Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns them, I don't.
Warnings: A bit of angst along the way. Under-age drinking.
Word Count: 13,400
Summary: "Scorpius stands still, feeling like he's invisible with all these people who look at him like he's not quite there. Maybe he's actually a ghost, and no-one's bothered to tell him."
A/N: This was written for the AS/S fest on Livejournal, and is based on the prompt 'hello' by Evanescence, submitted by the wonderful singlemomsummer. Thank you to MultiColouredFlooPowder and CaptainDan for the help, and to the brilliant mods for running the fest.
My first AS/S piece, hope everyone approves :)
"I'm still here, all that's left of yesterday."
Scorpius Malfoy stands in the lower garden of Malfoy Manor, feeding the peacocks with the scraps from his breakfast and trying his best to be patient. It's not easy; he itches to go back inside so he can finally meet the person he's been waiting for. He feels like he's been waiting for forever.
This morning has been the longest wait though, longer than the nine months that have passed since his mother and father sat him down and explained that there would be an addition to the family.
A baby sister. The concept seems brilliant to Scorpius; being an only child is okay most of the time but he's looking forwards to having someone to share everything with. He plans to teach her everything he knows; where the best hiding places are, his fool-proof plan that will make sure they get into the best house at Hogwarts, how to make friends, how to get Father to give in every time.
The clouds above his head shift and shadows steal over the garden, turning everything a fraction darker. He brushes the breadcrumbs off his hands and shivers slightly, missing the warmth of the sun. He turns to face the house and sees his father standing at the top of the wide stone steps that lead from the patio down to the expanse of the lower garden. He's standing as still as a statue; the illusion is only broken as his short hair is ruffled by the breeze.
Scorpius's face breaks into a smile, anticipation and excitement rising in his chest. Ever since the Healer arrived early that morning he's been kept out of the way, shooed outside so he can't get under everyone's feet. But now his father is here to tell him that he can finally meet his baby sister. He wonders if they've named her yet. He wonders if he'll get to hold her. Maybe if Mother's in a good mood. Maybe he'll just ask Father instead; he's bound to say yes.
He turns and walks towards his father, wanting to run but holding himself back. It seems to take forever to cross the gardens and when he reaches the bottom of the stone stairs he looks up, heart beating madly in his chest and cheeks flushed pink with excitement.
His feet stumble to a stop and his smile fades into uncertainty.
His father is crying.
He never cries.
Scorpius watches, his eyes wide and hesitant. His father just stands there, staring out over the garden with unblinking eyes, shining tracks on his cheeks. He hasn't even seen Scorpius. He looks worlds away.
Scorpius takes a cautious step forwards, feeling scared. His father doesn't even move. Scorpius starts to think that maybe something is very, very wrong.
Grandmother comes out, her face drawn and troubled. She reaches for Father and pulls him back inside by his arm. He follows, staring blankly at nothing, his feet stumbling and dragging. Scorpius can hear voices from the open French windows, low and distressed.
This wasn't how it was supposed to go. Everyone was supposed to be happy, smiling.
The clouds overhead grow darker, menacing. A raindrop hits Scorpius's face and he blinks. Another falls, and another, and another. Soon it's pouring with rain and even though Scorpius is only young he somehow knows that that means something. The weather is trying to tell him, because no-one else will.
He's soon drenched, standing at the bottom of the staircase. He turns and runs away, runs across the lower garden, scattering the peacocks which scream angrily at him as he flees. He runs all the way to the wall at the bottom of the gardens and climbs his favourite tree, an old mulberry that his father keeps insisting he'll have pulled down. He finds a safe place, high among the old branches, and listens to the rain pattering onto the leaves around him, his jaw clenched and his breathing short, his heart thudding dully inside his ribcage.
He sits there for hours. Nobody comes to find him.
Life goes on as if that morning never happened. Nobody talks of it, and Scorpius isn't sure he's allowed to ask. After a while he finds he's not a hundred per cent sure it actually happened, and he starts to forget. Soon, all he remembers of that day is the screaming peacocks and hiding in the mulberry tree.
Something is different though. Grandmother goes back to France and Scorpius never hears from her again, not even on his birthday or at Christmas. His mother hardly talks anymore, especially not to his father. She won't go out anywhere with them either, so when it's time to fetch Hogwarts supplies, it's just him and his father who traverse Diagon Alley. His father doesn't smile like he used to. He looks tired and drawn and when he thinks no-one is looking, he looks upset. Scorpius doesn't really care; he's too busy worrying over why his mother won't come outside with him anymore.
His father buys him a cauldron, his books, his wand and an owl. He buys Scorpius an ice-cream at Fortesques and tells him he's proud of him. Scorpius feeds the ice-cream to the owl. His father pinches the bridge of his nose like he does when he's trying to chase away that upset look.
"Look, Scorpius," Father says and then stops and shakes his head. He breathes out deeply and runs his fingers through his hair. Scorpius likes him a little more when he does that; he looks ruffled and more like a person. "You know I love you?"
Scorpius nods and scratches his nail along the worn wood of the bench they're sat at. He'd rather know that Mother loves him, really.
"Do I have to be in Slytherin?" he asks, blinking at his owl.
His father looks startled, and then laughs, rubbing his eyes hard as if he can rub away the dark circles. "No. Go where you want."
Scorpius nods. "Thank you."
The owl hoots loudly and Scorpius turns to fuss it. His father sighs and vanishes the melted remnants of his own untouched ice-cream.
Scorpius does go where he wants; he goes into Ravenclaw. The hat asks him if he wants to be in the same house as his father, but he says no. He sits down at his new table, wide eyes taking in everything going on around him. He doesn't feel like socialising, despite this being one of the most important days of his life; he's still feeling unsettled because his mother didn't say goodbye properly. She'd given him a brief hug with stiff arms and then walked away, leaving Scorpius standing still and feeling stupid and his father looking furious.
He's still brooding over it when he's nearly knocked off the bench by the next boy to be sorted into Ravenclaw. He rights himself and comes face to face with green eyes and messy black hair.
"Sorry," the boy whispers. "I thought I'd be in Gryffindor, I panicked a bit."
"It's okay," Scorpius whispers back. "I think I was meant to go in Slytherin."
The boy nods and smiles, his expression soft and gentle. "My dad knows your dad," he whispers. "But he says he's not seen him in ages."
"Harry Potter," Scorpius says and the boy nods.
A fifth years hisses a shush in their direction and they fall quiet whilst the sorting continues. When the feast starts they talk and talk and talk. Scorpius talks about his owl. Al talks about his brother and they both eat too much ice-cream.
Scorpius likes Al. He talks quite fast but his voice is quiet and calm so Scorpius has to lean close to hear what he's saying. They make a pact to be the cleverest students in the year, and agree that they'll always sit together in lessons.
By the time Scorpius slips into his bed in Ravenclaw Tower for the first time, safe between blue sheets and with Al in the next bed over, he's almost forgotten to feel disappointed with his parents.
Scorpius finds he's great at charms and not so great at potions, although he's still better than most people in his year anyway. He's a tiny bit smarter than Al but Al doesn't seem to mind. He just smiles his slow quiet smile that makes Scorpius suspicious that he's got a secret in his chest that's keeping him so happy. Scorpius wonders how Al is so calm all the time because from what he's heard his entire family is mental. His older brother definitely is; he's a Gryffindor and shouts all the time, even when his friends are standing right next to him.
Scorpius finds he doesn't like it when Al talks to James, but he can't really work out why. When he sees them face to face or shoulder to shoulder, laughing or arguing or rolling their eyes, it makes him feel like he's forgotten something.
It doesn't matter too much; Al talks to him much more than he does James and that's okay.
That first Christmas he goes home to find that in his absence, everything has fallen apart. His mother has moved out of the master bedroom and now has her own wing in the manor, and his father has filled the gap she's left in his life with copious amounts of alcohol.
On Christmas Eve, he finds his father blind-drunk in his study. He's slumped in his high-backed chair, his elbow on his desk and his face in his hand. A glass is tilting dangerously in his free hand and his eyes are shut. The fairy lights fluttering over the ceiling make shadows flicker over his face.
