Scorpius Malfoy was cleaning bedpans.
The wrongness of that situation had hit him about two months ago, when he realized that doing whatever needed doing around St. Mungo's had become akin to a steady job for him. He was given jobs that the healer interns were too important to bother with, or put with whichever volunteer group needed an extra pair of hands. It was mindless work, chores. But that wasn't even the worst of it.
Scorpius Malfoy was cleaning bedpans because if he "volunteered" for at least five hours a day, the healers that supervised the volunteers would feed him.
The only thing that got him through the hours of filing, sweeping, mopping, carrying meals, carrying messages, emptying waste, making beds and cleaning bedpans was the little silver ball in his pocket. It was the only piece of sanity, the only piece of pride he had left. He could pull a smile onto his face as he made his way through the halls of St. Mungo's because he had one accomplishment, and it was sitting in the pocket of his jacket.
It was barely the size of a large marble, polished to a perfect shine, and engraved with three intersecting lines of runes. The ball vibrated almost unnoticeably against his ribs as he scrubbed the pans in whatever sanitizing solution was provided, as it played music for Scorpius' ears alone. Not that anyone else would have heard it anyway.
The music was more background noise than anything else, as constant as it was. The orb played an eclectic mix of Muggle and magical songs according to his moods, which it interpreted automatically. He'd first made it six years ago, in his fifth year at Hogwarts, and though he'd kept improving it since, the ball had developed a sort of sense for what he wanted to hear at any given time.
At that moment, it was playing some sort of Muggle rock song, one with a strong enough beat that he started cleaning to the rhythm of it and stopped noticing what he was doing after the twentieth bedpan was stacked in the finished pile.
There were a few other things he'd made laying around his apartment, mostly little mechanical gadgets and toys. A watch that spat miniature fireworks on the hour. A telescope/microscope hybrid that could be set to zoom in or out to almost any magnitude. Locks with strange keys that would be harder to pick than normal locks. A mechanical mouse that appeared so real that even his cat, who saw his work all over, would chase it. But the music orb was the one thing that he was actually proud of.
"Malfoy?" he heard a voice ask from somewhere behind him, and he nodded absently, not turning from the pans he'd nearly finished with. The song the orb was playing was one of his favorites, and subsequently he was paying much more attention to it than-
"Malfoy, at least pretend to listen when I talk to you."
Scorpius started, nearly upsetting the tub of sanitizing solution, and whipped around. He knew that tone, even if the voice was a little softer than he remembered it.
Standing behind him in the doorway, her healer-in-training robes immaculate as her school robes had ever been, was Rose Weasley. Her hair was shorter now, and she'd discovered some way to tame it enough to pull it back into a clean ponytail, but it was still as orangey-red as it had been the first day she boarded the Hogwarts Express. The expression on her face was the same one he'd faced every time she'd given him detention as Head Girl.
"Weasley," he said, pulling an almost sincere smile onto his face, "Been a while. There something I can do for you?"
She bit her top lip for a moment, obviously trying to calm herself before answering. "Healer Pye locked himself out of his office. I went to Maintenance about it, but they sent me to find you. Apparently they're all working on the elevator, or something."
"Again?" Scorpius chuckled to himself for a moment, absently tapping the orb in his pocket to turn it off. "That makes, what, the fifth time this month?"
Rose was clearly not amused. "I don't think you're in any position to make fun, Malfoy," she said, raising one eyebrow and crossing her arms over her chest. "He's not the one... Are you really sanitizing bedpans?"
He could see her taking in his own rather changed appearance. The t-shirt, jeans, and jacket for one, which he'd discovered were more than adequate for his 'work' at St. Mungo's. He had robes, of course, but only wore them to the important events he attended less and less frequently these days. His rather disheveled hair, for another, because he no longer even attempted to slick the blond locks back. His meager savings didn't cover unnecessary hair products.
"Someone has to," he said, rather more blithely than he actually felt about it. "So you need me to pick Pye's lock, yeah? How urgent is it?"
She shrugged, then asked in return, "Why?"
"I'd like to finish up here, if you don't mind," Scorpius said, gesturing towards the small pile of bedpans he still needed to Scourgify and rinse with the sanitizing solution. "It'll only be a few minutes, and then I'll go right up." Rose didn't move from the doorway, and a second later, he gave her a dismissive wave. "I'm sure you have more important things to do, so go on. I know where the office is, and I'll put the keys in his box."
Tapping the orb to turn his music back on, he turned back to the bedpans, taking only a few seconds to fall back into the rhythm of cleaning, rinsing, and drying. He tried not to think about the bitterness that he was sure had been laced through his last words, or the fact that it was Rose Weasley who had heard it.
He didn't notice her move until she was handing him a clean pan to sanitize. For a moment, he could only blink at her, astonished. Then her eyebrow rose again, and he pulled himself together enough to dumbly take it from her. They finished within ten minutes, neither having said a word during that time, and Scorpius levitated the clean pile through a passage to the storage room.
"What are you still doing here, Weasley?" he asked, having thoroughly dropped the cheerful facade. He could feel the tightness of his expression, and saw her blink as she noticed. "I said I had it covered, you don't need to watch me."
Rose rolled her eyes. "Healer Pye sent me to get something out of his office for him, as I'm shadowing him for this week. I don't think he even realized he locked it," she said, clipping her words a little too much. "It has nothing to do with you."
"Then why did you help?" Scorpius met her eyes a moment after the question slipped out, and the tips of his ears burned. "You didn't have to do that."
She just shrugged, then grabbed his wrist and yanked him towards the door. "You have a lock to open, and I have duties to get back to. Can we just get this over with?" As soon as he'd regained his balance, Scorpius shook her hand off, but he nodded.
They walked in silence most of the way, but Scorpius was fine with that. It gave him the opportunity to increase the volume of his music and pretend he wasn't glancing sideways at Rose every now and again.
She'd mellowed out, he decided. That's what was different. Her footsteps were more deliberate, less frazzled, and she greeted the many people she knew as they walked. The smile on her face was genuine, though it never fell on him.
Scorpius nodded to his own companions, but as they approached the Healer offices, he knew fewer and fewer. He did stop a Madeline Edgewood, though, to say, "Any chance you could spare a few hairpins, Maddie?" He held out a hand and shot her his brightest smile. "I'll slip them under your door when I'm done, I promise."
