For squirrelsocks, unknownhorcrux, and Melissa. You are the sweetest.
I shot out of bed before realizing I had nowhere to go. “What do you mean Scorpius never made it home?” I asked, heart racing. “I watched him leave.”
Dad shook his head, straightening up. “Which way did he go?”
“Into the woods,” I said, voice starting to get desperate. “The same way he always goes. It’s the same way. How could he not be back?” I grabbed a clean shirt and pulled it on, rushing out into the kitchen where Mr. Malfoy was at the table with a steaming mug before him. He looked distressed. Rightly so.
His grey eyes turned to me when I entered, almost hopeful, until Dad walked in behind me.
“Said he walked back after he dropped her off late,” Dad said, putting his hand on my shoulder.
I hated that look. The one of urgent sadness in Mr. Malfoy’s eyes. He looked scared. I wondered if my father had ever looked like that. What if I hadn’t come home?
I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I’d watched him walk off. How many things were in those woods that could have prevented Scorpius from getting back? Were there bears? Tigers? Bloody hell, what did the United States have? I should have done more research before this trip.
“I guessed he might have been here,” Mr. Malfoy said, draining what was left in the mug before sliding it across the table to my mother. She looked just as nervous.
“Well, we have to go look!” I shouted quickly. “He can’t be far, can he? I know the way.” I grabbed the sliding door, pulling it open.
“You’re not going outside if something’s there,” Dad ordered, shutting the door immediately. “I’ll look with Malf – Mr. Malfoy.” He made an awkward face. “Hermione?”
“I’ll get my shoes,” Mum said and disappeared into the living room.
“I’m going,” I said stubbornly. How could I sit at home while they went off and looked? They didn’t even know the way. They didn’t know the path to the creek or the berries or any of it. My heart was beating so hard it hurt. Everything hurt and the adrenaline was making me sweat.
“You’re not.” Dad’s eyes were on mine. “Stay here.” He nodded to Mr. Malfoy and before I could get a word in, they walked into the living room, joined Mum, and left.
The kitchen was silent.
Great. Leave a hysterical girl alone with her thoughts.
I could make a list of things that could have killed Scorpius, but somehow that didn’t seem like the best idea.
Bears. Mountain lions. Really rabid skunks.
As opposed to regularly rabid skunks.
The hall door opened and I jumped. “Dad?”
Hugo walked in. “You think I’m balding?” he asked, yawning. “What’s got your knickers in a twist?”
“Scorpius is bloody fucking missing!” I shouted, throwing an apple and hitting him square in the shoulder.
“What? Did they check the bathroom?” He kicked the fruit out of the way.
“So why are you here then?” Hugo asked, grabbing another apple from the basket in the center of the table and taking a bite.
“Dad told me to stay.”
“Might be dangerous.”
His brow raised. “Yeah, okay,” Hugo said, rolling his eyes. “Or you could go find him.”
“And if it is dangerous?” I countered. “It could be a bear or a Muggle with a gun.”
Hugo leaned against the wall, staring at me as he chewed. “You’re a Gryffindor, Rosey,” he said. “Put your brave pants on.”
I had no idea which way my parents had gone. The car was gone, so I assumed they took it to check the road and the surrounding brush. Or maybe to check town as well. I, however, ran directly into the woods, crashing through branches and ferns and thick layers of forest.
Everything seemed like it was on fire. The humidity soaked my shirt in minutes, but I didn’t stop to rest. I just kept looking. I called out his name.
Birds. Wind. Crackling of branches. Silence.
I forced my way through more of the forest, careful to check behind trees and rotting logs. It kept getting hotter, though I was sure my running wasn’t helping.
“Scorpius!” I cried, stopping to get my bearings. Nothing. I wasn’t far from the creek at that point, so I moved a little slower, trying to find anything.
What was I, a tracker?
I wouldn’t be able to spot anything unless it was a giant muddy print before me.
Which, you know, it was.
