Parts (1-3)


II

Chapter 1

Out and About


Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, it belongs to JK Rowling


Author's Note:

This is Book II in my Gray series, if you have not read the first one then go back and read Book I in this series Gray: Scorpius Malfoy and the Blood Runes first because otherwise this won't make much sense


Part 1: Visitors


"Scorpius... Scorpius... Come to me..."

It was August 5th. On that day twelve years ago at thirteen minutes past seven in the morning, Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy had been born. Most children looked forward to their birthdays but Scorpius didn't. In fact he was dreading it, having to be the center of attention for a whole day was a nightmare rather than something exciting like it had been when he was younger. Really he'd prefer to stay in his room and be quiet and alone like he did most days, only coming out for meals or when his parents were feeling particularly determined to spend time with him. They couldn't think of much to say though, life wasn't particularly great for any of them at that point.

Lyra had been dead two years, Aurors continued to stalk them in case his father was also involved with the Shadows and Lucius Malfoy's death was like a fresh wound, a raw wound that hurt but nothing could make it heal because nothing could bring back the dead. Or rather his soul because his grandfather had received a fate worse than death when he'd sacrificed himself to save Scorpius, Calderon and Varanian two months ago. They had managed to save the school, destroy the Specters and stop the Shadow Master's plans but it didn't make everything okay. His grandfather was still gone. No one believed them about Varanian having been possessed and the former headmaster was still a wanted fugitive. And Scorpius still felt guilty, he didn't even deserve to call his friends 'friends' after he had been willing to sacrifice them to save the school. He was a horrible person not a hero, no matter what anyone said.

Scorpius saw no reason to celebrate the day of his birth, he didn't feel much like celebrating anything. He'd woken early from a nightmare he couldn't remember but lay awake for a long time, intending to have a lie in for as long as possible and go to bed as early as possible to lessen the amount of time that the focus was on him. It was his birthday and his parents weren't ones to drag him out of bed early anyway, unless there was something specific happening that he needed to be awake for. To his surprise though, his mother popped her head into the door just after ten.

"Wakey, wakey, Scorpius," Astoria Malfoy called knocking on the door, "you need to get up, birthday boy."

Scorpius groaned and buried his head in the pillow, maybe if he continued to be asleep then they'd decide to leave him to sleep? It didn't work as five minutes later she returned and five minutes after that, insisting he wake up and come downstairs.

"It's my birthday, can't I have a lie in?" Scorpius pleaded and he caught a glimpse of her brunette hair as she peeked into his room.

"No, you have a visitor," his mother pointed out.

"Aunt Daphne's started waking up before noon?"

"It's not Daph."

"Aurors want to question me?"

"No, its one of your friends from Hogwarts," she told him cheerfully and seemed to smile for the first time all summer.

"One of my friends?!" Scorpius repeated feeling his face draining of what little color it had, why would any of his friends be visiting him? Albus and Abby hadn't even had their memories recovered as far as he knew, Michael wouldn't be able to find where he lived as he was a mudblood and he was least closest to Rose. He'd been ignoring their letters all summer anyway, wasn't that a clue that they couldn't be friends anymore?

"Molly, a lovely girl."

"Molly Weasley is in my house?!" Scorpius exclaimed as he leaped out of bed, his mother looked at him curiously.

"Yes so try not to keep her waiting any longer."

Scorpius hurriedly nodded in understanding as his mother left him to get dressed. Molly was also his friend as well as his crush, from the way his heart had frantically started to beat she was still his crush. He mentally slapped himself and went to pull on some clothes, hesitating for the first time in his life as he tried to decide whether what he had chosen to wear would be good enough for Molly. He mentally slapped himself again, cursing his stupid brain as he pulled on the clothes, of course they'd be fine. They were neutral colors. You couldn't go wrong with neutral colors. Right? He slapped himself for real that time and was reminded of his left arm, the left wrist was scarred from his time with muggles but his sleeve hid that - and thankfully it hadn't started looking strange again - but more recently and obviously was the scar on his left palm. The arrow rune Tiwaz had been scarred into his palm for activating the Blood Rune magic when he'd saved the school, he was only just getting used to seeing it.

He made sure all his clothes looked neat in the mirror and combed his hair, trying to decide whether it would be nicer combed back rather than having bangs like he usually did. He thought it looked awful combed back and had it his usual way, although he thought he looked terrible anyway. His pale, pointed face probably made him look like a vampire and he had such dull gray eyes - the same color as his soul - which he was sure no one liked. He mentally slapped himself again, reminding himself that none of it mattered and he was being ridiculous as he went downstairs to find Molly. His heart was refusing to listen to brain when he tried to tell it to calm down, he'd stopped having a crush on her and it was being stupid.

His heart did a somersault when he saw her standing in one of the drawing room, laughing with his parents. The blood left his brain when he heard her musical laugh. Maybe it was because he hadn't seen her in two months but if possible she seemed to be even more beautiful, she had a mane of curly fiery locks, a flawless freckleless face and blue eyes that were the color of the sky on a perfect day. So maybe I still have a crush on her, he admitted in his mind. She smiled when she saw him and came over to hug him, she smelled like cherries. She was wearing the charm bracelet he'd gotten her. He was smiling against his will when she pulled away.

"Happy Birthday, Scor!" Molly offered brightly.

"Thanks," Scorpius managed to say, noticing his palms were suddenly sweating. That was new, "so... what brings you to here? How's things with you?"

"Well you left Hogwarts so suddenly and without saying goodbye that I never got to give you back your broom, I don't know if you got any of my letters but I've been asking you all summer about returning it and you never replied. So I took no answer to my last letter as an you not having a problem with me showing up on your birthday to return it and give your birthday present in person," Molly explained and gestured to his Dart broom that his father was now holding, he was actually glad to have it back, his grandfather had gotten him that broom after all, "you'll be needing it soon enough anyway. For Quidditch, not flying all the way to London."

"Thanks," Scorpius repeated, "although I'm not sure if I'm going back to Hogwarts."

"Oh... well that's too bad," Molly said losing her smile and Scorpius realized they were just standing in the middle of the room, where were his manners?

"Yeah," his father agreed and Scorpius blinked in surprise, last year they'd practically begged him not to go - he wished he'd listened to them - and now his father thought it was too bad he wasn't sure if he was going back? "but your Hogwarts letter arrived yesterday with your book list, we may as well get all your stuff in case you do go. Better than you waiting until the last second and everything having already been gone, Molly has kindly offered to allow us to accompany her and her family to Diagon Alley today. How does that sound?"

"Err... great!" Scorpius told them with a slightly forced smile, he didn't exactly want to be out in public but it would be rude to cancel when his parents seemed to have already agreed and Molly's feelings might be hurt if he refused. She beamed at his answer and his parents looked relieved.

In a surprisingly short amount of time they were on the way to Diagon Alley, Scorpius wondered if it was because his parents were afraid he would change his mind. His mother had initially been going as well but his father was reluctant to leave Narcissa Malfoy alone. She'd been a wreck since her husband's death, she didn't sleep, barely ate and socialized with the others even less than Scorpius did, she hadn't left the manor since the funeral. His mother volunteered to stay, saying his father could use some fresh air more than she did.

