Chapter 1 : Fate
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In the final moments of your life, there is a strange precision to every accelerated beat of your heart, your thoughts flashing together in a string of nonsense, grappling for clarity.
The air in your bedroom is cold and thin, as if you’d slept with the windows open. You can see emerald light swimming through the fine threads of her hair as they stand on end, body hurling back against the headboard. Splinters of wood hang over your bed, hardly moving, in an explosion that rocks you so hard that your jaw cracks when your teeth meet.
There is no sound at all, no screaming – or maybe the world has plunged into nothing but chaotic noise and you’re the only one who doesn’t hear it. Your last rational thought is actually a picture etched into your memory seconds after seeing it through a pair of tunneling, faraway eyes: What your own hand looks like as it reaches for her, as if to prevent her from falling off the bed. A basic impulse.
The phosphorescent green spills outward from the obliterated bedroom door. You turn – or your head is turned for you from the gravitational force of a mattress collapsing underneath your legs. You watch the Avada Kedavra eat its way through the freezing black void, destroying every living molecule between there and here.
In one fluid motion, you dive over your infant son. He had been sleeping between you, nestled in a cocoon of blankets. The green is reflecting in his wide, wet eyes, too, and for one terrifying heartbeat you think he might be dead. All you can do is stare at him, brain oddly blinking with images of the boy who lived, eyes just as green as this.
But then the light passes and his irises return to blue. You realize that the baby’s mouth is wide open, lips quivering, the muscles in his throat bulging as he screams and screams for the comfort no one is giving him.
And suddenly there is sound in your ears again.
Rose was raised with every expectation that the Malfoy family was a bunch of self-entitled, self-serving, arrogant, nasty Death Eaters. When she first discovered that one of these infamous Malfoys was to attend Hogwarts in the same year as herself, she was nothing short of delighted. After all, how many tales had she heard about spats between Draco and her father? Too many to count.
The prejudice was an inherited one, a mutual dislike stemming even farther back than Arthur and Lucius, farther than Septimus and Abraxas. Its roots were so deeply ingrained in both family trees – even in the branches that mixed together – that no one knew exactly how or when the enmity originated.
Rose spent a long time looking forward to carrying on this legacy. She had counted on finding an automatic, no-questions-asked arch-nemesis of her own in the pale boy with pointed features.
Every smugly-formed preconception about the Malfoy boy was promptly confirmed on the train where she first met him. He’d been sitting with all the other Death Eater spawn, already wearing their black robes. Some of them also wore hand-me-down green and silver emblems.
Years later, Rose could still recall the green hugging his collar, the ends of his hair caught in a silk knot at the nape of his neck. His father had tied it around him on the platform, proud gaze admiring how well he looked.
“A younger version of Draco,” Rose mentioned to Albus, her mouth assuming an ugly shape as she gazed with slitted eyes through the window of Malfoy’s compartment. She would be free to hate him as much as she pleased, a generations-old rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin already swelling in her heart.
But the Sorting hat had other ideas.
He was so small that the hat’s brim draped his shoulders, patched and fraying peak wiggling left and then right as it pored over Malfoy’s thoughts with a critical assessment.
The Great Hall was so stunned that no one clapped – not a single student, professor, or ghost. Blushing in the thick silence, the scrawny, bespectacled boy called Malfoy, Scorpius stumbled over to the Slytherin table to sit with the same group of friends from his train compartment. Shoulders hunched, red face staring down at the floor, he’d jumped nervously when a professor appeared at his ear, quietly informing him that he must go sit with the other Ravenclaw students now.
Several people sniggered as he got up and dutifully followed the professor’s instructions; he chose the very end of the table, which was empty, and dropped his head into his hands.
Rose felt a pang of disappointment, idly thinking that it wasn’t quite as gratifying to hate a Ravenclaw even if he was a Malfoy. She was so distracted that she forgot to clap for Albus, who soon joined his brother in Gryffindor. She waited patiently for her turn, catching her cousins’ eyes every now and then. Don’t fidget, she mentally instructed herself in her mother’s voice. She couldn’t keep her mouth from twitching, right shoe tapping hard against the flagstone floor.
At long last, it was her turn to be Sorted. A garment worn with age and still warm from the body heat of many other heads lowered over her nose, obscuring the hundreds of eyes turned upon the little red-haired girl. Sitting atop Professor Sprout’s stool with her ankles crossed, black-buckled shoes gleaming, Rose was ready to hear the hat’s praises of her numerous wonderful qualities.
