Scorpius Malfoy lay on his neatly-made bed, hands folded behind his head, staring glumly at the ceiling. It had been three days, twenty-two hours, and twelve minutes since he had said goodbye to Albus Potter on Platform 9 3/4. Scorpius sighed. He was so used to being with Albus that he did not know what to do with himself when he was alone. At school, he turned to his best friend dozens of times a day, saying whatever was in his heart or on his mind. At home, he could only scratch down words on parchment, then wait two days for a reply.
Scorpius turned on his side with a sigh.
It had been bad enough in summers past, when he had only missed talking and laughing with Albus. Now that he missed kissing and touching him, too, it was almost unbearable. He could not even write to him at the moment. Albus's exhausted owl, Martha, had departed with a letter that morning, and would probably need at least a day to rest before she could make the return journey with Albus's reply. His father's owl, too, was out, delivering a letter to a correspondent on the continent, and might not be back for days. Anyway, there was nothing Scorpius could say to Albus that he had not said already.
I'm so bored. I miss you. I love you. I haven't told Dad yet...
Reaching under his pillow, Scorpius found the two letters he had received so far from Albus, and read them over for the dozenth time. Even though he already had them almost memorised, Scorpius smiled, hearing his friend's voice in the words.
You are not going to believe what just happened! My dad came into my room while I was unpacking, and he wanted to talk about gay sex ! How to, you know, Do It safely and all that. I've never been so embarrassed! I kept wishing the floor would open up and swallow me.
I was like 'what do you even know about it, Dad?' And (you're really not going to believe this) MY DAD IS QUEER! He used to have a boyfriend! He wouldn't say who it was, but Mum knows and is OK with it. So they are both completely OK with us dating and doing Other Things. (I might have accidentally told Dad about that. Oops.)
Dad made me promise to tell you about all the sex stuff, but it's kind of a lot to cover in a letter. At least you won't have to suffer through my dad explaining how to do it up the arse. With hand gestures! Oh, Merlin! I'm getting embarrassed again just thinking about it.
Have you told your dad yet? Not about Doing It, obviously. About us. Did he take it all right? I hope so. Let me know how it went.
I miss you so much. I know it's only been a few hours, but it already feels like forever since I saw you. It's too quiet without you here. I keep almost saying things out loud because I'm so used to you being right there. It's going to take me a while to get used to being by myself again (if I ever do). It's hard to believe how far apart we are now, after how close together we were when we woke up this morning.
I don't know how to say goodbye here. So maybe I'll just say I LOVE YOU instead.
Every last bit of my love,
P.S., Don't tell your dad about my dad being queer. He doesn't really want people outside the family to know. He said it was OK to tell you, though.
P.P.S., I really, really, really, REALLY miss you.
P.P.P.S., Come visit soon.
Downstairs, the front door closed. Scorpius quickly stuffed the letters under his pillow again, stomach coiling into knots. His father was home from work.
You're going to have to tell him sooner or later, whispered the voice in the back of his mind that sounded like his mother.
"Later," Scorpius muttered, feeling guilty.
He knew Albus would be disappointed that, four days after coming home, he had still not come out to his father, but the time never felt right. How did one go about telling someone something that big and that personal, if one was not used to telling that person personal things at all? If his mother were still alive, Scorpius could have told her. They had talked about everything. If she were there, telling his father might have been easier.
"Scorpius?" Draco Malfoy called from the foot of the stairs. "Are you home?"
"I'll have supper ready in a bit."
When his father called him down, Scorpius came to the table reluctantly. His father was not a bad cook, but Scorpius was not hungry. Tension sat like a rock in his belly, and wove a tight web across his shoulders. He ate a few bites, then stared gloomily at his plate.
"Did you do anything today?" Draco asked.
Scorpius shrugged. "Read for a bit. Took a nap."
His father frowned. "You know, if you're not doing anything during the day, you could make supper. You're sixteen years old. You should be able to prepare a meal."
"OK," said Scorpius, not looking up.
His father peered at him more closely, frown deepening. "Are you feeling all right?"
Scorpius's belly tensed. Damp, clammy hands clenched in the fabric of his robes. He had not slept well since coming home, and his attempted nap that afternoon had not been a success.
Just tell him, the voice in the back of his mind whispered. Get it over with.
