Malfoy, they say with a contemptuous curl of the lip. Malfoy they say, their words honey coated to conceal the fear and resentment they really feel. No one says my first name; no one says my last name without adding some false emotion to it. They assume that because of my name, I'm an evil, slimy bastard, like my father, and like his father before him. They assume that they'll gain something from the association of a name such as mine, whether good or bad.
I'm a Malfoy by blood, but in my heart I desperately wished to be known by another name. The realization that a name can carry so many stigmas was a cruel one. I was five years old when I walked into Flourish and Blott's to pick up a book I had ordered for my mother's birthday on gardening. The salesgirl looked down at me in utter disgust.
"An order for Malfoy, you say?" she said loftily, turning to rummage through the shelf behind her.
"Dark wizard scum, think they can walk in to a respectable shop…" she muttered from the corner of her mouth.
My heart twisted uncomfortably; surely I had not just heard those words?
But she thrust the book into my hands so fast it was as if she were afraid of being contaminated, and the look in her eyes was pure hatred.
Of course, not all shopkeepers were alike. The man at the Owl Emporium bowed low when I entered, eyes darting furtively around the room. He insisted on half price for my owl treats, and inquired after the health of my father.
"Not that I wish him illness boy, a finer pureblood I've yet to meet!" the man had replied after I'd assured him my father was fine.
"Of course," I said, and took my bag without another word.
Later my mother found me in the garden. I was seated on the rickety wooden swing, spinning aimlessly as she approached.
"Scorpius," she said turning those soft brown eyes towards me. "Is there something wrong, love?"
She leant down and touched my pale hair, and I could not stop the slight flinch even at this familiar interaction.
"What does it mean to be a Malfoy?" I asked softly. Perhaps she had not expected such a question from one so young, or perhaps she had anticipated I would ask one day, because although her eyes widened in surprise, her answer was swift.
"To be a Malfoy requires strength, first of all. One must face down opposition, show no emotion. We must be noble and uphold our wizarding pride. To be a Malfoy is to be pure," she said, her hands moving gently through my hair once more.
I thought of my father, who rarely smiled. He clutched a snake headed cane, and his perfect golden hair was never out of place. The crowds moved aside as he passed; he would bow to no man.
"I think I understand," I replied, staring into the distance.
As I grew older, I understood more. I read about the rise of the Darklord. He had gained power not once, but twice, and both times the Malfoys had supported him. I delved deeper, and finally read about my Grandfather's disgrace. Deeper still, and my father's past became clear. I clutched the papers in my hand and crept down to his study. He turned as the door creaked open, and took in my tear-stained face.
"Why?" I asked simply, and held the papers out to him.
He took them and read them in silence.
"I was young, and stupid. I did what I had to keep my family safe, but selfishly I also did what I had to to keep myself from harm. He was incredibly persuasive, but I blame no one but myself. I have kept this from you, because I wanted you to grow into your own person. I wanted you to understand what it meant to be a Malfoy," and he smiled, but it was the saddest smile I had ever seen.
He bowed his head, and the long hair fell to cover his face. Hesitantly, because he had rebuffed my affection attempts in the past, I touched his cold cheek.
"I think I know what it is to be a Malfoy,"
And then, I thought I did.
The train was coming in, but instead of feeling excited, I merely felt queasy. My father stood at my shoulder, silently supporting me. I caught the eye of a small bespectacled boy and his father. Beside me, my father shuddered.
"That's Harry Potter," I murmured.
"Yes, and one of his brood," he said stiffly.
We watched them for a moment, before my father turned to me, a strange sparkle in his eyes.
"It is our choices that define us, Scorpius. Be your own man; don't let the past cloud everything else as I once did. You will be better than I," most of the students had boarded the train, but he held my hand for an instant, and then he was gone.
I swallowed the sudden feeling of nausea, and stepped onto the train.
The Great Hall was everything I imagined it to be. The floating candles, glorious stained windows, long tables proudly displaying House colors. My father had described it perfectly; both he and my mother said that there was no place on earth like Hogwarts. There was a shabby hat in front of us. It had sung the praises of each house, and was now choosing one for each student. Finally, my turn came. I sat on the seat with a feeling of trepidation; the hat perched precariously on my head.
'Another Malfoy I see, but this one is different. So afraid of the past, so afraid of all that the name Malfoy brings. Longing to be different, afraid to disappoint. I know what it will take to make you a true Malfoy, if only you would reach out and take it…'
"Not Slytherin!" I prayed mentally, hoping the hat would listen.
'Are you sure? Slytherin will lead you to greatness, you know…"
"I don't want to BE Great, I just want…to be me,"
'Really? You are a Malfoy. You will know what that means, in time,' the hat replied, and finally yelled the word I least wanted to hear.
"Slytherin!" and the green table burst into applause.
Years later, I sat in the Head Mistress' office, a gleaming badge proudly displayed on my chest The words 'Head boy' were written in curly writing. My mother had wept with happiness when I received the letter. I had been a model student all these years, desperately trying to distance myself from the dreaded reputation of Slytherin. McGonagal had left to see to some mischief a Gryffindor had created (probably a Weasley) but told him to wait on some matter of great importance. The school hat sat enticingly on the nearest shelf, and impulsively I placed it on my head.
'Ah, Malfoy is it? I never forget a mind,' The hat said with all the smugness a hat can manage.
"You see, you were wrong. I've made something of myself. I do the right thing, because it's the right thing to do, not because I have to or benefit from it. I've spent my life making other people happy, and I loved it. I don't want to be the bad guy,"
The hat seemed to smile in my mind.
'Of course you did, as I always knew you would,' it said.
"Then why did you put me in Slytherin? Why would you make everything so hard for me?" I answered angrily.
'Because I knew that you would make the right choices, no matter what House you were in. You ARE a Malfoy. You are Scorpius Malfoy, and your life is your own. No one can say you are your father, or your grandfather, or anyone else. You are Scorpius Malfoy, of Slytherin, and you are a good person,'
I pulled the hat from my head and placed it almost reverently on the shelf. It seemed to wink at me, but my vision was blurred from the tears. McGonagal returned, and looked at me in surprise.
"Scorpius, why are you crying?" she said bewildered.
"Because I'm a good person," I mumbled, but she did not hear.
Instead she offered me a ginger newt and sent me on my way, clearly confused at my extraordinary behaviour.
I walked down to the Great Hall, staring up at the Slytherin banner. I knew now exactly what it was to be a Malfoy, and I was proud.