I fell to my knees, examining it. Okay, the print could have been from someone else. It could have also been from earlier in the day, but it was pointing toward the creek. It was pretty deep, though it hadn’t been raining to muddy the area. I frowned.
“Scorpius?” I said. My voice came out as skeptical.
I could hear the creek water and the breeze. Not much else.
I used a tree to help me stand, leaning on it. What the hell was I supposed to do? Scorpius had definitely made it this far last night. He’d come this way. But where had he gone?
Great. I finally get a fun date with an attractive boy and he goes and disappears.
Ugh. Can’t think like that.
I moved toward the creek, one step at a time, and examined the forest floor. Just the regular twigs, mud, leaves, and other oddities I didn’t care to check out. Something looked like a bone. Sick.
Finally I made it to the edge of the water. This was where I found Scorpius in his masculine rubber boots, fishing. There was no sign of him now. Just the water carrying sediment downstream. I liked its murky, brown shade.
Hell. He really wasn’t here. Not that I expected him to be here just floating in the water, splashing about.
I just wanted him to be.
That was when I noticed some odd mud on the opposite bank of the creek. I stared. It wasn’t exactly a shoe print, but it could have been. It looked like someone or something had left the creek using that patch of earth.
Scorpius maybe? He could have gotten into the creek and crossed it. Why, though? His house was the other way.
I let out a disgruntled sigh, slipped off my shoes, and crossed the creek. The water was refreshingly cool on a day that was making it difficult to hold my breath in. I kicked it a little to splash against my thighs before using the same patch of mud to climb back onto land.
Everything was the same. Bushes. Branches. Tree trunks. Moss. Heat making everything into mirrored waves.
All I wanted to do was sit down.
I kept my mind on how I was going to smack him upside the head when I found him. For getting his parents worried. For scaring me half to death.
Mostly because it kept me from being terrified of any other options.
I hated this. Godric, I hated all of it. I began to walk back into the brush, searching for any other footprints, but there wasn’t more mud and leaves were covering the ground in a crinkled mess. Heart beating so loud it reminded me of the dull roar of thunder through the mountains.
I followed what looked to be a game trail, which began to slope downward. My shirt caught on branches every so often.
Where was I even going? Ugh.
The hill was getting steeper and I kept hold of the textured bark of trees as I descended. I paused, almost hitting a tree, after I heard rustling to my right. It came from down the hill a little – near the bottom – and there was a bush moving.
“Scorpius?” I said, voice not all that confident.
No answer. Great. Now I was going to be mauled by some dragon and killed after my father told me not to go outside. I’d be grounded forever.
I stepped back, gasping as my back hit a tree. Okay. It could very well be a small mammal. A rodent or large insect. Hopefully not a large insect. I pulled my wand. Hugo would never let me live it down if I was attacked by a large rodent.
The bushes shook a little. I kept expecting to see a small deer or bear or large pygmy puff scurry out, but I saw nothing. Just a bush that trembled around thirty meters below me. None of the other bushes were moving.
I slowly crept toward it.
This is the part where if I was watching myself I would dutifully shout out not to go near the scary noise. I’d watched enough Muggle movies in the dark to know the outcome was never positive and always involved blood.
I held my wand tighter. My knuckles were fading to white.
One step after another. Heart racing painfully.
If I was going to die in a forest, at least it was a nice day. A little on the warm, Muggle side though.
When I was within arms reach, I stood on my toes to peer over the leaves to see if there was a thorny tail of a dragon or a tusk of a rhino.
“Shit!” I cried.
What I spotted was khaki.
Scorpius was sprawled out on a bed of crumbling brown leaves and weeds. His legs weren’t moving. There was what looked to be splatters of blood on his left thigh. One hand was grasping his wand, which was snapped in half. The other was against the bush, shaking it gently.
