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Oikogeneia: Of Curses and Kids

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οικογένεια | (oikogéneia)

From the Ancient Greek οἰκογενής (oikogenḗsborn in the house).

Noun

  1. family
  2. household
  3. kin

*

The night is pitch black and completely still. A substance like smoke trickles from the shattered windows of the abandoned manor house. The three figures crouching against the hedge hardly dare breathe. Their hearts pound with adrenaline, every sinew poised to throw them into action as soon as the moment arrives. 

The smallest of the three, their leader, surveys the scene, then silently beckons to the other two, and they flit from shadow to shadow across the wild bit of lawn, almost invisible, the darkness seeming to cling to them like cloaks. 

There is no lock on the door, in fact it's standing slightly ajar. As the three slip inside, they're careful not to push the door any further open, in case it creaks, and the leader waves to her companions to stay still just inside the door. She draws her wand and directs it silently at the floor, sweeping out towards the rickety staircase. Now, when they move forward, they do so without a single sound. 

From the bottom of the stairs, looking up to the second floor, they can see a film of smoke flowing across the ceiling. There's something unnatural about it, the way it clings up there, like it takes comfort in the crumbling plaster-work and damaged light fittings, like it's afraid to come within reach of the ground. 

The leader assesses the surroundings, then glances at her team. She points to the two of them and gestures upwards, then she points between herself and the corridor leading further into the downstairs. 

They separate, two creeping up the stairs, one stooping low as she darts from cover to cover down the hallway. With every room she comes to, she stands in a safe position by the doorway, checking around, then she darts round the corner, wand out, and makes sure the room is clear. After she's done she closes and locks the door, and marks it with a fiery X. If anyone goes into those rooms once she's cleared them, she'll know immediately. 

She's just finished surveying the kitchen – examining a few specks of blood on the dusty work surfaces before locking and marking the door – when the first sound she's heard since she arrived here rents the air. 

A scream from upstairs. 

She looks up, heart racing. 

The scream dies, and for a moment longer there's pure silence, then chaos reigns.

Running footsteps. Shouted spells. Someone yelling. A high-pitched voice wailing with fear. Bangs and cracks. 

Lights flash through the house, and she sets off sprinting. She runs flat-out down the hall, clatters up the stairs, and straight into the fight. She finds herself duelling two people at once. Somewhere nearby she can hear someone sobbing. The smoke has cleared all of a sudden, like it's been wafted away on the breeze.

The duel moves from room to room, people darting and dodging for cover, blasting away chunks of old plaster and wood. The floorboards explode, leaving a gaping, splintered hole. Two of the team get cornered in a room with a tree outside and a small, trembling shadow of a person curled up in the corner. They ram the door shut, and for a brief moment there's silence. 

Then the door explodes inwards. In the ensuing madness of spells and dust and shouting, weeks of carefully laid plans disintegrate into rubble, and smoke, and shattered glass. 

 

Albus lays his head on Scorpius's chest and closes his eyes. It's one of those rare Sunday mornings where neither of them has to go to work, and they intend to make the most of it. The bed is warm and comfortable. The curtains are open a crack, letting golden sunlight stream down onto them as they lie there in a tangled mess of blankets.

Scorpius strokes Albus's hair, curling it round his fingers. "Don't go back to sleep." 

Albus opens one eye. "Give me a good reason not to." 

"We said we'd go to that bakery down the road for breakfast. Pastries, Albus. Croissants. Custard Crowns. Pain au Chocolat." He tickles Albus's side, and Albus squirm away an inch. "If you go to sleep again we'll never get there." 

Albus groans. "You go. Bring me breakfast in bed." 

"This happens every single time we have a day off," Scorpius complains, ruffling Albus's hair so it sticks up at the back. 

Albus bats his hand away and starts smoothing it down again. "Because we're lazy," he says.

"Because you're lazy," Scorpius counters. "They'll have coffee. I bet they have really good coffee. I bet they have the best coffee in the whole-"

Albus sits up. "Fine." He rubs his eyes and turns to look at Scorpius. "I'm up. Happy now?" 

Scorpius beams. "Definitely. The happiest." He bounces out of bed and starts rummaging through his wardrobe, humming to himself as he does.

