Scorpius Malfoy scooped up his son, cuddling him tight and making snuffling sounds against the baby's neck. Little Ramses, just one day shy of his first birthday, laughed maniacally and grabbed his father's hair in both little fists.
“Are you making the cake or is my mum making it?” asked his girlfriend and mother of his child. Rose Weasley was attempting to corral her unruly red curls into a ponytail in front of the mirror in their bedroom. She was, as usual, largely unsuccessful. Her hair could not be tamed. It was one of his favourite things about her: it seemed representative of her personality, actually.
Scorpius sat down on their bed and let Ramses crawl down to throw himself head-first into a pillow. It was one of Ramses's most beloved activities. “I'm going to make it. Your mum can't bake to save her life, you know that.” He had already told her this four times. He knew her disinterest in the finer details of their son's first birthday party was not an indication of her level of interest in their only child, but it was still rather annoying. If she didn't want to plan the party, that was fine, but then she ought to leave him to it instead of bothering him every few days with questions about a detail he'd already told her about.
“Well, by 'making it', I meant 'buying it at the shop', of course,” Rose informed him, as if he should have known this. “She'll charm some frosting in the shape of his name on it and pretend she made it. It's what she always did for me and Hugo.”
“Mama!” cried Ramses from behind them. He was poised on all fours, ready to lunge into a pillow. Rose turned to look at him, one hand still holding her ponytail in place, and Ramses flung himself into the pillow. Rose let out a little cheer, Ramses laughed his wild baby laugh, and Rose went back to doing her hair.
Scorpius smiled at the two of them. Rose and Ramses were two peas in a pod. “I'll make the cake in the morning, we'll all meet at the Burrow, your dad is going to have the tent up, and your mum is handling the decorations. Everything is set. Don't worry about a thing.”
Not that she had until this point, except briefly and intermittently.
“Are your parents coming?”
“I don't know,” he admitted stiffly. “They never responded to the invitation.”
Rose's eyes met his in the mirror, and he could see the sympathy on her face. She knew he was too proud to write his parents again and ask whether or not they were planning to show up at the party. “Are we hoping they show up, or are we hoping they send their regrets and a lovely gift?”
“I'm of two minds about that.”
“No kidding,” Rose said. She gave her hair a final pat and turned. “I'm off, I've only got one person on the docket today, so I should be home in time for supper.”
“All right.” She'd probably turn up around midnight with singed hair and her trustworthy smile plastered all over her face, but he'd long ago resigned himself to this part of being with Rose. Still, he'd have a plate waiting for her with a Warming Charm, just in case.
She swooped in to kiss Scorpius, then threw herself down beside Ramses and scattered kisses over his face. Ramses flung his chubby arms around her neck and gave her a rather slobbery kiss. Ramses was cutting a new tooth and was often slobbery the past few weeks. Rose managed to extricate herself a moment later without ruining her hard-won ponytail.
“See you later.” She waved to them as she darted out the door.
“Mama,” said Ramses happily.
“Basically,” Scorpius agreed.
The morning of the party dawned bright and clear, and once the cake was baked and frosted and Rose was roused from bed, they arrived at the home of Rose's grandparents. The timing of the party had been carefully selected not to coincide with the normal naptimes of any of the babies attending, at the wise advice of Rose's cousin Victoire, who had a small passel of children and a great deal of experience both planning first birthday parties and avoiding meltdowns from the guest of honour.
The guests were almost entirely Rose's family. Scorpius didn't have a great deal of relatives. The only one he was sure would be there was Teddy Lupin, his second cousin, because Teddy was married to Victoire. Teddy hadn't been keen on acknowledging their blood tie when Scorpius had first met him, but over the years they'd got to know one another quite well, and Scorpius was pleased to count Teddy as a friend as well as a cousin. Teddy was nearly eight years older than Scorpius, so their times at Hogwarts had not overlapped. They'd never even met until the year Scorpius started dating Rose, when Teddy had only just married Victoire Weasley.
Scorpius's parents didn't like Teddy. They considered him more a Potter than anything, even though he was descended from the Black family, just as Scorpius was. Teddy had grown up with Harry Potter as his godfather, raised by his grandmother. Though Scorpius's and Teddy's grandmothers were sisters, they did not get on. Teddy had never been to Malfoy Manor, nor met his great-aunt. Scorpius had told him this was no loss, and Teddy had laughed, but there'd been tension in his eyes.
