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Ignite by Slide
Chapter 29 : New Flames
 
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Chapter 29: New Flames


He'd gone up to the Ravenclaw Tower. Harley had told her, and so she was dreading going looking for him. Not just for what she'd find when she got there, though Selena could hardly pretend she knew what was going to happen when she'd hunted down Methuselah Jones throwing a tantrum, but if nothing else, she was finally going to have to confront the infernal eagle.

Selena Rourke wasn't stupid. Sometimes she liked to act as if she was, because if people knew you were smart, they'd ask for things. Expect things. But she wasn't stupid. One thing she was not, however, was academically minded, or particularly enthralled by the idea of testing her brain for fun. School did that enough. She could read for pleasure, think about people, talk about people, make plans and scheme away.

But she had no idea why anyone could ever find a riddle entertaining.

She stared at the eagle-headed doorknocker when she got to the top of the stairs. It stared back. Then its mouth, cast in solid metal, moved like it was natural for it to do so, and its dreary voice came. 'I have holes in my top -'

'Oh, no!' Selena stomped her foot. 'This is ridiculous! There's a crisis going on! I'm not a Ravenclaw! You know that! You've let lots of non-Ravenclaws past. You let non-Ravenclaws pass even under normal circumstances, only they're staff members and House Elves! Why are you still persisting with this stupid access ritual!'

Silence met her as the doorknocker stared at her. Then it opened its mouth again. '...in my bottom, in my sides, and yet -'

'No! I'm not doing it!' She folded her arms across her chest. 'You're just out to get whatever little power-kick you can out of this, aren't you? You're an irrelevant doorknocker, you used to get dozens of kids coming by every day to deal with your stupid questions and now you no longer feel valid. Well, get over it! Lots of people don't feel valid any more, some of them real! If the Fat Lady can get over it, so can you!'

She jabbed a furious finger at the door. 'I know you let in Methuselah not long ago, I know he's up there, and he's one of your best. Your best Ravenclaw, ever, and right now I want to go up there and help him! If you cared about the people who actually give a damn about your stupid riddles, you'll let me past because he's really upset right now!'

Another pause. Then: 'I will finish my riddle.'

'You can finish it.' Selena stuck her nose in the air. 'But I shan't answer it. This is a silly security measure, it's not even a security measure because it doesn't just limit Ravenclaws, and right now I refuse to play your silly game in your silly, desperate bid for validity, so you can finish the riddle but I won't -'

'...and yet I still hold water. What am I?'

Selena blinked. 'Ooh, I know this one, you're a sponge!'

'Correct,' said the doorknocker, and before she realised she'd just gone back on her word and cooperated, the doorway swung open to show her the final stairway up to Ravenclaw tower. 'Was there not satisfaction at that?' it asked. 'Is your journey not more fulfilling for testing your thoughts on the way, and succeeding, than if the way had been cleared?'

'No, because then I'd be having the conversation with Methuselah and I wouldn't care,' she sneered before sweeping past the door and up the stairs.

It was dark outside and the wind was howling past Ravenclaw Tower like a ferocious, unanswered wolf. The fireplace was dim, most of the sconces were out, and looking about the shadowy depths was like peering into an abyss. It was, however, easy to tell which way Methuselah had gone, because the flickering flames of the sconces didn't only give illumination - they marked his path.

He was in the stacks, and as she wound her way through the towering bookcases of Ravenclaw's own small library, wryly she had to concede to herself that she'd spent too much time here and in the main library. She knew them both too well. Knew what was where, or at least out of that pertinent to Methuselah's interest. She probably couldn't find a single book on, say, the Goblin Rebellion. She could practically recite off by heart the titles of the books on necromancy owned by Hogwarts. It was a peculiar piece of trivia to have in one's head.

She wasn't surprised when she found him in one of the stacks furthest the back, near the windows beyond which night still raged against the walls. It was back here they'd come so many times, usually to just gather books and then be on their way. It didn't do, Methuselah had said, for a non-Ravenclaw to linger in the Ravenclaw library. She had just smiled and indulged him.

