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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20. The Unforgivable Scorpius

Scorpius was panting, and the smoky smell of the train's exhaust was trying desperately to escape from his lungs. He had his back bent and his hands on his knees, catching his breath after nearly missing the train. He had arrived on Platform 9¾, King's Cross Station, purposefully late, hoping to avoid an awkward run-in with the Potters or Weasleys. Of course, he had still needed to swerve his way through the sobbing parents waving their children goodbye, but it had been relatively simple to spot any red-heads ahead of time.

Now that he had made it onto the Hogwarts Express, Scorpius knew that there was no turning back. He couldn't run away from Lily or Rose forever, and the decision regarding his return to Hogwarts had already been made. The hard part was going through with it, and now that was done. As for the rest of the year, well, Scorpius figured he'd take things one step at a time.

Step one: find an empty compartment, or at least find Albus. This could prove to be fairly difficult, so Scorpius picked up his backpack, held on tight to Ally, and set off down the aisle as quickly as he could. Immediately, he felt claustrophobic. Not only were the hallways still full of people, but Scorpius could have sworn that some of the students already in compartments were staring at him as he passed. He should have predicted this might happen, considering that all wizarding families now knew about Astoria. He just hadn't realized that kids at Hogwarts, his peers, would be making the connection back to him.

As Scorpius came closer and closer to the back end of the train, he was too busy trying to hide himself from the glares of incoming first years to notice when he all but ran into a much more familiar upperclassman. In fact, he would have passed right by him had he not heard a sort of groan coming from behind.

"Malfoy," said the voice, seething through his teeth.

Scorpius closed his eyes in disappointment, then hesitantly turned around. "Lysander," he greeted the now seventh year Ravenclaw, trying to sound cordial but not over-the-top.

The friendliness didn't seem to do the trick, since Lysander merely took one large step toward Scorpius so that he could gain some ground while he threatened him. "You really thought that you could just come back, after everything you've done?" asked Lysander. "You really think we're going to let you anywhere near her?"

Scorpius didn't respond. He had no excuse for the things he'd done to Rose, except for the explanation that, contrary to what she'd been led to believe, he and Lily were nothing more than friends. That wasn't worth telling Lysander, though. The Scamander twin would never believe him, and why would he need to know, anyway? That was between Scorpius and Rose.

Luckily, Scorpius's silence didn't weigh too heavily on the malicious Lysander, since after only a few seconds, the latter's compartment door opened to the much less intimidating Lucy Weasley, immediately calming the air in the cramped hallway.

"Lysander, let it go," Lucy told him. "He's not of your concern anymore." Lucy, who was quite a beauty, with pale, porcelain skin, light blue eyes, and dark brown hair, had been Rose's best female friend for as long as Scorpius had known her. Now, and for the past year or so, Lucy was involved with Lysander's twin brother, Lorcan.

"Oh, he's always of my concern," Lysander managed to spit out, even with Lucy pushing him back into the compartment where Lorcan was waiting.

As soon as Lysander was gone from the hallway, Scorpius sighed and said to Lucy, "Thanks for that. He doesn't seem to listen to me as well as he does you."

"Spare the grovelling, Scorpius," Lucy replied pointedly. "Just because I'm nicer than he is doesn't mean I'm any less angry with you."

Scorpius frowned. He hadn't anticpated such words to come out of shy Lucy Weasley's mouth, but he should have. He should expect similar reactions to his presence from just about everyone he was bound to run into at Hogwarts. They may not know the whole story, but they knew about Astoria, and they could see the pain etched on Rose's face. All blame linked back to Scorpius, and he should have been more prepared for that.

"Anyway," Lucy interrupted his thoughts. "They announced a few minutes ago that all sixth year prefects are meant to report to the front car for a meeting. I assume you didn't hear, considering you seemed to be headed in the wrong direction?" Lucy was one of the Hufflepuff prefects, and by some miracle, Scorpius had been named Slytherin's at the beginning of last year.

"Oh no, I didn't know. I got here late," Scorpius replied. This particular prefect meeting wasn't one that he was used to, nor was it something he'd heard of before, so it must have been a new addition to the year's schedule. Even with all the mystery, Scorpius had a pretty good idea of what the topic of conversation might be.

"Right, well, we'd better be going then," Lucy said, turning around and leading the way.

They passed all the faces that had stared at Scorpius before, and they were all still staring. This time, because he wasn't rushing, Scorpius had the chance to look through some of the compartment windows to see who the culprits were. Most were young, first and second years, as he had expected. Still, he recognized some older ones: Abby Chang-Turner, an annoying fifth year Ravenclaw who'd dated Al last year; Roddy Matheson, a fourth year Hufflepuff who was also a Chaser on the Quidditch team; even Mercy Golding, Slytherin's most popular student, a seventh year with long legs and blonde hair. Scorpius didn't know any of them that well, but it still stung to know that they thought they had him all figured out.

But all those faces weren't the ones that Scorpius was dreading to see. As he and Lucy neared the front of the train, they passed by a compartment with the school's best-known fourth years, the 'Gryff Group', as all the other houses called them. Lily Potter, Hugo and Roxanne Weasley, and Nigel Creevey all looked at Scorpius with different expressions as he walked by their window. Nigel looked terrified, reminding Scorpius of the run-in Nigel had had with Astoria earlier that summer. Roxanne looked furious, having known about both Rose and Lily's feelings for Scorpius, and the way he'd seemingly trashed them aside. Hugo looked thoroughly disappointed, as if he had expected more from Scorpius, but didn't have the energy to get up and kill him right then and there. Lily's face, which was one of the ones Scorpius had been dreading to see, was blank. Scorpius had expected extreme anger from her, after the way things had left off between them, but Lily didn't show any of that. In fact, she showed little to no emotion toward him.

After Scorpius had left the tent last night, running after Rose to try to get her to listen to him, Lily had merely stood at the opening in waiting. When it was clear that Rose was nowhere to be found, and once Scorpius was completely soaked from the storm, he had returned to the tent to find that Lily had already vanished. A part of him had been mad at her for leading Rose to thinking that they were somehow together, but then Scorpius had realized that it couldn't be her fault. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, he had let Lily into his life that summer, even though he had pushed Rose out of it. That fault was on him. And Lily, well, she had finally told Scorpius that she had feelings for him, and then he had gone running after someone else. Knowing Lily, Scorpius hadn't thought she'd be too happy about that.