If his parents did turn up for the party, Scorpius hoped they at least had the courtesy to say hello to Teddy.
Rose's grandmother met them at the door. Molly Weasley dusted her apron off, smoothed her white curls with both hands, and reached for her great-grandson.
“There he is, the birthday boy!”
Ramses leaped into her arms and she hugged him. Ramses simply adored his great-grandmother, probably because she let all her great-grandchildren get away with absolute murder and stuffed them full of sweets every time she saw them. She was universally known among her great-grandchildren as Granny Weasley, and everyone else in the family, blood relative or not, had taken to calling her that as well. Scorpius had to admit it was handy, given the sheer number of 'Mrs. Weasley's already about, to avoid confusion.
“Oh my goodness, you're getting so big! I can hardly believe he's one already.” Granny Weasley gave him a loud kiss on the cheek.
“Don't have any coffee, do you Gran?” Rose asked, peering around her grandmother's shoulder. Rose was half a head taller than her grandmother, so this was not difficult. “Or really strong tea? I was up late last night, I'm that knackered.”
“Of course dear, I'll knock something up for you.” Granny Weasley toted Ramses into the kitchen and waved a wand at the coffee pot, which bounced a bit and then began to emit bubbling sounds. “Your uncle Charlie got in last night. He's upstairs sleeping still. I'll wake him before the party starts.”
“I'm glad he could make it,” Rose said, fetching a mug off an overcrowded shelf. She went to hover over the coffee pot. “I haven't seen him for an age.”
“He's always so busy,” Granny Weasley said fondly. “He does love his dragons, you know. Scorpius, would you like some coffee as well?”
“No, thank you.” He smiled at her. She was still holding Ramses with the ease of long experience, smiling fatuously at him as he looked round the kitchen, probably trying to find the jar of chocolate biscuits.
The coffee pot suddenly hopped up in the air a few inches, whistling loudly, and Rose poured herself a cup. Ramses got bored and wriggled out of his great-grandmother's arms, so Scorpius left Rose to chat with her gran and followed Ramses as he crawled into the drawing room.
Albus Potter, one of Rose's cousins, was stretched out on the sofa, listening to a sports recap on the elderly wireless that had been at the Burrow since before any of their generation was born. He craned his neck to see who had come in the room without actually getting up.
“Oi. About time you showed up.”
“Were you the first one here?” Scorpius asked with mild surprise. Albus was not married and had little interest in babies, and Scorpius had rather thought he'd turn up late to the party.
“I'm the only punctual member of the family,” Albus grumbled good-naturedly.
“Here I thought it was James.”
Albus let out a snort of laughter. “Oh yes, my brother the chronically late. Mum says he was a week overdue when he was born and it set the pattern for the rest of his life. He's got a new girlfriend, has he told you? He seems serious about her.”
“James Potter serious? I'll believe it when I see it.”
“Believe it,” said a voice behind them.
Scorpius turned to see Albus and James's younger sister in the doorway. She'd cut her hair since he'd last saw her, in an asymmetrical bob that put him in mind of Rose's most avant-garde cousin, Molly.
“All right there, Lily?” Albus sat up finally, and Lily came over to plop down next to him. Ramses crawled over to climb up next to her, and she scooped him into her lap. Scorpius had the impression that his son would not spend more than a moment of his first birthday with his feet on the floor.
“Hi Albus. Hi Scorpius. And hi birthday lad,” she added, her voice rising in pitch as she addressed Ramses, giving him a light tap on the nose with one fingertip. “James is bringing his girlfriend today, so you'll get to see exactly how serious he is about her. I believe the term 'whipped' might even apply.”
Scorpius raised an eyebrow. “Well now I've got to meet her. Anyone who can bring James to heel is worth knowing.”
“Mum and Dad are in the kitchen with Gran,” Lily went on. “And I saw Roxanne and Perry Apparating in the garden just before I came in here.”
Albus waved a wand at the wireless, which shut off with a pop. “I reckon it's time to get up and be sociable then.”
“I suppose I ought to go pass round the birthday boy,” Scorpius said, and bent down to retrieve his son. Ramses went along happily.
