Disclaimer: I don't own these lost either, JK Rowling does. Technically I shouldn't know about this lot anyway as my copy of Deathly Hallows is somehow missing the epilogue.
Warnings: Swearing.
Word Count: 7590
Summary: The one where Ron gets it wrong about another Malfoy and ends up in an altercation with a doorframe.
Prompt: Ron finds out about Al and Scorpius by walking in on them. (he can faint if you want him to) He ends up saying something like, "Thank Merlin it's not Rose." You're welcome to come up with a better line. It would be cool if it looks like it might be Rose/Scorpius at first, like she's using Scorpius as a cover for her real boyfriend. [submitted by LJuser rena_rules]
Notes: I had ridiculous amounts of fun writing this piece. A huge thank you to LJuser sarahsezlove and Corrina-Erin for the help and beta work :) Ages of children may be tweaked slightly from canon.

Repost note: The supporting cast totally stole this story. It is Al/Scorpius at the heart of it but the moment I saw the prompt "Ron…" I knew what had to be done.

The Art of Stalking Scorpius Malfoy

"And no sneaking spirits from the cupboard, you hear me?" Ron said sternly, putting his best I-am-the-adult-in-charge-so-you-shall-do-as-I-say voice to good use, pitching it slightly louder than usual. "I don't care that it's New Year or if Teddy's drinking or if James thinks it's cool."

"Alright Dad, whatever you say," Hugo said with an appropriately over-the-top tone of ennui and an equally exaggerated roll of his eyes, slouching off to undoubtedly go and find James, Teddy and the liquor cabinet. The noise from the party was loud already, even though it was barely nine and not all the guests had arrived, so Ron was making sure he spoke loud enough for the kids to get the message. Music thrummed in the background, enough to make the chatter and laughter throughout the room that bit louder, thus making Ron's task of pre-party verbal warning that bit trickier. Ron tracked Hugo with his eyes until he disappeared behind Luna and Neville, wondering if he should ask Hermione to put a tracking charm on him until the party was over. He decided against it.

"He's going to do it anyway," Rose said matter-of factly, brushing her hair back from her face in a gesture copied from her mother. "He says he should be allowed, because it's New Year andhe's seventeen."

"Well I've said no, which means double trouble when your mother catches him," Ron said and Rose grinned. "I don't need to tell you to behave, do I?"

"No," Rose said, wrinkling her nose. "I always behave."

"So I won't have to chase you away from any boys at midnight then?" Ron asked with a teasing grin.

"No, Dad," Rose said, wearing the long-suffering expression of a teenage girl with a purposefully dense father. She tugged at her hair again. "Not even if it was Scorpius."

Ron's expression fell. "Scorpius?" he asked, striving to keep his tone light and not reveal his alarm at his only daughter mentioning a boy.

"Al's friend," Rose said dismissively as she looked around the room. "He's tall and blond and really pale. All the girls fancy him."

"All - all the girls?" Ron asked faintly.

"Yes," Rose said cheerfully. "But they won't get anywhere near him."

She shot her father the sort of devious smile that he always wished she hadn't inherited from her mother and then slipped off, probably to see if Lily had arrived yet. Ron, for the most part, couldn't do anything other than stare mournfully after his daughter, unaware of the merriment around him.

Apparently, his daughter liked a boy. A boy called Scorpius. A boy that she said none of the other girls had a chance with. The picture his mental calculations were providing was not a good one, because the picture said that Rose was about to bring home news of her first boyfriend, and that boyfriend was going to be a sodding Malfoy.

He wondered if he could go and hide in the broom shed. This was something he'd not wanted to deal with until Rose was eighteen. Or thirty.

There was a loud crash from the direction of the kitchen, and Ron was drawn back to the present. A crash from that direction could only mean one of two things; either Hermione or his Mum had dropped something, or Al Potter had just arrived and fallen through the floo - again.

Ron edged towards the kitchen, scanning the surrounding crowds to try and spot Rose. For some reason, he was desperate to know she was still in the house and not off gallivanting with all the evil boys that were undoubtedly out there. He didn't spot her, but the moment he stepped into the kitchen, he froze, spotting someone he had not been expecting.

Oh bugger.

There was a boy of around Rose's age standing alone in the middle of the kitchen, twisting his fingers together and looking lost. Ron cleared his throat and the boy whipped around, looking even more scared.

"I don't even have to ask who you are, do I?" Ron said flatly as he observed the boy standing in front of him. The boy was ridiculously skinny, rather too tall for his age and with limbs that seemed a bit too long for him. However, it was the white-blond hair, the pointed chin and the all-encompassing aura of Slytherinaround the boy that gave him away.

"No, I don't think so," the boy said nervously, before swallowing and holding out a hand. "Mr Weasley."

Ron was taken aback. He slowly reached out and shook the boy's hand, gripping it warily and maybe a mite more tightly than he would have normally done. "Scorpius Malfoy."