"I'm fine," Scorpius lied, swallowing a wave of nausea.
His father was unconvinced. "I wish you'd get out of the house more. Find something to do. It's not good for you to hide away in your room all the time. You don't want to end up like your grandfather, do you?" he said darkly.
"No," said Scorpius.
His grandfather, Lucius Malfoy, had not coped well with becoming a social outcast after the war. He became more and more reclusive, first rarely leaving his home, and then rarely leaving his room. Not long after Scorpius was born, his grandmother Narcissa had been killed in an Apparition accident. His wife's death had done nothing to improve Lucius's state of mind. A few months later, he overdosed on a Sleeping draught, possibly intentionally.
"I heard there's pub league Quidditch that meets up on Saturday evenings in the field behind the school," Draco suggested hopefully. "You could take your broom out for a spin. Maybe meet some people?"
"Yeah. Maybe," said Scorpius without enthusiasm.
"Well, think about it."
Matters did not improve over the following week. Scorpius took over preparation of their evening meals, but he had no appetite. Playing Quidditch with strangers held no more interest for him than joining the Slytherin house team. He started going for walks along the country road near their house, so he could tell his father truthfully that he had left the house that day.
The only bright point in Scorpius's week was the arrival of another letter from Albus. But it was hard to feel very cheery when all his boyfriend could say was that he missed him, too, and how was his plan for coming out to his father going?
Scorpius's exhaustion and anxiety grew harder to hide as the days passed. He was paler than usual, with dark shadows under his eyes. His mind felt dull and foggy. The constant clenching of his belly muscles kept him from sleeping well. He had been sick twice after forcing himself to eat, to appease his father.
On Friday, Draco surprised Scorpius by coming home from work early.
"I've asked Healer Pucey to come by this afternoon," he said.
Scorpius groaned. "I've told you, I'm fine!"
His father glowered at him. "You say that, but you don't look at all well. I want your blood tested."
Scorpius knew better than to argue. Healer Pucey had been his mother's healer during her final illness. His father found an excuse to invite him over during every school holiday, to check Scorpius for any sign of the Greengrass family blood curse. Thus far, no trace had been found.
You could just tell him, whispered the voice in the back of his mind. But that would not stop the healer from coming, and being poked and prodded would make his day unpleasant enough as it was.
Scorpius hid in his room with the door closed, avoiding his father's grim looks, while he waited for the healer. He tried to read, but his tired, anxious brain would not absorb the words. When his father knocked at the door to let him know Healer Pucey had arrived, Scorpius reluctantly followed him downstairs.
The healer met him in the sitting room. He was not a tall man, but he had an air of authority. He shooed Draco out of the room, but Scorpius knew his father would not go farther than the other side of the closed door.
"Now, what seems to be the trouble?" Pucey asked, not unkindly.
Scorpius shrugged. "Just a lot on my mind, I guess."
Pucey nodded sagely. "A common affliction. Well, let's have a look at you. It looks like you've been growing again."
He made Scorpius strip down to his underwear, then checked him over, poking, prodding, peering, listening, and smearing a potion onto the skin of his forearm to check for a reaction. When he took out his fleam, Scorpius grimaced and looked away, holding out his arm. He hated being bled.
This time was worse than usual. The second the cold blade pricked his vein, Scorpius felt dizzy. Nausea washed over him. Dark spots swam before his eyes. There was a rushing sound in his ears. A sense of extreme disorientation overwhelmed him.
When his vision cleared, he found himself lying on the sofa, his father's arm around his shoulders, the healer bent over him, frowning, a fine spray of blood staining his green robes.
"W-what happened?" Scorpius asked weakly.
"You fainted," snapped his father. He eased his arm out from under Scorpius and rounded on Pucey. "What in Slytherin's name is the matter with my son?" he demanded. "Is it the curse?"
"I'll need a moment to perform the proper tests," Pucey informed him calmly.
He turned to the low coffee table, adding a few drops of Scorpius's blood to each of the five beakers of different coloured potions that stood there. One of them frothed up with blue foam. One changed from yellow to green. The other three did nothing at all.
Scorpius dared a glance at his father. Draco stared intently at the beakers, face pale, quivering with some suppressed emotion.
"Well," said Pucey at last, after measuring the potions' reactions, "it's not the blood curse."
Draco's shoulders sagged. His eyes closed briefly, and he exhaled with relief.
