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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17. The Letters from Nowhere

Scorpius,

Is everything all right? My dad told me that you may not be able to reply to my last letter, and that I should write you instead. What's going on? I asked Dad, but he wouldn't say. Of course, I also read the Daily Prophet this morning… was it your father who finally told the Ministry about last summer? And how is it that Astoria escaped so quickly? And if she did, are you okay? I know I already asked that, but I'm really worried about you.

The atmosphere around here is very strange right now. The Potters are over, and Harry's been having a 'private conversation' with my parents for quite some time. Hugo and Lily tried to use some Extendable Ears to hear what they were saying, but Ginny stopped them. Even James can't seem to figure out what's going on, which is really saying something. Of course, he's very preoccupied at the moment (his first try-out is tomorrow). Plus, I'm guessing that my dad used that Muffliato spell to make sure we couldn't overhear even if we tried. He always did like that spell.

Al's with me now, and I've filled him in on everything that I told you in my last letter. Can you confirm any of it? The article in the Prophet didn't mention Filch, but I assume that's just because Astoria escaped before Draco could turn her in to prove it? Let us know as soon as you can, but for your sake, I do hope that I'm wrong.

Oh, Al wants me to tell you that if you get sick of Malfoy Manor, you can always 'crash at his place' (his words, not mine). Apparently, Harry's more worried about you then ever, and it'd be much less annoying for Al if you were there to calm him down. I wouldn't mind myself, since then at least I'd know you're safe, and I'd probably be able to see you sometimes. But of course, if things are going at all well at your house, then I wouldn't want you to leave just for us.

I think I just heard the office door open, so I'm going to go try to interrogate my mum and dad while Al works on Harry. I'm sorry for rambling on so much, but I've been feeling rather jittery lately. I guess it's harder than I imagined to be without you, even worse when I don't know how you're doing. I hope that you can shed some light on the darkness I've been living in for the past 24 hours, but like I said in the last one, I'll keep sending letters even if you can't reply. I love you so much Scorpius, and I can't imagine that ever changing.

Come back to me when you can,

Rose

Scorpius's eyes were watery by the time he finished. He hated to hear how lost Rose was, as she was so used to being in complete control, and he couldn't believe how much he missed her. That feeling hadn't quite sunk in until now, after reading Rose's last paragraph. He really wanted to talk to Al too, since there was so much ground to cover with him, but he knew that he couldn't.

Pig was the only owl Scorpius had access to now, and the back of Rose's letter was the only piece of parchment he could use. It would be difficult enough to try to reply fully to all of Rose's letters, and poor Pig couldn't carry more than one at a time, so Scorpius wouldn't be able to send an extra letter to Al even if he wrote it on a leaf.

"Oh well," Scorpius sighed while giving Pig a pat on the head. Rose would have to be enough, and he knew that she would be. Plus, any information he told her was sure to be passed on to Al eventually. The two of them told each other everything, and Scorpius didn't see that changing any time soon.

Looking over the letter once more, Scorpius noted the fact that Rose didn't know about his encounter with Ron from last night. He must have just told her to send a letter, that's all. Not wanting to cause a feud between Rose and her father, whom Rose adored, Scorpius decided that he wouldn't mention it. But what would he tell her? Should he say that he's left Malfoy Manor and is camping out in the woods? That didn't seem like the best idea, since Rose would probably come looking for him. Still, he didn't want to lie to her about anything, let alone everything. This was getting complicated more quickly than Scorpius had anticipated.

Deciding to just write and see what came out, Scorpius turned the paper over, searched his rucksack for his quill and some ink, and wrote a reply:

Rose,

I'm fine, don't worry. I'm not at my house anymore, but I also can't tell you where I am. I wish that I could, you know I do, but it's just safer this way. Before my mother escaped, she said she had come back 'for me'. She's after me, Rose, and I don't want to put you or anyone else in danger by being near you. If you don't mind, can you also keep this a secret? You can tell Al of course, just make sure that Harry and Ginny don't find out, because they'll go ballistic searching for me. I suppose that goes for Lily and Hugo as well, since we all know if they find out, everyone will. Oh, and please don't come looking for me yourself. I'll be fine where I am, and I don't want to have to worry about you the same way you've been worrying about me. I'm not as strong as you in that department.

Yes, I can confirm your hunch about my mum. I left before my dad wrote to the Ministry, so I'm not sure if he felt like he didn't have proof or if he just didn't want to tell them, but Astoria admitted it to me. She was using Goyle the whole time, but figured she didn't need him anymore once I was accused. She seems to want to get to me (which I suppose is why she didn't want me to be framed), but I don't know why exactly.

When I left, my dad had Astoria and was going to lock her in the cellar, but she must have escaped somehow. I've no idea where she is now, but your dad and Harry are probably planning to go look for her, which I assume is why they were having that 'private conversation'.

I wish that I could stay at Al's place too, but I just don't want to risk anything. The best place for me to be right now is nowhere, so that's where I'm going to stay until they find her. Speaking of which, keep me informed of any news, because I doubt that I'll be getting the Daily Prophet where I am.

Say hi to Al for me, and send more paper with your next letter, so that I can leave a longer reply. Also, send letters as often as you can. Reading them might help me sleep at night. And don't worry, I doubt that I'll ever stop loving you either. That'd be way too difficult.

-Scorpius

After reading the completed letter once over, Scorpius folded it in half, the backside showing remnants of Rose's handwriting, and then gave the letter to Pig. With a whisper of, "Give Rose a kiss for me," Scorpius watched the miniature owl fly away from his hideout in the forest.

The rest of the day passed by slowly, and Scorpius had a light supper of the bread he had stolen at the Potters' before laying in bed and awaiting sleep once more. He wondered about Astoria – where she was, what she was plotting, if she was looking for him. If she was, how long would it take her to find him? Was he safe here, or should he move his campsite every few days? Traveling seemed like a logical option, and the long walks would provide something for him to do all day, but it would mean getting further away from Godric's Hollow, and therefore further away from anything familiar. Plus, he didn't want to make it any harder for Pig to find him, because he knew that Rose's letters would be the only things that would keep him sane.

Rose. Rose. Rose. Every thought Scorpius had always came back to Rose. He couldn't imagine a life without her, and yet they hadn't been together all that long. She was the one thing that made all of this worthwhile. As long as she promised that she'd be waiting for him once he got back to Hogwarts, he knew that he could get through the summer on his own.

With that thought, Scorpius slept. It was light and still somewhat interrupted, without very much dreaming, but it was exactly what his body needed. In the morning, he woke to a clear blue sky, the same color of Rose's perfect eyes, and went for a short run before grabbing his broom and taking off. He had decided that he'd stay in his spot in the woods, at least until there was some sign that it wasn't safe anymore. Still, he wanted to get out on the Flyer for a while so that he could get a better picture of the area.

