Chapter 3 : Red Hot
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It was surreal to leave Hogwarts. Albus blinked back tears of relief and regret as the carriages moved towards the immense winged gates of the school grounds. He wanted to return to simpler times where all he had to worry about was the latest potions assignment and every night was promised to be spent with Scorpius kissing him goodnight.
Cindy’s voice reached Albus mid-reverie. “Do you love him?” she asked watching his eyes. They were the only two in their carriage but Albus still looked around to check if they would be overheard. “I’ve seen how you two used to be together. Lately I’ve seen the hurt in your eyes,” she finished in a voice just above a whisper.
“I guess we weren’t that subtle,” Al said with an attempt at a smile. “At least I never was.” He would not confess his love for Scorpius – leaving Hogwarts meant he could leave his feelings behind as well.
“You’re a really great guy, Al,” Cindy said kindly. “Soon you’ll meet someone who deserves you.”
Albus nodded stoically but couldn’t bring himself to respond. He didn’t want someone else but it did seem useless to hold out for Scorpius. The next few months would give him the chance to decide on what he wanted to do with his life – why not his love life as well?
The carriage rolled to a slow stop and the quiet pair climbed out into the warm, sunny day. A swarm of students were flooding the bright red train. Not too far ahead of his spot in line, Albus could see his cousin’s vibrant hair and the blond hair of Scorpius.
Rose was ready for the next big adventure in life though she didn’t know exactly what that was. She had taken her NEWTs in enough subjects to qualify for a myriad of jobs but nothing stood out as especially interesting. Rose would never tell her parents this, but part of her wished she could go on a yearlong fight against some evil dark wizard with her best friends.
Scorpius found a train car for the two of them and soon a handful of Rose’s family trailed in after them. Hugo and Lily sat across from Rose and Scorpius. Hugo raised an eyebrow causing Lily to grin. Fred took the seat next to Lily and had giddy look of someone who was holding in a good joke.
“Don’t tell me you’ve rigged dung bombs to the doors again,” Rose said to her younger cousin. “I don’t help you with the bubblehead charm again.”
“Pfft,” Fred said with a wide grin. “Dung bombs are not in season at all – I went for a festive touch instead. Just wait,” he said winking.
The group in their compartment looked in the direction Fred kept craning his neck. Albus walked by briskly, not stopping as his family hailed him. He and Scorpius locked eyes for a moment causing both to look away.
“He’ll miss it if he’s too far down the train,” Fred said in a slightly agitated voice. He hated for people to hear about his tricks secondhand when they could have seen it themselves. With a jolt, the train started to leave the station. At once, the train as surrounded by whizzing sparks of fireworks Fred had evidently gotten from his dad’s shop.
Scorpius looked a bit uncomfortable as the rest of his companions burst into peals of laughter. He wasn’t used to being around so many people without there being a sense of purpose and formality. Scorpius was wondering if Albus would have sat with his cousins when Hugo broke through his thoughts with a question. “Have Mum and Dad invited you over for dinner yet, Scorp?”
Feeling jarred by both the question and the mutilation of his name, Scorpius was contemplating a reply when Rose answered for him. “Actually, you have,” she said with an apologetic smile. “Mum wrote me a few days ago asking if you could come by next week.”
“I think I could,” Scorpius said managing a smile. He was surprised at how easy his relationship with Rose had progressed. Maybe a life with her would go as effortlessly as theirs had so far.
After the tediously long train ride, they arrived at King’s Cross. Scorpius obliged Rose’s underage relatives by helping them magic their trunks out of the train. Now that he was old enough to apparate, Scorpius did not expect his parents to collect him from the train. Both Rose’s and Albus’ parents were on the platform smiling as their children found their way onto the platform.
Rose held his hand as they disembarked the train but dropped it as she ran toward her mum to give her a hug. Scorpius would not leave without saying goodbye to her girlfriend so he stood a short distance from the family as they hugged. He couldn’t help but feel like he was observing not just another family but an entirely different culture than his own. Each year Scorpius would greet his parents with a crisp, “Mother, Father,” and follow them out of the station – no hugging or warm smiles.
Seeming to notice the lingering teen, Harry greeted Scorpius with a friendly, “Hello, Scorpius. Are your parents coming to take you home?”
“No, Sir. I’m just waiting to say goodbye to Rose,” he said with the same cordial tone used for parties and formal events.
“Yes, I heard you two are dating,” he said glancing towards Ron. “I expect we’ll be seeing you over the summer then.” With that, Harry walked towards Albus and Lily who were hugging Ginny in turn.
Moments later, Rose’s arms were around Scorpius’ torso and her lips brushed against his cheek. “Come say hello to my parents,” she said excitedly.