Fortunately, Scorpius didn't get the chance to dwell on any of it. He and Lucy passed Lily's room before anyone could make an accusation or ask any questions. Then, after only a few more cars, they reached the faculty compartment.

Scorpius stopped dead in his tracks a few steps away from the open door. Standing there in the entryway, her hair flowing naturally across her back, wearing loose jeans and a baggy Chudley Cannons T-shirt that was sure to have come from her father's closet, was Rose. She was one of Gryffindor's prefects, of course, so Scorpius knew she'd be there. Still, he didn't know how to act around her. If they'd been alone, he would have tried to explain, or at least get her to listen first, but with all these people around, things were bound to be as awkward as they possibly could be.

"Hey, Rose," Lucy said to her friend, walking up to her and then glancing back at Scorpius. As Rose followed Lucy's eyes to find him behind her, Lucy dropped out from the hallway and slipped inside the compartment quietly.

With Rose facing him now, Scorpius thought he saw an even redder face than he'd seen yesterday through Rose's bedroom window, if that was at all possible. He wondered if she'd ever stop crying, or if any of the tears she had shed weren't in fact for him.

Knowing that she was waiting for him to say something, Scorpius struggled to find the words. Deciding to skip over any sort of tedious greeting, he whispered, "I-" but stopped when he heard footsteps from behind him.

Though Rose didn't dare take her eyes off him, Scorpius turned around to see who was there. Al was walking toward him, not at all surprised to see him there. Scorpius's best friend looked oddly confident as he approached the other two, and as much as Scorpius wanted to reach out and give him a friendly hug, something told him not to. Sure enough, Al walked right by Scorpius with a deadly glare, and Scorpius knew all too soon that Al, the one person he had been planning to lean on, the one person he'd expected would hear him out, was the angriest and most disappointed of anybody Scorpius had passed by on the train.

"Come on, Rose," Al said as he came to the doorway. He ignored Scorpius, though Rose clearly couldn't do the same. She held her gaze for as long as she could, until she was pulled into the compartment by Al, where they sat together on one of the benches, Al silently rubbing Rose's arm.

Scorpius followed them inside, not understanding why Al was even there. Last year, though Al had been the expected male Slytherin to be chosen as prefect, McGonagall had called Scorpius's name for the spot. Now they were supposedly in a prefect meeting, so what was Al there for?

The compartment, though larger than the others, felt even more confined than the hallway had felt before. On one side sat Lucy and her fellow prefect, next to Rose and Al. Bobby Dormer, the second Gryffindor prefect, Patty Parkinson, the other Slytherin, and two Ravenclaws sat on the other side. They were all staring up at Scorpius, or sending questionable looks at Al. Without anywhere to sit, Scorpius just stood there with his hands in his pockets.

When he looked up, Scorpius found the designated teacher standing across from him, also in the middle of the compartment. "Professor Smethley?" he asked. The old Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and Head of Slytherin had taken a leave of absence last year due to her pregnancy.

"Mr. Malfoy," she returned pleasantly, but with a slightly timid connotation. Smethley, a rather short woman with perfectly cut, dark brown, shoulder-length hair, had always liked Scorpius, even though he'd never been the best DADA student.

"It's so good to see you again," Scorpius said as Smethley took a step toward him. She would surely make for a better class than Professor Shunpike, who had replaced her last year and had been the subject of a tremendous amount of drama with Rose, Al, and Scorpius.

However, Scorpius's relief to see her again was squandered when Smethley put a hand on his shoulder and led him back into the hallway. "What's going on?" Scorpius asked her once they were outside, angling his head slightly to meet Rose's eyes for a second.

"I'm afraid that, as of this year, you are no longer a Slytherin prefect," Smethley told him in the nicest possible manner. She still had her hand on his shoulder, as if that might help cushion the blow.

Scorpius didn't know what to think. Was this because of Astoria? If so, that was hardly fair. Granted, being prefect had never been Scorpius's favorite role within the school, but it had always made him feel important and recognized. Having that taken away wasn't painless, he had to admit.

"Er, I'm not sure I understand," Scorpius said. "Why? I mean, did I do something?"

"No, I'm sure that's not it," Smethley replied. "I'm sorry, Scorpius, but I don't know the real reason. I'm just relaying information from Professor McGonagall."

Scorpius nodded. McGonagall had always had his back, so he'd be able to get an explanation from her once they got to Hogwarts. Of course, if Scorpius was no longer prefect, then somebody else would have had to take his place. Everything finally making sense, Scorpius asked Smethley, "So, Al's replacing me, then?"

"Yes," confirmed Smethley. "He was next on last year's list of potential prefects. Again, I'm very sorry, but I'm sure the Headmistress has a good reason for it." She then turned around to open the compartment door, saying, "I'll see you at school," on her way inside.

"Yeah," Scorpius said. "I'm glad you're back." Now he was alone, left to wander all the way back through the train once more.

This time, he ignored the stares, and kept walking through the hallway without looking back. At the far end of the train, Scorpius finally found a nearly empty compartment, with only one student inside, and she wasn't staring back at him like all the others.

"Excuse me," Scorpius said, gently sliding open the door. "Do you mind?" he motioned to the empty seat across from the girl.

"Um, no, go ahead," the girl responded. She had thick, wavy black hair, and was wearing a tank top and a flowing skirt, with ten or so bangles locked around her left wrist. On her lap sat an old scroll, and she had her quill out, next to a jar of ink that had been magically locked in its place.

Scorpius sat down quietly, hoping to spend the rest of the ride gazing out the window in silence. When he looked back at the girl, though, he realized he recognized her, if only from Rose's highly accurate description.

Leaning forward, Scorpius asked, "Are – Are you Ilana? Ilana Higgs?"

Looking back up from her scroll, the girl nodded. "I was wondering if you'd figure it out. You must be Scorpius?"

"Yeah," Scorpius replied. After a moment, he said sincerely, "Thank you. For what you did last spring, helping Rose and Al. They told me everything you did for them; everything you did for me."

"Oh," Ilana shrugged him off. "It was nothing, really. They looked like they could use the help was all."

Scorpius chuckled lightly. Still, he knew how much it would have taken for such a stubborn pair to ask for help, and they both claimed that Ilana had been worth it. Al most definitely did, anyway.

Noticing Ilana's sarcasm though, along with her apparent lack of friends (she was, after all, sitting here completely alone), Scorpius became curious to learn more. "If you don't mind my asking, why'd you help them in the first place? They didn't even know you."