Scorpius winced, and then nodded. "Yes, Sir. Thank you for letting me come with Al, by the way. Father's not celebrating New Year at the Manor this year."

Ron was even more taken aback, dropping Scorpius's hand and folding his arms across his chest. If it weren't for the obvious Gemino duplication of facial features, he would have suspected that this kid didn't actually belong to Draco Malfoy. The pleasantries seemed genuine, rather than an affected air put on to please strangers. He reckoned he'd seen the slightly scared, shifty expression on Draco's face before, although the one on Scorpius's face at present seemed borne of nerves and shyness, rather than a result of having to entertain Voldemort in his house and thinking that he'd maybe made a bad choice somewhere along the line.

Still. Didn't mean he wanted the little Slytherin bugger anywhere near his daughter. Damn, why did he have to be the one friend Al invited to the New Year's party? Any kid would have jumped at the chance to come to a party with Al Potter, so why had he dragged along the one evil, girl-stealing Malfoy brat who looked terrified to be there in the first place?

"Uncle Ron!"

Al Potter appeared through the door to the closet by the back door, tripping over a bucket on his way out. He seemed to have grown since Ron had seen him last, and that had only been last Tuesday. He was taller, and more built, Ron was sure of it. He wouldn't be entering any strong-wizard competitions anytime soon, but there were definitely muscles appearing on that lithe frame that hadn't been there a year ago.

"Just hiding our coats to make sure James doesn't put anything in the pockets," Al grinned, bounding over and flicking his hair – unfortunately inherited from his father - out of his eyes. He grinned at Ron and then at Scorpius, his eyes brightening visibly as he looked at his friend. Ron noted distractedly that the expression was one that boys his age normally reserved for when they saw their favourite Quidditch teams, or their new broom, or – Merlin forbid – a girl they'd just noticed was a girl. "This is Scorpius, you've not met him yet. He's a Ravenclaw."

Ron raised his eyebrows. "Not a Slytherin?"

Al rolled his eyes theatrically. "God, you sound just like my Dad. No. He's too much of a scaredy-cat to be a Slytherin. He'd be in Hufflepuff if he didn't like books as much."

Ron looked to Scorpius, who just shrugged and smiled fleetingly, almost imperceptibly, wordlessly agreeing with Al. Their eyes met, and then they both looked away with another not-quite smile from Scorpius and a lopsided grin from Al. Well, thought Ron, Ravenclaw was marginally better than Slytherin, but came with the added downside that, as a Ravenclaw, Scorpius would certainly be intelligent enough to trick Rose into liking him. Even if he wasn't in Slytherin, he was surely capable of trickery of some sort. His last name was Malfoy, for Merlin's sake.

Ron saw that Al was now looking at him expectantly, waiting impatiently for him to say something to his friend. Al really didn't do subtle.

"So, you like books?" Ron asked cautiously, resisting the urge to add 'not cursing, maiming or taunting your school-fellows?' onto the end of the sentence.

"He's got like a trillion," Al said before Scorpius could speak, accompanying the words with a dismissive wave of his hand, nearly catching Scorpius in the face as he did so. Merlin, no wonder he ended up in the hospital wing every time he played Quidditch. "His Dad buys him whatever books he wants, and some of them are boring school books but some are dead cool, full of all this artwork based on monsters and dragons and stuff. Anyway, Dad's looking for you. Come on Scorp, let's go find James. He's trying to show off to Teddy and he looks so stupid."

A hand was fastened around Scorpius's wrist and he was dragged obediently off in pursuit of James-taunting. Ron half-heartedly hoped Harry was in the vicinity and sober, because James was rather quick and very creative when it came to hexing.

"So," a voice across the room said. "That was Scorpius Malfoy."

"Yeah." Ron frowned, rubbing his chin as his wife slipped into the kitchen. "I'm trying to work out what he's up to."

"He's not up to anything," Hermione admonished playfully, nudging Ron with her elbow. "Rose says he's very quiet and shy."

"He'd have to be quiet to let Al get in his full day's quota of talking," Ron said, and Hermione bit back a laugh. "Are you sure he's sixteen, anyway? He's too tall."

"He'll grow into himself when he gets older." Hermione shrugged, turning away to face an approaching Percy. "At least I hope he does. Poor boy."

Poor boy indeed, Ron thought. He edged back towards the kitchen door and spotted Scorpius and Al standing near the table laden with finger food, Scorpius nodding and looking enraptured as Al chattered nineteen-to-the-dozen, gesticulating wildly with his hands. He wondered how Scorpius could bear to stand quite as close to Al as he did; one of those hands was going to take his eye out if he wasn't careful. However, he seemed to be watching Al's face too intently to mind the wayward flailing of limbs.

Ron shook his head at Scorpius. Al as his best friend, Draco Malfoy as his dad, arms and legs that were at least four sizes too big for him, and being thrown headfirst into a Weasley New Year party as his first introduction to Al's extended family. The kid was doomed.

"Harry, I'm going to have to stage an intervention. Look at them."