He was sat now in an alcove of the window, head bowed over a book, the nearest sconce casting shadows across his sharp features. She couldn't recognise the book, but she could tell he wasn't reading it anyway, merely staring at the pages, dark eyes unblinking. He hadn't noticed her.

When she gave a genteel clear of the throat his head jerked up and he blinked owlishly at her. 'Miss Rourke.'

'Why do you call me that?' She padded over to the cushioned bench running the length of the alcove he was sat upon. 'I call you "Methuselah".'

He grimaced. 'Apologies. Habit. And -' He cut himself off, shaking his head.

'And yet everyone else is Potter, or Weasley, or Malfoy.'

'Wanted to be polite. Respectful.' He stared at his book as she sat down. 'Curious. Infusions of necromantic energy in living bodies can result in repositories of dark magic pooling unpredictably -'

'You told me this,' she said gently. 'Yesterday.'

'Was merely reaffirming vital research -'

'Are you okay?' She put her hand on his forearm.

Methuselah stared at it like it was another limb sprouted from him. She did not pull back. 'Countless hours spent researching disease and studying ritual and it all proves pointless if waving a wand does not produce instant results. Months of hard work and then disparaged in minutes -'

'Nobody disparaged you, Methuselah, it's hard magic -'

'Which everyone else succeeded at. Statistically and based upon a pattern of my own performance, should have cast Patronus twelve minutes quicker than Malfoy. But still struggling. Makes little -'

'Itís not a big deal if youíre not best in Defence -í

Methuselah grimaced. 'Overcame difficulty in Defence OWL to still achieve highest grade overall -'

'But this.' She squeezed his arm. 'I don't think anyone in there thinks less of you. We all worked hard, we know it's tough. And everyone knows you've come up with this solution for the ritual -'

'Possible solution.'

'Everyone knows you broke through Stubbs' wards to get into the Headmaster's Office - that was incredible.'

He wrinkled his nose. 'Worked for ten hours to crack through wards. Then Malfoy brought ridiculous guitar to knock down a door.'

Selena paused. She hadn't thought about it like that, hadn't considered Scorpius to be stealing Methuselah's thunder. Partly, she understood that Scorpius had wanted to make a contribution. Partly, she hadn't realised that Methuselah even cared about receiving acclaim for his achievements, and she realised how ridiculous that was the moment she thought it.

'You're not used to not being the best at something, are you,' she murmured.

'No.' His brow furrowed. 'Overlooked. Disregarded. Avoided. Treated as odd. Never knowing what to say. Nobody interested in it anyway. Except in studies. Always the best there.' Methuselah thinned his lips. 'Almost always.'

'I was impressed when you knocked down those wards,' she murmured. 'And I'm still impressed by you. Today doesn't matter. You're still the smartest person I know.'

Her expression fell when he flinched at that, looking down. When he spoke, his voice was a little tight. 'You have been - very kind, Miss Rourke.'

'You know you can call me "Selena". Everyone else does. Even Weasley, sometimes.' She tried a small smile.

His shoulders hunched in slightly. 'Didn't want to presume,' he muttered.

Is he actually insecure about this? Realisation was like a slap in the face, enough to almost make her gasp. The one admission was like he'd knocked over a wall of presumptions, the walls put up around him, and as Selena gazed at his forlorn figure it was as if she was seeing him for the first time. Her hand slid down to his, and he stared at it, dumbfounded.

'You're not just the smartest person I know,' she murmured. 'You're also the first person to treat me like I'm not stupid. The first person to really value my opinion. The first person to bother to look at me as more than a pretty face.'

He looked up at her now, eyes flashing with surprise. 'You're not stupid,' he said shortly. 'You know lots of things. Things I don't. Things others don't. People. Reasons, behaviour. It's important. Right now. Tense times. Personalities clashing. Understanding them necessary to survive. Far, far smarter than me.'

She bit her lip at the wave of heat which crossed her cheeks. 'That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me.'

