The feet of a thousand elephants pounded through his head: thump, thump, thump, thump. Over and over like a stampede running rampage through a deserted landscape. He slowly opened his eyes, only to be met with a distinct darkness surrounding him. He took a deep breath through the pain, reaching his hand up to his head and wincing. He’d found the source of his headache – an open gash on the back of his head.
Scorpius tried to ignore the pounding and instead swallow his panic to look for his wand. Where was he? He was supposed to be at a safe house. This certainly didn’t feel like a safe house.
He came up empty on his wand. He knew he’d left with it, it was in his pocket where he always kept it. He blindly searched around the dark room, his eyes only adjusting slightly to the unnecessary blackness. He came up empty. No wand. Not even his bag. Nothing.
He was completely alone.
Finally relenting to the panic soaring through his veins, his beating heart now matching the pounding in his head, Scorpius blindly stood and frantically searched the room for a door. All rooms have doors. There must be one somewhere.
“Is Draco nice? He always scared me a little,” Lily said as they approached the front door of Malfoy Manor. Albus would love to say that Draco was a lovely person, but he was a little scared of him himself. Not because he was scary per se, but more because he was intimidating. Draco loved Scorpius more than anything, there was a fierceness to it, and if Scorpius was in danger, then Albus would hate to see the state his father would be in.
Albus squeezed her hand. “I’ve only met him a couple of times,” he said, pathetically avoiding the question. Lily shot him a look. “Fine, he’s… intense.”
James smirked, “way to help calm us, Al.”
“Hey, I’m probably more scared than any of you. That’s my best friend’s dad who is potentially dealing with a… with a… m-missing…” Albus trailed off, the lump in his throat making it difficult to speak.
“He’ll be okay, Albus,” James assured, sending his younger brother a small smile. “Scorpius is the bravest person I’ve ever met.”
It was true. Scorpius was incredibly brave. He faced everyday with a smile on his face even when he wanted to cry. That’s the beauty of his bravery. And his smile was captivating. A bright, enchanting view, especially when combined with a laugh that was like music. His best friend was beautiful. That smile never failed to light up his eyes, a spark appearing inside grey orbs. No, not grey. Grey was a too dull adjective to describe such a twinkle. Silver, but even that never did them justice. Alive; that’s better. They were alive, swirls of smoke mixing with the soft flow of the ocean blue toward the centre, always full of happiness. Always full of light.
His heart dropped: what if he never got to see those eyes again?
He barely heard James knock the large, brooding door using the golden metal knocker. He never heard the door open either, so when someone that wasn’t his siblings said his name, it made Albus jump.
“Albus?” Draco said, his voice surprisingly small.
“Mr. Malfoy – Draco, sir – er, hi,” he finished, lamely.
Draco seemed to recover from his previous surprise and drawled, “three mini Potters show up on my doorstep, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
Albus somehow managed to find his voice properly. “I’m worried about Scorpius, sir. Is he here?
Draco faltered in his façade. “Scorpius? No. He’s not.” Draco went to slam the door, but Albus stepped forward quickly, stopping it with his shoulder.
“Mr. Malfoy, please. If he’s not here then where is he?” Albus begged, pushing his shoulder against Draco’s force on the other side. “I’m worried he’s in danger. Tell me he’s safe.”
“He’s…” Draco stopped pushing on the door, opening it instead causing Albus to stumble in and fall over. James and Lily took that as an invitation to enter as well. James held Lily’s hand whilst she looked at the grand entrance in awe. Lily had a strange obsession with old and large houses.
Draco disappeared into the kitchen, gesturing vaguely for them all the follow. Albus did, hearing James whisper, “don’t touch anything,” to Lily before dragging her after them. Albus was beginning to get frustrated at Draco for not cutting to the chase. The longer he kept him waiting, the more worried about Scorpius he became.
In the kitchen, Draco had put the kettle on. Albus clenched his fists, trying to keep himself calm. “Mr. Malfoy?”
“Do your parents know you’re here?” He asked, fumbling in the cupboards.