He was a mess. There were pieces of debris stuck to his clothes, dirt everywhere, and he barely looked conscious. The reason why was simple to tell: he was sporting a thick, red gash from his shoulder to his elbow. Blood coated the nearby brush. It was far more graphic than I could stomach.
His face was paler than usual.
I took all of this in as I hit my knees beside him, calculating in my head what needed to be done first. Scorpius was fading fast. His eyelids flickered, perhaps recognizing me. Or just recognizing me as help.
I pulled off my extra t-shirt, covering his arm wound. He winced, which was a good sign. “Shh,” I said, using my wand to hold it there.
Okay. I could do this. Though I wished I’d read more of the books Mum had about Healing. That gash didn’t look like anything I could take on with my wand.
Scorpius whimpered a little, letting the lower half of his wand drop into the dirt. His brows creased in significant pain.
I cleaned the dirt and blood mixture from his face and other arm, which seemed to be okay except for some scabbed-over scratches and bruises. Then I looked to his leg and gently pressed a few centimeters from the blood. He winced, so I cleaned away the blood to spot a small hole in his pants. More blood was coming through.
I began to feel queasy with that amount of warm blood and the humidity and heat of the day beginning to take its toll.
“Rose?” Scorpius muttered. His lips were dry and chapped.
“You’re fine,” I blurted, but I knew my expression was giving everything away. I couldn’t stay calm. My fingers shook furiously. “Don’t worry. I’ll get you back.”
We were quite a distance from either rental.
“I’m not worried,” he said, choking a little and blood trailed out the side of his mouth.
I tried not to wonder how he got like this. Instead, I focused on tying the t-shirt to his arm and putting a sticking-charm on it to make sure it would hold up against his wound. I had to be professional about this. All that mattered was getting him back so he could get help. Whatever had happened had put him in really poor shape.
And my entire body was shaking.
“Scorpius?” I whispered, leaning close to him. Even his chest was cold under his collared shirt.
“I’m going to levitate you, okay?” I splayed my fingers against the fabric, if only to make myself feel closer to him.
“Whatever you need, Juliet,” Scorpius replied, his voice hoarse. He met my eyes swiftly before closing his. “Next time I’ll do the rescuing.” He spit blood away from me.
I shoved the pieces of his broken wand into my back pocket and stood, carefully lifting him off the ground with a levitation spell. It wasn’t easy. His arm draped away and I had to put it on his chest, which caused him to cry out in pain. Then his legs were heavier than I thought and he almost fell onto his head. I should have paid closer attention in school.
One step at a time, I moved up the hill with Scorpius behind me. I slipped a couple times, but held the wand steady so he moved evenly.
Every maneuver was difficult. There were too many bushes. Too many trees to move him around. He remained silent, but I could see his jaw clenching in pain. I was beginning to feel dizzy.
I moved into the stream, knowing it would be easier to just walk through the water with him than navigate the forest. The rocks weren’t that friendly to my feet, but I kept moving, eyes on the strands of blond hair lifelessly stretching to the ground.
What would I have done if something had happened to him?
What if Dad and Mr. Malfoy didn’t find him?
How much longer did Scorpius have before he started to lose too much blood?
I shook my head. No. I couldn’t think about that. Just had to keep wading upstream to get him back to his house.
If he would have just agreed with his mum to leave, he wouldn’t have gotten injured.
He also wouldn’t have told me he fancied me.
That was a terribly selfish thought.
I was glad the water was cool because the sweat was making the tank top stick to my body.
Please hold on, Scorpius.
When I knocked, Mrs. Malfoy was the one who pulled open the door. She looked positively sick and not from her own disease. She took one look at Scorpius levitating behind me and let out a yelp, tearing down the stone steps. She resisted throwing her arms around him and instead took a moment to survey his wounds.
“Where was he?” she asked, not bothering to look at me.
“The bottom of a hill,” I said. “Past the creek.”
