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Chapter 6: Bitter: Scorpius POV
"Mate, you need to tell her,” Albus whispered to me Monday morning during training.
“What are you on about?” I risked turning my head briefly to see the serious look on his face. Quickly, I swung it back to give my attention to the front of the room. Today was the day we met the new recruits. It was also the official start of our third – and last year in the trainee program. The auror training program was the most rigorous at the Ministry and second only to the healer trainee program at St. Mungos that Rose and Selenia were in.
“You and Rose spent the entire day together Saturday and yesterday and you didn’t do it, did you?” he elbowed me in the ribs.
I didn’t chance to move my head toward him again, for two reasons. One: I didn’t want to get caught talking during the meeting and two: I wouldn’t be able to stand the smug look on his face when he saw the burning in my cheeks. Malfoys aren’t supposed to blush. Normally, the prodding from his pointy bones would’ve set me off and I would be planning some sort of retaliation. Perhaps a swelling jinx aimed as his left shin… but not this morning. I felt oddly relaxed and, although mildly irritated at Al for distracting me during the morning session, I just can’t bring myself to be pissed. Rose seems to have a calming effect on me. I felt out of sorts around her, but strangely peaceful and soothed at the same time.
Two whole days. Saturday, after I sobered up, walked along the countryside in the small village where I lived with my parents. Then we visited their graves and Rose made the most beautiful wreath of white snapdragons and purple asters. Finally, we had dinner with Harry and Ginny, who never forgot the anniversary.
Yesterday, Rose decided that we needed to do something more exciting. We went to muggle London and rode the London Eye, ate at a local pub and she took me to some ridiculous place that had all sorts of muggle famous people made out of wax. It was utterly absurd and the both of us left in hysterics.
The best part of the two days is that we held hands the entire time. I love feeling her soft, tiny fingers squeezed tight in my palm. She even let me kiss her good night when I brought her back to her flat last night. I am still riding the high from the euphoria of that moment. The confusing part is that we didn’t actually talk about what this means. Really, we aren’t teenagers anymore and it feels odd for me to ask her to be my girlfriend. At this point I just want to see her again. And again and again… all the time. Would I get a chance to see her today after training? Maybe I could ask her to dinner some night this week. Another jab to my ribs made me remember where I was and I shook my head to bring myself back.
“What are you on about?” I asked again in the quietest whisper I could make. I figured that if I feigned ignorance, he would quit trying to bait me. He was going to get us in trouble. We were supposed to be setting an example for the new trainees. Ron Weasley was the head trainer and he already didn’t like me very much. I didn’t need to give him excuses to give me extra assignments. Not to mention the fact that, because it was the first day of the new recruits all the other aurors had joinedus. The entire department was here – including Harry. Who was glaring at both Al and me. Right now – as he got up to speak to the group.
Whispers began breaking out as Harry stood to address the crowd. Many of the newbies were gasping and pointing to the great Harry Potter. He ignored this as he began with his usual joke.
He had taken a different philosophy regarding the auror department – camaraderie and peace. Before Harry took over, there was a lot of competition between the aurors to be assigned to the “best” missions. It had gotten very cutthroat and manipulative as aurors held information from each other and used underhanded tactics to gain favor with the senior members and other ministry officials.
When Harry became head of the department, he used his knack for putting people at ease to build up trust and create a closeness the department had been lacking. Although this all happened well before Al and I joined, the older aurors still talk about how it was before. Harry made it clear that he didn’t have time for people who were in it for the glory and fame that came with being a member of this prestigious department. He continually stressed that we keep at the forefront of our actions the sole reason that we are here: to protect innocent wizards and muggles from the dark arts. This is the mantra that he began every meeting, including today’s opening speech.
One of his big movements was the mentor system. The more experienced aurors were expected to take the younger ones under their wings. To that end, first year recruits were assigned to third years to act as a “big brother or sister” to help them through the ups and downs of this demanding program. In turn, after our third year was up and we were full blown junior aurors, we would be paired up with a more seasoned member of the department for a one year apprenticeship.
Harry also valued mutual respect and so I wasn’t surprised to see his eyes flick to the back of the room where we were sitting every few moments, making sure that his son and friend were setting an example to the younger members.
“Look, Scorp,” Al was not deterred by his father’s glares. “You’re not fooling any of us and frankly, the way you stare at her incessantly is a little embarrassing. For me, I mean. I have a reputation to uphold and I can’t be known as the div with a best mate who is foolishly in denial about his feelings for my cousin,” he whispered harshly. I chanced a turn of my head in disbelief and I saw the mischievous glint in his eye. He was trying to get a rise out of me.
“You prick,” I muttered, barely moving my lips. “You had me going for a minute,” I turned back to the front of the room. Another glare from Harry.
“I was joking about my reputation. But not about Rose. Scorp, its time you just took the plunge. Everyone knows she fancies you-”
“Thank you, Albus!” Harry says brightly from the front of the room, voice dripping with sarcasm. He turned his head and I lifted my eyebrows in confusion.