Albus gathers the blankets round his waist and admires his husband's body. The long, slim legs that seem to go on for miles, the gentle curve of his back, an ass that is a bit flat and bony but still glorious in its own way, blond hair that's growing out a bit, and falls in soft wisps, curling gently where it meets the base of his neck. He's never going to be the most elegant of people, and even now he sometimes seems surprised by the length of his limbs, but he's rather beautiful when he's like this. During carefree mornings, when they're alone together and he's completely sure and confident in himself. These are the moments when Albus feels most enchanted with him. 

"You know," Scorpius says, comparing two almost identical pairs of dark grey trousers. "We couldn't do this if we had kids."

Albus smiles and stops staring at Scorpius's ass. He leans forward on his hands. "I thought we decided to talk about that another day." 

Scorpius glances round at him. "This is another day. And I'm not saying we should talk about it now, although we could. I was just... Noting some pros and cons. If we had kids they'd be screaming the place down by now." 

"You should write them down," Albus says. "The pros and cons. You should make a list." 

"I already have a list," Scorpius says, turning back to the wardrobe. He picks out one of the two pairs of trousers and pale green t-shirt, and starts getting dressed. "I started it a year ago." 

Albus blinks at him. "You didn't tell me you'd done that." 

"I didn't want you to think I was mad," Scorpius says, pulling the t-shirt over his head. It hangs loose on his frame, and it's the perfect colour for him. Scorpius may not be adventurous in the style of clothes he chooses to wear, but he's brilliant at colours. 

Albus gets out of bed and walks across to him. "I've known you're mad for years, and I love you for it." He plucks his favourite sweater from the wardrobe and throws it onto the bed. "Dare I ask how long this list is?" 

Scorpius shrugs. "A few feet of parchment. It's pinned on the board in my office." 

Albus grins. "Brilliant. Well maybe you should bring it down. We could talk about it properly. You could bring it with us."

"I could," Scorpius says. He picks his wand up from the bedside table and starts waving it over his hair, which immediately goes neat and flat. 

Albus runs a hand through his own hopelessly unruly hair and sighs. "It's a good point though. That we'd never be able to do this. Imagine if they were anything like me and James used to be. The kitchen would be on fire by now and there'd be three broken windows. And you know what?" He wraps an arm round Scorpius's waist and draws him in for a deep kiss. "I quite like having you all to myself."

"Can I add that to the cons list?" Scorpius asks, stroking a bit of hair out of Albus's eyes. 

Albus nods very seriously. "I think you'd better." He pulls back and gestures to Scorpius's perfect hair. "Did your dad teach you that spell? Can you teach me?" 

Scorpius grins. "I could. But it wouldn't help. Your hair is hopeless." He kisses Albus on the cheek and disappears into the bathroom, leaving Albus to glare after him. 

It takes them twenty more minutes to finish getting ready, but eventually Scorpius detaches his list from the board and they go downstairs to start pulling on their coats. There's a five minute delay while Scorpius tries to remember where he put his left shoe, before Albus gets bored of waiting and summons it. It comes zooming out from behind one of the sofas and Scorpius catches it with a sheepish grin. 

"I really don't know how it got there," he says. 

"Neither do I," Albus says. "I don't even think I want to know." 

"At least it wasn't at the bottom of the stairs." 

"I'm very proud of you," Albus says, flopping down on the bottom step to wait while Scorpius finishes putting his shoes on. 

It takes another five minutes before Scorpius finally has both shoes on his feet and they've gathered everything they need. Albus is pretty sure it's a minor miracle that it's taken them only this long to get ready. Two people shouldn't be so difficult to organise. But as they're about to step out of the front door, Albus hears a whoosh and a pop from the living room and freezes. 

He glances at Scorpius, frowning. "Did you hear that? Is someone calling us?" 

Scorpius groans. "I know what's calling us, Albus, it's those delicious pastries. And the coffee. Rich, aromatic coffee. Just the way you like it." 

Albus nods. "I know, but..." he sighs and glances back at the living room door. "Do you think I should just check? It's probably nothing, but what if it's something important?" 

Scorpius groans and leans in the doorway. "Breakfast with your husband is important, Albus. Coffee and pastries are important. Talking about this-" He waves his list, "is important. You having time off is also important. If it's anyone from work, tell them from me that this is your day off and they can take their important business and stick it-" 

Albus steps back and looks through the living room door. He immediately recognises the head in the fire. 

