Malfoy Manor had seen better days.
In the years before the war, it had been equitable to a museum of the Dark Arts. Perhaps that was the reason it was so admired by the Death Eaters and quickly became the headquarters for their secret society. The Dark Lord had always chosen locations to meet that were so near and dear to him, reminders of the past he had chosen to eradicate so thoroughly. The Manor, however, overflowed with rich history, namely Slytherin and Pureblood. A dirty history, marked less by valor and gold than by blood sinking into the earth, nooses tied tight.
The days immediately following the Battle of Hogwarts were chaotic indeed. As Lucius stood on the pyre, waiting for his sentence, Narcissa, ever so thoughtful of heritage, made arrangements. Despite the Malfoys’ ill repute with the goblins of Gringotts, she managed to lock up the most valuable artifacts and heirlooms.
After the scare had blown over, the Malfoys had the option of unpacking their belongings from the stuffy vault, but for the most part, they declined. A heavy path to reform was in order and would be easier without inflammatory history blocking up the corridors. The portraits, however, were returned to their rightful place, as well as the artwork: scenes of the Great Lake at Hogwarts melting into the countryside of Scotland, ballerina dancers in arabesque, moving in rhythm with Salazar Slytherin's favorite orchestra.
Through it all, the Manor remained a haven of Wizarding couture, somehow never declining in relevance to the socialite Wizards and Witches across Europe.
Scorpius had always been terrified of the Manor in all its marble glory and dark corners. He was always the dandelion in the garden of ripe roses, out of place in a place so grand as this. Now, he moved through it gracefully, not hesitating. Though a Slytherin through and through, he often struggled to reconcile his family's strong history with his own values, but for once, they overlapped perfectly. A Malfoy hosting a ball for a gay rights organization? Narcissa's brilliance notwithstanding, it was unthinkable. Maybe it was a testament to the times, or a testament to Narcissa's affection for her grandson.
The west wing's hallways were a perfect circle, unobtrusive doorways leading into libraries and drawing rooms as well as connecting it to the rest of the home. The outer sides of the hallway housed portraits of every male Malfoy; on the inner wall were the females.
Once, while reading through family files on one dreadfully frigid Christmas holiday, Scorpius discovered his great great great uncle Francis, a man burned out of the family line due to his “shockingly intimate” relations with his close friend Marcus. This was only one of many occurrences in the elitist scene: appearances were everything, like some ancient royalty.
Now, walking into his grandmum’s bedroom, he was almost grateful for the struggle, the years of joy from Lysander's grin followed by apprehension from his family: the portraits staring as he walked to the library to work on his summer assignments, grilling questions from Aunt So-and-so and Grandfather Lucius. It was almost worth the feeling of satisfaction, the sun that couldn't seem to leave his face.
Narcissa had aged gracefully, not that anyone would expect any less from her. Her hair, once identical to that of Cruella de Vil, was now entirely silver. She wore a luscious black gown that was altogether very reminiscent of Madame X. Her eyes, blue as they come, gleamed upon catching sight of Scorpius, and she folded him into a deep, warm embrace.
“You look so much your father did at your age. There is more light in your eyes; his always reflected the gloom of war just so.”
A whoosh sounded from the corridor, and a minute later, in walked Lysander Scamander. He wore a black suit, plain in style but exquisite in detail. The shirt he wore underneath was cream, champagne, a color perfectly matched to Scorpius’ hair.
All at once, Scorpius fell in love once again.
“Hello, Narcissa. It’s so wonderful to see you again, after so long.”
Scorpius forgot. Long ago, his father’s work had intersected with Mr. Rolf Scamander’s, and with Luna in Norway on trip for her studies, Rolf had brought his young twins, no more than seven years old, to the Manor. Draco had had no qualms about it; instead, he let the boys play with Scorpius under the watchful eyes of his mother and wife. Scorpius had been too young to remember, and in yearning for that lifetime-long love, he sometimes wished he did.
Narcissa wanted to finish her makeup, so she shooed the boys out. They walked to the kitchen, where a pizza was sitting, warm and already sliced, and dug in.
Lysander turned to him, offering up a small, pleased smile, unaware of the grease shining on his lips, catching the light. “How are you?”
Scorpius replied with a breathy, “Grand, how are you?”
Ly raked a hand through his hair. “Been better, been worse. I hope 6th year isn’t kicking your arse, because it totally did mine. All those NEWT classes.”
“They are, but only because I have high standards. Rose and I are in a perpetual race to oneup each other.”
“Ambitious.” Lysander’s voice held a tone of appraisal, and it wasn’t until that moment that Scorpius realized he was hoping for approval. He beamed.
“I am a Slytherin, after all.”
Ly’s eyes got distant for a brief moment. “It’s strange…” Here he ran his fingers along the cold granite of the countertop, tapping out the beat of a song by his favorite French Wizarding group. He and Louis had seen them live in England once, and their seats had been phenomenal, but that had been a strange night, the first night they slept together.
Lysander gathered his thoughts. “It's strange how little houses matter after Hogwarts.”