Harry rolled his eyes and pressed a glass into Ron's hand, before following Ron's fixated gaze with a resigned one of his own. "Leave them be. They're just chatting."

"I don't trust him."

"You wouldn't," Harry snorted, and Ron shot him a glare.

"Youronly daughter is too young to be hit on by Slytherin creeps," he said and Harry nodded in acknowledgment.

"Fair point, even though he's a Ravenclaw," he said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Look, I don't think Scorpius is going to be, erm, hitting on anyone. He looks close to petrified."

Ron narrowed his eyes as he continued to watch the trio by the window. Rose was talking animatedly at Al and Scorpius; the former would interrupt every couple of seconds and the latter just stood watching, twisting his fingers together in the same nervous gesture Ron had seen earlier.

Ron took an involuntary step forward as Rose reached out to touch Scorpius's shoulder, eliciting a weak smile. Harry sighed and planted a hand over Ron's chest, forcing him back.

"If there's anything to worry about, it should be Rose pouncing on Scorpius," he said, cocking his head to the side. "Anyway," he added hastily, as Ron's eye twitched. "I doubt Al will let him go long enough to let any girls near him."

Ron had to half-heartedly agree. He looked over to see Al pull Scorpius close by his collar, whispering something into his ear. Scorpius laughed and blushed as Al's fingers curled around the material of his shirt, and his eyes flicked quickly towards Rose.

"Yeah, they seem pretty close," Ron said, vowing to have several sharp words with Al about encouraging boys to go anywhere near his daughter. Scorpius was still blushing, and Al was standing so close to him that it looked as if they'd been jinxed together.

"Yeah," Harry said, frowning. "It's a bit weird. He had loads of friends until this year, and now it's just Scorpius this, Scorpius that."

"Wonder how dear old Draco feels about it all," Ron said, watching as Al took Scorpius's hand and pulled him away, Rose following a couple of seconds later with a disgruntled expression on her face. Oh. Maybe Al wasn't encouraging Scorpius, maybe he was trying to keep his friend all to himself. Or maybehe was seeing if Rose would actually follow or if Scorpius would protest – oh bugger it. Trying to second-guess Al was sometimes like trying to second-guess Luna.

"I saw him earlier. I had to go and pick Scorpius up from the Manor," Harry said wearily, knocking back a large mouthful of his drink and wincing slightly.

"Oh yeah? How did that go?"

"If my son does not come back from this thing you call a party in one piece, I am going to kill you," he mimicked, capturing Draco's upper-class drawl with startling clarity. "He took ten minutes to then explain exactly how he'd kill me, and thenreminded me that he owes me drinks and dinner so he'd take me out next week."

"Completely barking," Ron said in wonder.

"He's like Jekyll and Hyde," Harry said, running his fingers through his hair. "I think he's just worried about Scorpius. He doesn't often let him go anywhere by himself, and whenever he does it's with Al, so I get it in the neck."

Ron didn't understand who Jekyll Hyde was, or how Malfoy was anything like the bloke, but thankfully he was saved from revealing his ignorance as from somewhere upstairs there came the sound of a loud bang, and then frantic muffled footsteps.

"Al, James or Hugo?" Harry asked, resignedly.

"Al, most definitely," Ron said seriously, and then took pity on his friend, passing him his glass. He'd had to deal with Draco already today, after all, and besides, it gave him a perfect opportunity to check that Scorpius wasn't anywhere near Rose. "I'll go. Punishment if he's broken anything?"

"It depends if he's broken anything in the house or broken anything on himself," Harry replied wearily.

Ron laughed and left the room, edging past groups of chattering friends and quickly returning greetings as he went. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he cast a quick notice-me-not charm on his shoes so the boys wouldn't hear him coming.

"I sowanted that prefect spot," Al's voice said mournfully, drifting along the corridor as Ron reached the top of the staircase. Ron paused in the hallway, waiting for a response. "I so thought I'd get it. It would have been cool. Then me, you and Rose could have been together. And I could have rubbed it in Marcus's face. I mean, who lasts less than a year as a prefect?"

"People who get caught trying to pinch tentacula pods from the greenhouses," Scorpius's quiet voice replied seriously, even as Ron's heart swelled with pride at the reminder that Rose was prefect for Gryffindor.

"I know. What an idiot," Al said half-heartedly. "I can't believe they gave it to Reece. Urgh. He'll be too scared to take points from anyone."

"He's a Gryffindor, he can't be that scared," Scorpius reasoned.

"He's a disgrace to the name of Gryffindor," Al announced. "Damnit, I should have got the badge."

"I know," Scorpius agreed. "It's not that great really, being a prefect. I bet you'll get Quidditch Captain when James leaves, anyway."

"You really think so?" Al asked hopefully. Ron suppressed a snort; for every spectacular save that Al made in position of keeper, there was a corresponding accident that normally incapacitated him for anywhere between ten minutes and a week.