"Dad!" 

Scorpius groans and buries his face in his hands. 

Albus waves a hand at him. "Don't be dramatic. I'll be back in a second." He rushes over to the fire and crouches down. "Dad, is everything okay? Why are you calling? James didn't fall off his broom again, did he?" 

Scorpius walks into the room behind him and hovers, hands in his pockets, waiting. 

"No," Harry says. "James is fine. Everyone's fine. Well... not everyone." He pauses for a moment, and that pause tells Albus everything he needs to know about how serious this is. He looks back at Scorpius, and Scorpius steps up and runs his fingers through Albus's hair. 

"There's an emergency at work," Harry says, voice heavy and serious. "The raid last night... No one came back. We've heard nothing."

Albus stares at him in horror. "Nothing at all? But-" 

"I know. We need to plan what we're going to do next. All of us. I need everyone." He looks up at Scorpius and the bright embers of his eyes dim a little. "I'm really sorry. I know how hard it is for you both to-" 

Scorpius shakes his head and folds his arms, hugging himself. "No, it's fine. I understand. This is important." His voice sounds tight, and Albus's shoulders slump. 

"I'll- I'll come," he says, trying not to sound upset. This could be a dire situation. He's not meant to be reluctant when people's lives are at stake. The whole point of being an Auror is that the safety of the Wizarding World comes before everything else. But some days that's harder to remember than others. 

"Just give me five minutes to change," he says. "Then I'll be there." 

"Thanks," Harry says. "I'll make it up to you both. Dinner, an extra day off, something. But this really isn't good. We need all hands on deck." 

"Of course," Scorpius says, squeezing Albus's shoulder. It makes Albus feel a bit stronger, and he nods. 

"Thank you," Harry says. "I'll see you in a minute, Albus. Scorpius... I'm sorry." And then he's gone. 

Albus stares into the fire, then he slowly turns and looks up at Scorpius. "Of course something would happen today." 

"Of course," Scorpius agrees.

Albus gets up and puts his hands on Scorpius's shoulders, before thinking better of it and cupping his face instead. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

"I know," Scorpius says, and he doesn't sound miserable any more, just purposeful. Solid and strong. Brave. 

Albus hugs him tightly. "I promise I'll be back. I was looking forward to today too, and... I'm so sorry." 

"Work comes first," Scorpius says, hugging him back, then turning his head to give Albus a long kiss. When he pulls back he strokes his fingers through Albus's hair and looks him dead in the eye. "You be safe." 

Albus nods and looks back at him. "I'll be as safe as I can." He strokes his fingers down Scorpius's cheek. "I love you. I love you a lot, and I'll miss you, and-" He shakes his head and kisses Scorpius again. "I'll try to be home in time for lunch. Maybe we can talk about the list then." 

Scorpius snorts. "You'll be lucky." 

"Dinner, then." He looks Scorpius in this eyes. "I will see you. Soon. Very soon. As soon as I can manage."

They share one last lingering kiss, and Albus brushes his fingers through Scorpius's hair. Then he very reluctantly pulls away and goes upstairs to pull his work robes on, all promise of a warm, comfortable day off with his husband already a distant memory. 

 

Albus isn't home in time for dinner. In fact the only time Scorpius hears from him all day is when an unusually ruffled-looking Ministry owl shows up at lunchtime with a note. 

I think it's going to be a late one. I'll try to update later, but it's a bit mad here. I promise I'll be home tonight, or tomorrow. I will see you soon.

I hope you know that I love you very much, 

A x

The note just makes the waiting even worse. Ever since Albus's first days as an Auror he's always, without fail, told Scorpius he loves him very much before going on a raid. Which means that this emergency, whatever it is, has turned into a full blown mission, and Albus is probably going to end up in danger. The prospect never gets less sickening.

Darkness falls outside and Scorpius paces round the kitchen, trying to decide whether he should bother making dinner. When he can no longer stand the pain of his own hunger, he heats up some leftover soup that Albus had made for lunch the other day – Albus is by far the better cook, and Scorpius is constantly grateful for his leftovers – and retreats into his office to read. 