Methuselah didn't say anything, looking too awkward to summon more words. When she squeezed his hand gently his head inclined to look down at their entwined fingers, and that was when she leaned forwards and up, tilting her face to his -

He straightened with a jerk, and Selena wondered if she could hurl herself out of the window. Her eyes slammed shut, mortified, frozen in place half-outstretched to him.

'I - I'm sorry,' he stumbled, voice the most frantic and wrought she'd heard it.

She opened her eyes, biting her lip. 'No, I... misunderstood.' Already she could feel herself clamping down on the errant strand of hope, already she was reassessing, recalculating what she'd just seen - of course she'd been wrong, of course he wouldn't -

'No.' Methuselah's lips thinned, and when she opened her eyes he looked utterly crestfallen. 'Anticipated - second thing in as many hours I'd be terrible at.'

'What?' Her eyelids fluttered. 'Kissing me?'

He cleared his throat. 'Never have - any girl - before -'

'That really doesn't bother me -'

'...expect you've kissed lots of boys. Lots.'

Selena turned her gaze skywards, lips pursing at the comment, and waited. After a heartbeat, his eyes widened. 'There it is,' she murmured.

'No! I -' Methuselah cringed. 'Simply meant - comparatively - would be a disappointment -'

She stood and he winced, obviously expecting her to be storming off. But she didn't let go of his hand, tugging him to his feet. 'Come on,' she murmured, and led him away from the alcove towards one of the shadowy stacks of the bookcases. He followed, looking bewildered, and remained mutely cooperative when she reached one of the stepladders helping students reach the higher shelves with ease.

Selena turned to him. 'Close your eyes.'

He did so, and she let a small smile tug at her lips before she moved to the first step of the ladder, for the first time putting the two of them on an equal height. Gingerly she reached out as he stayed stock still, tense, apprehensive, and his face twitched as she pulled off his glasses, putting them down on the shelf next to them.

She'd never seen him without his glasses before. They were thick, horn-rimmed, always a dominant feature of his face. Without them he looked softer, more vulnerable - still the same face, the same high cheekbones, straight nose. But less austere, detached. Younger. For a heartbeat she regretted his eyes were shut so she could, for once, see them not through the lenses.

Her fingertips ran down his cheek, thumb stopping at his chin before she leaned forwards, letting their noses just gently graze. He smelled crisp, of his peppermint shampoo and his forever freshly-cleaned clothes, of his unique, but not unpleasant musty smell from the day's exertions. She felt, rather than heard his breath catch at their closeness, and fought back a smile before she leaned forwards and brushed her lips against his.

And, after a heartbeat, he wasn't hesitant any more.


* *


'You kissed him!' Rose fairly shrieked as she fell over sideways on the sofa in the staff room, clutching a bottle of Butterbeer.

'I did.' Selena tilted her nose up haughtily, but couldn't stop her smirk.

'Let me get this straight.' Rose sat up, rubbing her eyes. 'You kissed Methuselah Jones.'

'Don't sound like that. You kissed Scorpius Malfoy.' Selena broke into a laugh as Rose smacked her with the nearest cushion. 'At least Methuselah's polite!'

'Polite. Polite! The world of words at your fingertips and you go with "polite".' Rose snickered into her Butterbeer.

The two of them had been there for an hour. Their spot of tea together after Rose had broken up with Hector had not proven a lone incident, helped by Albus spending more time with Scorpius and Methuselah remaining, well, Methuselah. And despite it all, Rose found herself actually enjoying Selena's company. It had been too long since she could sit down and just talk like a girl, with another girl. And though it had been less long, it had been still too long since she'd relaxed. Even around Albus after her row with Scorpius, everything had felt tense, like the world was still waiting to leap out with its troubles. Not to mention her lingering resentment at him. Once that had been resolved, she'd had the breakup with Hector, which had brought all new guilt.

Tea with Selena was different. No judging. No stress. No worries about the crises around them. The talk was inane and pointless and, for both of them, that was absolutely perfect. Rose wasn't sure Selena wasn't still an air-headed gossip, but there were worse things to be right then.