He was still afraid though, the Malfoys had been all over the paper since his grandfather's dead, the family secrets, slanderous lies about his grandfather and father, inaccurate tellings of Scorpius supposed heroics. They'd been pestered by reporters when he'd visited his favorite professor - Atticus Ashain - in St Mungo's and his father was always being dragged away for questioning after every single Shadow attack, unfairly they were assuming his father was involved like his grandfather had been before he'd died turning against the Shadow Master. A worrying thought dawned on him, Molly always read the papers, she had to know all the things they'd said but she wasn't treating him any differently than she normally did. Had she stopped reading the papers or something?

It was only when they Flooed over there to the Leaky Cauldron and it seemed to click in his memory that it was where Abby lived, her father was the Herbology professor and her mother was the Landlady of the Leaky Cauldron. It had to be mostly rebuilt after a Shadow attack on it the previous year, a lot of people had died but almost all the injured - including Abby's parents and younger brother - had been healed by Calderon. It was why it looked so different to what Scorpius remembered, it had a new, fresh, brighter look to it. It was nice and actually seemed more spacious then it had been before, Scorpius didn't know if they'd rebuilt it bigger or if the new layout just made better use of the space to make it seem bigger. It made him think of how angry Varanian - he'd been possessed at the time - had been, he'd accused his grandfather and father of being involved and given him the series of scars he had on the soles of his feet. He wondered if his grandfather had actually been involved after all, he had no idea how long his grandfather had been working with the Shadows before his death.

He was so distracted by his thoughts and the new look that it took him a moment to realize that everyone was looking at them, he backed up into his father who put a comforting hand on his shoulder and walked him forwards after Molly. Scorpius regretted coming immediately. He registered movement to his right just in time to be hugged, he tensed before the smiling blond backed off and he recognized his friend, Abby Longbottom. Her hair was tied back into a lone long braid as usual and was dressed in a floral skirt and pastel green blouse.

"Happy birthday, Scorpius," Abby offered brightly and he tried to smile in return, he wasn't sure if he'd managed it as the wave of guilt swept through him.

"Thanks. Does that mean you remember?" Scorpius wondered, half hoping she'd say no and that she was just being polite so he could leave.

"They couldn't completely reverse it but I do remember a lot more now, I can't remember Varanian's detentions for example but I remember us being friends. Rose got her full memory back from Varanian and sometimes she says things that Albus and I don't remember but most things we remember, I remembered your birthday, didn't I? I got you a present and card but I already sent them because I didn't know you'd be coming."

"I didn't know either."

"Its good to see you though, I was worried when you didn't reply to any of my letters. Oh and congratulations, Molly."

"Congratulations, Molly?" Scorpius repeated and glanced back curiously to the fourteen year old whose face was now as red as her hair.

"I'm the new Gryffindor Quidditch Captain," Molly admitted and Scorpius smiled in amazement.

"Congratulations indeed! That must be some kind of record, you're only going into fourth year."

"I'm the youngest Quidditch Captain in over two hundred years."

"I'm sure you'll do great," Scorpius told her confidently and truthfully, Molly was very dedicated to the game.

"I doubt it, we've not only lost the seventh years who graduated but the sixth years who are now seventh years will all be in Beauxbatons for the Triwizard tournament this year. All our Chasers and a lot of our reserves are gone, the better ones especially and I'm losing our star Seeker if you don't return. James isn't bad but you could fly circles around him in your sleep, plus then I'm losing a Beater too. No other house is losing so many players and - I'm sorry, I'm just babbling again," Molly stopped herself and laughed nervously as she scratched her head, Scorpius continued to smile, "I do that."

"I know."

"Ah! Molly there you are, dear," a newcomer said bustling over to them, she was an elderly woman, short and plump with graying red hair. She had a kindly face and was smiling, it wavered slightly as she saw him but remained in place, "and you must be Scorpius?"

"Yes," Scorpius agreed hesitantly.

"I'm Molly Weasley."

"My grandmother," Molly added before he had time to feel confused, "after whom I was named, Molly after dad's mum and Mavis after mum's mum."

"Its a pleasure to meet you, Mrs Weasley," Scorpius offered politely with a slightly forced smile, "I'm Scorpius Malfoy."

"I know, dear," Mrs Weasley - its was politer and less confusing to think of her as that than as Molly - pointed out and Scorpius looked at the ground nervously, "I've heard a lot about you, its nice to finally meet you... I want to thank you, for saving my grandchildren's lives."

"What?" Scorpius questioned and glanced up, she looked genuinely grateful. He wondered if she realized two of them had nearly been sacrificed, did anyone realize that? Would people stop acting like he'd done a good thing? "it was nothing, you don't need to thank me."

"Is Aurelius here yet?" Dominique - 'Dom' for short - Weasley asked as she joined them, Rose, Molly's little sister Lucy and her maternal uncle Professor Aubrey Rivers, "oh hey, Scorpius, happy birthday. Is Aurelius here yet?"

"Would you stop talking about Aurelius? Every other word out of your mouth is Aurelius, how interesting can one sixty year old be?" Rose complained rolling her eyes as she pushed past her cousin to get to Scorpius, smiling when she saw him and pulling him into a hug. He blinked in surprise, even before she'd lost her memory she hadn't seemed too fond of him. Why was everyone so happy to see him? He had nearly killed them, didn't they know that? "happy birthday, Scorpius."

"Thanks," Scorpius managed as she pulled away.

"Aurelius is sixty-one actually, he just had his birthday at the end of July," Dom said defensively although Rose and Mrs Weasley didn't look pleased, "and Aurelius is the most interesting person I know. And I was only asking if he was here yet. I'm trying to help him get over his fear of being attacked whenever he leaves his home, he might not have been able to work up the courage to come at all. Its not easy for him."

"Do we have to wait much longer?" Lucy wailed, the eleven year old was probably eager to get her things for her first year at Hogwarts. She'd inherited the Weasley red hair but it was wavy like her mother's had been rather than curly like Molly and her dad, she had freckles but muddy brown eyes also like her mother, "purebloods shouldn't have to wait for anyone."

"Yes, that's right," Rivers nodded in agreement and looked proud despite the glares the Weasleys gave him, he was forty with wavy muddy brown and eyes to match. Scorpius wondered why he was even there, no one was particularly fond of him - with the exception of his niece, Lucy - and even his twin sister hadn't had the best relationship with him, Audrey Weasley had died a few months before so it surprised him that Rivers was hanging around with a random assortment of Weasleys in the first place, "its bad enough that stupid assistant hasn't sent you your Hogwarts letter yet, just because Aurors are pestering him to teach them how to fight the Specters and to learn to do a Patronus to communicate is no excuse, he remembered everyone else's letters including the new first years, stupid idiot."

"Don't call Calderon stupid or an idiot," Scorpius said defensively before he realized it, Rivers looked puzzled.

"But he is stupid, its not my fault he's a lunatic lacking intelligence."

"He's here!" Dom exclaimed before Scorpius could snap a reply to that, it was the most excited he'd ever heard the sixteen year old, and moved past them to get to Aurelius Ashain as he emerged from the fireplace, clutching his spirally wand protectively and looking around fearfully at the patrons although he gave the redhead a strained smile when he saw her.

