Chapter 9 : There's No Place Like Christmasland
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Chapter 9: There’s No Place Like Christmasland
It was one of those beautiful mornings where you wake up and you can just tell—maybe the flat, bright light, the instinct of a snowball fight looming in the future—it had snowed. Scorpius sat up in bed, yawning, and looked out the tall, French window. A good ten inches of snow sat on the outside of the pane, clearly seen even through the slight fog on the glass. He squinted, rubbing the side of his head, and stretched. Some delicious smell warmed his nose, cinnamon and brown sugar, maybe some bacon even, and his stomach suddenly growled with hunger. He jumped out of his bed, inspired by the food and the snow, and saw his breakfast on a silver tray at the foot of his bed. He almost laughed. Surprise etched slightly across his face.
How very different his life was when he wasn’t at Hogwarts.
Everything was different here—the smells for example. He was used to waking up to the slight smell of sweat (as he shared a dormitory with three other Quidditch-playing boys, this was obvious), and the general smell of Hogwarts: wood, a burning fire, parchment, fresh laundry, etc. But so many things were different about this life, this life away from Hogwarts. Not just the smells, not just the fact that his room was as big as the Slytherin common room, but the fact that he was completely ignored here. No love notes, no vicious girls in closets, no eyes that watched him as he crossed a room. Hell, if he got a pat on the back he would be surprised.
Any attention, any words exchanged with his parents were generally criticism; “Professor Millidrite mentioned that you fell asleep in her class once Scorpius, how exactly do you explain that?” He couldn’t exactly explain that he followed Rose Weasley out into the night, watched her go swimming, got attacked by centaurs, and then ended up having to carry her back to the Gryffindor portrait hole. Usually his parents didn’t even bother to look at him as they scolded. He could see his mother now; her glassed perched on her nose, looking down at a paper as she spoke.
“I’ve said already, Mother, I was tired from Quidditch.”
“Scorpius, speaking of the Quidditch team, why are you not the captain? You must have been slacking off lately in your keeping skills.”
His father only piped in when he got to really yell, or if it was something he thought was an expert on, such as Quidditch. The fact that he had been scolded in two directions, and that his parents didn’t know the position he played didn’t bother him extremely. It was a pestering annoyance.
Perfection wasn’t just something Scorpius thought he might try for to please his parents, a future goal. It was a requirement. An assumption, of course Scorpius is perfect. He’s our son, isn’t he? And yet, he had spent so many years of his young life trying to be perfect, trying to just receive one, single, rewarding comment. Although he would’ve liked to say that he left that in the past, it still loomed over him.
And he wasn’t complaining about the lack of attention, don’t get confused there. He felt the complete opposite, really. When he did get any praise, it was as a show dog, something else his parents had to boast to their friends at dinner parties, like a new diamond, a set of silver knives; brag about for a moment, and then send away.
His parents were clearly under the impression that anything good was bought by money, and they probably would’ve bought a baby if they hadn’t been so arrogant of their “purebloodedness.”
There was a knock at the door, just as he took his first bite of hot oatmeal.
“Come in.” He said, somewhat muffled, as it slid down his throat, burning.
The door opened and an elderly maid walked in.
“Helen.” He said, nodding but unable to smile after his last train of thought, somewhat surprised again, “Thanks for the breakfast.” Of course it hadn’t been his mother who brought him breakfast.
She nodded somewhat stiffly, “Of course, Master Malfoy.” Before Scorpius could correct her, as he was certainly nobody’s master, she continued on in her brisk way.
“A bath is being drawn, and after that your horse is ready at the stables if you would like to ride.” Was there the tiniest bit of sympathy in her face?
“Oh, I--,” Scorpius stopped. “Thanks, Helen. Tell the staff that tomorrow I can draw my own bath.”
“Certainly,” she said, something like a smile fighting across her lips. “Let me know if there is anything else.” She turned and walked out.
“Thanks,” he called after her as a second thought. The door shut with a click. He frowned. He had forgotten how unnecessarily luxurious his parents lives were.
He finished his breakfast, and found some clothes out of the bottom of his trunk that he had insisted the maids not to unpack. He pulled on a long sleeve and some jeans. He slammed his trunk shut after taking out some of his books and stacking them on a table, and then he slid it under the huge, excessively covered bed.