The kitchen was already growing chaotic, that happy sort of busyness that so often filled the Burrow. The Potters were there, standing next to Rose and chatting amiably while she drank her coffee, and Rose's cousin Roxanne Weasley and her husband (or possibly boyfriend; it seemed no one knew for sure) Perry Chilcott were over at the table with Rose's cousin Molly and her new boyfriend, whose name Scorpius could not remember. The door opened then, and Rose's uncle George arrived with his wife Angelina behind him, carrying a large box wrapped in shiny red paper.
The next hour was spent greeting Rose's family as they turned up in small clumps, with everyone cooing over Ramses and how much he'd grown since they'd last seen him, even if this had only been a few weeks. It seemed standard protocol with babies. Ramses leapt from one relative's arms to another's, having the time of his life being the centre of attention.
Rose's dad, Ron Weasley, sidled up to Scorpius as Rose's brother Hugo took charge of his nephew.
“I can hardly hear myself think with all this racket,” he said cheerfully. “And just think, the Lupins aren't even here yet.”
Scorpius tried not to wince. It was very loud already, and Teddy and Victoire's children normally raised the decibel level in any room by at least fifty.
“Come out to the garden for a moment.” Ron gestured toward the door, and they stepped outside.
It was significantly quieter outside, the din confined to the kitchen behind them as a dull roar. The tent was set up in the clearing behind the house, ready for the party guests, a small red banner with a gold number one waving in the breeze from atop the white canvas roof. Ron pulled a flask out of his jacket pocket and took a small drink from it before offering it to Scorpius.
“This many kids under one roof, you're going to wish the lemonade was spiked.”
Scorpius grinned and took a swig. The whisky burned down his throat, warming his insides.
“I remember when Rose turned one.” Ron put his hands in his pockets, rocking back on his heels. “Seems like yesterday. Can't believe I'm a granddad now.”
“I can hardly believe I'm a father sometimes,” Scorpius agreed, passing the flask back.
Ron tucked it away safely again. “How are you doing with that? You know, well...” and he cleared his throat. “You can come to me if you need help or advice. I won't mind.”
Scorpius wasn't sure what to say at first. Rose's dad had been slow to warm to him – in fact, until this moment he hadn't been sure Ron Weasley had actually warmed to him at all. Over the dozen or so years he and Rose had been dating, Ron had mostly grumbled about the relationship. Scorpius suspected it was only because Rose had told her father not to complain outright that he wasn't more vocal about it. He'd had to do the same with his own father, who strongly disliked Rose and her entire family.
Being offered fatherhood advice was more than he'd ever hoped for from Ron Weasley.
“Thanks, Mr. Weasley,” he said a moment later. “I appreciate it. I'm all right for now. But I'll keep it in mind.”
“I told you, you can call me Ron,” grunted Rose's dad.
Scorpius smiled sheepishly. “I know. Hard habit to break.”
Ron scuffed the toe of his boot in the dirt. “It's not easy to be a first-time parent. I know Rose leaves you alone with the little tyke a lot.”
“I don't mind it,” Scorpius assured him. “I love being with Ramses all day. He really makes me smile, you know?”
“Nothing quite like seeing yourself in your children, is there?” Ron smiled then. “I know normally it's fathers and sons, but for me it was my daughter. She's a lot more like me than Hugo is. Hugo's so much like my wife. Least, he is now. He had his moments growing up. And Rose, she's so smart, got such perfect marks at school, I thought she was going to be just like my wife. And then, well...”
Scorpius nodded, chuckling. Rose had got Os and Es in all her classes and yet had zero ambition to do anything with her perfect marks. She sometimes said she'd exceeded her entire quota of expectations at school and now had to make up for it. “Ramses is so young yet. I wonder if he'll be more like me or more like Rose.”
“Time will tell.”
Scorpius turned at the sound of his name being called, glancing at the kitchen window. “That's Rose. I'd better go in. Are you coming?”
“I'll be along. Another quick nip before my wife catches me.” Ron pulled the flask out again, and Scorpius went back inside.
Rose met him at the doorway, her eyes wide and mischievous. “You'll never believe it. James brought a girlfriend!”
