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09 August 2007 @ 10:00 pm
HP fic: The Seventh Road Less Travelled  
HP fic: The Seventh Road Less Travelled
This part: 5464 words, PG-13, ships but foreshadowed for now
Warning: contains spoilers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Previous parts: go here.



And remember: there are circumstances,
And he who chooses chooses what is given,
And he who chooses is ignorant of Choice,
– Choose love, for love is full of children,
Full of choices, children choosing
Botany, mathematics, law and love,
So full of choices! So full of children!
And the past is immortal, the future is inexhaustible!

(Delmore Schwartz)

Albus splayed his fingers on the window of the infirmary, breathing out to frost the glass. When the weak March sunlight hit the window at just the right angle, Albus could see the faint shimmer of the magical net criss-crossing over it like a lattice - or like prison bars.

The magic was pale blue and rather sparkly. In any other time and place, Albus might have appreciated its aesthetic qualities. But here and now, its practical qualities - filtering the air coming in through the window as well as sucking out any impurities from the room itself - trumped its physical beauties, turning it into something unpleasant, even menacing.

Albus was surprised to hear a knock at the door. Madam MacDougal didn't appear to believe in knocking, probably because emergency situations rendered it impractical. His friends waltzed in whenever they could and didn't feel the need to give away their presence by making noise. When a tanned, merry-eyed face popped around the door at Albus' surprised 'Come in,' Albus nearly fell off the bed with delight.

"Samire!" he cried, launching himself off the mattress with enough bounce to carry him right into the jaws of a hug.

"You've grown again," Samire accused him. Albus smiled; their eyes were nearly level now. When he was younger he'd loved the fact that Samire didn't tower above him like other adults. Now he was still happy, because it felt like he and Samire were equals.

"I couldn't help it," said Albus. "I blame the food."

"I think you're so big I won't be able to sit on the same bed as you," said Samire. "You might squash me flat."

"No way!" Albus tossed the pillows on the floor and patted the rumpled duvet invitingly. "See? Loads of room."

Samire laughed; a pearly sound Albus had half-forgotten. "I'm glad to hear it." She nimbly hopped on to the bed beside him and leaned in confidingly. "I just met your Madam MacDougal. She accused me of masquerading as a student. It's a good thing I bring copies of my Healer qualifications everywhere I go."

Albus' smile faded at the reminder of what Samire was and why she was here. Mum had written that she was thinking of Floo’ing Samire about a consultation, but he hadn’t thought it would be so soon. Samire’s time was in high demand. That she managed to fit Albus into her schedule did not bode well for his condition.

Albus wanted to avoid her eyes, but there was something compelling about Samire that made you want to look at her and pour out all your woes. Her long black curls fell across cheeks lightly scarred with acne. Those scars were yet another reason why Albus felt a bond with her. Years of magical irradiation from diagnostic spells had left the insides of his elbow and knees, plus the skin behind his ears, marked with dull off-purple pigmentation. When he was feeling particularly run-down the patches of skin flared up, both tender and painfully itchy.

"I'm sick of being sick," he announced.

"But you're not sick," said Samire gently. "Your body has a faulty immune system; 'being sick' is something your brain does to you, remember?"

"Yeah," said Albus. A world of cynicism - one that had been uncharted the last time he saw Samire - unfolded at that word. "But I think my brain's had a bit of help from my body on this one."

Samire sighed. "Bring me up to date."

"My chart is at the end of the bed."

"I want to hear it from you," said Samire. "Why should I go to the effort of reading when I have the subject sitting right here? Healers are notoriously lazy, you know, and I'm no exception."

"Huh," said Albus. He realised that this was a ploy on Samire's part to get him to open up - something else that hadn't been apparent to his nine-year-old self. "Well, the problems started when Mum and Dad bought me a cat for my birthday."

"The first of November." Samire nodded.

"You remember!"

"Of course. I lit a candle for you in St Jerome's, like we used to do."

"Thanks," said Albus, touched. Feeling slightly more relaxed, he went on: "Madame MacDougal says the cat dander was probably a trigger. Your potions aren't strong enough, or they aren't working as well as before, or I've got so much worse that they can't keep up. I don't remember which one they decided it was. Anyway, I had an attack - what do you call them again?"

"A hypersensitivity reaction," Samire supplied.

"Yeah, that. Mum was all for pulling me out of school, probably to go back to France, even - but Madam MacDougal said I could stay if I did all the air purifying charms and stayed away from triggers." Albus smiled weakly. "It's been a long time to go without chocolate."

Samire put a hand to her heart. "No chocolate! Madam MacDougal surely is a cruel woman."

"No, she's not," Albus hastened to say. "She's the one who let me stay here. I made the choice, not her."

"And do you think you made the wrong choice?"

"No!" Albus only realised he'd raised his voice when Samire raised her eyebrows and leaned back slightly. "No. It was ... we were just in the courtyard. Christine was showing Scorpius her new pet Kneazle. They weren't to know - I didn't realise -"

"I am not here to lay blame," said Samire. "As far as I can tell, you are recovering nicely. Accidents like this are bound to happen, no matter how careful you are or how guarded are those around you. My concern is not with what happened, but how we can prevent it from happening again."