"Yeah. You just need to concentrate," Scorpius said.

"And stop falling off your bloody broom," Ron added under his breath. A small part of him was fascinated by how freely Scorpius was speaking; downstairs the kid hadn't uttered more than ten words altogether.

"Doesn't matter, anyway," Al said loudly. "It's New Year. We should be partying. Drinking and stuff. I'm glad Mum's gone off with her new boyfriend instead. She never lets me do anything. Dad just tells me to make sure I don't drown or eleketute myself."

"I've read that underage drinking at parties can be dangerous," Scorpius said, sounding worried.

"Stop being such a baby, Scorp," Al replied, sounding exasperated. Ron took a careful step towards the room that the boys were in, the spare room that was normally frequented by the three Potter children. Peering though the gap where the door had been left ajar, he took in the sight before him. Al was laid on his back on the bed, his hands pillowed behind his head, and Scorpius was sat next to him, leaning over and restacking a large pile of books that appeared to have slipped over, the source of the bang Harry and Ron had heard.

"I'm just-"

"It'll be fine," Al interjected. "You don't have to drink if you don't want, it just makes stuff more fun. And we're only like, a year underage. It's not like Lily's drinking or anything, that'd be stupid. Anyway, Dad said he'd let me have a beer this year, not that rubbish butterbeer stuff, as long as I didn't tell Mum. Maybe he'll get really drunk again and we can sneak off."

"We've sneaked off now," Scorpius pointed out. "Everyone else is downstairs."

"Oh yeah," Al grinned. "Can I wear your badge?"

Scorpius put the last book on the pile and then turned towards Al with a small smile. He leant back and carefully pulled something out of his pocket – was it some unwritten prefect law that you had to have your badge on you at all times, anyway? - and then shuffled closer to Al, on his knees on the bed. He carefully pinned the blue and silver badge to Al's chest and sat back to admire his handiwork, smoothing his long fingers over Al's jumper.

"Clashes with your eyes," he said quietly. "You need a green one."

Ron edged away, shaking his head bemusedly as Al's delighted laughter filled the hallway. It stopped as quickly as it had started, muffled by Ron didn't-know-what. He barely made it another step before he stopped; a figure was coming up the stairs the other way, a very familiar figure.

"Muffliato," Ron whispered, pointing his wand at the bedroom door, and then, "and what are you doing up here, Madam?"

Rose jumped a mile, reaching out to grab hold of the banister, a hand over her heart.

"Dad!" she hissed, looking flustered. "Don't make me jump!"

"Weren't looking for anyone up here, were you?" Ron asked, narrowing his eyes in suspicion. Rose's cheeks went even pinker.

"No!" she exclaimed, the vehement denial as good as a confession. "I was just- I was looking for-"

"Go on, back downstairs," Ron sighed, walking forwards and making Rose turn around to walk back down the stairs. He had really hoped that his daughter was smarter than this, too intellectual to be sneaking around after boys in the dark. "Wasting your time anyway, he's with Al."

"He is?" Rose squeaked, stopping on the staircase and causing Ron to nearly fall over her and pitch them both headfirst down the stairs.

"Yes. They're talking in the spare room, so go on," Ron said impatiently.

To his surprise, Rose's face fell. "Talking. They're just talking?"

"Yes," Ron said as they reached the bottom of the stairs, ready to join the bustle of the party. From the sounds of things – crackles and pops and bangs and delighted laughter - George had just arrived, complete with a case of Weasley fireworks. "What did you expect? Them to be drinking, destroying things and trying illegal spells on one another?"

"No," Rose flushed, averting her eyes. "I thought they- oh never mind. I'm going to help Mum."

She disappeared without another word, leaving Ron feeling more confused than ever. Time for Firewhisky, maybe. He sighed, setting out to locate Harry and his drink.

"What's wrong? You don't look cheerful, considering this is supposed to be a party." Hermione stepped up to Ron and slipped her arm through his, resting her cheek on his shoulder.

"Caught her sneaking around upstairs trying to find him," Ron said miserably. "And now look."

Hermione turned to follow his gaze. Rose and Scorpius were sat together on a sofa, just visible behind Teddy and Victoire, who were both drinking glasses of something that definitely wasn't butterbeer. Scorpius had a book on his knee and Rose was leaning over to point something out on one of the pages. Scorpius was sat perfectly straight and upright, as if he'd got a broom up the back of his shirt, looking interested in the book but also glancing up and around every few seconds as if he were looking for someone.

"Rose seems very taken with him," Hermione said. "He's quite a handsome young boy."

Ron spluttered indignantly, his chest clenching tightly at the thought of his only daughter being taken with anyone, least of all a Malfoy. "Excuse me? He is not. "

"He is Ron, don't be silly," Hermione said as Ron gaped. "He's very clever, too. Rose could do a lot worse for a first boyfriend."

Ron reached behind him, groping for something to hold onto, his fingers curling around the edge of the table. His legs suddenly felt a little shaky. Maybe he was coming down with something?

