"You don't have to be here, you know. I don't need a babysitter." Scorpius sniffed and added smugly, "I'm almost seven."
Even as he says it, Scorpius pulls his blanket over his shoulders and hugs it close, snuggling his face into the pillow. He pouts at Teddy, who is currently lying in the twin-sized bed next to his.
Teddy rolls his eyes, a habit of his that Scorpius doesn't much care for.
"Go to sleep," Teddy groans, fluffing his own pillow. "How many times do I have to tell you?"
"I'm not going to sleep. How many times do I have to tell you? And you're not my dad, so you can't tell me what to do."
Under his breath, Teddy mutters, "You are such a brat."
Scorpius stiffens. He always hates when people call him a brat, and he never knows what to say back. Usually, saying, 'No, I'm not,' doesn't seem to convince anyone.
The room is dark, but he can see Teddy by the soft glow of light coming from the magical baubles floating near the ceiling. The door to his bedroom is open a crack and additional light from the hallway filters inside. His dad always leaves the door cracked because although the bauble lights are nice, they cast a strange, unnatural glow that Scorpius doesn't like. It scares him, and although he would never admit this to Teddy, a part of him is glad not to be sleeping by himself.
It's not like Teddy was his first choice of a sleepover mate. Scorpius' father simply had no one else to call on such short notice, so he resorted to calling Auntie Andromeda - a fact that Scorpius had gleefully rubbed in Teddy's face earlier that night.
To Scorpius' annoyance, Teddy didn't seem particularly hurt; he seemed quite annoyed at being here himself. When he had arrived with his overnight bag, he had run a hand through his pink hair, and then shoved Scorpius aside on his way to kitchen for eggnog.
Scorpius narrows his eyes. "I'm waiting up until midnight."
Teddy immediately looks up, his eyebrows furrowed. "No, you're not! Your dad told me to put you to bed by ten, and it's already way past that, so close your gob and go to sleep."
"I'm going to catch Santa Claus."
Teddy blinks. "You're... what?"
"I'm going to sneak downstairs at exactly twelve - because that's when my friend Daniel said Santa comes to all the houses - and I'm going to expose him for what he really is."
Teddy raises a brow, and his mouth twitches at the corner as though he is attempting to hold back a smile. "And..." A sound between a dry laugh and a snort escapes him - which Scorpius does not appreciate at all. "And what exactly is he, really?"
Scorpius flings his covers off and sits up, bouncing slightly on the mattress in his haste. "Santa Claus is a wizard, of course!"
When Teddy doesn't say anything but only stares with a stupid, goofy grin on his face, Scorpius decides he ought to enlighten him.
"I've figured it out, and no one else has," he explains with a smirk, raising his chin. He is obviously the most brilliant boy on the planet. Smarter even, than the grown ups, who hadn't caught on after all this time. Everyone will be so surprised - and so pleased with him - when he brings them the startling new revelation: Santa Claus, that beloved, bearded hero of Muggles everywhere, is nothing more than a sneaky, trespassing old wizard. Probably a Slytherin... like his dad, Scorpius thinks, his chest swelling with pride.
But Teddy, instead of displaying shocked awe like he ought to, grins like a loon and proceeds to speak to Scorpius in a horribly humouring tone. "Yes, well," he drawls - not like Scorpius's distinctive drawl, but overly drawn-out and mocking in a way that makes Scorpius pout. "I'm sure you did figure out. Very well done." Teddy nods. "But you know what they say about Santa Claus, don't you?"
Well... no, he doesn't. "What do they say?"
"Santa doesn't give presents to children who stay up late. And he'll know if you've been staying up to catch him. He won't like being tricked. You're aiming to set a trap for him, and I think he would consider that a great offence."
Scorpius blinks once, and then he lets out a snort. "Whatever, Teddy." He settles back down on his bed. "You can go to sleep like a big lump if you like, but I will soon be making history."
"And how is that?"
"I told you! Do you suffer memory loss?" Scorpius realises that there will be no speaking to Teddy as if he is a person of normal intelligence. He makes sure to enunciate every word, slowly, while raising his eyebrows for emphasis at noteworthy junctures. "I am going to prove that Santa Claus has been a wizard this whole time. Understand?"
Teddy narrows his eyes at him. "I understand, you little shite." He picks up one of the decorative pillows from his bed and chucks it at Scorpius, hitting him straight in the nose.
Scorpius falls back onto his mattress from the sheer force, expelling a muffled, "Hmmph!"
Teddy roars with laughter. He is wheezing and gasping for air.
