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A/N: I really can't express how much your unwavering support has meant to me on this fic, so once again, I would like to thank each and every one of you for kind reviews and generous words. I hope you enjoy this chapter as much as the others, and please continue to leave such wonderful reviews. Thank you again X gwen X




Chapter three.


   It was the most uncomfortable meal any of them had ever experienced. Harry and Ginny were sitting at opposite ends of the long dining room table, adamantly avoiding each other’s eyes and evidently still not back on speaking terms following their argument earlier that morning. Ron was scowling down at his plate, pushing his food around with uncharacteristic disinterest, while Hermione was smiling a little too brightly, attempting to make apparently interested conversation with the Potter and Weasley kids.

   Scorpius was trying his best not to fidget in his seat, but the tension had almost surpassed unbearable. He had the clearest of understandings, and he knew perfectly well that this was all his fault and that, had he not arrived on the Potter’s doorstep two days ago, the two families would be joyously laughing and conversing like the old friends that they were.

   The tension was so tight in fact, that when Hermione Weasley stood up to fetch the second course of their meal, Scorpius blurted, in a most desperate bid for conversation, “Why don’t you just call the House Elf to get it?”

   Immediately, he knew that he’d said the wrong thing. It was almost as if the entire room had plummeted by a couple of degrees, and when he looked to Albus, who was sitting on his right, he saw an extremely uncomfortable expression on his friend’s face. Hermione sat abruptly back down in her seat.

   “We don’t have House Elves, boy.” Ron Weasley spoke up, in a scathing voice which reminded Scorpius very much of his own terrifying Grandfather. He’d only met the old man on two occasions before his death, but both times he had been scared out of his wits by Lucius Malfoy. “We don’t believe in the wrongful exploitation of brave and innocent creatures.”

   Scorpius felt his chest constrict. He’d never considered the rights of House Elves before, let alone been forced to confront his own conscience about the matter. What on earth was he supposed to say?

   “Ron,” Harry said, in a voice that seemed edged with familial warning. “Give the boy a break. You know he’s had a different kind of upbringing to your kids, and ours.”

   Scorpius saw Harry glance up at his wife then, and he felt a little better when he saw Ginny Potter smile back, albeit faintly.

   “Your Father keep a lot of Elves then, did he?” Ron sneered, ignoring Harry, and directing his accusation at Scorpius, offering him no escape route towards benediction. “I’ll bet the manor you grew up in was just brimming with unpaid servants.”

   Scorpius felt his face grow hot. “I-”

   “Oh Ronald,” Hermione snapped, standing up again and summoning all of the empty plates into a neat pile in front of her. “You can’t expect the boy to be straight-up perfect. None of our kids are, and that’s life.”

  Ron grunted, “Our kids know the difference between right and wrong, at least.”

   Scorpius could feel his face burning with humiliation, and he glanced towards Rosie who was staring at him intently. She looked immediately down at her plate, however, when he caught her unsuspecting eye. “Dad...” she said in a soft voice.

   “It’s okay Rosie.” Ron replied, then he looked to her mother again. “I-”

   “Don’t even say it, Ron Weasley.” She snapped, then she turned to the Potters. “I’m sorry.” She said in a taut, angry voice. “Scorpius, sometimes my husband just doesn’t know when to shut up.” With that, she turned abruptly on her heel and stalked out to the kitchen, floating the dishes out behind her.

   Ron gave an annoyed grunt, then he stood up and dashed after her. The kitchen door slammed.

   “So far so good, then.” Said James, in a clear attempt at humour. “At least we know that things can only get better.”

   Harry shook his head. “Don’t take any of what he says to heart, Scorpius.” He said firmly. “He doesn’t mean it.”

   “Dad can be pretty irrational sometimes.” Hugo Weasley piped up, grinning at the older Malfoy boy. “Last year he said that I wasn’t aloud a pet rat because they’re ‘foul, dishonest creatures’, I mean, honestly!”

   The voices in the kitchen suddenly raised, and Harry coughed loudly in a vain attempt to cover the din.

   “It’s okay.” Scorpius reasoned, feeling all eyes on him. “I understand. He and my father were never the best of friends.”

   “No, they weren’t.” Harry agreed. “But that’s no reason to take that out on y-”

   He stopped abruptly as Ginny shoved her chair back without warning, and then marched silently from the dining room. The rage of noise coming from the Weasley’s kitchen blasted back into the room as Ginny opened the door, and then it fell again, as she slammed it shut behind her.

   Scorpius felt a nervous twisting in his gut as he glanced at Harry, and he saw the man was staring at the space his wife had vacated with a very mixed expression on his face.