His room was large, extremely large and high ceilinged. The walls were creamy white, except for the long wall behind his bed which he had changed easily to a dark green that reminded him of the forest at Hogwarts. His room was almost the only room in this large mansion that he actually liked, other than the library. He had two tall, stretching windows that he had magically enlarged to let in more light, as well as two large French doors that opened out onto a balcony that was currently covered in snow. He had one wall with shelves, containing all of his favorite records, and an antique record player in the corner. There was a wide bookshelf in the other corner, completely filled with his personal favorites, many of which happened to be muggle works.
His room used to be dark, his windows covered with black cloth and no light anywhere. Somewhere around the age of thirteen, he had realized that being dark wasn’t necessarily easier than being light, and certainly not better. He chose to be happier than that, even if the circumstances were rather grim.
He crossed the room, and set the tray down by the door. He walked into the bathroom, and saw his bathtub full of steaming hot water. The maids were quite smart with their charms, one that kept water hot for as long as you needed. He left it, deciding to use it later. He progressed to brush his teeth, and run his fingers through his hair a few times.
He came out of the bathroom, stubbed his toe on a trunk, and jumped around on one foot cussing for a minute. He left his room, closing the door behind him.
He walked down the long, white hallway, nodding to a maid as he came down the stairs and crossed into the portrait gallery. Stopping for a second, he gazed around him at all of the Malfoys, pompously staring down on him condescendingly. Closest to him was his father and next to him, his mother. Beneath them was a portrait of him from last summer where he wasn’t smiling, and a space of wall where a portrait of his wife was supposed to go someday.
He tried to imagine who might go there, and wondered if she would have the same condescending look as the rest of his family. He tried to see if maybe some bright eyes, and an inviting blush, perhaps a hint of a smile could ever find a place in the cold glares of the family.
He turned away and walked steadily towards the main part of the west wing, deciding to visit his favorite rooms with lack of anything else to do.
Honestly, he was surprised at how okay he felt. He had expected to feel depressed. Christmastime always made him sad, and yet…he felt oddly hopeful. Excited, like something interesting was going to happen. No matter what, no matter how this whole disaster ended, at least it would involve some sort of interaction with Rose, right? She couldn’t just completely ignore him. Somehow, it just made him feel better that he had actually done something. It was so much better than just sitting around and thinking about all of the things he wished he would have done. Some of it was out of his control; that was true. Being partners in potions was all chance, as was the masked ball. Now that this occurred to him, he felt considerably less pleased with himself. He hadn’t done anything, these things had mostly just coincidentally happened to him. However, it was still better than if nothing had happened, by far.
He came upon the empty marble parlor, rarely used, with a rug and several vases he had never seen before. He continued on, cutting through many hallways and staircases, until he reached the library.
There were two large wooden doors, dark wood, with big, old looking gold handles. They swung open with some effort, opening out into the library, puddles of light falling across the floor and shelves.
It wasn’t a huge library, like Hogwarts, but it was however, multiple floors, all circular, stacked atop one another. The shelves were situated around the walls, and if he looked up he could see all the way to the top through the floor and ceiling of each level. Mostly, it was a room of circular balconies all on top of each other, so that if you were on the top level you could lean over the railing of the balcony, and see down to the bottom floor where perhaps someone was lounging in one of the plush chairs, sitting at one of the large mahogany tables poring over a generous volume of literature.
Scorpius walked in slowly, relishing in the few good memories he knew he would reminisce in his stay at home. As a child, playing hide-and-go-seek alone, or occasionally with one of his cousins who always ended up cheating; many nights, sleeping in the large dark purple chair over there in the corner, when his parent’s yelling was too loud to sleep in his room; spending countless summer days flipping through books, discovering poetry of Byron, Keats, Poe, stories of Hemmingway, classics like Romeo and Juliet, ancient books without names and receding rough pages.
It made him immeasurably sad. All of it. The wooden floors, the smell of the pages, the dust he could see covering everything, floating in the beams of light. It was obvious no one had come in this room for a long time, other than himself, and perhaps that was why it felt so safe. He stood there, afraid to take another step, and afraid to turn back, suddenly afraid to even take a breath.
He went out the doors, not looking behind him, and went back from where he had come.
This house was unnaturally quiet, and he found that even his soft soled shoes made too much noise. His parents were no where to be found, not that he had any desire otherwise, but even if. There was a cold emptiness that made him feel strange. This was mostly why he went on, not pausing to look as he passed slowly through rooms. He made a brief stop in the north-western parlor to see if it looked inhabited, which it did only barely, today’s Daily Prophet lying on the table, and then he walked on, heading outside.
