The Con

The Chain

The next morning, Lily decided she would avoid Scorpius Malfoy by all means possible and try to pretend like last night never happened. To her credit, she lasted all the way until after breakfast.

Ever since she arrived back in her room last night, her friends have been pestering her for details about the dance and about Lorcan. She told them about the decorations and the fancy gowns and how Lorcan kissed her (here, Molly's squeal gave the Fat Lady a run for her money). Yet, she couldn't bring herself to tell them about her rather intimate encounter with one rogue Slytherin who was the sole reason she fled the ball in the first place. Somehow, she knew she didn't quite have the liberty to tell that detail.

"Hey Lily," Hugo said, with a mouth full of food, poking her with his fork from across the table, "I think Malfoy is staring at you."

At this, every Gryffindor within earshot immediately turned to look three tables over where Scorpius Malfoy was indeed looking in their direction. Caught staring by the entire Potter/Weasley motley crew, Scorpius quickly ducked his head and tried to play it off, casually swirling the pumpkin juice in his cup and joining in on his girlfriend Violet Tuckett's conversation. Albus and Hugo guffawed at Scorpius's obvious actions.

"He couldn't have been staring at me. Must have been someone else," Lily stated in a monotone voice. She gave a sidelong glance at Rose, who for some reason also found a sudden interest in her pumpkin juice.

How could Rose keep such a gigantic secret from everyone? How could she cheat on Lysander? Lily didn't know what to think of perfect Rose anymore. (And the others? They didn't notice a thing.)

James cracked another joke about Scorpius's stick-up-his-arse personality which got the whole table laughing again, except Lily. From the corner of her eye, she watched Scorpius make a speedy exit from the Great Hall. She swore he turned his head and looked straight at her before disappearing around the corner.

"Are you okay, Lily?" Cressida asked with concern. "You look stressed."

"I'm fine, Cress," she replied halfheartedly.

"But you hardly ate anything," Molly said, pointing to Lily's full plate of food.

Lily shrugged and stood from the table. "I'm not really hungry, I guess. I'm going to head back to the common room and start on my homework. See you guys later."

She departed the Great Hall as her friends watched worriedly from the table. She's fine, really. She just has a stupid boy on her mind.

Rounding the corner, she walked past a statue of a knight when suddenly a pair of hands seized her and pulled her behind the knight. Some Hufflepuff first years were running by, so Lily's captor clamped one hand over her mouth to keep her quiet. Annoyed, she hastily pushed his hand away and spun around to face Scorpius. "What do you want?" she spat.

Scorpius seemed taken aback by her fierce reaction and released his grip on her arm. "I just…I wanted to talk with you."

"And you like talking to people here?" She gestured to the small, practically nonexistent space between the knight statue and the wall.

"Well, no…" he trailed off, looking guilty.

"What, are you embarrassed that someone will see you talking to a Potter? Or that someone will see you talking to a little third year? Or both?"

"No, it's not like that, Lily, I promise. I just don't want people to overhear what we're talking about."

Lily sighed and blew some hair out of her eyes. "Alright, let's get this over with. I won't tell anyone you kissed me and I won't tell anyone you actually wanted to kiss Rose and I won't tell anyone that you two are secretly seeing each other behind Lysander and Violet's backs. I'll keep your secret. We can just forget anything ever happened, yeah?"

"Uh, yeah." Scorpius blinked a few times at Lily's surprisingly thorough response. He looked quite speechless and quite idiotic.

"Is that all?" Lily asked, tapping her feet impatiently.

He nodded. "That's all."

Lily turned and stepped out from behind the knight, earning a strange look from a passing professor, and walked down the corridor towards the Gryffindor Tower where she was originally headed before she was rudely detained. She could feel Scorpius's eyes on her as she left, so she held her head up and tried to not feel self-conscious. It's only Scorpius, she kept telling herself.

Except when is it ever only Scorpius?

"Hey, wait!" Scorpius called out, so she turned around once more. He had stepped out from the statue too and was now openly engaging in conversation with her, so maybe he was trying to prove that he wasn't ashamed to be associated with her after all. He shoved his hands in his pockets and grinned, ever so slightly. "Thank you."

She didn't expect that. She never knew Scorpius could be humble, but then again, she never really knew Scorpius at all. It kind of makes her wonder why she used to hate this boy. Because her brothers told her to, that's why. But that's the most pathetic reason she ever knew.

Just then, she heard her friends' voices as they headed towards the corridor, so Lily quickly nodded in response and turned to retreat, hoping her friends wouldn't catch her with Scorpius Malfoy and jump to troublesome conclusions.

