First Years were always eager to please. Their faces shone with anticipation and their brains were sponges, ready to soak up knowledge and they were generally a polite bunch, not having yet entered the dreaded adolescent era of indifference. At eleven, their paths were just beginning to unfold, and they grasped hold of everything with both hands, swallowing life and all it had to offer whole. In a way, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s Dark Arts Professor knew he envied them. They were unburdened, full of idealism and vibrancy, and he liked that his job allowed him to share in that, if only for a moment.
Scorpius Malfoy reached up to rub at his temples; with a flick of his wand, two dozen sheets of parchment rolled themselves and floated to his desk, uncurling and lying in a neat pile at his elbow. He scooped them up as the last of his students slipped out the door. He sighed lightly, dreading having to sift through the mess that was their essays and search for the answers underneath. He wasn’t a bitter man, nor was he jaded. He was, he supposed, simply tired.
Still on the fresher side of twenty-seven, he had a rather impressive array of academic achievements under his belt – a near perfect result on his NEWTS and an accelerated track through tertiary studies which had earned him a consultancy position with the Ministry of Magic that he had, much to his father’s dismay, abandoned without proper reason. Then came unemployment and freelance work, but that hadn’t suited him either, and he had been in danger of falling into the trap of superficial boredom when Professor Clearwater had come calling. Scorpius accepted the teaching position straight away. He had always felt safe, like he belonged, in the halls of Hogwarts and he had settled comfortably into his new life.
With another swish of his wand, the classroom door closed with a gentle click. He glanced around the room that had been his life for the last three years. Desks sat in rows like soldiers, neat and to attention; the walls were lined with cupboards, some with text books and some displaying Dark artefacts that he had had to argue long and hard over. The Headmistress did not want them here, claimed they were too tempting. Scorpius did agree in part – the lure of the Dark Arts was strong, and he had been bitten while still at school himself, although it was knowledge he had craved, an understanding of the magic that surrounded such things.
He never had any inclination to do anything with that knowledge, which was what had led him eventually into the teaching profession and class loads of fervent students.
His replacement would handle it all now, he supposed, although he was still reluctant to accept the invitation that arrived two days ago from Louis Weasley. Scorpius scowled, recalling the almost-taunt he could hear in the rough scrawl of Louis’ words – it was clear he didn’t think Scorpius would accept. The lure of knowledge was tempting, Scorpius had to admit, and being one of the first to see what was unearthed was just as tempting.
Still, he wasn’t sure if it was something he was ready to do. He could handle the magic – it was the camping, the tent, the isolation from everything remotely civil, not to mention the weather, which he had heard was rather ghastly. He also did not like the idea of mud, insects, bad food and her.
He had never known a person like her. She was rude, abrasive, scathing, and, above all that, she lacked a single ounce of femininity. She had tormented him during school, her and her Gryffindor friends. She was smart, he knew that, but she did not have the finesse for true academic work, and he recalled the many times she had given him a look of disdain for the permanent ink stains on his fingers, or the times when she had lifted her dark eyebrow in his direction at the merest hint of an offer of assistance when he thought she needed it.
He could not help that knowledge was a thing he craved; like air, he needed it, so while Rose was taking to the air playing Quidditch, or lounging by the Lake with her newest boyfriend, he was buried in the library, his brain sucking up information, his eyes straining from the persistent squinting over tiny words in poor light.
It was no wonder he needed glasses by sixth year; his mother had shook her head but helped him select the most stylish pair. Scorpius had to admit the glasses suited him, especially now that he was a Professor – somehow, it seemed fitting, although perhaps if he was teaching Charms or History of Magic. No one expected the Dark Arts Professor to be wearing spectacles, and he had seen the surprised look cross many of his new students faces during the start of year welcome feast. He knew they were also surprised to find him so approachable – he was rarely ever cross with anyone, he never raised his voice and he liked to think that made the students like him.
Maybe, Scorpius thought to himself absently, he just couldn’t be bothered with shouting.