What is this I see? the hat mused. You’re very much like your mother. Bright and intelligent, eager to learn. But there’s a bit of your father, too…yes, yes…I see a hunger for competition. Quick to judge, too. Forgive me for pointing out that you’re just a tiny bit narrow-minded…
Hey! Rose thought, indignant.
Now, now, don’t get offended. But it really would serve you right if you found yourself amongst those you think are inferior to you. Maybe you’ll learn a thing to two. Which you should enjoy, since I can see quite plainly that you love to learn. It would suit you magnificently. Books and wit and the tendency to show off; very befitting.
Wait! – she internally cried. If she wasn’t mistaken, she detected a mischievous laugh that wasn’t her own ringing around inside her head.
To her utter horror, the hat opened its wide mouth and declared, “Ravenclaw!”
She had him cornered now.
He was cowering, eyes huge, clearly frightened. Anyone would be intimidated to be trapped in a corner in the Charms corridor by Rose Weasley, especially with the hallways empty enough so that no one would be a witness to his execution.
He squeezed his eyes tightly shut, glasses askew on the tip of his nose. “Please don’t hurt me!” he pleaded, books slipping out of a sweaty grip where he’d pinned them over his chest like a shield.
Rose stopped short, frizzy red hair sticking out of her head like electric shock. “I’m not going to hit you, if that’s what you think.”
“Oh, thank God.” He slumped down the wall, breathing a huge sigh of relief. “That’s good. These glasses are new.”
She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. She wasn’t fully aware of how scary this made her look, since her father had called her a princess all her life and at this point in time there was no way she was going to believe she wasn’t as airy-fairy and delicate as she imagined herself to appear. Lips curled back, the wild-looking third year barked, “Why?”
Scorpius blinked. “Why what?”
This only made Rose angrier. She kicked the wall (Scorpius screamed, dancing a little to the left). “You know exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t pretend you don’t.”
Scorpius genuinely had no idea what she was talking about, but fearing her possibly more than he feared anything else in the world (including cemeteries, which used to make him hyperventilate whenever his parents made him go ‘talk’ to his grandmother who was buried there), he sputtered, “I’m sorry! I just – I don’t – I’m sorry but I have no clue what you’re referring to.” He ducked to the ground, throwing his arms over his head to protect it.
“Why won’t you give me a chance?” Rose demanded, freckles popping out against her flushed skin. Her hands were planted on her hips, eyebrows clinched severely. “I’ve been following you around all year and you just keep running away from me.”
“I thought you were chasing me!”
“How much more obvious do I have to make myself, you dunghead?”
Scorpius tried to reply but couldn’t stop wheezing. He coughed for oxygen, withdrawing some peculiar handheld device from the pocket of his robes. He held it to his mouth, sucking great gasps of air from it. “I didn’t know you liked me,” he gasped once his breathing had mostly returned to normal.
“Well, get used to it, Malfoy,” she snapped, flipping her bushy hair over one shoulder. “I’m your girlfriend now.”
“You – you are?”
“Yes.” A deranged smile mangled her lips. “You’d better write home to your father and let him know that you’re dating a Weasley. I’m sure he wouldn’t like that.”
“I don’t think he would care, really –” Scorpius began, but she kept talking as though she hadn’t heard him.
“This will throw a wrench in his whole life!” she fairly shouted, then tipped her head back and laughed maniacally. “Call my mother a ‘mudblood’, why don’t you?”
“I – I didn’t,” Scorpius stammered.
“Not you, dunghead. Your father. I’m avenging my parents.”
Scorpius still didn’t quite get it, but he offered a timid smile. “Is there anything I’m supposed to do now that I’m your boyfriend?”
She stared at him, frowning, and then suddenly replied, “Oh. Right. Here, you can take these.” She dumped a pile of schoolbooks on top of his already-huge pile of books. “Take them to the common room.”
He tottered away, stack of books swaying, calling out a muffled, “Great!”
In a dark basement, ceiling stained from long hours of candles left burning, smoke painting everything black, there was a teenage boy bowing over a cauldron.
His body shook, shoulders bent up around the ears, elbows curled inward. He jerked bottles of magical ingredients off a stainless-steel shelf with disjointed movements, the fingertips of his sterilized white gloves prodding their corks open.
