The Knight Bus swerved dangerously through the villages of Wiltshire, the Muggle cars and lampposts were jumping out of the way. The passengers inside lay asleep in their beds as midnight approached, and the ones who remained conscious swayed violently as the bus turned corners and shot down country lanes.
Stan Shunpike leaned against the driver's cubicle, pressing his glasses further up his nose as he examined the Daily Prophet. His ears were still protruding and large, and a few pimples were still etched upon his face. He glanced at the passengers in the bus before flipping the pages of his newspaper and continuing to read.
Reports from the Auror office conclude disgraced ex-Death Eater Draco Malfoy has disappeared. The new patriarch of the now-dishonored Malfoy family was last seen leaving his office on the eve of the St Mungo's Gala. He was scheduled to visit his ill wife in the hospital after work before returning home to his country manor.
A young man leaned against the bus window, his head was pressed against the cool glass. His eyes searched the houses that sped past as the landscape grew steadily more familiar. Quaint country cottages and rolling countryside replaced monstrous tower blocks and streams of traffic jams. He would be home soon.
A beautiful girl was leaning her head against the young man's shoulder, her long blonde hair spilling over his shirt. Stan sniffed, and peered down at them, noting the closeness of their shoulders, the slight touching of their knees. One of the girl's hands was lying gently on the man's thigh. The bus skidded over a bump in the road, and the girl stirred momentarily. The young man gazed down at her as she moved further towards him, into his warmth. Stan smirked. How touching.
Reporters attempted to question Malfoy's son, Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy during his summer holidays, but the heir to the Malfoy estate spent the summer travelling in Asia when his father disappeared. Malfoy's mother made no comment as she visited her shamed husband in Azkaban.
Scorpius alone. Scorpius with his mother. A younger Scorpius with shorter, blonder hair and rosy red cheeks, standing tall and proud with his father.
Stan grimaced. The Malfoys. As always when he heard that name, his mind flashed to a vision of a darkened room, a silver-decorated cane and a cold voice that hissed "imperio".
Stan looked up from the newsprint, to see a very elderly Ernie gaping a toothless grin and gesturing to a map near his steering wheel. They were approaching the heart of Wiltshire and that meant one passenger was about to depart.
"Mr. Malfoy, sir. We are almost there," the conductor said casually, his eyes returning to the news story.
Malfoy nodded in reply. He leaned over to shake the girl gently awake. She did so, and Stan gaped quickly at the striking beauty of her pristine porcelain features: the long flowing hair and the startling blue eyes. The young Malfoy slid his bag out from under his seat and grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair, before running a hand through his hair which fell effortlessly over his eyes.
As the bus skid to a halt, the girl stumbled slightly, and he turned quickly to support her, his hand resting at her elbow as he picked up her bag. She quickly pulled her arm out of his grasp and snatched the bag away from him, her eyes glaring and cold as they stared at the blond boy. Stan frowned.
Malfoy slung his bag over his shoulder and pressed a galleon into the conductor's hand.
"Thank you, sir. Have a good night, sir."
With dwindling money resources and a dilapidated estate, could Draco Malfoy be avoiding debt collectors by disappearing off the face of the earth? Sources close to Mr. Malfoy revealed that he was 'struggling financially'. While some reporters say that Malfoy left of his own accord, others believe anti-Voldemort protestors from the Second Wizarding War could have kidnapped him.
Nodding again, the young man stepped into the cold night. The girl joined him shortly afterwards, but as she walked off the bus, her foot sank into a puddle. Dark brown water crept all the way up to her ankle, and she let out a whispered swear word. This time, the boy didn’t help her. He simply stood and looked around the dark street for a sign of life. Stan watched him for a moment, before signaling to Ernie and closing the door to the bus.
Aurors are calling anyone with information with Mr. Malfoy's disappearance to contact the Ministry immediately. Astoria Malfoy née Greengrass is now making her recovery at the Wiltshire mansion and her son, Scorpius, is scheduled to return home next week. Any information regarding his whereabouts would also be appreciated.