"True," Ilana agreed. "But your girlfriend, Rose... she said something to me, about you. I'm not a sap or anything, but I could tell how much she loved you, and I just knew that if I didn't help her, she'd have me killed or something."

Scorpius laughed, because it sounded so like Rose. "Yeah, or worse, expelled," he mumbled to himself. Rose used to say that all the time.

Figuring that he'd need to accept the reality sooner or later, Scorpius said to Ilana, "We're not together anymore, Rose and I."

"I know," Ilana replied. When Scorpius looked back at her, confused, she added, "I mean, I could sort of tell, since you're not sitting with her now. All I can say is, you must have done something that really hurt her to get her to stay away from you."

"Why would you say that?" Scorpius asked with a pained expression.

"Because last time I checked, that girl was not about to give up on you. In fact, I don't think giving up on people was at all in her nature," Ilana said.

With a nod, Scorpius said, "Well, I suppose I did hurt her." He didn't say anything after that. He sat there quietly, gazing out the window in silence, just as he had planned.

After a quiet ride with Ilana in the final self-led carriage from the train station to the Hogwarts castle, Scorpius found himself sitting in the Great Hall, already wishing for the night to end. If at all possible, being in the hall, waiting for McGonagall to lead in the first years, was even the worse than the train ride had been.

People were eyeing him from every corner. The Ravenclaws, who were closest to the Slytherin table, were all whispering to each other, while most of the Hufflepuffs were just trying to understand what was going on, and the Gryffindors didn't need to whisper. All the way across the hall, the lions were making their roars heard.

The one exception to this trend, however, came from the far end of the Gryffindor table, over by the seventh years. Rose was there, next to James, and she kept turning around to the others, yelling something that seemed to silence them. Peering atop hundreds of small heads, Scorpius tried to keep his eyes on Rose, but a noise brought him back to the Slytherins.

"Please," Al muttered, almost incomprehensibly, from across the table. Scorpius turned to him, ready to try to get his friend talking, but he wasn't given the chance when the front door opened.

The whispering stopped then, and Scorpius was thankful for it. Now, he'd be able to enjoy some peace, though ever since Professor Smethley had informed him that it was McGonagall's idea to replace him as prefect, Scorpius couldn't exactly view his favorite teacher in the same manner he had before.

It didn't matter much though, since McGonagall wouldn't give her welcome speech before the sorting was done. With a swish of her wand, a stool appeared in front of the first years, and on it she propped the old, much worn Sorting Hat. Ignoring the questions and subsequent gasps from the little ones, Scorpius waited for the hat's latest song:

"Well, well, it's another year,

Here at Hogwarts School.

We're all back again: you on your benches,

And me, on my three-legged stool.

As most of you are aware,

It's time to tell a story.

Those who haven't heard before,

Prepare to bask in all the glory.

There is a tale behind these walls

That everyone must learn.

Once you hear it, you'll never forget,

For I'll remind you when you return.

Long ago, there were two wizards

Who teamed up with two witches.

Regardless of what you may assume,

They were not just seeking riches.

Godric garnered warriors.

Salazar sought ambition.

Rowena required intellectuals.

Helga held no audition.

Each created their own house:

Two up high, and two below.

But as separation ensued,

The four friends turned into foes.

The common row became a war,

And love was outrun by hate.

Soon all four were gone,

Leaving the school in a terrible state.

Somehow, Hogwarts lived on,

But it suffered quite the ordeal.

Danger has always lurked here,

As I am about to reveal.

I am certain you sense the presence

Of a dark and fearsome force.

Though I cannot always save you,

I can help to keep you on course.

The world's been down this road before;

I recognize the signs.

So you'd all better be careful

Not to cross enemy lines.

But more importantly (so listen up!),

Keep away from the persuasion.

The villain's looking for a spy,

So start preparing your evasion.

And don't discount your friends,

For even the strongest birds can fall.

And after seeing the golden hawk,

It's more than tempting to return her call.

Alas, now that you all know,

I can get to the task at hand,

As I wouldn't want to ruin

The jolly meal that's been planned.

So come up, take a seat,

And please, don't be shy.

Let me see inside your mind,

For I have the keenest eye!"

The eyes were back on him. This time, Scorpius could feel every single pair, as if needles had been thrown straight into his back, onto his forehead, all over his body, penetrating him. None were as sharp as the needles the hat had planted, though. A dark and fearsome force, Scorpius heard in his head once more. The villain's looking for a spy; start preparing your evasion. Everyone in the room knew that it was Scorpius the hat had referred to, and Scorpius himself almost believed the same.

The sorting ceremony began at once, but nobody paid attention. His head down in shame, Scorpius tried to hide himself from all the glares. He didn't understand why the hat had said such things... things that could only have been about Scorpius, and yet none of them were true. If Astoria was the villain, and surely she was, Scorpius was not her spy. And what of the persuasion? Scorpius knew better than anyone just how much of a way with words Astoria had, as it was one of her many talents, but Scorpius had refused to listen to any of them. Still, none of that mattered. From the perspectives of everyone else in the wizarding world, Astoria had only ever been close to two people: Draco and Scorpius. After Draco revealed all he knew to the Daily Prophet that summer, and with no news of Scorpius's whereabouts, the latter was the obvious choice.

After the first years were sorted, McGonagall gave her annual speech, in which she welcomed back Professor Smethley and announced Ravenclaw's Molly Weasley and Hufflepuff's Lorcan Scamander as Head Girl and Boy. Scorpius barely registered any of it, but when the feast magically appeared atop each of the tables, he knew it was time to leave. His appetite was long gone by now, anyway.

Scorpius was just outside the open double doors when he heard calm, steady footsteps coming from behind him. He was about to turn around and yell at the person out of pure anger and annoyance when McGonagall's strict, perfectly clear voice sounded, "Could I have a word with you, Mr. Malfoy?"

Adjusting his face from a scowl into a reluctant obeying, Scorpius faced the Headmistress and answered with as little emotion as possible, "Of course."

McGonagall took a few steps closer to Scorpius, and he was dumbfounded by how much less intimidating she seemed now in comparison to his first year at Hogwarts. They were finally around the same height, both extremely tall, and the wrinkles around her face and beneath her silvery hair seemed more prominent than Scorpius remembered. Thinking this, Scorpius had the sudden urge to speak first, even though McGonagall had addressed him.

"Why did you replace me as prefect?" he asked. It was a simple question, but seemed to place an incredible weight on the air around them.

McGonagall didn't even need to think before she replied with a knowing smile, "Because I didn't want to overwhelm you. You already have Quidditch, and this year you'll be taking a much harder coarse load than you're used to."