"Oh, darling," Hermione said with an understanding smile, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek. "She's sixteen. She's going to notice boys sooner or later."

"Not that boy," Ron said determinedly. "Anyboy but that one."

"You'd say that about anyone she was interested in," Hermione said with a laugh. "Don't worry. I doubt they're going to get any time alone tonight," she said pointedly, as Al appeared out of nowhere, clambering over the back of the sofa to sit next to Scorpius, knocking him with his knee in the process.

"Al is a bit tactless, isn't he?" Ron observed, as Al pulled the book away from Rose to look at. She scowled and then sighed, watching him with narrowed eyes.

"Just a bit," Hermione said with a smile. "I would have thought you'd be glad he's interfering."

"Oh, I am," Ron said genuinely, and Hermione laughed. "I'm just worried Rose will hex him when her patience runs out."

Hermione laughed and squeezed his arm before walking off to speak to Parvati and Seamus, smiling brightly. Ron sighed. He should be enjoying the party, but he just couldn't pull his eyes away from Rose and Scorpius. Or Al and Scorpius, he mentally amended, with Rose sitting and watching them carefully as Al leant over to whisper something into Scorpius's ear again. Scorpius smiled at whatever was said, his posture relaxing, sinking back into the sofa and leaning slightly towards Al.

Ron sighed. If he didn't feel so happy about Al keeping Scorpius and Rose apart, he'd feel indignant on her behalf. As it was, he couldn't quite manage it. He shrugged and turned around, accepting a drink from Neville with a grin, clapping him on the shoulder and finally getting around to socialising with his friends.

Socialising lasted approximately an hour and ten minutes before Ron was distracted again. He, Harry and Seamus were loudly debating the odds of England actually qualifying for the Quidditch World Cup, when out of the corner of his eye he saw a blond figure slinking towards the kitchen door, before darting through it and out of sight.

"Yeah, I completely agree. Be back in a minute," he said, pressing his glass into Harry's hand and taking off after Scorpius. Harry sighed loudly but let him go, necking both his drink and then the remainder of Ron's.

"Yeah, I'll be back in a min," Ron said vaguely, as Bill held out a hand to gesture him over, not taking his eyes off the kitchen door. He followed his quarry just in time to see Scorpius edge out of the back door into the garden.

"Night time rendezvous, eh Malfoy?" Ron muttered, casting another notice-me-not charm before following.

Scorpius walked quickly around the side of the house and down the path that led to the vegetable patch at the bottom. He paused in the darkness cast by the large apple tree, hovering next to the wooden bench that sat next to the trunk.

Ron edged behind a fir so Scorpius wouldn't spot him, and settled in to observe. He watched him long enough to determine that a) it was bloody freezing out here, b) Scorpius was practically quivering with nerves, and c) he was most definitely waiting for someone.

Ron waited long enough for point 'a' to become a serious problem; the alcohol he had drunk wasn't quite taking the edge off the cold. So, pressed forwards by the notion of saving his extremities from frostbite, he decided to reveal himself and confront Scorpius there and then.

"Waiting for someone?"

Scorpius leapt a mile at the sound of Ron's voice, his face going even paler than normal, so he looked like a ghost in the darkness.

"Mr Weasley! I'm sorry, I was – I was just getting some fresh air."

"All alone?" Ron asked innocently, feeling slightly satisfied, as Scorpius started up his twisting-fingers shifting from foot to foot routine.

"Yes," Scorpius stammered. "All alone."


Ron turned around as he heard Rose's bewildered voice just behind him.

"Aha! All alone, my arse!" he said triumphantly, turning back to Scorpius, who was gaping at Rose, opening and closing his mouth uselessly.

"It's not what it looks like!" he said, shaking his head and looking desperate.

"I see you sneaking off outside and my daughter follows not five minutes later?" Ron said hotly. "I think it's exactly what it looks like-"

There was a crash, a snapping of twigs and an 'ouch,' and then Al appeared around the bend in the path, stumbling upright and then stopping abruptly as he saw the assembled crowd.

"What are you lot doing out here?" he asked, bewildered.

"Having a chat with your friend," Ron said carefully, and Scorpius blanched. "Reminding him to keep his hands off of my daughter."

Al looked confused for a moment, as if he'd got no idea what Ron was talking about, and then his gaze shifted to Rose and he sighed explosively, looking incredibly put out. Ron was taken aback; it was strange to see anything on Al's face other than his perpetual grin.

Rose looked from Scorpius to Al. "I was just-"

"For Merlin's sake Rosie, leave us alone!" Al burst out.

Ron looked to Rose who was blushing pink, though still holding her chin up defiantly. Behind her, Scorpius was looking at Al, biting his lip and looking as if he wished he could vanish.

"I just wanted to ask Scorpius something," Rose said, giving Al a meaningful look.

"You're not going to ask him anything!" Al said forcefully, taking a step forwards.

"I will if I like-" Rose bristled.