So when Selena had, a scant few hours after their last practice, shown up not demanding tea but brandishing a few bottles of Butterbeer, she'd realised it was an emergency. The two of them had thus withdrawn to their hiding place: the staff room, the one place with comfortable chairs, a blazing fire, and no horrendous memories tugging at the edges. The boys, with their preferences in the libraries and the Headmaster's Office, were also unlikely to come this way.

'Itís the right word,' Selena protested. 'When I pulled back, he said "thank you".'

The two of them burst into giggles again.

'That is polite,' Rose agreed. 'What was it like?'

Selena went bright red, but her grin stretched from ear to ear. 'What can I say? He's a very good student.'

When the latest round of giggles subsided, Rose put down her Butterbeer for fear of spilling it. 'I never would have thought. You and Jones. Anyone and Jones.'

'I know.' Selena hugged the cushion. 'But he's sweet. And you know he's not trying to be sweet, he's just being the way he is, but he comes out with nice things and you know he's speaking the truth. And he's tall.' Her eyes lit up. 'And I like the way he talks. Low and fast. Clipped. Like this.'

Rose laughed at the mimic. 'I'm glad,' she said sincerely. 'Merlin knows we could do with some cheering up around here.'

Selena pursed her lips. 'Of course,' she mused, 'when this is over, there'll need to be some changes. His wardrobe. His hair.'

There was a pause. Then Rose burst out with relieved laughter. 'You're kidding.'

'Of course I am! I like him the way he is.' Selena gave her a sideways look. 'But enough about me. What about you?'

'Me?'

'Yeah. You know Scorpius keeps looking at you during these training sessions.'

Rose sighed. 'I do. And it's the most time we've spent together in the same room in what feels like months. And, of course, I only notice he's looking at me because I keep looking at him...'

'Are you about ready to throw yourself at his feet for forgiveness?'

'I tried that. Didn't get me very far. And it's not like I don't deserve to be in the dog-house, considering how I treated him...'

'That's one way of looking at it. The other is that he could, you know.' Selena shrugged. 'Get over it.'

'Get over it? I jerked him around -'

'Who kissed who?'

Rose stopped. 'What?'

Selena leaned forwards. 'First time you kissed. Who made the move?'

Rose pursed her lips. 'He did.'

'Knowing you were with Hector.'

'Er. Yes.'

'And he still made the move.'

'Yes.'

'And then threw a strop because you didn't want to dump a guy in a coma.'

'Technically I didn't want to dump a guy just out of a coma -'

'But he was perfectly fine with you two carrying on while Hector was in the coma, and so not yet dumped?'

'One could say Hector had been dumped in absentia,' Rose mused.

'Less Latin. This is girl-talk, we don't do Latin in girl-talk. Or guy-talk. Or any kind of regular talk.'

'I mean I dumped him, he just wasn't around to be dumped. Except, when he was, I chickened out.'

'You didn't want to hurt a guy who's suffering.'

'Except when I found out he'd helped Miranda cheat on Scorpius, that made it okay to hurt him?'

Selena shrugged. 'I don't think any of this is okay - but that's okay. I think it was more okay to dump him because you realised he was an ass than it was okay to dump him because you decided you wanted to snog Scorpius. Even if he wasn't doing okay.'

'The word "okay" is losing all meaning for me.'

'Point is, there was no good thing to do. Dump Hector and hurt him while he's suffering? Don't dump him and carry on with Scorpius behind his back? Don't dump him and shoot Scorpius down? I don't know what you should have done.' Selena paused. 'That said, I'm impressed you picked Secret Option D: Dump Hector, shoot Scorpius down, and be miserable. That might have been the worst option of all.'

Rose scowled. 'Thanks.'

'Don't mention it.' Selena sighed, leaning back on the sofa. 'My point, though, was that Scorpius knew what he was getting himself into when he kissed you. He knew you were with Hector.'

Rose tensed. 'Do you think he did it to get back at him?'

Selena's eyes goggled. 'No. No! Stop that! Bad thought!' She smacked her with a cushion.