Aurelius didn't look anywhere near his age, his could easily pass for his son's brother rather than his father. He had a full head of extremely dark auburn hair that was almost shoulder length and chestnut brown eyes, his clothes were very expensive looking but were mismatched colors. Scorpius didn't think he could have picked more contrasting colors if he'd tried, he was friendly enough but undeniably odd. Scorpius hadn't seen him since the professor had woken up, he hadn't wanted to see his son.

Introductions were quickly made and they headed off - minus Abby who had just been greeting them, she was getting her school stuff later with her older siblings - into Diagon Alley. They were an odd group, Mrs Weasley, Rivers and Lucy were in the front, Lucy was babbling excitedly about how much she was looking forwards to going to Hogwarts and Rivers also seemed to share her enthusiasm even though he wouldn't get to teach her - he taught the elective Arithimancy - while Mrs Weasley nodded occasionally and led the way. Dom, Aurelius and his father trailed behind them, his father just trying to keep to the back and not speak to anyone while Dom and Aurelius happily chatted away about NEWT level Defense Against the Dark Arts. Almost happily anyway, Aurelius leaped a foot in the air every time someone passed or a door opened or anything else normal that freaked him out. Scorpius wasn't quite sure why the paranoia but he'd been like that in the hospital and Hogwarts too.

Scorpius was in the middle of them with Molly and Rose either side of him, talking to him about their holidays, which hadn't been great apparently. Rose's parents and Molly's dad were all busy with work and they hardly saw them, it was why Rose was getting her things with her grandmother rather than her parents. Rivers had also been - surprisingly - helping out a lot since his sister's death, watching them and taking care of them while her dad worked. Two family friends of theirs were missing too which was upsetting, twin boys Lorcan and Lysander Scamander who'd gone missing two weeks before their tenth birthday at the beginning of May. Rose looked like kicking herself when it slipped out and hurriedly changed the subject to the sole good event of the holidays, the wedding of her - sort of - Aunt Gabrielle Delacour and the Assistant Deputy Head Auror Celestine 'Cel' Rooke. There'd been no Shadow attacks and nothing to detract anyone from the event, it was time either girl had spent with their parents all summer. He just tried to stare at the ground, both to avoid looking at Rose to lessen his guilt - along with the fact her reaction seemed to prove she'd read the papers about his past - and so he wouldn't be able to see if people were staring at him.

His attention dwindled when Dom and Aurelius' conversation got more interesting, Aurelius was complaining about his Father's creepy friends swapping artifacts. It reminded him of his grandfather's interaction with Corvinus Ashain, making an Unbreakable Vow and getting an Orb, he still wasn't a hundred percent sure whether it was the same Orb the Shadows had used but he had a strong feeling it was, especially as Aurelius had mentioned his father having it back and the Shadows had taken it away as they had had to use the original Orb to activate the Blood Runes to destroy the Specters. Was Corvinus Ashain involved with the Shadows? Or was he just a pawn used for the Orb? Were they planning something else? Did the Aurors know any of that? Why weren't they pestering him instead of Scorpius' family? Why neglect their children to waste time hunting an innocent man when there were better leads?

"It doesn't work for muggles either, Jack," another familiar was saying and Scorpius' head jerked up to look around for a wild tangled mass of light auburn brown hair that belonged to the voice.

"Well don't you think they should invent a way to make muggles into magical folk? They'd make a fortune!" a man's voice said in reply, loud enough for Scorpius to be able to spot his friend and Rose either heard him too or followed his gaze because a second later she'd veered off towards the pair, calling Michael's name.

"Can I go home now?"

Michael didn't look pleased to see them though, he looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up as the group followed after Rose. He looked different than when Scorpius had last seen him, Michael had always been short and scrawny but he looked so thin it was unhealthy. His face was gaunt and his hazel eyes heavily bagged with tiredness, one of his eyes was so badly bruised it barely opened, his lip was split and he had a cast on his left wrist. In comparison his companion was the picture of health, a tall muscular man with sea-blue eyes and short - but unruly - dark brown hair.

"What happened to you?" Rose wondered blinking in surprise.

"I fell down the stairs," Michael answered quickly with a hurried smile, "those stairs are steep, aren't they Jack?"

"How am I supposed to know? I don't live there," the man - presumably Jack - grumbled folding his arms and studying the group, he was dressed in muggle clothes, tatty jeans and a leather jacket.

"You were there less than an hour ago when you picked me up."

"Mikey, its too early in the morning to pay attention to the steepness of stairs even if I wasn't still slightly hungover."

"Just say yes. And its Michael."

"Yes then, Michael. You're such a stick in the mud, have I ever told you that?"

"You've been telling me that my whole life. Jack, these are my friends, Rose and Scorpius, that I told you about," Michael explained with a sigh as he gestured to the pair of them which made Jack laugh heartily, "what?"

"I thought you were just making up having friends," Jack explain and clapped Michael on the back, "well done, Mikey, you're not a complete loser after all."

"Michael."

"Its about time you had some friends now you're twelve."

"I'm eleven, its not my birthday until the last day of August."

"Don't I get points for being close?" Jack questioned and Michael pinched the bridge of his nose in exasperation while Jack turned to them to introduce himself, clapping his hands together enthusiastically, "I'm Jack Thorne, with an 'e', the one and only. I'm Mikey's dad in case you didn't know because he never calls me that and the family resemblance isn't obvious. So who wants to be rich beyond their wildest dreams?"


Part 2: Diagon Alley


"I already am," Aurelius pointed out.

"Not with your money, with actual real money," Jack said excitedly.

"What in Merlin's name would we want with muggle money?" Rivers wondered disinterestedly.

"So you can buy stuff, obviously, even wizards must want things like a mansion with a massive TV the size of the wall, clap on lights, a jacuzzi, an indoor pool, servants to wait on you hand and foot, I prefer motorcycles but you could have super fast cars like Ferrari's, a private plane to take you to every exotic country on the map and Las Vegas, you can buy your way out of any trouble you get into with the law, all the booze and smokes that money can buy, you never have to work again and can just party all night. And best of all, the chicks will be all over you and they won't even care if you cheat because you're that rich and can do whatever you want," Jack explained, none of them shared his enthusiasm, "you could have it all, I'll split any of the money with you fifty:fifty. Well maybe not fifty, I mean I'm the brains behind it all, who'd do the planning and all you have to do it wave those little sticks around so maybe a twenty:eighty split would be fairer."

"Jack!" Michael protested as he shot his father a dark look.

"Alright fine, thirty:seventy."

"Jack!"

"Forty:sixty is too unfair, no higher than thirty-five:sixty-five but then we're robbing more than one bank because I don't know if that's enough to be a gazillionaire and pay off my debt before they break my legs."

"You've been out of jail for less than a month, could you at least try not get thrown back in?" Michael said pleadingly looking upset.

"Why were you in jail?" Mrs Weasley asked disapprovingly.

"This time? Got into a fight with some guy who looked at me funny in a bar. Sure showed him that when you mess with this bull, you get the thorns," Jack announced sounding strangely proud while Michael just sighed sadly and studied his feet.

