Chapter 7 : VII
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“And he didn’t write to you? No messages, no letters?”
Scorpius turned, facing towards the two men. One had lit a pipe and the smoke trickled upwards, mingling with the dust and darkness of the old classroom. The other, lounging languidly across the desk, was leafing through a folder. Scorpius had told them over and over again that he didn't know where his father was, and that he expressly didn't care.
As he had said it, Elodie had turned to face him, her face a perfect myriad of emotions and conflict - only she knew his deepest, blackest thoughts about his father. She had heard them, whispered to her in the dark of night, her body lying flat against his, their fingers and hearts entwined.
"I miss him," he had said, and she had laughed. She pushed his hair back from his forehead before replying. "He's down the corridor, Scor, how can you miss him?"
Scorpius had found that a new world was opening to him: a new kind of intimacy that was as heady and exhilarating as the more physical aspects to their relationship. It was usually at night, when they lay in each other's arms, that their conversations had begun. It was in these conversations - halting at first, neither wanting to be the first to admit any type of vulnerability - that they stumbled into honesty.
And of course, it was this brutal honesty that had destroyed them.
“It’s different,” Scorpius had continued, and the affronted tone to his voice had caused Elodie to wrap her arms around him in apology, “he doesn’t talk to anyone… he’s just always away, doing other things…”
“And what does he say to you?”
“Nothing.” He had found it easier to whisper into her skin rather than look into her eyes. Her intensity had scared him and her slight smirk still haunted his memory – like Elodie was proud she was the one he was sharing his innermost secrets with.
“Do you mind?”
“No,” he had replied quickly, “not at all. I used to feel like I had to impress him, like I needed him to be proud of me… but I grew out of it, I suppose. Realised that I shouldn’t bother.”
He felt her press a small kiss to his shoulder, and the action encouraged him. “I wondered what I would do if my mother is worse than we think, if she did die,” he had continued, “if I was left alone with him…”
“And?” Her voice had been small and quiet as if she felt he would stop talking, get frightened that he was revealing too much to her, or believe himself too proud to open up like this, if she interrupted him.
“I don’t know. He’d probably indoctrinate me into the company or the Death Eaters so something ridiculous like that.”
“Don’t be stupid, Scor,” Elodie had said, lifting her head off his chest to gaze into his eyes, “tell me.”
There had been a pause and Scorpius had felt her grasp on his arm tighten, whether in encouragement or as a comforting or possessive gesture, he hadn’t known. Her great desire to know every inch of him had startled Scorpius, and he shifted away from her, pulling the blankets over him. Sensing the end of the conversation, Elodie had retreated too and the warmth had gone away with her.
Looking at her now, stern and sensible in the candlelight, it was impossible to believe that warmth and love and kindness had ever emanated from her. She had come with him to search for his father. They had spent night after night fruitlessly looking through deserted hotels and calling on distant relatives and long gone family friends. They had barely spoken and when they did, the words were harsh and spiteful - perhaps she thought that being questioned and interviewed by Aurors gave the whole situation some finality, that she wouldn’t have to fraternize with Scorpius any more, that they would be able to simply sink into the simmering silence of ancient enemies.
“No, nothing like that.”
“And he hasn’t spoken to your mother?”
“Even I don’t speak to my mother.”
A vision of Astoria, elegant and smiling, flashed through his mind and he watched with horror as her skin disintegrated and her flesh rotted: aging, dying, decaying – like her health and her beauty were some metaphor for the state of the Malfoy name, or of their lives.
“And you haven’t been to his work? Spoken to any of his colleagues?”
“I thought you would be doing that, obviously,” Scorpius replied, and he couldn’t help but let the disdain seep through his words. The two Aurors shifted uncomfortably. Elodie was staring at him.
“No relations? Estranged family members or old school friends?”
The room fell silent again. His eyes felt heavy as he lifted them to meet Elodie's gaze and he watched as she rolled her eyes at the Aurors' incapability. He smiled and so did she - finally they had something to mock aside from each other - but it felt strange and so Scorpius forced his eyes away to glare at the incompetent Auror.
He had introduced himself as Jones.
“We just want to know when you last saw him,” Jones continued, “get a time frame for the whole event.”
“January. I last saw him in January.”
“That was nine months ago.”
“Like I said, he’s an attentive father.”