That's no excuse, Scorpius thought, and they both knew it. Waiting for more of an explanation, Scorpius listened carefully when McGonagall lowered her voice and practically whispered, "I also happen to have other plans for you."

"Plans?" Scorpius asked, still confused. "What plans?"

"I'd like you to have private lessons with me, once a month at the minimum, for the rest of the year," McGonagall stated.

Private lessons? Scorpius had never heard of such a thing ever occurring at Hogwarts. There had always been rumors that Harry and Headmaster Dumbledore had been abnormally close during Harry's years at school, but had any private meetings been going on, they'd been kept completely secret. Teachers at Hogwarts, especially Headmasters, were not meant to show favorites.

"Lessons for Transfiguration, outside of the class?" Scorpius asked her. "Why?" It's not as if he needed any help in the subject, but of course his extraordinary talent for it was exactly what this was about.

"Because you're the best student Hogwarts has seen since Dumbledore. Better than even me." That was high praise coming from anyone, but especially McGonagall, who was one of the toughest of all Hogwarts professors. Scorpius was taken aback by the compliment, so much so that he barely heard when McGonagall added, "And you're going to need to perfect your skills quickly if you stand a chance at leading the Order."

Scorpius froze. What on earth was she talking about? Hadn't she heard the Sorting Hat like the others had? He was on the wrong side, and most definitely wasn't suited to lead the right one. Had she gone mental?

"The Order of the Phoenix?" Scorpius said when he came to once more. The Order was an old defensive group that had been formed in the Dark Days, and had fought against Lord Voldemort and his rebellion. The Order only lived when it needed to, and even if it did now, there were plenty of people more suited to be than Scorpius to be its leader. "Professor, please don't take this the wrong way, but who do you think I am?" He had never spoken this way to a teacher, but right now Scorpius was desperate.

McGonagall merely laughed at him, as if he had asked the silliest question in the world. "Scorpius, I know exactly who you are. I may be one of the few who does, but I do. You are the last person who could ever be fazed by Astoria or that Forbidden Flock of hers, and you know that as well as I do. Soon, others will see it, too."

She was right. Scorpius would never listen to anything Astoria had to say at this point, nor would Astoria even bother to get him to listen. Sure, she was looking for him, but she would never use him once she found him. Scorpius had been suspecting it for quite some time, but the thought had never been so incredibly clear: the reason Astoria wanted him wasn't to protect him; it was to protect herself, from the imminent force that Scorpius was bound to send her way.

"You really think people will follow me? People who seem to be under the impression that I'm some sort of spy?" Scorpius asked, fearful to hear an unwanted answer.

"Eventually," McGonagall consoled him. "And in the meantime, you're going to gain every advantage you can against her."

Scorpius nodded. "All right," he agreed. The day had taken quite the turn, but it almost felt even more painful to know what everyone else thought of him at the moment, especially with such a responsibility to change their minds.

"I'll give you a time for our meeting in class on Tuesday," McGonagall said before she turned around to walk back into the Great Hall. Before she passed the threshold, however, she turned back to face Scorpius, and said genuinely, "Oh, and Malfoy? It's good to see you."

With a smile, Scorpius reciprocated, "It's good to see you too, Professor." A heavy load had been lifted onto his shoulders, but it was nice to know he wasn't completely alone after all. Even if McGonagall was his sole ally, having her by his side was a thousand times better than having no one at all.

For the next hour or so, while most students ate their weight in chicken and pudding, Scorpius flew around the Quidditch pitch in his falcon form, hoping to clear his mind. It worked to a certain extent, but he knew that he needed to talk to someone. Filling Harry in on all that had happened that summer had eased Scorpius's mind a great deal, but so much more had already happened since then.

By the time night fell, Scorpius headed slowly down to the Slytherin common room, trapped deep in the dungeons of the Hogwarts castle. Since it was late, he didn't pass any students on his way, and once there, he whispered the password, 'power,' quietly to the wall that hid the house from sight.

The common room reminded Scorpius of a prison. With low ceilings and stark, uncomfortable pillars and statues all carved with serpents or skulls, and couches clad in dark green fabric, it always made Scorpius feel like he was trapped. When he looked through the thick, stained-glass windows, the feeling only intensified. Harsh, dark waters shone little light into the room, let alone any air. The Slytherin common room had been built beneath the Black Lake, and students tended to claim that the swishing waters made for a soothing sleep, but Scorpius just thought the water made it harder for him to breathe.

There were only a few upperclassmen who hadn't retired to their dormitories, and they were too preoccupied with hearing about each other's summers to notice Scorpius slip past them. He coyly opened the door to his dormitory, which was the twelfth of fourteen doors that lined a narrow hallway off the common room. Once inside, Scorpius instinctively looked over at Al's four-poster bed, which was the one furthest from the door. He was disappointed to find that Al was already asleep, and figured that if he were to try to wake him, their other roommates would overhear. So instead, Scorpius found his backpack next to his own bed beside Al's, put on his pajama bottoms, and lay down. Of course, he'd be lucky to get any sleep, but he'd at least have some quiet time to mull things over.

The next morning, classes were already starting. After dozing off lightly for a while, Scorpius woke to find that Al and his other roommates had disappeared, off for an early breakfast in the Great Hall. Following their lead, Scorpius quickly dressed into his Slytherin robes and rushed upstairs, eager to try to speak with Al.

Though Scorpius knew what to expect walking into the hall, his mind immediately traveled back to this same day of last year, when he and Al had been playing a game of chess while waiting for their schedules, and for Rose to join them before class. This year, the hall looked the same: all the students chattering away to each other, most of the Gryffindors scattered across their designated table in small groups. It all looked the same as it had the year before, and yet Scorpius couldn't get past all of the minute differences.

At the Gryffindor table, James Potter was talking with Lysander, but rather than having the former's ex-flame, Caitlin Finnigan, by his side, James was wishing on an eyelash from none other than Mercy Golding, the blonde bimbo from Slytherin who had scowled at Scorpius on the train. Further down the hall from the trio was the Gryff Group, but unlike last year, Hugo looked anything but frazzled. In fact, he seemed to be in a rather intense conversation with his friends, Lily and Roxanne leaning toward him in interest and Nigel looking petrified by all three of them. On the other side of James, closer to where Scorpius still stood in the doorway, were Albus and Rose.