He had a black horse, rather large, but extremely fast. Her name was Philomena, named after one of the stable boy’s mothers. He called her Phil for short, which, although was a male name, didn’t seem to bother her in the slightest.
She was one of his favorite things in the entire world. She was born last summer, and almost died because she didn’t have a mother, and therefore any milk. So Scorpius spent the whole summer milking a baby horse, lying in the barn, occasionally reading.
His father was horrified that he would waste his time in such a manner.
There was about a foot or so covering the ground, and the road away from the mansion was slick and icy. They set out, away form the stable and cantered through the snow, making a path as they went. The sky was grey and there was a slightly nipping breeze.
Ah, how wonderful it felt to be moving, without any comprehensible thought filling his head. Quidditch was the same way, the same exhilaration, the same adrenaline, the same distraction. He rode away, through the thin stretch of trees on the eastern side of the estate, he continued on, over snowy hills, eventually bringing Phil to a walk.
He felt more satisfied, somehow, his mind ready to work through anything. He considered the first thing that had been clouding his mind lately. Rose. Rose, who he had danced with at the ball anonymously, Rose who he very nearly almost kissed on top the astronomy tower, Rose who was horrified and ran away when she discovered it was him.
Scorpius felt a grimace come onto his face.
Maybe horrified wasn’t the right word. It was extreme surprise, followed by something else. Disgust? Embarassment? Perhaps she felt guilty, seeing as they weren’t supposed to be friends, let alone anything else.
Phil slowed suddenly, eventually coming to a stop. It had started to snow. Scorpius sat and watched, a slow smirk curving his lips. After half a minute, it was coming harder and had created a complete swirling white out. He could barely see the path that he had made to come out here, into these fields.
Maybe it would disappear completely.
Maybe he just wouldn’t go home.
Maybe nobody even cared.
Eighty four miles to the south west, through a thicket of trees, across a white field, cross a dirt road, past a frozen pond with cat-tails coming through the ice, through the forest, arriving at The Burrow.
Rose lay on her back, staring at the slanted ceiling, smiling. Dom was snoring slightly to her right, and Lily rustled her covers in her sleep. Roxanne was sleeping soundly, her hands folded under her cheek from across the room. A slant of snow-dampened sunlight shone down through one of the dirty windows onto the clothes-scattered wooden floor of the Burrow.
Rose could hear movement all ready down stairs: talking, the sound of bacon sizzling in the frying pan, the creaking of the stairs, the hum of the radio.
Rose threw off the covers, her muscles and bones protesting, and pulled on some thick wool socks and a sweatshirt before making her way over the piles of clothes, across the room, and out the door.
Mostly everyone else was still asleep, Rose saw as she walked past all of the rooms. She peeked into the boy’s room. Fred was asleep on the floor, his arms and legs spread out across the crumpled blanket he lay upon. Hugo was completely hidden under the covers except for his face, peeking out. A card was stuck to his forehead. Rose guessed that they had all fallen asleep playing poker, a recent fetish of the Weasley/Potter clan. James had claimed a whole bed to himself, and was making a strange whistling noise as he breathed deeply, in and out. Louis was curled into a ball, the covers pulled neatly up to his chin, and Al was lying sideways on his bed, his head hanging off, mouth open and snoring loudly. Those Potter boys were all the same. She smiled, and continued on down the stairs.
“Morning.” Rose said as she walked into the already crowded kitchen. Nana Molly was at the stove with Hermione, and Uncle Harry and her dad were sitting at the kitchen table. Aunt Angelina Uncle George were standing at the kitchen sink, doing something. Her father smiled at her sleepily.
He was slowly aging, his red hair receding slightly at the hairline, wrinkles around the corners of his eyes and mouth. Uncle Harry looked older as well, and tired. His hair was in disarray as usual, but his bright eyes shined as usual, like green emeralds, on and on. Harry hated publicity, which, even after all these years, still haunted him.
“Go feed the chickens, will you Rose?” Her mum called.
Rose nodded, Good morning to you too, walking towards the front door, and pulling on her Wellies.
She stepped outside over the scattered assortment of shoes and an immediate freshness washed over her skin. It was sunny; yet still chilly enough to have that nice, numb winter feel. She threw the feed across the yard, and walked back in after watching the chickens run around for a bit.