   “Dad?” Albus asked.

   But Harry just shook his head. “I don’t know, son.” He replied, glancing around the table at the various anxious looking kids. Rosie was still staring down at her plate, looking very much as if she wished she was elsewhere, while Hugo was staring in the direction of the kitchen with an unabashed expression of interest on his face. James was watching his father closely, while Lily had her small, scrutinising eyes fixed firmly in place on Scorpius. Albus was fidgeting with his knife and fork, glancing between the rest of them as if they might be able to calm the situation down.

   “Maybe I should just go.” Scorpius said.

   “Don’t be silly.” Harry replied, but he rose from his own chair all the same. “Just stay where you are Scorpius. I’m going to sort all of this out.”

   And with that, the final adult left the room. Silence spread like thick tar.

   “Is it always like this here?” Scorpius asked in a small voice, attempting to sound nonchalant, but knowing perfectly well that he was failing.

   “No.” Said Lily Potter bluntly.

   Scorpius scratched the back of his neck. Then he heaved a long sigh and stood up, his black boots scraping along the neat linoleum flooring. “I’m going to push off.” He said, looking at no one in particular. Albus made to immediately protest, but his older brother clamped a hand around his forearm, then shook his head harshly. Albus glared at James and shook himself free, standing up to take off after his friend. But Scorpius was already gone.

   “Sit down Al.” Rosie Weasley said in a soft voice. Then she stood up slowly. “I’ll go.”

   “Are you-”

   “Yes, I’m sure.” She said, glancing up at the evident discomfort in her cousin’s voice. “What, you think I can’t handle him?”

   “No,” Albus said, glancing down at his plate, “I... I just think that...”

   “He’s not your friend, Al.” James said in a brutally honest voice. “You’ve known him for two days, just like the rest of us. So get over it, and let him deal with things the way he wants to deal with them.”

   Albus blinked rapidly at his brother’s tone, then he stood up abruptly and threw his plate onto the floor. “I’m going home.” He announced, then he dashed from the room.

   Rose place her fists firmly onto her hips, then said in her coldest voice. “James Potter, give your brother someone to look up to.” Then she too stalked from the room.

   Lily and Hugo glanced at each other with twin expressions of bemusement. James just sighed, slumping down in his chair and crossing his arms resolutely over his chest.

   “Malfoy or not, this kid isn’t worth the hassle.” He muttered, shaking his head in utter bewilderment.

 

*

 

   Rose found him sitting beneath the kitchen window, listening to the arguing within in an almost exact replica of his first night here, two days ago. He was knocking his head back against the brick of the outside wall, with his eyes squeezed shut as if that might help to block out the harsh words spouting from her own father’s foul mouth.

   “Did you even bother to ask how his dad died?” Ron Weasley was bellowing. Rose could practically envision the angrily pointing finger which her father would be currently prodding into Uncle Harry’s chest. “Did you not consider that this might all be some elaborate ruse? Some Death Eater trick which the two of them cooked up together. Pretend that he’s dead so that his son can infiltrate the enemy’s-”

   “Ron, you don’t know what you’re talking about mate.” Harry said in a soft but firm voice. “Draco Malfoy was killed in a road traffic collision. I saw his body myself. As did young Scorpius, might I add.”

   “Oh Harry, that is awful.” Rose heard her mother murmur. Apparently her father had been rendered speechless.

   Ron spluttered for a moment or two, before exclaiming in an overly loud voice, “And you’re sure?!”

   “Yes,” Harry said quietly, “Of course I’m sure.”

   “Oh.”

   “Yes, it’s pretty full on isn’t it.”

   Ron didn’t reply. He seemed to be thinking of something suitable to say. Rose thought that a simple apology would suffice, but her father had never been particularly eloquent with his “sorry”s. As much as she did love him, like her mother, she was well aware of his flaws.

   Eventually, there was a sound of a chair being dragged out, and then a low groan as Ron sat himself down in it. “What happened then?” He asked, in a resigned voice.

   Rose glanced quickly to Scorpius, and saw that he had his solemn eyes fixed on her. She didn’t dare move beneath his gaze.

   “Malfoy was driving his son home from his ex wife’s. They’d arranged that she’d have him for half of the summer holidays, but when they got to her apartment she was nowhere to be found. Apparently the Landlord said she’d moved out two days earlier. Now, Malfoy was about as angry as any father would be, for his ex wife’s incompetence. I suppose his anger must have hampered his driving, and of course he wasn’t all that used to using Muggle transport anyway. He was an accident waiting to happen. And he just... He just messed up.”