"What is it, then?"
"Low blood sugar," said Pucey. "Has he been eating?"
"Not much," said Draco grimly, glaring at Scorpius. "And I don't think he's been sleeping either."
The healer nodded. "It sounds like stress. Probably left over from OWLs. I'll brew up a nerve-settling tonic."
Scorpius eyed the foul-smelling brown potion Pucey set in front of him dubiously, unsure whether he would be able to keep it down. He still felt woozy.
"Drink all of it," the healer admonished him. "And then go to bed. A good, long sleep is the most healing thing in the world, especially for the young."
While Scorpius shrugged back into his robes, Draco saw Pucey to the door, handing him a small drawstring pouch, heavy with gold.
"Thank you, Adrian. I appreciate you taking the time, especially on such short notice."
The healer nodded. "Summon me again in a few days, if he doesn't improve. We'll try stronger measures."
When he had gone, Draco came back into the sitting room. He did not seem pleased.
"Is he right? Are you still stressed about your exams? When you wrote, you said you thought you'd done well."
Scorpius shrugged. He felt exhausted and weak and definitely up to neither this conversation, nor the one he ought to have had with his father more than a week ago.
"You have to look after your health, Son," Draco reminded him. "If the blood curse ever manifests, you need to be strong and ready to fight it. Your mother wasn't that much older than you when it first showed in her."
Scorpius looked down at his hands. "You can't fight a blood curse, Dad. It doesn't matter how healthy you are."
"We don't know that for sure," his father snapped. "Your mother lived with it for years. It was only after she was weakened by childbirth -" He broke off, horrified.
"So it's my fault Mum died?" Scorpius demanded, exhaustion shredding his usual caution. "I never asked to be born. You decided that, and she did. If one of us killed her, it wasn't me."
"I didn't mean it like that, Son," said Draco, looking suddenly tired.
"It's too bad you don't still have the time-turner," Scorpius told him. "Then you could go back and make sure I was never born. You'd have her back, and you wouldn't have to worry about me anymore. Maybe then you'd be happy."
His father blanched. "You, of all people, should know better than to talk about trying to change the past. Your mother was very ill. What happened to her was no one's fault. Except the person who put the blood curse on her family in the first place, of course."
"Whatever," said Scorpius coldly. He picked up the beaker of nerve-settling tonic and drained it. "Whoever's fault it was, she's gone now. I'm going to bed."
He left his father in the sitting room, head in his hands.
The potion made Scorpius dream.
He was back in the alternate reality where he was king of Slytherin. His fellow students competed for his favour. Professors awarded him points just for showing up to lessons. The horrible, toad-like headmistress smiled at him and told him she was thinking of making him Head Boy a year early. Everything was wrong. Albus did not even exist.
Scorpius knew that the time-turner had been destroyed, and the secret resistance cell under the Whomping Willow had been rooted out and vanquished. There was no escape for him this time.
When he tried to hide in his dormitory, he found himself in his own house. It was dark and silent, and felt empty. Tiptoeing up the stairs, he opened the door to his bedroom. It was his mother's room. She lay on the bed, propped up against a large pile of pillows, pale and thin, but alive.
"Mum?" whispered Scorpius.
Astoria Malfoy smiled and held out her hands to him. Scorpius climbed up onto the bed beside her, taking her hands and staring, afraid that if he looked away even for a second, she might vanish.
"But you're dead, Mum."
"I'm here, Sweetheart," she said. "Tell me what's wrong."
He shook his head. "Everything. This whole world is wrong. It's not supposed to be like this. We fixed it. At least, I thought we did. But Albus is gone, and you're here ..."
Scorpius began to cry.
His mother's thin arms wrapped around him, pulling close to her chest. "Hush, Sweetheart. It's all right."
"No, it's not," he sobbed, clinging to her. "You're dead and I think Dad hates me and I can't even tell him that I have a boyfriend!"
"You can tell me."
Scorpius sniffed. "It's Albus. My b-best mate. You've met him. He's brilliant. I l-love him."
His mother's hand stroked his hair. "That's wonderful, Sweetheart. I'm so happy for you."
"Dad won't be, when I tell him."
"But you still have to tell him. You can't keep it secret forever."
"I know. I just - I don't want to make things worse than they are, with me and Dad."
"You might make them better."