But alas, Scorpius just had to wave goodbye and say, "I'll see you around, Potter" in an unnecessarily loud voice. He walked off in the opposite direction, passing Lily's dumbfounded friends. Lily winced, prepared for the onslaught.

"What are you doing talking to Malfoy?" "What did he want?" "I thought you went back to do homework." "Are you friendsor something?" "Lily!" "So he was staring at you!" "Why did you lie to us?"

"Guys!" Lily yelled, silencing her friends' interrogation. "It wasn't anything, okay? We just bumped into each other and he started talking to me. He probably thought it'd be funny to befriend me and annoy Al or something, I don't know. I've never even spoken to him before, so calm down."

Molly, Cressida, and Gwen seemed suspicious, but bought the lie regardless. The four of them hooked arms and marched away to the common room together. Lily sneaked one last glance behind her shoulder at Scorpius before he disappeared down a staircase.

It's true, though, the two of them really weren't friends. Basically strangers. But they shared a secret now, and that was worth something.

Sadly, the holiday break was soon over so they were all back in class and Lily had to admit, she was rather terribleat this "avoiding Scorpius Malfoy" thing. It's been hardly a month after the unintended kiss and she's already had far too many chance encounters with the boy of interest. Meeting him on the stairs after hours, bumping into him at Quidditch practice, accidentally running smack into him in the middle of the hallway, sending their books and papers flying every which way…If he didn't have two girlfriends already, Lily would certainly think he was intentionally stalking her.

In fact, the only thing she achieved out of this whole escapade was inadvertently avoiding Lorcan instead.

"Lorcan Scamander asked you to be his girlfriend and you're ignoring him like he's a glass of expired milk," Molly cried in desperation. "Lily Luna Potter, you are mental."

It was Saturday and Lily and Molly were currently lounging around the lake, trying to make the most of the abnormally warm January afternoon and to procrastinate on their awaiting piles of homework. Lily sighed and lay back on the grass. Molly had been continuously pestering her about this Lorcan situation and, really, at this point, Molly could have him if she wanted. Lily would be lying if she said she still had any feelings for him, not even the slightest bit of a crush. Don't get her wrong, Lorcan was great, the sweetest guy she's ever met, but when compared to a certain someone else—no. Stop thinking about him, Lily, stop, stop, stop.

"Hey guys!" Roxanne Weasley, in her brightest black and yellow scarf, plopped down on the grass in the middle of her two cousins. Lily, Molly & Roxy, the way it always was. "So, Lily, I heard about you and Scorpius."

Lily groaned and rolled over onto her stomach, burying her face in the grass. "The news has spread to Hufflepuff, too?"

"Honey, the news is everywhere," Roxanne said matter-of-factly. "Our parents will probably hear of it soon."

"But there's nothing to hear!" Lily complained. "Scorpius is just a fool who won't leave me alone. There's nothing going on between the two of us, I swear."

"Kind of like how there is nothing going on between you and Lorcan?" Molly pointed out, bitterness and a trace of jealousy evident in her voice.

"Whoa, whoa, back up," Roxanne said, "what's this about Lorcan? I thought you two were dating."

Molly promptly gave Roxanne a quick up-to-date recap of Lily's love life while Lily proceeded to bury her face deeper into the grass. Things were getting messier and messier.

"Isn't that the Scamanders over there, with your sister?" Roxanne said, pointing to across the lake. Sure enough, Lorcan, Lysander, Lucy Weasley, and other Ravenclaws were walking around the lake, laughing together. Unfortunately, the path they were following would ultimately lead right to where the three cousins were currently sitting.

Of course something like this would happen. Lily sighed, dejectedly rested her forehead against Roxanne's shoulder, and decided she should give up all pretenses of avoiding people in the future because nothing ever goes in her favor.

Suddenly, Molly jumped up eagerly and waved at the oncoming crowd. Lily's eyes widened in apprehension. "For the love of Merlin, please don't—"

"HI LUCY!" Molly shouted at her sister, and thereby successfully getting the attention of Lorcan Scamander, the Ravenclaw group, and the entire Hogwarts student population, no less.

"—do that," Lily finished. She scanned the vicinity and wondered if anyone would notice if she disapparated.

The answer, evidently, was yes, because when she finally looked up, her vision was completely obstructed by a smiling Lorcan Scamander. "Lily Potter, I've got you at last. You're not going to run away, are you?"

Lily slowly rose to her feet and feigned an innocent smile. "Run away? I assure you I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Little Lil, just give him an answer already," Lysander interrupted. "Either agree to be his girlfriend or reject him. I am sick of loverboy's constant whining."