He took a spin around the neighborhood, but Scorpius instinctively ended up in the skies of Ottery St. Catchpole, stalking the Weasley house and hoping that Rose might step outside for a while. She never did, but eventually Scorpius did notice the living room window open, which Pig flew out of, a small letter in his beak. Excited, Scorpius raced the owl back to his tent and landed on the grassy hill just in time to catch Pig in one hand, and Rose's falling letter in the other. Opening it up, he read:

Scorpius,

Thank god you're all right! I've been so paranoid lately, my mother's actually been saying that I'm beginning to remind her more of Dad than of her. Still, now that I've heard from you I'm a little more comfortable about things. Of course, I do wish that you could tell me where you are, but I've come to expect your 'obsession with protection' I suppose. Just at least be honest with me about how you're doing, and I'll try my best not to go looking for you.

How is it where you are though? I hope you're getting enough to eat, and have some sort of company. Are you sleeping okay? You mentioned it in your letter, and I had a feeling that the voices might be coming back ever since you saw Astoria again. If they're there, are they still telling you to stay awake so that you can save her, or is it something different this time? Either way, just shut them out. None of it is real, not anymore.

I'm doing all right here, at least for now. It turns out you're right about my dad. He left this morning, saying he was off for his next mission, and doesn't know how long he'll be gone. (Harry's not going with him though; I think they want him to stay at the Ministry, since he's Head of the Auror Department and all.) Dad wouldn't say anything more about it, but my mum seemed to know everything, and she was clearly worried. It's funny, but the way she looked at my dad as they said goodbye sort of reminded me of the way I looked at you when you were being dragged away at King's Cross. I didn't know if I'd ever see you again, or if you were at all safe. Gosh, that feels like years ago now, it's hard to believe that it's only been a couple of days.

Anyway, my point is that the way my parents were looking at each other had me all worried. I have a lot of confidence in my dad, but he actually looked scared, which I've never really seen in him before. Hugo seemed to sense it too, because as soon as Dad had left, he ran up to his room and slammed the door. Mum and I thought he was in there crying, too ashamed to do so in front of us, but it turned out to be even worse. When he came back downstairs, he had his trunk with him, packed to the brim with clothes and other personal items as if he was ready to go back to Hogwarts for the year. When Mum asked what he was doing, he announced that he was going to stay with the Creeveys for a while, at least until Dad came home. I know it upset Mum that he wanted to leave, but she let him go anyway. He and Nigel Creevey are pretty much inseparable these days, for reasons that aren't exactly mine to share. I think Mum can see that though, so she sympathized.

So now it's just the two of us, and Mum's delved into her work as a distraction from worrying about Dad. I suppose I've been acting similarly, since I've started planning Al's birthday party, and it's taking up most of my time. Of course, it'll be a surprise, since he doesn't want any sort of celebration, but he'll only turn 16 once. I so wish that you could come, as does he I'm sure, but we both understand why you can't.

I hope you know that we would join you in a second if you told us where you were. You wouldn't have to be putting anybody else in danger, and we'd be prepared for whatever came our way. At least then we'd be together, and we'd form some sort of united front for whenever Astoria came knocking. Just please say that you'll consider it.

Anyway, I'd better stop writing now, since I've run out of news to share. I can't wait to hear from you again, and please don't be afraid to ask for help or company if you need it. Don't start being stubborn like Al and me, just because you're too selfless to know any better. You're not the only one in your life, after all. You have people, and we care about you, and we always will. Don't ever forget that.

Come back to me when you can,

Rose

How is it that she could see right through him? This was the main thought running through Scorpius's head once he finished reading Rose's newest letter. Everything she wrote made Scorpius feel as though she was right next to him, and could see the fear in his eyes, along with the bags underneath them. For a moment, Scorpius had to remind himself that this wasn't true, even though he desperately wanted it to be.

Even so, Rose could sense his loneliness from miles away. She knew that the voices and nightmares had returned to Scorpius, and she knew that he was once again struggling with them. Of course, she was right that this time around, things were different. Instead of hearing his own whispers to stay awake and to save Astoria, he had been hearing Astoria'svoice, confident and controlling, saying repeatedly, "I want to protect you. I want to protect you. I want to protect you."

Upon hearing those words each night when he tried to go to sleep, Scorpius would try to turn them into something less intimidating and more hopeful, which is what always made him think of Rose. He was here to protect her, and unlike Astoria, he meant every word. If he was lucky, Rose would lead him to his dreams, and he'd finally sleep. It was the only thing that had worked so far.

Before he began to wallow in self-pity, Scorpius quickly brushed the thoughts away, took one of the extra pieces of parchment that Rose had provided him, and wrote his reply:

Rose,

I'm fine, honestly. I know you're worried, as I am about you, but really, I'm okay. I have plenty of food and I'm completely sheltered from any type of rain that may come my way. I don't have too much company, but I enjoy being alone. Plus, I have your letters, and so I have you. That's really all I need.

You are right about my sleep, though. The voices are back, but this time they're all hers, Astoria's. She keeps saying that she wants to protect me, but I know it's a lie. I just wish I knew what she really wanted with me, and then maybe I'd feel a little better. Anyway, it's not that bad, so long as I can change the subject in my head.

I'm sorry your dad had to leave home. I can't help but feel like it's slightly my fault, ever since I heard that Astoria had escaped again. I never meant for your dad to get overly involved in any of it, but I do hope that he finds her as soon as possible. If he does, then maybe I'll consider your proposal about telling you and Al where I am, or even going to stay with the Potters'. Until then though, I just can't do that to either of you.

Speaking of Al, tell him 'Happy Birthday' for me. And don't let him be too down about the surprise party. He's had a rough time lately, and he could really use a little pick-me-up. Maybe you should invite that girl who helped with the Veritaserum? I'm sure a bit of snogging with her would cheer him up. I don't mean to be vulgar or anything, but it did seem like she was all Al could think about on the train coming home from Hogwarts.

Anyway, I hope everything goes well, and I have the utmost confidence in your party-planning skills. I also hope that you and your mum aren't alone for too long. The sooner your dad comes back the better, plus it's never easy having a family that's split apart. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, especially you. But like you said, your parents love each other; you can see it in the looks they give. As long as they have that, there's no need to worry about your dad. It's impossible to be away from the one you love for too long, and it's also impossible to quit fighting for them. That's why I'd never be able to stop fighting for you.

-Scorpius

After giving a small piece of bread to Pig, who had been waiting anxiously to be rewarded for his impressive letter-carrying, Scorpius folded the letter and handed it off to the owl. Once again, it was difficult to watch Pig fly away, as Scorpius had begun to associate the bird with Rose herself. Still, he knew that she'd send a reply as soon as she could.