Scorpius grinned. A moment later he was being introduced to a short and pretty woman with big brown eyes and a fierce sort of look to her, and it was obvious from the way James Potter was looking at her that he'd been wrapped around her little finger. Scorpius rather felt congratulations were in order, and possibly a book deal, because anyone who could lock down a perpetual bachelor like James ought to share their secrets.
The party became too crowded for the house, as Victoire had predicted it would, and everyone moved to the tent, where Rose's mum supervised the food being brought out and arranged on the tables. Granny Weasley had insisted on feeding everyone luncheon, and cooked everything herself. The cake was left in the kitchen, away from the exploring fingers of the small children, for the Lupins had arrived at last.
Victoire and Rose immediately made a beeline for each other, as they always did, and Teddy divested himself of their children before heading over to Scorpius.
“Bloody madhouse in here. Oh look, Dora's found Lucy's baby,” Teddy added, nodding to indicate Rose's cousin Lucy, who was holding her nine-month-old daughter up out of reach of three year old Dora Lupin. Dora was jumping up and down trying to pat little Flora Winston-Fisher on the head. Lucy looked worried.
Every time the four Lupin children were around, it turned into a madhouse, but Scorpius refrained from pointing this out to his cousin. “Dora's getting quite tall, isn't she?”
“Taller than either of the boys were at that age.” Teddy craned his head to look round. “Is that Riordan Fitzroy with Molly?”
Scorpius glanced round. Molly Weasley, who had put her hair into dreadlocks since the last time he'd seen her, was standing at the back of the tent with her boyfriend and her brother-in-law, Hilarion Winston-Fisher. They looked quite chummy together. “I don't remember his name. I think Rose told me he's her coach?”
“He is. He played for Montrose a few years ago, until he got hurt. I always forget you don't follow Quidditch.” Teddy frowned then, his eyes trained on a small figure sneaking in under the canvas wall of the tent. “Oh bloody hell, Johnny's brought his crossbow. I thought I hid it well enough. Back in a mo.”
Scorpius rubbed his temple with one hand as his cousin dashed off to confiscate the weapon. Teddy's parenting style mainly involved telling the children to mind their mother, since Victoire was the real force behind the Lupins, and occasionally removing weaponry from the vicinity of his sons (though Scorpius had once seen Dora holding a Beater's bat with a particularly frightening expression while she watched her brother Johnny, for which no reasonable person could blame her).
Teddy Lupin was Scorpius's second cousin, and though their grandmothers were sisters, the two men had never met until Scorpius had started dating Rose. Teddy had been reluctant to admit he was related to Scorpius at first, and hadn't even wanted to talk to him. After Teddy and Victoire got married, and then Scorpius and Rose moved in together, Teddy had become much more open about letting his Malfoy cousin into his life. Neither one of them had much other family.
Other than the Weasleys, Scorpius thought with a grin, looking around at the crowded tent.
Teddy had received a more enthusiastic welcome to the Weasley clan than Scorpius had, which did not surprise him given both their family's histories. But eventually they had welcomed Scorpius after all, and Ramses had been greeted with the same level of joyous warmth that all of the next generation of children had received.
He looked round for his son then and found him in the arms of Ron Weasley, who was feeding Ramses something pink and sticky. Ron always had something sweet (and usually sticky) for his grandson. Scorpius made his way through the crowd, narrowly avoiding stepping on one of the Lupin children, reaching Ron's side just as he drew his wand to clean the baby's face.
“Don't tell my wife,” Ron said with a wink. “I used to do this to Rose and Hugo. Tergeo.”
Some of the pink residue was siphoned off Ramses's chubby cheeks. Scorpius's fingers itched to grab his son away before Ron tried any more spellwork.
Ron seemed to realize the spell had made Scorpius nervous and gave him a clap on the shoulder. “Relax,” he said. “I must've done this spell dozens of times on my kids and they're fine. Well, Hugo is fine.”
And with a wink, he carried Ramses off, making choo-choo noises and whistles. Ramses hooted with laughter. Scorpius watched them go, torn between smiling at how happy Ramses always was in the easy and expert paternal care of his granddad, and wishing Ron would keep the wandwork away from babies. His wife was bound to be annoyed by it, though Rose probably wouldn't mind. Come to think of it, he'd caught her using that spell during nappy changes.