Scorpius knows he's meant to be in bed but he also knows his father doesn't have the heart to tell him off about it. He pads across the room and takes the glass from his father's fingers, putting it back onto the desktop.
Father's eyes struggle open and he blinks hard as he focuses on Scorpius.
"You're supposed to be in bed," he says, and his voice is thick. Scorpius nods and his father sighs. "Come here."
Scorpius obliges and climbs onto the chair, sitting sideways on his father's knee with his feet pulled up even though he's probably too big for hugs like this. He curls up with his face resting on his father's chest, and his father leans his cheek atop Scorpius's head.
"It's just that whenever I plan anything out," he says with a sigh, his words slurring. "The plan never works. I should know by now."
Scorpius doesn't reply.
"Everything just…how are you supposed to miss somebody you never met? God. Scorpius, if it weren't for you I'd be insane by now. Even if you do insist on befriending Potter children."
Scorpius lifts his head up, making Father move his own. Father looks down on him, his eyes blurred and heavy, and Scorpius wonders if he actually knows that he's there.
The next night he goes into the south wing to find his mother. Scorpius creeps along the corridor to her room and peers around the door. It's as if she's lived in here all her life; all her possessions and trinkets are now in place in this small room, separated from her husband's things by much more than long corridors and heavy oak doors. She's sat at her dressing table, taking off her jewellery. She looks tired and sad, but she hides it better than his father does. Her fingers are moving slowly and deliberately, like a person does when they've had too much wine. She hides that much better than Father does, too.
She looks up at him in the mirror, her eyes wide and her mouth slightly open. He waits for the normal routine, the one where she looks away from him down at whatever is in front of her, saying hello and asking how school is, her tone false and bright. She doesn't. She looks straight at him, and her chin trembles and her eyes shine. She stands up, her pearls slipping and clattering onto the top of her dressing table, and then she walks away through into her bathroom, shutting the door behind her.
Scorpius stands still, feeling like he's invisible with all these people who look at him like he's not quite there. Maybe he's actually a ghost, and no-one's bothered to tell him.
He's thankful to go back to school after the Christmas holidays, to escape the strange tension and emptiness that now fills the manor. He finds Al on the platform and is pleased when Al smiles brightly and gives him a hug. Father stands quietly, not even bothering to say anything as Harry Potter walks up to say goodbye to his youngest son. Harry Potter then says hello to Father, and then frowns when Father only mumbles back.
When Harry Potter is gone, Scorpius turns to give his father a brief hug, wishing that his mother had come to say goodbye.
"Have a good term," his father says, holding him tight for a moment before letting him step back and studying him carefully. "You're doing great. I'm proud of you."
"Tell mother I love her," Scorpius says, and his father's face falls.
"Yes," he says distantly, straightening up and looking away. "Of course I will."
"Parents are strange," Scorpius says as he and Al unpack their things in Ravenclaw Tower. "I think Christmas makes it worse."
"Tell me about it," Al says, flopping onto his back on his bed and yawning. "I think it's because they have to get along. You're not supposed to fall out at Christmas."
"No? My parents did. Mother moved into the south wing and Father got drunk," Scorpius says with a sigh. "I wish Father would move out instead."
"I'd never want to live with my mum," Al says contemplatively. "I like Dad more."
"Everyone likes your father," Scorpius says.
"Except yours," Al smiles and Scorpius smiles back.
"He does like him, I think. Well, I don't think he doesn't like him. Want to play snap?"
Al nods, sitting up. His smile is bright and Scorpius smiles back, feeling at home once more.
The second Christmas he goes home, his parents get divorced. Nobody tells Scorpius why.
"You'll stay with me in the Manor," his father says, crouching down beside the chair Scorpius is sat in. He rubs his chin. It's covered in stubble, making him look a lot older than he is. "It'll be almost the same."
"Apart from Mother won't be here," Scorpius says, staring at the Christmas tree without really seeing it.
"Well, when was she anyway," his father mutters, so quietly that Scorpius wonders if he was meant to hear it. He wonders if he should ask if this mess is anything to do with that day all that time ago, that time he hid in the mulberry tree.
"Can Al come for Christmas?" he asks instead.
His father stands up and then he laughs shortly. "Al Potter. Albus Severus Potter."
"Yes," Scorpius says. "But please don't call him that. He doesn't like it."
"Of course," his father says, turning around and walking away waving a hand in the air and ranting as he leaves the room. "It just had to be didn't it? Yes, alright. I'll call the Chosen Potter right away. I'm sure he'd love to come and have a nosey into the mess my life has become, maybe the Saviour can give me some more of his wonderful advice. Oh yes Draco, let's forget all about the past, let's be friends and talk about our hopeless marriages…"
His voice fades down the corridor and Scorpius shakes his head dejectedly. He bets his mother hasn't even left him a present.
When he goes back to school, Al instantly knows something isn't right. He hurriedly says goodbye to his father on the platform and then rushes over to Scorpius, who is ignoring his own father and wanting to cry because his mother isn't there. As he turns away, he waves half-heartedly and hears his father say 'goodbye,' his voice sounding small and helpless. He stands perfectly still, staring at the train as it pulls away. Somewhere within him Scorpius feels a flicker of something that makes him want to see his father smile again, but he can't pinpoint it and it fades away quickly.
"What's wrong?" Al asks the minute they're alone, the compartment door closed to keep the rest of the world out.
"They got divorced," Scorpius says. "Mother moved out."
"That sucks," Al says, and then pauses. "Do you want to play snap?"
That night Scorpius tries to go to sleep. He really does. He stares up at the canopy of his bed for hours, feeling alone.
It's barely a whisper, but Scorpius hears it and is out of bed quicker than he's moved all day. He pads over and clambers onto Al's bed, slipping beneath the covers as Al wriggles over to give him more space.
"My father said your father gives him advice," Scorpius whispers, settling his head on the pillow. "He said they're friends and they talk about their hopeless marriages."
Al wrinkles his nose, pulling the blanket up over their shoulders. "I suppose they could. He can't talk to Uncle Ron because he says he likes being married. Everyone does actually. Mum and Dad are the only ones that didn't."
"Seems pretty stupid to get married if you don't like it," Scorpius whispers, feeling inexplicably saddened by this thought.
Al agrees. "You can stay here if you want," he whispers after a moment. "If you're sad."
Scorpius nods. Al watches him, as if he's checking that Scorpius is okay. Scorpius decides that Al can definitely be his best friend for the rest of their time at school. He likes the way Al seems to actually notice him when he's looking at him.
When he tells Al as such, his smile turns bemused.
"You're very strange sometimes," he whispers. "You can tell you're an only child."
"How?" Scorpius asks, pulling on the pillow a little and nuzzling down into it, breathing in and out deeply.
"The way you talk," Al whispers. "Like you've not talked to many people before."
Scorpius nods, conceding the point. He breathes out deeply, feeling warm and tired.
"Not many people for me to talk to," he murmurs and then he's asleep, comfortable and safe.
Despite having no-one to talk to at home, he has lots of people to talk to at school. His Ravenclaw dorm-mates like him because he always helps them with their work if they're stuck, and he has a habit of saying those things no-one else is going to.
They're working in the library when a sixth year Gryffindor girl takes their book without really asking - 'just going to borrow this, yeah, sixth year work's more important. I'll give it back later okay? ' – and Scorpius snatches it back and calls her a slag.
She stares at him, shocked.
"Everyone calls you a slag," Scorpius adds, holding the book fiercely to his chest. "It's because you snogged that Hufflepuff and his friend and your skirt is too short. When you walk up the stairs everyone behind you can see your arse."
The girl turns on heel and walks away without another word. His friends gape at Scorpius as he puts the book back in place.
"It's because he's an only child," Al says, eyes on his book and quill tip in his mouth. "Doesn't like sharing."
"She took it. That's not sharing," Scorpius replies, wanting to get back to his work. "And her skirt is too short."
Soon after that he discovers that some of the other kids don't like him as much as his friends do, if it all. They aren't used to him and his tongue, and some of them have been on the receiving end of Scorpius's blunt nature and not appreciated it.
It's not long after that the teasing really begins. The ones that don't like him call him a ghost – because he's so pale, not because they know that sometimes his parents look straight though him. They laugh because he's so small and skinny. They call him girly.
