Scorpius jerked upright, awakened by an insistent knock. He picked up his Swiss watch from the bedside table and focused on the Roman numerals. A quarter past seven.
He opened the door to find Mr. Weasley, dressed in wizard robes, holding a mug of coffee.
"Thank you." Scorpius took the mug although he generally preferred tea. He didn't want to be rude. The coffee had too much cream and sugar for his taste, but overall was a decent French roast. He asked, "Do I have time for a shower before breakfast?"
"Yeah," said Mr. Weasley. "There's no schedule. Fix what you want when you want." His eyes dropped to the mug. "Including coffee."
Scorpius suddenly noticed the hand-painted red letters on white china.
World's Greatest Dad.
Bloody hell, he'd stolen the man's coffee! He was too used to Stevens delivering a tray to his room in the mornings. Scorpius took another sip. There was no giving the mug back after drinking from it. He asked, "Is Rose up yet?"
Mr. Weasley nodded brusquely. "Look, I'm heading out in a few minutes. If you want to send a letter to your family I'll drop it by the Owl Post Office."
Scorpius' fingers tightened around the mug. "Should I leave it unsealed?"
"No. You gave your word." The look that accompanied the words said, And you'd better keep it.
Scorpius went to find his stationery. He addressed the letter to his parents and kept the message brief.
Thank you for supporting my decision to spend the holiday with Rose. Give Grandfather my apologies for whatever photographs were in the papers. I'll do my best to avoid causing the family further embarrassment.
He found Mr. Weasley in the dining room. He gave him the letter and went upstairs.
Rose, in a white towelling robe, was leaving the bathroom. Tendrils of wet hair clung to the sides of her face. "Good morning," she said softly.
"Good morning." Scorpius observed that her eyelashes were spiky with moisture. They were darker than her hair, and made her eyes look even bluer. "You didn't have to hurry on my account."
"Hugo and I have a deal, no long showers." Her eyes sparkled impishly. "But you're our guest so take your time."
Enjoyed the thought of making her brother wait, did she? "I will."
She returned his smile, and then her expression sobered. "Have you talked to my parents?"
"Your father. He offered to post a letter for me."
Her fingers worried the ends of her belt. "Is that all you talked about?"
Scorpius added the clues together. "They found out you snuck downstairs."
"Yes." She rolled one of the ends of her belt around a finger. "It wasn't too bad. They didn't yell." After a pause, she said, "I promised not to do it again."
The tip of her finger was turning blue. He reached out and freed it from the binding fabric. "I would've done the same."
He nodded. "Being together is what matters, not the time of day."
She hugged him.
Scorpius breathed in and froze. He exhaled raggedly. "You used my shampoo." There weren't words to begin to describe how that made him feel.
"And your soap," she said. "I should have asked. I'm—"
He kissed her before she could apologise. "I'm glad. To hell with taking what you're given. Make your own choice." Scorpius feathered kisses along Rose's jaw and down her neck. He wouldn't give her a so-called "love bite," but he couldn't resist nibbling a little. D'Orange Vert never smelled half as good on his skin. He kissed the base of her throat and lightly sucked. She pressed closer.
A groan sounded. It wasn't feminine.
"It's too early for this." Hugo's voice carried up the stairs. "I'm using Mum and Dad's toilet."
Scorpius stood torn between laughter and throwing a hex as footsteps stomped away. Maybe his parents had done him a favour when he was a child, giving him a niffler instead of a baby brother.
He headed for the shower while Rose went to get dressed. Out of habit, he selected a flannel out of the linen cupboard on his way to the tub. He was about to lather it when a thought struck. Rose touched this soap.
Scorpius eyed the flannel. If he didn't use it, he would veer dangerously close to sentimental behaviour. Besides, he'd seen a flannel drying on a towel rack. Rose hadn't lathered the soap with her hands.
Unless she'd had the same thought he had.
Decency kept him from leaving the tub. Only a pervert would sniff a flannel to check if it smelled like soap. He wasn't perverted. To prove it, Scorpius adjusted the water charm to frigid cold.
After he thawed out from his shower and dressed, Scorpius went to the kitchen. Rose had made scrambled eggs. She looked pretty in her pale green vest top and white shorts.
"For you, she'll cook," Hugo said. "I'm usually given cold cereal."
"My brother's too lazy to make his own breakfast." Rose handed Scorpius a plate garnished with sliced strawberries.
Hugo snorted. "Feeding me is the least you can do after Dad woke me up for chaperone duty."
"What?" Rose stared daggers at her brother.
Unperturbed, Hugo stuffed a triangle of toast into his mouth. "'oo 'eard 'e." He took his plate into the dining room.
"There's juice on the table, so there's no hoping he'll choke," Rose said loudly.
"I heard that!" Hugo called.
"You were meant to!" Rose grabbed her plate from the counter so forcefully it was a surprise her food didn't slide off.
Out of the corner of his eye, Scorpius caught a movement and pointed to the flesh-coloured string wriggling along the skirting board. "When the knockout drops take effect, we won't have to worry about Hugo anymore."