Scorpius caught up with Teddy again as Teddy was aiming his wand at a small crossbow on the table in front of him. Johnny stood beside it, arms crossed over his little chest and ginger eyebrows drawn together in a scowl.
“Evanesco,” Teddy said, and the crossbow disappeared.
Johnny stamped a foot and threw himself into a chair.
“Don't let me catch you with that thing again,” Teddy told him sternly. “Or I'll hand you over to your mother for punishment. You'll be scrubbing the floors with a toothbrush. Now go play nicely.”
Johnny's scowl deepened, but he slid out of the chair and he trotted off without a word, probably to perpetrate something horrible on one of his siblings. Teddy, having done his paternal duty to stop mayhem, looked bright-eyed and cheerful now. Scorpius shook his head ruefully as Teddy rubbed his hands together.
“Problem solved. Let's have a drink. There's bound to be firewhisky somewhere around here.”
“Ron's got a flask in his pocket, if you can track him down,” Scorpius offered.
Teddy smiled. “Good old Uncle Ron. I'll catch up with you later. If you see Johnny, keep an eye out for weaponry.”
This was probably good advice in general with Johnny Lupin, and Scorpius nodded. Teddy trotted off into the crowd, looking very much like his second son. Scorpius looked round, realized he was alone in the sea of gingers, and went to find Rose.
After two circuits round the tent, he gave up on this. She had disappeared, probably sneaking a bottle of wine with Victoire, who was likewise nowhere to be seen. He had just decided to go introduce himself to Molly's new boyfriend when there came a pat around his midsection. He looked down to see Remus Lupin, Teddy and Victoire's eldest child, standing there with a frown. Remus was eight years old and very precocious, probably because it was the only way to survive being related to Johnny.
“Have you seen my dad?” Remus asked in a put-upon voice. Remus often sounded put-upon. Again, Scorpius attributed this to being related to Johnny.
“He was off looking for Uncle Ron not long ago, but I'm not sure where,” Scorpius offered. “Want some help?”
“No. I'll find him.”
Scorpius watched Remus thread his way through the crowd, weaving between the adults. Remus managed to be mostly unobtrusive, quite unlike his brother, who barrelled through anyone in his way. His eyes tracked Remus's progress across the tent, and as Remus slipped outside, Scorpius saw a familiar blonde head peering cautiously in. He froze in place, struck by astonishment.
They'd actually showed up. To a Weasley residence.
His mother was overdressed, to his utter lack of surprise, in a navy blue tailored suit and sensible heels, and his father wore dress robes and a curdled expression as if he couldn't believe he was actually there. Before Scorpius could pull himself together to go to them, Granny Weasley materialized out of the crowd. He thought he saw a polite smile on her face, but just in case his father said something offensive, he hurried over.
Granny Weasley was still smiling when he got to his parents' side, but on closer inspection it looked a bit strained.
“Oh there you are, dear,” she said when she saw him, her smile tinged with relief now. “Your parents just arrived, isn't that nice?”
“Yes, Mrs. Weasley. Thank you.”
She gave him a pat, bestowed another polite smile on his parents, and then departed with a determined look on her face. Rose was no doubt about to be summoned, and possibly her parents as well. This was the first time the Malfoys had turned up at a Weasley party, and Scorpius was not sure he was glad they had.
There was a small thread of relief in him that they were there, but his fears that they would say something horrible to Rose's family were still sharp in his mind. His father could not entirely be trusted not to needle Ron Weasley in particular. And Ron would, in his usual fashion, snap back.
Scorpius didn't want a fight at his son's birthday party.
“It's rather noisy in here, isn't it?” his mother said, drawing his full attention.
“It is. Would you like to step outside?”
He led them out into the bright sunlight, where the sounds of the party were muffled, and stood awkwardly beside the twisty little house Rose's grandparents had lived in for so long. It was as if the house were a Weasley as well, it had been home to so many of them.
“Where is your son?” his father asked then, glancing over his shoulder. “We have a gift, of course.”
Scorpius hoped Ramses would wait to break whatever it was until after they left. “Thank you, Father. I'm sure he'll love it. He's off with Rose's dad somewhere. There's so much family for him, he's been busy all morning visiting people.”