“Mr. Malfoy?” Albus said again, louder.
“They’ll be worried you kn-”
“Mr. Malfoy. With all due respect, can you please tell me where the fuck Scorpius is?” James appeared next to Albus, placing a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to calm him.
Draco paused, looking anywhere but Albus. “I don’t know. That’s the truth.”
“You… you don’t know?”
If Draco didn’t know, then that couldn’t be good. Draco Malfoy was a lot of things, but he was a dad before anything. Albus had never seen anyone love their son as fiercely as Draco loved Scorpius. All he ever wanted was for him to be happy, even if he struggled to show that sometimes. So then where the hell was Scorpius? And why didn’t Draco know where he was?
“It’s complicated,” Draco sighed.
“I can’t tell you.”
“BULLSHIT!” Albus screamed, finally losing his budding temper. “He is my best friend, I deserve to know what’s going on? How can you and my parents and everyone just expect me to go back to school, expect me to believe that everything is okay when I know he’s not. How am I supposed to live a normal life when my best friend – the boy that I… that I…” he looked to James and Lily, deciding to swallow his pride. “… that I love. The boy that I love with every ounce of my being… is missing. If you don’t know where he is, then he’s missing. I can’t just pretend that everything is okay.”
Silence rang throughout the manor, suffocating them all. Albus fiddled with his fingers, looking at Lily and only Lily. Her face was one of sorrow and love, pure sympathy for her older brother who was clearly hurting. Albus was slightly worried for James’ reaction, until James squeezed his shoulder and sent him a reassuring smile and Albus knew his siblings would always be there for him.
Draco was looking at a picture frame on the kitchen table, tears welling in his eyes. “You didn’t hear this from me, but Scorpius’ life has been threatened. There’s talk of a rise of Death Eaters attempting to bring back Voldemort’s legacy. They either want Scorpius on their side or not at all. He’s gone into hiding under the protection of some people I know, but I wasn’t allowed to know where in case they questioned me.”
Albus took a moment to take all this information in. Death Eaters, coming back, wanting Scorpius, Voldemort’s legacy. All of it was too damn much. Scorpius could be in a lot of danger and he wasn’t there to protect him. That was something he vowed to do all the time.
When they were eleven and starting school for the first time, he and Scorpius met on the train after Scorpius stumbled into his compartment sporting a bruising eye and a bloody nose. He begged Albus to help him, to hide him before they found him again. Albus didn’t even hesitate to help. He threw his school cloak over Scorpius – who was only a tiny boy at the time – and had him sit on the compartment seat as though he was a bundle of Albus’ bags. Albus pretended to read whilst the boys who had assaulted him ran past, only briefly checking the compartment.
Following that, Albus locked the compartment door and closed the curtain. Scorpius thanked him softly, apologising for getting blood from his nose everywhere. Albus told him it was fine and dug deep for some tissues his mum had packed in his backpack. He helped clean Scorpius up the best he could and once the adrenaline settled and Scorpius burst into tears, Albus just held him until he stopped.
They’d been inseparable ever since. They were sorted into Slytherin together and had shared a dorm since that very first night. They were both bullied, but Scorpius seemed to get the brunt of the taunts. Albus became his bodyguard of sorts, protecting him in the best way he could. He’d promised him one morning in their third year after a group of students had locked him in a broom cupboard for the evening and took his wand. He was found by the Slytherin Quidditch captain before they all started training and trudged back up to the dorm, hungry, exhausted and on the verge of a breakdown.
“Scorpius?” Albus said as he entered the dorm, clothing slightly torn and damp. “Where have you been, I’ve been worried sick!” He continued, running over to him and checking him over. There were a couple of cuts across his lip and cheek, arms scratched like he’d been struggling. Albus assumed he was in the library and fell asleep before he came back, but when he woke in the middle of the night and Scorpius hadn’t returned, the worry truly settled in.
“I- I’m done, Albus,” he whimpered, clearly talking around the lump in his throat. “They win. I’m done.” He pulled off his robe and dumped it by his bed – a sure sign that he was exasperated, he always folded his clothes.
