It all happened because of a party. And that party happened because of Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy.
So of course it was in the Caribbean.
And he held it on a beach, because he was melodramatic like that, and because he liked cocktails in half-coconuts with little umbrellas in them. He'd impressed upon the caterers the importance of the little umbrellas. If he was going to throw the best fundraiser the Methuselah Jones Foundation had ever seen, details like that were important. Albus had already drunk three.
'I think she's late because she hates the welcome line,' Al said as he sipped his fourth through a straw.
'You know how many of these things she's skipped?' Scorpius said, indignant. 'People are starting to talk. They're thinking I've made her up. That the wedding photos are mock-ups I put on my desk to look like I'm not a sad and lonely man.'
'I could do the welcome line with you.' Albus smirked. 'Get that wedding party picture, crop her out of it so it's you and me -'
'And so the inevitable has happened.'
They spun at the wry, familiar tone to see the milling crowds twist and somehow produce Selena and Matt, both very tanned in a way Scorpius found sickening, because he didn't get to globe-trot half as much as them. Matt had grown out his hair long enough to tie back, which Scorpius didn't think was a great look but still beat it dangling in his eyes, while Selena, of course, looked like she'd plundered the world's fashion and emerged like a very glamorous thief.
He hadn't seen Selena in a year and Matt in even longer, because Matt had been smart enough to not attend the wedding. But just as she was being sardonic, the first thing Scorpius said was, 'You're late, too.'
'I was at the bar, dear. Free booze. Great plan.' Selena gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. 'It's wonderful to see you both.'
'Yeah, both of us, I think we're the new power-couple of the world,' Scorpius grumbled, but he returned the hug and shook Matt's hand. 'Still, glad you could make it. Both of you.'
'Oh, I'll do a piece on it, it'll boost your contributions by about ten per cent.'
'I think the fundraiser will do that, love,' said Matt, smile wry. 'But you can take credit if you want, and pretend you're at the party for entirely professional reasons.'
Selena stuck her nose in the air. 'With one wave of a quill, I change a country's opinions. With one wave of a quill, you send a classroom to sleep as they find another tiresome history book to read.'
Albus hid a smirk behind another sip of coconut cocktail. 'So you two are doing well.'
Scorpius fished for a sarcastic comment, but then one of the US Department of Magic's Secretaries passed by, and he had to wave his friends a quick, apologetic farewell and sweep in to rub shoulders. While he was always a fan of a big party, and made the fundraisers as genuinely a good time as possible because he had to put up with them, it was still business at the end of the day. Even if he succeeded at that business by plying his guests with ridiculous cocktails, and sealed the deal by introducing the dour American wizard to a very pretty witch from the Taiwanese contingent, which was difficult as she didn't speak English and neither wizard had a language in common with her, either. But as far as Scorpius was concerned, the Secretary was an incredibly boring man, so this worked to everyone's benefit. Happy guests left big cheques.
By the time he was done, the spinning crowd of well-dressed witches and wizards had rotated his friends somewhere else, so he took a moment to stand on the beach in the dying rays of sun, and soak in the scene. His mother's house loomed on the cliff above, transformed into an organisational base camp he knew he could leave her in charge of. While she only had so much patience for dealing with meetings and figures these days, Astoria Greengrass knew how to throw a damned good party. She would be down soon, no doubt, to mingle and charm the guests he couldn't, because she had altogether more tolerance for raging bores. Being married to Draco Malfoy hardened one to some social obligations.
But for the moment it was just him, and so he eyeballed the crowd to make sure the music - live, local, very good - was keeping them enthused, to make sure the food and drink were flowing freely and going down well, to make sure the tide hadn't suddenly betrayed him and come racing up to drench ankles and ruin dress robes. This inevitably turned to a checking down the length of the beach, looking that figure who had to be there or the evening couldn't be perfect, but there was no sign yet, just the blazing dusk and the salty scent of a warm ocean, and the rush of people coming together for a good cause and a good time.
'I'm sorry I'm late, the Portkey was delayed and then I had to get dressed -'
He turned to find Rose hurrying over so quickly she almost fell into him, but he couldn't keep an indignant spark from his eyes as he caught his wife. 'I had to do the welcome line alone!'
'You could do it with Al! He's so much better at it! And actually works for you!'
