Scorpius Malfoy was walking past the Gryffindor common room’s Fat Lady, about to clear his throat and offer up the password, when it swung open quickly and Hugo Weasley tumbled out, head-over-heels, having leapt through head first. Scorpius smiled.
“Still leaping out of portrait holes, I see,” Scorpius said, and Hugo looked up from the ground, through his curls, with a large grin on his face.
“It’s so much quicker,” Hugo said, for the first time in recent history actually having a reason for it. Scorpius reached out a hand and helped Hugo up off the floor. He saw Hugo eyeing his tie, and took a moment himself to look over Hugo’s appearance. There was some improvement in the fact that his robes were not on front-to-back, but Hugo never had had the knack for tying his ties. There was a knot in it, about half-way down the length, so that it looked more like a horribly failed bowtie, sagging down a bit.
“Someday, Hugo, I’m going to teach you to tie a tie,” Scorpius said, slinging an arm around Hugo’s shoulders and leading him in the direction of the Entrance Hall. Two weeks back into their daily, Hogwarts-located routines was enough to tell Scorpius that despite the week-long foray into the depths of the Forbidden Forest, Hugo’s sense of direction was still so impaired that he could end up in an empty classroom on the fifth floor and think he was showing up for Double Potions.
“Maybe before tonight?” Hugo asked hopefully, before he remembered that he wasn’t wearing a tie. Scorpius seemed to find it unnecessary to answer anyways, and kept walking him down staircase after staircase until they came to the Entrance Hall. Hugo could have sworn that one should have taken a couple more turns to get here, but since they were here after all, he guessed he didn’t really need to bring it up.
To make conversation, or try, at least, Hugo asked, “What time are we supposed to meet Professor Neville--Longbottom, I mean--again?”
Scorpius shot him a look. Scorpius had been shooting Hugo lots of looks since their last escapade in the Forest, with the lake and everything. They often looked suspicious, or like he was about to ask something, but this one looked more like what Rose looked like. It was the expression she had for him when she thought he had asked a particularly silly question. But it passed from Scorpius’s gaze, and he looked down at his watch compliantly and said, “in about five minutes.”
“Well we’re right on time!” Hugo said, doing a little leap in the air as he simultaneously estimated the amount of time it would actually take to get to Professor Neville’s office. It was out by the greenhouses on the grounds, and it took a few minutes to get there. But he was right, he concluded, as Scorpius flicked his wand at the Oak doors and they opened to reveal snow-covered grounds.
Hugo loped as gracefully as he could manage through the knee-deep snow as Scorpius lagged slightly behind, using his wand to blast a path with hot air. I am a hound, enjoying the winter sunshine! Hugo thought, bouncing a bit and tripping, falling into the snow. I am a small child on the way to have a birthday party! He got up and ran, arms akimbo, lifting his knees higher so he wouldn’t trip again.
A few yards behind him, Scorpius was shaking his head in a well-meaning way. It was endearing, really, that Hugo had accomplished so much in so little time and was still himself. It might have gone to anyone else’s head.
Hugo waited at the door to Longbottom’s small office, which was more like a small cottage than an office, out behind the greenhouses. Smoke trailed up into the light grey sky from the brick chimney, and Scorpius eagerly awaited the fire inside.
Longbottom answered the door, looking up from having been checking his watch. “Right on time,” he said, sounding pleased and, Scorpius thought, a little surprised. “I’ve just put the kettle on, it’ll be a couple minutes.”
“That’s all right, Professor,” Hugo said earnestly, and Neville smiled, stepping out of the way to let them in.
Hugo and Scorpius took their seats at the small circular table in the sitting room, while Neville bustled at the stove and took the kettle off when it began to whistle, pouring their tea into the chipped mugs at their places.
Hugo allowed his to cool a bit before lifting it to his mouth. If there was anything he knew, it was that tea could burn your tongue right out of the pot. His hand strayed to his pocket, where a little silver box sat docilely. His fingers closed around it, and as Scorpius and Professor Longbottom chatted about classes and exams, Hugo allowed his mind to wander.
Three weeks ago, he would never have pictured himself with the Quidropopot in his possession but locked away forever.
Rose had been doing her Herbology thesis, and she had been reading that bloody thick treatise on exotic diseases and their cures, and she had told him about the mythical Quidropopot, and how its flesh could cure almost any disease and it had a ruby at its center that theorists believed created the Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses...he had thought, just for a moment, wouldn’t it be great to go and find one of those?