'I'm just saying -'

'You're just trying to think up the worst possible option.' Selena shook her head. 'I'm not saying Malfoy can't sometimes be a bit of a shit. But if he wanted to get back at Hector, or Miranda, all he needed to do was tell the whole school the truth. Besides.' She scratched her nose. 'You saw him after you pre-dumped him. He was like a bear with a headache.'

Rose sagged, and reached for her Butterbeer. 'I suppose. I just don't know what to do.'

'First things first. What do you want to do?'

'What?'

'Scorpius.' Selena shifted on the sofa to face her. 'You still want to snog him senseless?'

Rose made a face. 'Teeny bit.'

'And is that all?'

'I'm not about to give you an in-depth run-down of any fantasies I may or may not have -'

'Oh, Merlin, not what I meant. I meant, you just want to snog him? Have a fling, enjoy his golden bushy-headed enthusiasm and charm, and then toss him to one side? I know you've got that in you, Weasley. Everyone was surprised when you started to go out with Hector after you and Doyle broke up.'

Rose rubbed her temples. 'I wanted something... uncomplicated after Matt. Look how well that worked out!' She sighed. 'I don't know what I want from Scorpius. We have so little in common -'

'Why'd you break up with Doyle?'

Rose blinked at the change of pace. 'What?'

'Doyle.' Selena sipped her drink. 'You two had loads in common. You still broke up. Why?'

'He - I -' Rose sagged. 'He's a sweet guy. And I do miss him. But it was... too much. Too much fuss. Too much over-analysing. Too much competition. Everything had to be, like, big, you know? He didn't know how to switch off.' She sighed. 'I guess I don't, either. With Hector, I could switch off. And that was the problem, too, because with him we were never on.'

'Mentally?' Selena smirked. 'Physically?'

Another swat from a cushion. 'Mentally. Going out with Matt was like going out with an endless Rubix Cube. Going out with Hector was like eating at an endless string of ice-cream parlours. Both can be fun in their different ways at first but you get frustrated or just plain sick.'

'So what's Malfoy in this? A different flavour of ice-cream for a change of pace, or some... sort of... other... puzzle.' Selena furrowed her brow as the metaphor got away from her.

'I don't know. And is now a good time to find out? Even if he forgave me - everything's so crazy...'

'Look at it this way,' said Selena. 'It can't get worse.'

Rose looked at her. 'Don't say that.'

'I know.' Selena sighed. 'It can always get worse.'

There was a pause. Rose picked at the label on her bottle. 'You don't sound like you're talking about boys.'

'There are things happening outside of Hogwarts, Rose.' Selena scowled at the window. 'Things the papers aren't saying. The letters aren't saying. Your mum isn't saying.'

'What?'

'My mum writes to me. Tells me what's going on in the country. Did you know that in the last two months the number of cases of Dark Magic crimes has quadrupled?'

'Quadrupled?'

'And that's just in Britain. Mum reckon's something's happening internationally. New cults of dark magic springing up. Worldwide. Unrelated, but all within the last six months? Items of dark magic being stolen. Bad things are happening.'

'You think it has something to do with Phlegethon?'

'I don't know. Neither does she. But, suddenly all this happens? At the same time as the biggest outbreak of dark magic in the country in twenty-five years?' Selena sighed. 'So, the way I see it? I'm not sure this is going to stop even if we end Phlegethon. I think more's coming.

'So we'd better make the most of the good things while we can.'


* *


'It's not festive,' said Scorpius as he walked the corridor. 'It's creepy.'

'It's Christmas, Malfoy,' sneered Harley. 'What do you want to do, treat this place even more like a morgue?'

'What, exactly, are we supposed to be celebrating?' He pointed at the silver-and-gold decorations hanging from walls, the tinsel adorning the nearest suit of armour, the portrait of Aleister Crowley's cat resplendent in a Father Christmas hat. It did not look happy about this.

'If you need this time of year explained to you after this long -'

'I mean it's weird.'

Harley made a face at him. 'I came to tell you about the blizzard. Not for you to bitch at me because you don't like the season of good cheer.'

Scorpius goggled at him. 'You're a House Elf.'