'I can't do it with Al, people are starting to talk.'
Rose snatched a drink off a passing waiter and downed it so quickly he wondered if she'd factored rum into her thirst. 'People have talked about you two for thirteen years.'
Scorpius opened and closed his mouth, and all he could say in his defiant defence was, 'I was dead for two of those.'
'You need to stop using that to get out of trouble, and my God, what's in this drink?'
'It's the little umbrella, it's got a hell of a kick.' He could only grin impishly, of course, as she narrowed her eyes up at him. 'Selena's here, by the way. And Matt.'
'I saw.' She took another sip, and he watched as she used the pause to master that age-old flash of guilt and frustration. 'Why do you think I didn't go over there?'
'I thought you might want to, you know, spend time with me. Or offer an actual excuse -'
'The Portkey was late.'
'They usually are, it's why Al got here yesterday, to make sure he was here on time.'
Her eyes were still narrowed. 'This is why people talk, Scorp. Also, he works for you. I had meetings in London. Important meetings.'
Scorpius waved a dismissive hand. 'Oh, sure, you're designing the security wards for the new Global Wizarding Council headquarters, and your deadline was last week, but I'm throwing a party. It'll help children. Cute ones.'
'That's a terrible move if you're trying to make me feel guilty; I will escalate, Malfoy -'
His life and freedom flashing before his eyes, Scorpius snatched another drink off a passing waiter. 'So how're your parents?'
She sighed. 'Oh, they're fine. Dad's the same as ever, Harry's running him ragged still. Mum keeps on getting into fights with the Minister.'
'She really should have just taken that job, the rate she complains about the decisions that get made.'
'Like hell.' Rose shook her head. 'We'd be looking at another megalomaniac trying to take over the world.'
'And you can't throw your mother out a window.'
'There are times…'
'I'll tell her you said that.' Albus wandered out of the crowd to join them. 'You know, next time she's angry at me for something and I want to deflect the blame.'
'Al!' Rose hurled herself into his arms for a big hug, and Scorpius rolled his eyes.
'Oh, you're all gleeful to see him, but you're sardonic at me.'
'I saw you yesterday morning.' She stuck her tongue out at him. 'I haven't seen Albus in two weeks. How wasRussia?'
Albus sighed. 'Cold. Pretty miserable. But the refurbishment work's done, and the staff training's underway. I'd stick around, usually, but I hate it there.'
Scorpius was pretty sure he knew why, and pretty sure it had more to do with Moscow's memories than Moscow's climate. Especially this time of year. Which prompted him to glance out past the party, down the beach, and this time his gut lurched. 'Stick with me, mate. I'll take you exciting places.'
But he couldn't keep the distracted edge from his voice. Albus frowned in confusion, but Rose looked up at him, looked over at Al, and dumped her empty coconut for a fresh one. 'Selena's free. I'm going to catch up. I have to tell her all the horrid things you boys have done without her there to support me.'
Albus' frown deepened as she whooshed away into the depths of the party. 'You two,' he said, 'have got scary good at that.'
'What?' Scorpius attempted an innocent sip of his coconut cocktail, and almost stabbed himself in the eye with an umbrella.
'Communicating without talking.'
'Practice. Lots of it.' Scorpius waggled his eyebrows.
'I don't want to know -'
'You don't have to go back to Russia.' Scorpius frowned. That wasn't what he'd meant to say, though it was the truth.
Albus stopped. 'I didn't think you were sending me back.'
'I mean…' He lowered his coconut and bit his lip. Behind him, somewhere, the band swung into a new song, and the party somehow found a new gear to shift into. He'd have to see to that soon, have to make a grand speech and get the donations flowing, but more important things came first. That was just helping lives across the world. This was personal. 'I mean I'm giving you a holiday. Paid leave. Six months.'
'Why?' Al's eyes narrowed. 'And don't we have the Korean project -'
'I do, and it's important, and you're good at it. It's been great having you work with me.' Scorpius reached out to clasp his shoulder. 'But I know you're not happy. You spend half your time in Britain, fussing after every bloody Potter-Weasley who stands still long enough to be fussed over. Then you're flitting off to build shelters and oversee projects and sure, you're helping people, but I know what you're doing. You're keeping busy. You're not happy.'