“Glad to see you’re feeling better Rose.” Nana Molly said, patting her motherly on the back. Rose was about to ask what she was referring to when her mother spoke.
“Yes, I was worried yesterday about you. You seemed so…” she paused, “distant, when we picked you up.”
“Oh, did I?” Rose murmured, turning her back to them to get some water from the sink.
She felt the shield come up.
The odd state of calm that she had somehow acquired would probably not hold up if prodded.
“Yes, is there anything the matter?”
Hmm. Well, honestly, yes. There is something the matter. I think I’ve done something with someone that my parents might possibly disown me for if they ever find out. You know Scorpius Malfoy, the son of your all time enemy? Yeah, well we’re friends now, so we tell each other our deepest insecurities and dance together at balls instead of dancing with our dates.
“No, I’m pretty sure I was just…” Rose searched for a word that wouldn’t be outright lying, “…tired.”
“Yes, well, you can get plenty of sleep over the holidays.” Nana Molly said, bustling to the counter to cut up some sausage.
Rose was relieved that they let it go. Or she thought so, but when she turned around her mother was still staring at her with the face she made when she was trying to read books in other languages. The Calculating look. Once Rose looked at her, however, she got control of her expression and smiled a motherly smile. Rose smiled too, and hoped that it didn’t look fake.
Her shield of calm was taking some hits, and she wondered how long she would last before having to really face her issues. Procrastinating wasn’t something Rose ever did, especially with homework, but she figured she might have to make an exception.
Actually, that was something Rose was quite good at. She could put something in a bubble, and put it away. It could be totally chaos inside the bubble, but it wouldn’t explode unless pestered.
“Tea, Rose?” Nana Molly handed her a mug of hot tea, and Rose went to plop down on the couch in the living room.
The burrow was one of her absolutely favorite places in the entire world. It was the kind of place that you could spend years and years and then discover some new little detail, find some new little feature you had never noticed before. It wasn’t cluttered or messy, exactly. It was like organized clutter. It wasn’t overwhelming, it was just interesting. Never boring. The walls were covered with art and different kinds of clocks, pictures of ancestors, a picture of Fred and George when they were toddlers, both with frosting covering their faces. Exploding cake, maybe? When you could actually see to the bare wall, you could see several different wallpapers, one with little pink flowers, another with blue stripes that reminded Rose of the bathrobe she had when she was a little girl, a traditional cream colored paper with odd splotches of color added everywhere. Everything in this house had a history, a story to tell if investigated. Somehow it all blended in to create the unique, Burrow-esqe feel.
You would’ve thought that, because of the fame of the Golden Trio, they would all be ridiculously rich, but that really wasn’t the case. Rose hadn’t been raised extravagantly, but she had never really been deprived of anything she needed. Her parents and Harry had tried to explain to all of their kids that, after the war, they really realized that money had no real value to what mattered in life. That was why family gatherings and holidays were such a big deal.
There were about twenty stockings hung above the huge fireplace, and a pot of floopowder sitting next to the blazing fire. There was a sword hung above the mantle, and someone had festively hung a little Santa Claus tree ornament on the end. The Christmas tree, on the other side of the fireplace, was magnificently decorated with tinsel, stringed popcorn, and little sparkly lights. The ornaments still had to be put on, which was what she, Dom, Al, Hugo, and Lily were supposed to do that day. They were also supposed to pack, and then everyone was going to the Potter’s winter house, where everyone else would be meeting them. In all honesty, Rose was glad that there hadn’t been too much hang out time. Hang out time usually lead to thinking, and that was definitely something she wasn’t going to do for a while.
The day passed easily, with lots of cooking and decorating, talking and lounging. It was late afternoon before everyone was all packed up and ready to go.
“No. Hugo. When I said pack the necessities, that didn’t include yo—your troublemaker trunk, or whatever it is, full of heaven knows what!” Her mother’s voice came from up the stairs. “What kind of pranks are you planning to pull? Did James give that to you? No. Fred gave that to you, didn’t he? His father probably gave them to him!”
Rose noticed her uncle wink at Fred quickly. Fred turned a little red, as did Roxanne, who was usually the brains behind the trouble. James looked mock offended.
There was some chuckling from the kitchen. Dom made her way down the stairs with two trunks in tow and a third floating behind her. Fleur, who had arrived that morning from Paris, was walking behind her.