Wishing she hadn’t just kissed him in front of her formidable parents, Scorpius straightened his back and approached Ron and Hermione Weasley. “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley,” he said rather stiffly.
“Where are your parents?” Ron said by way of a greeting. Scorpius caught a flash of annoyance on Hermione’s face.
“I’m going to apparate home so they didn’t need to meet me,” Scorpius said as if this had been a communicated plan of action rather than his assertion after not finding them there.
“Rose extended our invitation to dinner next week, correct?” Hermione asked before her husband could continue interrogating Scorpius. At his nod, she smiled. “Let’s do Friday at 7,” she said smiling.
“That sounds wonderful,” Scorpius said wracking his brain for the next polite thing to say. “Is there anything I could bring?” he asked remembering his parents posing this question when invited to casual dinner parties.
“That’s sweet of you, but there’s no need,” Hermione said with a glance to Ron who was glowering slightly. “We should be off,” she said to her family.
Rose kissed Scorpius again on the cheek causing him to blush furiously knowing this would give her dad further cause to dislike him. They parted ways for the next week when Rose followed her family out of the station and Scorpius disapparted to Malfoy Manor.
The few minutes it took him to get to up the pathway to the oppressively large house allowed Scorpius to plan out telling his parents that he had secured a girlfriend. He hoped to gain their favor with this news but suspected his father would take issue with her family. Draco had expressed dissatisfaction with Scorpius becoming close friends with Albus at school and alluded to his dislike of the entire Potter-Weasley family. Subconsciously, his father’s dislike of her family may have increased Rose’s attractiveness as a potential partner.
Seeing his mum in the parlor sipping tea and reading the Daily Prophet sent a surge of bitterness through Scorpius. If he hadn’t just witnessed a loving and emotional family reunion at the train station, his own parents’ absence would not have stung so sharp. “Mother,” Scorpius said from the doorway.
Glancing up from her reading for a moment, Astoria replied, “You took a while getting back from King’s Cross.” Scorpius frowned. “Did you have trouble?”
He wanted to retort with a snide comment but decided against picking a fight with his mother. “No trouble. I was saying goodbye to my girlfriend.”
Raising her eyebrows, but not breaking contact with the paper, Astoria asked, “Who is she?”
“Rose Weasley,” Scorpius said with a touch of defiance in his voice. “She’s Ron and Hermione Weasley’s daughter,” Scorpius added unnecessarily.
“A Weasley?” came Draco’s voice from behind Scorpius. “I do believe there are several girls from better families in your year. The Weasleys are common and insipid.”
Frustration and anger flooded Scorpius causing him to clench his hand around the holly wand. “You don’t seem to find them common the way you try to smarm up to them and ask them to come around for one of your little parties.” Like his father, Scorpius had a gift for deep cutting words when angered.
“Scorpius, you do not talk to your father that way,” Astoria scolded. “You were raised better than that.” She glanced at Draco for a moment before continuing. “We are pleased, of course, that you are properly dating someone. We expected perhaps a different family but if you love her…”
The irony of his mother’s words were not lost upon Scorpius. If he loved her. His love for a man did not matter to them but love could be accommodated if it is with a woman. “They’ve invited me to dinner next week,” Scorpius said briskly. “If that goes well, I’ll see about having Rose here for dinner.” With that, Scorpius turned on his heel and left his parents.
Unpacking his trunk had a sense of finality that had not be present during previous summers. Each June he would return to Malfoy Manor and count the weeks until he would return to Hogwarts and to Albus. Usually his first few days back would include a letter to Albus but this summer the dark-haired man would be conspicuously absent from Scorpius’ life.
The first letter Scorpius received that summer was from Rose saying that she missed him and looked forward to his visit. She also started to talk about going on a trip to Spain with her friend Agatha Clemente. It struck Scorpius, as he walked around the garden path rereading the letter, that he did not feel a pang of longing at the idea of going a month or more not seeing Rose. He told himself it was a sign of trust and respect rather than a lack of love.
Feeling entirely unprepared to face the Weasley household, Scorpius stepped into the gentle green flames and spun away to Rose’s house. He was greeted by a tall, thin boy with bright red hair – Hugo looked as if he’d been placed by the fire as a lookout for their guest that night. “Mum, Dad, Rose’s boyfriend is here.”
“Hello, Hugo,” Scoprius said as he stepped out of the fire. Deciding that vanishing the soot from his clothes would be better than tracking it around the house, he took out his wand waving it slightly to siphon off the black soot from his outfit. Not a moment after his wand was tucked away, Rose had her arms around Scorpius’ waist. “I’ve missed you, Rose,” he said softly into his girlfriend’s neck as she squeezed him tightly.