Scorpius felt slightly guilty for fibbing to Rose about his living arrangements, but he couldn't stand knowing that Rose was worried about him. It would be easier for both of them if she continued to think that he was perfectly safe and happy. Plus, what he had written at the end of the letter was completely true: he loved her, and would continue to fight for her, which was exactly why he first needed to protect her.

Over the course of that week, Scorpius and Rose continued to send letters back and forth to each other, but less often than they had been sending them initially. While Scorpius gradually ran out of the food he had stolen from the Potters' kitchen, Rose continued to plan for Albus's surprise birthday party.

On the day of the party, Scorpius kept close watch over Godric's Hollow, hoping to catch a glimpse of Rose and Al. Luckily enough, the group of people, who seemed as though they were all part of the Weasley-Potter family, spent most of their evening outside, some in the yard and others on the back porch, making it easy for Scorpius to spy on them from his spot in the woods.

Harry, Ginny, James, and Lily were of course all there, but they had taken Al out for most of the day and let Rose into the house to set up all of the decorations. She had brought Hermione with her, in order to move things along faster, since Rose couldn't use magic. It was bittersweet watching Rose from the sidelines, since Scorpius could feel how close she was, but couldn't touch her… couldn't hold her, couldn't kiss her. It would have been torturous if she hadn't looked so cheerful.

Her smiles were partly due to the fact that all of her hard work over the past week was finally paying off. She was positively glowing as she called out directions to Hermione, and Scorpius was reminded of each time she had finished writing a long, difficult essay for Potions or Astronomy. Neither one was her favorite subject, which only made her focus on their assignments even more. Afterward, she'd always wear the proudest expression on her face, just happy to know that she had done her best.

Rose looked even happier, however, when the Potters arrived with their own special surprise. After bringing Al out back and watching his stunned expression, Rose proceeded to give him a giant hug before anybody else got the chance. When she let go of Al, she was met face to face with Ron, who had slyly appeared from behind Harry. He must have been dragged away from work for the night, but a part of Scorpius hoped that perhaps he wasn't going back. The chances were slim that he had found Astoria, since there hadn't been any news regarding her whereabouts for days according to Rose's letters, but maybe he had passed the task along to someone else? Scorpius figured that he'd just have to wait and see.

The crowd stayed outside a little longer, and was soon joined by George Weasley, the owner of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, and his two kids, Fred and Roxanne. Percy, another of Ron and Ginny's older brothers, also stopped by with his two daughters, Molly and Lucy. Lucy spent a large deal of time with Rose, since they were good friends, leaving Al to fend for himself for a while.

Everybody seemed to have a great time, celebrating under an exquisite array of floating green lights. The large table that they all ate at was set with cauldrons of food, meant to look like various potions. Ron spent a great deal of time inspecting the food, dragging Hermione along with him, since it seemed as though she wouldn't leave his side.

Unfortunately, the night had to end at some point. Around midnight, people started walking outside of the property and Apparating home, or inside to the fireplace in order to use the Floo Network. Harry was quick to take all the decorations down before Rose could do so herself, and then worked hard to usher her back inside. When she finally obliged, Scorpius sighed and lifted himself from the ground, ready to get some rest now that Rose had disappeared.

He was distracted, however, when he noticed that Al was still outside, alone and staring up at the stars. This was rather odd behavior for him, and Scorpius wondered if his friend was okay. Eventually though, a beautiful, grey owl came into sight and flew straight toward Al, where he landed on his shoulder and dropped a letter into his hand.

Al didn't look the least bit surprised as he opened the envelope and read, and Scorpius was curious to know whom it was from. The owl wasn't one he recognized, and Scorpius knew just about everyone that Al did. He didn't want to dwell on it though, so after Al finished reading, Scorpius decided to call it a night, assuming that the mysterious letter was probably from that girl Al had been goggling on about, the one he had told Rose to invite. (She had, as a matter of fact, invited her, but Ilana never replied to the invitation.)

After another long night, Scorpius was excited to wake up and find Pig on the table in his tent, Rose's next letter tied to his talons:

Scorpius,

Sorry I didn't write yesterday. I was planning on at least sending a short note at some point, but then I didn't even have the time for that during Al's party. I think the whole thing was a success though, since people seemed to be having fun.

Ilana didn't show up after all, which I suppose I expected. That didn't bother me of course, but I think Albus was a little disappointed. He seemed really lonely most of the night, even though there were loads of people there. He just didn't want to chat to anyone, it was quite odd. I suppose he's pretty quiet most of the time, but I can't help but worry. He looked like he could use a friend, but the best one he's got isn't around to keep him company. Anyway, I don't want to make you feel badly about it. It's not your fault, after all. And I've been keeping him updated on all of our letters, so he knows you're okay and everything, which is good.

Oh, and you'll never believe this, but my dad showed up! He came just for the party, and spent the night at home, but was off yet again early this morning. Still, it was great to see him for a couple of hours, and I know Mum really needed it. It's been hard for her lately with Hugo gone; I've never seen the house so empty, and especially so silent. It's taking some getting used to for the both of us.

Most of my other aunts, uncles, and cousins came for the party as well. Lucy was there, and we talked for a while. She's been having a great summer with Lorcan, and I'm starting to think that they'll always be together. They've become one of those couples now, the ones everybody looks up to, as some sort of symbol of hope for the world. It seems to suit them though, and I definitely think they'll stick it out for a while longer, since Lucy's never been happier, and she swears that they never fight at all. Do you think we'll be like that? I suppose it's way too soon to be thinking about forever, but to me that's what it feels like already. Is that odd, or do you feel like that as well?

I talked to James for a while too, and he also seems more cheerful than usual. His practices with the Magpies are going extremely well apparently, and he said that he'd leave Hogwarts now so that he could play with them full time this season, but Harry of course won't let him. I'm happy about that too, since he said if he left I'd be the new Captain for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and I figure I'll be taking enough NEWT courses next year as it is.

Speaking of which though, our OWL results should be arriving soon. I'm so nervous about them, they're practically all I can think about. I mean I thought I did well on most of the exams, but Potions and Divination could be horrendous considering how little natural talent I have for the both of them.

I've been scouring the Daily Prophet as usual, but once again there's no news on Astoria. Everything seems to be under control in the wizarding world, but I realized this morning that that might not be the case in the Muggle world. Sure enough, I asked my mum if she'd read about anything that seemed at all strange in the Muggle newspaper lately, and she told me that there have been quite a few break-ins reported this week. Other than that, nothing too serious, though there was this one article I read detailing a mysterious bird that's been sighted a few times now, always in a very different part of the country. It's supposedly a hawk, but has this interesting golden color in its feathers, which is apparently very uncommon. I'm sure it's nothing to worry about, but I thought you might want to know anyway.

