Left alone with the cousins and grandmother, Scorpius wished he'd found another way to be supportive than telling Rose to take as long as she needed.
"If you want something to do you could ice fairy cakes." The older cousin Dominique's smile was a dare. "Decorate one especially for Rose."
She likely expected him to say no and planned to recount what he said—exaggerating how he'd said it—to the other cousins. He understood her motivation. It must be a challenge to gain attention in such a crowd. Scorpius decided to give her a better tale to tell than "Malfoy sneered." He asked Granny Weasley, "May I?"
"If you like," she said.
He took a seat beside the other cousin, Molly. She scooted away from him. "I'm almost done icing." The look she shot him added, I don't need your help!
"Then I'll decorate." He selected a fairy cake with white icing. The only other alternative was pink. He took out his wand.
Granny Weasley snatched it out of his hand. "HOW DARE YOU—" She broke off, staring at the cake. "Tint the icing," she said in a small voice.
"Rose loves green." Scorpius' calm manner belied a pounding heart. His life hadn't quite flashed before his eyes, but the granny death glare alarmed him considerably. "I'll use wandless magic if you prefer," he said.
"That would be best." Granny Weasley handed back his wand. "Molly being underage and all."
"But Granny, you use—"
"Hush, child, don't interrupt." She patted Molly on the shoulder. "Be a dear and take a pitcher of lemonade outside. People get thirsty."
"I'll do it." Dominique jumped up, eager to tell what happened and become the centre of attention, no doubt. Lily grabbed the pitcher first and sprinted out the door, lemonade sloshing.
Scorpius asked Molly, "How did you plan to decorate the cakes?"
As though she couldn't help but be honest at any cost, she said, freckled face solemn, "Dominique was having you on. We only ice them."
"No matter," he said. "I'll use spells."
"To make what?"
"What would you like?"
Molly considered the matter and said, "Flowers."
"Jasmine, violets or roses?"
"On which cake?"
"All of them."
Conjure sugared violets for dozens of fairy cakes simultaneously without using a wand? That was asking for a brutal headache, which, on further thought, wasn't a terrible consequence. Rose could take him home. "All except this one," he said, setting aside the green fairy cake. He closed his eyes, visualised, and then cast one of his mother's favourite garnish spells.
"Pretty," Molly said.
A single sugared violet topped each fairy cake. Scorpius rubbed his forehead to ease the band of tightness.
"Are you going to conjure roses for Rose?"
"No," he said distractedly, concentrating on the next spell. Three white, sugared jasmine blossoms appeared on green icing.
"Ooh," said Molly. "They're beautiful."
Scorpius' head throbbed with a dull ache. He thanked Molly for her offer to put the fairy cake on a special plate and asked her granny, "May I sit in the lounge?"
"Of course." Granny Weasley sounded almost civil. Pain must have affected his hearing.
He sank into an overstuffed chair and reached up a hand to grab the back of his neck. He'd been wrong. Suffering wasn't worth it. He tried to rub circles the way Rose had, but the tension in his neck remained excruciating.
Abruptly, the pain faded. The knots in his muscles relaxed. Scorpius glanced up to see a pack of redheaded men and a lone dark-haired wizard enter from the kitchen. The dark-haired one held a wand outstretched in a pose similar to one regularly featured on the covers of Super Wizard comics.
Harry Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World, also cured common headaches. A true hero for all occasions. Scorpius kept his expression carefully neutral. Although Father never spoke ill of Potter, Grandfather Lucius never failed to remind Scorpius who The Boy Who Lived would have killed with a Sectumsempra curse. He muttered, "Thank you."
"Next time take it easy on the wandless magic."
Scorpius glanced toward the staircase. And in his spare time Super Wizard is Super Dad, stating the obvious to the delight of Super Kids. Maybe he should send the idea in as a "fan" suggestion. Creevey would use it.
The Weasley men sat on the sofas adjacent to and facing Scorpius' chair. Harry Potter took the leather chair next to him.
Scorpius peered at the stairs in hope.
"Rose and Roxy are very close," Rose's father said. "They have long conversations."
So she won't save me from gang interrogation. "That's nice." He avoided direct eye contact with any of the men and kept his own mental defences firmly in place.
"Did your father teach you Occlumency?" Harry Potter asked after a few minutes. It must have dawned that Scorpius wasn't naturally shifty-eyed or going to respond to standard Auror tactics. He wasn't the get-nervous-and-babble type.
"Draco learned it from your Aunt Bellatrix, did he tell you that?" asked the uncle with hair almost as long as Scorpius'. George Weasley pushed back his hair to reveal a blackened hole where an ear should be.
"Did she do that to you?" Scorpius asked.
Then why flash the cursed wound? For the hell of it?
The next person to break the war of silence was the granddad. "There's a picture of you and Rose on the front page of today's Prophet. Have you seen it?"