"Enough!" Ron interjected, feeling stunned. Rose was looking mutinous, but it was the angry expression on Al's face that made him concerned. Al rarely lost his temper, but when he did, it was cataclysmic, and apparently the prospect of Rose trying to take his friend away was pushing all his buttons. This situation was obviously more out of hand than he first supposed, and it wasn't a welcome state of affairs to be in; Rose and Scorpius obviously on the cusp of getting together, whilst Al threw a tantrum in the background.

"Go on, inside. All of you," Ron said. Rose flounced off without another word and Al and Scorpius exchanged a look before following, Scorpius reaching out to grip onto Al's elbow as they navigated the path in the dark.

Ron followed, feeling slightly out of his depth. He wasn't this much of a nuisance when he was sixteen, right? Gah. He definitely needed more booze.

"You want me to what?" asked James, looking at Ron like he'd grown an extra head. He had a long piece of red tinsel draped around his neck and was suspiciously bright-eyed; behind him Ron could see Teddy grinning into his glass.

"I want you to keep an eye on Scorpius," Ron repeated. "There'll be galleons in it if you keep close enough to him."

"But he's with Al," James said slowly, as if he were trying to fully comprehend what Ron was saying. He blinked hard, as if Ron would make more sense when he re-opened his eyes.

"Yes, but he keeps sneaking off," Ron said impatiently. "And Rose keeps following him, which is why I want you to follow him."

James's expression gave way to one of incredulous delight. "She does? I bet she just wants to cop an eyeful, she's getting dead suspicious-"

"James! That's my daughter you're talking about," Ron interrupted sternly and James grinned at the floor. Ron frowned at him. "Look, can you help me out or not? I'm already being nagged to leave him alone and I don't trust him."

"I'm sorry Uncle Ron," James said, laughing as he rearranged his tinsel. "There's not enough gold in the world to make me spy on Scorpius. There are some things I do notwant to see."

Ron's jaw dropped. He felt – he didn't even know. Horrified didn't even come close. If James refused to spy on Scorpius – and for cold, hard cash, no less – there must be something about the kid that wasn't right. Maybe this whole twitchy, shy thing was just a cover up. Ron knewthat kid was actually a Slytherin, an untrustworthy deviant who he wasn't going to let anywhere near his daughter.

"James, please," he said, very aware that it should be his nephew begging for favours, not the other way around.

"I think Al's got it covered," James said, his expression innocent and not fooling Ron in the slightest. He pointed to Al and Scorpius who were stood by the buffet table once again; Al was trying to get Scorpius to taste something that was in his hand and Scorpius was batting him away, his face flushed and smiling. It was the most relaxed Ron had seen him all evening.

"Yeah, don't worry Uncle Ron," James said, his grin now threatening to split his cheeks. "I think Al's going to be pretty much stuck on Scorpius all night."

Ron stared after James as he walked off to find Hugo, cackling with laughter as if something he'd said was vastly amusing. Bloody lightweight, already bloody pissed enough to find inane commentary on Al and Scorpius simply hilarious. Ron shook his head, debated telling Harry that James had nicked his Christmas stash of dragon-flamed port, and then decided to save that information for when it was really needed. With a long-suffering sigh, he automatically turned back to Al and Scorpius, watching as Scorpius finally gave in and took whatever it was out of Al's hand, taking a tiny bite. Al was watching with a fond expression on his face, his wrist held in Scorpius's grip so he couldn't interfere or push anything else in his face. Ron was miserable. Too soon it would be Rose and Scorpius flirting by the buffet table, and Ron would have to watch and cry, or throw Scorpius out of the window.

"You're becoming obsessed," a voice said behind him, a sing-song lilt to the words.

"Says you," he retorted. "I remember you following Draco around for the whole of sixth year."

Harry scowled, pushing his glasses back up his nose. "Why does everyone always bring that up?"

"Because it shuts you up," Ron said, sighing. "There's something going on, I know it. I caught him and Rose sneaking out to the garden not long ago. Al followed them out and nearly flipped his lid."

"Really?" Harry asked, looking surprised. "He didn't actually go off on one did he?"

Ron shook his head and Harry shrugged.

"Well, Rose could do a lot worse. Scorpius is a nice kid-"

"He is not," Ron said, opting not to tell Harry that he'd got Scorpius pegged as so completely notnice that he'd tried to bribe James into following him. "He's up to something."

"Well, be that as it may, you're not getting into the party spirit," Harry said determinedly, opting for diversionary tactics. "Come on, it's New Year. Relax, have a drink. We'll sort the kids out in the morning."

Personally, Ron didn't want to leave Scorpius unattended for longer than ten seconds, but the prospect of a drink was definitely a welcome one, and he sensed his whinging about the brat was probably getting a bit annoying.

"Alright," he sighed. "Bring it on."