The two Aurors exchanged glances and Scorpius could tell what they were thinking: they didn’t want to be here, they’d rather be sitting in the Leaky Cauldron or the Three Broomsticks downing some mead instead of questioning some upstart little brat in a cold classroom.
“Excuse me,” Elodie said and Scorpius turned, surprised, to look at her, “but why haven’t you asked him these questions before? Mr Malfoy went missing over two months ago.”
From his position by the window, Scorpius could read every expression on her face; no one watches her like he does, no one pays as much attention to the ever-shifting expressions of her haughty face like he does, no one sees the way she looks at her friends, how fiercely she lays down the foundations of her future, and how hard she will fight to attain her goals quite like he does. He could see it building now: that same determination he had faced at the platform at the beginning of summer, the same grit she had used to reject him last Christmas… all of it covered up with a brief, beautiful smile that feigned politeness and made you believe that she actually cared at all.
There was odd pulling feeling in his stomach as he watched her defend him. He felt his head spin. Sweat glistened on his brow. He turned quickly to face the window and fumbled with the fastening, opening his mouth wide when he could finally breathe in the cold, fresh air.
“Listen, Mr Jones,” Elodie continued, “there’s clearly no point in this. Scorpius is not cooperating and I really think this should wait until you have at least done some preliminary questioning of the people who actually knew him.”
The two Aurors didn’t even argue. The other Auror – not Jones – chuckled silently at her defiance as she straightened her school skirt primly.
"Very well, Mr Malfoy," said Jones, shutting his folder with finality, "you are free to go. You too, Miss Desmarais.”
The sound of Elodie’s chair on the floorboard flooded Scorpius’ ears. He watched, his eyes unfocused and staring, as she made pleasantries with Jones, even going so far as to shake his hand.
"Did you have a nice time in Asia?" The voice hit him from behind, surprising him, and Scorpius almost flinched.
"Oh yes," Scorpius said, careful in case any accidental sarcasm slipped out, "it was brilliant, really. Quite excellent."
"Where did you go?"
"The Great Wall, obviously," Scorpius began and he struggled to remember the leaflets he had read in preparation for the trip he was going to take before his father disappeared. "We visited India, Sri Lanka, Japan..."
"Your girlfriend's cousin in France? The sites of Paris?"
Scorpius didn't say anything but instead stared at his feet. Scorpius and Elodie hadn’t been in Asia, or even France. The Auror might as well have tapped his nose in the immature way of self-confident teenage girls, but instead he continued talking, his voice smug and pretentious.
“I’ve been talking to Miss Desmarais’ parents and they had some things to say about you.”
“Nice things, I hope.”
“They were very enthusiastic to share their views on your father and you, Mr Malfoy.”
“I’m sure they were.”
“They said some nasty things,” the Auror said, and he leaned closer and Scorpius could smell old tobacco smoke and the strong scent of firewhiskey, “but they never said you were a liar.”
“What’s the problem? So I was in France instead of Asia, what does it matter?”
“On the contrary Mr Malfoy, it matters very much,” the Auror said, “what if we find your father in France? What if he is found in Asia? If you’re lying about something as trivial as where you went on holiday, then surely you could be lying about other, more substantial things…”
“Like where my father is actually hidden?” Scorpius added, sarcastically. “Yes, I’m very likely to know that, seeing as he hasn’t spoken to me in months.”
“Well,” the Auror said, screwing a cigar between his lips and Scorpius felt the great desire to disappear into the grounds and smoke a whole packet of cigarettes, “I’m sure there’s a reason for that.”
And with that, the Auror swept out into the corridor and waited silently for his colleague. Scorpius and Elodie bundled after them.
“Thank you,” Jones said, “we’ll be in contact.”
Scorpius nodded, turning to meet Elodie’s gaze as the Aurors disappeared down the corridor. She smiled at him in a sad, condescending way, gripping her hands together and swinging slightly on her feet. He rolled his eyes.
“You didn’t have to defend me.”
“Of course I did, Scor,” Elodie said, and he tried to ignore the brightness to her voice, as if the answer was obvious, “you didn’t want to be there and the Aurors weren’t listening to you.”
“And so you took control?”
“Somebody needed to.”
They stood awkwardly in the empty corridor, the sounds of welcoming feasts still far away. She wrapped her arms around her to protect herself from the impending chill.
“It was embarrassing,” Scorpius continued.
“I was playing the loving girlfriend.”
“Well you’re very good at it.”
“Thank you. I’ve had some practice.”