"Pye locked his key in again?" she asked, and Scorpius nodded, vaguely noting the skeptical look on Rose's face. Madeline returned his grin as she pulled out three pins and placed them in his open palm. "He needs to stop doing that. You don't need any more practice picking locks."
They both chuckled a little, though he rolled his eyes at the thought. "Just don't tell him I'm the one breaking into his office." At this, Madeline tossed her head back and let out an exasperated sigh. Before she could say anything, though, Scorpius added, "Besides, it's not really practice if it's the same lock, over and over."
"You better go," Madeline said, as she noticed Rose looking a bit forlorn during their exchange and pushed Scorpius towards her and down the hall. As the both of them stumbled and resumed walking, she called over her shoulder, "You're the only one who cares, Scorp!"
First and second years weren't too bad. He was too small for the older students to really register who he was, and his peers, though they knew of him, couldn't do much more than trip him in the halls, or steal his homework. He tried to be invisible, and, for the most part, succeeded.
Third year, he started Muggle Studies. Professor Blanchet immediately recognized his talent with mechanics, and gave him extra projects-figure out Muggle locks, a pocket watch, a child's wind-up toy. Make a music box. Though they started off simple, he dedicated himself to them, and eventually outstripped Blanchet's knowledge on the subject.
That year was the first time they were introduced to the Wizarding Wars of recent history, and at that point, many who had previously ignored him found a convenient scapegoat. He endured the hexes, the taunting, the accusations all day, every day, except for the weekends.
For the next few years, his weekends were his own, and he would hide away in abandoned classrooms and unused corridors to study his mechanics and tinker with whatever he could get his hands on. Fourth year, he disassembled and reassembled the pocket watch Blanchet had given him into various working configurations. Fifth year, he'd made the music orb out of the silver from a few of his things that he didn't need anymore.
When he formed a tentative friendship with Rose Weasley, half-way through fourth year, the hexing and the snide comments were suddenly far more subtle. It almost could have just been bad luck, if he didn't know better. If the students who jinxed him didn't mutter nasty words in his ear before running off to class or meals. When it ended two years later, the Gryffindors openly declared him free game for a month or two, and he spent more time in the hospital wing that the rest of Slytherin put together.
His marks slipped over the years, as he spent more and more time thinking about what he could make, what he could fix in the room of burnt but salvageable hidden things. Classes were spent dreaming of making a tiny, crescent-shaped silver music box that played Claire de Lune, or making the bicycle with the bent wheel and broken gears work again. Making a fan, so his makeshift workshops wouldn't get so warm.
Before he knew it, he was leaving Hogwarts without any friends, nor any clear idea of what he would do with himself. He spent his last night in the castle regrowing the 'mysteriously' vanished bones in his right hand.
"Shows what you know," Scorpius muttered to himself as he walked off, still keeping up a cheery front as he strode down the hall towards Augustus Pye's office. Rose was all but jogging to keep up with him now, but, lost in a memory, he barely even registered that she was there.
By the time she caught her breath enough to say anything, he was kneeling in front of Pye's office, using two hairpins that he had already charmed to get past the anti-theft spells to move the pieces of the lock mechanism. "Malfoy, what was all that about?"
"All what?" he asked, barely listening to her over the music from the orb in his pocket and his focus on opening the door. It was being troublesome today, he noticed. Maybe he'd recommend having a true locksmith take a look at it.
There was a tap on his shoulder, at which he sighed and turned to face Rose. "I said, what was all that with Edgewood?" she asked, apparently for the second or third time. "One minute you're flirting for hairpins and the next you look ready to strangle something."
"I don't know what you mean, Rosie," he said absently, turning back to the lock and completely missing the strange look she gave him. He swore when one of his pins broke and he had to charm another to take its place, but said nothing more.
She interrupted him again, a minute or two later, when he almost had the door open. "Is that what this is all about?" she asked, clearly confused. "Look, Malfoy, I can't change how I think of you. You know that. I'm sorry, you know I'm-"
"Why?" Scorpius asked, silencing the music orb and pivoting around to look at her. Rose merely stood, blinking at him. "You ran off, Rose. You chose to run away. You chose to ignore me. Why are you sorry now?"
When he stood, he realized how much he had to look down to meet her eyes, and it was almost disorienting. She seemed to have the same revelation as she craned her neck back to look at him. "When did you get so tall?" she barely whispered, squinting a little. He didn't answer.
After another moment of silence, Rose nodded and said, "I'm sorry that I was an idiot about everything. You, well, you surprised me, is all, and I didn't know what to do." Scorpius dropped his eyes and nodded slowly to himself, the shrugged. "I really am sorry. I didn't realize how alone you were until after, and I just-"
"Don't worry about it," he said, placing a hand on her shoulder for a second in a half-hearted attempt to calm her. "I'm fine, and you have nothing to apologize for."
When enough time had passed that he was sure the conversation was over, Scorpius knelt back down to finish working with the lock. He sucked his bottom lip between his teeth, until it clicked, once, and then again. Scorpius smirked, momentarily triumphant.
As he pushed the door open, Rose asked, "Why did you stop trying to see me?"
The triumphant feeling died. For a second, his mask of a good mood died. The spark in his eyes died. A part of his very being died.
Scorpius looked up at her with no words, his cold grey eyes pained.
"Rosie," he said, as he looked across the table at her, "I need to tell you something."
She looked up from her essay, eyebrows raised, red hair a bushy mane surrounding her face. Blue eyes caught his, and for a moment, Scorpius couldn't breath. She frowned at his silence, then asked, "Well, what is it, then?"
"I, well, oh, Merlin I'm terrible at this," he said, all the while receiving the Scorpius-just-spit-it-out look he'd become so accustomed to. "I think Iloveyou."
"I think I love you."
That was when she ran. There may have been some excuse about asking Al about the essay, or borrowing a book from her dorm-mate, but all the same, she ran.
For two months, he endured the torture from all the Gryffindors who thought he'd done something awful. Rose didn't want to talk to him, and he was a Malfoy. Of course it was his fault. He tried to catch her just for a minute, to explain, but she wouldn't even give him that.