The young couple was left alone in the cold night, a light drizzling rain settling into their hair and clothes. Readjusting his bag, the boy set off down the path.
It was overgrown and uneven; weeds and thorns crawling their way out into the centre of the path, and the visitors weaved their way through the undergrowth towards the entrance to the estate. The gates still stood there, despite the many years of wear and wind. Pressing his hands against the cold metal, the young man opened them gently, the rust causing them to creak and grate. The sound echoed eerily around the open countryside, but he persisted, pushing the gates wide apart and striding up the driveway.
“Scorpius,” the girl whispered angrily. He ignored her.
The mansion stood tall and imposing, just as it always had done. Ivy crept silently up the stonework, winding around the mullion windows, giving the old house a sense of decay and disrepair. Tiles were missing from its roof, and scattered around the courtyard. As the young man approached, the whole manor seemed to creak and crumble in front of him, as if it were some living being, slowly being strangled by weeds and overgrown vines. It had been this since the war, since Lucius Malfoy had been arrested, and the pureblood society become outdated and mundane. Like the house, the Malfoy name had collapsed around the family and the whole magical world.
The young girl followed instinctively, pulling her thin cardigan closer around her, wishing she had brought something more substantial. The house was just as she had imagined it to be. She could picture Scorpius living somewhere like this, with his proud, aloof father and his coldly beautiful mother. The dark windows were like eyes, peering down at her, just as Scorpius’ father had done all those years ago. She hurried quickly to keep up with the blond boy as he approached the front of the house.
Dumping his bag on the ground in front of the door, the visitor stared up at his apparent home. He had not been here for a long time, and he would be returning to Hogwarts in the morning.
“Scorpius,” she tried again, but still he didn’t listen.
The knock rang out into the air, and he thought the ancient wood might break with the strain. It opened slowly, and with great effort.
"Ah! Master Scorpius!"
Scorpius Malfoy entered the house, shedding his jacket from his shoulders and hanging it on an old coat hook. A small and wizened house elf reached up to take his bag, and placed at the bottom of the grand staircase.
"Will you be staying tonight, sir?"
“Yes. And so will my…” he paused, his eyes flicking to the young girl still standing in the doorway. “She will also be staying.”
“Very good, sir. I’ll make up the spare bedroom.”
“I don’t want to go to any trouble,” the girl said kindly, finally stepping out of the rain and into the hall. Scorpius raised his eyebrows, disbelief plastered all over his face. All she had done was cause trouble.
“It’s nothing, miss. Just a house elf doing his duty, miss.”
Scorpius walked towards the fireplace and warmed his hands against the flames. The shadows flickered dangerously around the entrance hall. It was cold and the many ornaments, portraits and antiques were smeared with a thick layer of dust. A sense of senescence had surrounded the old manor and had settled on everything, just like the dust.
"The mistress is upstairs, Master Scorpius, if you so wish to see her, sir."
“Very well,” he answered tiredly, rubbing his eyes, “see that Elodie gets some food, and then show her upstairs.”
“Of course, sir,” the house elf replied.
Scorpius climbed the stairs quickly, his footsteps muffled by the dust. He paused midway, as if contemplating something. The girl looked up expectantly.
“Oh and elf… tell her not to touch anything.”
He continued up the stairs. The balustrades were missing, and the old wood groaned dangerously. When he had reached the landing, he paused outside the door to his mother' room. The corridor was dark and silent. Bracing himself for what lay inside, he twisted the handle gently, the door hinges creaking as he did so.
The room was dingy, and held an air of dwindling grandness. Light danced eerily from several oil lanterns, while the curtains of the gigantic four-poster were ragged and moth-eaten. The room smelt of sickness and disease with a hint of something floral, as if trying to cover up the affliction.
The dust had found its way into this room too, covering the mirrors and the furniture like an infection. The moonlight filtered through the tall windows.
Scorpius entered silently, shutting the door with a faint click.