Scorpius ignores them but it makes him feel unsettled, deep in his stomach. He can't work out why.
Third year, Easter holidays, and he goes straight to his mother's house in defiance of his father. He gets to see his father all the time. Father writes all the time. He never sees his mother and he misses her so much it hurts.
He's forgotten to have a haircut before the holidays – he honestly can't remember the last time he did have one – and as he steps out of the floo, he's pushing his hair out of his face and wishing he'd asked Al to cut it before he left school.
He finds his mother sat in the day room, staring out of the window at the snow, daydreaming and miles away. He walks across the room and as he reaches half way she looks around. She starts, her eyes flying wide. "You," she whispers and Scorpius has a moment of alarm, thinking maybe he is a ghost when he comes here, doing nothing but haunting her.
The startled expression disappears. "Scorpius," she says almost in relief, her eyes still on him.
"Happy Easter," he says in reply, and walks closer.
"You look like…you look so different," she says and Scorpius can't believe she's actually looking at him whilst she's talking to him.
"Didn't have time for a haircut," he says and she nods slowly.
"Come and sit," she says.
Scorpius complies and walks over quickly. As he does, he sees the open decanter of wine on the small table next to her chair. He ignores it and sits on the bay window seat next to her. When she reaches out to brush his hair back from his face with her palms, he realises she's drunk. She really does hide it better than Father.
She doesn't ask him how school is, or how his father is. Instead, she pulls him closer and runs her hand over his head, smoothing his hair back again.
"Look at you," she says, her smile sincere and her eyes hazy. "You could almost be her."
Scorpius tenses. "Who?"
His mother smiles at him again. "Never mind. You do look lovely though, darling."
Scorpius is thrilled. His heart feels like it's doubled in size in a matter of seconds and he smiles back at her. "So do you," he says boldly and his mother laughs, her voice thick. She reaches out and brushes his hair back again and then pauses.
"Come here," she says, and reaches up to take off her pearls. She reaches forwards and Scorpius ducks his head as she fastens them around his neck.
"Beautiful," she says, her smile wavering with tears. Scorpius's mind flashes back to the kids at school, the ones that call him girly. He finds he can't bring himself to care anymore.
"Don't look much like Father now," he says and Mother pulls him close, wrapping him in a hug like the ones she used to give him when he was tiny.
"No," she murmurs. "You don't. You're all me."
He loves his time with his mother and he never wants to leave. His mother gives him a different necklace to wear each day and he lets her clip one around his neck every morning, loving the way she smiles as she does it. She brushes his hair every evening and spoils him with presents. She lets him help when she puts her make-up on and Scorpius watches her face change, fascinated by the transformation.
Father comes to collect him after a week. Unwilling to leave his mother, he stands by the fireplace, hands in his pockets and expression subdued.
"Right, let's go," Father says, appearing through the doorway and looking harried. "Have you got – what's that? Around your neck?"
"Nothing," Scorpius says immediately, reaching up to tuck the pearls under the collar of his shirt.
His father stares at him, and then his eyes harden and his jaw clenches. "Come on," he says tersely, marching over and flinging a pinch of floo-powder into the grate. "Home."
Scorpius complies, stepping through the flames. He's barely out the other side when his father follows, putting a hand on his shoulder to stop him.
"Hand them over," he says without preamble.
Scorpius shakes his head.
"Scorpius, come on. Take them off," his father says, and Scorpius hears the pleading note in his tone.
"I like them," Scorpius says. "Mother gave them to me."
"Pearls are for women, you know that," father says. "You are not a woman, Scorpius. Now give me them before I have to summon them, please."
With shaking fingers, Scorpius reaches behind his neck and unclips the pearls. He takes them off and hands them over, his chin trembling.
"Thank you." His father's relief as Scorpius hands over the necklace is tangible and Scorpius fights his tears back, wondering why it's such a big deal anyway.
Later that night, Scorpius stares into the mirror above the sink in his bathroom.
He really does look like a girl, he thinks as he pushes his hair back. It's not just the hair. He's so skinny; he's heard many of the girls whispering and wishing they could be that svelte. It's his complexion and his stupid cheekbones too. He doesn't understand it; he looks like his father but his Father doesn't look girly in the slightest. He's seen portraits of grandfather Lucius and he's got long hair and doesn't look girly. When he looks closely though, he sees his father's features have been softened before being passed down to him. The line of his jaw isn't quite as harsh, the bridge of his nose not quite so defined.
He fingers the ends of his hair. His mother seemed to like it. And she said he could almost be her. Scorpius doesn't know what that means but he likes that his mother seemed to focus on his for the first time in years. Is looking a bit girly that bad if his mother likes it?
Noise behind him makes him turn; his father is standing half in and half out of the bathroom, his hand on the edge of the door and his expression troubled.
"Are you alright?" he asks.
Scorpius nods. "Yes. Is dinner ready?"
His Father nods as well. "Yes. I was thinking, maybe tomorrow we can go shopping. See if there's anything you'd like for Christmas. I mean, anything else other than your presents. And we can get your hair cut-"
Scorpius shakes his head. "I don't want my hair cut."
His father stares, looking at a loss. "But it's getting far too long."
Scorpius turns around and walks over. "I like it like this. I'd like to go shopping, but I don't want my hair cutting."
Scorpius wraps his arms around his father's middle and hugs him. "Please? I promise I won't wear anymore pearls."
He pulls back and when he looks up, his father looks distressed, his brow knitting together. He bites his lip, worrying it between his teeth and then he sighs, all the fight going out of him.
"Okay. Shopping but no haircut. Come on, then. Dinner."
The next morning, he wakes to hear his father shouting. Not fake-shouting like he does at the house-elves or at the newspaper; he's properly shouting, angry and wild.
Scorpius holds his breath, standing outside the door to the study and watching through the slight gap between the door and frame. His mother's face is visible in the flames of the fire, and she looks as angry as his father.
"-leave him alone to make his own choices! He won't even get a fucking haircut just because of what you said! And don't get me started on the fucking pearls - stop projecting what you want onto him-"
"Shut up, Draco. I'm not projecting on him."
"Oh no," father snarls, and Scorpius doesn't like the sound. "Projecting would you require noticing him for once."
"You wanted the boy first," his mother says coldly, her words like ice. "Do I have to remind you whose fault this is?"
"Fuck you," his father snaps, and flicks his wand at the fireplace, killing the flames in an instant.
Scorpius flees silently away from the door, not stopping until he's in his room and sat at his piano, fingers resting on the keys in a comforting and familiar position. He tries valiantly to remember what happened that day before he climbed the tree, but all he can recall is running across the garden past the peacocks.
He puts the argument out of his mind. He goes back to school after the Easter break, shoulder to shoulder with Al in a compartment of their own, after shooing away some Hufflepuff first years. He's glad; as always he feels better about everything when Al is close by.
"Look what I've got," he says, rummaging in his bag. He pulls out the pearls that he's stolen back out of his father's pocket earlier that morning, dropping them into Al's hand.
"Where did you get these?" Al asks, examining the pearls closely.
"Mother gave them to me," Scorpius says, watching Al turning over the orbs in his fingers. "I think she thinks I'm a girl."
"Really?" Al asks.
"Yeah," Scorpius says. "I think it's the way I look."
"Well, you're not a girl, are you?" Al frowns. "You're in the boys dorms."
"Course I'm not," Scorpius says, taking back the pearls. He hesitates and then puts them around his neck, hiding them under his collar. "I've got a dick, you know."
Al flushes, his cheeks turning a deep pink. His eyes dart to Scorpius's crotch and then quickly away. He shifts uncomfortably on his seat and then clears his throat. "Then why does your mum think you're a girl?"
Scorpius frowns. A distant memory stirs, shifts, and then falls back into slumber. He touches the pearls under his shirt, feeling them press into his skin. "I don't know."
When fourth year dawns, going back to Hogwarts isn't the same as it usually is.
Scorpius is growing taller and his adam's-apple is becoming more pronounced but even that doesn't make him look any more manly. As he gets taller he gets more willowy, and his long fingers are turned graceful from a summer playing the piano. His voice changes too, but not as noticeably as the rest of the boys in his dorm. His hair is longer than ever; now it nearly brushes his shoulders. He's immune to the teasing now. His mother likes the way he looks, so everyone else can fuck off. Besides that, he's got something else to occupy his mind.