Once he got into the party spirit and halfway down a bottle of firewhiskey, Ron soon forgot about his vendetta against Scorpius Malfoy. It may have helped that Scorpius stayed in his line of sight pretty much the whole time, obviously flanked by Al. The pair seemed inseparable, and Scorpius seemed to grow more relaxed by degrees as the night went on. Whether that was anything to do with the cup of something blue that Al had sneaked from somewhere and was sharing sip for sip with Scorpius, Ron didn't want to know. As long as Rose stayed well out of the way, any trouble attached to Al and Scorpius belonged to Harry.

Everyone seemed to be having a good time. Harry was stood with Neville, Dean and George, grinning in a way that made him look disconcertingly like his youngest son. Across the room, Lavender was shrieking with laughter as Seamus told her jokes, his hands on her waist, and Luna was chatting animatedly with a rather large group of people – who, it had to be said, actually looked interested in whatever she was going on about. Next to them, Hermione was nodding earnestly as she spoke to Bill and Percy, and in the far corner Victoire and Teddy's kisses were well on the way to becoming rather too enthusiastic for a family party. Every so often, Ron would hear a shriek from Lily or Rose, and a corresponding shout from James or Hugo. A few people were drunk enough to be dancing in the corner, bumping into the people stood chatting nearby with ever-increasing frequency.

Ron smiled across the room at his Mother, who was handing out drinks from a tray. She smiled back and pointed to the clock on the wall, and when Ron blinked up at it, he saw it was somehow already twenty to twelve.

He nodded back, and as he turned back around to face Harry and the others, he noticed something that wasn't there to be noticed.

No glimpse of blond hair.

He looked around again and with a sinking feeling in his stomach, he saw that not only was Scorpius gone, but so was Rose. And come to think of it – so was Al.

Groaning, he shoved his drink at Harry for the third time that evening. Harry didn't say anything; he just looked impressed at the prospect of more booze and tipped the contents of Ron's glass into his own.

Ron didn't even bother to make apologies as he weaved his way across the room, bumping into people as a result of his firewhiskey-soaked perception. He was on a mission; a mission to stop a devious Slytherin-Ravenclaw from getting his hands on his daughter. The kitchen was empty, so he hastened to check upstairs, panic blooming in his chest with every step that he took. He wasn't ready for his little girl to even lookat another boy, let alone to find her in an amorous New Year's embrace with one-

He stopped at the top of the stairs, dread in the pit of his stomach as he saw there was a light on in the spare room, spilling out onto the dark landing around the slightly open door. Foregoing the notice-me-not charm, he edged forwards step by step, just knowing that once he opened this door, nothing would ever be the same again.

Swallowing thickly, he paused when he was right outside the door; his stomach clenched and his heart dropped right down into his shoes as he heard a soft gasp and rustling sounds, sounds that were synonymous with teenage snogging and groping –

Oh god, what should he do? Make a loud noise outside to make them desist? Barge in and chuck Scorpius out of the window? Slink away and drown himself in a bucket of rum and make Hermione deal with it?

He remained frozen in place for all of two seconds, when a breathy 'fuck, yes,' drifted through the gap around the door, the voice clearly belonging to Scorpius. Indignant rage burned through his body; no bloody smarmy twat would be saying 'fuck yes' to his daughter! He reached out and determinedly pushed the door open, just as he heard a shriek of 'Dad, no!' from behind him.

He had five glorious seconds to fully understand how Rose's voice could have shrieked from behind him when she was supposed to be in the room in front of him. It wasn't trickery or magic; it was blatantly because the second of the half-dressed teens rolling around in his spare bed was actually Al.

Scorpius was shirtless and probably more, if the clothes scattered on the floor around the bed were any indication. His head was tipped back and his eyes were closed in bliss. His long fingers were threaded into Al's hair as Al kissed his neck with desperate and sloppy enthusiasm, leaving pink marks all over Scorpius's pale skin. Al was laid on top of him and was also shirtless; the blankets pooled in the dip of his back, thankfully preventing Ron from seeing what was going on below the waist.

"Oh bloody fucking hell."

Both heads snapped up at Ron's weak exclamation, their faces identical masks of horror.

"Shit!" Al rolled off of Scorpius and nearly fell out of the bed on the other side, his arms flailing wildly. Scorpius grabbed the duvet and yanked it up towards his chin, looking terrified all over again. Al looked around wildly, as if Scorpius or the furniture could provide a good cover-story. "Uncle Ron! We were just, we were-!"

Ron didn't want to find out. He turned around at the same time as trying to move back out of the doorway and collided with the edge of the door with an echoing bang. There was another shriek as he stepped back and fell heavily to the floor, sparks dancing in front of his eyes as everything went black.

Pain was his middle name. Or maybe his first name, considering the amount of pain that was blooming in his forehead and his back and making him feel dizzy. Actually, maybe it was the firewhiskey making him feel dizzy. Or, maybe it had been the sight of his nephew in bed with Scorpius Malfoy that was responsible.

Ron cracked open his eyes to see a face hovering above his own, looking worried.