'We can like good cheer! Do you want a damn humbug?' Harley straightened his tie. 'Where're you going, anyway?'

'Post tower. See if anything's -'

'You can't go up there,' Harley blurted.

'Why not?'

'We're - doing work. Painting. You'd make a mess.'

'Painting the owlery? Before a blizzard?'

'It dries the paint.'

Scorpius stared at Harley. The little creature stared right back, not batting an eyelid. He snorted. 'You humbugged me. I'm going up there. And I'm going to kick things and make a mess.'

He strode off before Harley could get through more than a sputter of protest. He wasn't sure he believed the House Elf, but suspected Harley was just trying to divert his day. It sounded like the kind of petty move he was capable of. So he left him far behind as he went up a couple flights of stairs, down two stretches of corridor, and reached the steps leading up to the owlery just as Methuselah Jones came down them.

'Evening, Jones,' he said in a cheery enough way - just as Methuselah put out an arm to stop him.

'Malfoy. Can't go up there.'

Scorpius squinted at him. 'But you just came down.'

'Yes.' Methuselah paused. 'You can't.'

He scowled. 'Is this about Harley's painting?'

Another pause. 'Most certainly.'

The squint deepened. 'You're a lousy liar, Jones. What's going on?'

'Nothing.' Methuselah was silent for a heartbeat. 'Was looking for you.'

'Uh-huh. We'll talk. In a bit.' Scorpius patted him on the arm and went to move past him, but he only reached the bottom step before Methuselah spoke.

'Wanted a conversation. Important. About girls.' Methuselah sounded positively panicked by now.

Scorpius turned slowly, head cocked. 'You,' he said.

'Indeed.'

'Wanted a conversation.'

'Want.'

'About girls.'

'Quite.'

Scorpius scratched his nose. '...actually "girls" plural, or just the one?'

'Wanted advice. Miss Rourke. You know girls. Some girls. Not lots.' Methuselah actually gave a nervous grin as he amended his implication, nodding urgently.

There was another long silence as Scorpius tried to figure out how to deal with this. In the end, all he could do was give a numb, 'All right. Let's talk.'

'Capital. This way.' Methuselah grabbed him by the elbow and positively frog-marched him down the corridor away from the owlery.

'What's wrong with there -'

'Too many people. Could be overheard.'

'What people? House Elves?'

'...yes.' Methuselah didn't stop until they had reached the next stairway along, pulling him down to the stone landing before he seemed satisfied. Then he turned to Scorpius and nudged his glasses up his nose. 'Though. Perhaps isn't urgent.'

'Oh, no.' Scorpius folded his arms across his chest. 'You started this, Jones, no wriggling out now. So, you've got a thing for Rourke, eh? I don't know, you could do better.'

Methuselah scowled. 'She is pretty and intelligent.'

'She's...' Scorpius mulled over that one. And decided to not comment. 'I didn't know she was your type.'

'She has been kind to me. Patient with me. Helped me with my work. Listened to me. Provided a good platform for bouncing ideas.'

'Really?'

'Indeed. She has a crisp, clear way of thinking. I can circle a topic for hours. Get caught up in minutiae. She cuts to the heart quickly. Unfettered thought process. Invaluable.'

'Well.' Scorpius peered at him for a moment. On the one hand, it actually seemed as if Methuselah was looking beyond Selena Rourke's shiny hair and had found something shiny underneath. On the other hand, encouraging him to chase after one of Hogwarts' most notorious flirts sounded like setting the guy up for a fall. 'Do you think now's the best time to think about a girl?'

'You have. You. Weasley. Furtive fumbling. Bickering. All disruptive.'

'Thank you.' Scorpius sighed. 'Have you, I don't know. Told her?'

'In a manner of speaking.'

'In a manner of speaking?'

'Thanked her for her help. Noted her beauty. Her thoughtfulness.'

'And what did she say?'

'She kissed me.'

Scorpius' reaction was, unbeknownst to him, not too dissimilar to what Rose's had been. He almost fell over. 'She - Rourke kissed you.'

'Yes.'