Albus looked like he might object - then he sagged, and it was like he was a puppet whose strings had been cut. 'I'm living my life, Scorp, as best I can. And I want to be here for everyone, for you and my family and -'
'And it's been five years and I'm releasing you from that bloody promise. You've been everything everyone could need to get through a crisis, to rebuild themselves, their lives, the world. You're my rock, and you're my brother, and I don't think you've been wrong, I don't think you've been trapped.' Scorpius glanced down the beach, and tried to keep his smile under control. 'I just think it's time for a change.'
Now Albus looked suspicious. 'You're not just sending me on holiday for six months.'
'I am. But I've got a little going away present.' He clicked his fingers. 'See, I was in South Africa last month, and I had this conversation with a fellow named Roux, makes huge donations, works in the Department of Magic -'
'The judge -'
'That's the one! Anyway, there's a lot of stuff about judicial hearings and it's all very boring, but the point is, I need you to take a couple of drinks and go about two hundred metres that way.' Scorpius shifted his grip on his cocktail so he could point with both fingers down the length of the beach.
To watch his best friend's face was to watch galaxies explode into being and die in a single heartbeat. Albus' breath caught. 'You're not -'
'I'm meddling. I'm not deciding. I don't know how things work out logistically, legally, emotionally.' Scorpius shrugged. 'And you should know this wasn't my idea. It's hers. Don't decide anything, mate. Just take some drinks. And go and have a conversation.'
Albus looked to where Scorpius had pointed, down the long beach stretching away from the party, where the dying rays of the sun rippled gold across the ocean and streamed across a lone, silhouetted figure far in the distance. 'A conversation.'
'And maybe, as your sister would say, the odd smoochies, but who am I to -' Then Albus punched him on the arm, and Scorpius was too busy roaring with laughter and trying to not spill his drink to keep on teasing. He did, however, manage to wave over a waiter to deliver the required drinks, and Albus took them, looking so dumbstruck he might have been the one who'd been punched. Scorpius straightened, beaming. 'Get out of here.'
Albus almost left dust in his wake for how quickly he vanished, though Scorpius watched him head down the beach, watched his gait slow, turn more hesitant until, in the distance, two lone silhouettes came together.
He didn't know if it would work, or last, or be more than a conversation. But sometimes, he had to accept matters were out of his hands.
'You've not stopped being a meddler, have you, Scorpius?'
He grinned at Selena as she joined him, but his brow knotted when he added this up. 'Um, I thought Rose went to find you?'
'She did. She found. We talked.' Selena stole his cocktail shamelessly. 'Now she and Matt are talking.'
'Bloody hell.' Scorpius blew his fringe out of his eyes. 'Shall we duck and cover?'
'I honestly don't know. Maybe five years is enough time for him to calm down.' Selena looked up at him. 'Is it enough time for her to stop hating herself?'
His brow creased. 'I think so. I hope so.' Hands free, he shoved them in his pockets so he didn't start gesturing nervously, and looked from her to the swarming crowds of the fund-raising party. 'Have you seen your mother lately?'
'A few months ago.' Her nose wrinkled. 'What about you and your father?'
'Same.' He rocked on his heels. 'Good behaviour might get him out in a few years.'
She snorted into her cocktail. 'Yeah, they said that good behaviour might get my mother out in a few centuries.' She nodded up at the house on the cliffs. 'At least you seem better off with your mum.'
'You knew that, the amount you two put away at my wedding.' Scorpius grinned in recollection. 'It's nice, working together. It's given us something to do, to talk about, so we could just… spend time together. She doesn't like the idea of Draco getting out. Worries it's going to make history repeat itself.'
'I won't let it.' He shook his head. 'He stays away from her until she says otherwise. Else he and I are done. No ifs, no buts. And then I give the Manor to the House Elves.'
She laughed. 'Harley would love that.'
'He would.' He snatched up a fresh drink from a waiter. The rate this was happening would upset staff normally, but it was his party. 'So you're doing alright? Think you might come back to live in Britain some day?'
'Maybe.' She shrugged. 'But I'm doing fine, and Matt doesn't need to be in Britain to be an enormous professional nerd. People can bitch all they want about me being Lillian Rourke's daughter, but I have no problem skewering them in a damning exposé. Hypocrisy is my speciality, after all.'