He was persistent, though, trying to get messages to her through the few of her cousins that could stand him, and a few of her other house mates. He sent her letters, passed notes to her in class. He sat in the library for hours at the table they'd shared almost every evening.
Then one morning, he passed her in the halls, as she was talking to some bloke he might have recognized had he actually gone to a Quidditch match. He slowed his pace when he heard her laugh, shamelessly eavesdropping since he knew no one would care.
"He's good at Charms," she was saying, "So we compared notes. Studied together, you know. It really wasn't anything."
"That's not what I hear. And now he's stalking you?"
"No, he's just... I... Why are we talking about Malfoy?"
Scorpius hid that day, and no one looked for him. He didn't speak to Rose again unless it was required, and rarely said more than a few words when it was. The first time, she gave him an odd look, but she never called him out on it.
"I realized it was what you wanted," he said slowly, his voice low enough that only she could possibly have heard. "You didn't want me, so I left you alone."
Rose, again, just stood there, looking up at Scorpius once he got to his feet. There was something in her silence, something off, but Scorpius hadn't talked with her in years and couldn't quite figure out what it was. So he just stood there too, in the open doorway, hoping she could figure out why he couldn't say anything more.
"Well," he managed to choke out eventually, "you're no longer locked out, so I'll be on my way. It was nice to see you again." He slipped Madeline Edgewood's hairpins under her door, then returned to the volunteer supervisors, who sent him to mop the kitchen and help distribute lunch to the patients before he got his own meal.
The next time he ran into Rose, she was spending her lunch break in the café on the top floor where he ate every day. She'd claimed his usual table, and had covered it with sheets of parchment.
"You know, they're probably going to make me file those away later," he said brightly, purposefully startling her just to see her reaction, "so if you could at least hand Registration a neat pile, I'd be much obliged."
She jumped in her seat, scattering the pages she'd been reading, before crying, "Scorpius!" in the same exasperated tone she'd used in their fourth year. "Malfoy, how much time do you spend here? First the bedpans, now you eat hospital food?"
"Price is right, Weasley," he said, shrugging easily. It wasn't until she shot him a puzzled look that he realized he'd just admitted to his poverty aloud. "You're at my table. This has absolutely nothing to do with you."
There was a moment of silence before she seemed to accept that it was none of her business, and gestured for him to take a seat. "So you must come often if you have your own table."
"Every day," he said off-hand, again before realizing what he was giving away. "Got to do something to make up for..."
Rose shook her head, and waved for him to stop. "You don't have to make up for anything, Malfoy. Your father might have a few who still hate him, but none of that falls to you."
Scorpius smiled, apparently gratefully, but under his breath he muttered, "Easy for you to say, Weasley." She blinked once at him, but didn't comment if she had actually heard, and her eyes returned to the parchments in her hand. He just picked at his food.
"So how, exactly, do you have time to volunteer for hours every day?" she asked. She didn't look at him, and he was sorely tempted to pretend he hadn't heard her. Then she added, "Don't you have a desk at the Ministry or something?"
Silence prevailed, and Rose looked up to see Scorpius shaking his head as he pushed his mashed potatoes around. "I haven't got a job," he said in a very low voice. "I went abroad for a few years, and didn't realize I had no gold until I got back."
"But what are you doing here?" she pressed, her parchment tossed aside as she squinted at him. "I'm sure there are lots of places that would take you on in an instant." He shrugged, still staring at the plate. "Well, come on then. What are you good at?"
At this, Scorpius started laughing for a minute, before asking, "You're going to give me career counseling, Weasley?" She simply smiled and raised an eyebrow. "Fine," he said, "I can pick locks. Fix clocks and watches. Wind-up toys. Motors, engines, stuff like that."
"Really?" He finally looked up from his food, curious at her tone. She almost sounded impressed. "And you can't think of anyone who'd hire you?"
He just shrugged again, and they sat in silence for a while. "Have you ever tried prosthetics? I mean, good ones are hard to find, sometimes, and I'm sure..."
"I've got a copper and silver hand on one of my shelves, but it's nowhere near as detailed as it would have to be," Scorpius said, his voice so low that Rose had to strain to make out some of the words. "And I don't really know how a hand works..."
Muttering to himself about metal joints, and nerve connections, Scorpius turned back to his plate with a distant look in his eyes. Rose just sat, knowing she should be getting back, but somehow feeling that this was more important, that she really should stay.
"You should bring it in," she told him, tilting her head to the side. "I can introduce you to the Healer-in-Charge of that department, and maybe you can make some coin making those. You know, just to get you going."
He shook his head, suddenly nervous, while Rose looked at him as if she'd just stated the most obvious thing in the world. "I'm not showing any of your healers anything I made at Hogwarts," he hissed. "Maybe if I had the time to fix it up, but that could take weeks."
Rose was blinking madly at him. "At Hogwarts?"
"Well, what did you think I was doing every weekend?" Scorpius asked, jumping right back into his cheery self for a moment. Then, "On second thought, I'd rather not know."
"I certainly didn't think you were making model hands out of copper," she said, shaking her head, a slightly dumbstruck expression on her face. "Al used to joke that you were out in the Forest, sacrificing animals to the Devil, but no one believed him. I just figured you slept in and did homework in your common room or something."
Scorpius wasn't really listening, though. He was arguing with himself, and finally came to a decision just as Rose stopped talking. "I made this, too," he said tentatively, pulling the music orb out of his pocket and holding it up between his fingers.
Rose just stared for a minute, and Scorpius' smile faded a little. But her curiosity soon go the better of her, and she asked, "What... What is it?"
"It plays music," he explained. "Sort of like those Muggle devices, except without the earphones and the limited... data storage, I think they call it? Only one person can hear it, unless you set it for everyone."
She reached out tentatively, and poked the silver orb with her first finger. As she felt the slight vibration, she gasped, and pulled away, but Scorpius just let out a bark of a laugh and placed the orb in her hand, closing her fingers around it.
Rose drew in a sharp breath, and her eyes grew wide as she sat there. The silence was all the more unbearable for Scorpius this time, because it was actually silence, but the fascination on her face when she opened her palm to look at the orb again was worth it. "This is amazing, Malfoy. Really. How did you do it?"