His eyes were clouded with red, eternally leaking; he wiped his runny nose on his shirt every few seconds. While his manner of tipping phials into the cauldron was quick – jagged – his thoughts flew along at an even more rapid pace. Every time someone else’s voice interrupted his unspoken bellowing, his facial muscles gave an involuntary spasm.
“We love you just the way you are,” one of them insisted in soft, sweet tones.
Don’t patronize me.
“You’re not the only one,” another voice assured him. He could almost feel the compassionate exchange of looks behind his back, the heavy hands digging into his bony shoulders. “There are others like you. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, it just means –”
It means that you don’t understand.
He heard his actual given reply over and over, speared through with sobs he couldn’t contain. “Pureblood father and a half-blood mother. How often does that happen?”
There was no answer to that. There never was.
“They don’t understand,” the boy muttered, frantically stirring the cauldron’s contents with a lead spoon. He’d had to sacrifice at least twenty stirring utensils before finding one that could hold up against the acidic components of a magical potion. Potions, at least, was something he could do without a wand. You didn’t have to be special to combine elements, to heat them. It took more work the way he had to do it, but it was still possible.
“No one does,” he went on, a hot, thick lump rising just behind his Adam’s apple. His eyes were so tired from crying all the time, from lying wide awake in a bed that wasn’t a four-poster, that had no black and yellow hangings, while all of his siblings were away learning magic.
I wish I’d never been born, he thought desperately. It’s not enough to die now. I don’t want anyone to have any memories of me, either. I don’t want them to think I’m a coward. I don’t want anyone to know I was ever here.
The pity. The pity was worse than anything else. He’d known pity all his life, growing up the only member of his family who didn’t naturally belong there. His biological parents had died when he was little, but it was difficult to bring himself to care about their unfortunate fates. After all, he blamed them for producing a son who would never, ever fit in with his surroundings. Their freak genealogical cocktail had damned him.
Presently, he could hear his adoptive parents moving about upstairs, punctuated by the loud bangs of things being thrown, things falling over. They were fighting again… He grappled around the dimly-lit room under spirals of smoke imprinted on the low-hanging ceiling. He hadn’t eaten in two days but hardly noticed the painful hollowness.
How long had it been since he last slept? It was easy to deprive his body of functioning normally now that he knew he no longer wanted it. As an added bonus, it helped him to think clearly. His plans, his outlook – everything shone more vividly than ever before, right on the brink of starvation. Or at least that’s how it felt.
He was an alien in his own home. There were no Muggle amenities in the house to help him exist independently; his parents couldn’t perform magic correctly with electricity running between the walls and so they’d decided he would have to be wholly dependent on them. Whenever he wanted to make a telephone call, he had to walk two blocks to a phone booth. Whenever he wanted to heat up an easy dinner, he had to stick it in a cauldron in the fireplace. His family didn’t own ovens or microwaves or even a toaster. There was no washing machine, no television, no computer.
They all had their wands and he had to pretend not to struggle while somehow finding ways to adapt. It was like living between two worlds that both rejected him.
And the pity was always there. Don’t perform magic around him, his mother was always reminding people who came to visit. Even the little nieces and nephews could do magic, although they didn’t mean to. It just burst out of them. Everyone else found it hilarious but it was exactly the kind of thing that kept him awake at night, hating himself.
He was a Squib, and that was even worse than being a Muggle.
“But it’s okay,” he consoled himself, voice rattling. “I’m going to fix it. I’m going to end my suffering before it can begin.”
He fumbled with a small hourglass, white grains of sand inside sparkling as he twisted it round and round. He would turn it hundreds of times, thousands of times, to take him back to when it all began.
Tomorrow, there would be nothing left of him to miss.
Her robes were a deep blue, reflected upon the Black Lake like sapphires stitched together. She was holding the hand of some other boy, some Slytherin son-of-a-Death-Eater, and angling her jaw staunchly into the afternoon sunshine as if daring someone to tell her she couldn’t be with whoever she wanted.
A small, amused smile tugged at Scorpius’s lips.
As though sensing that he was watching her, Rose caught his eye just then. Her attention invariably flickered to him whenever he was within earshot, out of habit, but today it was different. They were graduating, preparing to sail across the lake to Hogsmeade Station just like they did seven years ago as children.
