Author's Note: This is for The Challenge That Must Not Be Named. I used as a prompt the Thanksgiving scene in Spiderman 1, the movie, after which the fic kind of snowballed. Anyway, here it is!
"Good, you're here," Harry Potter said nervously. "Come on in, Ron."
"I brought dessert," Ron Weasley said, scowling past his friend of many years toward the kitchen table. A red-haired girl and a blond boy, both about seventeen, were just finishing setting the table. Ron lifted a homemade fruitcake, and Harry levitated it to the countertop with a wave of his wand.
"Great," Harry said. "Get past the portraits all right?" he asked, referring to 12 Grimmauld Place's overabundance of sour, embittered Black family members. It was never easy getting down to the kitchen, but usually worth it.
Their house-elf, Kreacher, was an excellent cook, and Harry himself didn't do so badly. Of course, Kreacher had tonight off.
"Yeah," Ron said absently. He was still glaring at the redhead and the blond, who were now standing quite close to one another, engaged in hushed conversation.
"Dad," the redhead spoke up, dragging the blond forward. "I want you to meet Scorpius Malfoy—my boyfriend." Her eager smile was echoed on the boy's face, although Harry thought he detected some signs of strain.
If only Albus were here—Harry couldn't help feeling that his son's presence would reduce the tension. His wife's might have helped as well, but Ginny insisted she was busy with work. Actually, Harry thought she was afraid she'd start yelling at Scorpius because she was still mad about their eldest son, James's, marriage to Scorpius's sister Altaira, which would only undermine the purpose of this little Christmas get-together. Harry's daughter, Lily, was spending the holidays at school, along with Ron's son Hugo. And his sister-in-law, Hermione, was at a Conference on Magical Law.
Which left himself and Al to weather the storm of this meeting as neutrally as possible. Harry took a deep breath, wondering when his son would arrive.
"Shall we?" Ron said, clearly uncomfortable. His ears were turning red, either from fury or embarrassment. Or both. He gestured toward the table, and they all went to sit down.
Scorpius Malfoy, whose hair was neatly smoothed back and whose robes were spotless for the occasion, was frowning. Ron's daughter, Rose, merely looked bewildered.
"Sorry I'm late!" called Albus. Harry jumped up, glad of the interruption. Al seemed to bring a breath of fresh, cool air in with him.
What he did not bring however, was—"Cranberries. You were supposed to bring the cranberries," Harry said, annoyed.
"Right, sorry, got held up at—" Al seemed somewhat at a loss. Harry frowned. Was there something his son was concealing from him?
"Work?" Ron asked snidely, and both Harry and Al flinched. Ron was never snide.
"Ron, why don't you serve the turkey," Harry said pointedly, levitating the appropriate platter to Ron's place.
Rose folded her napkin in her lap, nodded to Al, and waited politely.
"I'm glad that we could all be together for this holiday," Harry said pointedly.
Ron nodded, and raised the knife to cut the turkey. Watching, Harry saw blood well up from a cut on Al's arm; he was on his feet at once, tapping the wound with his wand to check for infection, and then curing it with a quick Episkey.
Only then did Harry look around and see Ron staring, white-faced, at Al, and then at Rose. Ron got up and hurried toward the stairs, apparently with only one thought: to escape the nightmare meal.
Scorpius fidgeted a bit, clearly on edge but too polite or too wary to say anything. Rose glanced at him and then at her father's rapidly disappearing back, blew air out through her teeth in exasperation, and followed, leaving Harry, Al, and Scorpius locked in a still and silent tableau.
"Dad," Rose said firmly, adroitly maneuvering herself between Ron and the door to the hall of portraits and thence out into the fresh air. "What are you doing? This is really important to me! And you just walk out, without a word to Scorpius—"
"That boy is trash, Rosie," Ron's voice cut harshly across his daughter's. "He's a Malfoy. He'll sweet talk you into doing things you don't want to, lying the whole time. You can't trust him; he's a snake. I don't need to speak a word with him too see that. Death Eater scum. Take my advice, and you'll get whatever homework help or Head Boy and Girl politics you need from him, and lose him fast."