"I was good with Charms fifth year," he said, "and the engraving helps focus it. The actual music is just a pattern of vibrations at certain frequencies, and the mechanics to amplify it. Making it for one person was the complicated... You haven't got a clue what I'm saying."
Shaking her head 'no', Rose let her eyes wander from the orb to Scorpius. "You're proud of this, aren't you?" He shrugged, but he knew that his excitement about finally showing someone was palpable enough for her to understand. "Have you ever considered making more? You know, selling them? Malfoy's Magical Music Maker, or something silly like that?"
He pulled a face.
He had thought about selling the music orb, but didn't know where to go with it. He'd asked a few wizards on the street, though, and all of them had pointed him here.
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.
It wasn't just a joke shop anymore. They'd expanded to carry just abut any sort of magical oddity or trinket one could imagine. Powders, potions, ingredients. A whole Clothing department. Basically anything, if it existed, could be found there.
Scorpius stood across the street, in Diagon Alley, just looking at the bright colors and laughter that poured out of the store and into the street. There were so many people, inside and out, just milling about. He shouldn't feel out of place.
He was about to steel himself, walk inside and present his invention for consideration to whoever was at the desk, when he happened to look through the window and see said desk. Fred Weasley II was laughing with his co-worker, James Potter II, and his younger brother Albus who stood on the other side of the counter. Roxanne was undoubtedly around somewhere, home for the summer hols, and Lilly had to be there somewhere with her two brothers.
The last time he'd spoken to any of them, someone had put him in the hospital wing for his impudence. The prodigal Malfoy, daring to speak to a Potter or a Weasley. Unthinkable. Outrageous. He wasn't worth their time.
So he merely thought of a different, darker song for the orb to play for him, and trudged back up the street, turning to head back to his flat. No point in even trying.
"Didn't think anyone would want it," he said, promptly flushing bright red, back of his neck to the tips of his ears, when she burst out laughing.
It took a minute, but once she sobered up, Rose shot him a very patronizing glance. "You're telling me that you've been carrying around this brilliant little thing in your pocket for six years, and you still clean bedpans at St. Mungo's for your supper?"
"Not in so many words," Scorpius said, but upon seeing the exasperation on her face conceded, "but yeah, I guess. I've been improving that, though. It wasn't nearly as clear a few years ago, and there were some kinks to work out with the..."
Rose waved at him dismissively, and he shut his mouth almost immediately. "So how do I make it play a different song?" she asked, he head still tilted to the right. "I'm sure you figured out how to make it do more than Claire de Lune."
"You know Debussy?" Scorpius asked raising an eyebrow, then shook his head. "You just think of a song you want to hear, and it'll find it."
He watched her close her eyes for a moment, then start a little. "Clever. Very clever. Can you make me one?"
"If you like," he said. "I'm a little low on workable silver, but I might be able to find some. Give me a few days, and I'll send it to you."
Rose snorted at his admission. "Aren't you heir to millions of galleons?" she asked, completely rhetorically. "The Malfoy fortune can't cover a little scrap silver?"
"The Scorpius Malfoy fortune can't. Why do you think I'm here?"
Five days after leaving Hogwarts for the last time, Scorpius Malfoy left a note stuck to his door, and left home before his parents woke. It explained that, while he loved them, he had to go and make his own way, and learn how to live in the world. By the time Astoria found it, he was buying passage across the Channel to Calais, France, and not even thinking about looking back.
The first three times Scorpius emptied his vault at Gringotts, Draco deposited more. The amount was less each time, with the hope that Scorpius would take the hint and use the money to return home, but he never did.
The fourth time an owl arrived bearing news of his son's empty vault, Draco merely sent his thanks for the notification, and settled down to write a letter of his own. He borrowed an international owl, managed to track down where Scorpius was staying-in Paris, at the time-and sent him barely enough gold to cover a return trip to England and notice that he had been cut off until he could prove himself responsible.
There was no reply, but nor were there any more long distance withdrawals. Two months later, an owl he didn't recognize landed on Draco's desk. It carried the exact sum that Draco had sent with his last letter, and a scrap of parchment that simply said, "Sorry."
Rose was looking at him oddly when he shook his thoughts away. "Sorry, Weasley. Lost in my own head. Did you say something?"
"No. I was just wondering how you manage to look so excited, and then so sour within seconds of each other," she said. Scorpius rolled his eyes, but she continued, "The same thing happened the other day, and I don't think it's normal, Mr. Malfoy. Maybe we should take you downstairs?"
"That won't be necessary," he said. It was that exact moment that the clock chimed, and a small paper airplane, like the ones that zipped around the Ministry, appeared and started poking Rose's shoulder. "Besides, it looks like at least one of us has work to do."
She swatted at the plane, but kept her eyes locked on his. "I do need to get back," she admitted, waving a hand towards the door. "When can I expect that music maker? I can meet up with you somewhere, or.."
"Psh...Owl delivery is included in the nonexistent price." He was smiling again, so she let it go, and he added, "I may experiment a little with it. Ask you a few questions, you know. I'm still fine tuning. But shouldn't be more than a few days."
Scorpius waved to her as she walked off, and thought maybe she might have waved back after he turned around again. But it didn't really matter.
Scorpius was stretched out on his slightly lumpy, vermillion green couch, a tortoiseshell cat curled up on his stomach, as he read the latest note from his landlady over and over. "What do you think, Athena? Shall we give it another go?"
The cat didn't answer, but she did turn her head to look at him with wide yellow eyes. They stared at each other for a few moments before Scorpius turned back to the note.
"Beth'll throw a fit if we don't make this," he said, barely noticing that she had curled up again, shifting slightly so her head rested along his breastbone. "And it's got to be in by Wednesday. Can't hurt to try, right?"
Athena purred, stretching a little, and he absently reached to scratch her chin. "I just don't know if I can, you know," he went on, not really caring that she couldn't respond. "I mean the Weasley shop? Fred and James probably run it now, and I doubt they'd even listen to me."
A tapping on his door, made Athena's ears perk up, but it wasn't until the tapping turned to banging that Scorpius managed to push himself up off the couch to answer it. "Beth, I'm not late yet," he called through the door, watching Athena run off to some corner, "so you better not have come all the way up here just to-Rose."