Al's voice has definitely changed and he's gotten a bit taller, but he's also grown sideways too; his shoulders are broader than they were when they first met. Scorpius can see his adam's-apple as well, and he can't help but stare. He finds he watches Al all the time, and he just can't stop. It doesn't take him long to work out why he finds Al's shoulders and his stupid messy hair so appealing.
Al looks back at Scorpius sometimes, too. Late at night Scorpius sometimes rolls over to see Al is watching him doze, his head turned to the side on his blue pillow. Every time Scorpius catches him watching, Al smiles a small apologetic smile and turns away, shutting his eyes.
For some bizarre reason, Scorpius doesn't dare tell Al that he likes watching him. He'll happily tell the head-girl that she's got a stick up her arse, and easily tell Slughorn that he's not an idiot, of course he knows what Golpatt's second law is, but he doesn't tell Al that he dreams of kissing him on the mouth.
They're inseparable despite the changed dynamic between them. They spend almost every waking minute together, and Scorpius is absolutely fine with that.
The year is a good one, to start with. However, two weeks before the end of the year, things take a turn in a bad direction. It's at this point that Scorpius gets called a girl for the first time. He's been called girly before, but never a girl.
On the day in question a fifth year Slytherin pushes Al out of the way, making him drop his potions work, and then treads on it as he passes. Filled with hot anger, Scorpius jumps forwards and shoves the boy hard in the back, trying to push him out of the way.
"Just because you're stupid doesn't mean you can't look where you're going," he shouts. Al just kneels to collect his work, not saying a word.
The Slytherin rounds on Scorpius. "That's enough from you, Malfoy," he says dangerously. "Don't call me stupid."
"I know you're stupid," Scorpius retorts. "You pay the sixth years to do your transfiguration so McGonagall doesn't find out how stupid you are."
The boy steps forwards and the corridor draws a collective breath. "I'd hex you in the face for that," the boy says, his lip curling in an ugly sneer. "But a gentleman would never hex a girl."
Scorpius flushes angrily. "I'm not a girl."
"Could have fooled me," the boy laughs. "Look at you."
He walks away laughing, leaving Scorpius standing there and the rest of the corridor looking at him askance.
"You're not a girl," Al says quietly. "It's just because you're so small. Ignore him."
Scorpius does, but a few in the corridor don't. They call him girl's names and point out how skinny he is, how his face looks like a girl's face. 'Girl's cheekbones,' they cackle. 'Girl's hair.'
Wishing he could hex them all, Scorpius drops to his knees to help Al collect his scattered parchment. He focuses on the task, trying to push away the whirl of confusion in the pit of his stomach.
He looks up and finds himself nose to nose with Al. The corridor is now empty and quiet, save for the sounds of their breathing and the rustle of parchment. The other students have obviously grown bored of Scorpius for now.
Al looks at him for a moment and then leans forwards, quickly kissing Scorpius on the mouth. He pulls back, waiting for a reaction.
Feeling a strange warm prickle down the back of his neck, Scorpius lifts his fingers to his lips. "What was that for?" he asks.
Al shrugs, still looking at him. "A thank you. For standing up for me."
Scorpius's face breaks into a smile and Al grins back. Scorpius feels like they've just found something brilliant, and decides he doesn't care what the others say about how he looks. His mother likes it, and apparently so does Al.
From then on, they kiss each other a lot. They're not proper kisses – Quinton Ackerley says you have to have your mouth open for it to be a proper kiss. Ryan Davies says you have to use your tongue. Scorpius and Al don't do either. They stick with quick, innocent, lip to lip kisses before they go to bed or when one of them leaves to go to the library, or when they part ways for different classes. Their dorm-mates don't mind; Quinton and Ryan don't bat an eyelid in their direction even when they do kiss or hug or share a bed for the night. It might not be much, but it feels right and makes Scorpius feel closer to home than ever.
Two days before Scorpius's fifteenth birthday, and he and Al are lying in the sun together down by the lake, near the old tree that the first years sometimes like to climb. They're meant to be studying but instead they've abandoned their books on the grass and Scorpius is lying on his stomach in the sun with Al's fingers kneading a path down his spine. Part of his birthday present, Al says.
"Is this okay?"
Scorpius murmurs his assent because he feels too relaxed to make real words. The sun is warm and the grass is soft beneath his hands, and Scorpius feels like this is how life should always be.
"Ryan says that Bridget Carmichael did this to him," Al says casually. "He says it made him…all, you know."
"Relaxed?" Scorpius offers.
"Horny." Al clarifies.
"Oh," Scorpius ponders that as Al's fingers move over his shoulders and then back down his spine. "Really?
"Yeah. But he didn't have his shirt on," Al says and then clears his throat. "I don't know. He's probably lying. He says he got her to give him a handjob too, but Quinton says she didn't."
"Was the handjob a result of the massage?" Scorpius asks. "Or an unrelated incident?"
"No idea," Al says, and then his fingers move lower, pressing on the ridges just above Scorpius's tailbone.
Scorpius raises his head from his hands. "Are you touching my arse?"
"No." Al immediately moves his hands back up to Scorpius's shoulders. He clears his throat again. "Your spine goes all the way down, is all."
"I don't mind," Scorpius says quietly, swallowing thickly.
Al moves and lies down next to Scorpius on his side. He stretches his arm up and bends it at the elbow, tucking it under his head as a pillow. Scorpius turns his head to the side so they're face to face.
"No?" Al asks, looking hopeful.
"Ryan was right," Scorpius says and Al laughs. He leans a little closer, eyes flickering over Scorpius's face. He reaches forwards and pushes Scorpius's hair back away from his face. It makes Scorpius blink; Al hardly ever touches his hair.
"Can't see you properly," he says, and he smiles sadly before kissing Scorpius gently on the cheek.
Just before the train arrives in London, they share their first proper kiss. As usual, they're hidden away in a compartment of their own at the back of the train, away from the rest of the students.
Scorpius isn't sure how it happens. They're leaning together, forehead to forehead and kissing occasionally, like they always do. The kisses start getting closer together and lasting longer, and soon they're breathing into each other's mouths and everything feels different. The next time Al leans in his mouth is slightly open and so is Scorpius's, and suddenly they're kissing properly, clutching onto each other like they can't let go.
Even though it's probably not great, what with neither of them having done this before, the way Al kisses him makes Scorpius's toes curl and his heart pound against his sternum, and all he can do is hold on to Al's waist and try and stay on his seat.
"Okay?" Al asks when they finally pull apart, his brow knitted like he's worried about something.
Scorpius nods, breathless. "Yeah."
The worried expression vanishes and Al grins, wide and happy. "I wanted to do that for ages," he says. "Write me over Easter?" he requests and Scorpius nods.
"Are we gay now?" he asks.
Al laughs and pulls him into a hug. "You're mental," he murmurs into Scorpius's hair and then pulls back. He threads his fingers through Scorpius hair, combing through it.
Scorpius frowns, wondering why the answer wasn't yes. They're both boys, so kissing like that is definitely pretty gay. "You know I'm a boy, right?" he asks, worried.
Al stares at him like he's an idiot. "You're an idiot, Scorpius," he finally says, continuing with combing his fingers through Scorpius's hair. "What kind of question is that?"
"Just wondering," Scorpius says, settling back on his seat.
Al sighs and shifts, leaning against Scorpius with his head on his shoulder, staring out of the window at the gradually slowing scenery. "Sometime I wonder if you've got gender identity disorder, you know."
"What?" Scorpius asks, curious.
"People who think they're in the body of the wrong sex," Al explains.
"No, It's not me, I don't think I'm a girl," Scorpius says. "It's everyone else, what they think."
Al frowns at that, biting his lip and looking thoughtful. "Then why not cut your hair? You don't exactly make an effort to make yourself look less feminine."
There's not a lot Scorpius can say to that. The confused feeling in the pit of his stomach returns and he looks down away from Al's face.
"Why don't you have a haircut?" Al says gently, looking up at him. "See if you like it."
"Would you like it?" Scorpius asks and Al shrugs.