“Don’t be shy, son. Come on up and show the new recruits a few dueling moves. You can duel with me.” The last sentence came out cold and harsh. Harry was pissed. He had obviously seen us and was embarrassed that his own son was causing a disruption during an important meeting when he is establishing the rules and regulations to all the new members of the department.
Al stood up slowly, a hard look on his face. Harry had always been a little tougher on him, and he had come to resent it. I think Harry was just doing it to make Al a better auror, and maybe to show that he wasn’t favoring his progeny, but Al just saw it as unfair treatment. In his heart, he really wanted to be an auror – it was all he had ever talked about. Al also always felt that he was disadvantaged because he had come from Ravenclaw. It is well known that Gryffindors are favored for being the best aurors. I felt it a little too, but I didn’t have to live up to being Harry Potter’s son. For the most part, Al is proud of his father and they get on well. However, as soon as our training had begun two years ago, it became clear that Al was held to a higher standard than the rest of us.
Al stalked purposefully toward his father, his green eyes trained on Harry the entire time. This was not going to end well. A pissed off Harry is never a good thing – and neither is a pissed off Al (he has the Weasley temper, after all). However, both of them pissed off at each other… the few times I’ve seen it has been ugly. At least at every one of those times, Ginny had been around to diffuse the situation, or she ended up angrier than either one of them and let’s face it – we are all afraid of an angered Ginny Potter.
The two wizards faced off at the front of the room. We were in the training room, but more than half of it was taken up with the rows of chairs that all the trainees sat in. Another space at the front of the room was occupied by the other aurors – everyone in the department was here for the first day so we could all meet the new trainees.
Ron stepped to the side and rolled his eyes. I noticed Teddy Lupin standing amongst the team of aurors as he looked on with mild amusement. None of them seemed too worried, but they didn’t know Al like I did. This thing with Harry had been building up over the past two years and he was just itching for a chance to prove himself. His temper could be explosive, but this was much more dangerous. His deliberate motions gave the impression of someone in control, when I knew otherwise. In a matter of moments he had gone from a cool, collected bloke who was taking the mickey on me for spending time with Rose (we will come back to that later) to a cold fury building within him.
The trainees all rose to their feet and our chairs vanished. We formed a circle around Harry and Al, giving them maximum room for their duel. I could hear excited whispers amongst the first and second year trainees. Since most of the third years knew Al quite well, we were all quiet, because essentially, we didn’t know how this was going to end.
They stood back to back and each took several paces towards the opposite ends of the room, turned and raised their wands. Both sets of identical green eyes had turned dark. Harry narrowed his, but Al kept a cool, solid gaze at his opponent. He was taller than Harry now, by an inch or so. Ron counted down to the duel.
“Wands ready! One – two – three – ”
They shouted their curses simultaneously. Harry nonverbally blocked the reducto curse, but Albus wasn’t fast enough. He stumbled back a few steps, but recovered quickly from the curse. Harry obviously wasn’t trying to hit him full force. However, I don’t know if anyone else realized this.
“Impedimentia!” Al shouted. Harry’s block – and subsequent curse, was nonverbal.
Al gripped his arm as the stinging jinx grazed the side of it. I could see it swelling under his robes. A vein on his neck pulsed in anger. He wouldn’t be shown up by his father. Everyone in the room had their eyes trained on the pair and I took the opportunity to casually move toward the center. Harry took a step toward Al – an intimidation move they had taught us early on. Undeterred, Al took two steps toward his father, his eyes blazing with rage. This was going from bad to worse.
Their hexes and jinxes were coming faster now. Harry’s head flung back and a red streak sprawled across his cheek. Al had drawn blood. The older wizard refocused himself and concentrated on blocking Al’s curses, which he did with ease. This was another tactic of Harry’s: wear your opponent down and when they tire out, you send a powerful hex at them. Al really was the best in our class, and none of the rest of us could beat him in a duel. However, Harry had the benefit of experience and patience.
A glance toward Teddy told me that he was beginning to realize the gravity of this situation. He stood in a tense pose, and was fingering his wand at his side. Al’s anger was growing to dangerous levels. He wasn’t going to give in and Harry had to establish authority.
Al was throwing curse after curse at him. All of which, Harry flicked away wordlessly. Al continued to stalk toward Harry, intent and vehemence evident on his face, the vein in his neck was bright purple. They were only a few feet away from each other now. Al was getting angrier and more tired. Ron was just leaning against the far wall, looking amused. I had to intervene before someone got really hurt.
I seized my opportunity when Al was stammering for this next spell.
“Wow! Fantastic! That was a great display!” I shouted loudly as I clapped my hands together and walked between the both of them. The surprised looks on the faces of the newbies eased as they followed suit and began reluctantly applauding the duo.
“Take note all! It’s not very often that you get the chance to observe two talented wizards with such distinct styles.” I patted each of their shoulders and smiled widely at the man who was my surrogate father and his son who I considered my brother. Both father and son were out of breath due to the heated exchange. Teddy copped on to my scheme and began to wolf whistle and clap furiously. This spawned more applause and the trainees began to move forward en masse to congratulate the pair.