But, he thought now, turning the silver box over in his hand, he didn’t need the Quidropopot after all. He had learned enough on the way to getting it--about himself, about who he was.
“Looking forward to tonight, Hugo?” Scorpius asked suddenly, breaking Hugo out of his reverie. He meant, of course, the Yule Ball. Hugo grinned, nodding enthusiastically.
“Marjie made me colour-coordinate with her,” Hugo said, shaking his head a bit. “We’re wearing blue and bronze.” He grimaced. What would Quidditch-captain Albus think of that?
“It’s not surprising to hear that,” Professor Neville mused, smiling gently. “She’s a Ravenclaw, through and through.” He cleared his throat and looked up suddenly, as though something had occurred to him.
“Speaking of Marjie, was she impressed?” Scorpius asked.
“By what?” Hugo was confused. He had told Scorpius he’d abandoned the suit idea.
“The Quidropopot, that you got it! You did tell her, didn’t you? Because--” he paused, looking at Professor Neville in a way that could have been a bit guilty. “Because we thought that that might have been the reason you were after the Quidropopot, you know. We weren’t sure you’d show it to her, but at least...let her know you found it. Have it in the box. Something like that.”
“Oh, no,” Hugo said, shaking his head. He pushed some curls out of his eyes. “I didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell her because, well, even though at first that’s what I maybe wanted it for, after I thought about it, and after we were really out in the forest, and you guys were with me...I realized I was going after the fruit because it was a myth. It was impossible to find. My parents did lots of impossible things, and they’re important people. I thought, maybe, if I could do something impossible, I could prove to myself that I was...important, too.” Hugo stopped bashfully, cupping his mug in his hands. “It wasn’t about finding the fruit and showing it to anybody. I learned what I needed to. I did what I wanted to.” He nodded, as if to signal the end of his speech.
“But...the fruit you have isn’t magical anymore. Not itself dangerous. You still don’t have any desire to take it out of the box?” Scorpius was asking; his face was a strange expression that looked caught between curiosity and extreme relief.
“No,” Hugo said after considering. “I’m content to have it. In the box, it’s just as meaningful. A reminder of the adventure.” He sipped his tea. He was glad he had waited; it didn’t burn his tongue.
“Okay,” Scorpius sighed at length, leaning back in his seat. He believed him. “Ah. We should get going,” he said apologetically, but there was a hint of excitement in his tone. Hugo looked at the clock on the wall. It had already been an hour since they’d arrived--he didn’t realize time could move so quickly! He stood up and held out his hand to Professor Neville, who took it, looking amused.
“Thank you for the tea, Professor! See you tonight!” Hugo pumped his hand eagerly and took off running out the door. Scorpius shook his head and clapped Longbottom on the back.
“Thanks,” he said, walking and pausing at the open door. Neville could see Hugo pirouetting in the snow outside, past Scorpius’s silhouette. “Thank you for everything.”
A small lump seemed to have lodged in Neville’s throat. Looking at Scorpius’s beaming face--Scorpius, who was usually so reserved, whose best-expressed emotion was usually concentration on the Quidditch pitch--he couldn’t find enough voice to say anything, so he nodded emphatically, and Scorpius turned, trekking out into his wand-blown path after Hugo, who was now coating himself over in snow and shouted to Neville, when he saw him watching, “I’m a snowman! Don’t I look just like a snowman?”
It had begun to snow.
Neville nodded. He smiled, beaming, and was sure that his grin was as bright as the white landscape before him. He lifted a hand to wave one last time, and watched contentedly as the sun began to sink in the yellow sky, and the boys turned to pinpricks against the grey stone of Hogwarts castle.
a/n: edited 17 october 2011
REALLY. A DOBBY?? I LOVE YOU ALL ♥♥♥
I'd like to add that this story is dedicated to the following: Gina, Annie, Hattie, Janechel, Melissa, Ash, Gubby, Julia, Mary, Celeste, Sarah and Jack for being constant support and fangirls. Ahem, and one of them is a fanboy.
Also to my dad, for reading each chapter after I finished writing them, and supporting my writing even when it meant other things--real life things--got a little neglected.
Thank you to each and every one of my readers, particularly Jade amongst others, for giving me such remarkable feedback and being overall so encouraging. I've said it a thousand times but I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into when I started this; but I am so glad that things happened the way they did.
LOVE, lily ♥