"Is that you, Draco?"
Astoria Malfoy stood against the window and against the moonlight, her silhouette tall and dignified. Scorpius walked towards her slowly, taking in her appearance. She was wearing a sophisticated green gown, and her dark hair was pinned in an elegant knot at the back of her head. Diamonds were glittering on her fingers and thin wrists, glinting in the moonlight. She had a manner of gracefulness that enchanted people, and her beauty was renowned.
"No, Mother. It's Scorpius."
She turned to face him, smiling down at her only son. Now he was closer to her, Scorpius could see the layer of sweat that covered of her forehead, the slight shake of her hands as she straightened his collar.
"Where have you been, Scorpius? I was getting worried about you," she asked fondly, sweeping his hair out of his eyes. Her skin was ice cold.
"I have been around, Mother," he answered, "you just haven't seen me."
Astoria turned away from her son, and perched delicately on the stool in front of her dressing table. The dust distorted her reflection as she picked up her perfume bottle and began to spray herself with her definitive scent.
"You always liked roses, Mother," Scorpius noted quietly, and his mother laughed. It was a tinkling, feminine laugh that reminded Scorpius of the years spent at the manor during his childhood.
"I have missed you, my darling," she said. He had placed a hand on her shoulder, and she covered it with her own.
"Me too," Scorpius replied. Astoria smiled.
"And have you completed your school work?"
"Of course," he responded.
"And Elodie? Is she still in France?"
"She’s downstairs, Mother."
“Oh, how wonderful. You two do make the most perfect couple.”
Scorpius’ throat clenched and closed, and he swallowed several times.
Will you marry me?
“That’s right,” he said dully, “we’re regular little lovebirds.”
She laughed. It was soft and fragile and lasted only seconds.
"Did you find your father?" She asked after a weighty pause, looking at her son through the mirror, a powder brush clasped between her pale fingers.
Scorpius had not wanted to tell his mother. He had been going over in his mind how he would tell her, the right words he would use, what her reaction would be. She depended on him. He was now the sole heir to the Malfoy estate, the man of the house.
Looking at his mother, frail and ill but still retaining her beautiful features, Scorpius saw a glimmer of hope in her dark eyes that he had lost long before. He had spent days looking for his father, knowing that the Aurors would turn his disappearance into something suspicious. A lot of people did not like Draco but his disappearance would not go unnoticed. Even the conductor on the bus had eyed him sheepishly as he departed.
"I did not, Mother," he said gently.
Her grip on his hand loosened. She looked down to her jewelry box. Her hands rummaged through it frantically, grasping at pearls and rubies and emeralds. They were remnants of a bygone era, when the Malfoys could afford to lavish themselves with only the best. Her hands were still shaking dangerously.
Scorpius stood behind his mother, his breath quickening nervously as he looked at the mess she had become. As she searched her dressing table in vain, her breath was rasping, strands of her hair were falling out and her fingers were bleeding from the sharp edges of the glittering stones. She began to cough violently, flecks of blood and spit flying from her mouth onto the mirror, mingling with the dust. The sound was dire, an appalling bark far too rough and dangerous to emerge from such a soft and pale throat. She stood, the stool falling backwards with sudden wave of movement, and began to walk clumsily towards the window. She almost fell, and clung to the long, velvet curtains of the bed. She clutched at them, pulling herself up to her full height.
Scorpius could just stand and watch her. He was desperate to help, to do something, but he could not. He found himself rooted to the spot as he watched his mother succumb to her illness. He was terrorized by how it had taken over her body.
She was still coughing as she found her way to the dresser near the window, and her dress ripped as she stumbled towards it. Astoria leant against it heavily until the coughs subsided, at last regaining her composure. Her slim, shaking fingers pinned her stray hairs back. Her white hands and the crimson blood that covered them contrasted horribly with the darkness of her hair. She picked up a handkerchief, and tenderly brushed the blood away from her fingers and from her mouth. She rearranged her rings and her torn gown.