Nothing else to share, I'm afraid. Are you still doing all right? I miss you more everyday, and sometimes I could swear I feel like a part of me is missing. To be honest, I can't wait for this summer to end. It's lasted too long already, and I think I'd be a lot happier at Hogwarts. I suppose I understand better than ever how you say you always feel there, like it's your real home. I didn't realize until now, but I think I've started to feel the same way. I mean, I'd miss my family if I were there of course, like I always do, but you and Al, and everybody else at school, are like my family too. And now here I am, missing you and my dad. But I'll see you both soon enough… or at least that's what I keep telling myself.

Come back to me when you can,

Rose

Scorpius had to take a number of deep breaths once he finished reading this letter. He had already been having a hard time being apart from Rose himself, not to mention being all alone in the woods. Knowing how much pain Rose was in though, that was a thousand times harder. All he wanted to do was take it away from her, but he didn't know how.

Instead of replying right away like he normally did, Scorpius decided that he'd wait until tomorrow. He wanted to take some time to mull things over, especially regarding what Rose had mentioned about Al. That, along with what Scorpius had seen of him last night, seemed a little suspicious. Still, he wouldn't be able to tell Rose anything about it without giving away his location.

Later that night, Scorpius eventually fell asleep with a full stomach of some rabbit he had caught, but more exhausted than ever just from having caught it. He woke up ready and replenished for a new day, but only a couple hours into the morning, he was met with a somewhat expected surprise that he had been hoping he wouldn't have to face, even though Rose had warned him that they'd be arriving soon.

The barn owl, instantly recognizable as one of Hogwarts' birds, was waiting patiently outside the tent when Scorpius came back from the stream where he had been collecting his drinking water. He had been hoping that whichever owl that would be delivering the exam results wouldn't be able to find him all the way out here, but of course owls knew where to go, even without an address.

Hesitantly, Scorpius took the letter from the bird's beak and watched it bow and fly away before he opened the envelope. Luckily, he had been preparing himself for the worst possible outcome regarding his OWL results, so he knew he'd be okay with whatever he found. Yet again taking a deep breath to calm his nerves, Scorpius opened the letter and read:

Ordinary Wizarding Level Results

Pass Grades: Outstanding (O); Exceeds Expectations (E); Acceptable (A)

Fail Grades: Poor (P); Dreadful (D); Troll (T)

Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy has achieved:

Astronomy: E

Care of Magical Creatures: E

Charms: E

Defense Against the Dark Arts: E

Divination: P

Herbology: E

History of Magic: T

Potions: A

Transfiguration: O

Instantly after reading his scores, Scorpius was relieved. He had done well, better than expected even, in nearly every exam, even Charms. Of course, Rose's one-on-one tutoring with him on the subject had helped tremendously. He had failed Divination, but who hadn't? History of Magic, he hadn't even been given the chance to finish before Shunpike had taken him from the room and Professor Binns had set his answer sheet on fire. And then Potions, which he had been so sure he'd failed, he'd actually passed!

Of course, what he was most proud of was that final mark at the very end of the list: a perfect 'Outstanding' in Transfiguration. Though Al and Rose had reassured him time and time again that he would do well on this particular exam, he hadn't been able to believe it himself… until now. It was nice to know that he was especially good or talented in a certain area, and he couldn't help but smile with joy upon finally seeing the proof on paper.

Anxious to share the good news with Rose, Scorpius stuffed the results into his back pocket and took out a fresh piece of parchment:

Rose,

You were right; I got my OWL results just now. Did you get yours? I know you think you did terribly, and I felt the same about mine, but they turned out to be okay! I got an 'Exceeds Expectations' in Charms, no doubt thanks to you. The only exams I didn't do so well in were Divination ('Poor') and History of Magic ('Troll', of course), but I'm fine with that. I even passed Potions ('Acceptable'), which is a miracle in of itself. Oh, and you were right about Transfiguration; it was my only 'Outstanding', but that's one more than I could have hoped for. How'd you do?

I'm glad the party went well. It's good that you got to see your dad, though I still feel bad that he's had to leave at all. As for Al, I wish I could talk to him, see what's got him down. Of course, I'm not sure that I'd be much help. We talk all the time, but never about anything too serious. To be honest, I think he feels more comfortable speaking with you about things like that. But he's probably fine anyway. I mean, maybe he finally asked Harry about the Elder Wand? He was pretty nervous about that, so it may not have gone so well.

It's good you got to talk to Lucy for a while as well. I know how angry she was with me at the end of the year, having taken up so much of your time, time that you could have spent with her. She really has no right to complain though, since she was with Lorcan all the time anyway. And about what you wrote, it's hard for me to think about forever right now. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be with anyone else. It's just that I have a hard enough time thinking about tomorrow, let alone years from now. Taking it one day at a time is about all I can handle at the moment.

Don't worry about James. Even if he left, you'd be a brilliant Captain, and I could help you. Of course, you'd never be able to beat Slytherin, but you could give it a go. But you're probably right: with all the amazing marks you must have gotten by now, you'll be busier than ever with schoolwork (which is a little hard to believe), and I wouldn't want you to be too stressed.

Thanks for sharing the news. I agree that the hawk thing probably isn't that important, but maybe the break-ins are? Is there any reason why Astoria might want to break into Muggles' homes? I almost feel like she'd do it just for fun, like to send a warning or something. Anyway, keep me posted if anything else pops up.

I'm fine, don't worry about me. I can't stop worrying about you, though. I know what you mean, about feeling like a part of you is missing. I feel like that as well, constantly. It's like I can't think straight half the time, because I'm always waiting to hear what you have to say. I can't make up my mind on things without having your input. I feel like one of those colorful cubes that Muggles are always playing with, the ones where you're supposed to make each side into a different solid color, after they've all been mixed into one huge puzzle. I feel like that, except instead of all my sides being put back together the way they're meant to be, I feel like they're being taken apart, all the colors mixing into one huge mess that can't seem to sort itself out. I keep waiting for somebody to come along to fix me, but I know that you're the only one who can. You're the only one who knows how.

-Scorpius

He hadn't meant to leave the letter on such a somber note, but it had just turned out that way. He hoped that it would signify to Rose just how much he cared about her, while at the same time he was trying to be honest. There were so many things that he couldn't share with her, even though he had promised at the end of the year to tell her everything. He hoped that, for now at least, this would be enough.