"No." Rose's father must have hidden it. Or burned it. Rather decent of him and Mrs. Weasley not to mention it at breakfast.
Granddad Weasley leaned forward. "Your grandfather has seen it, I assure you."
Possibly. Scorpius reckoned it depended on how late the Knights of Walpurgis celebrated after the knighting ceremony. With any luck, Lucius and the others would remain passed out until the evening. Unless they didn't hold a ceremony, unless Grandfather asked them to postpone it. He asked Rose's father, "When a house is Unplottable, how do owls deliver the post? Does magic guide them directly to the person a letter's addressed to?"
Ron Weasley's face darkened. "You get any letters, I'll know—and I'll be reading them."
"And if there's a threat we'll deal with it," said the man with scars across his face. Bill Weasley.
Scorpius could see the menacing turn the conversation was starting to take and racked his brain to derail it. Rose's Uncle Bill was a famous Curse Breaker, husband of a Veela . . . and author of a certain letter to the advice columnist at the Prophet. "I remember your Four Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter," Scorpius said. His parents had laughed.
Uncle Bill said, "That was a few years ago."
"They were memorable."
"If you want romance, read a book."
"I've got a library," said Rose's father.
"Yes," Scorpius said. "I spent time in there this morning. Pride and Prejudice. Interesting story."
Harry Potter asked, "Which part?"
"Different ones." Scorpius covertly checked to see if Rose was on her way downstairs. She wasn't.
"Can't have been interesting if you don't remember," said Uncle Bill.
Scorpius said, "You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. How far your nephew might approve of your interference in his affairs, I cannot tell; but you certainly have no right to concern yourself in mine."
"Is he talking about Hugo?" Uncle Percy asked Rose's father, who shook his head.
"I think he was quoting."
Chapter fifty-six, to be precise: information Scorpius kept to himself. He'd opened his mouth enough.
Harry Potter said, "Do you remember things word for word?"
"When it'll impress a girl," Scorpius said. "Which uncle are you? Percy?"
While the real Uncle Percy spluttered, Harry Potter said, "All these years your father's never pointed me out?"
"Not once." His father believed in living in the present.
"Then let me introduce myself. I'm Harry Potter."
Scorpius shook the man's hand with his grandfather's words ringing in his ears.
He humiliated your father . . . made his name a joke . . . attempted to murder him.
Scorpius turned to check the stairs and saw a ghostly raccoon dart into the lounge. It scurried over and jumped onto his lap.
"Why is Rose sending you her Patronus?" her father asked sharply.
"Roxanne is upset and needs to talk. Rose won't be coming downstairs for a while." Scorpius stood. "I'll wait for her outside." He addressed the granddad, the eldest. "If you'll excuse me, sir."
Granddad Weasley slowly nodded. "You may be excused."
The area between Scorpius' shoulder blades prickled until he reached the kitchen.
He found five women huddled around the end of the table listening to the voices rising like steam from the mouth of a glazed earthenware pitcher. The handle of the pitcher was in the shape of an enormous ear.
Don't go after him, son.
Granny Weasley waved her wand.
The kitchen was silent for a moment, and then Rose's mother said, "I'd say the last voice was Ron's, but the pitch wasn't quite right."
"It was George," said Ginny Potter. "When we were growing up he and Fred used to say that in chorus."
The golden-haired woman Rose had identified as Aunt Audrey said, "He probably wanted to know what Rose said about Roxanne."
"What did she say?" asked Fleur Weasley, arching a silvery-blonde eyebrow at Scorpius. Her regal, French-accented voice dripped with confidence that he would answer simply because she had asked. Grandmother Narcissa pulled the same trick. It worked better on shop clerks than family.
Scorpius repeated what they undoubtedly already heard, "Roxanne's upset," and walked out the back door.
One look at the sea of unfriendly faces was all it took to make him keep on walking.
Lily ran after him. "Hey! What happened? Where's Rose? Where are you going?"
"Rose is still talking to Roxanne, and I'm going to see a boy about a toad," Scorpius replied as he strode toward the tree house visible at the far rear of the garden.
The miniature house hung suspended by magic, with steps transfigured out of the oak's trunk acting as a ladder. His father had never allowed him to have a tree house. They were too dangerous. He started climbing.
"Who goes there?" called a gruff young voice.
Lysander Scamander's head popped into view, grinning from the square entrance in the tree house floor. "Hullo!"
"Hello. Permission to come aboard?"
Lucy Weasley's face appeared beside her friend's. "It's a tree house, not a ship, silly. Come on up!"
Scorpius waited for them to move away from the opening and did as instructed. The space was much larger inside. Through the window, he could see family members gazing at the tree house. He ducked down and sat on the floor.
"So," he said, "Are the toads still kissing?" On the opposite side of the tree house, near a jam pot glowing blue from the enchanted fire inside, the amphibians faced each other, apparently transfixed.