"I doubt it. But I'll tell him. I have to. I promised Albus I would."
She kissed his forehead. "I'll be there with you, when you do. I'm always with you."
Scorpius awoke, hugging his pillow. He blinked stupidly, trying to bring his mind into focus. The light filtering around the edges of his curtains looked the same as it had when he had gone to bed. How long had he been asleep? Minutes? Hours? The dream had seemed to go on for a long time. It had felt real. He had been with his mother. Scorpius closed his eyes again. Maybe if he tried, he could find his way back to her.
But it was no good. For one thing, he needed to use the toilet.
He tiptoed to the bathroom, hoping not to draw his father's attention to the fact that he was awake. The tension and nausea had left him, and he felt rested, but his brain was still loopy from sleep and the after-effects of the potion. He was not ready for a confrontation. Not yet.
The sense of his mother's presence was still with him, and he wanted to hold onto it for as long as he could. When he left the bathroom, he did not return to his own room, but stepped quietly down the hallway, past his father's closed door, to the room that had been his mother's library. It was a small room, its walls still lined with shelves of books that had belonged to Astoria. When Scorpius was younger, and his mother was still alive, they had spent hours together in the library, or lying on her bed, reading to one another and talking and laughing and making silly jokes.
Scorpius ran his fingers along the spines of the books, but he did not feel like reading. An end table held a few small objects of his mother's. One by one, he picked them up, holding them in his hand, feeling the weight, the shape, the texture. A hand mirror. An elephant made of blue crystal. A little music box, with a floral pattern on the lid, in which Astoria had kept her earrings. Scorpius carefully rubbed the dust from each object with the hem of his nightshirt before gently replacing them on the table. The last item he picked up was a framed photograph of his mother, laughing and happy in her wedding robes, showing off her bouquet.
Curling up in his mother's favourite reading chair, Scorpius rested the photo against his knees. An embroidered shawl that had belonged to Astoria was draped over the back of the chair. Scorpius wrapped it around himself, burying his nose in the brightly-coloured silk. It still smelled like her.
"Hey, Mum," he whispered, touching the picture gently with one finger.
At least he was back in the world where Albus existed. Scorpius wondered whether there was a version of the world - some choice that could have been made - where none of the important pieces of his life was missing. Hot tears spilled down his cheeks, and he drew in a deep, shuddering breath that was not quite a sob.
"Scorpius?" His father appeared in the doorway.
Scorpius quickly blotted his eyes on the shawl, swallowing the tightness in his throat.
"I didn't realise you were awake," said his father, coming into the room. "You were asleep for almost twenty-four hours. Are you feeling better?"
Scorpius nodded, but did not look up from his mother's smiling face.
"Do you want something to eat?"
Draco sat down in the chair opposite him. "Are you going to tell me what's been bothering you?"
"It's not that big of a deal," Scorpius lied. He wished his father would not think him going out with Albus was a big deal.
"Clearly it's big enough for you to make yourself ill over it," Draco frowned. "If there's something wrong, I want to help."
"There's nothing wrong," Scorpius said, his heart beating faster. "It's just - you won't like it much."
"Try me," said his father, attempting a smile.
Scorpius took a deep breath. "I'm seeing someone."
His father's smile grew a little. "Oh? Is that who you've been writing back and forth to every day?"
"Who is she?" asked Draco. "Anyone I know?"
Scorpius's fingers clenched in the folds of his mother's shawl. He tried to imagine her there, sitting beside him, her arm around his shoulders, telling him everything would be all right.
"I-it's not a she, Dad. It's Albus."
The smile vanished from Draco's face. He stared at his son. "But - you're not - what about the Weasley girl? I thought you liked her?"
Scorpius shrugged. "I do. I mean, I did."
"Well, if you like girls, what are you doing fooling around with a boy?" his father demanded, voice rising sharply. "You're not making any sense!"
"A person can like girls and boys, Dad," said Scorpius. "It's called 'bisexual'."
"So that's it? You're dating boys now?" said Draco angrily. "Shouldn't you at least try going out with a girl before resorting to something like that?"
Scorpius tilted his chin up defiantly, looking his father square in the eye. "I love Albus, Dad. I don't want to be with anyone else."
Draco shook his head, baffled. "Is this about what I said yesterday? Are you punishing me? You know I didn't mean that. It's not your fault that your mother died. I would never trade you to have her back."