They weren't playing chess, but were instead sitting silently across from each other, making quiet slurping noises as they ate their oatmeal. Upon seeing them, Scorpius wondered if he should have prepared something to say. Rose would be furious, or at least hurt, and though Al wasn't the protective type, he seemed to stand firmly on her side. Still, Scorpius decided that his explanation would be better unplanned. So with a deep breath, and ignoring the glares he had nearly grown accustomed to by now, he headed toward them.

"Stop," James ordered. Scorpius hadn't even seen James get up from his seat, nor had he heard him coming this way. He appeared out of thin air, but was just as tall and built as ever. Out of all the Potters, Scorpius had always been the least close with James, mainly because they shared such an intense rivalry on the Quidditch pitch.

James was blocking Scorpius from getting within a meter from Rose, and at this point, Al was on his feet too. Luckily, Lysander hadn't joined in, but Scorpius could see that he'd wanted to, as his fists were clenched tightly on his section of the table, and he was only held back by Mercy's strong hold on his sweater. Behind the others, now completely blocked from Scorpius's sight, was Rose, unwilling to say a word.

Scorpius didn't want to fight James, nor did he have any interest in getting back on his good side. Instead, he looked to Al for some understanding as he asked, "Will you at least hear me out?" He didn't want to admit it, but Scorpius hadn't expected Al to be so silent. On the contrary, he had expected everybody but him to be.

When Al failed to respond, Scorpius sighed and pushed past him and James. Realizing that he had no chance of communicating with Rose at the moment, he decided to try to speak with Lily. When neither James nor Al tried to stop him on his way over to her seat, Scorpius assumed that they didn't know that Lily had found him that summer, or how much time they'd spent together.

As it turned out, Lily's conversation with Hugo was so intense that, unlike every other person in the hall, they hadn't noticed Scorpius's presence. Even when Scorpius stood right behind Hugo and was about to announce himself, the Gryff Group kept talking, making for an easy eavesdrop.

"Hugh, stop worrying so much. I'm the one who's going to have competition," Roxanne said. Her eyes were twitching with anxiety, and Scorpius knew the feeling well. For prospective Quidditch players, tryouts were all anyone ever talked about. From what Scorpius knew from old conversations with Rose, Roxanne was vying for the available Chaser position on the Gryffindor team. The only other available slot was Beater, and Hugo had tried out for it every year.

"Yeah, but have you seen McLaggen?" Hugo asked pointedly. "He must have gained twenty pounds over the summer, and that's all muscle." He had a point here. Though Scorpius had no idea who this McLaggen person was, he did know how scrawny Hugo was. Sure, he was growing like Fiendfyre, but in the wrong direction for the perfect Beater build.

Lily rolled her eyes at this, exclaiming, "You both just need to relax. There are worse things that could happen to a person than being cut from Quidditch try-outs, which, by the way, aren't starting until next week." That was easy for her to say. Lily was already on the house team, having made Chaser last year.

"What's your problem, Princess?" Hugo spat back at her. He and Lily were best friends, so naturally, they fought like mortal enemies. "My apologies, but some of us aren't third-generation legacies of Gryffindor captains. At least I'm not about to buy my way in."

"Well, you sure won't be getting in on pure talent," Lily muttered under her breath. Scorpius had seen her temper flare before, to levels much worse than this, but never with her stings directed at Hugo. He may not have been the most gifted Quidditch player, but Lily knew how badly he wanted to be.

Before Hugo, who had jumped up from his seat and was about to lunge across the table, could start yelling at Lily, Nigel nudged him and motioned his head backward, toward Scorpius. When Hugo turned around, he grunted at Scorpius, but stood up and left without protest, Nigel and Roxanne in his wake.

Lily just sat there, her arms crossed and jaw clenched. Scorpius wasn't sure that now was the best time to approach her, as she seemed to be in a foul mood, but he didn't want to pass up the chance either.

Deciding to go for it, Scorpius took Hugo's seat across from Lily, and said in a soft, non-threatening voice, "Do you mind if I join you?"

Lily shrugged, but kept her eyes averted from Scorpius. With a glance in Rose's direction, and after finding that she and Al had left the hall, Scorpius said to Lily, "I just wanted to apologize, for the other night. I had no idea Rose was going to show up, and when I saw her there, I could tell she'd gotten the wrong impression. She deserved an explanation, so I had to run after her. I'm just sorry that that meant leaving you there, especially after the things I said to you."

Waiting for a response, Scorpius sat quietly for Lily to show some sign of life. She seemed to be in a deep train of thought, and when she finally stepped out of it, her reply came as quite the shock. "I'm sorry, too," she said, and Scorpius could tell from her tone, which reminded him so much of their time in the tent, that she meant every word. Lily never apologized for anything, unless she expected to gain something from it, and surely she must have known that no matter what she did, Scorpius would never develop any feelings for her. And yet, there must be some reason for her appeal.

When Scorpius failed to say anything else, Lily looked up at him, un-crossed her arms and laid her hands on the table, ignoring the uneaten piece of toast by her side. Then she explained, "It's my fault that Rose was there."

"What are you talking about?" Scorpius asked. Rose had shown up out of the blue, with no warning at all. Now that Scorpius thought about it, he wasn't sure how she had found him out in the middle of the woods, and with impeccable timing. But how could Lily have controlled such a thing, and perhaps more importantly, why would she have wanted to?

Continuing, Lily said, "Rose had this thing – that little switch she always uses to turn on lights –"

"The deluminator?" Scorpius asked. Rose had had the magical remote that stored light for as long as he'd known her; it had been a gift from her father for her eleventh birthday.

Lily nodded, and then went on, "Only, when I overheard her talking to Al, she claimed that it could do something else... that it could help her Apparate to you."

"What? How?"

"She said that if you said her name, she'd be able to hear it through the deluminator, and then it could take her to you."

All the pieces were starting to fit together now. Scorpius remembered how closely Rose had always kept her deluminator, as if it did something more powerful than just turn on lights. And there was something else, too. "I hadn't said her name all summer," Scorpius said aloud, "Until that night." He hadn't been able to say Rose's name without feeling a gigantic jolt of pain. In fact, he hadn't wanted to say her name on that last night, either.

"Until you asked me to," Scorpius added, this time rather pointedly. "You wanted me to say it. You wanted her to find me." After seeing Lily's guilty expression staring back at him, Scorpius asked, "Why?"

"Because," Lily said, sounding quite agitated now. Realizing that they weren't alone, she continued in a whisper, "Because I finally told my secret. I finally let it out, but you didn't even hesitate before crushing it."