"I think I'd like to see you as just you," he says thoughtfully. "Not you hiding behind your hair."
Scorpius nods and leans in for another kiss. "Okay," he says against Al's mouth, and the kiss is a promise. "I'll do it."
When he gets to his mothers, she rushes over to him and immediately fusses over him, looking delighted as she runs her hands over his hair.
"Oh goodness, look how long your hair is," she says. "We should plait it, it's definitely long enough."
"I'm having it cut," Scorpius says, and to his horror his mother's smile disappears. Her hands still and Scorpius realises he's said something wrong.
"Why?" she asks carefully, concealing the upset in her voice. She's way better at that than father, but Scorpius has had enough practice to notice when something is up. "Did your father say you had to?"
"No," Scorpius shakes his head. "Al said we should see what I'm like when I'm not hiding behind my hair."
Her face hardens almost imperceptibly. "Al said?" she asks, raising an eyebrow. "Doesn't sound like it's what you want."
"I don't know," Scorpius says, because he's just so confused. Who is he supposed to be? It seems like if he's right for one person in his life, he's wrong for another.
"I love your hair and I love the way you look," his mother says. "Don't let anyone else decide for you."
Scorpius nods, but he's still confused. His mother notices and takes his hand, pulling him away from the door.
"Come, I've got you a present."
She leads him to her dressing room, and on the table is a small sliver box. He walks towards it, unable to stop the excitement coursing through him. "It's not my birthday yet," he says, but he has no intention of waiting. He takes the lid of the box and peers inside.
"I thought you'd like it," his mother says. "Now we can do yours, too. I think you'll look just like me."
Scorpius doesn't care that make-up isn't normally what boys get for their birthdays. He's fascinated by all the shiny silver cases, almost the same as the ones he's watched his mother using for years.
"Would you like to try it?" she asks and Scorpius nods, smiling and feeling exhilarated as his mother smiles back. He sits still and compliant as his mother gently puts his new make-up onto his face, and all he knows is that he'd do anything to have his mother smile at him like that.
His father just about explodes when Scorpius turns up at the manor covered in make-up. Scorpius tells him he doesn't care what he thinks, and his father vanishes into his study, slamming the door behind him. Scorpius stands there in the corridor, staring at the door and trying not to feel guilty. He likes it, his mother likes it, so father should just deal with it, right?
The doubt comes back and feels ten times worse when he meets Al on the platform, ready to go back to school. Al's face goes from happy to shocked as he sees Scorpius, and he walks up slowly like he's not sure who Scorpius is.
"Are you wearing make-up?" he asks in an undertone. Scorpius nods, tucking his hair behind his ear.
"But I thought – you said you'd get a haircut," Al says, sounding unsure.
"Mother said I look better like this," Scorpius tells him, and some strange pained expression flitters across Al's face.
"Your mother. Course. What does your father say?"
"Don't care what father says," Scorpius says and Al stares at him.
"Fine," he finally says. "Let's go find a compartment."
Al doesn't mention his hair or the make-up again. They find their usual seats and talk about the holidays, but something in the air is strained and tense. It's only when they get off the train in Hogsmeade that Scorpius realises with a sinking heart that Al hasn't kissed him, not even once.
Al doesn't try and kiss him again. A whole year passes and whilst they're still best friends, Scorpius misses what they had. He spends months in quiet turmoil. All he wanted was his mother to love him, and now Al won't kiss him and his father won't talk to him. Scorpius is unnerved, and feels like maybe he's missing a part of this story that would make it all make sense.
It's almost a year to the day since Al gave him his first real kiss when Scorpius snaps, unable to bear it anymore. On a bleak Sunday morning Scorpius gives in and goes to find Al, determined to make things right. He deliberately leaves off his make-up and goes to find Al, who's studying with his Charms group for an hour before they all go to Hogsmeade.
He walks purposefully to the Charms classroom, trying to ignore the voice in his head that tells him his mother will be disappointed that he's putting what someone else wants first. He opens the door, steps in, and then stops dead.
Al is standing at the front of the room, quietly kissing Juliet Addison. She's in their year; a tiny waif of a Hufflepuff with faint freckles and long, wavy, golden-blonde hair.
They both look up and Al blanches. "Scorp-"
Scorpius runs, feeling stricken. His chest feels too tight. Al watches him, Al kissed him, why is he now kissing a girl? Did Al only want to kiss him because he looks like a girl? Is he not enough of a girl for Al?
He's confused and hurting in a way he hasn't in a long time. He's been right in front of people his whole life but they just don't seem to realise he's there.
He gets all the way to his dormitory before Al catches up with him.
"Scorp, I'm sorry, I didn't want you to find out like that-"
"Why are you kissing girls now?" Scorpius demands. "I thought you were gay-"
"I never said I was," Al says and the words are like a physical blow. Scorpius stares at him feeling like he wants to scream.
Al shrugs, uncomfortable. "A few weeks."
"You kissed me," Scorpius tries and his heart breaks as Al shakes his head. "Why did you stop?"
"I kiss people who know who they are," he says. "You don't have a clue, Scorp."
It looks like it hurts Al to say it; he looks miserable and he's standing awkwardly, fingers curled around the sleeves of his jumper. It hurts Scorpius far more. They stand in horrible oppressive silence for long moments, and then Al leaves the room.
Scorpius is left alone. What does he have to do? Who is he supposed to be to get this all to fit into the right place? Shaking his head to try and clear his thoughts, he grabs his make-up bag and goes to the bathroom, putting his mask back on. He doesn't understand. If Al likes girls then why was he complaining that Scorpius looks like one?
His thoughts are disturbed as Ryan Davies and Quinton Ackerley burst into the dorm. They insist Scorpius has to come to Hogsmeade and wrap him up in his coat, scarf and gloves before dragging him out of the castle.
Scorpius doesn't want to go to Hosgmeade. He doesn't want to go anywhere. He wants to cry.
"Come on, chin up," Quinton says bracingly as they walk up to the door of the Three Broomsticks. "Al and Juliet said they'd meet us here."
Scorpius stops dead and shakes his head. He can't go in there. He feels sick, his stomach twisting into knots. He can't face seeing Al kissing that girl again-
He's on his heel and walking away before he knows what he's doing. Ryan and Quinton shout after him but he ignores them, his throat feeling tight and his eyes prickling with tears. They don't follow him and he doesn't care.
He slips into the Hogs Head, alone. No one even looks his way, and he's thankful to be invisible once again. He takes a gamble and orders firewhiskey from the bar, thinking that it must help considering how much of it father drinks. The barkeep doesn't even question how old he is; he barely even glances at Scorpius at all.
He knocks back his first drink, gasping a little at the burn. He orders another, blindly thinking that he wants to stop thinking.
An hour later and he can barely see. A young man – twenty-ish, Scorpius hazily thinks – with a black beard and wearing a patched dragon-hide coat is buying him drinks. The man's handsome, but there's a streak of cruelty in his face that Scorpius would comment on, were he in any fit state to.
"Pretty little thing, aren't you?" the man grins slyly, reaching out to tuck Scorpius's hair behind his ear. "Got a few friends who would like you. Something for the in-between tastes, you know?"
The sly smile disappears as Scorpius lurches forwards and is violently sick all over the man's boots, eyes stinging and wondering what exactly has gone wrong in his life.
He somehow finds his way back to school. He remembers getting to the gates and then not a lot else, until he's on his back on his bed in Ravenclaw Tower, head spinning and stomach threatening to heave.
"Fuck, what the hell happened to him?"
"He's drunk, that's what's happened!"
"Stop it you two, you're not helping. Damn it, Scorpius!"
The last voice belongs to Al and Scorpius feels relief swim through him. He reaches out blindly and warm fingers thread through his. Oh good, he thinks slightly hysterically. He must be real, because Al is touching him.
"He's going to get in so much trouble-"
"He's already in trouble, look at him! Al, is he hurt? Has anyone hurt him?"
"Fucking single-child-syndrome is going to be the bloody death of him, I swear to god he's completely mental-"
Al's voice cuts through the noise again. "Leave it, Ryan! Quinton, calm down, he's alright. Go and see if anyone has told McGonagall. If they have, tell her he's here and he's okay."