“Dominique, don’t forget zat blue sveater I found in Paris for you. And don’t forget to uze zat skin charm I taught you. Where eez your brother hiding?”
“Mum, I don’t know. Ask dad.” Dom said, rolling her eyes. Dom’s French accent only came out slightly when around her family.
Fleur turned, hair swinging, and went back up the stairs, calling, “Bill? Eez Louis with you? I svear if zat boy…” Her voice faded away.
Rose laughed, and helped her stack her trunks in front of the fireplace. She hadn’t told Dom about Malfoy yet. Rose was afraid of how she would react, but even more afraid of… what would be revealed by her telling the story. By actually saying what happened out loud would lead to saying how she felt, and Rose was particularly excited to avoid that. Because of this, Rose had been skirting away from spending time alone with her; Dom always seemed to know when something was wrong.
Rose went back upstairs to grab her bags and double check for anything she may have missed. They hadn’t even gone home before coming to the Burrow, so she didn’t have too many things. She only had one trunk (mostly full of books) and a light travel bag (mostly full of white and black shirts and jeans, plus the obvious winter wear). She was sure her mother was going to pull out some kind of horrific Christmas dress in the next few days. Shuddering, she carried her trunk down the stairs.
The Potters had already gone, and everyone else was meeting at the Potters, so it was only Nana Weasley, Granddad Weasley, her mum, her dad, Uncle George and Aunt Angelina, Fred, Roxanne, Uncle Bill, Aunt Fleur, Dom, Louis, James, and Hugo. Victoire, Uncle Percy and Aunt Audrey, Lucy and Molly would be meeting them there.
One by one, they all stepped into the roaring fireplace and disappeared.
* * * * * * * * * * *
“No, you don’t remember right. Harry and I had detention with Malfoy and Neville, and Malfoy was so terrified of going into the forest in the dark--” Hermione snorted, unable to continue as she hysterically laughed, splashed wine down the front of her shirt. Ah, the flashback stories were so much fun. It was evening, and they were all sitting in the very large parlor at the Potter’s winter house, their chairs and couches situated comfortably around the roaring fire. The adults had had quite a few glasses to drink, which explained the reminiscing in the past. Rose was squished between Roxanne and Molly, who were trying to have a conversation about some girl on the Gobstones club, who wore way too much mascara. Somehow Al, James, and Hugo had escaped, possibly through a window or a secret passage way. Dom was sitting across the room with her mother and Victoire, obviously annoyed. Glancing at Dom, she and Rose shared another eye roll. They had been sitting here for at least two hours and Rose wouldn’t mind having a break. Making a move to get up, her father, as if reminded she was there, brought her into the conversation.
“Yes, those Malfoys are oily little weasels. I suppose his son is exactly the same. Wouldn’t you say so, Rose?”
Rose coughed, standing awkwardly next to the couch.
“Um…say what?” She said vaguely.
“Malfoy’s son, whatshizface—Scorpius or Scorpion or something---he’s the same as his father.” He said, gesturing broadly with the hand he wasn’t holding brandy with.
“Um…I wouldn’t say so.” Rose said honestly.
“What?” Her father looked immensely confused.
“Oh…I don’t know. He doesn’t seem so bad.” Rose said, hating herself for needing to defend him.
“You just don’t know him very well. I’m sure he’s a right git like his father was.” Her father said, nodding seriously but not looking very serious because he had a tuft of hair sticking up.
“Well you don’t know that, Ron!” Ginny cried suddenly, who had also had some to drink, “You’re judging him!”
Ron looked grumpily over at Rose.
“You’re not friends with that plank, are you?”
He nodded his head approvingly, and then received a whap on the back of the head from Ginny. Her mother too, was on Ginny’s side.
“He’s mostly just really shy. He barely ever talks, honestly. To me anyway.” Rose said lamely.
“Really, Ron. What example are you trying to set for Rose?” Her mother cried dramatically.
Feeling suddenly claustrophobic, Rose excused herself and walked from the room, doubting her family even noticed. She heard Dom make her excuses and then follow her out.
Sitting outside of the parlor on the entrance hall steps, Rose leaned her head against the pillared railing. The marble was colon her forehead. She heard Dom’s tapping footsteps slow, and then stop.
“Rose?” It echoed slightly.
“Yes?” She said, already knowing what Dom was going to say.
It was quiet for a minute.
“Do you want to go play some chess or something?” Dom said finally, walking over and helping her up.
Rose sighed, and smiled a little bit.
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