He chuckled. 'So long as you don't look too deep into my operations after this, huh?'
'What's a little cover-up between friends?' It wasn't a good joke, though, and soured both their smiles. They fell silent, Selena playing with the little umbrella in her cocktail before she said, voice low, 'How'd we make it after all, Scorpius?'
'What with your vengeful spiral of grief for a dead boyfriend, and me being dead, and somehow we're both here, okay, and happy? Buggered if I know.' He sipped his drink. 'But we're still young.'
'Plenty of time to screw it up yet.'
He cast a glance to the sunlit horizon, where two silhouetted figures stood together in the dying rays of dusk at the beach. Then his gaze followed Selena's across the crowd, towards the quieter edge where Matt and Rose talked. Matt was tall and stiff and Rose's arms were around herself, apprehensive and defensive, but they were still conversing. Not yelling or avoiding, condemning and evading. Yet. 'Yes,' he agreed softly. 'Plenty of time.'
And as they watched the gathering, and watched the people they loved and cherished, who cared for and respected them, Scorpius Malfoy thought everyone might just be alright after all.
A/N: And that is, undeniably, utterly, adverbly, the end of Oblivion and the end of the Stygian Trilogy.
To start my commentary small, I was originally not going to write an epilogue. This was why I talked, in the past, about the ending being more bittersweet than happy; the last chapter was tougher. For all my grand talk of being a cruel, merciless creator,, I found myself to be soft in the very, very end, because I couldn't leave Al and Eva like I did. There are still questions. Will she get a proper, full, legal pardon, and even if she does, what happens then - to her, with her and Al? I can't answer that. I'd like to think they will. But this ending gives them a Chance, and a chance is everything. So, yeah. I wrote this for them. I'm a ginormous softy, really.
As for the rest - well, it's over, and I find myself for once rather lacking in words. It's half past one in the morning, and I'm sat at my desk with my cat trying to stop me from writing so I can give him my full attention. Billy Boyd's The Last Goodbye is on loop on my headphones. It feels like an inauspicious end, but I don't know what would be appropriate.
I did not expect to love this trilogy. I came to it off the back of the Anguisverse, which I had worked on for so long it became a part of me. I honestly wrote 'Ignite' originally to be a crowd pleaser, to produce something popular to try to rummage up some attention for my (I felt) superior works. I have always called the series trashy, and I've meant it self-effacingly and I've meant it affectionately but it was also kind of a mission statement. A good mission statement, because the goal was always for it to be fun. Not necessarily clever or literary or deep. Obviously things went awry, as Oblivion - while structurally one of my weaker stories, and a lesson in pacing and planning - has been one of my most thematically challenging pieces of writing, not to mention morally ambiguous. And I have adored taking this messy, scrappy, broken band through these adventures, far more than I anticipated.
My life has changed a lot since I started Ignite; I've lost a career, worked in the most difficult jobs I've ever had, been through serious problems with mental and physical health and then got everything back on track, but this has been a touchstone throughout, an escape and a drive. When I wrote Scorpius rattling along Platform Nine and Three-Quarters three and a half years ago, I never imagined it would end like this. Or I would be as proud of my work here, and love it, as much as anything else I've written.
And so much of that is down to you, my readers. You are the reason I didn't want it to end, but you're also the reason it got this far. Aside from my hiatus during Ignite, I have never been a more prolific writer. Your feedback and communication and enjoyment have spurred me to treat my productivity as seriously as I have, because if I stopped writing I didn't just let myself down, I let you all down.
You are also why I can't stop now. This story is over; frankly, Scorpius, Rose, Selena, Albus, Matt, and Eva have earned their rest, their respite from my cruel meddling. I will unequivocally state I have no intentions of writing anything with these characters again; not even Eva's adventures. Their stories are finished; they won, they got their happy ending, let them rest. But I'm definitely not done. I will still be out here. Still working away on that new project of mine. I don't love it yet, either. But we'll see. So I'd like this to not be goodbye; I'd like for us to just step on, together, into a new adventure.
But for many of you it will be a goodbye, and for all of us it is a goodbye to this, so let us draw a line in the sand and bid our farewells. To each other, to the characters, to the experience. It has been a privilege to write for you all.
Like the song says, I wish you all a very fond farewell.
~ Slide out.