'Okay. Methuselah Jones' love life is more successful than mine.' Scorpius eyeballed a window contemplatively. 'This isn't a big deal.'

'Twice. And then sixteen further occasions since then, last Friday.'

'I see.' Scorpius rumpled his hair. 'You know what, Jones? I'm not sure you need me. You seem to be doing fine by yourself.'

Methuselah grimaced. 'Except -'

'Yes?'

'Initiative. All on her. Am not a complete fool. Am aware relationship requires equal contributions. Give as well as take. And certain dated conceptions which can linger in some young women - especially pure-blooded young women - would dictate it is the role of the male to be more dominant.'

'You're going to have to change your vocabulary if we're going to have this conversation without me spooning out my eyeball at the thought of you dominating Selena,' Scorpius mused.

'The pursuit.' Methuselah nodded ardently. 'Assertion. Women will be bored if they must chase all the time. Eventually, distraction strikes. Or vice-versa. Why give perpetually when you are not given?'

'I'm not disagreeing.'

'Good. Theory is sound. Require aid with the practical.'

Scorpius squinted. 'I am not giving you tips on the practical with Selena Rourke.'

Methuselah looked crestfallen. 'Best candidate to ask. Only other male Potter. Notoriously girl-shy. Perpetually single. Oddly so.'

'He worries girls will be after him for his name.'

'Indeed. Skewed perspective on courtship. Teach me, Malfoy.'

Scorpius turned his gaze skywards. 'For starters,' he sighed, 'don't call it "courtship". You sound like you fell out of the 19th century.'

'Will note this.' Methuselah actually reached for a pocket for paper and a pencil. Scorpius boggled but didn't have the heart to stop him.

'Secondly, you're not wrong. Girls like to be chased. Feel valued. Wanted. It doesn't have to be overt. Little things can do the trick. Little things can be better.'

'Better?'

'It makes it seem effortless. Sure, the occasional big display can really hit home, but what you want to do is make it seem like it's just natural for you to do something for her, say something to her. But not so effortless it looks lazy.'

'Hm. Delicate.'

'Selena's a typical girl. Typical girls like stuff. Find out what chocolates she likes, and get some for her. Not every day, but not for a specific reason. Ask her about her day, her friends, and pretend like you care.'

'Her life is varied and interesting -'

'Yeah, that'll get old, fast.' Scorpius waved a dismissive hand. 'If you're upset, talk to her. She'll be no help and provide little to no practical solution, but she'll feel like she helped just by listening. Have you only kissed?'

'Um. Yes.'

'Okay, we'll consider anything else Advanced Courses for now and I am going to need some Firewhisky before I even consider giving you tips in that department.' Scorpius rumpled his hair. 'Oh, and above all, if you two have an argument, apologise first.'

Methuselah quirked an eyebrow and scribbled something. 'I see.'

'Hm?'

'What?'

'You had a... tone.'

Methuselah folded the paper. 'Yourself. Weasley. You did not apologise.'

Scorpius flinched. 'What makes you think that?'

'Did you?'

'I didn't have to. She was the one who screwed me around.' He scowled.

'I see.'

'She did.'

Methuselah nodded and tucked the paper away. 'Perhaps. Nevertheless. Evidence all suggests. Compromise. Give and take. Essential. There are no absolutes in magic. Certainly no absolutes in people.' He gave Scorpius a smile which looked forced and unusual on his face. 'Regardless. My thanks, Malfoy. Information has been helpful.'

He turned to go without another word, long legs taking him down the stairs, moving like a man with purpose. Scorpius scowled after him, mulling over his words, until finally he called out, 'Jones!' Methuselah stopped and just turned, cocking his head. 'Tulips,' Scorpius said.

'Come again?'

Scorpius padded down a few steps. 'Selena likes tulips. Brightly coloured ones. You don't need many. They're her favourite flower.' He tapped his nose. 'That's the last bit of advice. Pay attention. You never know when the little things will come in handy.'

Or see how the big things, he mused as Methuselah nodded his thanks and carried on his way, can be so obvious and yet so difficult at the same time.


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