So he said goodbye to Pig once again and was left alone, another day to fend for himself. Finally, after stealing from the cupboards of various houses in the neighborhood, Scorpius had a light supper, and received Rose's reply after a short midnight swim in the nearby stream:

Scorpius,

God, I miss you. I don't want to waste an entire letter telling you that, because I know that you already know, but I needed to write it. I miss you and I love you, and I want to make sure that you always remember that. Any time that you ever feel like you're about to disappear, just remember that I'm still here, and I won't ever go anywhere. I'll always be here to fix you when you break, of that I'm completely positive.

But I do have other things to tell you, so I'm going to stop myself before I start crying, ruin the letter, and then have to start all over again. First, congratulations! Those are fantastic marks that you got on your OWL's! I'm so proud of you! I did all right, I suppose. I don't mean to be snobby, but I am actually a little disappointed. I got an 'Exceeds Expectations' in Divination. I know I should be thrilled with it, but I really would have liked to have shocked Professor Trelawney and left her with no option but to mark me with an 'Outstanding'. Still, I did well in everything else, and passing Divination means that I received more OWL's than even my mother!

Second, I talked to Al about what you mentioned in your last letter. He did ask Harry about the Elder Wand, on the day of his birthday. Harry told him that even though he had originally wanted to return the wand to Dumbledore's grave, he ended up keeping it locked away in his house. He says that he had a feeling that it might come in handy one day. So, he decided to give it to Albus last summer, because he was scared that Al was beginning to feel inferior to James, and even to you. He didn't tell him that the wand was abnormally powerful though, because he didn't want Al to give it back, nor did he want him to relish in all that power. He said that Al was welcome to keep it now, that it was his and he could do what he wanted with it, but to be careful about what he used it for. I think Al's just having trouble trying to figure out what to do.

Still, I feel like there's something he's not telling me. He just seems distant, but I can't explain why. I suppose it's quite ironic, isn't it, all three of us feeling lost at once? It's as if we're either united or not, and there's no in-between. I'm determined to bring us back together though, all of us. I won't give up on either of you.

Oh, I nearly forgot, but I also met baby Remy today. Mum and I thought we'd go and visit Teddy and Victoire, since nearly everyone's seen Remy except us, and Mum really wanted to help out around the house in whatever ways she could, since they've been too busy taking care of the baby to do anything else. As it turns out, Teddy and Victoire both know that Remy's a werewolf, since Harry told them (after Al told him). They're not sure what it means for her childhood either, but there've been a couple full moons since she was born already, and she didn't transform during any of them. They said she acted a little strange, and couldn't sleep at all through the night, but it wasn't any worse than that. They'll definitely be keeping an eye on her though, and I think she'll be okay because of that.

Lastly, an article came out in the Daily Prophet today, saying that the Muggle break-ins have in fact been orchestrated by wizards, but Astoria wasn't mentioned. One of the break-ins turned out to be an attack, and a Muggle was found dead, done by the Killing Curse, which is how they put the pieces together. There were a few descriptions of who the murderer was from witnesses, most very vague, and only a few possible names, none of which I recognized. I had a feeling that they might be her followers or something, but then I would have thought that she'd be more involved. If they are working with her, then she's doing a good job of staying in the sidelines.

Anyway, this means that the Auror department now wants to focus on finding the Muggle-killer, so my dad's been called off Astoria's case so that he can lead a team on this new one. The good news is that he's not the only one hunting them down, so he'll be able to come home more often than before. I just hope that it's not all some plot of Astoria's to get him off her tail.

I don't mean to leave you with bad news, since I know you'll probably be reading this before you go to sleep. Just know that whoever these people are, and if they are working for Astoria, they're not anywhere near you. They're all off in Muggle neighborhoods, so I don't think they'll find you off in nowhere. Think about that distance as you try to go to sleep, about how far they are and about how many people are now looking for them. And then think of me, because I'll be thinking of you. You know I will.

Come back to me when you can,

Rose

Unfortunately, Rose's advice didn't work. Once again, Scorpius had a sleepless night, and so was up and about incredibly early the next morning, long before the sun would come up. After writing a reply to Rose, he relaxed for a while, sitting lazily against a maple tree and staring at the Potters' backyard.

Ally was scurrying around the ground in front of him, and she almost seemed nervous. Other than the tiny sounds she was making against the brush and the leaves though, the atmosphere around was dead quiet. It was almost eerie to Scorpius, as if everybody in the world had somehow disappeared.

Thinking this, Scorpius was caught off guard to see Harry walk out the back door of his house, closely followed by Ginny. It was much too early for most people to be awake, including the rest of the Potter family, so Scorpius was curious to see what the two were doing.

Once the couple got further onto their yard, where Scorpius knew the property line was, Harry gave Ginny a kiss, which was so heartfelt and sad that Scorpius could only assume it was meant to say goodbye. Looking closer, Scorpius noticed that Harry was dressed in his Auror uniform, the one that dark wizard catchers used when going out on a mission. He had only seen him wear the dark, army-like clothes once before, since Harry barely ever went on missions these days. He had to hold the fort back at the Ministry, so he'd only ever go out if absolutely necessary. Otherwise, this would be Ron Weasley's job.

With this in mind, Scorpius was struck with a sudden wave of panic. If this would normally be Ron's responsibility, did that mean that something had happened to him? Or maybe to his family? What if something had happened to Rose? What if something had happened to Rose?

Just as Harry Disapparated, Scorpius knew something was wrong. Ginny, who rarely showed her emotions, had worry etched across her face. She was moving tensely as she walked back to the house, almost as if she had to remind herself to put one leg in front of the other, and in what direction to place it.

Scorpius too was no longer thinking straight, but he didn't know what else to do but keep his eyes on the Potter house, hoping that the people left inside, which now included Ginny, would give him a sign as to what was going on.

For at least a couple of hours, no such sign appeared, but Scorpius remained glued to the ground. Finally, after a short eternity, Ginny stepped back outside, now looking both anxious and exhausted. James was right behind her, though for once he wasn't wearing his Quidditch robes. Just as Harry and Ginny had done before, James and his mother walked onto the lawn, where they stood still, hand-in-hand, before turning on the spot together.

Wondering what was going on with Al and Lily, the other two Potter children, Scorpius looked to the house. Though he couldn't see through any of the windows from where he was, there was definitely a light on in the living room area, as it was shining out the back door. There was no sign of movement, but Scorpius did notice a few small puffs of bright green smoke waft out of the chimney. Al and Lily had left as well, but unlike the rest of their family, they had traveled by Floo powder.

Desperate for information, Scorpius ran across the field in front of him, already searching for the spare key that Harry had made for the kids many years ago. When he found it however, instead of using it to unlock the back door, he noticed that the window next to it was opened just a crack. Inside, on the indoor sill, sat Pig, the Weasleys' owl which Scorpius had become so acquainted to as of late.

