Scorpius Tries to Keep His Head Down
The house where I grew up is like a clown with two faces.
My aunt took me to the Hogsmeade Summer Festival when I was six. I remember dizzying lights flashing blue, green, red. Popcorn kernels stuck where gums met tooth. Children swung from their parents’ hands, watching as a patchwork curtain rose.
My cousin Phoebe giggled while the clown wrung his hands and stumbled across the stage. Blue eyebrows arched up impossibly high at the center. Silly concern and worry. Then, twisting around, he showed his other face. Snake eyes flashed red and I shrunk behind Auntie’s skirts.
I remember carnival lights throwing an eerie glow over the watching crowd. Later, biscuits and pumpkin juice in Auntie’s kitchen.
“Are you still afraid because of the clown, darling?”
My nails scratched at sharp kernels lodged in teeth.
Our house has one face looking east to the dawn. Fresh and new, and not much older than myself. We come in through the eastern drive and live behind these eastern windows. But there is another road that snakes in from the west, to the other face. Its teeth are a wrought iron cage. A spiking upper lip announces ‘Malfoy Manor.’ No lights twinkle behind these dead eyes.
We call this face ‘the Old House,’ and we are never to go inside.
Cobwebs dangle from the chandelier as my keen eyes scan the gloom. Decades of dust muffles each step. Listening hard for any sounds outside I feel my anxious blood thrumming in my ears. Rustling explodes from the far end of the parlor. A door bangs against the wall.
“Merlin, Sylvia!” My breath is still frozen in my lungs as she swoops down from the doorframe. “You scared me!”
An envelope swings merrily from her ankle. I feel the gentle bite of her talons against my forearm as I scramble to untie it.
Glancing over the inscription, I let myself marvel again at Al’s genius.
He’s been sending letters to the Old House all summer, and my fear of getting caught by Father is tempered by how much I miss Al over the holidays. Greedy fingers break sealing wax and the parchment whispers as I unfold it.
Have you heard yet? My dad only just told me (I’m sure you can imagine the lecture). He reckons you’ve heard by now, what with one of Draco’s companies sponsoring and all. I’m half impressed you kept the secret. Half utterly devastated, of course (you and your bloody poker face. Even in written correspondences... Somehow).
I can almost see Al in the curves of his y’s and the way the dots of his i’s look more like accents. A smile tugs the corners of my lips but I’m baffled by what he’s on about. Whatever Father might be sponsoring, I haven’t heard a word. It makes me giddy to be caught between my curiosity to learn more, and my desire to savor the shape of every word.
At first, I almost don’t hear the limousine sighing up the eastern drive.
“Damn! Slyvia, go!” I usher my tawny owl out the Old House door and yank it closed behind me. Overgrown hedges cast shadows over the grounds, thick with weeds. For the space of a breath, I fret. Al's half-read letter waits in one hand while, around the manor, my father's car grumbles to a stop.
Making my choice, I shove the parchment into my breast pocket and break into a stumbling run.
“What’s happened to him?” Daddy stood framed in the doorway, his
travelling cloak spilling down his shoulders and pooling at his feet.
Moonlight always robbed him of color, leaving only the black robes and
white skin in the dark.
“Oh, he’ll be alright.” Aunt Daphne curled her warm fingers around mine and lead me from the table. “There was a clown at the festival that frightened him a bit so we left. Just worn out after a long day and too many sweets.”
“He looks ill,” he said. Behind him, the limousine’s headlamps shone in the mist. I tightened my grip around my aunt’s hand and found protection again in the shield of her skirts.
It wasn’t until I started crying, refusing to go back home, that Daphne explained about the clown.
“What do you mean, two faces?” There was something angry, even offended, by the way he asked. “Was it supposed to be Quirrel?”
“Yes,” Daphne sighed. “I believe so. There was a mirror onstage and all, but we left before the actor playing Potter arrived.”
“What were they thinking, staging something like that for children.” Father seized my other hand and turned on his heel into the night. “Absolutely inappropriate.”
It was years before I understood what the play had been about.
“You were outside?” Father asks as I push through the doors, and it’s more like an accusation than a question.
“Yeah,” I say, trying not to look tired after running the length of our property. “Went for a walk in the woods.”
Our parlor couldn’t be more different from its western counterpart. While the Old House is all grandeur and embellishments and antiquity, our house is simple and plain. Father began building this addition after the war alone, so no wainscotting crusts the walls. Each room is little more than a whitewashed cube.
“Well be careful.” Father sniffs. “Don’t stray past the Muggle wards.”
That I’m already fully dressed in my Muggle clothes for King’s Cross seems lost on him. Rather than point it out or argue, I just slouch into the kitchen and picture what Rosie would say.
Oooh, blonde bloke walking down a country road in Wiltshire, alert the bloody press!
I almost laugh imagining her voice, the way she scrunches her nose when she’s annoyed, and feel another pang like homesickness. They’ve been coming all summer, but this time I don’t push the feeling away. In just over an hour I’ll be back on the Hogwarts Express.
Hot tea chokes in my throat as I realize my luggage isn’t where I left it.
“Don’t shout, Scorpius.”
“Dad?” I ask again, turning into the parlor. “Have you seen my trunk and things?”
His eyes don’t stray from his newspaper. “They’re in the boot.”
“But—” I falter. “I can just apparate there. I’ve had my license for months now, and you said once I started school...”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t see any reason why you need to apparate at all before you’ve graduated. Mortdecai will drive.”
I suspect he’s jealous; his apparition license was stripped before I was born. If I were a different sort of child, I’d point out that I’m of age and can do whatever I want. If I were a different child, I’d have been apparating all summer long rather than sitting at home, complicit in my own captivity. But I am not a different child, so I march out to the limousine while Mortdecai holds the door open.