“There are people who want them eradicated, you know. But the prejudice is all but gone, and it’s tradition. And I don’t even want to begin thinking about how Hogwarts Quidditch would have to be restructured.”
“You should have seen how livid Uncle Ron was when the Ministry threw out the 150 points for catching the snitch.”
“It’s thrown everyone for a loop, but I like a challenge.” Scorpius smirked. “But Gryffindor beat us in our latest game, so I’m not one to talk.”
Ly raised his eyebrows. “Listen, we can talk about Quidditch anytime we want over owl. Why am I here?”
“I thought you would appreciate it, you know, the cause. You didn’t have to come, but I knew you’d be in town at the right time…”
“The cause is great, but there are enough Weasley kids who would have been interested as well. Why me?”
“Ah, Scorpius. I have been looking for you. The benefit starts in twenty minutes, so be in the ballroom in fifteen." Astoria stood in the doorway wearing a deep purple dressing gown, full makeup, and hair in wide curlers. “I must finish getting ready. Lysander, you look well.”
This was a lie, obvious as the ostentatious decor of the house. Too many beautiful boys, coming and leaving at whim, had fucked with Lysander’s head, and the cigarettes he smoked amplified it, though he knew how bad for him they were. The smokes and the boys. But Astoria was polite, and she was not unkind. She had been there to nurse Draco’s wounds, inside and out, and knew the game well.
At the same time, denial was a close friend to anguish. That, and placebo. It was a bit foolish, Astoria knew, but when Draco’s demons had come to haunt him, night after night, she’d taken the stance that hoping for the best would naturally cause conditions to improve. Now, she did the same with Lysander. Whether or not Scorpius had played with him when they were children (and early on, he often didn’t) Lysander had spent many a days in Malfoy Manor growing up, just as if he were Scorpius’ best mate. She did care for the boy.
So Astoria hoped, and the boys left, both thinking of the question Lysander had posed. It was an awkward one, and neither were in a place to spill their darkest secrets. With confession came irrevocability, after all.
Lysander and Scorpius walked around in mild awkwardness. They both busied their minds with the fascinating works of art and history, casually displayed like a child’s crafting project. Half an hour later, they reached the ballroom, stiff from their silence. Before they had a chance to breathe, Scorpius was dragged to and fro by one business partner or family friend; Lysander followed, unsure of himself. It was a big party filled with all sorts of people he didn't know, so he just let his natural breeziness carry him through the invisible tension roping around his nerves.
There were keynote speakers and champagne toasts, but Lysander found it all so dreadfully dull. Every time a dramatic coming out story was posed, he rolled his eyes. True equality would never be possible if the gay youth were commodified and treated as little zoo animals.
"Come on," he whispered to Scorpius. His fingers were twitching in that telling way; he wanted a smoke, wanted one now, with Scorpius, in this big fancy house that was familiar in vague memory, that was shining in all its glamour, a beacon for the happy and the deranged.
And Scorpius? He followed wordlessly. The awkwardness was gone, stripped from them when they entered this bizarre world. It was enough.
However, they only got five feet before someone stopped them. A reporter, from the looks. He was dressed rather plainly in all black, but wore beautiful glasses, geometric in architecture and gilded with gold and mother of pearl.
“Might I take your picture? It’s for Witch Weekly.”
Limelight wasn’t a big deal to Scorpius, being a Malfoy and living in the Manor. So he complied, creating a mask of amiable calm, a slight smile. It was his generic pose. Lysander slunk to the nearby table of hors d’oeuvres. He sipped from a flute of champagne, good stuff; he wished to down it all in one go, but even he knew appearances were everything. He kept up the game.
As if by magic, at precisely the moment the reporter snapped the photo, the room lit up with jazzy music. From the stage, a band played a ragtime remix of a popular Weird Sisters song. Although the song was often played on Lysander’s iPod, it sounded offbeat at an event like this, with millionaires, instead of blue-haired teenagers, attending.
“I love this song!” Disregarding the photographer entirely, Scorpius turned to Lysander. “Let’s dance!”
Soon enough, the marble floor was filled with clicking heels and leather brogues. A young child weaved throughout the groups, her robins egg blue tulle robes swishing against guests’ calves as she searched for her parents with natural ease.
Scorpius had started formal ballroom dancing lessons at the age of seven for a wedding he was to attend. His body moved like all it was meant for was the classical, the romantic, but his limbs were awkward during the fast-paced songs. Years of Hogwarts common room parties hadn’t trained him any better, but he still loved it all the same.
Lysander, on the other hand, always seemed to move with casual grace, no matter what he was doing. Maybe he had learned his poise from eternally pretentious French Louis, who had this air of cultured superiority about him. Lysander romanticized it, but it was not a virtue.
Initially, Scorpius tried to keep up with Lysander’s slick moves, but he was no match. So he closed his eyes and let the blaring saxophones melt into his heart. The rhythm changed and faded in and out, around their ears and hearts and fancy dress shoes.