"Hey everyone! Happy birthday, Scorpius," Albus Potter's voice called cheerfully and their attention was drawn to his approaching friend with four people in tow, Scorpius was again pulled into a hug and Albus was smiling when he pulled away before he noticed Michael and looked concerned, "what happened to you?"

"Fell down the stairs," Michael answered quickly.

"You didn't mention that in your letters."

"I didn't think even you were dumb enough to fall down stairs, Dragon-breath," James Potter offered with a smirk, clearly still a bully.

"James, be nice," the red-haired woman with them - Scorpius assumed it was their mother - scolded him immediately. The other two children were strangers, the little girl looked like the younger and was probably the Potter boys' younger sister, Lily. Her hair was as red as her mother's and as unruly as her brothers', she was the only one of the Potter children to have glasses despite having her mother's brown eyes. The nervous-looking boy however he didn't know, although his eyes were green but he bore no obvious resemblance to the Potters or Weasleys.

"Why 'dragon-breath'?" Jack wondered curiously.

"Because last year he learned to breath fire," James told him cheerfully.

"Awesome."

"It wasn't awesome for me," Michael pointed out quietly, "and I didn't mention it because its not important, I'll be fine by the time train leaves for Hogwarts. So it was nice to meet you all, people I don't know, and good to see you, my friends, and I'll see you on September 1st... but we should be going now."

"What? But we only just got here and we haven't even gotten any of your school stuff yet."

"You should come around with us all!" Albus offered brightly.

"I wouldn't want to impose," Michael mumbled awkwardly.

"It's quite alright, dear," Mrs Weasley said gently, seeming to take sympathy on him, "the more the merrier."

Michael still seemed reluctant but agreed to it nonetheless, there was mixed reactions from the group. Jack, Albus and Rose seemed delighted while Aurelius, Rivers, James, Lucy and his father seemed dismayed and the others didn't give enough of a reaction for Scorpius to tell. Introductions were made, the girl was indeed little Lily and the woman was indeed Mrs Ginny Potter. The strange boy was introduced as Vern Dursley, Albus' cousin on his father's side and had - much to everyone's astonishment - received a letter that year accepting him into Hogwarts. Vern looked upset rather than pleased by this, Scorpius didn't blame him as James, Lily and even Albus weren't exactly friendly towards him.

"I can't believe you're a wizard. You better not be in Gryffindor," James commented to Vern as they continued walking again to get the books, Mrs Potter was too busy being given Jack's offer for a bank robbing partner, "the house name's already tainted enough by Death Eater children and scum who defend them without a Dursley in the mix too."

"It's not my fault that the hat put me in the wrong house," Scorpius protested but he was ignored, except by Molly who mouthed something that looked like 'still?'

"I'll try not to be," Vern muttered quietly, "I tried not get into Hogwarts at all, I thought if I kept the things I could do a secret then no one would notice. I don't want to be a wizard."

"Why not? Magic's the coolest thing ever," Lucy pointed out excitedly as her whole face lit up, "I can't wait to do magic and learn spells and make potions and fly on broomsticks and everything, its going to be so awesome."

"All the witches and wizards I know are mean to me," Vern explained and gave his cousins a sad look, he spoke so quietly it was hard to hear, "grandma said if grandpa was still alive then he'd be ashamed that I have his name."

"Not all witches and wizards are mean," Michael offered and smile kindly - or at least he tried to, his split lip made him look slightly demented and Scorpius realized he was missing a tooth - to Vern, "it can be scary going into a whole other world by yourself but all the other first years are in the same place as you, I'm sure you'll make some friends regardless of what your cousin says. And if you need anything, I'll be happy to help."

"Thanks," Vern said, still barely audibly but he had a weak smile.

"You're such a loser, Dragon-breath," James told him with a roll of his eyes.

"I'd rather be a loser than a bully like you," Michael retorted and James' eyes narrowed darkly, his hand twitched as if going for his wand before remembering he couldn't do magic outside of Hogwarts and he didn't seem able to think of a comeback for this as he just moved forwards and complained to his mum about wanting to go home or hang out with his own friends.

The conversation became more pleasant with James gone, talking about Hogwarts with the younger ones and Albus talking about his holidays which wasn't much better than Rose and Molly, except his mum worked from home so he'd at least had one parent around. He'd also developed a crush on a neighbor but had 'fallen in love' with some French girl that he didn't know the name of at his Aunt Gabrielle's wedding, Scorpius tried very hard not to look at Molly during that point and his palms went sweaty again. Michael didn't say as much about his summer, he mentioned having a new baby sister - well half-sister as it was his mum and stepdad's youngest daughter - and explained his dad had come around looking for money a few days ago after he got out of jail and had finally found out his son was a wizard. Since then Jack had been fascinated, paying Michael more attention than he ever had and had eagerly volunteered to take him to get his Hogwarts things when he'd gotten his letter. Scorpius didn't say much about his summer either, although he mentioned Professor Ashain waking up but not too much in case Aurelius was listening and it felt rather odd to be talking about the man's son when he was right behind them, even if he and Dom were still engaged in conversation together and didn't appear to be listening.

The passing of a shop selling broomsticks prompted them to start talking about Quidditch, Molly was nervous about failing her responsibilities as Captain and Gryffindor not having much chance with so many players missing but Albus was excited at the prospect of being able to try out. Apparently he, Abby and even Rose were planning on trying out already and he suggested Michael did too because he wasn't a bad flier good except at landing and not crashing into walls. Lucy announced she was trying out too, for the experience even though she didn't expect to succeed as her mother hadn't let her ride a broomstick before, Vern said he might be in the stands to support them and Lily wistfully declared she wished she was going to Hogwarts already.

Scorpius actually found himself - almost - enjoying himself, he hadn't realized how much he'd missed his friends until he was talking to them again, talking about such normal things as if he hadn't almost killed them. He'd forget for a minute and be enjoying himself then he'd remember and feel crushed by guilt again. Vern, Lucy and Lily were alright company too while the adults - along with James and Dom - walked either behind or in front and talked amongst themselves or just in silence which he was glad for because he didn't like Rivers or Jack.

They went to Gringotts first to get money, Aurelius stupidly offered to pay for anything if anyone wanted which James, Jack, Lucy, Lily and Rivers both seemed to take as a free pass for free stuff and shamelessly took advantage of him for overly expensive things and extras. Mrs Potter kept putting her foot down and saying James - and to a lesser extent Lily - wasn't allowed certain things, much to his chagrin as Aurelius would abide by her will for her son and as much as Molly would tell Lucy not to ask for so many things, her sister listened to Rivers over her. Molly, Mrs Weasley, Mrs Potter, Michael, Vern, Scorpius and his father all refused to buy anything that wasn't on their own coin while Dom, Rose and Albus asked for the occasional thing that was normally too expensive but not ridiculously so. The only exception was at Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions where Dom seemed determined to buy herself a new wardrobe, no matter the cost or how long they took. Scorpius did have to be careful, if he so much as looked at anything he'd have five people offering to buy it for him for his birthday.