The seconds tick into minutes which slowly ooze away into hours, and there's nothing. Not an owl, or a call, or a Patronus message... Scorpius is half considering going over to the Ministry and demanding to know what's going on. But he resists, because he knows from experience that a raid can last anywhere between half an hour and half a day, or longer if there's reconnaissance needed, or something goes wrong. 

He sits in his chair, puts his reading glasses on, and tries to concentrate on the European Journal of Spell Damage. There's an article about the effects of full-strength Stunning Spells on adolescents, which would normally be a completely fascinating topic, but right now his brain won't focus on it. It's wandering far far away, to where Albus might be duelling to the death with some dark wizard, or being attacked by some creature or other, or he might be trapped, or tortured, or kidnapped, or- 

Scorpius runs his hands through his hair and stares up at the board in front of him. His long list of the pros and cons of children is pinned to it, and right at the top, con number one, the biggest and most important of all, is this. The fact that one day Albus might go out to work and not come home. Because if there's one thing Scorpius knows, it's how awful it is to grow up missing one of your parents, and he doesn't know if he can bring himself to inflict that pain on anyone else.

He buries his face in his hands and takes a deep breath. 

It'll be fine. It's not that late. He would have heard by now if something had happened. Harry would have called back and told him. Or someone from the Ministry. And he's not supposed to worry. He should be used to this by now, after years and years of it. 

He shakes himself and returns to his article. As he reads, skimming the words, none of them penetrating far into his brain, he fiddles with a bit of parchment, rolling it up into a tight scroll, then flattening it out, then rolling it up again, then flattening it out... 

He loses track of time, caught up in the article and the repetitive motion of his fingers on the parchment. Some of his tension evaporates, and he forgets to keep glancing at the clock, or catastrophising. He's so caught up that the knock on the front door makes him jump. 

He glances at the clock and sees it's nearly midnight now. Who would be knocking on the door at midnight? The only person he's expecting is Albus, and he would just let himself in... Unless something terrible really has happened and someone from the Ministry has come to deliver bad news.

Another knock, and Scorpius flies from his seat. He sprints downstairs, almost twisting his ankle on the pair of shoes lying at the bottom. He kicks them aside and hops the rest of the way down the hall, rubbing his ankle and swearing. Still on one foot, he makes an impatient gesture to the door, which unlocks itself and swings open. 

Albus is outside. He's leaning against the porch wall, and it takes Scorpius one look at him to know that something is terribly wrong. He‘s unsteady on his feet. Although he's slumped into the wall he still seems to be swaying, and his eyes are unfocused, like he's been Confunded. He's holding his right arm at an uncomfortable angle, cradled protectively against his chest, and he looks very pale. His robes are torn, and cuts and grazes litter his cheeks. His hair is unruly and grey with dust. 

"Scorpius," he says, voice raspy. He swallows, like trying to talk has hurt him. "I know... I'm not supposed to ask you to heal me anymore, but I-" He swallows again, and blinks several times. His eyes sparkle in the light flooding out through the open door. "I didn't know where to go, o-or-" He closes his eyes, and a couple of tears dribble down his cheeks. 

Scorpius stares at the tears in horror. Albus cries so rarely; he can't remember the last time he saw him do it. Maybe not for years. And he never cries when he's injured. He likes to pretend everything is fine, even when it isn't. So to see him obviously hurt and shaken and crying-

"I-I don't know what happened," Albus says, a sob escaping him, and he bows his head and sags into the wall, all his weight on it. "I wanted you. I-I'm sorry." He dissolves into noisy tears, and Scorpius doesn't know what to do. He stands rooted to the spot, thrown off by the state of Albus, by the tears and the blood and the fear. Albus has always seemed unshakeable. In the worst of situations he always keeps his head, that's why he's an Auror, but now... 

He shakes himself. Whatever he expects of Albus in a situation like this he should have the same expectations of himself. He's a Healer for Merlin's sake. He hasn't trained his whole life to fall apart when his husband needs him. He has to be better than this.

Hands trembling, his pushes himself out of the doorway and walks to Albus. "It's okay," he says gently. He wraps an arm round Albus's waist. "Don't be sorry. I'd rather have you here, where I can look after you." Now he's close up it's like his brain has kicked into gear, and he starts assessing the injuries Albus might have, already running through spells to fix them. His training is taking over, even though his heart feels shot through with fear.