"Lily, I-" Scorpius started. She was dramatizing the situation much more than was necessary. It was true that he had rejected her when she'd sprung herself on him, but he hadn't been cruel about it. "I never meant to hurt you. I just didn't want to lie to you."

"I know," Lily said, frustrated once again. "But when it happened, I was so angry with you. I wanted Rose to know how it felt to lose you, so I had you say her name. I thought that doing it would make me feel better, and at the time, I didn't know that you'd be back at Hogwarts. I thought it would just be me and Rose, and for once, I wanted to be the happy one. I wanted to be the one you chose."

Scorpius was shocked. Lily had never had much of a problem with hurting people, or at least bullying them, but Rose was her family. This time, Lily had taken things too far. Turning defensive, Scorpius responded with, "So what, you just figured hurting Rose was worth re-gaining your own self-confidence?"

"It wasn't like that," Lily fought back. "It was only temporary. I knew she'd get over it eventually."

"Get over it?" Scorpius was full-on yelling at Lily now, and had stood up from his bench. The entire student body had returned to the hall, for the professors had come to hand out the schedules, but Scorpius didn't care if they all overheard. "Lily, you have no idea what Rose has been through! And she and I, we weren't just a pair of high school sweethearts; we were in love. I mean, didn't Rose make that clear when she announced it to your whole family at Christmas?"

Lily didn't reply, and Scorpius knew why all too soon. Lily had been the one to reveal Scorpius's then-secret relationship with Rose to the Weasleys and Potters, after having seen them holding hands at the train station. Looking at Lily, Scorpius could tell that she had been hoping he wouldn't make the connection.

Deciding to make it clear that he had, Scorpius said, "Oh, wait. You tried to tear us apart then as well, didn't you?" He had always respected Lily, but when he looked at her now, all he felt was disgust.

Lily was holding her ground, but Scorpius wasn't finished. "You want to know what else?" he asked her. "You didn't just hurt Rose. At Christmas, and again the other night, you hurt me. You took the one person who'd ever cared about me away; the one person who ever loved me, and you made sure that she'd never love me again."

This time, Lily knew how to refute. When Scorpius turned around to walk away, Lily called, "She wasn't the only one who loved you! I've been here this whole time too."

Scorpius sighed. She didn't understand, and maybe she never would. Still, if she was going to get over him, it would take a wake-up call, and he knew that he was the only one who could give it to her.

Turning back around to face Lily, Scorpius said, "You didn't love me, Lil'. If you had loved me, you wouldn't have hurt me like that. You would have let me go. Because that's what you do when you love someone; you do everything you can to make them safe and happy, even if it means that you don't get to be with them."

This time, Scorpius didn't look back. He walked straight out of the hall, Professor Smethley handing him his schedule on his way out. The only time he hesitated was when he spotted Rose standing at the other side of the entryway, talking to Professor Longbottom. He hadn't noticed her return, but surely she had overheard some of his conversation with Lily.

The two locked eyes for a moment, but once again, Al came between them, turning Rose around to discuss their schedules. At that, Scorpius continued on his way, glancing down at his own sheet of paper to see where he should be headed. He had Potions first period, followed by Charms and then a double DADA. All three of the classes would be with Rose and Al, as they too had received the required OWL's for their new NEWT courses.

Dreading the day ahead of him, but ready to get it over with, Scorpius walked back downstairs to the dungeons, where the Potions classroom was located. When he arrived, only Madison Bulstrode and Patty Parkinson, two annoying Slytherin girls, were there. They eyed Scorpius as he walked in, but he was used to it from these two. Though Maddi was a brilliant and terrifying Beater on the Quidditch pitch, she was just as timid off it, while Patty barely realized that anyone could ever see her staring at them.

The staring didn't stop, though. As students started piling into the class, every bit of their attention seemed to be centered on Scorpius, and no one dared to sit near him. Even once everyone was there, Scorpius was still sitting alone at his four-person table, while Rose and Al had decided to sit at the far end of the room with Lucy Weasley and Bobby Dormer.

Things continued this way for the rest of the day. At lunch, in Charms, and later at dinner, nobody spoke to Scorpius. In fact, nobody spoke much at all. Even in Charms, which was Rose's favorite class, she remained as silent as she had been since Scorpius had seen her on the Hogwarts Express. Secretly, he wondered if she was still in shock after everything that had happened recently, and during the course of the summer. Things couldn't be very clear to her, but it wasn't like Scorpius could explain even if he wanted to. Al was making sure of that.

He was her bodyguard, from what Scorpius had gathered. Al never left Rose's side (especially if Scorpius was anywhere in the vicinity), unless Rose had to use her time-turner to get to another class. With the way things were going, the Hogwarts ghosts seemed to have more friends than Scorpius did. Granted, he hadn't ever had many to begin with, but Rose and Al had always been enough for him. He was finally realizing this, now that they were gone. If Al would just listen for a minute, maybe Scorpius could convince them that it wasn't too late.

So Scorpius kept trying, at every break between classes and while walking through the halls. But Al wouldn't listen, and Rose didn't have a choice. By the time Defense Against the Dark Arts rolled around, Scorpius was shocked to hear an abundance of participation coming from the front of the room.

From his seat in the back, Scorpius had always been able to get away with paying very little attention in DADA, but the sound of Al's voice woke him from his slumber. It was a while after class had started, just after Professor Smethley had finished her discussion of the topics this year's course would cover, when Al raised his hand and said, "Professor, I realize you may have a lesson planned for the rest of this period, but since it's a double, do you think we could maybe talk about something not on the syllabus?"

"What do you have in mind, Mr. Potter?" responded Smethley in a tone of annoyance. Scorpius snorted in the background. Professor Smethley, though she didn't explicitly dislike any of her students, had never taken a great liking to Al, and after the chummy relationship he'd had with Shunpike the year before, Al was due for a dose of humility.

"The Forbidden Flock," Al stated. All the sixth years immediately turned their attention to him, including Rose, who was sitting beside him. Albus tended not to beat around the bush, but this was about as blunt as one could get.

When Smethley failed to come up with a response, speechless with shock, Al explained further, "Well, it's not like I'm the only one who wants to know what's going on. All any of us know is what the Daily Prophet's been telling us, and there hasn't been any news on that front in weeks. I mean, if there was ever a time where we'd need to be prepared to defend ourselves, this would be it, but we have to understand what's going on in order to do that."