The bird didn't have any sort of letter in its beak, nor was anything attached to his talons. Whatever he had brought the Potters had already been delivered, and he was just munching on a treat that they must have left him. Unfortunately, before Scorpius could make a move to snatch him so that he might use the owl to send another note to Rose, Pig was out of the window and flying away.

Of course, Scorpius was left dying to know what was going on with the Weasleys, and he was sure that something was. Still, there wouldn't be anything to find inside the Potter house, and he soon realized that all he could do was wait to hear from Rose. Until then, he'd try his best not to over think things or get too paranoid, but he knew it wouldn't work.

Three days later, Scorpius still hadn't heard from Rose. The past few nights had probably been the longest he had ever had, and they reminded him of the few days that he had spent in that tiny cell at the top of one of Hogwarts' towers, guilty until proven innocent of Filch's murder. So much had already happened since then, and he felt as though the world was now a thousand times more dangerous than it was before.

Something was clearly wrong now, there was no denying it, and with every day that passed, Scorpius grew more and more frustrated, and more and more worried. Most of the time, he watched the Potter house in silence, but they were barely ever home. Harry was long gone, and Ginny only came back to sleep every other night. The only thing that was slightly reassuring was the fact that though Al and Lily seemed to be off with Ginny, James had come back to the house only to leave for Quidditch practices. Since James would surely be with Rose if something too serious had happened, Scorpius hoped that this was a sign that things were okay after all.

Even so, Rose had never gone longer than a day before writing a response to Scorpius, and so with each passing moment that Pig couldn't be seen flying toward his tent, Scorpius's worry grew even larger.

That day, Scorpius was drifting in and out of sleep, something he hadn't experienced much of as of late, in the spot that he always used to look over Godric's Hollow, when he noticed a small creature flying toward him. The bird, though small and fluffy, was definitely not Pigwidgeon, as he had a very different coloring of white and black, and lacked the scruffiness that Pig had acquired from old age.

Regardless, the owl was soon at Scorpius's feet, and had dropped a letter onto Scorpius's left leg. Anxious to finally hear back from Rose, or anyone for that matter, Scorpius grabbed the paper and read:

Scorpius,

I'm sorry I haven't written in so long. I know how worried you must be, but I can assure you that I'm okay. Something did happen though, and you're not going to like it. Just know now that this is in no way your fault, so please don't blame yourself.

A few nights ago, the night I sent my last letter actually, there was an attack on the Creeveys' house, where Hugo's been staying. It was led by Astoria, but there were others there too, her followers. They all got there in the middle of the night, after everyone had fallen asleep, and started sending spells through Colin's window to try to break in. From what I've heard, Astoria was after him, the next Squib on the list.

Colin of course woke up right away, but he couldn't do anything but run. His dad, Dennis, woke up as well, and he immediately sent word to the Ministry. Unfortunately, none of the Aurors got there in time, but luckily it was the last night that my dad was still following her, so he found her at the house about ten minutes after she'd gotten there. The followers all Disapparated when they saw Dad, and then he and Dennis tried to fight off Astoria.

At this point, Hugo and Nigel had both woken up as well, and everybody was outside. Apparently, Hugo tried to fight back a few times, but Dad disarmed him from behind before he could produce a spell. Then finally, the other Aurors got there, and Astoria fled as soon as she saw that Harry was with them. Right before she left though, she hit Dad with some sort of jinx that I've never heard of, and he was knocked out. He was taken to the hospital straight afterward, and Harry and a few of the others went after Astoria.

Dad's okay now, and we got to take him home this morning. He had quite a few shattered bones that were difficult to mend, and it all looked very painful, but he's nearly back to normal now. He was well tended to also, with Mum, Hugo, and Ginny never leaving his side. Pig's also refused to go anywhere but Dad's bedside table, which is why I couldn't use him to send this letter. Al and Lily were at the hospital a lot as well, keeping the rest of us company. Harry refuses to stop tracking Astoria though, so he's been off doing that.

We're all pretty shell-shocked after what happened. Hugo's come back home, under Mum's strict orders, but the Creeveys all seem to be okay. They have their own personal Auror protecting their house, and Colin's under close surveillance. It all sounds quite extreme, I know, but for now it's necessary.

Nobody's been more upset than Dad though. He's been killing himself for missing the opportunity to bring Astoria in, and hates the fact that Harry won't let him come back to work for the rest of the summer, at least not out in the field. He's been in a terrible mood because of it, but we've all been trying to cheer him up.

All of us are fine though, really. Astoria wasn't after any of us, we know that. Plus, I think Mum and I are secretly happy to have Dad and Hugo back, and to feel like a family again. Mum nearly had a heart attack when she heard from Ginny that Harry had been called to the Creevey house for an attack, and I know she feels better now that Hugo's under her roof.

As for me, I just wish I could have seen it coming. I mean, I knew that Colin was a Squib all along, and I knew that Astoria had already killed Filch, who was a Squib as well. I should have made the connection; I should have warned them! I've been so busy worrying about you after what you said about Astoria wanting to 'protect you', and then Dad once he started following her, I haven't had time to think about anything else. But I know better now, so I'll be more careful. After all, it's not anybody's fault… not mine, and most definitely not yours.

Oh, and I should mention that there was an article detailing the attack in the Daily Prophet. It came out the morning afterward, and now everyone in the wizarding world is well informed of Astoria's power, and has been warned to stay as far away as possible. Shacklebolt has started calling her and her followers the Forbidden Flock, trying to make the message loud and clear that everyone should stay away from them, that they're not to be trusted, etc. It's still unclear what exactly she wants, but the Ministry's under the impression that the pure-blood front is rising again, just like it did when Lord Voldemort was in power. When I asked Mum about it, she said that it feels a lot like it did the last time. She suspects that Astoria's busy trying to build up an army, not just with witches and wizards, but all manner of dark creatures.

The Ministry has also taken your dad in for questioning, according to my mum. They'll be asking him about Astoria, anything else that she may have done, or any signs of the purpose behind the attack. Mum thinks they might ask about you as well, but I'm sure your dad will just say that you're back at home, camped out in your room or something.

Anyway, that's just about everything I know about what happened. I thought you deserved to know as well, but please, please don't take any of this the wrong way. All that you can do right now is keep yourself safe, and so that's all you should focus on. She's powerful, Scorpius, really powerful. There's nothing you can do to stop that.

I love you. None of this has changed that, and nothing ever will.

Come back to me when you can,

Rose

As soon as he got to Rose's signature, Scorpius sighed and his head instinctively fell into his hands, his eyes burying themselves in the cracks between his fingers. His head felt heavy, much heavier than it should have. He could feel both the pulse from his temple as well as the smaller, faster one from his thumb. Both were racing, as the contrasting deep breaths coming from his open mouth didn't seem to be working.