His father's jaw twitched at the mention that the Weasleys were Ramses' family. “I see.”
“Should I put the gift on a table somewhere?” his mother asked tentatively. “I don't know how they manage parties without a house elf to take care of things.”
Scorpius took care of depositing the small, beautifully wrapped box on the kitchen table with the other, less tastefully but more warmly wrapped presents from the Weasleys, and hurried back to his parents' side. His father was growing more sour than ever and Scorpius saw why at once: Ron Weasley was rounding the corner of the tent with Ramses perched on his shoulders, both of his fat little fists clutching at his grandfather's hair. The resemblance between them seemed particularly strong.
Ron saw the Malfoys a moment later and slowed his pace. Ramses tugged hard on his hair and Ron swung the baby down into his arms, giving him a quick toss into the air to distract him from the horsey ride's abrupt ending. Ramses squealed in glee, kicking his legs.
Ron tucked Ramses up against his side with the ease of long familiarity, freeing up one hand, which he extended to Draco Malfoy with a carefully neutral expression. “Malfoy.”
Scorpius watched his father shake hands with Ron, extremely briefly, then Ron handed Ramses over and walked off without another word.
Draco was much less easy with the baby, shifting him gingerly in his arms as Ramses kicked and reached for Ron's departing form. Ramses adored Ron; his granddad was his favourite person. Draco's lips pressed together as he tried to get Ramses' attention.
“Well, er, hello there...”
“Dada,” Ramses said quite distinctly. “No.”
Draco shot a look at Scorpius that from anyone else but his father he would have described as helpless. Scorpius reached out and Ramses leaped into his arms, clinging to his neck. He wasn't certain if he ought to apologize, but after a moment's thought he resolved not to. It was not his fault, or Ramses' fault, if Draco was not as close to his only grandson. That was entirely Draco's own decision.
Astoria Malfoy reached a hand out to tickle Ramses' chin. “Aren't you growing up so fast, my dear. One year old.”
Ramses gave her a look. “No.”
“It's his new word,” Scorpius explained swiftly. “He says it all the time.”
“No,” agreed Ramses, leaping into his father's arms.
Scorpius hefted his son, and his parents exchanged a glance.
“We can't stay long,” his mother said then. “A charity event this evening, you understand.”
Too many Weasleys, was more like. Still, even half-expecting it, it stung to hear they only intended to spend five minutes with their grandson on his first birthday. “You only just got here.”
She glanced around, and Draco's narrow nose went higher into the air.
“I'm glad you came, then,” Scorpius said gamely, trying to be polite.
“Are you?” Draco asked, not quite a demand. There was something in his tone, though, that Scorpius wasn't used to, but he was suddenly very annoyed with both of them.
“You could at least stay for cake, you know. He's your only grandson, even if he is half-Weasley and you don't think he's good enough to be a Malfoy.”
Astoria's eyes widened, but Draco only watched him with his lip curled in that sneer he did so well. Scorpius stared him down, with Ramses clinging to his neck, refusing to back down before his father's bad behaviour.
“I never said he wasn't good enough,” Draco said loftily, but his eyes went to Ramses' red hair.
“You didn't have to say it. You never do.”
“Frankness is not always a quality to be admired, Scorpius,” his mother said weakly.
“Stay for cake or don't. We've got plenty of food. His grandmum spoils him rotten.” Scorpius turned on his heel and headed back for the tent. He nearly barrelled into Rose in the entrance. Her eyes were almost as wide as his mother's had been.
“You were really angry with him,” she remarked, her voice low but surprised. “Can't believe you said that to his face.”
“He ought to stay for the damn cake,” Scorpius said stubbornly.
“Mama,” Ramses said imperiously, holding out a hand to her.
She pulled him into her arms without looking away from Scorpius. “D'you reckon they'll stay?”
He shrugged. “I don't know.”
As it turned out, five minutes later the Malfoys slid into the tent and quietly took up spots at an empty table in one corner of the tent, trying to be unobtrusive. It was not long before Johnny Lupin came along to size them up. Normally Scorpius would have prevented Johnny from meeting strangers alone, given the boy's proclivity for headbutting, but he hung back, wanting to see his father's reaction. Johnny was, after all, something of a cousin to Draco as well. The idea that Johnny Lupin was related to Draco was both hilarious and horrifying to Scorpius.