Scorpius was incredibly thankful that he was at his own desk, far off in the back row. Everyone in front of him was nodding at Al's suggestion, for they all wanted some answers, but they seemed to have forgotten that Scorpius was there, because no one was watching him with suspicion at that moment.

"All right, I suppose you may have a point," Professor Smethley agreed, much to the students' delight, and their curious whispers stopped immediately when Smethley began to reveal all that she knew.

"First of all, I'm no expert on the subject," Smethley said, "and it's true that the Ministry has been less than generous in revealing their information, but one thing's for certain: Astoria, which seems to be the sole name she's going by now, is attempting to carry on the dying wish of the late Lord Voldemort."

The whispers returned with this revelation. Scorpius hunched deeper into his seat, practicing his Vanishing spell right then and there, praying that he could disappear before somebody remembered he was there, and who he was. Unfortunately, Scorpius's best attempt didn't keep everyone from looking in his direction. Rose had turned her head to find him, for she clearly hadn't forgotten about his presence, nor the incredible connection he had to the subject matter.

When Scorpius met her eyes, he expected to see the same distance he had noticed before, and maybe he would have had he not been so far away. Still, this time, he could have sworn that Rose was looking at him with concern rather than angst.

"Now, before you all take this way out of context," Smethley spoke again. The others silenced, but Rose didn't turn back to face her teacher. She was focused on Scorpius, and she wasn't budging, even as Smethley continued, "You must understand that the Ministry is much more prepared for such a rebellion than it was the last time. Astoria and her Forbidden Flock will never manage to gain any sort of control, or at least nothing substantial enough to be at all threatening to the wizarding world."

"Yeah, except that nobody knows anything about Astoria," Albus cut in. "What if she's more dangerous than the Ministry gives her credit for? I mean, she nearly took down the two best Aurors this summer, and she managed to escape them without a single scratch."

At this, Rose turned away from Scorpius to face Al. She gave him a look that clearly asked why he would say such a thing while in a certain person's company, but Al didn't seem to understand. Scorpius could always tell what Rose was thinking with a single glance, but Al sometimes needed an explanation.

Ignoring Rose, Al continued, "Plus, wasn't she insane just a few months ago? For all we know, she could have a whole host of mental followers by now, ready to attack at a moment's notice!"

"AL!" Rose yelled. Smethley had been about to interrupt Al herself, but Rose had beaten her to it. She managed to catch Al's attention, though, as he turned to her with his mouth wide open.

While the two pursued a silent conversation amongst themselves, no doubt about Scorpius (who was the giant elephant in the room), Pranav Patil, a Ravenclaw from the right-hand corner of the classroom, announced, "I think Al's right. We shouldn't just trust the Ministry to handle everything. Astoria's unpredictable, which means that we'll all need to be ready for her."

"Yeah, and what about us Muggle-borns?" Bobby Dormer asked from across the room. "If we're the ones she's after, what are we supposed to do, just sit and wait?"

"Well, I don't think it will come to that," Smethley tried to reassure everyone, but it was too late. Al had catalyzed a sort of chaos amongst the students that could no longer be stopped.

Meanwhile, Rose was turning from side to side, trying to follow the traveling conversation so that she could end it. It didn't matter, though. Al was the only one people were willing to listen to, because he had started the discussion, and because he was Harry Potter's son. So when Al spoke, they all listened, but it wasn't what Rose or Scorpius were hoping to hear.

"You know, all this wondering is pointless," Al said after standing from his seat. "I'm sure we could get all the answers we need from Astoria's son himself! After all, he just so happens to be in this very classroom."

And then the eyes were back on him. It was just like last night at the Welcome Feast, the needles piercing into every cell in Scorpius's skin. He wanted to run, go back to his tent in the woods. He wanted to be alone again, because surely that had been better than this. This was far lonelier than he had ever felt when he'd been living in his own solitary confinement.

As Al walked toward him, Scorpius had to convince his muscles not to move. He told them all to hold their ground and not to act on instinct, while his mind raced with frustration. Why was Al, his one and only friend, doing this to him? Scorpius was supposed to be a leader now; he was supposed to rally people to join the Order like McGonagall had told him to, but how could he be a leader if nobody was willing to follow him? Clearly, Al would have been the better man for such a task. McGonagall should have given the job to him, just like she had done for the prefect position.

"So, Scorpius, tell us," Al ordered when was only a few feet away from Scorpius's desk. "How dangerous is Mummy dearest?"

Scorpius could see Smethley's lips moving, but he didn't hear her give Al his detention. He could see the tears on Rose's face from a few desks away, but he didn't register that they might be for him. He didn't register much of anything, except the anger that he felt for Al at that particular moment, combined with the anger he had felt for Lily that morning, and every bit of pent up frustration that his mother had caused him throughout his life. Scorpius registered that much, but it was enough to get him on his feet, where he could be the one to stare down upon Al and release his fury in a series of yells and accusations.

"What, so now you want to talk?" Scorpius asked. "Now it's suddenly a good time for you to be filled in on my joyful summer? Now you choose to be concerned? Oh no, my bad, you're not asking about me. All you want to know is what I think about my mental mother, or how I could possibly be allowed to come back to Hogwarts after being so influenced by a 'dark and fearsome force'!"

Scorpius would have continued, but Al managed to pipe in. "Oh, please," he said with a roll of his green eyes. "I don't need to be filled in on your summer. I read every letter you sent to Rose, since apparently you forgot to make a copy for your best mate. I know that you ran away from home and hid out in the woods, too much of a coward to show your face atmy doorstep, which happens to be where you've spent every summer for the past four years!"

"I couldn't risk putting you in that kind of danger!" Scorpius refuted. "Astoria's after me! Did you think I wanted everybody to get killed in the process? Is that what you would have done?"

"No, Scorpius, I would have just assumed that I could handle it all on my own," Al said sarcastically. "I would have let my two best friends sit at home all summer, wondering if I was okay, and spending every waking minute searching for me! That's exactly what I would have done!"

"I couldn't tell anyone where I was! I didn't want to be alone out there. I had no choice!"

"Oh, really? So, you didn't choose to let Lily in on your great secret? She just happened to find you out there, the fourteen year-old girl who won't listen to anyone, and yet will do anything you say? You didn't choose to lead my little sister on for weeks on end?" Al was fuming crazily now, and he looked as if he was ready to physically pounce on Scorpius.

"Lily did just happen to find me, and I was lucky she did," Scorpius responded. "If it wasn't for her, I'd be dead right now, so I think she deserved to know what I was doing. And I didn't 'lead her on'! I told her from the beginning that I never felt anything for her, that I had only ever loved Rose, but she kept pushing for something more!"