Apparently disgusted, Ron brushed past his daughter and climbed the stairs, leaving Rose standing, one foot suspended in air, eyes watery and mind whirling.
Eventually, she seemed to come to herself, and she walked back into the kitchen, where three sets of staring eyes told her, louder than words, that she and her father had been overheard.
"Thanks for sticking up for me," Scorpius sneered, in fine Malfoy fashion, and stormed out. Rose's lower lip trembled, and she ran after him.
"Scorpius, wait!" she cried, as he was about to fling open the front door and no doubt Apparate into the distance.
Scorpius turned, slowly. "Look," he said, "We were obviously kidding ourselves. Your father hates me. And why not? This is never going to work. I'm sorry, Rose."
"What?" Rose asked, completely flabbergasted.
Scorpius turned and left, and Rose stood there, bereft and surrounded by Black portraits, who gave her variously advice and abuse.
"—And then, I think he broke up with me," Rose told her mother, through a firecall the next morning. "I don't understand. Dad was being—well, I never would've thought he could say something like—the point is, Scorpius has been in love with me since first year, practically. And now a little parental opposition and he's giving up?"
"I suppose you offended his pride by not defending him to your father," Hermione Weasley said. "And speaking of Ron, he and I should talk…" she added darkly.
"I think more than his pride is offended," Rose said seriously.
In a different part of England, Albus Potter was, somewhat reluctantly, standing on the doorstep of Malfoy Manor. His hand was raised to knock, but somehow he couldn't quite bring himself to do it. Unlike his brother and sister, he found the Malfoys difficult and irritating. Nor, ordinarily, would he care to foster the relationship between his cousin and his, if not archrival, at least hardly close friend. More of a distant acquaintance, perhaps. The sort one acknowledged, with gritted teeth, and whose Quidditch skill one applauded from a decent safe distance, but whom one never trusted to see one through trouble.
And the other Malfoys, with the exception of his sister-in-law Altaira, without whose aid he never would have gotten that 'Outstanding' Potions O.W.L., were even worse.
"Yes?" drawled the doorknob at length. Albus jumped. Good Godric! he thought. Even the furniture sneers at you!
"I'm, er, here to see, er, Scorpius-Malfoy," Al blurted in a rush.
The doorknob turned, and he stepped forward into a large and spacious hall, not without a shiver of foreboding, and a vain regret that he hadn't written letters apprising his parents and his girlfriend of the moment of his no doubt inevitable demise.
"Hello?" he quavered, and instantly regretted the several octaves higher his voice seemed to jump.
"Mr. Potter," drawled a new voice. Leaning heavily upon a cane, silver-haired Lucius Malfoy came into view. "Now what are you doing here?"
Al took a deep breath. "I'm here to see Scorpius," he said, relieved to find his voice had returned to its normal cadence.
"Dear me," old Mr. Malfoy said sardonically, "And here I thought he was in love with a Weasley."
"What?" Al asked, nonplussed.
"What are you doing here?" complained Scorpius, appearing in a doorway. His eyes were bloodshot, and his hair a ragged mess.
Al forbore the reply he would have liked to have given—"I have absolutely no idea"—and walked forward a few steps. Vainly, he hoped that, if ignored, old Mr. Malfoy would simply disappear.
"I came to explain—or tell you—well, anyway," he said awkwardly.
"Very well," said Scorpius, voice cold and indifferent. Al followed him into a very pretty sitting room, where he perched on the arm of a couch without being invited.
"See, it's like this, Malfoy," Al tried to organize his thoughts. "My uncle Ron—well, he's an Auror, you know, and he's going through a really tough case at the moment—a mallowsweet dealer who preys on kids—anyway, it's sort of a big deal—and he's much better when Aunt Hermione's around, you wouldn't even know him—"
"I won't need to," Scorpius said coolly.
"But, listen," said Al, feeling frustrated, and a little sorry for Malfoy after all. "Rose is really miserable without you. She won't even talk about N.E.W.T.s, or anything. I mean, she's seriously upset. I asked her to draw me up an exam schedule, and nothing."
He paused, but Scorpius didn't speak.
"You should talk to her, Malfoy," Al persisted. He rose. "That's all. Now. Mind getting me out of here before your grandfather comes back?"