The others leave and Scorpius feels himself being pulled into a sitting position, leaning heavily against someone's side. He hears a mutter and feels magic wash over him, taking away the sting of the alcohol. His vision becomes slightly less blurred and then fingers are gentle on his cheek, turning his face.
Al looks at him, sadness etched into his calm features. "What happened?"
"Went to the Hog's Head," Scorpius says, wanting to look away. "Got drunk. Why aren't you with Juliet?"
"Shut up, Scorp," Al breathes, and pulls him close, resting Scorpius's head on his shoulder and pressing his face into his neck, an arm curled around his neck and his palm on Scorpius's forehead, keeping his hair back.
After long moments, Scorpius struggles back, pushing against Al so he can sit up and look at him. His eyes are impossibly green, and in them is a sort of pain that hurts Scorpius to see. Hand trembling, his places his fingers on Al's cheek and feels a jolt of warmth as Al turns his face to softly kiss Scorpius's palm.
Scorpius leans closer. His lips brush Al's and they stay perfectly still, barely touching. When Al doesn't pull back, he presses even closer.
"Scorpius," Al whispers, gently pushing him back with his palms cupping Scorpius's face. He shakes his head slightly. "You're drunk."
"But," he begins helplessly, wishing he could just say it, wishing he could find the person that Al wants him to be.
"Not today," Al says gently, and it looks like it's breaking his heart to say it. "When you know what you want, maybe."
Scorpius feels tears prickling his eyes. It doesn't matter what he wants, it's what everyone else wants. He's got to be the right shape to fit the hole in their lives, but he can't fucking work out what it is-
There's another whisper and then Al has a warm damp flannel in hand, and he pulls back to carefully wipe Scorpius's face.
"You're not invisible to me," he says as he washes the traces of vomit and make-up and whiskey from Scorpius's skin. "Stop thinking you are."
That night he takes care of Scorpius. He gives him water and carefully helps him wash and slip into his pyjamas. He settles him into his bed and then climbs in with him, lying down behind Scorpius, holding him gently with an arm around Scorpius's middle. Scorpius tries not to but he can't help but cry, mourning all the things he's lost, even though he's not sure what they all are.
Al doesn't say a word. He just wipes Scorpius's tears away and brushes his hair back, and stays with him all night, and Scorpius feels nearly real for the first time in almost seven years.
When he wakes in the morning, he's alone and feeling terrible. His mouth is dry and his head hurts. He sits up, wincing and wishing childishly that Al were with him. With shaking hands, he pulls on his clothes and then ties his hair back, not bothering to brush it.
He's sitting alone and trying to work out if he did kiss Al last night or not when Quinton enters the room, looking troubled.
"Your father's here. You've got to go see him. He's in McGonagall's office."
Scorpius shuts his eyes and rubs his face, trying not to think what that means. If his father knows what happened yesterday he's bound to be in a complete state and Scorpius can't be doing with the panic and worry right now. How does Father even know what happened?
He voices his question aloud, and Quinton sighs. "Loads of people saw you. We were in the Hall and some first year runs in and tells us you've collapsed. We had to basically carry you up here. The portraits told McGonagall. It was only because Al stepped in that she didn't force you to the hospital wing."
Scorpius feels a flicker of gratitude towards Al, making his throat clench. "Okay," he says, voice wavering. He clears his throat. "Where is Al, anyway?"
"With your Dad."
Those three words propel Scorpius up and out of the tower, despite how ill he feels. He doesn't want his father anywhere near Al – or Al anywhere near his father, it's hard to work out which way around it is. When he reaches the office, McGonagall lets him in, her face drawn and tight. She doesn't say anything, just shows him up to where his father and Al are waiting.
They're sat together by the desk, talking quietly like it's something they do every day. It makes Scorpius's heart clench and then fall apart into little pieces. He ignores it.
As he walks over, his father stands up, his face pale. He steps forwards and grasps Scorpius by the shoulders.
"Are you alright?" he asks urgently.
Scorpius nods. "I-"
"How could you be so stupid?" His father says, his eyes panicked. "Going off by yourself, and drinking that much? What were you thinking?"
"I don't know," says Scorpius, wishing that his father would understand.
"You don't know?" his father repeats in disbelief. "You're sixteen, Scorpius. You could have gotten hurt, anyone could have gotten their hands on you-"
"No-one got their hands on me," he says quietly, trying to get his father to calm down. He neglects to mention how close it came. "It's okay-"
"It is not!" his father says hotly. "I know the crowd that hangs around in the Hogs Head, Scorpius. They're not to be trusted. They take advantage, they – they'll take one look at you and try-"
"One look at me?"
"Yes! You know you look different, Scorpius, and that's enough for them."
Scorpius doesn't reply. His father just doesn't get it. Looking the way he does is the only thing that's ever given him anything, and his father is saying it's a bad thing? He bets his father wouldn't pay him half as much attention if he weren't constantly fussing over the fact Scorpius looks like a girl.
"I'm sorry," Scorpius finally says. "I was stupid, I wasn't thinking. I won't do it again."
His father doesn't look convinced, but there's nothing else he can say. He leaves, looking helpless and trying to hide the upset as he vanishes in a whirl of flames. McGonagall tells Scorpius that he's banned from Hogsmeade for the rest of the year. He doesn't care.
"Your father informed me that there are certain factors that explain this behaviour," she says. "And as much as I understand, there is no real excuse."
Scorpius nods but he doesn't know what on earth she's talking about or what these factors are. The Mulberry tree swims in his memories and vanishes, and he points out to himself that he's not hiding. Everyone else is looking in the wrong direction.
He spends the rest of the year shoulder to shoulder with Al, just like they did in first year. Al doesn't kiss Juliet anymore. Scorpius doesn't ask why, all he's concerned with is that Al doesn't kiss him either.
He can't get anything right.
On his seventeenth birthday he gets taken out for a meal to an expensive restaurant on Diagon Alley. His father and mother are both there, and so is Al. Al looks nervous, and Scorpius can hardly blame him. He's ridiculously grateful that Al is there; the tension between his mother and father is palpable, and the only thing stopping him shouting at them both is the gentle grip Al has on his arm.
He won't admit it, but he's hoping for a miracle. He hopes that as he comes of age his parents will stop fighting and everything will make sense.
The meal is okay. Al and Scorpius do most of the talking, and mother and father only bicker once. Scorpius supposes it's progress.
"Happy birthday Scorpius," his father says once the plates have been cleared. "Here."
He passes Scorpius a small black box, wrapped with a gold ribbon. Scorpius takes it and opens it, and his heart skips up into his throat. Inside is a silver pocket watch, intricately carved with stars. He carefully picks it out and turns it over and instantly recognises the arrangement on the back; the stars take the shape of his very own constellation.
"I'd have given you mine, as an heirloom," father says quietly. "But it's got my constellation on the back. I thought you should have something of your own."
Scorpius looks up, his breath caught in his chest. It's beautiful and it's actually his. The idea of having something entirely his own is new and strange. It's oddly appealing.
"Thank you," he says and his father smiles weakly. Something fierce in Scorpius's chest purrs at the sight and he reaches out to squeeze his father's hand, not realising how much he'd missed him.
"Very nice," his mother says, folding her napkin and laying it on the table. "But it is really appropriate, Draco?"
His father tenses and Scorpius sends his mother a pleading look. He's wearing all her makeup and her pearls, just how she likes, and he's hoping that it's enough pacify her.
"Meaning?" his father bites out. Al reaches for Scorpius's hand under the table and squeezes his fingers.
"Well it's very masculine, isn't it?" his mother says casually. "Doesn't really suit him."
"Scorpius is my son," his father says, his voice rising. "And despite your ridiculous opinions, I will fucking well buy my son a watch on his seventeenth birthday, just as tradition intended."
He gets up from the table, throwing his napkin down and stalking away. Scorpius watches him go, feeling distraught. His mother tuts, shaking her head. "So over-dramatic," she sighs. "You better follow him darling, or he'll be in a snit all evening."
She stands up and leans over to kiss Scorpius on the cheek. "I will see you tomorrow. Happy birthday."
She walks away and Al looks at Scorpius, eyes wide. "Your parents are mental."
"Come on," Scorpius sighs, carefully putting his new watch in his pocket and picking up the box. He wants to go with his mother, but he knows he can't. "If he's swearing in public he's really mad."