Scorpius grabs the pillow and throws it back, but it hits the side of the bed and flops pathetically onto the floor.
Teddy finally gains enough breath to continue prattling on. "Listen, you. Just try and sleep, alright? Forget Santa Claus - he's not even real. He's some stupid, made up Muggle thing." He raises a brow. "Where'd you hear about him anyways?"
Scorpius sighs, realising that he is destined to repeat himself multiple times tonight. "Daniel Goyle told me about him. He's half-blood, so he knows all about these things."
"Does he?" Teddy lazily raises a brow.
"Yes, as a matter of fact. His mum told him so."
"Right." Teddy does not sound convinced.
"Think about it. It makes perfect sense, really. For one thing, Santa Claus enters people's houses through the chimney! That obviously means he's using the Floo, and these thick Muggles haven't caught on yet."
"Muggles don't have Floos in their chimneys."
Scorpius opens his mouth and inhales deeply, ready to issue a rebuttal; however, he finds that he has no words. He lets out his breath, his chest slowly deflating. In truth, he hadn't considered that Muggles don't have Floos.
When the solution hits him, he raises his brows and smiles. "Well, then he's Apparating!"
Teddy lowers his chin and looks up at him doubtfully.
"And he flies!" Scorpius persists. "How many Muggles do you know who fly?"
"Actually, it's the reindeer that fly..."
"Thestrals," Scorpius interjects with a raised chin. "They must be thestrals. That's why the Muggles have never seen them. Or hippogriffs."
"That doesn't even make sense. Anyone can see thestrals if - "
"And he has elves!" Eyes wide, Scorpius waits for Teddy to react. "Oh, come on! Even you have to admit that it sounds pretty dodgy for a Muggle to be able to do all these things without magic."
"Alright, whatever. Let's imagine that you are correct, shall we? Say that you drag your little arse downstairs at midnight, and you do find a man in a red suit by your tree, and you catch him in the act. Say that happens. Well, what then?"
"Simple. I'm going to demand all the presents in his sack. Well, except the dolls and things..." Scorpius scrunches his nose up just thinking about those girly toys.
"Oh, of course." Teddy nods solemnly.
"And if he doesn't give them to me, I'll tell all the Muggles about his little secret." He thinks for a moment, and he realises that there is actually a problem with the aforementioned plan - the thought of giving up all that praise for exposing Santa does not appeal to him. "Well," he adds, "I'll probably just tell everyone, anyways. But he won't know that!"
Teddy slowly shakes his head. "You know, even if Santa were real, I don't think he'd step foot down your chimney. If he were smart, he'd steer clear of the likes of you, skip right over this house, and go straight to Goyle's."
"He won't, I wrote him a letter."
Teddy raises his eyebrows. "What?"
"A letter. Sent it last week with the owl."
"And does the owl know where he lives?"
Scorpius scoffs. He is getting rather tired of Teddy's thickheadedness. "I addressed it, obviously. Everyone knows Santa Claus lives in the north pole."
Teddy's jaw drops, and he stares at Scorpius with a shocked expression that, frankly, Scorpius does not understand.
"Of course," Scorpius remembers, putting a finger to his lips, "I don't know if he got it. The owl hasn't come back yet with a return note."
Teddy continues to say nothing. Scorpius smiles, amused at the thought that Teddy's face might remain stuck like that forever.
"But I think Santa will most likely come," Scorpius continues. "I made sure to be very nice in the letter, so I don't think he suspects a thing. And I told him we'd have biscuits. Daniel says he loves those."
Teddy seems to finally regain his voice. "You're not a child; you're a little devil."
Scorpius smiles sweetly, looking up at Teddy through his eyelashes.
"Hasn't your dad asked where the owl's been?"
"Oh." Scorpius looks down at his hands, which are resting in his lap. "He knows I wrote him. My dad helped me get all the spelling right."
He remembers being curled up in the armchair with the fire crackling next to them. His dad handed Scorpius a thick, heavy book to place on his lap, on which he laid the parchment. Quill in hand, Scorpius listened to his dad dictate the spelling of the longer words.
"Your dad?" Teddy sounds like he doesn't believe it. "Your dad let you do something Muggle?"
"But Santa is a wizard," Scorpius insists once more, before slouching against the pillows and examining his fingers. "And Dad's been letting me do loads more things since he and Mum split up. I think he feels bad."
A sudden bang from downstairs makes Scorpius jump. He sits up and stares out the door into the hallway.
He lets out the breath he was holding in an exhale full of reverence and awe. Santa Claus!