“A little domestic? How charming.”
Scorpius and Elodie turned, only to find Dominique Weasley standing at the stop of the stairs: her white blonde still shining in the dim light, a coy smile planted over her red lips. Elodie was the first to react, smiling politely at the sight of her. Scorpius merely stood there – the similarities and differences between the two young women were finally very clear to him.
“Bonjour. Comment allez-vous?” Dominique began, the foreign words flowing from her lips.
“Je vais bien, merci.”
“Ton petit ami est très beau.”
“Tu peux l'avoir.”
“J'ai l'intention de l'avoir.”
The conversation passed quickly, and Scorpius stood stock still in between the two girls. Dominique was easier to read than Elodie, he could understand her body language, uncover her emotions from the flicker of her eyes or the way she kissed him – but the different language had thrown him. She had seemed to slip into a different skin.
They had both turned to face him, both expecting him to say something.
And he couldn’t.
Scorpius Malfoy had been finding himself lost in moments. Since the evening of the welcome feast, he would find himself staring into a person's face, see their mouths moving with vigour or in an undertone and he would not comprehend a single word. Other people would laugh and he would just stand, looking intently at their faces, wondering whether they are really as bland as they seem. The wide, open faces of the people around him perplexed him; they walked around unarmed, not expecting a fight. They told their secrets to anyone who listens. His secrets, however, were heavy. They pressed down on his shoulders and his senses and the only person who could share the load had gone.
He had left both the girls on the empty corridor on that night, and mumbled a vague excuse about meeting his friends back at the house. He hadn’t wanted to explain to Elodie why Dominique was talking to him and he hadn’t wanted to spend the night with Dominique. He hadn’t seen her since then and there had been one week of perfect, undisturbed silence.
“Scorpius.” A voice whispered from the shadows, and Scorpius pulled his gaze away from Elodie and into the darkness of an alcove, hidden by ivy in a secluded corner of the courtyard. He caught the scent of French perfume and a glance of the white blonde hair, the long red fingernails and the familiar sense of boredom and irritation surrounded him. Dominique. Again.
“You’re looking at her again,” she whispered as he entered the dark space, her hands automatically finding their way to his chest. He followed the routine and his hands slipped around her waist as he obligingly kissed her neck. He heard her breath quicken and the sound disgusted him.
"And?" Scorpius murmured. He had to force himself to retain some illusion of politeness. He had force himself to remember that the girl was beautiful.
"I don't like it."
"But you always look at Oscar Moore."
"That's different," she replied hastily, her voice a petulant whine, "that's part of my scheme to ruin Rosie."
"Of course it is."
She pressed her lips to his - frenzied and impatient - and he marveled at how much her preferred her when she wasn't talking. Dominique's fingers had found their way to his belt buckle but he encircled her thin wrists with his hands and pulled them off. Instead they stuck like magnets to his shoulders.
"Scorpius..." she whispered coyly, her fingers toying with his collar, "what's wrong?"
Scorpius looked at Dominique, at her fair hair and beautiful features, and he wondered why people wanted to be in his position, why people wanted to know her. Behind the pale skin and perfect complexion, she was nothing: as vapid and irritating as the girls she thought herself superior to. He could feel Dominique's lips on his jaw, creeping slowly along the bone until they reached the corner of his mouth. He resisted the strong urge to wipe away the small trail of saliva she had left there.
“Because we’re in the courtyard… someone could see.”
“So?” She was loosening his tie.
“So,” he said with finality, “I don’t want to risk it.”
She raked her fingernails through his hair, her face pressed uncomfortably close to his. “Why, are you ashamed of me?”
“Your family would be.”
“I don’t care what my family thinks,” she said, in a brave voice that Scorpius didn’t buy. “And I haven’t seen you in so long…”
She spotted his reaction – cold, aloof, disbelieving – and she stepped away from him and he finally felt a sense of freedom, like he could finally breath.
“This is about Elodie.”
“It’s not,” Scorpius tried to argue, but Dominique was already stepping out of the alcove and he found himself following her. “You’re being stupid. You’re not jealous, are you?”
“Of course not,” Dominique replied. She turned sharply and dug her fingers into his chest. He could feel her nails grip at his skin.
“I’m not your boyfriend,” Scorpius said, leaning in close to whisper to her.
“I didn’t say you were.”
“But you’re acting like I am.”