Albus leans against his side. He's shivering, and Scorpius casts a Warming Charm over him without really thinking about it, without even drawing his wand.

"I didn't- didn't want to upset you," Albus sniffs. 

"I know," Scorpius says. "I know. I'm not upset, I promise. Just lean on me, okay? I'm going to take you inside." He waves the door shut behind them once they're in, and helps Albus onto the couch in the living room. There are still tears dribbling down Albus's cheeks, and he curls up as small as he can make himself, a miserable little ball, still protecting his injured arm. 

Scorpius crouches beside him and brushes his fingers through Albus's hair, sending dust swirling into the air. "Can you tell me what happened?" He asks. 

"I-I don't remember," Albus says, and his face screws up as fresh tears overwhelm him. He looks like the scared little boy he used to be when he was bullied in school and didn't know what to do about it. He'd never deliberately let anyone see him like this, full of fear and desperation, lost and lonely.

"That's alright," Scorpius says, trying to set aside his newly emerging fear that Albus's mind might be badly damaged. It's never good when someone doesn't remember anything at all. 

He draws his wand. "Don't worry about that for now. I can help with that in a minute. First, can I see your arm?" 

Albus holds it out, wincing, and Scorpius very gently takes hold of his wrist, fingers light, doing his utmost not to make it hurt anymore than it already does. A sweep of his wand shows him the arm is broken, but not badly. It's the work of a moment to repair it, and Albus relaxes straight away. The tension melts from his shoulders and he looks a lot more comfortable.

"Thank you," he whispers, flexing his fingers, before hugging the arm back to his chest.

"Is there anything else that hurts?" Scorpius asks, already casting diagnostic spells over Albus. 

"My chest," Albus says, looking up at Scorpius. He already looks less like he's lost. There's trust in his eyes, and Scorpius feels a simultaneous sense of gratitude and pressure from it. "And my head. I-I don't think... I don't think anything else is broken." 

Scorpius nods. "I'll have a look. Try to stay still for a bit, alright?" 

The diagnostic spells create a shadowy, almost smoke-like image of Albus that hangs in the air. Scorpius is glad he didn't have time to take his reading glasses off, because he doesn't have to squint when he looks up at it. He casts the first three diagnostic spells at once, and they overlay, so he can read that there's no more damage to Albus's bones, that his soft tissues and organs are unhurt, but that his skin is covered in tiny cuts and bruises. He can heal those in a second, they won't be hard. A casual flick of his wand dismisses the first three spells and summons up the fourth, which is the most worrying yet. 

It shows the delicate web of the nervous system, fanning out through Albus's body from his brain. While all the nerves are fine, there's something off about his brain. Scorpius can't put his finger on it yet, but he guesses it must be something to do with the Confundus that Albus has clearly been hit with. Or it could be something worse...

Scorpius swallows and dismisses the spell. Ignoring the fifth layer of spell work, the one which shows emotional aura, he conjures up the sixth and seventh layers – the ones that show magical effects on the body, both minor and major – at the same time. They twist together, and as they intermingle, the damage they show sends shadows across the room. 

There's a bright glow, like a halo around the area of Albus's head, which confirms the Confundus Charm Scorpius had suspected. The rest of his body is lit up with bits and pieces of minor spell damage, but nothing which won't fade away on its own soon with a bit of rest and time. 

The major spell damage is what makes Scorpius's heart turn to ice. There’s a pair of curses, which radiate out from two points, one in Albus's head, one over his heart. A pair of dark, festering masses, that Scorpius knows will be incredibly difficult to unknot even once they've figured out where to start. They're not a shape or quality he recognises. He knows a lot about curses, and the common ones all have a character he knows intimately. If he's never seen them before that means they're either very very old, or completely new, and he has no idea how to counter them. The only upside is that he can tell they aren't spreading. 

Scorpius waves his hand to dismiss the spells. The shadowy replica of Albus disintegrates, and the room lightens. 

"Those black bits..." Albus says, voice trembling. He's gazing up at the spot where the diagram had been, and he sounds on the verge of tears again. 