In a tangle of sheets and blankets, Scorpius scrambles off the bed. He blatantly ignores Teddy calling him back in a loud, urgent whisper. His thick socks slide on the hardwood floor just outside his door, and he stumbles, catching himself on the wall.
Scorpius frowns. That was a close call, and if he had fallen - on his bum, no doubt - the noise would have startled Santa Claus and made him suspicious. No, the best plan of action is certainly stealth.
With softer steps, Scorpius makes his way down the hall as silently as he can. There is a series of louder, stamping steps behind him, and he turns with a glare.
Putting a finger to his mouth, Scorpius attempts to kill Teddy with the force of his mind.
Teddy's palms fly up, and he mouths, "Sorry."
Scorpius narrows his eyes. He doesn't trust that Teddy will actually manage to walk quietly, but starting a verbal argument at the moment will only serve to alert Santa Claus of their proximity. He realises that acquiescence is his only option.
With a roll of his eyes, he turns around and resumes his trip down the hall, making sure to walk on the balls of his feet. He hears Teddy's much heavier steps behind him, but he only sighs to himself and continues on his way; there is no time for stalling.
When he reaches the top of the stairs, Scorpius thinks his heart will pound a hole through his chest. He can hardly breathe with anticipation, and he finds himself scared of what he might encounter downstairs. What if Teddy's right, and there is no Santa Claus? In that case, the banging noise could have been anything from their tree having fallen, to their house-elf having dropped a pot in the kitchen. Or worse yet, what if Santa Claus really is a Muggle? Scorpius frowns at the thought, feeling strangely anxious now that he finds himself on the threshold of the discovery that he had, only minutes ago, been eagerly anticipating.
Scorpius sets his jaw. If Santa Claus really is just a Muggle man in a red suit, then Scorpius will have a thing or two to say to him.
Teddy slides to a halt behind him, and the two of them crouch low against the railing.
"Move down," Teddy whispers, "I can't see. The wall's in the way."
"Alright, I will, give me a second!"
From their vantage point on the top step, a few branches of the Christmas tree are visible, but the fireplace is hidden from view. However, the golden and silver ornaments, hanging among tinsel and enchanted icicles, gleam from the firelight. Scorpius sees movement on their shiny, reflective surfaces - colors and shapes flittering together - indicating that someone is indeed in the drawing room.
He holds his breath. Very carefully, he lowers himself to sit on the step and extends one foot down to the next. Holding firm to the railing, he slides his bum down the step without making any noise.
The fireplace finally comes into view, and Scorpius gasps.
The sight before his eyes is more terrible - more extraordinarily frightening - than he had ever imagined. He could not have predicted such horror. Scorpius doesn't know what to do with himself; his mouth hangs open as he stares at the scene below, speechless and awestruck. Oh yes, he is certainly going to be having words with someone about this.
"Scorpius!" Teddy reprimands. "What is it? What's going on?" He presses against Scorpius' back, pushing him until he slides unceremoniously down to the third step. Teddy climbs down too and has a look. In a breathy exhale, he mutters, "Blimey."
"I can't believe it." Scorpius shakes his head, his breath coming out in harsh pants. "I'm going to kill father."
Apparently, there is indeed a Santa Claus; that fact is certain. Whether or not he is a wizard or a Muggle is still to be determined, because, as it is, Scorpius has no chance of executing the rest of his plan and surprising Santa with an ultimatum. The man in the red jumper covered in soot from his recent trip down the chimney - and whose face Scorpius cannot see, because the man has his back to him - is currently locked at the lips with none other than Scorpius's own father!
Scorpius rips his eyes from his traitorous parent - whom he will most likely disown come morning - to look at Teddy, and he almost snorts when he sees the stupefied look on his face. Teddy's eyes are wide, and his mouth gapes open like a dumb fish.
Scorpius asks, "What the hell does dad think he's doing?"
Teddy does not look at him, only weakly mumbles, "Don't curse."
The words hardly register in Scorpius's frazzled mind. "Trust my dad to ruin the best plan of my life. My one chance at fame and glory, obliterated! All because he wanted a snog. Santa Claus will no doubt forget my presents. Look, he's not even carrying a sack. He's too distracted to remember presents." He sulks. "How dare dad ruin my night?"
"Scorpius," Teddy says slowly, eyes glued to the scene, "that's not Santa Claus."
Scorpius frowns. "What do you mean it's not Santa Claus? Are you blind?" However, Scorpius decides to take a better look, himself.