"Mother, you must rest," Scorpius said to the silent room, his feet still anchored to the spot.
"You may leave now, Scorpius," she answered curtly, her back still turned from him. He glanced towards the mess that was her dressing table, the upturned jewelry box and open drawers.
"What were you looking for?" he asked again.
"Scorpius, please leave," she said.
"Leave now. And only come back when you have found your father."
Scorpius noted the tone of power and control in her voice, and began to walk towards the door leading to the landing. Before he opened it, he turned to look at his mother one last time. She had rearranged the room, and it was now returned to its former state: drawers closed, the jewels neat and shining. It was like the moment between them had never happened. She was standing by the window, with an unmistakable air of dignity and refinement. The only indications that anything had taken place were the faint spots of blood on an old dusty mirror, which glowed crimson in the moonlight.
The door shut with a snap, and Scorpius leaned against it, resting his head on the wood. In his mind's eye, he pictured his ideal, perfect family. He would be loved and adored by two doting parents. His mother would be beautiful, and would greet him home from school with a hug, not a cold, awkward kiss on the cheek. His father would teach him how to shave and help him with his homework. He wouldn't disappear into thin air at the smallest sign of danger. There would even be a sibling. Someone he could share his two wonderful parents with.
Scorpius inhaled deeply, and the dust crept into his lungs. His mother's scent still lingered around him. The faint floral fragrance he had always associated with home was now sickly and overpowering, and he wanted to wash it off himself. He briefly remembered a time when he thought his mother to be the essence of dignity and nobility and he tried to recapture that feeling, the sense of blinding perfection that had seemed to surround her in the old days. He couldn’t. Instead he summoned, involuntarily, a sharper picture of an elegance that outstripped even that of his mother.
Elodie Desmarais at the Yule Ball. Elodie Desmarais in the rain. Elodie Desmarais laughing. Elodie Desmarais in a thousand different poses.
Will you marry me?
He tried once again to force those images out of his mind, but it was too difficult, now that she was here. Even after everything, she had still come with him and stuck by him, albeit reluctantly. He opened his eyes, looking around him.
The eyes of generations of Malfoys peered back at him, their faces looming sinisterly out of the darkness. There was a portrait of his father and mother, Astoria sitting smartly while Draco stood behind her, his cold, pointed face more prominent than ever next to Astoria's full lips and captivating complexion. Scorpius supposed his father would expect him to join them up here, in this gallery of the malevolent and rapacious. He stared up at his parents, and they stared icily at something that he could not see.
Scorpius' reverie was broken by the muffled sounds of coughing from the other side of Astoria's bedroom door. He was tempted to return to her, to talk some sense into her, to tell her to rest or to see a healer. But now there was a physical barrier between them, and Scorpius was unable to break it. He finally relented to his own emotions. His parents were ungrateful and sadistic and if Scorpius stayed here any longer, he was scared he would be too. He didn't want to be corrupted by the Malfoy name.
Scorpius turned, and ran down the staircase. He almost ran over the old house elf, who was polishing fruitlessly at the bottom of the steps.
"Dinner's almost served, sir."
“Your lady friend is in the library, sir.”
“She’s not my friend.”
Scorpius grabbed his jacket and opened the front door. The rain was now hammering down, and lightning blazed in the distance. A rumble of thunder coincided with a painful groan from the old house. He zipped up his coat and stepped out into the night.
The rain beat down on Scorpius' head as he walked around the estate, as he stumbled over tree roots and sloshed his way through murky puddles. He pulled his Muggle cigarettes out of his pocket, fumbling with the awkward cardboard packet. There was one left. He attempted to light it, but the falling water extinguished it. He threw it to the ground and sat, defeated, on an iron bench near the entrance to the estate. Scorpius leant his head back, the rain cooling his face, seeping into his hair and creeping down the back of his neck.