Scorpius still found himself enjoying himself - for the most part at least, it was easy to forget his guilt in the busying bustle - and his father seemed to be making a real effort to get along with people he'd once considered enemies for Scorpius' sake, he really appreciated that. Mrs Weasley and Mrs Potter were nice enough, Rivers and Jack were annoying but were more interesting in bothering other people than him, Dom and Aurelius mostly talked amongst themselves as did Lucy and Lily but when they did talk to them they were alright, James kept trying to pester Vern but Michael unwaveringly came to his defense and James eventually quit when Molly threatened to ban him from the team if he didn't be nice.

They even managed to stop at the Ice Cream Parlor for a break between shops and had the semblance of getting along - although Jack had started making very unappreciated passes at Mrs Potter who started telling him about her husband and Rivers was boring James to tears as he lectured him about his 'poor' decision not to take the 'important' subject of Arithimancy. It was so... normal though, Scorpius liked that. It was only after they left the Ice Cream Parlor that Aurelius suddenly shivered violently despite the blazing sunlight.

"Is... Is anyone else cold?" Aurelius asked uncertainly.

"Are you kidding? Its like a hundred degrees," Jack complained and the others muttered in agreement as they carried on for their final three stops needed.

Despite Molly's insistence on the brilliance of owls, both Lucy and Vern chose cats as their companions in Hogwarts before they moved onto their books, dividing to find what was on their lists - except Lucy and Vern, they'd just been getting Lucy everything on Vern's list as hers hadn't arrived - to save time as it was getting later. Molly appeared beside him as he was getting the last book on his list.

"Enjoying your birthday?" Molly inquired nervously.

"Yes," Scorpius admitted as it was - aside from the guilt anyway - and she looked relieved.

"I'm glad."

"Any particular reason why?"

"Well..." she began and bit her lip nervously, "I kinda tried to get Albus and Rose and Abby - although Abby couldn't come, has to help out at the Leaky Cauldron and Michael was an accident - to get their stuff today so you could see each other, they wanted to see you and even though you've been ignoring everyone all summer I thought you might want to see them. I mean... I lost my mother, I kind of know what you're going through. I didn't really want to see anyone or do anything after it either but interacting with my family and going back to school... it helped to do normal things again and take my mind of it, I thought it might help you too but then I worried that it might not and I had just dragged you out into public too soon. Figured you'd either love me or hate me for it."

"I could never hate you," Scorpius told her quickly and smiled nervously, not wanting to talk about his guilt but Molly didn't seem to notice as she returned his smile and hugged him again. If beautiful had a smell then it would be cherries.

They left the bookshop and only had Lucy and Vern's wands to get. Due to the number of people, the size of the shop and the heat from the sun - although Aurelius still insisted on feeling cold - they decided to wait outside as Mrs Potter took Vern in to get his wand, Jack following out of curiosity about wands choosing the wizard. Scorpius was so focused on watching them go in that he hadn't noticed Michael until the boy spoke at his elbow.

"Hey Scorpius," Michael offered and Scorpius almost did a startled jump worthy of the jittery Aurelius, "um... I don't know if I said this yet but Happy Birthday."

"Thanks," Scorpius said.

"I erm... well I don't have a lot of money, well any money really so I couldn't exactly get you a nice present and there was no way I was asking poor Aurelius to buy something for me, I hope he could afford it all because its not easy having no money but erm... I... I made you this," Michael explained nervously and started tying something around his left wrist, "its a... its a friendship bracelet. I know its kinda childish but you were the first friend I ever really had and after we went through and... and I always wanted to do that and um... you don't have to wear it if you want but I just erm... I'm sorry its not something cooler or better made, happy birthday."

"No, its great, I've never had a friendship bracelet before," Scorpius told him with a smile, managing to keep it in place even as he felt another wave of guilt and went to pat Michael on the shoulder. Michael flinched so violently he actually fell over and Scorpius worriedly helped him to his feet, "are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Michael brushed it off and grinned hurriedly, "are you?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Scorpius said looking over to Ollivander's, "feels like forever since I got my wand, hard to believe its just a year, feel incomplete without it. Father had to pay a small fortune to have it specially made because none of the wands in the shop liked me. How'd it go to get yours?"

"Took ages, I thought Calderon had made a mistake and I wasn't a wizard after all because the wands didn't like me. He started trying old wands that his ancestor's had made because he had a 'feeling' about me, my wand was made in the middle ages by Geraint Ollivander. An usual combination apparently, Dittany Stalk core and Cypress wood, fifteen inches was an odd length for a short ten-year-old too. I didn't think it would like me either but it flew into my hand and glowed, there was white light and he said 'perfect.' We're like opposites, yours is so new and mine is so old."

It didn't actually take too long for Vern to come out and it was Lucy's turn, Mrs Weasley, Molly and Rivers went in with her and Jack remained with Mrs Potter, leaning in extremely close to her to whisper in her ear. Vern came over to tell them about getting his wand.

"I was lucky to get a wand," Vern began looking almost afraid, "Mr Ollivander said he almost didn't open today because someone broke in and stole several of his wands. I didn't know wizards had burglars too. Did you? Why would someone steal wands if they choose the wizard?"

Before they could reply, their attention was drawn by Jack being flung backwards though the air, bouncing painfully down into a side street that led to Knockturn Alley. From the livid expression on her face and the fact her wand was out, aimed in the direction that Jack had been, Mrs Potter seemed to have been the one to have propelled him backwards. Michael looked hurt and either didn't know or didn't care about the shady nature of Knockturn Alley as he bolted after his dad with Vern following, Scorpius was about to go after him when he was distracted again by Rivers storming out of Ollivander's looking as angry as Mrs Potter. Mrs Weasley and his nieces hurried after, Lucy had tears streaming down her face.

"Wait! Uncle Aubrey, wait!" Lucy cried.

"I'M NO UNCLE TO YOU, YOU FILTHY SQUIB! YOU MAKE ME SICK!" Rivers roared turning back to her, looking at her loathingly before he disapparated in an exceptionally loud bang.

"I had a brother who was a squib once..." Aurelius said sadly as Lucy ran away sobbing in a random direction, Molly and Mrs Potter went after her, the latter yelling back something about staying with the children and Scorpius decided to get Michael and Jack quickly, "why is it so cold - Protego!"

Scorpius barely had time to register Aurelius' shout before a shield of light appeared to his right, just in time to defend him from a crimson burst of light. The silver shield was obliterated by the curse and Scorpius was nearly knocked off his feet from the resulting shockwave but unharmed, he glanced in the direction of where the spell had come from and saw a stranger with pitch black eyes as the culprit. Suddenly the majority of people in the street had pitch black eyes and every last pair was looking at him.

The others seemed to realize this too, his father's eyes bulged fearfully and he started to run towards Scorpius only for one of the possessed to shot a jet of magic at him. Dom yanked his father back just in time to stop him running into the path of the spell, instead it collided explosively with the ground. Lily screamed. Displaced cobbles were thrown into the air, along with bits of cement and dirt, Scorpius raised his arm to protect his head and saw a crater left in the ground.

"Apparate as many as you can to safety and get help!" Dom yelled, realizing the danger and lack of Calderon to banish them. Mrs Weasley was the fastest to react and grabbed the youngest, managed to squeeze Rose in with Albus and Lily in the crook of her arm before she disapparated. Aurelius grabbed Dom and James' arms but out of the corner of his eye, Scorpius saw one of the possessed snap their fingers and no one else disapparated.