By the time they get to the floo in the restaurant, his father has already gone. Wishing his parents could behave themselves for once, Scorpius floo's home with Al in tow, but stops abruptly when he steps out into the dining room of the manor.
Father is sat at the table, his head in his hands, and he's in tears.
Scorpius is frozen to the spot. Father never cries.
"Shit," Al whispers behind him. "Is it because of the watch?"
"I don't know," Scorpius says slowly. "You go. I'll be there in a minute."
Al hesitates and then quickly leans in and kisses Al on the cheek, before going off to Scorpius's rooms. Scorpius touches his cheek as he watches Al go, and then he walks over to his father, crouching down beside him.
"Father," he whispers. "I love the watch. Please don't cry."
His father tries to pull himself together, and wipes his face on the back of his hand. "You seem a million miles away some days, Scorpius," he says, voice thick. "I just want you to be you, and you just look at us like we're not here."
Scorpius looks at him, this thoughts snagging on something in his mind. He's right there. Why can't they see that?
The next day, he dresses carefully and readies to go visit his mother, unawares it will be the last time he does. He leaves Al in the manor, hoping that he won't have any cause to cross paths with his father.
He's looking forwards to the visit. He's dressed head to toe in things his mother bought for him, and his make-up is perfect. He can't wait to talk to her, and show her how well the scarf she bought him matches his eyes.
He's smiling when he steps through the floo. It quickly fades as he sees that she's entertaining guests. A woman of about her age sits in the armchair by the fire, and on the sofa next to mother is a pretty young girl, who Scorpius presumes is the woman's daughter.
He tenses, fingers going instinctively to the pearls around his neck; his mother is sat next to the girl and is fawning over her, just like she used to do to Scorpius. She twists the girl's hair between her fingers and they laugh together, happy and oblivious.
Scorpius steps forwards, trembling. That smile is meant for him. His mother looks up, belatedly noticing him, glancing at him for a second. "Oh Scorpius," she calls. "Good, I'm glad you're here."
She doesn't mean it. Her eyes are passing by him just like they used to do, before he had his long hair and his pearls. It still stings like it did when he was eleven.
"Do me a favour, will you darling? On my dressing table there's a present for Amelie, can you bring it over?"
Amelie looks delighted and Scorpius stares in disbelief but no-one so much as looks his way again. They're discussing Amelie's shoes and Scorpius is invisible once more.
He leaves the room, ears ringing and heart screaming out in protest. He walks into his mother's rooms and sure enough, on the table is a small box, wrapped in pink with long silver ribbons attached.
Scorpius stares down at it, something frightening building in his chest. What does he have to do, how is he supposed to win this game when he doesn't even know the rules? He's tried for her, he tried so hard. He's grown his hair and worn the make-up and even kissed boys, and still it's not enough. With a frightening jolt he realises that everything he's done has been for her, and he didn't even notice.
The parcel goes up in flames. With hate in his heart and his life a mess, Scorpius flees from the house and vows never to go back.
He runs. He tries to run from his mother and his father and everything he's done wrong. He can't. He still has on all the gifts from his mother, is still wearing the false identity that they created between them. No wonder Al could never find him, no wonder his father cried. Why would she do that to him? Hide him under a lie, and pull him away from the people that love him?
He can't go home. He doesn't even know where it is.
Hours later, he's a state. He's in the Sphinx and Dragon and he's so drunk he can barely stand. He's attracting more than enough attention from men and women alike, presumably because he still has all of his make-up on. The lights are dim and the music is drowning out all sound and most of his thoughts. He clutches the bar with one hand. A man has his hands on Scorpius's waist and is whispering lewd suggestions into his ear.
"How old actually are you?" the man asks casually as he passes Scorpius another drink. Scorpius takes it without question, and his lipstick leaves a dull red smear on the glass.
"Seventeen," Scorpius says. "Yesterday was my birthday."
The man's face lights up like it's his birthday, but Scorpius doesn't notice. He's too busy thinking of mulberry trees and how he feels completely betrayed by the one person he wanted to love him. He did everything for his mother, but at the end of the day he's a boy under the clothes and disguises she buys for him, and any real girl will come before him without question.
He was wearing his make-up. He was wearing the pearls. Why wasn't it enough?
"So, fancy getting out of here?" the man breathes against Scorpius's ear and he blinks dazedly. He's sure his lipstick is smudged. The man pulls back and his alcohol-sharp breath wafts across Scorpius's face. The man leans closer.
"I-" he says hopelessly, his vision blurred and his head pounding.
He hears his name. He blinks and frowns, confused, and the man looks at him questioningly. Scorpius hears his name again, echoing somewhere in the distance. He turns around, away from the man as a third shout comes, closer and louder than before. He recognises the voice and relief floods his heart as he distinguishes Al's face, pushing through the crowd towards him and looking panicked.
Al reaches forwards and grabs hold of Scorpius's wrists, holding him tight enough to bruise. "Fucking hell, you promised you'd never do this again!" he shouts, and Scorpius can see how scared he is. "Stop running off, for fucks sake, Scorp!"
"Hey, back off," the man holding onto Scorpius says, his tone threatening.
Al doesn't. He grips onto Scorpius even harder and tries to pull him away. The man scowls and Al looks behind him, panicking. The man looks victorious for a moment and steps forwards, but then he shrinks back, expression terrified.
Blinking hard, Scorpius turns to see another taller Al standing behind the first smaller one, and then he realises that Harry Potter is there. He looks furious. He has one hand on Al's shoulder and the other is gripped tightly around his wand, which is pointed at the stranger's face.
"Fuck off," he says tersely, and the man does, disappearing into the crowd.
Al turns a pleading expression on his dad. "Dad, we've got to get him home," he begs. "His dad'll be frantic."
"He already is," Harry says grimly, and then sighs. "Come on, you."
Scorpius tries to step forwards but his legs won't hold him. He stumbles and Al catches him, trying to hold him upright. One pleading look from Al and Harry Potter steps forwards and heaves Scorpius up into his arms. Scorpius doesn't have it in him to fight. He rests his head against Al's father's chest and lets his eyes fall shut, trying to keep his tears back. For the first time since he can't remember when, he wishes his father were here.
"Fuck, Scorpius, oh my god-"
"He's alright, Malfoy. Calm down."
"Calm down? Are you fucking kidding me? Give him here-"
Scorpius hears frantic voices and through his dizziness, he feels himself being lowered to the floor. He leans back against someone and a familiar pair of arms encircle him, pulling him close. A shaking hand pushes his hair back away from his face and the chest behind him heaves in an almost sob.
"We'll leave you two alone. Come on Al," a low voice says. "No, Al, listen. Just listen for a minute - he'll be fine. He needs his dad right now, you can come back tomorrow."
Scorpius struggles to open his eyes but by the time he manages it, Al is already gone. The dining room is empty and he starts to cry.
"Don't cry," his father says, his own voice thick with tears. "I've got you. Come on."
His father shifts and then whispers something, and magic washes over him, taking away the burn of the alcohol and most of his dizziness. Scorpius breathes in great shuddering breaths of air and tries to sit up, giving up and shrinking back into his father's arms, trying to hide away from everything he's become.
"She wanted a girl," he sobs. "She didn't want me."
"I want you," his father whispers. "You, Scorpius. No matter if you were a boy or a girl."
"Why?" Scorpius asks, his throat raw. He wipes his hand across his eyes and it comes away smeared black with mascara. "What happened? Something went wrong, didn't it?"
His father nods, and tightens his grip on Scorpius. "Do you not remember?"
"No," Scorpius cries. "All I remember is running past the peacocks and hiding in the tree, and no-one came to find me, and then you were always sad and mother wouldn't look at me properly."
He trails off, unable to talk through his tears. His father brushes his hair back again, trembling.
"You were going to have a baby sister, remember?" His father takes a deep breath and then shuts his eyes. "She died, Scorpius. Before she was born. We didn't know until it was too late. It about broke your mother's heart."
His baby sister who he was waiting for. God, he was feeding the peacocks and waiting to meet her, planning to share all of his things with her. She's the piece that's been missing, the reason that everything changed. The one his mother truly wanted.