He reminisced about the last time he was at the manor. It was Christmas last year, and the mansion was covered in snow, icicles glinting from the stonework and the courtyard buried by a thin layer of ice. He had returned home from the station with his father. Draco Malfoy had been cheerful and smiling, and although his face was slightly wrinkled and his hairline even more receded, he walked with a spring in his step. He was happy. Even though the whole magical world was against him, even though his own father was in Azkaban, he was still happy.
Father and son had walked up to the manor door, knocked twice, and the old house elf had opened it, welcoming them inside. Scorpius smiled as he remembered the decorations and the gigantic Christmas tree sitting in the corner of the hallway. He would never forget how beautiful his mother looked, gliding down the large staircase, diamonds glittering at her throat. There was no dust then, no broken furniture, no cobwebs. The house had been magnificent.
The rain beat down against the garden bench as Scorpius recalled about that night. After Scorpius had unpacked, dinner had been served. It was delicious as always, the colossal dining table laden with all types of food. But Scorpius couldn't recall what he had to eat, because his mind, on that night, had been focused on something more significant. It was the night his mother had her first attack.
Scorpius opened his eyes. He did not want to remember it. It was bad enough that it haunted him whenever he slept, so he didn't exactly feel like reliving it now. Not when he was conscious and could help it. The images of it still plagued his mind - the flecks of spit and blood, the hacking cough, the cold, aloof look on his father's face as his wife sank to her knees, her bejewelled hand clasping at her chest.
Because that night was also the night that everything went wrong.
The house elf had called the hospital, and Draco had apparated his wife to London, where she had examined by healers. They had fed her various potions, each of which proved ineffective. They tried different healing charms, but they could not determine what her illness was. They had called it a deterioration of the blood, caused by toxins.
An impurity of the blood, they had said.
Scorpius curled his hand into a fist. His father did not like that. Scorpius and his father had returned home, Draco retiring at once into his study. There was no longer a spring in his step. Scorpius had not slept, instead spent hours pacing his room, throwing his possessions one by one at the wall in his anger. Anger at the healers for their inability to heal, anger at his father for his inability to love and most of all; his own inability to do anything about it.
Scorpius and his father did not speak at the breakfast the next morning, or at their visit to the hospital. The healers had said that they would keep her in for more observations. Scorpius, unable to stand the silence any longer, had disappeared into Diagon Alley. He only returned late that night, but his father didn't care. He never emerged from his study, and Scorpius had only seen him briefly during meal times, but he wouldn't eat. Part of Scorpius had wanted to believe that was a profound grieving for his wife's illness, but he knew it was just his father's incompetence.
Scorpius had not returned to the manor since that holiday, and after the shameful night at Elodie’s house, he spent most of his time at the Leaky Cauldron, working for his keep. He could not remember the sound of Draco's voice. Now he was back, back to find the father who had deserted them at the worst time.
He appreciated the quiet.
Apart from the slight drumming of the rain and the occasional roll of thunder, there was silence. There was no rumble of traffic or screech of a car horn, no loud drunken Muggles. There had been plenty of those when he had been looking for his father. It also didn't compare with the stillness of the mansion, which was dead and strange. The silence out here was alive and breathing…
And easily broken. Scorpius tried to retain the silence by succumbing to it and he did not reply to the beautiful girl standing next to him.
Elodie stared at the young man sitting on the bench. She looked down at him, her large blue eyes gazing at him, trying to decipher what he was thinking. She admired his good looks, his high cheekbones and strong jaw. She recalled a time, long ago, when she could study those features when he was sleeping, when she could reach out and touch them and she would feel his warm skin underneath her fingers. She looked at his grey eyes. They were older now, darker and more tired: great bags surrounded them like permanent shadows. They had been the same last year when he had appeared at her house unannounced, a bag flung over his shoulder and a small black box clasped in his hand.
Because that night was also the night that everything went wrong.
Will you marry me?
The first chapter of 'The Dark of Night', a pretty loose rewriting of my first story 'Bad Habit' (a horribly cliche Rose/Scorpius that was thankfully deleted from the archive). Thanks to puffinz and Ariellem for their help, support and input. ♥