"Who's Beth?" the redhead asked, pushing past him and into the flat. "And what in the world is all of this...this...what is it?"
Scorpius just rolled his eyes and shut the door behind her. "What do you think I spend my time away from St. Mungo's doing? I putter about with scrap metal, and this is what I get."
"Where do you put your feet?" Rose eyed the floor hesitantly, trying to figure out how to make it to the couch without stepping on anything, even though it was barely three meters away. "I don't want to break anything, but..."
She stopped when she realized he was laughing at her. "Anything that's on the floor is probably junk anyway. The better stuff is on the shelves." Indeed, the room was lined with at two or three layers of shelves, all covered with metal pieces of various sizes and shapes. "Don't worry about breaking anything, Rosie. I live to fix them."
"Where do you sleep then?" she asked, watching him step sure-footedly across the room to the corner that served as a kitchen, dining area, and, apparently, a workbench.
He pointed to a door she'd assumed was a closet, and put a kettle on. "I know it's not much, but it sort of grows on you. Tea? Biscuit?"
"I don't actually have all that long. I'm on my dinner hour," she said, smiling just a little sheepishly. "I got this, though," and she pulled her music maker out of her pocket and held it up for him to see, "and I wanted to thank you in person. It's amazing."
"Glad you like it." Scorpius left water boiling, and fell back onto the couch, just as Rose finally made it there. Sprawled out as he was, he took up the entirety of the couch, so Rose perched herself on the arm, and looked down at him. He opened the tin he'd brought back with him to reveal a number of gingersnaps, smirking as she immediately reached for one. "Anything else?"
For a moment, he could've sworn she'd been unbalanced, caught off guard. "I, well, I thought I should give you something for it. At least pay for the silver, you know." She pulled two galleons out of the same pocket she'd returned the music maker to. "I thought this would cover it, but if it's not enough, I have more..."
"Rosie, I now feel obliged to be insulted," Scorpius told her, trying not to laugh at her puzzled expression. "It was a gift for an old friend, and if you pay me for it, then I'll feel like some schmuck who can't even..."
She shrugged, then smirked a little. "You are the kind of bloke that volunteers solely for the free food. Your ancestors would be ashamed."
"My ancestors would be ashamed of most of what I do these days," he said, gesturing to the half-Muggle and Muggle-inspired gadgets and wind-ups that covered the floor, and then at her. "Including having you in my apartment. Or having an apartment."
Rose gave a rather unladylike snort of laughter. "More of a mansion family?" she asked, looking once more around the apartment. "They'd hate it here, then."
"Castles, actually," he said, shrugging. "But the rent on those is pretty high for one volunteer, and I spent a lot more gold than I should have while I was away."
They stayed where they were, making faces at each other and trying not to laugh, for a while, not really even noticing the time passing. Scorpius was content to keep it up all evening, but Rose asked, out of the blue, "So, you never said-Who's Beth?"
"Landlady," he said, rolling his eyes up in mock frustration. "Keeps coming up and telling me to get a job. Lectures for hours at a time."
Rose just raised one eyebrow and asked, "And you haven't because...?"
"Me, work?" Scorpius shook his head. "Whatever gave you that crazy idea? Malfoys don't work, we just bully people and make money for it."
"Liar," Rose said, reaching down to ruffle his white-blond hair. "I know you worked at Hogwarts. Through Quidditch matches, which I never understood, but I know you worked. And you wanted to be, what was it..."
Scorpius started laughing at the memory, and had to catch his breath before he could even try to say, "That silly Auror phase? That was about the same time you told me you were going to captain the Harpies, and I don't see you playing."
"When did you get this done?" Rose complained from across the table, where she was struggling with her Charms essay. "It's taking forever."
Scorpius, having finished his last assignment twenty minutes earlier, was leaning back in his chair, feet on the table, fiddling with a chain of gears. "I had six hours during the match with the whole library to myself. Did most of it then."
"Another one?" she huffed, pushing a few red curls out of her face. "Scorpius, we've talked about this. You really should start going, they're fun. And you can sit with the Gryffindors, cheer me on, get to know my cousins better..."
"Hmm.." He pretended to think about it, then said, "No, I'd really rather not. All your cousins hate me; I'd be unwelcome."
She snorted then, shook her head. "They just don't know you. They don't ever see you joking around, or studying, or tinkering with those..." she trailed off, waving into space until she saw the gears in his hands. "Speaking of which, what's that do?"
"Look. It's a way of making things easier," he explained, putting his feet down so he could lean over the table and show her. "I turn this wheel slowly, but because the gears are different sizes, I can make this little one turn much faster. They're in motors and things."
The curiosity in her eyes was flattering, and he couldn't remember the last time someone had really been this interested in what he was saying. At least not since the last time she'd caught him fiddling and asked about it.
"Besides," he said, looking up to meet her eyes again, "If I was an Auror, I couldn't spend all my evenings laying about on my couch, now could I?"
Rose was about to say something, when a brown bundle of something came flying through the air, only to land on Scorpius' stomach. As he tried to get his breath back, she laughed until she was able to ask, "And who is this?"
"Athena, you need to stop doing that," Scorpius said, catching the cat's eyes and trying to sound firm when he only wanted to break down and laugh with Rose. "I have company. This is Rose Weasley, my friend. Rose, this is Athena."
"You named her Athena?" She asked, peering down at the cat. Athena returned the gesture, to Rose's surprise and Scorpius' amusement. "Why?"
Shrugging, he considered the cat himself for a second. "I was going to go with Minerva, but that would have been a little too close to a certain Headmistress, who pulled the animagus trick on just about everyone who set foot in her school."
"You really named your cat after McGonagall?" Rose more said than asked.
"Hey, McGonagall loved me. I got to see her office a few times and everything." Upon seeing Rose trying not to laugh, he added, "The portrait of Headmaster Snape calling me 'Draco' was a little disconcerting, though."
Scorpius winked over-dramatically, sending her that much closer to a giggling fit. "You were never this cheeky," Rose said, trying to hold back her laughter. He just smirked all the more, as her smile was nothing short of contagious.