Mrs. Malfoy brought her wand out from the front pocket of her tailored pants and quickly undid the sloppy job I’d done on his arm. She created a thin line of stitches bringing the gash together (which made my stomach turn) and tossed the t-shirt onto the porch. Then she muttered a spell.
“Get some water, a cloth, and send an owl to Draco,” she said, moving past me into the house. Scorpius followed, now being levitated by her, and I watched him vanish up the steps.
That was when I released the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding.
Okay. Water. Cloth. Owl.
I moved into the house, closing the door behind me and walked straight into the kitchen. Only days before Mr. Malfoy had been at the counter.
An owl first. He’d want to know we found Scorpius so they weren’t still out there looking aimlessly.
Considering this was only my second time in the house, I wasn’t an expert at their owl-keeping preferences. Lucky for me, I spotted a tall metal cage hanging from the ceiling of the large den to my left. Inside was a barn owl with a scowl that reminded me a little of Mr. Malfoy.
I found Scorpius. He’s back at your rental house. Mrs. Malfoy is tending to him.
I unlocked the cage, thanked Merlin the owl was friendly, and sent it on its way. Then I hurried to get a bowl of water and some cloths from one of the drawers. I took the stairs two at a time and slowly pushed open the door to Scorpius’ bedroom.
He was on the bed, now stripped down to his black boxers. The gash on his arm looked much better now that it had been cleaned and Mrs. Malfoy was concentrating on the leg wound, which looked to be small, but deep. She muttered some incantations and grabbed for the bowl of water, dabbing his leg with a cloth to wipe away more blood.
“How is he?” I said, moving to sit near the window in a winged armchair.
“Alive,” Mrs. Malfoy replied, wiping away additional blood from his leg. “I cleaned his wounds, but he’s barely staying conscious. You said he was at the bottom of a hill?”
“Yes.” I didn’t know what to do with my hands.
“Might explain these.” Mrs. Malfoy brushed the scratches and scabs on his body. She jumped when the door banged open downstairs.
“Scorpius?” That was Mr. Malfoy’s booming voice.
“We’re up here, Draco!” shouted Mrs. Malfoy, kissing her son on the forehead before moving away from him.
I was trying not to look, knowing the prickling behind my eyes would overwhelm me if I did.
The bedroom door hit the back wall when Mr. Malfoy entered. He was covered in a thick sheen of sweat, clothes sticking to him and his hair pressed against his neck and forehead. Immediately he was at Scorpius’ bedside, hands around his son’s.
“He was at the bottom of a hill,” Mrs. Malfoy whispered. “It looks like he took a fall.”
Mr. Malfoy was quiet for a while, before finally noticing Scorpius’ arm. “A fall would hardly do that, don’t you think?”
“I don’t know.” She frowned and turned to the doorway. Had I been paying attention, I would have realized my parents were occupying it.
Dad was giving me a look that suggested he was disappointed I left the house when he told me not to, but thankful that boy was in his bed instead of at the bottom of a hill.
Mum ignored both me and Dad, and began to transfigure some things around the room into equipment that made it look like St. Mungos. I didn’t know what any of it was, but she spread some cream from her bag onto the stitches of his arm and to the cut on his leg. Then she hooked some needle into his wrist. The Malfoys didn’t seem to mind her taking charge; their eyes remained on Scorpius.
For the first time since I arrived, I looked at his face. He was staring right at me, grey eyes sinking into mine. My cheeks warmed.
“Rose,” Mum said, placing her hand on my shoulder. “We should probably get home.”
I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to sit in that chair all night, but I nodded. “Sure,” I said vaguely.
Now that I had found him, I didn’t want to let go of him again.
Mum hugged Mrs. Malfoy. Dad shook hands with Mr. Malfoy. They led me out of the room and down the staircase. My fingers slipped against the rail.
I looked up, neck almost snapping. Mr. Malfoy was barreling down the steps. Before I knew what was happening, he grabbed me and pulled me into a tight hug, lifting me off the ground. “Thank you,” he said. “For finding him.”