Scorpius felt his eyes drift towards the door expectantly, and he wondered if Lily would show up. He’d been waiting for it for days – enough time had passed that her arrival was imminent, the next step in the routine they engaged in. A tiny bead of moisture slipped down the back of his neck and he shivered, rubbing it away. The essays sat poised and ready, waiting, and he resisted the urge to scoop them into his hands and begin the long task of trawling through the sometimes barely legible script that littered the parchment.
The room darkened slowly. He watched the long finger of light that stretched through the window work its way across the desks with all the purpose of a sundial, and he took a deep breath, his mind moving as it usually did to her. He blinked, mouth growing dry and pushed away visions of sweat and anger and pain and focused on the little things, like the colour of her hair and the way her eyes always seemed to hide secrets.
Lily liked his glasses; she said they made him look more mature, wise and learned, and he took pleasure in that. Lily said many things, he knew that too, and sometimes it was difficult to tell what was true and what was false, but he had learned to live with it, just as he had learned to live with the fact that as soon as he thought everything was perfect, she would drive a train through his brain and crush him.
He wondered why he always went back, but it was something he could not answer. Sighing again, Scorpius smoothed his hair back from his forehead, reaching into the pocket of his robes for Louis’ letter. He had read it and re-read it enough times – the words were seared into his brain, branded into his memory – but he still took out the letter, opened it and smoothed his hands along the parchment. There were creases from the continual folding, and he slipped his glasses on out of habit, sat back in his chair and, feeling particularly rebellious at that moment, raised his feet to the desk, wishing his colleagues could see him now. Too many times he had been told to relax.
I suppose you’ve heard of the Paititi Myth? Louis had written. Scorpius has scoffed the first time he had read that line – of course he had heard of the Paititi Myth. The idea of lost Incan treasure was almost enough to have him boarding the next flight out of London. Aside from Louis, there was Rose, the Scamander twins, and Frank Longbottom, and Scorpius was unsure of whether he wanted to deal with any of them at this point in his life. He wasn’t sure he could abide Louis’ arrogance, Rose’s rudeness, the Scamander’s oddness or Frank’s tendency to get in the way of everything.
We’re camping rough up here, Malfoy. No showers, no laundry service, no banquets...still, someone with your expertise shouldn’t worry about that, should he?
Scorpius frowned, wanting to tear the letter into tiny pieces and throw them over his shoulder like confetti. He turned his attention instead to the bottom of the letter, where Louis began to describe the artefacts they thought to find, and the history behind them. Scorpius knew all that anyway, but it was nice to read it again.
The door creaked open and he glanced across the room, heart suddenly thudding in his chest.
“You should take me out tonight.” There was a pout in her voice, but there often was. Lily Potter was used to getting what she wanted and tonight, it appeared, she wanted to go out. She skipped across the room, stopping just before his desk. She grinned at him, pulling her lip between her teeth and ran the tip of her finger across the front of his desk, leaving a heated mark. He sighed.
“You know I don’t like it when anyone does that.”
She laughed, her eyes alight with mischief. “Scorpius, it’s a piece of furniture. Come on, take me out – I know you don’t have duties tonight, and neither do I. We are both free for the evening so...”
He removed his feet from the edge of the desk, folded his letter and slipped it back into his pocket. He was overtaken with tiredness he had not felt creeping on. Lily was waiting, her face expectant and, he thought, a little contrite. She owed him an apology, not that she would provide him with it. They both knew that.
“I’m busy,” he said, his tone clipped.
She sighed, coming around to his side where she perched daintily on the desk. “It’s Friday, Scorpius.”
“I am aware of the day, thank you,” he replied, pushing his chair away and standing up. Her very nearness was confusing him – the last conversation they had, she had declared she didn’t wish to see him again, at least not for a while, and now, less than a week later, she was back.
He didn’t understand her, and he supposed he never would. She trailed after him, stopping him at the door, putting her body between him and his escape. Lily smiled, reaching up to touch his cheek and he batted her hand away, trying not to let the scent of her perfume sink into his brain.
“No. I’m not doing this again, Lily,” he said softly, moving away from her and pretending not to see the look in her eyes.
“I’m not a toy,” he said, his resentment bubbling to the surface. He put his back to her. “You cannot just come and go as you please.”
She sighed. “I told you in the beginning I was not ready to have a relationship.”