“Gross,” Hugo said as he walked past them. “Mum, Rose is mauling her boyfriend in the sitting room.” Scorpius was suddenly thankful his parents only had one child.
Rose stepped back from Scorpius and took his hand. “Mum and Dad are through here,” she said guiding him into the family room.
Mr. Weasley narrowed his eyes as Scorpius entered the room with Rose. “Malfoy,” he said curtly.
Hermione’s loud whisper of, “Ronald,” carried across the room. “We’re so happy to have you here, Scorpius,” she said with a smile that seemed rather professional than personal. Scorpius could sense that her gracious attitude was an attempt to appease her daughter and maintain a semblance of civility. He recognized it as the same behavior his parents demonstrated at parties and social gatherings.
As he took a seat next to Rose on the plush couch, he looked around at the room they were in. He could tell their house was a comfortable size but was quite tiny compared to Malfoy Manor. Scorpius liked that the house wasn’t so large you could be at home with everyone but not be within 20 meters of another person. Noticing Scorpius’ eyes taking in the house, Ron said in a voice that edged on contemptuous, “Quite a bit smaller than what you’re used to, I suspect.” Ron did not need to suppose the size of the manor as he had been held there for a short while in his youth.
“I like the size of your home,” Scorpius said genuinely. “It’s feels friendly and welcoming and you don’t have to walk for 10 minutes to find the loo.”
Rose laughed at his words and even Ron let a smirk grace his face. “I can show you around the house before dinner,” Rose offered. “It’ll be another 15 minutes, right Mum?” she asked not waiting for an answer before pulling Scorpius to his feet.
“That sounds about right,” Hermione called after her daughter as she watched the pair disappear from the room.
As they reached the staircase they could hear Hugo ask, “Should I follow them?” followed by a brisk no.
Once they reached an open door on the second floor, Rose pulled Scorpius by the arm and shut the door, locking it with her wand. Not waiting for him to even raise an eyebrow at her behavior, she pushed Scorpius against the wall and kissed him deeply.
Not wanting to sit through dinner feeling randy, Scorpius broke their kiss after a few delightful moments. “Won’t they be by soon to check on us?” Rose shrugged as her hands ran through Scorpious’ soft hair. His voice catching in his throat he stammered, “I think they’ll notice if I return with my hair mussed.”
“I don’t know how you can bear it,” she said in a husky voice. “I’ve been going spare since we left school.”
“How will you survive your trip to Spain?” he asked with a mocking smile on his face. Scorpius leaned down and slowly kissed Rose before she could think of her witty retort. Remembering his goal to sit through dinner with his mind on the conversation rather than contemplating lecherous thoughts, Scorpius pulled back from the kiss and heard Rose huff. “What is this room?” he asked glancing at the desk and books.
“Mum’s study. I think it’s her favorite room,” Rose said walking towards the bay window where there was a cushioned bench and a few books. “I spend some time in here reading too,” she added straightening the books by the window.
Upon hearing footsteps on the stairs, Rose waved her wand causing the door to click. Moments later the handle turned slowly, “Rose, are you in here?” came Hermione’s voice. The door opened and Hermione had the look of someone expecting to see horrific scenes of teenage hormones but then looked suddenly relieved that the two teenagers were not only in a rather non-compromising position but were each holding books. Smiling a genuine smile, Hermione announced that dinner was on the table.
Dinner consisted of cobb salad, pork chops, roasted potatoes, and grilled vegetables with pumpkin juice and butterbeer to drink. Scorpius couldn’t imagine his mother cooking this meal herself. Anything more arduous than pouring a cup of tea and she’d ring for Fink, their house-elf, to do it for her. “This is delicious,” Scorpius said at each dish he tried.
Midway through eating, Rose was talking about her plan to do the Walk of Saint James with Agatha. “There are supposed to be interesting magical sites along the way,” she said mainly to Scorpius. Her family had been inundated with plans and potential waypoints for the two girls. “Maybe you could meet us in León; it’s supposed to be a beautiful city.”
Ron and Hermione exchanged glances before Hermione cut in, “Rose, I thought you were going on a holiday with your girlfriend. This doesn’t sound like a trip appropriate for male companions.”
“Mum, you’re so old-fashioned. Besides, you ran off with Dad and Uncle Harry – that wasn’t very lady-like,” Rose said with a wicked smile forming on her face.
“Be fighting Dark Wizards, will you?” Ron asked finally jumping into the conversation. “When you’re on the run fighting evil, you can go camping with whomever you wish,” he said with a grin toward Hermione.
“You’ll have to send me an owl from León,” Scorpius said daring to squeeze Rose’s hand. “I’ve read that Spain is lovely in the summer. You’ll have a wonderful time.”