I nodded a little, kind of uncomfortable, but I awkwardly patted his back. “You’re welcome.” My voice was barely there. Maybe I just didn’t trust myself talking about it.
I didn’t want to leave him up there.
Mr. Malfoy squeezed me tight one last time and smiled a little. “When he’s feeling better feel free to come around again.”
“I will; thank you.” I nodded to him and followed my parents out. Since they had Apparated, they left the car in town.
I decided to walk home, kicking stones and finally letting out the hysterics that had been building since Dad shook me awake.
A steaming hot shower, fresh non-kitten pajamas, and half a novel later, Hugo entered my bedroom. He looked somber and a little shaken as he sat, sinking the end of the mattress. He ruffled his already shaggy hair. “Mum and Dad said it was bad,” he began.
I dog-eared the page in the book and placed it aside. I didn’t want to have this conversation. Not now. “It wasn’t good,” I said.
“Did he fall down the hill?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”
“You didn’t?” Hugo said, shifting on the bed.
“I was a little concerned with keeping him alive.” I stared at him. “Is there something else I can help you with other than facts for an article?”
“I just wanted to say I’m glad you went,” Hugo said, kicking me a little. “Glad he’s okay.”
I hoped he was okay.
I shrugged. “Thanks for convincing me.”
“Was it scary?”
I met his eyes, unsure of what he meant. It was the middle of the morning when I went out looking, after all. No creepy night terrors or shadows sneaking behind trees. Just foggy humidity. A light breeze – not enough to cool me off.
Hugo cleared his throat at my silence. “I’m glad you found him, Rose,” he said.
“So am I.” The prickling was back, threatening to send me over the edge. I didn’t want Hugo to seem like a real person as opposed to his usual annoying hormonal self. Just yell about video games or half-naked women or something.
He cleared his throat again and stood awkwardly. “Right. Okay. I’m going to go.”
“All right.” The blankets were a very interesting shade of some color or another.
“I’m just proud of you, okay?” Hugo blurted and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him in a mess of emotion.
I smiled weakly. Maybe Hugo did have a bit of a heart.
I wasn’t going to do it. I absolutely was not going to do it.
My parents were asleep, which was reason one.
Hugo was asleep, which was reason two.
Reason three had to do with whatever gave Scorpius that branding gash on his arm. It definitely wasn’t a squirrel.
It just didn’t help that it was almost midnight and I was tossing and turning in a dark bedroom wondering if Scorpius was awake. Or even still alive. Or what he was thinking about.
That damn sense of helplessness.
I rolled again, pulling the sheet to my chest. I’d long abandoned the comforter and it was lying forgotten in the corner.
What if I hadn’t found him?
Can’t. Nope. Don’t.
What was out there?
Would he be okay to go home in a week?
Wow. There was only a week left until the vacation was over. Well, my vacation. His mum’s rehabilitation. And then what? We had a little less than a month until we were both scheduled to board the Hogwarts Express on the first of September.
About three weeks of what? He would be at his house in … wherever the Malfoy’s lived. I would be at my house. And probably the Burrow because Dad attacking the stove with his wand and Mum refusing to cook out of spite led us there often.
Not that we had to do anything. It was summer after all. Summer was a time for … flings?
Was I that girl?
Godric. Ugh. I was absolutely not that girl.
Dom was that girl. She kept a journal every summer documenting her flingy boys. I couldn’t blame her. If I was part Veela and shaped like a bloody swimsuit model I’d probably eat up the attention too. But I’d never know so there was no sense in thinking about it.
Besides, someone called me beautiful in front of a boutique mirror.
Someone who was further from me now than he’d ever been.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
It was pitch-sodding-dark and I was creeping up the road in jeans and Scorpius’ sweatshirt. I had my wand lit in front of me, scared out of my mind every time I heard something that didn’t sound like it came from the breeze. I was certain the squirrels found my repeated jumping amusing.