She’d accomplished a great deal since those days: Prefect, but not Head Girl (even Flitwick, who adored her, admitted that she was slightly too competitive for her own good and being crowned with any position of real authority might not be the best idea); prominent member of the choir; best marks of her year; and she’d finally, after years of yelling about her cause to anyone who would listen (and writing lots of long letters to the Ministry), persuaded the school to impose a requirement to include helmets in all Quidditch uniforms, to be worn by students during each practice and match.
It hadn’t made her popular, but it had made her proud. She’d accomplished something.
She smiled at Scorpius, so fleeting that he almost missed it. He gave her a little wave in return, and they both averted their gazes so that they could more convincingly pretend to listen to Flitwick speak.
His stare unnerved her. It made her conscious of her arms and legs, her hair, her expression, as if all were undergoing intense scrutiny in his head. As if to remind everyone that she had no need to fear his judgment, since she was the boss, she walked directly over to him.
In a tone of highest authority, she said, “Have you finished your paperwork?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, staring evenly at her.
Maybe it was the way he could fill out his Ministry robes now, his build far different from that of the eleven-year-old boy she’d once seen reluctantly detach from his group of familiar Slytherin friends to join a different House. He’d been slow to embrace the unexpected, resisting being a Ravenclaw for years; until out of nowhere, Rose glanced up to see that he was Head Boy without ever being a prefect, as well as a Beater for Ravenclaw’s Quidditch team. He was the first one to agree to wear one of her specially-designed helmets. Didn’t even complain once.
Or maybe it was the new glasses he now wore with gray rims, highlighting the color of his eyes.
Whatever it was about Scorpius Malfoy that now made Rose second-guess herself, she didn’t appreciate it. “And did you read my memo?” she questioned.
“Yes, ma’am,” he repeated, still not severing his placid gaze.
She just stood there for a minute, unreasonably angry. Scorpius didn’t say anything. She waited for him to ask if she wanted anything else, or perhaps ask what her obvious problem was, but he wouldn’t do it. He just stared.
She turned on her heel and walked away. Scorpius looked on with fathomless eyes, observing that she had disappeared down the wrong corridor. He waited until the soft, muted thumps of her heels over carpet faded before pulling open his desk drawer and pulling out a small Muggle device. He rarely needed to use it these days except on special occasions.
He lifted it to his mouth, pressing a button and inhaling deeply, to catch the breath Rose had taken from him.
Delayed wails crash in around your eardrums, your baby’s roars echoing forever and ever. Somewhere in the mix, you feel the vibrations of furniture snapping apart under pressure, fabric melting into sticky pools of resin on the hardwood.
You roll over, the stubble of your cheek scratching your son’s tiny wriggling body. You scoop him up into your arms as another brilliant green jet of light shoots through the doorway, striking her right between the shoulder blades. She falls with a horrific thump, and when you tuck your child to your chest and crumble to the floor, you can see her still form in the gap between bed and floor.
Your last conversation was an argument about letting the baby sleep with you, and whether or not it would be safe for him.
The door is blasted half to hell, nothing more than twigs on a hinge. An ocean of green writhes over your head, hissing as shards of glass ping off the dressing table. Vases, picture frames, figurines – all smashed. Scars of spellwork sear two corner walls, scorching the paint to make it melt and then dry again in comic bubbling patterns.
You can feel the heat of the spells, liquefying your hair as they fly right over. You grow aware of a stinging sensation in your ribcage; you are astounded to look down and see an ethereal glow of transparent blue encompassing your son entirely. It’s a shield charm that you learned in your seventh year but never quite mastered, and it’s radiating out of your body.
The suppressed magic pours from your heart, encasing him in the most beautiful light you’ve ever seen. It’s a magic you can’t learn. It’s wandless. It makes your heart pump overtime, draining your energy as it strengthens your shield to the thickest and most impenetrable it can possibly get.
The baby wails, tears slipping down his cheeks. He coughs because his nose is clogged with fluid, too, his bulging, beating body wearing itself out. He turns his head and you turn yours, both seeing the face buried in the floor on the opposite side of the bed. Only one of her brown eyes is visible.
It doesn’t blink.
The last thing you see is a man who looks just like you, but bizarrely distorted, like a funhouse mirror. “Please,” you gasp, lungs seizing. “Please. Not Benjamin.”