Lorcan bit his lip and raised his eyebrows, as if to say So what's it gonna be?and it was really adorable. Lily fidgeted, unsure of what to say. Over Lorcan's shoulder, she saw Molly and Roxanne motioning for her to say yes. Lucy, however, simply shrugged and seemed amused by these juvenile actions.

On one hand, Lily would be Little Miss Sky High Standards if she turned down Lorcan Scamander for crying out loud, but there was always the other hand.

Speaking of the other hand, Scorpius Malfoy appeared out of nowhere at that precise moment. He grabbed Lily's wrist and briskly walked off with her in tow without a word. Lily, with no other choice, stumbled after him, giving her friends an apologetic glance for her departure. She didn't miss Lorcan's confused but crestfallen expression or Molly and Roxanne's matching glares of suspicion.

Scorpius didn't stop dragging her until they reached a secluded tree. He released his hold on Lily and she rubbed her sore wrist. Every time they had a conversation, Scorpius tended to end up aggressively manhandling her.

He didn't say anything for a long while, just leaned against the tree trunk, looking godly and attractive as always while Lily awkwardly shuffled from foot to foot. When she couldn't bear the silence anymore, she simply said, "So?"

"I thought I would save you. Scamander was looking far too desperate and you looked like you wanted to disapparate the hell out of there," Scorpius explained.

The description was deadly accurate, but Lily didn't tell him. "Well, thank you, I guess." She began walking off again, hoping to escape back inside the castle without her friends seeing, but Scorpius grabbed her wrist again and yanked her back again. If he kept doing that, soon Lily will dislocate she shoulder.

"Since I did you such a favor," he continued, to which Lily scoffed, "it would only be fair if you did me a favor in return."

Ah. So that's why he randomly decided to play hero. Figures.

"There's the Hogsmeade trip next weekend," he explained, "and I need your help. Last trip, Violet almost caught me sneaking away to see Rose. She got angry at me, and then Rose got angry at me and it was altogether an awful time. I'd rather that not happen again."

"Well, you could tell Violet the truth," Lily suggested.

Scorpius ignored her comment. "Your brother has an invisibility cloak, right? Is there any possible way you could somehow get your hands on it?"

"Your doubt is offensive. Of course I can get it. But why should I help you?"

"Because you love me." For a second, she thought he had somehow discovered her innermost secret and her stomach clenched. But then his face broke into a goofy smile and she realized he was only joking. False alarm.

"Fat chance," she replied. She tried to cover her almost nervous breakdown with a shaky laugh.

"Come on, Lily. You're the only one I can turn to, since you're the only one who knows about Rose and me. You're like my little confidant."

Scorpius surely meant that in the most platonic way possible, yet Lily still swooned. She cursed her heart and thin skin. "Fine," she said reluctantly.

After she agreed, Scorpius's face lit up and he hugged Lily, telling her she's the best, and ran off as abruptly as he appeared. Lily stood there under the tree for a few moments more with the lingering feel of his arms around her, and thought over just what exactly she had gotten herself into. Molly must have been right, Lily wasmental. Why else would she agree to help the boy she desires get together with her beautiful cousin instead?

When she slowly returned to her previous spot on the grass with her cousins, the Ravenclaw pack was surprisingly still present. Which sucked, since the whole point of Scorpius stealing her away was so that she could escape this conversation with Lorcan, this downward spiraling of awkwardness. Technically, Scorpius didn't do her a favor at all, so their agreement should be invalidated.

They didn't say anything when she returned, but she knew what they all wanted to say. Malfoy. Again. It was becoming increasingly difficult to convince them of the truth when coincidences kept matching their misunderstandings.

Lorcan gave her a disheartened look, one final chance before he walked away forever. Lily shook her head and whispered, "Sorry, Lorcan."

He nodded and didn't question her further. After hugging her goodbye, one last time, Lorcan turned around and walked away with his held high and full of dignity, as if he hadn't just been dumped by a thirteen-year-old. The pack followed away silently. Watching the group depart, Molly walked up next to Lily and crossed her arms across her chest. "You know," she said to Lily, "I hate you sometimes."

Both Lily and Roxanne turned to their cousin in shock, but Molly was staring after the Ravenclaws, after Lorcan, with such a tender look in her eyes. Lily knew, right then, that she was indeed a horrible person. Molly loved Lorcan. She always had. If Lily had bothered to open her eyes, she would have certainly known. Instead, Lily stole him away, then promptly threw him away as if he didn't even matter.

But Lorcan mattered to Molly. He's Molly older sister's best friend who fell for Molly's cousin, while Molly herself was always left out of the equation. Now Molly, Lorcan, and Lily were all part of some sick chain of unrequited love, and it's completely Lily's fault.

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