"Cheeky? The French girls said it was très charmant," he protested, earning an exasperated look from Rose. "Et que j'etais très beau, aussi."
"Ah, bien sûr!" Rose responded, her eyes glinting at Scorpius' surprise. "Mais quand vous êtes allé chercher des boissons, elles s'ont dit que vous êtes insupportable et trop jeune d' être vraiment beau ou charmant."
Though he was tempted to ask how, exactly, her French was better than his, he settled for a mock pout and, "You don't know that."
"So, France, was it?" Rose's eyes were curious again, brightly so, but he merely nodded once. "I wondered where you'd gone. The French treated you well, I gather?"
They had, he thought with a smile, not that he had been good company for anyone. "Better than most of the English did..."
Anyone who saw him must have known something was wrong, especially towards the end of the third year. Dark circles were etched deep below his eyes, and he'd passed fit and slipped into the realm of rather too skinny.
He sat for hours on the floor in the back corner of Notre Dame cathedral, eyes closed or staring blankly at the ceiling, hugging his knees to his chest. He could be found on the streets as often in the middle of the night as he could in the afternoons, and bought more wine for himself than two people should reasonably have drunk.
Once, when he woke shaking for the third time in one night, he let himself admit that he just didn't care anymore. He looked at his pale and sallow reflection in the mirror and managed to say, "This isn't working," before he had to turn away.
"It's all her fault," he'd said, after an hour of trying to find sleep again. "All her fault. She just had to be perfect, didn't she?"
He dreamed of her, both waking and sleeping. He imagined her at the Healer Academy, then training at St. Mungo's, the way she'd told him she would. Her laugh echoed in his ears at random times each day, or he saw her smile on the lips of a stranger.
And he fell asleep saying, "Scorpius, you are an idiot."
She'd asked him something, and was clearly waiting for an explanation. The question eluded him, however, so he answered with an incredibly articulate, "Hmm?"
"If you liked it better there, why not just live in Paris for the rest of your life?" Rose asked, apparently at least the second time. Possibly the third. He was about to launch into the explanation when he realized who he was speaking to, and bit his tongue.
There was a moment of acting the pressured thinker, of pretending he didn't quite know how to explain it, then a smirk. "Well, I missed actually knowing what I was saying," he said, shrugging. "You speak French for too long without any English in between and it all turns to babble."
Rose raised an eyebrow, and said, "That's never happened to me, and I visit my Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur all the time." When he didn't reply, she added, "I mean, if anything it gets easier as you settle into the language."
"Maybe you're just better at it than me," he supplied, not looking the least bit ashamed of the thought. His smile hadn't even wavered.
This was enough to tip Rose off that something was probably wrong. The Scorpius Malfoy she remembered didn't just admit to being inferior, especially not to her. "And you're okay with that?" she asked, trying to prod him into defending himself.
Scorpius caught her gaze for a moment, the grey in them as cold as the metal that surrounded him, before he started laughing. "I'll just have to be, won't I?" he asked. "I mean, it's not anything new. You're better than me. You've always been the good one, smart one, the one who helps. It's why people like you."
"But not why you like me?" she asked, not even realizing what she'd said until the words were out of her mouth and drawing a softer smirk onto his face. "Don't answer that. I'm not sure I want to hear it right now."
She reached for the last of his biscuits, managing to grab it without moving more than a few centimeters in the armchair, and didn't see the hurt cross over his expression. "Tired of hearing how much everyone loves you, Weasley?"
"Do you get tired of being bitter?" she retorted, still not looking at him. He'd sat up, and was leaning with his back against the arm of the couch, staring determinedly at a spot on the wall. "You're what, twenty-two? You're too young to be this cynical."
"So if I could just be cheerful all the time, everyone would stop hating me?" Scorpius drawled, missing her surprise as he kept his eyes fixed on his wall. "I'll remember that next time I'm glared at for introducing myself."
Rose let out a huff of breath. "Have you ever considered that people hate you because you're an unfriendly, hateful little person who never gives anyone a chance to get to know you? It actually has very little to do with your father or his."
He just let out that same dry laugh. "Doesn't matter," he said. "And you can't really talk, Rosie. You're not exactly the greatest of welcoming committees, either."
"At least I try," Rose spat. "I'm not the one who's determined to be cold, miserable, and alone for the rest of my life just because I'm a Malfoy."
It was as if some higher being was pouring ice-cold, liquid silence into the room. It slid down both their spines, and settled into every tiny space in the flat. Rose turned to Scorpius with wild, fearful eyes, eyes that threatened to release their tears any second. He just stared into the space across the room from her, refusing to move.
"Get. Out." As his words rang through the room, Rose's mouth moved, but nothing came out. Everything else was still, until he added, "Now."
He was barely surprised, when he heard her the heel of her shoe crack against his floor. "I know you don't want to hear it, but it's true," she said, the scathing tone worse than a raised voice. "You never even try to get to know anyone. It's your fault you don't have any friends, so stop blaming everyone else for it, and for Merlin's sake stop whinging."
"I don't need to listen to this," he said softly, to himself, as he continued to stare at the wall. "This is my home, and I don't have to sit here and listen to you. Now go."
More footsteps, and the sound of the creaking hinges he kept telling himself to fix. "I don't know what I thought I saw in you, Malfoy," Rose said from the doorway, her voice obviously strained with pent up anger. "But you're just a little boy pretending he can be his own man and pinning all his problems to his name. If I ever hear another word from you, it will be lifetimes too soon."
She was gone before he turned around, her two galleons glinting coldly at him from the center of the coffee table.
I was given a demonstration of your music maker this weekend, and was very interested in it. In fact, I've been wondering for the past few days why you didn't bring it to me or any of my employees yourself. It really is an ingenious device.
Though between you and me, Malfoy's Magical Music Maker is a terrible name for any sort of product. We'll work on that.
I am willing to provide you with any materials you need, as well as 50% of the sales, if you would make more of them for me. If you are amenable, I would like to meet with you and discuss the matter, as well as some other, more personal business I have with you. Perhaps a drink with a potential associate at your leisure? The Three Broomsticks?
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes
"So let me get this straight. I make more of these," Scorpius said, holding up his orb, "And you'll buy them from me and sell them in the shop."