"It's not about you, Dad. Or Mum," said Scorpius. "It's about me and Albus. I'm telling you because I don't want it to have to be a secret."
His father did not seem to hear him. "Your mother always had such good sense. I wish she was here right now. She was better at this sort of thing than I am. Maybe if she were here, she could talk some sense into you."
"I am talking sense," snapped Scorpius, anger rising. He sat up straighter in the chair, clutching the shawl and the photo to his chest. "Maybe if Mum were here now, she'd talk some sense into you."
"Does anyone else know about this?" demanded Draco.
"Yeah," said Scorpius hotly. "Everyone. The whole school knows, and everyone in Hogsmeade, and Albus's family, too."
His father scrubbed a hand over his face. "I can't believe you'd throw away your future like this, over some boy."
"I am not 'throwing away my future'!" Scorpius shouted. "And Albus is not just 'some boy'!"
"Don't raise your voice to me," barked Draco. He took a breath, lowering his own voice. "Let's talk about this rationally."
"All right, let's," said Scorpius. "I am going out with Albus Potter, because I am in love with him, and he is in love with me. That seems pretty rational to me."
"But don't you want to get married someday?" his father pleaded. "Have a family of your own?"
Scorpius's shoulders hunched. The future was not something he and Albus had talked about yet, or that he had even let himself think about very much. He hoped that, whatever his future held, Albus would be by his side. But now, when his father was searching for a weak point in his resolve, was no time for doubts.
"Two blokes can get married," he informed him. "It's legal now."
"Well, what about children?" said Draco reasonably. "You can't carry on the Malfoy line with another man."
"We can adopt," said Scorpius. "I'm not going to risk passing on the Greengrass blood curse, if I can help it."
Draco winced. "You know we did everything we could to ensure that it wouldn't be passed on to you."
"No telling if it worked, though, is there?" Scorpius pointed out. "I could have it, and it might not show up again until one of my great-grandchildren."
"If we hadn't risked it, you wouldn't be here," said his father.
"If you hadn't risked it, Mum might still be here," Scorpius replied.
"I didn't make her do anything," Draco said angrily. "That risk was her choice. She did it for you, at least as much as for me. And now you can sit there and say you don't want to carry on the Malfoy line, after she sacrificed everything -" He broke off and glared at Scorpius. "You're not fucking that boy, are you?" he demanded.
Scorpius blinked, taken aback. He had never heard his father use such strong language. "Yes, I'm sleeping with him."
Draco put his face in his hands. "Merlin, Scorpius! I know we taught you better than that. You're heir to one of the oldest and last pure-blood families in Britain. What part of 'save it for the wedding night' was so hard to understand? No decent family will allow their daughter to marry you now!"
"I wouldn't want to marry someone who cared about that, anyway," said Scorpius, defiant. "I thought we didn't care about that stuff anymore, either. Blood-purity is a load of rubbish. It doesn't make someone better at magic, or a better person. It's just about feeling superior. As for waiting, I decided I didn't want to."
"You can't just decide to do whatever you want!" his father burst out.
"Why not?" flared Scorpius. "We're not hurting anyone!"
"You're sixteen," Draco snapped. "You don't know what you want yet. Everyone does stupid things when they're sixteen."
"It's not like I'm planning to join a genocidal blood-supremacist cult, or pledge my allegiance to some Dark wizard," sneered Scorpius. "I'm just queer."
His father reeled back as if struck. "That was uncalled for. You think I had a choice about that?"
"Yes, I do," said Scorpius. "It may not have been a good choice, but there's always a choice."
Draco shook his head, looking suddenly tired. "If you're lucky, Son, you'll never find yourself in a situation where you have to make a choice like that."
"I hope I never do."
Draco sighed. "Will you at least think about what I've said?"
"Will you think about what I've said?" Scorpius asked.
"I can hardly avoid it," said his father drily.
Scorpius squared his shoulders. "Do you forbid me to see Albus?"
"Would that work?"
"Then I don't see what would be the point," said Draco tiredly.
"I want to visit him. I'm going to visit him," Scorpius corrected himself. He would not ask for permission. "Now."
Draco waved a hand at the door. "Apparently, I can't stop you."