"Sorry but we can't have reinforcements coming now, can we? Side effect of course is that you can't apparate either," the possessed-man who'd snapped his fingers and caused the crater, someone else fired a curse at Scorpius and he jumped back to avoid it even as Aurelius cast another Shield Charm to protect him and both Dom and his father got their wands out as the latter scrambled to his feet. James was just looking around fearfully, "we're only after Scorpius, we won't hurt you if you don't try to stop us."

No one said anything and for a second Scorpius thought they were just sacrificing him, even his father. The possessed-man and several of the others threw curses at him with triumphant expressions, Scorpius couldn't have hoped to avoid all of them at once but thankfully he didn't have to as both his father, Aurelius and even the underage Dom cast Protego again to defend him.

"Are you insane?!" James shrieked, "just let them have him!"

It was too late, even if the others were having second thoughts and a second later the street was ablaze with spells. The possessed started firing mutli-colored jets from both sides - anyone not possessed was fleeing - and Dom took one side of the street to fight back and his father took the other. Aurelius - who seemed to be best at the Shield Charm - defended the four of them, gesturing for Scorpius to come to him who was apart from the chaos as not a single spell was being directed at him. He started to move towards to Aurelius but stopped, the possessed-man who'd snapped his fingers was beckoning him.

"Scorpius... Come to me."

Scorpius didn't know where the voice came from, the man's lips didn't move but he couldn't look away from the pitch black eyes, he couldn't even blink. The chaos around him faded into nothingness, there was nothing but the darkness in those eyes, the rest of the world stopped registering in his mind. He suddenly felt so tired, his eyelids drooped and only being unwilling to look away from the darkness kept them propped open. His body wanted to collapse onto the ground and sleep forever, he was so tired, so weak. He felt his body sag but his inability to look away was all that kept him on his toes, the hand was still beckoning him in front of those eyes. He had to go towards them, maybe if he did then he could finally sleep? Staying awake was so hard. He dragged his feet across the cobbles.

And then he was being shoved to the ground. The trance was broken. He was wide awake. He was the midst of a duel again, cries of spells echoed around, jets of lights blazed over his head. He was being pulled to his feet and into a run towards the others by Michael, he realized, he'd almost forgotten about him.

"You'll pay for that, mudblood!" the possessed man sneered.

"Didn't you hear me yelling your name?!" Michael complained as they reached the other four, Scorpius hadn't heard him, he hadn't heard anything.

"Are - you - two - mad?!" Dom wondered exasperated in between spells, "you, walking towards the Shadows trying to kill us and you, running into the middle of a duel to stop him!"

"We're going to die anyway," James wailed as he glared at Scorpius, hatred gleaming in his brown eyes, "I blame you, Malfoy! We're going to die because of you."

"We are going to die," Aurelius agreed hopelessly, looking on the verge of tears but he didn't stop putting up the shields. Scorpius wished he knew a spell that would actually help, "we can't keep this up forever, they're inaccurate and sluggish but we are seriously outnumbered."

"We just need to think of a plan, I told Jack and Vern to find help," Michael spoke up, "if we can hold off until then."

"Then what, Dragon-breath?!" James snapped turning his glare to the younger boy, "they can die too? There's no Calderon or rune things here! There's no way to fight them off!"

"Wait, I thought of something," Aurelius said quickly, "has anyone tried casting a Patronus at them? I mean Specters are clearly dark and evil and Patronuses fight off dark and evil things like Dementors and Lethifolds."

"Then try casting a Patronus!" his father yelled desperately.

"I-I can't, I don't have a happy enough memory anymore."

"How useful!" James yelled angrily as a spell broke through the defenses and hit his father in the arm, he screamed in pain and fell back onto the ground, his wand falling to the ground as he clutched at his bleeding arm. Michael fell to his knees without hesitation to help, Scorpius thought he saw the possessed smile at one of the their protectors falling. They really were doomed.

"We're dead either way so..." Dom whispered and took a deep breath before swishing her wrist for the final time, "EXPECTO PATRONUM!"

Immediately a huge silvery bird erupted from the tip of her wand, it screeched and sped towards the possessed on one side. They stopped firing spells at them and instead cowered as the bird swooped down on them, the possessed on the other side were cowering too and abruptly shadows started leaving their bodies. They convulsed violently then almost in unison went limp on the ground, the dark shapes melted away into the alleyways and vanished from sight. There was a series of pops and Aurors started appearing.

"It's not cold anymore," Aurelius pointed out.


Part 3: Gifts


Scorpius felt oddly dazed and apart from it all as the Aurors 'secured' the Alley, got the unconscious or injured people to St Mungo's - with the exception of his father who was dealt with in the street so he could be questioned, Mrs Potter returned with Lucy and Molly, a few people asked him if he was alright and he told them that he was. He heard snatches of conversation, praise for Dom, Michael apologizing to Mrs Potter for his father's behavior although Jack was nowhere to be found - not was Vern for that matter, Aurors started discussing the attack which was apparently oddly uncoordinated compared to earlier attacks and the motive for the attack, that it was Varanian wanting revenge-

"Varanian isn't the Shadow Master!" Scorpius yelled frustratingly and the nearby Aurors jumped at the surprisingly conversation, "he's innocent! He was possessed and didn't do anything to my memory, why can't you just accept the truth?"

"Innocent men don't tend to run," the sandy-haired Auror Cel pointed out stubbornly.

"I'm sure he had a good reason for it, he's not stupid."

"Escaping was the stupidest thing he could've done," one of the other Aurors offered and they nodded in agreement before moving away out of Scorpius' earshot.

"I hope he's not innocent," Molly said coming up to stand beside him with a strange expression on her face, her little sister was crying into Mrs Potter's dress, "if not then the Aurors have been wasting their time and the Shadows have been flourishing unchallenged. The Aurors will live to regret it, they'll realize the error of their ways but by then it will be too late, their power will be broken, the Ministry will be overrun and the Shadow Master will take a throne built from the bones of enemies..."

"Um... What?" Scorpius wondered and Molly blinked looking surprised.

"What?"

"You were getting a little dark there."

"Sorry," Molly muttered rubbing her eyes, "I just feel kinda weird."

"Its okay," Scorpius offered kindly before Jack and Vern returned, Jack was grinning madly as he ran over to them.

"You will never believe the most awesome thing just happened to us," Jack began excitedly to Mrs Potter whose eyes narrowed darkly and he winked at her, "and I decided to forgive you for attacking me by the way, your passion against me just proves we got a spark, opposites attract and you should could yourself lucky to actually be hot enough for me when you're a decade older. So I met this guy and he's-"

"Nobody cares! Its not important, doesn't it bother you that your son almost died?" Mrs Potter snapped angrily and Jack shorted dismissively as he folded his arms. Vern's eyes bulged fearfully as he looked at Michael as if expecting him to drop dead at any moment.

"You can't die from pretty lights flying through the air, he's not... what's that thing called? Epkelptiky? Eplepeptic? Well whatever it is, he doesn't have it. I think. Wait, he has dyslenkia... no, that's a different thing to epeplektiky or whatever its called."

"Its called epilepsy," Michael corrected him tiredly, "and its dyslexia not dyslenkia."