George Weasley, even in his fifties, had the same spark of humor and energy the world had seen when he'd first opened Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. His eye fell on the gleaming silver ball, and said, "Well, if you'd rather not, then I'll just nick Rosie's and figure out how it works myself. Might take a while, but..."
"Good luck with that," Scorpius muttered.
For a moment, the younger man thought he'd get away with being rude. Then George shot him a bright smirk and cried out, for the whole village to hear, "Speak up, boy! I'm not as young as I used to be. Losing my hearing, you know."
"Sir, if you don't actually need me to make the orbs, why not keep all your profits?" Scorpius asked his voice clear this time. "Why bother supporting me?"
"Honestly?" There was a silence in which Scorpius raised an eyebrow and waited for an answer. "Because I intend to get a handyman out of it without paying you more. Because I would really rather have the experts making my products. And because you intrigue me."
Scorpius blinked once from surprise, and again as his eyes narrowed into a confused stare, directed towards his potential employer. "Mr. Weasley?"
"George, please. I know too many Mr. Weasleys," Scorpius raised his butterbeer in a mock toast, and George's smile stretched a little wider. "I like you. Your work is impressive, you're quite the conversationalist, and you're all my favorite niece talks about these days."
This time, the surprise lingered a little longer. "Rose?" When George nodded, Scorpius managed to choke out, "Really?"
"Of course, Rose," George replied, groaning over-dramatically. "Honestly, how many of my other nieces are you acquainted with, Mr. Malfoy?"
Scorpius made a face at the name. "It's Scorpius, please. And if being hexed by them means we're acquainted, quite a few, actually." When George met his eyes, he only smirked a little and said, "Your family is quite protective."
"Do I want to know what you think of my son, then?"
"He seemed a good enough sort, actually," Scorpius said, gaining him a quizzical look. "If I condemned people for hating me at Hogwarts, I'd be forced to hate the vast majority of my generation. As I don't want to do that..."
"Well, anyway, this is that other bit that I wanted to speak with you about, Scorpius," George said, waving for the barkeeper to bring them another. "Rose. I love the girl, don't think I don't, but she won't shut up about you. Specifically, the fact that you've apparently been avoiding her, ignoring her, and won't answer her letters."
Scorpius snorted. "She's the one that stormed out of my flat. Yelled to the whole world that she never wanted to hear another word from me again."
"That was a whole week ago," George said, infuriating Scorpius all the more by looking mildly amused. "She misses you. At least thank her for showing me your...what do you call it?" Scorpius shrugged, and George went on, "She's a little overdramatic if you make her angry, but Rosie doesn't just give up on people."
A swig of butterbeer and a roll of the eyes later, Scorpius said, "I have to disagree with you there, sir." George was about to protest, but Scorpius held up a hand. "She gave up on me at Hogwarts. Sixth year. I said one wrong thing and she didn't talk to me until a month ago."
"Might have helped her to know what continent you were on, though," was the almost too quick response. Scorpius let his jaw drop. "I mean, you took off right after N.E.W.T.s, from what I heard, and didn't come back until, when? December? January?"
"I waited for a year and a half for any sort of sign that we were still friends, let alone..." Scorpius bit his cheek painfully, but managed to stop himself from saying more. "One wrong move, and the only friend I ever had at Hogwarts ignored me until I left the country."
George was snickering at him by the time he finished talking. "Well, what did you do? Profess your undying love for her?" The joke fell flat, though, when Scorpius tried to hide under the table rather than laugh. "You didn't... Oh, look, no, come back here."
Scorpius sighed, but slid moodily back into his seat. "I know. It was stupid of me," he muttered, barely pausing to be grateful that George didn't tell him to speak up again. "I just thought she should know, is all."
"No, you were right," George said in a lower voice than he'd used all evening, "Rose is just, well, she's always been the odd girl out. The tomboy. The one who played Quidditch with the boys all summer. At sixteen, she didn't think boys even saw her that way."
For a moment, Scorpius was tempted to just start laughing at the whole ridiculous situation. "So I scared her off," he said instead, staring at the table.
"You told her something that, in her mind, was impossible," George corrected. "You may not have scared her, but I doubt she believed you. And if she did, it was too much for her all at once, and she couldn't deal with it."
While George appeared perfectly serious, Scorpius just snorted. "Well, good on me for trying, though. Right?" He looked over, eyebrow raised. "Do I get points for trying?"
"If you tried again, you might end up with a lot more than points," was the reply, to which Scorpius had nothing to say. "You managed it when you were sixteen. You can't say the same thing now, after feeling the same way for Merlin knows how long?"
Scorpius only shook his head. "I thought you asked me here to talk shop. If we're finished with that, I have rent to pay and a cat to feed." He stood, grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair. George managed to grab his wrist as he started to walk away, but Scorpius just smirked, pulled his hand back and said, "I'll be in touch."
"Just tell me why not, and we'll never talk about it again." The older man's expression was blank, shrewd, and Scorpius could feel his gaze burrowing into him, into his thoughts.
He shrugged. "She should have the best. And that's not me."
Two days later, Scorpius was cleaning bedpans again, hoping it would be the last time for a good long while. About fifteen kilos of silver was sitting on his doorstep, as it was too heavy to be delivered by owl. Augustus Pye was once again locked out of his office, but for once, Scorpius wasn't desperate for the few coins Maintenance would give him for dealing with the lock.
"I get you a contract with the shop for those little inventions of yours, and you're still working for your meals here?" Scorpius didn't respond, for which he was immensely proud of himself. He didn't have to turn to know who was talking, but it was almost painful to keep busy and pretend that he hadn't heard the question.
"How in Merlin's name did you manage to do this for two months?" Rose asked from the doorway behind him as he dunked one of the last few pans into the tub of sanitizing solution. "I can barely stand it after ten days."
Scorpius shrugged. "I was sixteen and stupid," he said, not bothering to turn around. "And I thought eventually you'd stop running."
The silence between them was broken only by Scorpius's cleaning, until he heard Rose's footsteps approaching him. Somehow, he still managed not to turn and look at her. "Was it this bad for you, back then?" she asked softly. "I didn't even think, but it's, it's like..."