He had her now, and he knew it.
He strode forth with a palpable, dark sort of confidence, shoulders squared with his eyes front. He didn’t want to stare at his shoes, at the walls, at his hands. He wanted to absorb every beautiful transformation of her reaction, every unstudied, unanticipated, organic motion she made. He loved her most when she wasn’t expecting him, when she was caught by surprise.
The door of her office burst open before he reached it. Rose lifted her head, eyes widening as they registered the bold gleam of his eyes. She stood up so fast that her chair fell over, stumbling backwards into the wall.
“Hello, Rose,” he told her. His expression so clearly demonstrated everything he was thinking that it was terrifying, and Rose was so shocked that she couldn’t speak.
Good, he thought.
He rested his hands on either side of her face, peering earnestly into her eyes. He could see himself mirrored in them, and was seized by a mad sort of power. He couldn’t imagine a single way this wasn’t going to end with him getting what he wanted. It was all there, written plainly on her face. This was what she’d been waiting for, too.
“Why won’t you give me a chance?” he asked quietly, head tilted as he searched her for a response. He could almost see the smoke coming out of her ears, machinery inside her head going haywire as it tried, and failed, to stay one step ahead of him.
But he wouldn’t let her answer. He already had his mouth over hers, hands tangled in her hair. Rose pulled away only long enough to gasp for air, then threw her arms around his neck with such vigor that he fell against the wall, both of them buckling into the corner.
A young man who is barely older than a boy enters the room, stepping carefully over rubble. Dust sifts out of exposed springs and ripped cotton, billowing in a waist-high smog. Smog is what the man on the floor inhales as he dry-heaves, body withering. He’s curled up next to the infant, but the stranger cannot focus on him. He now has eyes for no one but the child.
There is a glimmering substance surrounding the baby, flickering feebly.
He raises some kind of weapon – not a wand, but something else – and a handful of glowing green capsules empties into his palm. Spells in potion form, capsulized like bullets. From his pocket he takes a different kind of bullet, but it’s a poisonous shade of red. He inserts it into the weapon he’s holding and aims it.
He is about to fire when the child locks eyes with him. They’re red and wet, just like his own, pupils swallowing up blue iris. In this dim light, the kicking legs and fisted hands seem to possess so much hope that the man himself never felt he was capable of.
A chain swings like a mobile from his fingers, hourglass sweating beads of blood that drip down from his own hand.
“I’m too late,” he mumbles distantly, face frozen in a mask of bitter frustration. As though waking up from a dream, his ears tune in to the blaring sirens in the distance, the crisscrossing torchlight flaring outside windows from neighbors on the defense. Vibrant yellow beams glitter upon the panes, temporarily blinding him.
If he’s going to do it, he must do it immediately.
A deafening blast rents the night as he fires his weapon, but the child’s wails persist. The curse has rebounded upon the man instead of the target, and he falls down dead the instant it is discharged. The floor absorbs him, his body shifting through time between two worlds – neither of which he belongs to.
Sometimes death is not filled with goodbyes or lingering smiles: No preparations, no calm, drawn-out discussions in the waiting room of St. Mungo’s. Sometimes it is all at once, puncturing your deep dreams, forcing you to operate on instinct rather than lucidity – the surging adrenaline keeping you one step ahead of yourself and your presence of mind completely in the dark.
Sometimes death takes you when you’re half-asleep and too shocked to form questions, physically pushing your strength out of your own body to wrap around another living person. It hits without warning, before you have the time to process anything.
And then you’ll know who you really are, in that moment just before.
A two-month-old baby boy was taken to St. Mungo’s last night following the incomprehensible murders of his parents, Scorpius and Rose Malfoy, with the Avada Kedavra. There are no known suspects in the investigation and the killer remains at large. The Ministry strongly encourages everyone to stay calmly alert until the murderer is captured. Do not answer the door for any strangers. If you notice anything suspicious, report it to the authorities immediately.
There was significant spell damage to baby Benjamin Malfoy’s heart from what experts suspect are radiation effects of prolonged exposure to the Killing Curse. While Healers have repaired him physically, it is unknown what sort of lasting effects on his magical abilities there might be. Documents show that the child has no official guardian apart from his parents; no one has yet stepped forward to claim him.
Loving families, including relatives of the deceased, are encouraged to apply for his adoption.