Scorpius strokes a bit of hair off his forehead. "They're curses, bad ones, but I promise they aren't getting worse, and you know what?" He gives Albus an encouraging smile. "You've come to the right place to get them sorted out. I'm quite good at my job." He leans down and kisses Albus lightly on the forehead. 

Albus closes his eyes. "I want to go to sleep." 

Scorpius strokes his cheek. "Hold on for a bit longer, okay? There are a couple of things I need to know."

"But I can't rem-" Albus starts.

"I know," Scorpius says soothingly. "I know. But I need to know if anyone knows where you are. Did you go back to work? Does your dad know where you are?"

Albus's eyes flutter closed again, and he shakes his head. "I wanted to see you."

"Alright," Scorpius says. "And were you with anyone? Would they have checked in?"

"They..." Albus swallows. "I think they're dead." He doesn't open his eyes, and he curls in tighter on himself. Scorpius rubs Albus’s arm and struggles to keep his emotions in check. 

"Okay. That's okay." He looks down at Albus's small, battered body, and desperately wants to hug him, but he resists. Albus doesn't need that right now. He needs rest, peace and quiet, and his own space. And there are things Scorpius needs to do. 

"Albus?" He asks, brushing his fingers through his husband's hair. Albus's eyes flicker open then closed. "Is it okay if I put a spell on you? It won't hurt. It’ll put you into a really good sleep for a few hours, no dreams or anything, and hopefully when you wake up some of the spells will have worn off and you'll feel better. You might even be able to remember a little bit more. It'll help you rest. Is that okay with you?" 

Albus's eyes flicker open one final time, and he looks up at Scorpius, the emerald light in them dull and exhausted. "Yes please," he breathes, barely audible, but the words are full of relief. 

Scorpius kisses him on the cheek. "Alright. Sleep well, sweetheart." He waves his wand in a sinuous curve over Albus's body, and a substance like silver rain shimmers and sparkles through the air. As it falls, Albus relaxes completely. His body uncurls a bit and goes limp. His eyes close, and all the lines of fear and worry melt from his face. 

Scorpius watches until Albus is completely still, then he gets to his feet and points his wand into the air, all business. He thinks of Albus on their wedding day – beaming and dancing, full of life and energy and joy – and says, "Expecto Patronum".

A silver swallow soars out and darts around the room, filling it with a sudden warmth. It alights briefly on Albus's chest. Some of the light seems to sink into him, and he stirs for a moment before falling quiet again. The swallow takes flight once more, and Scorpius turns on the spot, following its movement.

"I need you to take this message to Harry Potter: 'Albus thinks his team are dead, but he's with me. He's alive, he’s safe, and I'm looking after him. Please don't worry.' That's all. Thank you." 

The swallow swoops once in a long loop around Scorpius's head, wings brushing his hair, making him feel lighter and more hopeful, then it darts away and vanishes into thin air. 

Once it's gone the room feels very dark and a lot colder. The fire crackling in the grate seems to have less of an effect, and Scorpius shivers. He waves his wand in a large circle, pointing out into every corner. A Warming Charm falls over the whole room, bathing Scorpius in a gentle heat that settles into him, making his fingers and toes tingle, percolating into his veins and bones, all the way to his heart. 

Feeling considerably better, he kneels down beside the couch and starts inspecting some of Albus's cuts and grazes. They aren't contaminated with anything magical, and they aren't serious. It looks like he's been scratched by tree branches or something. Scorpius summons hot water from the kitchen and cleans the exposed ones by hand, then casts a spell to clean and heal all the rest. Finally he tucks Albus under a blanket, and sits cross-legged on the floor looking up at him. 

In the silence and stillness the magnitude of everything that's happened sinks in. People might be dead. Albus is injured. Whatever he was involved in seems to have gone very wrong, and it was already an emergency even before he got involved. This is really bad. Scorpius doesn't even know if Harry is okay. The entire Auror department could be wiped out. 

He feels a small pang of fear at that. Harry has always been so strong and dependable, a hero, able to survive anything. These days Scorpius sees him almost as a second dad, someone he can talk to, look up to, someone who's on his side where Albus is concerned. But he can't think about that. He can't worry about Harry now. 