"Whatever it is. How am I supposed to know what's wrong with you?"

"Come on, Scorpius, we're going home," his father said stalking away from Harry Potter, Scorpius couldn't even open his mouth to say goodbye before he was apparated back home. His father promptly hugged him tightly and kissed the top of his head, "you're safe now, I love you son."

"I love you too," Scorpius whispered back despite not liking leaving so abruptly, his dad may not be perfect but Scorpius was feeling appreciative for not having Jack as a dad, he felt even worse for Michael.

Whether the attack or the questioning, his father seemed shaken and withdrawn for the rest of the day, his grandmother barely said a word and it left to Scorpius and his mother alone to pretend to be happy. He actually thought he'd preferred Diagon Alley, before the attack anyway. They didn't mention the attack at all in his presence but his father had had a long private conversation with his mother after they'd gotten back, he was sure she'd been told as her worry showed between her forced smiles.

He opened his presents - although it felt extremely strange to do so considering earlier, mostly clothes and books from his parents and grandmother as well as a beautifully crafted chessboard as they knew he liked to play. The rest were all gifts he'd received in the mail, his Aunt Daphne had gotten him his own broomstick servicing kit, sweets mostly from his friends - minus Michael and Molly, Molly had gotten him a pair of fingerless black-brown leather Quidditch with a moving silver Thestral embroidered on each as she knew he liked the Thestrals. He couldn't help but smile at that, he really liked them although he had a feeling they were expensive and he hoped she hadn't spent too much on him. Then there were the cards, a few of the people on the Quidditch team had sent him cards, as had Calderon and Professor Ashain and someone else. The final card was the most interesting, beneath 'Happy Birthday' was a message:

SEPTEMBER 1ST. 10.45AM. KING'S CROSS STATION

WAIT OUTSIDE THE DISABLED MUGGLE BATHROOM. ALONE

TELL NO ONE. BURN THIS AFTER READING

- V

Scorpius read it. Then reread it. He could only assume 'V' meant Varanian, was Varanian arranging to meet him? Why did he want to see him? Or what if it wasn't Varanian? What if it was someone more sinister just pretending to be Varanian to lure him into a trap? The Shadows had been after him in Diagon Alley, he still wasn't quite sure why he'd felt tired and walked towards the enemy. Maybe this was another attempt? He would be vulnerable alone after all.

"Whose it from?" his mother asked curiously.

"Err..." Scorpius began and wondered whether he should tell, he should if it was the Shadows after him... then again, what if it was Varanian? What if it was important? It would mean he would have to go to Hogwarts because he had no other excuse to be there, he sighed inwardly, "someone else from the Quidditch team."

His mother bought the lie without hesitation and didn't attempt to see the card, he wasn't sure why she would but he was feeling paranoid about it. He burned it as soon as he was alone, he'd already memorized it. It was on his mind for the rest of the day as it would be for the rest of the summer. When he blew out the twelve candles on his chocolate birthday cake, he wished for an uneventful year.

Seeing his friends enabled him to work up the courage to read the letters they'd wrote to him that summer - although he guiltily had trouble deciphering Michael's atrocious handwriting - as he would have to face them at Hogwarts after all. He still wrote them a long reply each and thanked them for their gifts, apologizing for having to leave so suddenly as well. He had the urge to write 'I'm also sorry I was willing to sacrifice you' but didn't. All four of them wrote back and he communicated with them for the rest of August, he wished he had wished to stop feeling guilty instead.


It was late or maybe early, he didn't know what time the nightmare had woken him up but it had and he was terrified, so terrified he'd wet the bed. He was too ashamed to tell his father and telling his grandparents wasn't even an option. He'd just changed his clothes and braved the house in the dark, despite the seemingly infinite number of scary-looking shadows no Death Eaters had jumped out to attack him and he'd made it into the most used parlor.

He was sitting on his favorite couch, it was the most comfortable and so huge his small six-year-old body could sink into the soft fabric. He was curled up protectively with his head resting on the arm, gazing at the picture in his hands. It was of his mother. She was smiling in the picture, laughing even with her streaming golden hair blowing in the wind and her amber eyes seemed to twinkle happily. He had to stare at the photo a lot to see her like that, otherwise he just kept seeing her lying with her limbs at the wrong angles, her mouth open as she had died screaming. She still looked like she was screaming as the flies landed on her lips but she didn't notice, her eyes just stared at him, glassy glazed over eyes that couldn't see him.

The Death Eaters had killed her. After they tortured her about the muggle-borns - mudbloods, they had called them like his grandparents did - she'd been hiding even though she was a pureblood. He didn't understand what was so important about your blood status, the muggle-borns had been just like normal people and he played with the children just like his own brother, people were just people so why did it matter about their blood anymore than eye color or height or anything? You couldn't even see your blood unless you were hurt and all blood looked the same as far as he knew. It had mattered to the Death Eaters, they'd wanted to kill the muggle-borns but his mother had already had them flee through the Vanishing Cabinet. She didn't tell them that though, even when they tortured her so much her screams continued to resonate inside his skull for weeks after, even when they'd turned on him instead. He squeezed his eyes shut to stop the tears from falling again, he didn't want to cry again, he just wanted the memories to go away and his mother to be alive.

But she wasn't. When hurting him hadn't worked, they'd killed her. Two words, a flick of the wrist, a flash of light and his mother was gone. Forever. Forever was a long time to not have your mother. Maybe it was good she was gone, she was a proud Gryffindor, she had been so brave. What would she think of having a coward son who was scared all the time and cried and wet the bed? He was pathetic. She would hate him, she would be ashamed of him. He still missed her so much.

He was torn from his thoughts by footsteps and looked up in terror but it was only his older brother, his half-blood half-brother, did it really matter that much? The nine-year-old was creeping past the door as if afraid of getting caught, carrying one of their father's broomsticks in his hands.

"Brutus, what are you doing?" he called out and the boy froze in his tracks and glanced over to him, a scowl on his deformed face.

"Why are you awake, Atty?" Brutus wondered as he came over to him.

"Why are you awake? And why do you have one of Father's brooms?"

"Because... none of your business. So why are you up?"

"Because... none of your business," he repeated his brother's words, feeling cool to have said something Brutus said. Brutus was cool, he was so smart he knew everything and he was so brave he wasn't afraid of anything. He wished he was more like Brutus.

"You were having nightmares again, weren't you?" Brutus guessed and he flinched, feeling his eyes watering again.

"No."

"Liar. You have to stop having nightmares and being sad all the time, you're making Father sad and when Father gets sad he goes away on vacation for ages. Is that what you want? For Father to go away and to have no parents at all?!" Brutus snapped and he couldn't stop the tears leaking from his eyes.

"No," he wailed and he pressed his palms against his eyes as he sobbed.

"I-I'm sorry," Brutus stammered sounding guilty as he lost his anger, he heard the broom clattering to the ground and a second later Brutus was sitting beside him and putting his arms around him, he buried his head in the crook of Brutus' neck and cried, "I'm sorry, please don't cry, Atty, I didn't mean to upset you. I just don't want Father to go away again, Grandfather and Grandmother hate me and I don't have a mother."

"I-I c-can't h-h-help i-it. I-I'm n-not br-brave l-like y-you a-a-are."