"You only ever loved Rose, huh? What about when you broke her heart in that ridiculous letter? If you loved her, why'd you lie?"

Scorpius was about to respond the same way he had to Lily that morning, saying that he broke up with Rose to try to protect her, but Al didn't give him the chance.

"No, don't tell me it was for her sake," Al continued. "If you were doing it for her, why'd you let her cry herself to sleep every night for a month? Why'd you make her worry about one more person, when she already had an injured father and a traumatized brother? Why'd you make her question, for even a second, that you might not love her as much as she thought you did? And then, why'd you give her the ring back, letting her have a sliver of hope that you were actually alive, and that you may even care about her after all, and then lead her into the forest, only to make her think that you'd moved on to her cousin?"

Like everything else that had happened since he got back, Scorpius should have seen this coming. He knew that Rose would confide everything in Al, because the two had always worked that way together. He should have realized that Al would have read every letter, and that he would have been the one to hold Rose every time she burst into tears over the things Scorpius had wrote her. Scorpius should have expected that upon returning to Hogwarts, Al wouldn't console him for his wrongdoings, but would rather remind him of every one.

"I know!" Scorpius yelled, his eyes shut tight and his hands in the air, surrendering. Everything that Al was saying was true, and Scorpius had heard it all already. The same claims had been rattling through his mind all summer long, but hearing them aloud was different. Seeing himself the way Al saw him made Scorpius wonder how he could have ever been convinced to come back to Hogwarts. He had managed to drive away the only two people who had ever mattered to him, so what could he possibly have left?

Opening his eyes and focusing on a blank spot on the marble floor, Scorpius continued, "I know what I did. I know that I hurt you and Lily. Believe me, I know that I hurt Rose. I know that I made a lot of mistakes this summer, but I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was taking responsibility for my family. I thought I was protecting the people I loved... the people I still love." At his last few words, Scorpius's body begged to find Rose, but he didn't let himself turn to her. She needed to hear this, but she also needed to make her own decision regarding her future with Scorpius. He refused to have her pity him, so he wasn't about to beg for her forgiveness.

"It doesn't matter what excuses you may have. Your intentions don't make up for your actions. What you did this summer, and what your family has caused and will continue to cause, is unforgivable." Then Al was gone. He walked out of the room at the exact moment that the bell rang to signal the end of class.

When nobody else moved to leave, though, Professor Smethley tried to get the crowd surrounding Scorpius to dissipate. "Class!" she called. "There's nothing more to see here. You'd all best be off for supper now."

Scorpius didn't need to be told twice. He was out of there with the rest of the class, running through hallways while trying to catch his breath. Somehow, he ended up on the seventh floor, after narrowly catching a few moving staircases and spinning past even more wide eyes. Once there, he instinctively paced thrice in front of a hideous tapestry and walked inside the Room of Requirement.

The smell of rain intoxicated his nose and mouth, and as the pellets crashed down on him, Scorpius knelt forward with his hands on his knees, his panting quickly turning into sobs. Then he was on the ground, the green grass magically dry despite the perpetual rain, and he was pulling at every piece of earth that his fists could find. He tore them all away, but like the rain, the grass just regenerated, thanks to the brilliant Charms spell he'd cast on it last year.

Once he gained some control over himself, Scorpius managed to crawl over to the willow tree that he and Rose used to sit beneath, and knelt his back against it, his head lifted toward the air in exasperation. He still felt like he couldn't breathe, but being here was better than being in the dungeons. He would have gone outside, but the courtyard would have been filled with people, since most students didn't have much homework yet, and he didn't think he'd be able to transfigure himself without somebody noticing.

By the time Rose showed up, Scorpius had reduced his sobs to small whimpers, though his shirt was soaked with tears. When she came in, neither of them said anything. Rose sat down by Scorpius's side, but not a word was spoken, and they didn't even look at each other. They didn't need to.

It was incredible what her presence could do to him. As soon as Scorpius thought he had things under control, he was sobbing all over again, his tears apologizing for all the things he couldn't seem to say. Rose stayed with him throughout the blubbering, their fingers just a hair's length away from touching.

After what felt like forever, but what still wasn't long enough, Scorpius finally ran out of energy to keep crying. At this point, he let himself fully look at Rose for the first time since last spring. Her sandy, scattered freckles were in the same spot he remembered, all over her nose and across her cheekbones. Her lips were the same raspberry color, but they were slightly chapped now. Her hair, fire red as it had always been, was pulled into a knot at the back of her head, but perfect, wavy strands of it had fallen out and were now framing her heart-shaped face.

"I'm so sorry, Rose," Scorpius whispered, and he hoped it would be enough. Rose was so tolerant, so forgiving, so willing to accept people and all of their flaws, and he hoped that she could learn to accept him again. He didn't want her pity, but was it possible that she still loved him, despite of all that he'd done?

As soon as he said the words, Rose was looking back at him. Her eyes were by far the best part about her. Just like they had been the other night when Scorpius had returned the ring, Rose's eyes were bloodshot and bordered by a permanent pink paint. He would never forgive himself for causing such pain on those peaceful waves. At least now, after crying for so long, their eyes must match.

"I know," Rose whispered back. She kept her eyes locked on his as she stood up, and then, after a deep breath, she turned around to leave.

Scorpius watched her closely, waiting for Rose to turn around. When she turned, he waited for her to speak. When she spoke, he waited for her to say all the things he so desperately needed to hear.

"You're right, you know," she started. "If you love something, you should let it go." She paused here, and walked back to Scorpius, kneeling down in front of him so that she could reach out her hand and touch his cheek. When Rose's fingertips reached the swollen skin underneath his eyes, Scorpius closed them, letting her fire melt away his ice.

"But you forgot one thing," she continued, Scorpius's eyes still shut. "If it comes back to you, it's yours forever."

Her fingers disappeared, and Scorpius opened his eyes once more to see Rose back in an upright position. He stayed still in his spot under the willow tree, waiting for her to finish.

"So, when you're ready to tell me what happened, I'll listen," she promised. "I won't give up on you, Scorpius. You know I won't."

And with that, Rose was gone, and Scorpius was once again alone. Curiously, he felt much less lonely now than he had in quite some time.

Note: So, what did you think of Scorpius's return, and all the conflict that came with it? Surprising? Not-so-surprising? Let me know in a review! Thank you!

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