They parted quickly as a first year attempted to get past them and from his position further away, Scorpius appreciated how beautiful Dominique Weasley truly was. The weather suited her – not just her personality, which was as bitter and resilient as the winter winds, but the cold brought a flushing blush to her cheeks, made strands of her blonde hair fly out of their ponytail, made her lips pink and bright against her pale skin.
Scorpius recalled the first time he had seen Dominique Weasley: he remembered that her slender frame, her enchanting looks and her controlling demeanor had captivated him - and the other boys - from the first train ride. She enraptured people from the first look, the first laugh or the first haughty smirk. Scorpius knew that this was just her, and the magical blood that flowed through her veins and her family's generations enhanced her looks and her control over poor, unassuming boys. This was just some otherworldly force that drew him towards the young woman, and her perfect pale skin and hypnotizing smile...
The perfect picture – the idea of her – had tempted him, even through his days with Elodie, but Dominique had been the girl everyone desired and wanted, and that no one could resist. But now, now he had her, she was dull and boring, exquisitely needy, obnoxious and harsh.
And he didn’t want her anymore.
“I’m not your boyfriend, Dominique.”
She looked at him through her eyelashes – the look she probably employed on poor unsuspecting victims before the kill. Scorpius supposed she thought that it would change his mind.
“And I don’t want to be.”
And then she was racing across the courtyard, and Scorpius wasn’t sure whether to follow her: people would see, people would judge, and he wasn’t sure whether he wanted her - but she had turned around, blue eyes piercing cold and glaring and she was clearly disappointed that he had not come after her.
He felt a glorious sense of freedom when she finally walked away, back into the cool corridors of the castle, back to where she truly belonged. Not with him. Spotting Albus Potter from across the courtyard, Scorpius ambled over and tried to maintain a stony, indifferent expression as he pretended not to be impressed by the boy’s choice of book.
Albus Potter had read, somewhere, that the human brain allocates a certain square footage to those people who were significant in a person's life. It had appealed to him, to know that there was a miniscule space of his family's brains that was his alone. He hoped that a small part of his grandfather's brain - now rotting and decomposing under the earth - would have been reserved for him. He hoped his section would have been larger, perhaps a little more active, than those associated with his other cousins. He knew and understood that the part would be non-existent in their brains (his space would have been filled instead with thoughts of their own reflection or whichever victim they were currently pursuing). It would be equally defunct within the craniums of Scorpius and Elodie and the other people in the school.
Or so he thought.
He was reading now, legs crossed, on the edge of the fountain in the courtyard. When there was a dull point in the novel – when a particularly boring heroine was making a long speech or when the prose just seemed too complicated to understand – Albus would fold down the page and look around at his classmates. There were first years shivering and twitching under their gigantic new robes, Quidditch players laughing and playing with Quaffles, girls giggling and simpering over their latest copy of Witch Weekly. He was being ignored, as usual, and was quite happy in his quiet little bubble – a bubble brutally broken by a blond boy with an impossibly glum look on his face.
“Oh, hello,” he answered timidly.
“Do you mind if I join you?”
Albus’ mouth opened and closed as he stared at the young man in front of him. Just days ago, Malfoy had told him that his relationship with Elodie – a story and subject that had fuelled Albus’ life for so long – had ended. The finality of the boy’s voice had startled him, as if he had been telling the truth, and Albus couldn’t help but feel the repugnant swoop of despondency at his words. Albus had wondered whether this obsession would ever cease, whether Elodie Desmarais and Scorpius Malfoy would ever grow tiresome or boring, whether they would be able to restart and refuel their relationship, whether Albus could ever stop living vicariously through them. He had wondered whether he was in love with them, or more the idea of them – but love was a strong word, and so was obsession. He would have called it friendship, but the word suggested emotions, and a state of mutual trust and support that neither party could ever provide.
But now, Malfoy was here, staring down at him, eyes flicking along the title of his book, a cigarette twisting in his pale fingers. Albus had obviously seen him following Dominique across the courtyard, looking angry and annoyed (although everyone seemed to adopt the expression when forced into her company). The moment he approached, he sensed Malfoy relaxing his posture and he felt an even stronger wave of guilt; it was the look of someone who could finally relax in the presence of people he didn't have to impress.
Malfoy sat down next to him, plucking the book smoothly from Albus’ grasp. Watching him as he flicked through the pages, Albus wondered whether the young man had come over to him simply to discuss books and literature.