His forehead was throbbing, and he could feel his eyes starting to water, the ducts quickly filling with tears. He didn't want to let them out, even if there was nobody around to see him cry, so he knelt back his head and opened his eyes to the sun, as if it would automatically dry them clean. Of course, this didn't work as well as he had hoped, and so one single, yet full teardrop fell down Scorpius's cheek.

He didn't know why exactly he was crying. He could feel something in him, something deep in his chest, knotting its way through the rest of his body. The pain, though rooted in his emotions, had become highly physical, and it was unlike anything he had ever felt. His joints, from finger to toe, were on pins and needles, fighting the numbness that was coming over Scorpius, his body's immediate defense against the torture within him.

His feet ached, and he could no longer stand up. Astoria was not his mother anymore. She was a completely different person now: a terrible person, a dangerous person. She had once been the woman who had taught Scorpius how to walk, but now that person was gone. So he knew that if he fell, she wouldn't be there to lift him back up again.

His back ached, and he was sure that an enormous amount of weight had just been dropped upon it. Both the Creevey and Weasley families had been put into life-threatening positions from what they knew to be an insane villain. What they didn't know, and what Scorpius did know, was that the person that villain was after wasn't really Colin, and wasn't really Ron, but rather him. Astoria was looking for Scorpius, and until she found him, he'd have to bear the weight of all those she used as pawns, throwing them away so that she could get to the fleeting knight.

Most of all though, his heart ached, not because he had lost the ability to love, but because he knew above all that soon enough, he'd have to say goodbye to it. Rose had once been the girl who had taught Scorpius how to feel, but now he felt too much. He had let himself take advantage of his feelings for her, and because of that he had put her in danger. All along, just like Ron had said, Scorpius had known that his relationship with Rose couldn't possibly end well for either of them. Now, he needed to put a stop to it, before it ended badly for them both.

Even so, he knew Rose better than that. Like she had said in her very first letter, she'd keep writing even if he stopped. She'd make sure that he didn't run away, and that they didn't lose touch with each other. She had learned that determination from him.

Accepting that there was nothing he could do, at least for now, Scorpius decided to just reply to Rose. If he couldn't keep her pain away, he could at least try to reduce it. She had been through a lot these past few days, and maybe he could lighten the load she'd been carrying. After all, knowing her, she'd be carrying an even larger one soon enough.

Rose,

I don't know what to say. Of course I was expecting the worst, since I haven't heard word in so long, but reading the truth still comes as a shock. And how could I not feel responsible? It's my crazy mother we're talking about, don't forget.

Anyway, I'm not going to waste my time blaming myself, since I've done enough of that. I just want you to know that everything's all right now. Your dad and Hugo are both safe, and your family's back together again, that's what matters. You're going to be fine, and Astoria will never be able to touch you. I don't care if she finds me next, but I'll never let her near you. Getting that close to Hugo was bad enough.

Speaking of which, if Astoria's building an army, then I want to fight. I know I can't do anything where I am, but you have to start telling people the truth about what's going on. Tell your parents about Filch, and then tell them to spread word to everyone they know. We have to start getting people on the right side, before it's too late. The more witches and wizards fighting against Astoria, the weaker she'll be. This has all been going on for too long as it is, and it's got to stop.

I love you too, and don't ever keep me wondering whether or not you're alive again. It was pure torture, and I'm not sure that I'd survive a second round. Keep looking after your family as well, because it sure sounds like you could all use each other to lean on right about now.

-Scorpius

That was the best he could do. He knew it wasn't much, but the only other things Scorpius had to say wouldn't do Rose any good right now. He hoped that she would do as he said regarding the idea to spread word around to other witches and wizards, though. He had been honest about wanting to fight back, and this seemed like the best thing to do at this point. Still, he couldn't let Rose in, not anymore. It wouldn't be fair. Instead, he'd have to wait for an excuse to let her go.

The next morning, a new letter arrived. Scorpius was still upset over what had happened at the Creeveys', and he still felt as though he needed to figure out how to fix things. Even so, opening the envelope and seeing Rose's handwriting was oddly comforting, like seeing a patch of sunlight poking through the clouds after a giant rainstorm.

Unlike his own, Rose's writing was neat and refined, with perfect cursive and not a speck of splattered ink on the page. Remembering his last letter to her, Scorpius grimaced to think of how torn and tattered it was, the writing crooked and smudged from his shaking hand, with splotches of spilt ink all over the margins. He hoped that today he'd be better. He hoped that what he read from Rose today would help make it easier for him to do what he felt obligated to do next.

Scorpius,

I took your advice. Mum and Dad both now know that it was Astoria who technically murdered Filch. The moment I told them, I expected to see huge reactions from the both of them, but none of that occurred. My dad didn't seem very surprised at all, and Mum was off rummaging through things before I even suggested to start telling other people. She had found this old, golden coin, and was performing some sort of magic with it. Before I knew it, the Longbottom and Scamander families were both over for dinner, looking rather distraught and quite anxious to know what 'the emergency' was.

Mum and Dad called Professor Longbottom and Luna (Lorcan and Lysander's mum) into the kitchen right away (strictly speaking, Dad's not supposed to be out of bed, but Mum made an exception), and when they saw how confused all of us kids were, they decided that Lysander, Lorcan, and I could join them in their conversation. The twins are overage now, after all, and I was the one who told Mum and Dad everything in the first place, so they probably figured that it wouldn't do any harm to keep me involved. Hugo and Holly weren't allowed in though, which was slightly awkward, considering how much they both seem to resent each other.

Anyway, Mum filled Professor Longbottom, Luna, and the boys in on everything about Astoria, and we started to discuss what we're going to do about it. Professor Longbottom seemed pretty shocked, but he was also the most enthusiastic about raising forces for a rebellion. He went on quite a few tangents, mumbling about somebody named Seamus blowing up a bridge, then something about a snake and the Sword of Gryffindor. I could swear he even called himself a 'freedom fighter' at one point; I've never seen him so rattled up.

After Mum calmed him down, Luna started coming up with a whole list of ideas that sounded like a load of rubbish. It's one of the first times I've met her, since she's distanced herself from old friends ever since her husband was taken to Azkaban. I wonder if she's always been this loony, or if it's just a result of what happened to Mr. Scamander. She reminded me a lot of Holly actually, with the way she acted as if she was from a different world or something.