"Oh Rose," he managed as the face came into focus. "Thank god it wasn't you."

"Of course it wasn't me," Rose said, pushing her hair back as she frowned down at him.

"Well then, why were you following him around all evening?" Ron asked weakly as he pushed himself into a sitting position, wincing. He rubbed his forehead where he could feel a hefty lump swelling beneath his fingertips. "Bloody ouch."

"Who?" Rose asked, looking baffled.

"Scorpius!" Ron exclaimed, as she crouched down beside him. "You've been three seconds behind him every time I-"

"I wasn't following him!" Rose interjected, and then she flushed. "I was following both of them," she admitted, looking away. "I was trying to catch them out, you see. I knew they were together, but they wouldn't admit it."

Ron opened his mouth, but words failed him as he realised that Rose hadn't been following Scorpius. Rose had been following Scorpius andAl.

He re-ran the events of the night, and suddenly everything made a lot more sense in the light of Rose's revelation. The sabotaged meeting in the garden. Scorpius and Al being inseparable. Rose's 'question' that she'd been trying to wheedle out of Scorpius. James's now actually not-so-subtle hints about Al and Scorpius, and his refusal to spy on them…

And Al and Scorpius - they should have been the biggest sodding clue. The smiles. The flirting by the buffet table. The sharing drinks and the frequent casual touches that they shared, and how Scorpius only seemed relaxed when Al was nearby.

God. He'd just been so sure that it had been Rose that was the one to keep an eye on, not bloody Al. He didn't think he could really be blamed, after all, his teensy tiny misjudgement had been borne out of parental concern over his only daughter.

"I'm a bloody idiot," Ron groaned. "I thought Scorpius was after you."

Rose laughed, and Ron felt incredibly old. "No," she said patiently. "He's very good looking but he's not my type. He's gay for starters, but besides that he's far too quiet," she said. "I only sat with him to try and make him admit he was going out with Al."

"Oh, thanks Rosie," Al's voice said, and Ron looked up to see Al and Scorpius edging out of the guest room, mercifully fully-dressed. Scorpius was looking at the floor and blushing so violently that he looked as if he'd been set aflame, and Al was also pink-cheeked, but keeping his expression innocently neutral, as if he could pretend that nothing had happened.

"You should have just told me," Rose said, standing up and folding her arms across her chest.

"Not your business," Al said, and as an afterthought reached out and grabbed Scorpius's hand, threading their fingers together. "It's ourbusiness."

He nudged Scorpius, who coughed and managed to look up and nod in agreement, studiously avoiding looking at Ron.

"Everything alright up here?"

They all looked around in unison as Harry's voice rang out, just in time to see him carefully navigate the last step, waving his wand to light up the landing. He frowned at them all.

"Dare I ask?"

"Nothing to see here, Dad," Al said loudly, edging closer to Scorpius and hiding their joined hands behind them. "Uncle Ron just had a little accident with the door."

Ron and Rose both gaped at Al, who took advantage of the momentary silence to leg it, pulling Scorpius along behind him and clattering down the stairs. Gryffindor my arse, Ron thought in exasperation as Al ran away rather than admitting what he'd been up to. Rose hovered for a moment and then darted after them, shouting for them to wait up and give her a decentexplanation.

"What is going on?" Harry asked, looking bewildered as he edged forwards. He knelt down next to Ron, swaying slightly from the amount he'd drank.

Ron sighed, slumping back against the wall, feeling drunk and knackered and a lot older than he was. "I told you he was up to something," he said petulantly, jerking his thumb towards the spare room.

Harry leant past him and peered into the room. He drew in a breath as he saw the rumpled bedcovers, and then turned back to Ron, wide-eyed. "Scorpius and Rose?"

"You would think, wouldn't you?" Ron said, and he started to laugh, helplessly and unstoppably.

"What?" Harry asked, looking thoroughly alarmed at Ron's change in demeanour. "What's so funny?"

"Not Rose," Ron choked, clutching his sides. "Al. "

He laughed harder at the horrified expression on Harry's face, still grasping his sides weakly as Harry stared into the spare room as if he were terrified of it. Ron couldn't help it. It had been such a long night, and he had had a lot to drink. On top of that, all his fears about his daughter had vanished as quickly as they'd reared up in the first place, and he felt literally giddy with relief. And also a little bit traumatised about what he'd just witnessed.

"This is brilliant!" he cackled, as Harry slumped back to sit on his arse in the corridor, opening and closing his mouth and fixing Ron with a simultaneously beseeching and woeful expression, clearly hoping for a contradiction or an explanation that made the news easier to digest.

"Al and Scorpius-?" he said faintly, shaking his head. "That makes – Oh, god, that actually makes sense. Oh no, that's not-" He suddenly blinked and scowled at Ron, as if he'd just realised what he'd said. "What are you on about? It is not brilliant-"

"Oh, it is," Ron choked out through his laughter. "You're the one who's going to have to explain to Malfoy that your kid is banging his, not me!"