"Like you spend every minute of the day waiting, and you don't know what you're waiting for or if it even exists?" Finally, Scorpius dropped his work and pivoted on his heel. "At least you know how I feel. I'm still not convinced you don't hate me."
Rose snorted at that. "I know how you said you felt six years ago," she said, and he rolled his eyes as she continued. "You said yourself, you were sixteen and stupid, and yeah, you said you loved me, but how can I..."
"Rose, that's not the kind of thing that changes," he said, a little more dryly than originally intended. "Not even if it took you about ten seconds to run away and never come back once I managed to say it. Not even after three years abroad, trying to forget."
His ears were burning, and he was sure the back of his neck would stop traffic. Something was scratching in his throat. For Merlin's sake, there were almost tears in his eyes. But the only thing he cared about in that moment was that he'd bared his emotions she was standing in front of him, completely speechless. Again.
About a quarter of a second before he decided to push past her and charm Healer Pye's lock into never locking again, she said his name, once. That was all. Just one, "Scorpius," more of a whimper than a word.
"I'm sorry," he said, even though the words actually hurt as they pushed through his throat. "You don't need to... I'm not asking... Never mind. I should just..." He gestured towards the door behind her, unable to say any more.
Rose was shaking her head though, her eyes wide. "You're serious," she barely breathed. "You actually mean it. But, if, back then, all this time, then why...?"
"Why did I leave, you mean?" She nodded, and Scorpius pushed himself up to sit on the cleaning table, taking a deep breath. "You were the only student at Hogwarts who was genuinely nice to me all the time, you know that? The only one. Then I heard you telling someone I meant nothing to you, and something, I dunno, broke, I guess. I had to leave. Find somewhere that I wasn't quite so repulsive to everyone around me."
"But you're not..."
Scorpius cut her off easily, with a more-bitter-than-sweet smile. "I know," he said. "But no one was telling me that then. So I threw myself head-first into the books, to get as many N.E.W.T.s as possible, and left as soon as I could."
"Scorpius?" Rose asked hesitantly, "Did you try to get to know anyone else at Hogwarts? You must have had roommates...friends?"
A release of breath hissed through his teeth, and she shook his head once. "I tried, but I was the runt of the pack, and never bothered to establish myself as anything else. Bunch of big, idiots running together, mad at me for beating them. They had to pick on someone, right?" He leaned his head back against the wall, letting his eyes close.
"Never really changed. I mean, if I shot so much as a Jelly-Legs jinx at anyone, especially our year, I'd start a crusade against me," he explained, all rather off-hand. "You must have seen the fallout when you ditched me. They thought it was my fault." Before she could object, he continued. "They were right, of course, but, ah, they thought I hurt you. More than I did."
She stood and he sat for a while, then, as neither had any more to say. Both kept trying to hide the glances they were taking in the other's direction, until Rose asked, rather nervously, "So, what would you have done? If I hadn't run off, I mean."
"Huh?" His grey eyes had snapped open as soon as she'd spoken, and the utter confusion in them was oddly endearing, so she asked the question again.
"I dunno, really," he said, his face twisting into a scrunched but thoughtful expression. "Tried to explain, I guess. You obviously didn't understand when I said it the first time. Or the second. I've never really thought about it."
Rose was biting her lip when he finally met her gaze, and he could plainly see there was something else. Before he thought about it, his head tilted curiously to the left, and a frown tugged at his lips. "What if," she started to say, turning redder by the second, "What if I had told you I loved you too? Or, maybe not loved, but definitely liked?"
"As we've clearly established, I was sixteen, and very stupid," Scorpius said, snickering a little at the thought. "I probably would have sat there like an idiot until you said something else, then asked you why you would say such silly things."
After a moment, Rose joined him in his laughter, though she remained the color of a beet even in her mirth. "Assuming we were able to establish that both of us were neither joking nor struck dumb, what then?" She was grinning, but something in her eyes was still looking for something. He couldn't tell what or why, but there wasn't really anything he could do.
"At that point, my rather sad attempt to snog you senseless," he said with as casual a shrug as he could manage. "I'd probably have asked you out, been a little giddy. Possibly done a rather embarrassing dance that you would obviously find endearing, but that I would spend years asking you to Obliviate out of my brain forever."
Scorpius immediately flushed again, but Rose closed her eyes for a moment before throwing her head back and laughing for real. And the minor humiliation was instantly worth it, because her laugh was wild and free and beautiful and infectious.
Before either of them knew it, they were in stitches for no good reason.
"So, did you have any particular reason to keep me from my bedpans?" Scorpius asked once he was sure he could breathe normally again. He looked down at Rose, who at some point had needed to sit down because she'd been laughing too hard to stand, with the same excitement in his eyes as the first time he'd shown her his music orb.
Rose saw the spark again, and something fluttered inside her. "I had this epiphany, about a week ago," she said, grinning a little wider when he suddenly appeared incredibly curious. "And, well, I wanted to tell you about it."
Scorpius just nodded.
"I missed you," she said, knowing that she was about to start babbling. She let herself fall backward, not caring that she was lying on the dirty floor in her good St. Mungo's robes. "I've missed you for years, and now you're back. And you've got this silly little smile that I've only seen when you're really, truly happy, and you about glow when you're talking about those gadgets of yours, and I just want it to be like that all the time. I want my family to get to know you so you can work in the shop and make music makers and wind up toys and pocket watches that spit fire whenever you want, and not have to clean bedpans just so you and your stupid cat can both eat. I want to introduce you to my friends. I want to not have you go off to France for another three years, especially if they really do think you're so bloody charming down there. I want you to stay in London in that tiny little flat, where you can't step anywhere without breaking something, so I can see if your hair is really naturally that color, and if you're really as pathetic a kisser as you seem to think."
When she absolutely had to stop to breathe, she raised her head to see Scorpius sitting on the table, surrounded by bedpans, trying to hold back more laughter while his eyebrows hid in his slightly-too-long hair where it fell over his forehead. "That was a lot of epiphany for one person. Anything else?" he asked.
"I wouldn't mind seeing that dance you mentioned," she said, biting her bottom lip to keep the giggles out of her voice.
He shook his head, but couldn't seem to keep his wild grin under control. "Anything but that. I don't want to have to kill you."