"No," he drawled. "We'll be free to take up where we left off."
Rose's smile was beguilingly wicked. "Let's start in Hugo's room. No one else will ever snog in there."
Hugo stormed into the kitchen. He ran to the sink and turned on the faucet, drinking in gulps of water. He faced them wild-eyed and dripping. "Ha! Your plan failed! I didn't drink the juice!"
"Who said it was in the juice?" Rose asked silkily.
Scorpius was beginning to regret that the knockout drops were imaginary. "You should have used Chameleon Ears," he said. "Regular Extendable Ears stand out against the woodwork."
Hugo's freckles blended into his red face. "That was a mean trick. The toast wasn't buttered. I could have died!"
"Don't exaggerate," Rose said. "I know the Heimlich manoeuvre." She strolled out of the kitchen.
"We would never snog in your room," Scorpius said before following. "Too odorous." The smell of old pizza was detectable from the stairs. He didn't want to imagine how bad it would be inside the room.
"Oh yeah? Well, I'm gonna keep it that way." Due to the Extendable Ears, Hugo's next remark was audible. "Until Mum makes me tidy up."
After breakfast, Scorpius volunteered to do the washing up while Rose finished getting ready.
Hugo became his grudging assistant. "Where does a Malfoy learn householdy spells? The housekeeper?"
"Mrs. Stevens is a caring person," Scorpius said, using a spell to levitate clean glasses to their place in the cupboards.
Hugo tossed a fork into the cutlery drawer. "She got you to do her work."
"It took twice as long to oversee my spellcasting." Scorpius returned plates to their shelf. He loved books, but he couldn't read all the time. When his parents were working in the lab and his grandfather was away, the couple who ran the manor kindly allowed him to tag along as they performed their duties. "Are you going with us today?"
"No. I'm helping Dad in the shop. I'm sure we'll have loads to talk about." Hugo slammed the cutlery drawer shut.
"If you think that's wise," Scorpius said. He picked up the rucksack he'd filled with textbooks and walked toward the entry to wait for Rose.
Hugo followed. "Why wouldn't it be? Because I didn't break up the Tonsil Quidditch? Dad will—aw, crap, who am I kidding, no, he won't. He won't understand. He'll start talking, and sharing, and when we go to lunch I won't be able to eat 'cause I'll still be queasy. Forget it. I'm not saying anything."
"I think that's wise," Scorpius murmured, as Rose walked down the stairs.
She'd put her hair up in a high ponytail and wore silver earrings. She touched one of the simple, curly dangles. "My lion earrings were the ones that snagged your hair," she said. "In case you were wondering."
"I don't want to know what you're talking about," Hugo said. "I want to leave while I still have an appetite."
"Does he make any sense to you?" Rose asked Scorpius.
Scorpius smiled and opened the door.
Rose Apparated Scorpius to a street she said had transitioned from decay to renewal over the last twenty years. "You should see the pictures," she said, as the house appeared to nudge aside its neighbours, gracefully occupying the space between number eleven and thirteen. "There wasn't a fanlight, the steps were worn, and the old door had a hideous silver—"
"—knocker in the shape of a serpent. I've seen photographs." The gold lion's head wasn't an improvement, in his opinion.
"From your grandmother. Of course." Rose pressed the doorbell. A familiar sounding chime echoed. "Aunt Ginny loves the Westminster Chimes."
The door opened inward.
"Hullo, Rose. Scorpius," Albus Potter said. "Come on in."
Light from the fan shaped window above the door brightened the narrow entryway. Cream-coloured walls displayed family photographs—Weasley and Potter family photos. The Black family portraits resided in the attic, most likely. Scorpius was drawn to a rectangle frame that protruded from a particular stretch of wall. The white canvas provided a backdrop for an exhibit of vividly hued children's artwork.
"Mum and Dad couldn't take Mrs. Black's portrait down, so they covered her up and used soundproof spells," Albus said. "There's a portrait of Kreacher on the other side so she isn't deprived of someone to scream at."
Immured with kindness. How Potter.
The name Kreacher was one his grandparents reviled above the memory of their own disloyal house-elf. "Is he still alive?" Scorpius asked.
"Yes, although he mostly stays in his den off the kitchen," Albus said. "Would you like to meet him? He'd be delighted."
"No thank you," Scorpius said flatly. He saw Rose and Albus exchange puzzled looks and changed the subject. "Who did the art? Children in orphanages and hospital wards?" The drawing of Super Wizard flying over St. Mungo's gave the last one away. He took a closer look. "The eyes are wrong. Blue instead of green."
"Kids often make that mistake. Dad doesn't mind."
"I'm sure," Scorpius said. He looked toward the grand staircase. "Are we going to revise?"
"Upstairs in the drawing room," Albus said. "Rose will show the way. I'm going to finish clearing the breakfast dishes." He went through a door that presumably led down to the kitchen.
"What's wrong?" Rose asked when they were alone.