   “Was anyone else hurt?” Hermione practically whispered.

   “No. Scorpius was in the back, and Draco took the full impact of the crash. He was... He was impaled, and Scorpius saw it all. I’d wager he’ll have no trouble seeing the Thestrals, come September.”

   “Oh, the poor boy.”

   “Poor boy.” Harry agreed, “Poor, innocent, boy.” Rose could imagine the look which her uncle was shooting at her father. “So no more questions.”

   “Of course.” Hermione said, and there was a slight wobble in her voice, as if tears had filled her eyes. Rose heard the chair creak again, and then a soft sigh as her father’s arms encircled her mother’s slim waist. “Oh, Ron.” She whispered, and Rose sighed, sliding down the wall to sit beside the silent boy beneath the window.

   He wasn’t looking at her anymore.

   She didn’t know what to say, and she knew she’d heard too much. Scorpius wasn’t just a boy anymore; some charity case son of a dead Death Eater. He was a broken, hurt boy. He was vulnerable, and it suddenly dawned on her exactly how he must be feeling. So lonely and lost, just looking for someone or something to make him feel safe again. But instead of being accepted into her Uncle’s family with the open arms which he needed, he’d found that he wasn’t welcome by all. He’d found that, as well as battling his own grief and loss, he’d have to battle for the acceptance and kindness that any other boy would be given immediately. And all simply because of one stupid, empty word. Malfoy. Because that was all it boiled down to: a name.

   “Scor-”

   “Think that’s got your dad convinced then.” He said in a bitten voice, his eyes downcast and desperately hiding the re-emerged sorrow of his Father’s death. “But what about Mrs Potter. She didn’t say a word about my stupid, harrowing tale.”

   “Scorpius...” Rose said softly, reaching to touch his arm. But he jerked away.

   “No.” He said firmly, “I don’t want your sympathy. That’s not why I agreed to come here. I just wanted normality. Family, friends. Something to help me forget that the only person who’s ever given a bloody damn about me is gone. Dead, do you get that Rosie? Do you understand what that means?”

   Rose withdrew her hand slowly. “I’m sorry.” She said simply, but he just looked up to glare at her.

   “I told you that’s not what I want.” He whispered, willing her to ignore the tears, foreign on his cheek bones. “You know where my mum is tonight? Because I don’t. Because she doesn’t care about me. She doesn’t care that I’m scared, and that I need her, and that I just want things to be okay. I just want to be a kid, Rosie. I just want everyone to treat me like a normal kid.”

   Rose choked back on a sob, before whispering, “You are a normal kid.”

   Scorpius looked away again, wiping his hand viciously over his face. “Yeah.” He said gruffly. “Well, then don’t tell the others, okay? I don’t want them to know about-“ he gestured towards the window, “-You know, all this.”

   “Sure.” Rose whispered.

   “Yeah?”

   “Okay.”

   “Good.”

   He didn’t look at her again, and eventually she got back to her feet. “I’m going to go back and-”

   “Yeah.”

   She stood before him for a moment longer, then she headed back towards the dining room. She knew she wouldn’t tell them. She knew that she would keep his secrets, because what he wanted was acceptance, not pity. And she could respect that.

   Scorpius threw his head back against the wall, rubbing his eyes with balled fists. For a long while he sat exactly like that, but after a few moments he grew conscious of someone standing in front of him, and he lowered the fists. He almost wasn’t surprised to see Ginny Potter standing in front of him, her expression grim as she looked down upon him.

   He tried for a bitter smile, but his expression cracked and he was more than a little conscious of the tears still staining his usually straight face.

   “So you want me to pack my bags, then?” He asked bluntly, trying not to feel as affected as he was. He smirked at her, like his father might, but it felt dead. “Be out by tomorrow morning?” he whispered.

   Ginny said nothing. Her expression was empty, and it frightened the boy. She seemed like such a fiery, passionate woman, it was unnerving to have her standing there silently, and staring at him as if he should know exactly what she was thinking. He thought she might whip her wand out right there, and hex him where he sat. But then, all of a sudden she was on her knees before him. And then she crawled towards him, and wrapped her arms tightly around his shoulders which began to quake the very moment that she touched him.

   And then Scorpius couldn’t help it. He let himself lean into her warm, maternal touch and his tears reappeared with a vengeance as she whispered soothingly, holding him. Just holding him, like a mother should.

   “Shh,” she whispered, in a voice only they could hear. “It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay now.”

   And for some reason, he felt inclined to believe her.

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