"Why wasn't I enough?" he asks, the words bitter.
"I don't know," his father replies quietly. "I'm so sorry, Scorpius."
He slumps into his father's embrace, exhausted. His mind is eerily calm; the piece of the puzzle had gently slipped into place and now he understands why everything was the way it was. They were mourning her so hard that they forgot to look for Scorpius, and by the time they looked back, Scorpius was trying to take her place without even knowing it.
He opens his eyes, seized with a sudden panic. "I'm still here," he says, gripping tightly onto his father. "Even if she's not, I am, I'm awake-"
His father shushes him as he did when he were younger. "I know, I know. You are here. For the first time in years, I think you're actually here."
Scorpius wants to cry all over again, this time from relief. He's here, and he's real and his father knows he's there. Everything will be okay.
"Come here," his father says gently and pushes Scorpius into a sitting position. He sits on the carpet with his legs crossed as his father conjures a warm flannel, just like Al did all that time ago. His father takes his chin in hand and carefully wipes away the make-up from his face.
"There," his father says quietly, sitting back. He runs a hand through Scorpius's hair but Scorpius pushes him away, his chest tightening.
"Cut it off. All of it."
Father doesn't question him. He waves his wand with a shaking hand and the flannel in his hand twists into a pair of scissors.
Scorpius sits still, head bowed and breathing through his mouth as he listens to the careful snips. His hair falls to the carpet around him as his father gently and carefully cuts away the last ties Scorpius has to the past.
When he puts the scissors down, Scorpius looks up and sees there are tears on his father's cheeks. He feels a rush of emotion so strong it makes him shut his eyes for a long moment, overwhelmed.
Here he is. Scorpius.
His father cups his face in his palms and strokes Scorpius's cheekbones with his thumbs. He opens his eyes again and his heart aches for all that he has lost, and for the person he can now be.
"There's my boy," his father murmurs and Scorpius laughs, thick with tears.
"I'm sorry," he says and his father reaches out and pulls Scorpius onto his lap like he's still eleven, running his hand over Scorpius's head.
"Nothing to be sorry for."
Scorpius nods and sighs, feeling exhausted. He shuts his eyes and listens to the steady thump of his father's heartbeat, too tired to even think about how backwards he got everything.
Instead he sleeps, curled up in his father's knee on the floor of the dining room. He breathes slow and even and his father sits there all night, running his hand up and down Scorpius's back and keeping him safe.
When Scorpius wakes, he's safe and warm in his bed. He blinks and looks up and sees his father is sat at the foot of the bed, silently watching him. His shirtsleeves are rolled up and his tie is loose, hanging in two strips over his chest. Scorpius feels fine: no headache, no nasty taste in his mouth. He assumes he has his father to thank for that.
Scorpius sits up and runs his hand over his shorn hair, still unused to the sensation.
"You look older," his father says, smiling tiredly. "More like me."
"Not as old as you," Scorpius says and his father laughs quietly.
"You've got a visitor," he says, standing up and stretching, wincing as he does. "He's been here a while but I told him to wait until you were awake before he jumps you."
Scorpius flushes. "He won't jump me."
His father gives him a look. "I'm not an idiot."
There's not a lot Scorpius can say to that. He looks down at his knees and smiles, and his father rolls his eyes.
"Enamoured with a Potter. Wonderful. Right, you deal with Saviour junior and I'll deal with the elder."
Scorpius smiles. "Talk to him about how you can be friends and discuss your hopeless marriages?"
His father looks baffled. "What?"
"Never mind," Scorpius says. "Just something you said. Years ago."
His father sighs and runs his hands over his face. "You're still a bit of a puzzle, you know that?"
Scorpius smiles. "I know. Thank you."
His father looks surprised for a moment and then nods. As he turns away, Scorpius catches the edge of a relieved smile before his father leaves the room, leaving the door ajar. He sits back against the headboard, running both his hands over his head again. He feels oddly naked, despite still being dressed from yesterday. He's open for everyone to see, now.
The door creaks open softly and Scorpius looks up and watches as Al edges into the room, looking hesitant. His hair is longer than Scorpius's now.
"Hi," he says, wide-eyed.
"Hello," Scorpius replies, feeling unaccountably shy.
"I'd almost forgotten what you look like under the make-up," Al says, edging into the room and shutting the door behind him. He pauses. "Our dads are friends, by the way. They're having toast."
"I think father just likes to pretend he doesn't like people," Scorpius says. He runs a hand over the side of his head, self-conscious.
Al's eyes track the movement, his expression yearning and almost hungry. "Can I?" he asks hesitantly, taking a step forwards.
Scorpius nods and Al walks over to sit on the edge of his bed. He's staring and making Scorpius blush.
"I've not showered," he says unnecessarily.
"It's okay," Al says, and reaches out to brush his fingers over the closely cropped hairs above Scorpius's ear, looking fascinated. Scorpius shivers, and Al's fingers move to trace over his brow and then down his neck. "You know who you are yet?" he asks quietly.
Scorpius swallows, and then nods. "Not my little sister," he says, and slowly raises his eyes to meet Al's confused ones. "She died when I was younger. I didn't remember until father told me last night. That's why…well. Mother."
Scorpius trails off and shrugs and Al bites his lip, his expression helpless and sympathetic and worried all at once. He opens his mouth and then thinks better of it, shutting it and shaking his head. Instead, he moves closer and pulls Scorpius into a fierce hug, holding him close.
"I'm sorry," he whispers. "I'm sorry I didn't know, I didn't understand."
"I'm sorry I didn't either," Scorpius replies, and then pushes Al back slightly so he can raise his head and look him in the eye.
"Are you going to be okay kissing a boy?" he asks.
Al raises a questioning eyebrow and Scorpius shrugs. "You said you weren't gay. And you and Juliet."
Al smiles faintly and reaches out to cup Scorpius's cheek in his palm. "I said I wasn't gay, but that doesn't mean I'm straight, either," he says softly and Scorpius understands.
"I thought you wanted me because I looked like a girl, and then you changed your mind because I wasn't enough of one."
Al shakes his head. "I wanted you. I didn't want some illusion, or something you weren't."
Scorpius nods. He doesn't want to think about it anymore right now. It's painful and raw in his chest. Instead, he rests his forehead against Al's and breathes out deeply, shutting his eyes.
"Stay," he murmurs and Al nods, and then moves forward and kisses him gently, his lips warm against Scorpius's. Scorpius slips a hand onto the back of his neck and holds him there, kissing him back fleetingly, a gentle press of lips on lips. They kiss gently once more, lingering together, and then suddenly they're kissing properly, mouths open and hands in each other's hair.
They fall back against Scorpius's pillows, tangled together. Scorpius holds Al close, and vows never to lose him - or himself - again.
Scorpius yawns widely and drops his toothbrush into the pot next to the sink, scratching his ear and then glancing up at himself in the mirror. He turns the taps off and rests his hands on the edge of the sink. He breathes out deeply, and runs a hand over his chin, studying himself.
He's shirtless, having just clambered out of bed, and as such he can clearly see the weight he's put on lately. His face is fuller, and muscles are starting to appear on his frame where they never have before. His shoulders look wider, though compared to Al he's still tiny. He smiles ruefully and rubs the back of his neck, still scrutinizing himself.
His hair is shorter than it's ever been. He does miss it being long, but he doesn't miss what it represented. He can see his face more clearly now, and he no longer minds looking so much like his father.
There's faint stubble on his chin – again, not nearly as much as Al has. Scorpius doesn't mind. Strangers no longer mistake him for a girl, but he's never going to be the manliest of blokes. At the end of a day, he looks like himself, and he's okay with that.
Movement behind him makes him look away from himself; behind the reflection of his shoulder he sees Al edging into the bathroom. He's ruffled and sleepy and wearing nothing but his boxers. Scorpius smiles and Al smiles back, walking over and putting his hands on Scorpius's sides, nuzzling the back of his neck.
"Are you okay?"
Scorpius takes hold of Al's hands and pulls his arms tight around his middle, putting his hands over Al's. Al gently kisses the back of his neck, humming contentedly.
"Yeah," Scorpius says, looking at his reflection in the mirror. He smiles and his reflection smiles back at him. "I'm fine."