“What happened?” Albus said, following him over to his bed. It was a Saturday, so there were no classes, though the two were supposed to be hitting up Hogsmeade for the first time. Scorpius stripped off the rest of his clothes and changed into pyjamas before crawling underneath the covers.
“Fifth-years, Gryffindors,” he murmured. “They cornered me and forced me out to the Quidditch grounds. Then they -” he took a deep breath, “they h-hit me whilst one of them held me back, kept drenching me with the Augamenti spell and then they stole my wand and locked me in the broom cupboard.” Another sob broke out before he buried his head in his pillow. “I want my mum,” he whimpered.
That was the worst thing that could have left his mouth, because his mum had died that summer.
Albus, unsure on how else to help, just simply climbed into his bed and hugged him tight, whispering over and over that he’ll never let anyone hurt him again. That wasn’t particularly strange for them, they’d always had a closer-than-normal friendship. Scorpius cried until he fell asleep, and Albus stayed the entire time, just making sure he was okay and safe.
“What could they possibly want with Scorpius?” James asked, bringing Albus from his reverie. It’s a good job he brought James along, he would ask the important questions.
“He’s powerful,” Albus answered for Draco.
“Powerful?” Lily asked.
“He’s the best wizard in the school. He was doing wandless magic our fifth-year. He’s top of his class in every subject and he has ties to dark wizards whether he likes it or not. If I was raising an army of Death Eaters, I’d want Scorpius on my side too,” Albus explained, whilst Draco nodded along.
James seemed to agree too. “Not to mention his close ties to you, Albus.” Albus sent him a confused look. “Being a Potter and all.” Albus nodded in realisation.
Lily stepped forward, “so Scorpius could be in real danger?” There was a quiver in her voice that told Albus she really cared for him. Albus already knew his siblings liked him, but he never thought they cared for him.
“Who’s they?” James asked, once again asking the important questions. There was a reason he followed in their dad’s footsteps as an Auror.
Draco shrugged. “Could be any former Death Eater or ally. My best guess is the Carrows, maybe the Rowles, but it’s all very uncertain.”
“Mum has horror stories about the Carrows,” Lily said.
“As does uncle Neville,” Albus recalled, remembering the one evening his Godfather babysat them when they were younger and begged for a horror story. It was later revealed that horror ‘story’ was more than a piece of fiction.
Draco began shooing them all out of the kitchen. “Anyway, you must go. Scorpius, I’m sure, is completely safe where he is.”
“Wait, wait, wait, Draco?” Albus said as he was ushered away. “Aren’t you going to help?”
“No, and I suggest you all go home. Intruding in this could get you all killed, or worse, it could get my son killed.”
With that, Draco promptly shut the door on them.
Lily slumped on the doorstep, defeatedly huffing and putting her chin in her hands. “Now what?”
“We need to get out of here,” James said, grabbing both their hands and pulling them down the driveway and out of the grounds. Once out, he apparated them to Diagon Alley. Albus resisted the urge to make a sarcastic comment along the lines of ‘great choice, James, they definitely won’t find us here,’ when James took them through the Leaky Cauldron and out onto the muggle side.
It was starting to get a little dark and Lily kept moaning about being hungry as they walked side by side, never letting go of each other’s hands. James said they’d find a takeaway and a cheap place to stay for the night. The problem is they were in London and that wasn’t usually cheap.
They picked up some food for them at a grungy-looking takeaway and then James was leading them down some backstreets to get out of the busier side of London. Albus assumed he knew where he was going and was proved correct when he stopped outside a flat.
“James?” Albus asked, looking it up and down. “This isn’t a hotel.”
“It’s better, and we don’t have to pay.” James pressed a button on the side and two seconds later, the door opened with a buzz. James let Lily and Albus in first, gesturing to the grimy staircase. It didn’t look like a place anyone should really live, but Albus trusted James.