“Who are you?” Johnny demanded.
Draco glanced at his wife and then back to Johnny. “I'm Ramses' grandfather.”
“No you aren't. Uncle Ron is his granddad. He's not my granddad though. My brother Liam was named for my granddad, only that's not his name. What's your name?”
“I'm Johnny. Johnny Lupin.” Johnny paused for effect, and when no one looked impressed, he went on, “Want to see my crossbow? My dad thinks he took it away, but I know how to make it come back.”
It seemed time to intervene after all. Scorpius pushed Johnny off, and waited until the boy had trotted away to find a new audience before turning to his parents. “That was Teddy Lupin's son.”
“I see,” his father said.
“Your cousin's son.”
“I know who Teddy Lupin is,” his father snapped.
“First cousin once removed, I believe,” his mother added.
Scorpius stared blankly at them a moment. “Staying for cake?”
His father returned the look. “I believe we will, yes.”
Scorpius nodded curtly and went off, leaving them to their own devices for a moment. He needed to get away, to not speak to them just for a bit. Just until he could breathe again.
A hand grabbed his arm and he found Roxanne Weasley there. “You all right?” she asked softly.
“We're cracking open a bottle of wine out back. Come join us,” she said encouragingly, her hand still on his arm. “You can have a swig and then get back to it. Don't worry, Aunt Hermione's got an eye on your parents.”
He followed her look over to the table where a punch bowl was set and saw Hermione Weasley did indeed have half her attention on his parents in their lonely corner and half on whatever Albus was saying to her. Relieved of some worry, Scorpius nodded to Roxanne and allowed himself to be steered out behind the tent, up against a flutterby bush with several people crowded around it.
“Oi, you lot. Pour one for the birthday lad's old dad,” Roxanne called, giving him another push toward the group. “Scorpius, have you met Fitz yet?”
After ten minutes of drinking rather good tempranillo and being introduced to Molly's new boyfriend, Scorpius's nerves had settled to a more even keel.
“Where is the birthday boy?” Molly asked. She looked so different minus the mohawk, Scorpius felt a little like she'd turned into a whole new person. Come to that, she was smiling a great deal more than he was used to as well.
“Off with Rose, I think.”
“James had him last I saw,” said Roxanne's husband Perry, who had joined them a moment ago with a fresh bottle of wine. “With that new girlfriend of his.”
“James had him?” Scorpius echoed in alarm, glancing around.
“Mrs. Potter was with them,” Perry hurried to reassure him. “Have a drink, Scorpius, you're high-strung today.”
“It's cos his parents are here,” Roxanne said wisely. “They never turn up to Weasley stuff usually.”
“Your parents are here?” Lucy craned her head as if she would see around them into the tent. “I've never met your parents before.”
“It's no loss,” he assured her.
He'd meant it as a joke, but they looked more sympathetic than amused. Scorpius sighed inwardly. “I'd better go find my son before James misplaces him or throws him out a window.”
“No windows in the tent,” Molly pointed out cheerfully. “You should be in plenty of time.”
He left them to the tempranillo and went off to look for his son, scanning the tent quickly before darting inside, where he found him right off in the kitchen. To his relief, James Potter was nowhere to be seen, and Ramses was perched happily on one hip of his great-grandmother, cooing at her in his baby babble while she repaired the frosting on the cake (Scorpius didn't need to ask who the perpetrator of the damage was – Johnny Lupin couldn't resist an unattended cake).
As soon as he saw his father, Ramses bounced up and down in his great-grandmother's arms and yelled, “Dada!”
“There's my boy,” he said, reaching out to catch the baby just as Ramses flung himself into the air.
“He's getting so big,” Granny Weasley said fondly, reaching over to ruffle Ramses's red curls. “How are your parents, dear?”
“I left them in the tent. Reckon I ought to go find them.”
He didn't move, though, just watched Rose's grandmother fix the frosting, feeling rooted to the spot. When she set down her wand and brushed off her hands, he started a bit. Granny Weasley leaned against the counter and gave him a kindly smile.
“Is everything all right, dear?”
Scorpius hugged Ramses a bit tighter. “Everything's fine, Mrs. Weasley. Thank you.”