Harry recovered more quickly than Al, because wisdom comes with age and he was not as hot-headed. He extended his hand to his son, who took it and they briefly shook. My shoulders slumped in relief and I got the chance to look each one of them over quickly. Al’s left arm was obviously numb from the stinging jinx and he was favouring his right knee. Harry was sporting cuts and bruises on his face and neck and the left shoulder of his robes was smoking.
Ron, finally realizing it was over, stepped forward and began to divide up the newbies, pairing them up with other trainees to begin dueling together. I took advantage of the commotion to gently prod the two of them out of the training room and down the hall to Harry’s office. We walked in silence, but the tension was palpable. Both Potters were effectively pushed to their breaking point.
As the door slammed shut, the real explosion happened.
“What the fuck was that about?” Al bellowed at his father.
“Albus Severus!” I closed my eyes as Harry was middle-naming Al. This was sure to set him off. “I will not tolerate disrespect in my department. I was right in the middle of my speech about respect and trust being the most important qualities in an auror and you are causing a disruption and acting like an immature school girl with your whispers and chides in the back of the room! It is inexcusable!”
Al slumped into the chair in the front of Harry’s desk. “So, are you going to give me detention and make me clean the trophy room?” Al’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “Or will I have to do that better than everyone else as well? Nothing I do is ever good enough for you!”
“That is not –” Harry stopped mid-sentence and mid-stride as he rounded on Al, his mouth hanging open. He looked at me and I looked down, but I had essentially confirmed his question as to what was really bothering Al. I was shocked that he hadn’t consciously realized this had been building for years. His demeanor changed as realization spread over his face. He was gripping the edge of his desk – probably to stop himself from pulling his wand on his own son. Al’s head hung and he refused to meet his father’s eyes. After several moments, Harry’s breathing calmed a bit and he walked slowly to sit behind his desk.
He took a deep breath and rubbed his temples deliberately. When he spoke, his voice was quiet and steady. “This year will be the toughest yet for you two. Your course load is more intense and the practical work will be scrutinized by every senior member of the department. To top it all off, you will be expected to take on a leadership role with the new recruits.” Al shifted in his seat as I sat in the chair next to him. He seemed calmer, but was still a bit put-off that Harry was obviously skirting the real issue.
Nothing he said was untrue. This year will be the toughest, with summer, fall and winter courses to pass and then the spring will be mostly studying for our S.N.A.K.E.s (Standard Normal Auror Knowledge Exams). After passing those, we become junior aurors and will get to assist on actual assignments. The three long years of classes and practical work will have been worth it.
Harry continued, “I just want both of you,” he spread his arms to signal to both Al and I, “– all of you: every trainee that comes through the program – to be the very best they can be. You can’t do that unless you are pushed.”
“Why am I the only one that seems to be ‘pushed?’” Al spat. He couldn’t hide the bitterness that was surfacing again.
“Because…” Harry’s eyes flicked to me and he looked like he wasn’t sure if he should continue. “You’re the best, Albus.” The older green eyes searched my face and I smiled and nodded. We all knew it. I was proud that Al was the best at training.
“And…” Harry continued, “… the twenty year-old me could never beat the twenty year-old you in a duel.” Al sat bolt upright and stared his father in disbelief.
“It’s true.” Harry conceded. “Most of my training was learned on the ground and a lot of it coincided with sheer dumb luck.” He chuckled to himself. “But, everyone has areas where they need to grow and improve. However, you should be commended for your superior dueling skills, Albus. And Scorpius should be commended for his peacemaking tactics,” he gestured to me. “Your calm handling of an escalating situation saved both Albus and I from a rather embarrassing moment earlier. I thank you for that.” I smiled and nodded to Harry. We all sat in silence for a few moments, no one really had much to say.
Harry stood up and Al and I followed. “So!” he said as if he were wrapping up a particularly meaningful speech. “It is decided. Scorpius will work harder at his dueling skills, Al will work harder at keeping a cool head and I will work harder at letting my trainees know when they excel in a particular area!” He patted us both on the back and smiled widely.
“Thanks, Dad,” Al said quietly. “And thanks to you Scorp. You did save us a bit.” I nodded back to him. There was a soft knock at the door.
“That’ll be Ron sending one of the newbies down here to fetch the two of you. No doubt he is in the midst of assigning you two your mentees,” Harry said. He swiftly made his way to the door as we followed behind.
But it wasn’t one of the new recruits at the door. It was the red-headed girl who makes my heart do crazy things and my head swim.
“Hi!” she said brightly to Harry and then her face changed to shock when she saw he was not alone.
“Hiya Rosie!” I could see Al’s smirk out of the corner of my eye. His mood significantly lightened by the first compliment paid by his father since we began our training. But before I had a chance to even wonder what he was up to, he said loudly, “Scorpius has something urgent he must tell you!” and he shot out of the room and down the hall before I could even realize what was happening.
Oh, I am going to kill him.
A/N: I'd love a review to let me know what you think of the story so far. Thank you so much for reading! ~Beth