A silent half hour stretches before we’re on Euston Road, slipping through too-small gaps and overtaking the crush of minicabs. We shudder to a stop outside the train station and Mortdecai leaps out to fetch a trolley.
“Are you coming in?” I ask, gaze still fixed outside the tinted windows, but I already know the answer.
“Best not.” Father says. “Promise me, son—”
“Keep to myself. Keep my head down. Keep a low profile. Got it.”
“It’s critically important.” His advancing forehead wrinkles with worry and he looks solemn and pained. Even more so than usual.
I just shrug. “Yeah, ‘course. I know.”
“This year more than any other before,” he presses.
I notice that he’s looking at me, not his newspaper. Odd.
“Is there something I should know?” I measure my words carefully, remembering Al’s letter still waiting in my breast pocket. “Is there something happening this year?”
A sniff. A gaze, averted. “Nothing I know of.”
He’s lying, but there’s no way to argue. Not without revealing that I heard something from Al, which would mean admitting to communicating with Al, which would mean telling my father that I even know Al at all.
Keep to yourself. Keep your head down. Keep a low profile. These are the rules we live by. But there’s another, yet more important rule. So grave that it remains unspoken. The “Voldemort” of rules. Something more present for never being named—not since before I started my first year at Hogwarts.
And whatever you do, no matter what happens, stay away from Harry Potter’s children.
The real Voldemort didn’t stand a chance against Harry, and the Voldemort of Rules had been easily defeated by his son.
Mortdecai holds open my door and I bid my father a quick farewell. For a moment, I think he’s going to say something. I look back but he’s immersed in his newspaper again, disappearing as the tinted window rises.
Mortdecai marches into the station beside me and I mumble my thanks. There’s something depressing about getting waved off by hired help. Our footwizard just tips his hat before bowing back out to the limousine, and I continue the rest of the way alone.
Melting through the barrier onto platform 9¾ I hear the familiar chaos swell around me. More than a thousand chattering voices rise, criss-crossed with delighted shouts of greetings and goodbyes. I make halting progress pushing my trolley through the swarm, cut off every few seconds by some younger student darting blind across my path. A few curious eyes turn my way. Parents of first years, probably. Most everyone else has gotten used to me. The Malfoy Boy. I’ve spent six years securing my place in the periphery.
“Scor!” My heart leaps to hear my name. The forger of looped y’s and dashed i’s, the author of my summer’s only comfort, is stood waving across the platform. It takes everything I have not to abandon my trolley and break into a run.
“Al.” I grin as I draw near, but step back before he can go in for a hug. The other students know we hang out, and they’ve had years to get accustomed to that fact. So far, nothing’s gotten back to my father because, so far, no one’s had a good enough reason to want to talk to the ex-Death Eater.
For his son to suddenly start snogging Harry Potter’s son would amount to a Good Reason—a headline even—so we keep our distance. Luckily, Al’s not annoyed by this. He’s as private as I am, and wants the press almost as little. Instead we share a smile. Small, and conspiratorial. It’s the happiest I’ve been in months.
“How was your summer, Scorpius?” Mrs Potter sounds gentle, but I’m mortified for failing to greet her. Worse so, her husband.
“Yes, sorry! Good.” I nod. “Thank you for asking. And yourself?”
There’s a sadness to Ginny Potter’s smile whenever she looks at me and I’ve never known what to make of it. I listen politely while she talks about Quidditch, but there’s a worse discomfort at her side. Harry Potter’s eyes—so like Al’s. They have a way of finding cracks and prying them open. I’d write it off as simple legilimency, but somehow it seems more profound. I worry what he thinks of me, because I know he thinks something.
“Stupid Scor!” Rosie nearly pushes me to the ground with the gruffness of her hug. “Stupid Scor who doesn’t use his stupid apparition even though he’s stupid of age!”
Rosie is one of the few people who looks exactly like what she is. Chaotic hair, all red ringlets like an explosion of corkscrews; skin that’s roughly fifty per cent freckle. She’d be beautiful, if she weren’t so obviously mad.
The look her dad gives me might cause worry, but I know he knows I’m gay. I try for a smile and he replies with a nod. Good enough.
Retreating into the sidelines, I let Al and his small sampling of extended family trade last remarks and farewells. Blending into the background is my forte. It isn’t until the warning whistle that the others even remember I’m there.
“Bye Mr Potter, Mrs Potter.” I incline my head, swishing my wand to raise my trunk.
“Ginny is fine,” she says, then surprises me with a hug. I lose focus and my luggage crashes to the ground. "And even the aurors don't call Harry 'Mr Potter.' Or, especially not the aurors."
“Right.” I nod and Al gives his mum a final kiss on the cheek.
“And remember!” Harry calls after his son. “You are expressly forbidden from trying to enter!”
“I know,” Al yells back over his shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m not James.”
“If you go and die on me, I’ll kill you!” Ginny shouts as the doors close behind us.
The wheels creak against the track and I fix him with a look. “Sorry, what are they talking about?”
“Didn’t you get my owl?” he asks, pushing into a compartment.
“Yeah, right…” I pat at my breast pocket and feel the stiffness of parchment beneath. “Draco came back and I had to do a runner. I was right curious, but things kept happening and then I was here and I saw you in real life so...”
“You should read it.” Al cracks an uncharacteristic smirk.
His smile deepens as he settles into his seat. “Yeah.”
The Hogwarts Express picks up steam and the groaning of our departure softens to a hum. I feel silly sitting down across him and tugging out his letter while he watches on.
So I can’t believe I never thought of this before, but yeah, it’s been about thirty years. I guess now that Riddle's dead, and that was the big problem last time, the schools involved thought it was about time to revive the TriWizard Tournament.
Mad decision, really, but should make for an interesting year…