He went outside, feeling her eyes on his back as he went, but he didn't go into the tent to join his parents as he knew he should. The solitude of the small orchard beckoned. He found a spot under an apple tree and plopped down, setting Ramses down in front of him.
Ramses crawled over to poke at a few fallen apples, and Scorpius watched his son prodding the apples with curious little stubby baby fingers, chuckling and babbling to himself.
He never felt entirely that he knew what he was doing as a father, but at least Ramses seemed happy more often than not. Surely that had to mean something. Ramses was a year old, and Scorpius kept expecting fatherhood to come more easily. Every time he felt sure of himself, some new stage of development came along to make him second-guess every decision he made.
Above all, he did not want to be the sort of father the Malfoys usually were. As so often was the case in his life, Scorpius wanted to forge his own path. Forging a path sounded bloody brilliant until you were actually doing it, though. He hadn't grown up with an example of fatherhood he cared to follow, so he rather felt he was making it up as he went along.
What if he was messing up completely, and ruined his son? There were so many things that could go wrong. Ramses could end up like every other Malfoy, cold and hard and unforgiving.
Ramses jammed his fingers into a half-rotted apple, then waved his messy hand at his father before attempting to eat the smushed apple.
“No no,” Scorpius said, grasping his son's wrist. He tossed the rotten apple out of reach, then pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, wiping Ramses's hand clean.
Once he was clean, Scorpius pulled his son into his arms and held him so he could look him right in the eyes.
“Dada loves you, you know.”
Ramses chuckled. “Dada.”
Scorpius stared at him, taking in the rounded cheeks still bearing traces of the pink sweets Ron had fed him, the tiny pointed chin, the Weasley-red curls, wanting to hold the tiny face in his mind's eye forever, just as he was, utterly perfect. Next week I'll paint his portrait, he promised himself. Ramses didn't suffer the inspection long, and twisted in an attempt to escape. Scorpius sighed and let him go.
He sat for a while in silent contemplation, watching Ramses crawl around and investigate. He'd lost track of time, letting the distant sound of the party fall away, when he heard footsteps coming and looked round.
Rose settled down beside them, cross-legged, and nudged him with one elbow.
“Ditching the party with the guest of honour?”
He didn't know how to explain it, that he'd needed his son to himself if only for a few moments of the party. “We just needed a minute. Didn't we, Ramses?”
“Your parents are still there. Uncle Charlie's decided to take one for the team and is talking to them. Not sure they're entirely happy, might have preferred being left alone to ignore everyone.” She rested her head on his shoulder, watching Ramses. “You're not letting him eat the apples off the ground, are you?”
He rolled his eyes. “No, Rose.”
“Oh. I wasn't sure. Hugo used to eat them sometimes when James made him, when we were kids you know, and he almost always threw up afterwards. Albus could always keep them down, though. He's got a stomach like iron.”
“It's a wonder any of you survived James, honestly.”
“Gives you hope for the future, though, doesn't it? We all lived through James. Ramses will live through Johnny Lupin.”
“God. One can only hope.” Scorpius reached out and scooped Ramses into his lap.
“And one day,” Rose went on, tapping Ramses's nose with one fingertip, “now that he's finally found a woman who can stand to have him around, James will have a baby of his own, and you'll torture that baby the way he tortured us. Yes you will, won't you?”
Ramses chuckled maniacally and grabbed her finger.
“Rose,” Scorpius said severely.
“I'm only joking.”
She probably wasn't, but he let it go. Rose scooped Ramses up and propped him on one hip, then reached down with her other hand to pull Scorpius to his feet. “Come on, you lazy sod. Let's take the birthday boy back to the party.”
As they walked back to the tent, Scorpius asked quietly, “D'you think I'm a good father, Rose?”
“Of course,” she told him cheerfully. “He's still alive, isn't he?”
“Your standards are lower than mine, it seems.”
She laughed and stood on tiptoe to kiss him. “Don't overthink it. You're doing fine. He's such a sweet baby.”
“Thanks, Rose.” He drew her in for a hug, and when Ramses protested the confinement, he pulled away and said, “Now, let's go stuff him with sugar and turn him loose on your family.”
“I love this plan.” Rose grinned. “When he passes out, we'll take him home.”
“Mama,” Ramses said happily.
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