He turned to face her, his expression fierce. “I know, and I’m the fool for thinking that you might change your mind.”
“It’s just...it’s not like I don’t care about you, Scorpius, but you’re just so needy at times. It’s suffocating,” she replied simply, her voice low.
“Needy?” he repeated in disbelief, and she nodded but did not bother to explain. He sighed, turning away from her again, his gaze floating out the window and into the growing evening. “It doesn’t matter anyway,” he said, making a quick decision. His fingers caressed the letter through the pocket of his robes.
She said nothing, waiting.
“You won’t have to worry about me and my unbearable neediness for a while,” Scorpius said, glancing at her over his shoulder. “I’m going away for a bit. Months maybe,” he added, wanting to startle her. The letter had said a few weeks at the most, but what harm could a little white lie do?
“Peru,” he said with a slight shrug of his shoulders; he wanted to appear indifferent, appear like the thought of being away from her for so long didn’t bother him. It was another lie though – he wasn’t sure how he would manage without her. “I got a letter from Louis.”
“As in Louis my cousin?” her voice was sharp.
Scorpius nodded. “Apparently, he needs someone with my expertise.”
“Right.” Her voice was flat and a tiny, nasty part of him was glad. Maybe once he was gone she would realise that he meant something to her, and when he returned, things would be different between them. “Well, have fun then.”
He sighed and closed his eyes; maybe not. “Goodbye, Lily. I leave in a few days. I doubt I will see you before I go.”
“You’ll think of me while you’re away,” she whispered.
“Is that a divined prophecy or are you just assuming?”
Suddenly she was there, her arms around him and her lips on his, stealing his breath and his sanity once more. She pushed him against the wall and he was momentarily taken aback – she was never forceful. Lily used her charm to get what she wanted, and very rarely, never in fact, had she had to be so firm with him. She usually batted those long, dark eyelashes and he was putty between her fingers.
He was drowning in her kisses, in the scent of her hair; he wanted to lock the door and throw her on the ground, but bitterness was in his gut, humiliation in his blood and regretfully, he pushed her away, letting her long limbs slide from his grip.
She gave him a disbelieving look, flicked her hair over her shoulder, and was gone.
Scorpius sighed, rubbed at his face and began the long trek to his room.
He didn’t need to pack much, Louis had said. Just enough clothing and whatever materials he required to do the job. Everything else would be provided. Scorpius stood in his room, glancing at the overflowing book shelf. Did Louis realise how many books were needed for a task like this? Scorpius chewed his lip. He would have to be firm and only take what was essential, not desired.
On the table near the window he put his much-loved copies of Moste Potente Potions, The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection, Defensive Magical Theory, The Standard Book of Spells Grade 6, Advanced Potion Making, Olde and Forgotten Bewitchments and Charmes, Spellman's Syllabary and Magical Hieroglyphs and Logograms . He reached for one more book, Numerology and Gramatica, before putting it back carefully on the shelf. He supposed Rose would have one in her possession, and if need be, he could always ask her to look at it.
Clothing was another matter entirely. Louis told him he only needed light clothing and Scorpius shuddered: the Amazon basin in the height of summer – damp, miserable, hot and sticky. It was the dry season, thankfully, so he wasn’t concerned about being washed down the river and out to sea. He hurriedly cast protective charms on his portable library – the last thing he needed was for his books to end up mouldy, or worse, drowned and destroyed. He was not allowed to bring any robes; Louis had indicated they only get in the way of things, and he didn’t want any accidents.
There was a wizard from the South American Ministry working with them, the middle-man, as Louis put it. That phrase made the whole thing sound like a dodgy business deal, but Scorpius knew from the occasional conversation with Frank Longbottom, held at strained social gatherings, that a local consultant was always on site. Frank was okay, Scorpius supposed, thinking of the tall, skinny, dark-haired man with the open smile. He was a cheerful bloke, confident and casual, and didn’t seem to mind trekking around the world reporting for The Daily Prophet. He just might make this whole excursion to the other side of the world more bearable. Scorpius couldn’t call Frank a friend, but they got along without any dramas.