He pushes the fear aside and tries to focus. Albus is here. Albus, at least, is safe. There's nothing else he should worry about, because nothing else is under his control. Albus's health is in his hands, and it's the only thing he can have an effect on. So now he needs to take this opportunity to get a head start. He knows from bitter experience that usually the quicker a curse is dealt with, the better the long term outcome. 

Flooded with determination, he raises his wand and starts summoning books down from his office. They stack up on either side of him, medical textbooks, indexes and encyclopaedias full of old and new curses, journals and research books, old tomes that are half falling apart and talk about the most ancient and dangerous spells... He plucks one of his favourite books out of the air and flicks his wand, conjuring up the image of Albus's body, with the two curses coiling dark and dangerous in his heart and head. 

They really aren't like anything he's seen before. The one in Albus's head looks almost like a Memory Charm, and that would fit with him not remembering what happened to him. But there's no curse that will modify someone's memory that Scorpius knows of. He frowns and starts riffling through the book he's holding, searching for curses and counter-curses, little bits of history and theory, anything that will help him. 

He's buried so deep in his research that he almost misses the telltale rush of wind and roar of flames that indicates an imminent arrival by Floo. It's only when the flames in the fireplace crackle and spit and flood the room with green light that he looks up. 

Harry comes tumbling out of the fireplace in a flurry of ash and dust. He's wearing his work suit, but it's all torn up, and there's a nasty looking burn mark on one of the sleeves. Half his face is swollen up and red, a Stinging Hex most likely, and there's a long cut across his other cheek. His glasses are askew, his hair a mess, and he looks wild and desperate. 

"Albus is here?" He asks, breathless. "I need to see him. I need to know he's safe."

Scorpius picks himself up off the floor and walks toward Harry. "Harry! What happened? Are you okay? Your face looks-"

"Let me see my son!" Harry roars, voice suddenly tight and on edge, like he's about to fracture into pieces, and Albus is the only thing that can possibly hold him together.

Scorpius steps aside immediately. "He's fine," he says. "He's alive. Most of his injuries are-"

"Why's he so still?" Harry demands, falling to his knees next to Albus and taking his hand to check for a pulse. "He's alive." He looks up at Scorpius, determined and demanding. Full of purpose. "Tell me why he isn't awake." 

Scorpius kneels beside his father-in-law. "I've put him into an enchanted sleep. He'll rest for around twelve hours." He looks at Harry. "He was Confunded, and he's been cursed. One in his chest and one in his head. He didn't remember anything. Sleeping will help him heal." He gestures to Harry's face. "Can I please have a look at-" 

Harry brushes him away. "It's fine. It's nothing. You said Albus has been cursed? What was it? The Cruciatus, or-or something worse?" 

Scorpius shakes his head. "I don't know. It's not something I recognise. It looks like an Obliviate or something, but I don't know. That's not a curse, and whatever is wrong with Albus is definitely a curse. I was just looking it up when you arrived." He raises his wand. "Harry, can I please check you aren't hurt? Albus would never forgive me if I-" 

Harry brushes away a trickle of blood from his cut. "It's just a scratch. It isn't important. It-" He looks back at Albus and reaches out to stroke his hair, fingers trembling. "I-I've been waiting for more than an an hour..." He says, voice choking up as a dozen different emotions seem to overwhelm him. "Just sitting there. I didn't know if- if he was alive. Where he was. I was just waiting." He shakes his head and swallows, looking down at his hands. 

"I'm going to make you some tea," Scorpius says after a moment. "It's been a difficult evening." He gets up and walks round the breakfast bar, into the kitchen. 

Harry doesn't follow. While Scorpius sets the water boiling and searches for the chamomile tea, Harry stays kneeling by Albus's side. "We all got split up," he says. "I got pinned down, people were duelling us, and we had to run. But Albus got past. He's small, people don't notice him, and I'm-" He gestures helplessly. "I suppose I'm a good target." 

He hovers his hand over Albus's head, like he wants to stroke his hair but doesn't dare touch him. "But then we didn't hear anything. We got back to the Ministry, and we were all going to meet up there, but Albus's team didn't come. I started to think that- That he might-"

Scorpius nods. "I know." 

"But he's fine," Harry says, drawing in a deep breath and taking Albus's hand. "He's safe."

"He's good at looking after himself," Scorpius says, pouring the boiling water into mugs and levitating them out to where Harry is sitting.