"You think I'm brave?" Brutus asked sounding surprised as he rubbed his shoulders soothingly.

"O-Ob-viously," he told him and Brutus hugged him tighter but didn't say anything, "I-I m-miss m-my m-mom s-s-so m-much."

"I know... But you know, at least your mother loved you. My mother didn't love me, she didn't want me, she didn't care about me... At... At least you know that there's not something so wrong with you that your own mother couldn't love you and all mothers are supposed to always love their children so it shows how bad I am inside that mine didn't. Even Father leaves me whenever he goes on vacation whenever Grandfather and Grandmother upset him, I bet he wouldn't even care if I was dead, no one would," Brutus said sadly almost sounding like he was about to cry too, "but you're perfect, Father loves you and I love you and your mother loved you... she wouldn't want you to be sad, she'd be happy you're alive and about You-Know-Who being defeated, she would want you to be happy not sad, not having bad dreams. You don't want the people you love to suffer."

"I-I c-can't h-help i-i-it, I d-don't w-want t-t-to b-be sc-scared... I-I w-was s-so sc-scared I w-w-wet th-the b-bed, I'm n-not per-perfect," he admitted through his tears and expected Brutus to ridicule him but instead his brother stroked his hair gently like his mother used to and he felt calmer, the tears stopped coming as he relaxed feeling comforted.

"You're going to be okay, you know?" Brutus whispered soothingly, "it may seem bad now but it'll be okay in the end, you just have to hold on and get through the bad times and eventually the good times will come. I'll make sure of it because brothers look out for each other no matter what. I'll clean up your bed and it'll be okay, I'll show you to fly. I love flying, if that doesn't cheer you up then I don't know what will."

"I l-love you, Brutus, pl-please don't die t-too," he begged hugging his brother tight.

"I won't, Atty, you can count on me," Brutus promised and he glanced at the misty-eyed nine-year-old in time to see a weak smile.

The scene changed and suddenly he was at Hogwarts, his wand out as he cast the fatal Shield Charm. He tried to scream 'no' but his lips didn't move, he just watched as his shield deflected his brother's curse straight back to him. Brutus barely had time to look surprised as he was propelled backwards off the wall, too fast to react and in the mere seconds it took to lower the charm and ready his wand to save his brother, it was too late.

"Brutus!"

"Daddy, wake up!"

Atticus Ashain was jerked back into consciousness at the sound of his daughter's voice, he cringed at the wave of pain being awake caused. He'd been awake a month and the wounds still throbbed painfully, he knew exactly where the scars were from the pain alone and he actually felt a burning pain beneath the skin because it had cut so deep or gone straight through, it seared every time he moved or spoke or breathed and nothing he could take that he wasn't allergic too helped in the slightest.

He blinked a few times to adjust and breathed through the pain, shivering at the cold despite the sunlight streaming through the windows and regretted deciding to sleep shirtless but it had been hot when he went to bed. Usually the light woke him up as he was an incredibly light sleeper, he'd had trouble sleeping with the pain though so when he did sleep it was deeper than normal. He glanced across his bed to his four-year-old daughter, she had her held tilted to one side and was studying him intently with her large chestnut brown eyes. She looked as though someone had dumped a pile of straw on top of her head as she usually did no matter how many times you brushed it, she smiled at him brightly.

"Good you're awake, Daddy, I think you were having a bad dream acause you said 'no' really loudly," Cassia explained to him, "I'm cold. Can I come into bed with you, Daddy?"

"Sure," he agreed an instant after she'd clambered up beside him and wrapped the duvet around them, he'd have to get up in a minute though. He realized she was holding his wand and carefully took it from her, afraid of her accidentally discharging magic and hurting herself, "didn't I tell you not to play with Daddy's wand?"

"Yes. I wasn't playing, I was just looking at it acause I like it and I was being carefulled. Can I have your wand when I'm olderer to go to magic school?"

"You'll get your own wand."

"But can't I have your wand? I like it."

"Your wand chooses you," he told her as he placed it on the closest bedside table.

"I know but what if it choosed me? I mean you like me don't you, Daddy?"

"Of course, Daddy loves you very much."

"Exacly so won't your wand love me too then?" Cassia wondered hopefully and he smiled at her childish logic, putting an arm around her and she happily nestled close to him, "I want to be just like you, Daddy, I love you."

"That's a good point, I'm sure my wand will love you but then I wouldn't have a wand."

"We could share, sharing is gooder you say. I thought we mighted have to share eyes but you have yours so its okay."

"Erm... Sharing eyes?" he repeated trying to puzzle out what that meant or if he'd misheard.

"Yes. One of the mens at the door talking to Mummy said that I had your eyes so I thought that you gived yours to me in my sleep for some reasons and I felted bad that you had no eyes so I thought we could share, we each haved one eye acause that's fairer. Isn't it, Daddy?"

"Yes that would be but he just meant that your eyes look like mine, its just something people say," he pointed out, "what men at the door are talking to Mummy?"

"Just some growed ups talking about a cure for the disease."

"Oh right," he muttered, it was probably people collecting for some charity although he wasn't sure how they would know his daughter had his eyes, he didn't recall knowing any charity workers.

"Daddy, can I tell you a secret?"

"You can tell me anything," he promised and she bit her lip nervously.

"Well... I can talk to birds. Not like just say words to them but I can understanded what they say and they can understanded me, most birds are boring and I didn't know if it was real but I talked to the owl who broughted you that birthday card. He was very nice and he saided his name was Free, he was happy to be able to delivered a card acause his wizard Scorpius is sadder and didn't sended a lot of mail so he was bored but he likes flying so he was happy to fly. Is that normal for magic people?"

"Its a very special gift," he told her gently, trying to recall what little he knew about wizards with the ability to communicate with birds, supposedly he'd had an ancestor who could speak to birds and had a particular fondness for vultures. It was rare although looked upon more kindly than Parseltongue.

"Don't tell Mummy, I don't think she would be happy. I don't think Mummy likes magic things very much. She always says to Uncle Jason that she wisheded you were human and that he is lucky that our cousins ared human and she wants us to be human and she doesn't know why there is no cure for magic and why you don't think that magic is bad," Cassia explained and looked upset, "am I bad for being magic?"

"Of course not, you're not bad. Magic isn't bad and it doesn't mean you're not human, its just a part of you. Some people have brown eyes and some people have blue, some people have magic and some people don't. There are good people and bad people in the world, some people with magic are bad and they use it for bad but most people - like me and you and Tony - are good people and we only use magic for good. You're not bad, don't ever think that you are," he explained and kissed the top of her head gently, upset that his daughter could even consider that.

"Did bad people with magic hurted you?" Cassia asked quietly and touched the dark scar on his chest, it was ever so light but the wave of pain made him want to throw up and he carefully moved her hand away, "Mummy was said that magic was bad if it had hurted you."

"It was just one bad wizard who hurt me, most wizards are good," he reaffirmed his stance on magic not being bad and she smiled as she nuzzled into him and gripped his hand tight.

"When I growed up I'm is going to be a good wizard and hunted the bad ones then there will be no bad ones left and then Mummy will know that magic isn't bad and she'll be happy again."