The idea of drama caused his thoughts to shift to Rose. She was, according to report, an excellent archaeologist but still a trainee curse-breaker and it was on the advice of Bill Weasley that Scorpius had been contacted. He took some pride in that, knowing how renowned Bill was and to have captured his attention was worth something. He wondered what Rose thought about it, or if she even knew. He vowed suddenly to not let memory get in the way of his job – there was no point dwelling on the things that had happened in the past. He was certain she hadn’t wasted nights thinking about things she had said to him or instances from nearly ten years ago. A tiny slice of him was sneering inside: Rose needed help and he would be the one to provide it. He knew he shouldn’t smile about it, but there was a certain degree of irony to the situation.
Pausing in the act of packing his books for the journey, Scorpius took a moment to glance around his room. There wasn’t much to show for his life at Hogwarts – simple furnishings, simple clothing and a few personal effects – photographs of his family, a gift from a past girlfriend and a set of antique quills his grandmother had given him when he graduated from Hogwarts. His mother wrote him letters each week, just as she had done when he was a student at school and then at University. They didn’t have much to talk about these days, him and his parents. He knew, without having been told, that his parents were concerned that he was wasted as a teacher, and that he had not found “the right girl yet.”
Sometimes, with Lily, he thought he had but it wouldn’t take long to realise he was wrong.
The first time Lily had seen his room at Hogwarts she had asked him why he chose to live like a monk. She couldn’t understand that just because he had a vault full of galleons at Gringotts it didn’t mean he had to spend it all. He enjoyed living frugally, only opening his vault when it was necessary. His job required no personal financing; the only thing he spent money on were books, and he had some that were worth more than the diamonds he had brought Lily last Christmas.
It was his books, and his love of books, that had been the catalyst for their first fight. He knew, deep down, that it was much more than that, but he still didn’t wish to acknowledge the truth.
He couldn’t remember how it had happened – how Lily Potter had come to end up in his arms after the Christmas celebrations over a year ago. Scorpius recalled the day he had run into her in the Hogwarts corridor – she was, she had told him, the new Divination Professor, and she had giggled at his politely shocked expression.
“I bet you, like most people, didn’t think I had a brain between my ears, right?” she had said challengingly. He had said, oh no, nothing like that, and she had smiled at him. He didn’t tell her that he thought Divination a subject not worth taking, or that he thought those who practised it, or even believed in it, must be slightly mental. He asked her was she a Seer and she giggled and said no, as far as she knew there was no Seer blood in her family. She was, she told him, still very adept at teaching the class and Scorpius had a vague memory of someone calling Lily ‘airy’ when they were at school.
Being the youngest members of staff saw them drawn together on many occasion, and he supposed something had grown from there. What that something was he was yet to put his finger on.
Pushing Lily Potter from his mind, Scorpius flicked his wand, watching with a strange interest as his clothes flew from the drawers, folded themselves and lay neatly in his trunk, a cushioning cover for his books, placed carefully in the bottom. He filled a money pouch, made sure he had enough socks, and realised he would have to shopping before he flew out. He needed boots, and although he could have transfigured a pair of his regular shoes, he wanted them to be new: new boots for a new page in his life.
Scorpuis Owled his parents, telling them of his decision and realised he had not yet replied to Louis’ letter. Hands trembling with a deep excitement, he spread a fresh sheet of parchment across his writing desk and penned a simple note of acceptance. He did not make reference to the camping, the jungle or the implied notion that he was too soft to handle himself in the field. He signed it, sealed it and walked with unusual impatience to the Owlery, where he watched his two letters fly away into the night. He wondered how long it would take for his note to reach South America, watched the stars for a brief moment of romantic indulgence, and returned to his room.
He had gone to visit the Headmistress after Lily had left, and had been given a leave of absence straight away, because “an opportunity like this should not be passed up.” Scorpius had not told her that he almost had passed it up; he’d only smiled, faked a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm and started talking about the sorts of things Louis’ team might uncover. Now, standing in his room surrounded by his small belongings and his neatly packed trunk, he smiled. This was exactly what he needed – a challenge and he shrugged off his robes like an old skin, falling into bed and sleep.
Reviews are always appreciated! Don't worry - I have not given up on Broken or Morocco - I just got bitten by a plot bunny and have committed myself to three WIPS xD