Harry nods and takes one of the mugs. Scorpius sits beside him and they lapse into silence for a bit, broken only by the crackle and pop of the logs in the fire, and Albus's quiet, steady breathing. 

"Does Ginny know the two of you are safe?" Scorpius asks after a little while. 

"I messaged her before I came here," Harry says, taking a sip of his tea. "I hope she's gone to bed." 

Scorpius turns his mug round in his hands, letting it warm his fingers. He's almost certain Ginny will be awake, waiting for Harry to get back. It's what he would be doing if this were the other way round. 

"So these- these curses," Harry says, gesturing between Albus's chest and head. "They might be new? They might be something we haven't seen before?"

"Well," Scorpius says, taking a breath. "They could be something very old, but since this isn't a legacy case, you know, where the curse has been inherited, I'd say from experience that this is something new. Most likely, whoever you were fighting has developed it themselves. That means there likely isn't a counter-curse, so we'll have to create our own. It looks like a complicated one."

Harry nods. "We'll need to get a team working on that," he says, half to himself. 

Scorpius glances at him. "I want to do it." 

Harry frowns. "I don't know if I can do that, Scorpius. I can't just interfere at the hospital. I'll have to ask one of the team leaders, or-" 

"I'm a team leader," Scorpius says, "and I'm volunteering. You don't even have to ask."

"You're- you're a team leader now?" Harry blinks at him, apparently stunned by the news. "Albus didn't mention-" 

"I was promoted last month," Scorpius says, unable to keep the pride out of his voice. "I asked him not to tell anyone because I didn't want to brag." He looks Harry dead in the eye, full of determined certainty. He will take this case no matter how much convincing he has to do. "I'm one of the youngest ever, but no less competent than anyone else. My spell theory is excellent, and I'm very good at testing curses and working out what they do. I'm-"

"You don't need to tell me how good you are," Harry says, smiling. "I hear it from Albus often enough."

Scorpius nods and tucks a bit of hair behind his ear, cheeks heating up a bit. "Of course. I just thought... Well, he's your son. You should know he's going to be in safe hands." 

"He's your husband," Harry points out. "I'm sure you're keen to take good care of him. Anyway," he digs his hands into his pockets. "This isn't just about Albus. He's important, but it's the whole department. It's everyone." He looks up at Scorpius. "We've lost five people in the last two days. I don't know how those curses are connected – if they are connected at all – but we need to know how to fix them, in case anyone else gets hurt. And maybe Albus remembering things about what happened... It might help."

He runs a hand through his hair and looks at Scorpius. "If you're going to work with us I might as well fill you in now." He takes a breath. "There's a house, and it should just have a couple of former-Death Eaters in. It shouldn't have been too difficult to deal with. But Albus is the only one who's been in there and survived, and we need to know why. He knows what we’re facing, so we need him healed. It's of the utmost importance, but I have complete faith in you." 

"I understand," Scorpius says, drawing himself up straight. "I won't let you down." 

Harry nods. He runs a hand over Albus's shoulder, then sighs and gets to his feet. "Well, it's getting late, and you probably want to take care of Albus. I need to go home and update Ginny anyway..." He glances down at Albus. "Will you take him to St Mungo's tomorrow?" 

"In the afternoon, once he's woken up." Scorpius stands up as well. "He shouldn't need to stay long, we just need to do a few tests." 

"I'll meet you at the hospital in the afternoon then," Harry says, already halfway to the fireplace.

"Wait," Scorpius calls, rushing after him. "I'm not letting you go home looking like that. Ginny doesn't need to see you this way." He gestures to Harry's still swollen and bleeding face. "Let me heal it, please?" 

Harry considers for a moment. "Fine. It would be nice for it to stop hurting I suppose..."

Scorpius waves his wand over Harry. The cut seals up, the swelling dies down, and Harry gives his cheek an experimental prod. 

"Better," he says. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," Scorpius says. 

Harry takes some Floo Powder from the pot on the mantelpiece and tosses it into the fire. "See you tomorrow then. Take good care of him. And don't stay up all night with those books. I'd suggest you get some rest now. While you can." He gives Scorpius a grim smile, then steps into the fireplace and disappears from sight, leaving Scorpius and Albus entirely alone.