Without another word, Scorpius stood, carefully replacing his mother's picture on the end table, her shawl over the back of the chair, and went to his room. Adrenaline was pounding through him, making his hands shake as he packed his overnight bag. His knees felt weak, his chest tight, as he hurried down the stairs to the sitting room. He threw some Floo powder onto the grate.
"The Potters, Islington," he said, and stuck his head into the green flames.
Albus's father, Harry, was in their sitting room. When he saw Scorpius's face appear in the fireplace, he knelt down on the hearthrug.
"Is it all right if I come over for a bit, Sir?" Scorpius asked, trying to keep his voice steady.
"Of course," said Harry. "Albus is just upstairs. I'll go and fetch him."
Scorpius pulled his head out of the flames, stood up, and cast another handful of Floo powder onto the grate. As the green flames shot up, he stepped into them. There was a sudden spinning, dizzying sensation, and then he was stumbling out of the fireplace, into the Potters' sitting room.
Albus caught him, hugging him fiercely. "Scorpius! I wasn't expecting you so soon. Is everything OK?"
Scorpius opened his mouth to reply, and burst into tears. He clung to Albus, sobbing into his shoulder. Albus held him tightly for a long moment, then drew back, cupping Scorpius's tear-streaked face in his hands.
"Hey," he said softly. "Talk to me. What's wrong?"
Scorpius took a deep, shaky breath and tried to force out a few words past the jagged shapes clogging his chest. "D-dad. I t-told him. He - got angry."
Albus's face fell. "Oh, Love, I'm sorry. That stinks."
Harry and Ginny Potter were hovering in the doorway, looking concerned. Albus noticed them, too. He put an arm around Scorpius's shoulders, turning him toward the stairs.
"C'mon. Let's go up to my room."
Sitting on Albus's bed, holding hands, a box of tissues within easy reach, Scorpius told Albus everything.
"I think he h-hates me," Scorpius finished, the breath wobbling in his chest. "He said it wasn't true, but I think he'd trade me for Mum in a second."
"That's ridiculous," Albus said gently. "He's just upset. Give him a few days to cool off, and then see how things are."
Scorpius shook his head. "I've never seen him like that before. He said no decent woman would want me, knowing I'd been with a bloke."
"Well, that's rubbish," said Albus cheerfully. "My mum married my dad, didn't she?"
"That's true, I guess." Scorpius sniffed.
"You're not already thinking of leaving me for some girl, are you?" Albus teased.
He threw his arms around Albus, hugging him fiercely, as a few more tears leaked into the already-damp shoulder of Albus's tee-shirt.
"I'm s-sorry I'm s-such a mess right now," Scorpius mumbled. "I love you. So much."
"It's all right," said Albus, kissing his temple. "You can be as much of a mess as you need to be with me, whenever you want. I love you, too, you know."
"Oh!" cried Scorpius, suddenly remembering. "I forgot your letters! They're still under my pillow at home. What if Dad reads them?"
Albus's fingers brushed a lock of Scorpius's hair back behind his ear, and traced the edge of his jaw. "How about we don't worry about that right now? How about I kiss you, instead?"
Scorpius gave him a wet smile. His eyes were bloodshot from crying and his nose was red and dripping. "I bet I look gross. You don't really want to kiss me."
"I bet I do," said Albus, doing it.
"Better?" he asked a few moments later.
"Much," Scorpius sighed.
"Good. There's a lot more where that came from."
Scorpius smiled. "Show me?"
Albus grinned and pulled him down onto the bed.
By the time Albus's parents called them down to supper, Scorpius was feeling more composed.
"Is everything all right now?" Ginny Potter asked, passing him a dish of potatoes.
Scorpius nodded. "My dad and I just - need a little time away from each other."
"Why?" asked Albus's younger sister Lily, always nosey.
"Mind your own business," Albus scowled.
"No, it's OK," said Scorpius, turning to Lily. "I told my dad about me and Albus."
"Oh," said Lily blithely. "Good for you. You shouldn't have to hide. There's nothing wrong with being gay."
Scorpius gave her a grateful smile. "Thanks."
"I'm gay," Albus corrected, scooping a few slices of roast onto his plate. "Scorpius is bisexual."
"Whatever," said Albus's brother James. "I doubt that made much difference to his dad."
"I take it it didn't go over very well?" asked Harry kindly.
Scorpius shook his head. "Not very."