“You don’t like your family, do you?” Malfoy said, handing the book back and lighting his cigarette, ignoring the obvious looks of contempt from his classmates. Albus was surprised by the question – his roommate had never shown any interest in his personal life before, especially his family, but he supposed that had all changed when he started sleeping with them.
“Let’s not turn this into some sort of bonding session,” Albus mimicked, picking at the corners of his book nervously, feeling for all the world like a young child being patronized by his older, cooler, more world-wise brother. For a while, they stood in silence: Scorpius embarrassed by the dressing-down he had just received from someone who barely ever spoke and Albus embarrassed by the strength of his response.
They both watched as a boy threw a Quaffle to his teammate, but it flew through his outstretched arms and landed at Malfoy’s feet. They both watched their reactions: a whispered argument, several pointing fingers, a disgruntled look in Scorpius’ direction as if he had some hideous disease that could be contagious. They both watched as one boy finally took control, striding purposefully towards the fountain where they were seated.
“Could you pass me it?”
Albus watched Malfoy’s face, eyes staring into the young boy’s, as he bent to pick it up. He tossed it a few times in his hands before handing it back. The boy ran off and once he had returned to his group, Albus couldn’t help but look as they glanced back at him, pointed at their forearms, gingerly accepted the Quaffle as if it was contaminated.
“I’m sorry,” Albus said.
“It’s not your fault.”
They sat in uncomfortable silence. Albus felt so uneasy and self-conscious that he wanted to dive back into the fantasy world of his novel, or return to the comfort of his four-poster or the safety of the library. He knew so much about Malfoy’s life and yet here he was, making very little conversation with a young man who didn’t know how much he cared.
“I’m guessing you don’t like your family either?” Albus asked, while Malfoy smiled wryly and lit another cigarette. The smoke made his eyes sting.
“You haven’t told anyone about Dominique, have you?” The question took Albus by surprise. It seemed that Malfoy had grown bored of the ‘bonding’, and moved onto the real reason he had sat with Albus in the first place.
Albus scrutinized him. He should have assumed that there would be no further conversation between them but he knew he would never be able to resist editorialising the entire situation. “This is about Elodie, isn’t it?”
Scorpius Malfoy disagreed feebly, noting the way his heart sped up and his stomach sank at the sight of Elodie from across the courtyard, flanked by Genevieve and Madeleine. Elodie had always caused an inevitable change in him; her light would filter into his skin, would cause a scarcely discernible change in his physiology. She would overwhelm his senses, until he could make out only parts of her: the coquettish eyes, the hair that never seemed to end, and a crooked smile.
“Of course you are.”
“I’m trying to ignore the disbelieving tone in your voice.”
Scorpius had forgotten what Elodie was like when she was happy and lively - their interactions were too marred by their disdain for one another - and so seeing her now, smiling and laughing, he felt an innate sense of awe at her presence. He wanted that: to be happy and laughing, to be surrounded by people he considered friends, not stuck in a school full of spoilt, ungrateful children who glared at him from every direction.
Or, in Potter’s case, stared at him.
“But you definitely haven’t told anyone.”
“Who would I tell?”
A tinkling laugh twittered across the courtyard as Rose Weasley passed through the crowds, smiling gracefully, her red hair shining with an almost unearthly gleam. Scorpius saw Albus’ lip curl as she passed them, followed by her usual army of mortal peasants.
“Well, I’m glad we’ve sorted that out.”
“I’m glad we could have this little chat.”
“I’ll just leave you to read your book and glare at your relatives. Have a good day.”
Albus watched as Malfoy got up and left. It was still so new, so subversive and experimental, that Albus did not quite know what to make of it. Surely the worst thing he could do would be to prematurely voice these strange thoughts that had been entering his head recently: the strange connections he had been forging with people that his family would never approve of.
He failed to discern Rose’s gaze as she followed Scorpius across the courtyard. He failed to notice the flicker of fascination spark within her, just as she failed to realise how much it would burn her.
Ay, ay, ayyy! Shout out to da puffins. May your world domination be beautiful and successful and everything you hoped and dreamed it would be. A translation for various French-ness:
Bonjour. Comment allez-vous?
- Hello. How are you?
Je vais bien, merci.
- I am well, thank you.
Ton petit ami est très beau.
- Your boyfriend is very handsome.
Tu peux l'avoir.
- You can have him.
J'ai l'intention de l'avoir.
- I intend to.
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