Mum and Dad chimed in after Lorcan shut his mum up (and after quite the slew of rolled eyes from my father, I might add), and they were mostly concerned with gathering people, just like you suggested. They asked Professor Longbottom to inform all the other teachers at Hogwarts of everything we know about Astoria so far, and then they asked Luna to write up an article about it in her magazine, the Quibbler. Apparently, unlike the Daily Prophet, the Quibbler doesn't need proof that it was Astoria who planned Filch's murder. According to Dad, Quibbler readers have believed things much more outlandish than that, with absolutely no evidence at all.

Lysander, Lorcan, and I kept quiet through most of the conversation, since we didn't want to suggest anything that could be deemed as foolish. I also think Lysander was a little uncomfortable being in my house, which I felt a bad about.

Once we had a plan though, Mum shuffled us all out of the room (except for Dad, since she still won't let him be away from her, not to mention the fact that he wasn't too keen on being alone with Luna) so that she could cook dinner. The atmosphere was a little harsh after talking about Astoria for so long, but eventually things mellowed down. Holly was utterly fascinated by Luna's wild stories, and Luna and Professor Longbottom seemed to really hit it off. I knew they were friends back when they were at Hogwarts, but I never realized just how close they were. They were all smiles the whole evening, and I have a feeling this won't be the last reunion they have together.

Hugo talked to Lorcan for a while, mostly asking him about Quidditch, and what some of his best Beater moves were. I suppose he could have asked Lysander, but of course Lysander would never give anything away, whereas Lorcan's much too open about such things. Anyway, with the way everybody had split up, that left Lysander and me alone together.

Before I go any further, you should know that nothing happened between us. I know things always get awkward whenever I mention Lysander around you, but I want to feel like I can tell you anything. Now I should probably mention that back at Hogwarts, Lysander told me that he still liked me, that he wasn't over me. He'd accepted that I'd never like him back, that I only loved you, but he still wanted to tell me. So last night, I asked him how he was doing, and he said that he's been having a really hard time. He doesn't know how to move on, even though he desperately wants to. I wish I could do something to help, but of course I can't.

The reason why I'm telling you this though, isn't because I want to make you at all jealous. I just wanted to warn you that when we go back to Hogwarts, he might still be going through a rough patch, and I don't want you two to get into any sort of argument over me. I'm yours, and I'll never belong to anyone else. What happened last fall was a huge mistake on my part, and last night I apologized to Lysander for it, but I wanted to apologize to you as well. I know I've said it before, but I'm so sorry that I ever put you through that. I can see how you must have felt, because that's what Lysander looks like now. I hate to think that it was me who put that on the both of you.

So like I said, I'm yours, and I always will be. But if that's the case, then we need to keep each other safe, and in order to do that we'll need to work together, with each other as well as people like Lysander and his family. I hope that we'll be able to do that, and that you both can forgive me for having acted so incredibly naïve. I wasn't quite sure what I wanted last year, whether it was you, or just the idea of you. Now though, I'm completely certain. I want you, Scorpius. Only you.

Come back to me when you can,

Rose

This would be his excuse. Scorpius had just barely finished reading when he realized that this would be his ticket out. He had been thinking a lot lately about how he would break things off with Rose. The day before, when she had sent word of Astoria's attack, he had accepted the fact that the relationship was over. Still, he had been waiting for something that he could use to make her believe him. He had been wracking his brain for the perfect lie, and Lysander was it.

He hated the idea. He hated what he'd have to do. Even so, he knew that it was time. He also knew that Rose would never forgive him, but that that consequence would be worth it. After all, if Scorpius could do something to make sure that Rose was safe, then he needed to do it. He loved her, and like she had said so many times now, he knew that that would never change. But because he loved her, he couldn't bear to continue putting her or her family in harm's way.

Before he could change his mind, Scorpius took out a fresh sheet of parchment, steadied his shaking hand, and composed the letter that would, quite literally, seal his fate:

Rose,

I want to believe you. I want to believe you when you say that you sat down and talked with Lysander, and that though he may still have feelings for you, you don't have any for him. I want to believe you, but I don't know how.

I know that when you say you're sorry about last fall, you mean it. I know that you never meant to hurt me, and I know that for a while, I pretended that you hadn't. But really, you had. You tried to use somebody else to rush me into a relationship that I wasn't prepared for, and I realize that now.

This isn't your fault. I don't blame you for any of it; I only blame myself. I can't keep using you as an excuse to push myself into situations that I'm not comfortable in. I can't keep loving you while I'm worried every second that you might get hurt, or disappear, or fall in love with someone else.

Even if you don't have any feelings for Lysander, I can't help but think that you do. Even if you don't blame me for Astoria attacking your own father, I can't help but blame myself. Even if you say that you love me a thousand times, I can't help but wonder if it's true.

I am so sorry that I've kept this going for as long as I have. You don't deserve any of this. You just have to realize that I'm not cut out for this, Rose. I don't know how to trust people, even you. I wish that I did, and maybe I will one day, but right now I don't. And it's just not fair for me to keep going with you, not when you can have something more, and not when I can go back to something less.

You once told me to never let go. You told me that you'd wait for me, that you'd hold me, and that you'd never let go. The truth is, I'm not ready to hold you, or to never let go. I'm not ready to love you. I'm not ready for forever. So don't keep waiting for me to be.

-Scorpius

Slowly, and without even taking the time to read it over, Scorpius folded his last letter, sealed it shut, and handed it off to Pig.

"Go," he whispered to the bird, and with the order, Pig was off, flying up into the skies to deliver the short piece of paper that would surely break Rose's heart.

With his feet glued to the ground below him, Scorpius stood where he was and waited. A part of him had wondered if Rose would believe him, but deep down, he knew that she would. All that he had written made perfect sense; he might just start to believe it too.

Of course, it wasn't true. He did trust Rose, and he was ready. He was ready to love her, and he was ready for forever. He knew all this as soon as he had written otherwise. He knew now, as he tried to imagine a future, that it was completely blank if Rose wasn't in it.

Still, there was one thing that Scorpius could see ahead of him… Astoria. She had become his reason to live, not because he loved or wanted to help her, but because he wanted to defeat her. He knew that one day, perhaps not so far from now, he would have to face her alone, and so he needed to be prepared for whenever that day might come.

So for the first time, as Scorpius lay down in that small cot in his tent and tried to fall asleep, he told himself repeatedly not to think of Rose. She may have been the one who had saved him from his recent nightmares, but he knew that this would no longer be the case. After all, if the thought of anyone were to haunt his dreams now, it wouldn't be Astoria. She may be terrifying and dangerous, but Scorpius knew that his days with her were far from over. On the other hand, the thought that his days with Rose were in fact over was far more terrifying, and far, far more dangerous.

Note: I know that was a sad chapter. Sorry! There's not much fluff in Scorpius's head right now, unfortunately. Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please review if you can!

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