A hand came to rest on his shoulder, and he looked up into sympathetic green eyes, very like Albus's.
"You're always welcome here, Scorpius," Harry told him. "We're glad to have you."
Scorpius's ears turned pink. "Thanks, Sir."
After days of not eating much, and an entire day spent sleeping, followed by an intense outpouring of emotion, Scorpius was famished. The conversation with his father was behind him, and he was not ready yet to worry about the future. He ate three helpings of roast and potatoes, and a massive slice of treacle tart for pudding.
When the dishes had been banished to the kitchen sink to scrub themselves, Scorpius followed Albus into the sitting room to watch television. He had watched it a few times before, when he visited the Potters, and he was just as fascinated by the strange contraption itself as he was by the stories that played out on it.
"D'you think the paintings at Hogwarts could do something like this?" he asked.
"Dunno," said Albus.
"When Harry and I were at school, there was a group of Elizabethan portraits on the third floor that put on plays sometimes," said Ginny. "Luna Lovegood and I went to watch them a few times. They weren't very good, but it was a lot of fun. They probably still do it. Portraits aren't really known for changing their habits."
Scorpius raised his eyebrows at Albus hopefully. "What d'you reckon? We could take some pillows to sit on."
Albus grinned. "You're such a nerd. All right, it's a date."
After a news programme, a comedy show, and a show about the history of a castle, Albus's parents went up to bed. Scorpius and Albus remained on the sofa, half watching the flickering screen, half simply enjoying having one another close enough to touch, after almost two weeks apart.
It was only when Scorpius asked a question about one of the television programmes that he realised Albus had fallen asleep, his head pillowed on Scorpius's chest.
Trying not to disturb him, Scorpius reached for the television wand, and tried to figure out which button would turn it off. He finally found one labeled "mute", and settled for that. Pulling the blanket from the back of the sofa over them, he kissed the top of Albus's dark, messy head, whispered, "Goodnight, Love," and closed his eyes, feeling at peace.
Gentle morning light filled the sitting room, when green flames erupted from the fireplace, startling Scorpius and Albus awake. A moment later, Scorpius's father spun out onto the hearthrug.
Scorpius stared, wide-eyed. He had rarely seen his father looking so unkempt. Draco was unshaven, his hair uncombed and hastily tied back, and he looked as if he had dressed in a hurry. Perhaps strangest of all, he was wearing Muggleish clothing.
"Scorpius! There you are!"
Albus struggled to sit up, trying to put himself between Scorpius and his father, without letting go of Scorpius.
"What d'you want?" he demanded belligerently, black hair sticking up in all directions.
Harry, Ginny, and Albus's siblings appeared at the top of the stairs. "What's going on down there?"
Draco blinked. "I just want to talk to my son, if that's all right."
Scorpius sat frozen and staring, the knots in his belly quickly re-tying themselves.
"Do you want to talk to him?" Albus asked gently, taking his hands. "You don't have to. Dad can make him go away."
"No, it's all right," said Scorpius hastily, hoping that it was. "Erm - can we use your room?"
Albus nodded. "You're sure you're OK with this?"
"I'll be fine," Scorpius assured him.
Albus gave Draco a sidelong look, and kissed Scorpius. "I'll be right here. I love you."
"Love you, too," whispered Scorpius, before turning to face his father. "We can talk in Albus's room."
His father followed him upstairs, past the assembled curious Potters, nodding to them stiffly in greeting.
"Draco," said Harry, returning the nod and giving Scorpius's father a steady look. "I hope you know, the boys are safe here."
The edge to Harry's words was impossible to miss. Draco hesitated.
"I'm glad to know that," he said at last.
He turned and followed Scorpius into Albus's room.
They sat side by side on the bed in awkward silence for a long moment.
"So ..." said Draco.
"Why are you wearing Muggle clothes?" Scorpius asked.
"I went out last night." His father waved a dismissive hand. "I needed to clear my head. Talk to someone."
Scorpius was startled. His father never went out, as far as he knew, except for necessities like work. He was even more surprised to learn that his father was on friendly enough terms with someone to open up to them about personal things.
"Look, Son," said Draco. "I'm sorry. I made a muddle of things yesterday."
"Oh?" said Scorpius warily.
"I did," his father said more firmly. "I said some things - well, the point is, I wasn't thinking clearly. I was surprised, and I reacted badly."