The man currently holding his father in what looks, even in Scorpius's eyes, like a very tender embrace has untidy dark hair - exactly as if it were mustled in the wind from his having spent the entire night flying through the air in a sleigh. His thick, knit jumper is bright red, and he is wearing black snow boots. In truth, the boots are more grey than black, coated with ash from the fireplace. There is even a trail of soot on the carpet marking the man's path.
The longer Scorpius observes, the more he realises a funny feeling is starting to grow in his chest; like his heart is being clenched tightly. The man is holding his father by the waist with one hand and by the neck with the other, and his father's hands are gripping the man's biceps as if he is holding on for dear life. The shaggy, dark head bobs up and down with the kiss, and Scorpius isn't sure how he feels about seeing his father kiss someone. His chest aches with sadness over the fact that Daddy should be kissing Mommy, and their family should be whole at this time of year. It has only been recently that his parents split, and now here is Father, looking perfectly content in another's arms. In a man's arms, no less, which was something Scorpius did not know how to feel about.
At that moment, something sparks deep in Scorpius' gut, and he feels the beginnings of a smile tug at his lips. The look on his father's face - at least the part that is not hidden behind the dark-haired man - looks peaceful in a way that Scorpius has not seen in quite some time. Scorpius suddenly feels lighter, and he lets his tense muscles relax, leaning forward and resting his forehead between two wooden railings of the bannister.
He exhales. "Teddy?"
"Do you think Santa Claus will forget to drop off my presents?"
There is a lilt of amusement in Teddy's voice that makes Scorpius turn his head.
"Why don't you go down there and exert your plan, hmm?"
Scorpius narrows his eyes at Teddy's smirk. "No, Daddy's down there now. I'll get in trouble for being out of bed."
"You're right." Teddy's features soften as he turns his gaze back to the two men. "And, in all honesty, it would be a shame to disturb them. Harry's been so anxious about this lately..."
"Harry? Harry who? That's Santa Claus down there."
Teddy looks at him with a softly creased brow that strongly reminds Scorpius of pity. "No, Scorpius," he says gently, with a shake of his head. His pink hair flies in all directions.
Scorpius snorts and rolls his eyes. "Well, that just shows how much you know!"
Teddy's eyes widen, and it is then that Scorpius realises just how loudly he has spoken. He freezes, and Teddy freezes next to him, and they both turn their attention swiftly towards the drawing room.
His father is looking in their direction with narrowed eyes and a slight frown - a look that always makes Scorpius' heart race in preparation for a speedy getaway. The strange man still gripping his father's waist turns his head and catches Scorpius' eye - bright, green eyes look into his own, and Scorpius could swear that they twinkle with mirth.
His father begins to pull himself free of the man's grasp. "Scorpius..." he says in a low, warning tone.
When he begins to move toward the stairs, Scorpius jumps. His thick socks slip on the wood, and he stumbles, throwing his arms out to catch himself on the step above.
"Go!" he urges Teddy, pushing himself to his feet.
Teddy lets out a shriek of laughter, sounding much younger than his age, and climbs back up the stairs on all fours. Scorpius follows, his body alive with energy. He can't be caught - his father had warned him not to get out of bed. He will simply have to lie and say that he was nowhere near the stairs, thank you very much, and it must have all been in his dad's imagination. He'd probably stared into the fire too long and ended up seeing shapes and figures that were not there. Yes, good story.
Scorpius reaches his room after Teddy has already darted through the door, and he leaps onto his bed. Even as he bounces on the mattress, he grabs his sheets and lifts them over his body, wrapping himself in the blankets.
He remains perfectly still, holding his breath in order to listen for sounds from outside. He waits for his father's heavy footsteps to climb the stairs, for the top step to creak and warn Scorpius of his proximity. However, he ends up waiting a long time, because the sounds never come.
As he lies there in silence, his eyes shut and his cheeks resting against his pillow, Scorpius feels a welcome sense of warmth sweep up his limbs and through his body. His mind starts to feel heavy, and his thoughts become scrambled and make little sense. Images flash before his mind in no particular order, jumbling together in a colorful mass - his mother giving him a stiff hug before leaving; he and his father decorating the green pine tree that currently graces their drawing room; Teddy's pink hair that was probably splayed over the pillow in the bed next to his; his father's smile and his warm embrace; and finally, the sparkle in Santa Claus' eyes that promised kindness and good things. The last thing Scorpius feels before sleep claims him is a burst of inexplicable happiness, and the thought that he is probably going to get loads of presents in the morning. If not, he is most definitely going to be writing Santa another letter...