It must’ve been hours. By the end of it, Scorpius’ feet ached, and he was acutely aware of a stabbing pain on the side of his left foot,where there was a pebble lodged in his shoe. He kept trying to shake it loose, but those movements looked unnatural and strange. The pebble was ruining the whole vibe, honestly, so he stopped paying attention to it.
Finally, at the end of a song from The Sinclairs, a bluegrass Wizard band, Scorpius made to leave the dance floor, motioning for Lysander to follow. They wove through the witches and wizards of status, all wearing brightly colored robes, and were not stopped. Scorpius still had that damn rock in his shoe, but he didn’t stop to remove it. He led Lysander down a corridor and up some stairs to a set of ornate glass doors facing outside.
That balcony was the best in the Manor, in Scorpius’ opinion. It was positioned at the front so it overlooked the wide expanse of the Manor’s acreage, all rolling green hills and a sizable fish pond that glistened black in the moonlight, dark as the Great Lake at Hogwarts.
“I’d kill for a view like this.”
“Whenever I stay here, I leave a nice plush chair up here and come out at night. Being a Malfoy, especially at the Manor, is so sensationalist sometimes, so this is my peace.”
They leaned against the rail. Lysander’s fingers tapped against the iron to the beat of the pulsing beat heard from below, and he closed his eyes to the breeze. The rhythm was familiar to Scorpius, and after a moment, he remembered that it was a Stevie Nicks song. Rose had been playing it once when he’d been at the Burrow with Al.
Sings a song / sounds like she’s singin’ / whoo, baby, whoo.
Scorpius didn’t know why or how he recalled that random memory. It was just him and Rose, when they were thirteen, listening to Rose’s strange Muggle vinyls in the sitting room as Al showered the mud off him four stories above. Their Quidditch game with the rest of the family had been rough, and it had rained the day prior. Rose’s mum had bought her the turntable for her birthday, she’d said, and shared her record collection.
Never mind that. Scorpius refocused his energy on Ly.
“When Lorcan and I were younger, our parents would take us camping—in our backyard, across the country, Belgium, and even once in Estonia. We would watch the stars and all the microscopic creatures.
“You know, sometimes I used to think about you, before I knew you. When you were just the son of my dad’s colleague. My parents taught Lorcan and I the constellations, being in the country so often, and naturally that led to the Blacks, and the Malfoys. There’s one for you, and for your dad, and so many others.”
“I think I see Orion’s belt?”
Lysander nodded. “And to the left, above it, is the Gemini constellation. Castor and Pollux, the twins. I have a tattoo of that one, on my forearm. I got it right after Lorcan and I turned of age.”
Lysander shrugged off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeve. Scorpius didn’t know what he was expecting, but it wasn’t any different that what was in the sky, save for the lines connecting the dots. That was always the most important part, connecting the dots.
“I like to think it’s meant to remind me not to take everything so seriously, that we are all just stars in the sky, but I don’t think it’s working.”
“Are you doing alright? After all the shit with James and Louis?”
“Them? Yeah. How’d you know?”
“Rose mentioned it, a little. She and James are close again, weird as that is.”
A frosty breeze flew by, and Lysander put his coat back on. He shivered. “James is a great person.”
“I feel like there’s a ‘but’ somewhere in there.”
“I don’t know if I made a horrible mistake.”
“And Louis? I remember how you two were at during my birthday party.”
“Louis….I don’t know.”
They stood there for a few minutes, soaking in the crisp, bright air.
“I just….My relationship with Louis is crumbling beneath me, and James won’t talk to me, and…I’m sorry.”
They were close now. Maybe it was the magnetism of warm bodies on a winter night, or maybe that was just their excuse. Scorpius could smell the champagne on Lysander’s breath, and, rolling on the balls of his feet, he dimly registered that the pebble embedded into the sole of his foot was still there. Still there.
He could kiss Lysander. It would be easy. It was everything he had dreamed of, once.
Lysander was thinking the same thing. How he ached to feel that pull, sensual desire with no strings, no complications.
It would be easy.
Scorpius turned away; he looked into space. Reflected in the waxing moon was Albus, burned by his own actions. He would not make the same mistakes as those around him.
He wouldn’t cheat like Albus.
He wouldn’t run like James.
“I… I used to fancy you, Ly. If I’m honest.” He wanted to say more, to make Lysander understand, to save this friendship, but everything felt inadequate. He glanced up at the stars, eyes glazing past Gemini. Lysander.
“Scorpius.” Lysander touched his wrist, light and warm.
Scorpius made the mistake of meeting Ly’s gaze. The darkness of those eyes sucked him in like a black hole; the gravity was too great to fight. He felt Ly’s breath on his mouth.
Gravity dictated the planets and the stars, but not the actions of humans on Earth. Gravity controlled Gemini up there in the sky, and maybe it affected Lysander, who was forever tethered to the constellations, but it could not rule over a Malfoy.
Scorpius turned away, and he left Lysander standing there, alone on the balcony. Suddenly that surround sound bass felt isolating and intrusive to Lysander. Once Scorpius was out of sight, he collapsed against the iron railing and sat there in the dark, thinking over the mess that had become his love life.