"So, now that you've thought about it, what do you think?" asked Scorpius cautiously.
"I think - I don't know." Draco shook his head. "I want you to feel able to talk to me about anything, without worrying yourself sick over it."
"We never talk about things," Scorpius pointed out. "We never have."
"I know," his father admitted. "Your mother was always better at that sort of thing than me. It was easy to talk to her."
"Yeah," said Scorpius, wistfully remembering long afternoons spent in his mother's room, talking of everything and nothing.
Draco sighed. "I never realised how important that was until she was gone. I didn't know how to talk to you at all, especially about her. It hurt too much. I thought it was better to avoid the hurt as much as possible, rather than face it." He looked at Scorpius, pleading. "I was wrong. I'm sorry."
Scorpius swallowed. "I dreamed about her, yesterday. I told her about - things. And she was happy for me. She said I had to tell you. That it would be all right. I w-wanted to believe her." His voice cracked, and he squeezed his eyes shut, fighting the sting of tears.
His father's hand rested heavily on his shoulder.
"I miss her, too," Draco said softly. "All the time. But it's going to be OK, Son."
Scorpius shook his head, eyes still closed, trying to control the quaking feeling in his chest. "No, it's n-not. Not if you can't bear the thought of me and Albus being together. Because I'm n-not going to split up with him. Not ever."
He felt the brush of something soft against his fingers, and opened his eyes to see a tissue in his father's hand. Scorpius took it, quickly dabbing his eyes and swiping it under his nose.
"It's not that I can't bear it," Draco said slowly. "I just don't understand. It's - strange to me. It was a shock, learning there was something so important about my own son that I didn't know. But Scorpius -"
Scorpius felt his father's cool fingers under his chin, and raised his head to look at him. Draco's outline immediately blurred as Scorpius's eyes filled with tears, but he hardened his resolve, and did not look away.
"What really matters -" Draco said gently, "- the only thing that really matters to me, is that you're happy and healthy. If the Potter boy makes you happy, that's what's important."
Scorpius nodded. Tears spilled down his cheeks and a ragged sob escaped from his throat.
His father squeezed his shoulder, pulling him into a one-armed hug.
"It's all right, Scorpius. I'm sorry to have caused you distress," said Draco. "Please forgive me. I'm in no position to judge you. I should know better than anyone that you can't live your life to please your parents; you have to follow your heart."
It took Scorpius a moment to pull himself together enough to speak. He sat up, sniffling and scrubbing at his face with the soggy tissue.
"I forgive you, Dad."
His father's expression brightened. "Will you - come home with me? You don't have to say yes," he added hastily, "but I'd like to spend some time with you. We can practice talking about things. And listening."
Scorpius hesitated. "Can I come back and see Albus soon?"
"Whenever you like," Draco promised.
"Even overnight?" Scorpius asked pointedly.
Draco sighed. "You're almost seventeen, Scorpius. You're old enough to make those kinds of decisions for yourself. Just - promise me you'll come home and see your old man now and then, all right?"
"I will. I'll come home with you today, if you want me to."
"Wonderful!" Draco beamed. "Now, let's go show the Potters that I'm not some kind of ogre who doesn't care about my son's happiness."
Albus was waiting at the foot of the stairs. He took Scorpius's hands, looking him over for signs of distress.
"Are you OK?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." Scorpius attempted a reassuring smile.
Albus frowned, and shot Draco an accusatory look. "You look like you've been crying again."
"Yeah, but it's OK now. Dad's said I can come over whenever I want."
"I have," Draco affirmed. "I won't try to get between you two. Just - promise me you'll take good care of him. He's all I've got."
Albus blinked in surprise. "Of course I will. Sir."
"Is everything all right?" asked Harry, from the kitchen doorway.
"Good," said Albus's father. "Would you care to join us for breakfast, Draco?"
It was Draco's turn to look surprised. "I wouldn't want to impose -"
Ginny appeared behind Harry. "You're not imposing. If Scorpius is part of the family now, then, for better or for worse, so are you. Come have some eggs."
Scorpius looked at his father, who seemed embarrassed, but also a little bit pleased. "We don't have to go right this second, do we, Dad?" he asked, gripping Albus's hand tightly.
"No," said Draco. "I suppose we can stay for eggs."