tell you. It's about James."

"He's dead, isn't he?" Rose asked before Scorpius had taken the deep breath he'd needed to say such.

He nodded in wonderment, amazed that Rose had somehow known this even when it had happened miles away from her. His amazement never had the chance to change into worry, either, for it was Rose who said, "It's okay, I think. I think it's okay."

Scorpius was nodding and Rose was crying as Hermione and Hugo reappeared, Hugo handing the deluminator to his sister and Hermione apologizing for not having found Rose's old wand. Then they all looked to Scorpius as if he might know exactly what to do next, and though he knew that they should escape and somehow get back onto the grounds, he wasn't sure which way to go. Rose could collapse at any moment and he was completely defenseless, so perhaps they should go through the safe tunnel behind the portrait, the same way from which Hermione and Hugo had come?

But this idea was moot when Rose announced, "We should go through the castle." Everyone looked at her hesitantly, Hugo arguing that Rose would never make it down all the staircases and Hermione reminding everyone that there might be hundreds to thousands of Flock members scattered inside. It was Scorpius Rose looked to when she responded, "I know, but that's exactly why we need to fight through them. We can't let them take our school while we watch it burn from outside, and we can't let them torture anyone else the same way they tortured me."

Scorpius didn't nod because he didn't want her to think that she needed his permission. She was brilliant all on her own, and he was the first to acknowledge that. Hermione came second, for she wore a smile with more pride than she'd ever felt toward her daughter. Hugo was the only one still hesitant, but he stood outnumbered on the matter, and so he listened when Scorpius finally took command and said, "Hermione, you go first, and Hugo, you take up the rear. I'll help Rose in the middle, but I'll be pretty defenseless."

They all nodded in acceptance and then Hermione and Hugo made way for the door. Scorpius was just about to help Rose hobble after them when she stopped him for a moment, kissed him lightly on the lips, locked her hand with his, and said, "Don't you dare let go."

"I won't," he promised her. "You know I won't."

Then the doors opened and Hugo ushered them into the seventh floor hallway, where Hermione was already being bombarded with bandits who were astonished to see their curses all rebound. They would be able to hit Rose and Scorpius, though, so Scorpius held on as tightly as he possibly could as Rose wielded his wand for the both of them. Together, they battled down every moving staircase and every ghost-filled hallway until they reached the ground floor where Ilana was leading an army of Muggle-borns against their attackers. Together, they blew life into the plants in Neville's greenhouses until the cries of mandrakes deafened all adversaries. Together, they fought. Together, they ran. Together, they breathed. She was his gravity, and with her he was heavy. She was his sun, and with her he was everything. With her he was pure. With her he was alive.

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