“Dad, can I go to Amsterdam when I graduate from school?” Hugo asked clearly bored with his sister’s conversation. “James told me there are some special muggle pastries there I have to try.”
Ron looked on the verge of saying sure when his wife said, “I don’t think that’s an appropriate trip for you,” in a brisk voice.
“Muggles do make rather good pastries,” Ron reasoned before he caught the look from Hermione. “Though, it could be a dodgy place,” he added hastily.
An hour or so later, Rose was by the fireplace to say goodbye to Scorpius. Her family had gathered to bid him farewell which limited the kind of departure Rose desired. The kiss Scorpius consented to leave on her cheek left her stomach burning for more. “I’ll see you when you get back,” he said before stepping into the fire and leaving.
Rose spun on the spot and faced her family. “Well?” she asked grinning the same winning smile that had got her the trip to Spain.
“You’ve got to explain to me how Al shared a room with him for so many years and didn’t die of boredom,” Hugo said from a chair in the corner. “He’s all manners and civility. Where’s the fun in that?” Hugo grinned at the look of approval from his dad.
“Sorry he’s well-behaved in front of the family, Hugo. I know you’d rather have a friend over who set fire to my bed,” Rose shot at her brother. It had been nearly 4 years ago that Hugo and his friend Anthony were in her room while she was out and one of them used Dad’s wand to make a blue flame which caught her duvet on fire. “Scorpius and Al were in enough trouble at school. Trust me, he’s not dull,” she said with a lopsided grin which vanished at the raised eyebrow from her mum.
“He seemd quite nice, Rosie,” Hermione said warmly. “But he will not visit you in Spain, do you hear?” Unfortunately, her mum could keep track of any attempt he made to visit Spain while she was gone.
Rose spent the next week packing for her month long visit to Spain. She was thrilled to be given the bag her mum used while fighting Voldemort, Rose didn’t have to worry about only packing the essentials. In fact, Agatha was going to pack her clothes and supplies in the small beaded back as well.
Deciding that essential supplies might include items from her uncle’s joke shop, Rose stopped by Diagon Alley the day she was scheduled to leave country. Waving at Fred, who was manning the counter, she walked up to the office where Uncle George spent his days inventing better tricks and toys. Much to her surprise, Albus was up there with him.
“What brings you by?” Uncle George said with a smile. “Aren’t you supposed to be fleeing the country today?”
“Not for another few hours,” she said picking up a figure from the shelf. “I thought I might need a few extra supplies for the trip.”
“Are you planning a Tiny Twister?” Albus asked coolly.
“Not planning anything, Al. I just wanted to see what you two could recommend,” she said coyly. In truth, she was really seeking out her uncle’s opinion but it seemed rude to exclude Al as he was there.
George stroked his chin and leaned back in his chair. “Let’s see, word is you have a beau, so no Love Potion for you. Might need some decoy detonators. Been making a smaller model so it won’t take up too much room.”
While Uncle George starting making a list of items, Rose observed her cousin. There were bags under his eyes – was he getting sleep at night? She thought he might be a bit thinner than usual too. When her uncle was done speaking, Rose said, “That sounds like a great list. Maybe Al can show me where to grab everything.”
Albus led Rose out to the main shop. “I’m just going to get a small box of Whiz-Bangs – I’d hate for you to go overboard with them,” Al said picking up a brightly decorated box.
“Are you going to tell me what’s the matter?” Rose asked without preamble. “You’ve been sullen for months and I’m worried about you, Al.”
“Nothing’s the matter,” Al said automatically. “I’m just wrestling with what to do with my future, just like everyone else.”
His explanation made sense, more than Rose was expecting it to make. “Oh,” she paused then said, “I just thought you’ve seemed unhappy, not caught up in planning out your life.” Rose leaned over the banister and looked down on the rest of the shop. “Mum and Dad are having a family picnic when I get home. Scorpius will be there.”
“Oh,” was all Albus could think to say. Family picnic meant that he’d be expected to go, or be on his deathbed with spattergroit. “Are you two still getting on?” he asked guessing her answer.
“Is that a problem?” Rose asked detecting a hint of sourness in her cousin’s voice.
“I just want you to be happy, Rose,” Albus said putting his arm around her. “You’ve always been wild and free which is about the opposite of Scorpius.”
“He can be a bit, well, conservative,” Rose admitted rolling her eyes. “I think his parents put a lot of pressure on him though,” she added thoughtfully.
If only she knew the truth of her words. Albus’ heart was slowly repairing after Scorpius, who had caved to his parent’s pressure, began to date Rose. Every day felt a little less difficult and each night a little less lonely. He had a month to prepare for seeing Scorpius and Rose around his family – Albus could learn to feign civility by then.
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