I did not. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe.
I hated that the road took me so far out of the way. If I’d gone through the woods, I would have made it in half the time. Instead I was listening to my feet shuffle along on the gravel, scared shitless.
Terrified. Absolutely bloody terrified.
It couldn’t be much longer. I’d been walking for what seemed like hours with nothing but scary noises to keep me company. Curve after curve of the road. I could have been killed a dozen times over.
That was when I heard a subtle growl from somewhere to my right. Granted, it could have been the wind mixed with my own crazy fears if the twigs didn’t begin to snap just after I heard it.
And this is how I die.
I quickened my pace.
More snapping. Bushes rustling. Another growl.
I began to walk faster. Almost at a light jog now, wand light bouncing around the road before me.
I heard something step onto the gravel behind me. It crunched under the weight.
I didn’t even bother looking before I took off at a run, immediately regretting my lack of working out ever. I was winded before I turned the first corner and I couldn’t tell if whatever it was had started going after me. All I could hear was my own feet pounding against the road as my heart beat well up into my throat.
I kept waiting to feel the sting of teeth in my ankle. The pain of muscle ripping away from bone.
Scorpius’ house swam into view at the end of my wand-light, aided by the light above the porch. I ran for it like a sanctuary, ribs stabbing me with overbearing cramps.
I threw myself onto the porch, back resting against the door, and turned my light on the drive.
Whatever it was hadn’t followed me here. I wondered how far it had followed me, if at all.
The memory of that growl chilled my blood.
Okay. Deep breath. Nothing attacked me. Nothing killed me. I was safe on Scorpius’ front porch.
You know, where the door was locked and his room was on the second floor.
This was not my proudest moment.
I moved away from the house and looked up. His window was directly above the porch. The overhang extended the length of the house on both sides, but there wasn’t exactly a ladder sitting around to climb. There wasn’t even a gutter I could shimmy up. Right. Like my arm strength would even suggest more than some grunting noises and falling flat on my arse.
I moved around the left side of the house (since Scorpius’ parents room was on the right) and found nice, flat siding. That was lovely. The back was the same way since the deck wasn’t covered. I even looked out by the shed for a ladder. Nothing. Then, to my utter frustration, I spotted a latticework frame moving up the other side of the house.
Right beside Scorpius’ parents bedroom.
Well, I’d come all this way and had almost been eaten. I might as well try. I placed my wand between my teeth and began to climb, careful to get a steady hold before moving any higher. It was shaky, threatening to detach from the house, but I moved lightly. I grabbed the sill of one of the master bedroom windows and let out a small breath. Thank goodness.
The window was only a meter or two from the porch overhang. If I could balance on the sill and jump it, I would make it to the overhang and then all I would have to do is move under the other two windows facing the front before being at Scorpius’ bedroom.
An awful lot for a boy I wasn’t even dating.
Not that I would have done it for Lysander.
I held my breath, moving the rest of the way up the lattice to get a grip on the top of the window, placing my foot on the sill. Unfortunately, right when I moved my other foot, something dreadful happened.
I felt the frame detach from the house and I peered over my shoulder just in time to see it crash to the ground behind me, breaking into at least a dozen pieces.
Loudly breaking into at least a dozen pieces.
To my horror, I heard shuffling on the other side of the window, which I realized was only covered by a sheer white curtain.
“What was that?” said Mrs. Malfoy. Someone needed to tell them to use the Muggle air conditioner at night and close their damn windows.
I heard more shuffling. That would be Mr. Malfoy approaching to window to see what the noise was.
While I was clinging to the sill.
A/N: Here's another chapter! I hope you enjoyed it. Apologies for the delays as life continues to get crazier and crazier in my happy new state. I am also working on an original novel, which takes a chunk of time.
UP NEXT: Scorpius recounts how he got his injuries, Mr. Malfoy has a heart-to-heart with Rose, and pen-palling leads to a few discoveries...and blushing.
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