"It's this house," Scorpius said. On the surface, it was pleasant, remodelled. The ugliness was beneath the paint and polished wood. He didn't have the Sight, yet he could feel the anger and pain seeping through the walls like toxic mould. He walked up the stairs, trailing a hand along the plaster beneath the landscapes. "There used to be shrunken heads here. Did you know that?"
"Of house-elves. They're in the attic now."
Impulse seized him. "Let's go." He took the steps two at a time. On the first landing, Scorpius dumped the satchel of books.
"This is crazy," Rose said. Her cheeks were pink from running to catch up. "Why are we doing this?"
Scorpius clasped her hand and pulled her up the stairs. "Grandmother Narcissa told me a story about this house. We're going to see if it's true."
On the topmost landing, they met Lily. She wore a hot pink dressing gown and yawned as she said, "You wanna see the pictures? Jus' a minute, 'kay?"
"Show us later," Scorpius said, tugging Rose to a steep stairway. The logical portion of his brain said there was nothing to prove. He ignored it and forged on.
Lily trailed after them. "The attic's the opposite of romantic. You'll sneeze instead snog your heads off."
"We aren't going there to snog," Rose said.
"So why go?"
Rose sighed. "He hasn't told me yet."
"Ooh, a mystery. Count me in."
The attic door creaked when Scorpius pushed it open. A single illumination orb floated near the ceiling.
"We carry enchanted torches when we bring down the Christmas decorations," Lily said. "Albus and I pretend we're pirates hunting for treasure."
Scorpius glanced around. "Where are they?"
"The Christmas decorations?" asked Lily.
"The shrunken heads."
"Tell us the story first," Rose said. "The one your grandmother told you."
He tried to peer around the stacked trunks and furniture. "My parents went out for dinner one night and Grandmother tucked me in. I asked for a ghost story. She didn't know any so she told me about this house and the house-elves bound with Dark magic to serve beyond the grave."
"Creepy," Lily said.
Scorpius said, "They appear dead, but if a true son or daughter of the House of Black appears, the spirits will return to serve."
Rose hugged his arm to her side. "It's only a story, and you're a Malfoy."
"I know." Still, the part of him that remembered Grandmother saying the elves' eyes would open for him needed to see that they wouldn't.
"The plaques are hanging on the far wall," Lily said. "Low enough so I—uh, we—don't see them over the boxes."
"Lumos." Scorpius used the light from his wand to manoeuvre around the obstacles in his path. He reached the row of heads.
Rose's thumb stroked across the back of his hand. "Look at each face. They haven't returned to life."
Scorpius moved his wand down the row, spotlighting each head. The elves were dead and pitiful. They had deserved better from those they served. The last face was particularly ancient and sad.
Wrinkled eyelids opened.
"Merlin!" Scorpius yelled. "Petrificus Totalus!"
The elf blinked.
Scorpius raised his fist.
"NO!" Rose shouted. "It's Kreacher!
There was a thud and a muffled curse as Lily ran to join them. "Oh my God, I forgot he hangs out up here sometimes. Is everyone all right?"
The elf peered at Scorpius with watery eyes. "Kreacher lives to serve the noble House of Black."
Lily came forward to pat the elf's shoulder. "Scorpius is our friend. He doesn't belong to this house. You don't have to serve him."
A tear rolled down Kreacher's face. "I will tell my poor mistress a true Black has returned."
In a séance or through the soundproof frame around her portrait? Scorpius turned on his heel. It was a toss up who was loonier, him or the elf. He shoved a box out of his way.
He stopped in the doorway. "I can't stay here."
"Then we'll leave."
"Argeles sur Mer is nice this time of year," Lily said, joining them. "There's cafes and shops and everyone loves the beach."
"We're not going to France, we're revising for exams," Rose said. "In a place no one will think to look."
Anywhere but here. "Somewhere Unplottable?" Scorpius asked.
Rose shook her head. "Somewhere Muggle."
A/N: The chapter title came from telling someone I was throwing a little of everything into the next chapter and could call it Kitchen Sink (from the saying "everything but the kitchen sink"), except I only use one-word titles for this story. :D I hope that "Sink" wasn't too obscure—at least once I explained it! As for D'Orange Vert, it's the name of a classic men's fragrance line by Hermes with cologne, shampoo, and soap that smell nice on women too.
I used the canon description of Grimmauld Place and gave it an extreme Potter makeover. Lily has Sirius' old room and posters of wizards on flying motorbikes. ;) The blue eyes/green eyes reference is to the film Harry versus canon. Couldn't resist.
Magical creatures have a natural resistance to magic, which is why Kreacher blinked when hit with a body bind curse. Argeles sur Mer is on the "Red Coast" of France, a short distance from Perpignan and a short drive from Spain.
Scorpius' reaction to Grimmauld and Kreacher was the result of his conflicted feelings and lingering issues. Harry and Ginny changed the house for the better and so can live there happily with their family, but Scorpius saw it through the filter of stories he'd heard and his own perceptions, making it a very grim old place.
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