"No," Lucy said. "You missed it. We're reading comics now." She waved a hand toward the jumbled stack between her and Lysander.
Scorpius clamped down on the urge to straighten the magazines. They weren't his, they didn't have to be in order. "Muggle or wizard?" he asked. He had never read a Muggle comic.
"Wizard," said Lucy.
Lysander threw down the one he was flipping through. "This one's pretty good. I've read it four times."
"That's not the way to treat art," Scorpius said, picking up the comic. He stared. "This is a copy of Amazing Comics number one. Less than a hundred of these exist. It's the most valuable comic for a given condition, even over Super Wizard volume one, number one."
"Teddy gave it to us," Lucy said.
Teddy Lupin, Scorpius presumed. "Did he tell you to clean your hands before you handle comics, to pick them up by the open edge, top or bottom?"
She shook her head.
"Where do you store them?"
"Over there," said Lysander.
Behind the toads was a small trunk.
Scorpius said, "Tell me there's an acid-free stasis box inside."
Lysander's face fell and then brightened. "There's action figures!" He raced over and came back with a mound of toys bundled in the hem of his t-shirt. "Regular Super Wizard, Aura Sensor Super Wizard, Warlock Zod, Wonder Witch, Gold Goblin, Professor Doomsday, Mastermind, Green Knight—"
"I'll take that one," Scorpius said, plucking the green helmeted figure out from the jumble of toys.
"You like him 'cause he's a hero even though people think he's bad?" Lysander dumped the action figures onto the planked floor and picked up Auror Sensor Super Wizard, clicking the aura wheel in his hand to orange. "Your aura shows power. Use it for good."
Lucy picked up the Wonder Witch toy. "What colour's my aura?"
"White. You're sick."
"No I'm not!"
"Yes you are," Lysander said. "Professor Doomsday poisoned you." He picked up the sneering wizard with a hooked nose. "Nothing can save you now," he said in a hissing voice.
"The Green Knight will save me!" Lucy made Wonder Witch run to Scorpius. "Won't you?"
Lysander said, "Super Wizard's supposed to save you!" He traded the aura-sensing toy for Regular Super Wizard. "I'm your super best mate!"
"You're super-stupid! You let him poison me!"
"You can help me save her," Scorpius said. "Be my super sidekick."
Lucy made her character jump up and down. "I want to be your sidekick too!"
Wonder Witch was fit in a crimson bikini showing beneath sheer gold robes. The Green Knight graciously bowed his acceptance.
The super trio was about to trap Professor Doomsday in his laboratory on top of the trunk when a voice from below said, "Time for dinner!"
"But, Mum! Wonder Witch will die if we don't get the poison's antidote!" Lysander yelled.
Scorpius took advantage of the boy's distraction to have the Green Knight kick Professor Doomsday off the trunk. "I've saved the day," he said. "Game over."
"You're my hero!" Wonder Witch pressed her face against the Green Knight's.
Lysander shook his Super Wizard toy. "I helped. Snog me!"
Lucy obliged and made kissing noises.
Scorpius headed down the ladder rapidly as possible.
"Thank you for playing with the children," said the woman Scorpius recognised as Luna Scamander. She wore a giant nest on her head as a hat. There were speckled eggs in it. She drifted over to call through the tree house "door", "Did you tidy up, Lysander?"
Scorpius heard the sound of flapping of pages, several thuds, and then a bang. The two had thrown everything into the trunk and slammed the lid. He tried to think positive. My near mint condition collection just became more valuable.
On the walk back across the garden, Lucy and Lysander ran ahead.
Luna Scamander tilted her head to see past the twigs. "I must say, I think you're doing awfully well. One of Dominique's friends ran off screaming."
How encouraging. "There's Rose," he said, relieved to see her exit the house. "A pleasure to meet you, ma'am."
"Love without measure is man's greatest pleasure,"Mrs. Scamander replied.
Scorpius walked faster.
A/N: When inspiration comes to me, I use it, whether it's sugared edible flowers; one of "8 Simple Rules" from a TV show of the same name; the Ravenclaw House motto (I’d like to think “Love without measure” could be another motto, if less well known, heh; quotes from Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice chapter 56, page 162) ; the old expression Little pitchers have big ears (first recorded in 1546) that means children hear and understand more than you think they do (the play is on the shape of an ear resembling the handle of a pitcher—I made it literal), or Superman comics (changing Action Comics #1 to Amazing and Wonder Woman to Wonder Witch, etc.). I enjoyed the thought of Teddy's eyes getting huge as Bill laid down the "rules" for dating his daughter, and Scorpius conditioned by Lucius to dislike Harry Potter, yet at the same time owning every Super Wizard comic thanks to his mother (and no, I'm not a comic geek, I had to look that stuff up).