"You're sure he's not affected?" Ron Weasley spoke urgently.
"No, sir," his subordinate said, bewildered. "The blood spells came back negative—Albus Potter has not been taking mallowsweet."
"Thank Godric," Ron muttered devoutly.
Rose Weasley had been doing a lot of soul-searching over the week that had passed since that disastrous Christmas dinner. She still felt an almost overpowering anger, but she thought she understood Scorpius's reaction better now.
It was clearly time to act. For all she was no Gryffindor, Rose had never been one to shirk an unpleasant duty. She found her father without delay.
"Dad," she said firmly, "I have to talk to you."
"Yes, what is it, Rosie? I'm a little busy at the moment, mind if I work while we talk?"
"Yes, actually. I do mind." Rose waited while Ron put aside his parchmentwork, and rather reluctantly faced her.
"I'm seventeen. In fact, I'm turning eighteen in less than a month." Ron looked as though he were going to interrupt, but Rose continued, inexorably. "I'm an adult. So I'm going to say now what I should have said last week: I respect you, I'll listen to your opinions, sometimes I'll take your advice—but you are not responsible for my choices. I understand that you don't approve of Scorpius, or his family. I know that you just want to protect me. But I choose who I spend time with—whom I date, whom I…love."
Ron frowned at her.
"I love Scorpius," Rose said, voice getting stronger. "I don't want to choose between you and him. But if you force me, I will. He's an amazing person. He's brilliant, kind, supportive, funny…handsome…" At that, Ron's face contorted and Rose's lips twitched. "In short," Rose smiled, "He's mine."
There was a pause, while Rose waited, hands on her hips, and Ron frowned into the distance.
"I understand," he said at last. "And I'll try not to interfere in your life, it's just I love you so much, Rosie—you're my little girl. And if this…" his lips curled. "…Scorpius….is good to you, then I'll—I'll tolerate him. I'm sorry if I've been too overprotective—I just don't want to see you get hurt."
"I know," Rose said, dropping a kiss on his cheek. He smiled, and gave her a one-armed hug.
"Oh, and Dad?" Rose said, as she got up to go. "'Homework help'? Me? Really?" She was gone on the words, and Ron fought between a laugh and tears.
"I love you." Rose stood on the doorstep, snowflakes melting in her glorious red hair, and Scorpius's heart leapt. "I love you. I. Love. You. I love you," Rose kept saying, and Scorpius thought he saw a tear sparkle on her cheek.
"I—" he tried to say.
"I never should have let my father say those awful things about you," Rose hurried into further speech. "I can make him apologize if you want—Uncle Harry'll totally be on my side, I—"
"Come on in," Scorpius said, around a lump in his throat. "You must be freezing."
Rose brushed gratefully past him into the Manor, then turned and embraced him, clinging tightly and pushing him back against the now closed door. She kissed his ears, his nose, his cheek—his lips.
Scorpius moaned, and clutched her closer. When they broke apart at last, Rose lifted shining eyes to his face.
"Say you forgive me," she begged.
"I forgive you," Scorpius smiled. "You're impossible to resist, you know that?"
Rose grinned. "You mean the world to me, and I'm sorry I was unclear before. I—"
"It's okay," Scorpius said. "I know."
"I just wanted to say…" Rose whispered. "That I choose you."
Elsewhere, Harry and Ron sat together before a cozy fire in the kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place. "So why did you storm out that night, anyway?" Harry asked. "It didn't seem like you, even allowing for the fact that it's Scorpius Malfoy."
"You're going to hate me for this," Ron muttered, shamefaced.
"Never. What?" Harry asked.
"I—I thought Al was using mallowsweet. Small cuts and abrasions are a typical side-effect, and there he was, late, forgetting things—" Ron shifted uncomfortably.
"You thought my son—" Harry was speechless.
"He's not," Ron hurried to say. "I had his blood tested, and he's definitely, completely not—"
"You had his blood tested?" Harry looked furious, and Ron, reflecting that his friend's wand was within easy reach, while his own was across the table, once more made a somewhat precipitous exit out of Grimmauld Place.