Three floors later, they came to a stop outside one of the apartments and James knocked on the door. There was a while before the door opened, in which Lily opened the takeaway bag and started eating some of the chips before Albus swatted at her hand.
“Teddy!” James exclaimed when the door swung open, engulfing their godbrother in a hug. Lily squealed and hugged him next, however, Albus directed his daggers at James.
“You brought us to Teddy’s?” Albus deadpanned. James rolled his eyes, grabbing his brother and pulling him inside.
“Relax, Al,” Teddy said, “I won’t tell Harry where you are.”
“Isn’t this your old place, Ted?” Lily asked, sitting on the sofa and pulling her food out the bag. James joined her, clearly starving too. Albus, even though he wanted to stand his ground, caved when the smell of takeaway flooded his nostrils. He had to eat too.
“Yeah, my friend lives here now but she’s away so I’m looking after the place until she’s back. Vic’s not happy, but we both needed a little space.”
“Trouble in paradise?” James asked, smirking slightly.
“We’re fine, Jamie.” Teddy looked at Albus and frowned. “So, what’s going on? You look like you’ve seen a ghost, Al.”
“A ghost would be so much easier to explain,” he muttered, reaching for his drink.
“What was that?”
“Nothing. I can’t explain right now.”
“Should I be worried?” The three Potter’s exchanged a glance. Teddy caught on before any of them could respond. “I guess that’s a yes, then.”
It was Lily who decided to explain, finishing her food in record time before diving into a brief run-through of the past few hours. Hours. How has it merely been hours since Albus had received the letter that destroyed his entire world. Hours since the letter that both confessed Scorpius’ love for him and suggested he was in danger at the same time.
Albus, suddenly nauseous, offered the last of his food to Teddy who took it gratefully. He pulled his legs up onto the sofa and wrapped his arms around them. Scorpius would often sit like this. It seemed near impossible with his long limbs, yet he somehow always managed to get himself into the smallest ball. It was rather sad to see such a bright spark fade so quickly. To see someone as brave and kind revert to a sad, lonely boy.
Albus needed a distraction, something to stop his thoughts bordering on dangerous. He would get carried away, picturing Scorpius dead somewhere if he let himself think too much. He placed his hand on his necklace, feeling the gentle thump of Scorpius’ heartbeat vibrate through him, but for the first time ever it didn’t calm him. Just because he was alive, it didn’t mean he was safe.
“Can I shower?” Albus asked, suddenly cutting off the banter between his other siblings.
“Sure, just down the hall.”
Albus dived up, picking his bag up and practically racing through the hall. Once in the bathroom, he locked the door and turned the shower on, stripping down and getting in as fast as possible. He cranked the dial up to full heat, letting it scold his back and letting the pain take over his dangerous thoughts. He kept his hand on the necklace, feeling Scorpius’ heartbeat against the sear on his back.
When he’d stopped picturing the awful state his best friend could be in, he turned the shower down, cooling his back whilst doing so. The small relief was enough for now, but Albus knew it could get worse. He’d drifted down that path once before and Scorpius was there to pull him back on track… but now he wasn’t.
Albus had to remind himself that Scorpius wasn’t dead – he had a heartbeat to prove it – and that heartbeat had to be his anchor. He couldn’t afford to lose himself before he found Scorpius.
When he returned to the living room, Lily was fast asleep curled up on the armchair. James was still up but Teddy had also gone to bed. James was sat on a blow-up mattress and he gestured to the other sofa for Albus to sleep on, which had been set up with pillows and a couple of blankets.
“Are you okay, Albus?” James asked. “For real?”
Albus didn’t want to lie to his brother. He was so good to him when Albus first spiralled down a path of darkness and depression. “No,” he admitted. “Not really. But, let’s find Scorpius and then we can worry about me.”
James slightly smiled. “Be brave, little brother,” was all he said, flicking the flights off with his wand once Albus was settled.
He didn’t sleep. He knew he should, and maybe he caught a few hours, but mostly his thoughts were clouded with his best friend and the knowledge he was in danger. They had to find him. Scorpius’ life depended on it.