"Madam MacDougal said the potions are adult-strength already. I can't -"

"'Madam MacDougal says.'" Samire smiled. "How many times have you said that now? Should I feel jealous?"

"No, I -" Albus fumbled for words, feeling his face heat up. Samire had never made him blush before.

"I was only teasing you," said Samire. "But let us not forget that Madam MacDougal is merely a general Healer, with most experience in curing colds and poison ivy. I am a specialist researcher in the field of immune disease. Regardless, I'm sure she does a fine job, and she was completely right in letting you stay here."

"For some reason, I'm guessing you'll want to run more tests," said Albus.

"I do," agreed Samire. "The test results from St Mungo's a few months ago were inconclusive, to say the least. I have been monitoring your progress closely."

"Yes, but," said Albus, "when we left, it was because there was nothing more you could do. Have you come up with a cure?"

"In two years? I'm afraid not," said Samire. "But developments are occurring all the time. I want to reassess you on all levels - your immunity, your physical strength, your growth patterns - to see if there's any way we can adapt the potions we have to work better with the changes in your condition."

"How it's getting worse, you mean."

"That's what I'm here to determine. Don't count your geese before they are hatched."

"Chickens," said Albus. At Samire's questioning look, he clarified, "It's 'don't count your chickens.'"

"Oh, dear." Samire shook her head ruefully. "All these years, and still I get things wrong."

Albus nudged her arm playfully. Samire's accent was barely noticeable, unlike Aunt Fleur's - although Albus thought Aunt Fleur purposely spoke that way so no one could mistake her for an Englishwoman. Samire's careful pronunciation and her occasional habit of dropping incorrect metaphors were all that gave her away.

"I like geese better'n chickens anyway," he said, and started to roll up his sleeve.

+_+_+

Titania scooped up a handful of grapes and smushed them all into her mouth at once. Rambo did likewise with a banana, while Scorpius watched in horrified fascination and Norma inspected Albus' bed for wheels. They all glowed blue - the effect of the filtration mask that spanned the door to the room and through which it was necessary to pass on entering. Whenever one of them touched him, Albus could feel the warm crackle of live enchantment.

"So, Albus -" Titania stretched her mouth into frog-like contortions so she could speak and eat at the same time "- are you going to be able to go on the Defence field trip?"

"Try and stop me," said Albus. It came out sounding like more of a plea than a declaration.

The Defence field trips, which Professor Bones ran every two years, were eagerly anticipated by all her students. The first-year trip was scheduled to begin on the twentieth of March. Albus thought he'd get physically sick if he couldn't go, which would blend in nicely with all his other physical symptoms. He'd been in the infirmary for over a week.

Rambo looked guilty. "About that - Conan asked me if I'd be his tent-mate ... and I wasn't sure if you'd be well enough ..."

"Oh dear - so who's Eoghan going to share a tent with?" The lightness of Albus' tone gave no hint of the splinter of betrayal in his soul. Albus didn't care who Rambo shared a tent with on the trip - Rambo could sleep in a tree if it was what his heart desired, but that he doubted Albus' strength was a cruel blow.

"A badger," suggested Titania. "A very smelly, bad-tempered badger, who bites."

"I’d feel sorry for the badger," said Albus.

"Who's your tent-mate, then?" Norma looked up from whatever nefarious things she was doing to the bed frame.

"Me, of course," said Scorpius shortly. Albus sent him a beaming smile that was lit up with all the gratitude in his heart, but Scorpius appeared more interested in his fingernails.

A knock sounded and the four froze, although not without Rambo and Titania snaffling more of Albus' pity food. Samire entered, walking lightly as always. The blue glow burnished her hair with silver highlights.

"Try to look less Stunned, you lot," whispered Albus. Louder, he said, "Hey, Samire. These are my friends - Scorpius, Rambo, Norma and Titania."

"I am pleased to meet you all," said Samire. "Although I fear I have known you by reputation long since. Madam MacDougal has been most severe in her reproaches - something about sneaking in to see you, Albus?"

"That's us," said Norma proudly. "Old Mac didn't need to worry though, Scorpius taught all of us how to incant an Air Purifying Charm."

"You did?" said Albus, smiling again. Scorpius put on the stony face he always produced when embarrassed, and stared at the wall.

"I'm very glad to hear it," said Samire.

"Do you think I'll be well enough to go on the Defence trip in four days?" asked Albus. Samire sucked in her lower lip and nodded, slowly.

"I've just finished making up a new batch of potions for you, with a change in the anti-histamine to vasodilator ratio," she said. "I'll let your professor know all about it - if anything goes wrong you'll have to come straight back here, or fly to St Mungo's."

"Nothing will go wrong," said Albus, grinning at his friends. When Scorpius looked up and met his eye at last, Albus could almost believe it himself.

+_+_+

The entire first-year student body milled around the Entrance Hall, all talking ten miles an hour in voices high-pitched from excitement. Albus entered from the corridor to the Hufflepuff Wing with Titania and Rambo on his heels, already scanning the crowd for a familiar blonde head.

"- the challenges change every year -"

"- I hear we get to fly -"

"- third and fourth-years go for three days, and the sixth and seventh-years for a week -"

"- brother went the year before last, he nearly -"

"- can't wait to see where we're going -"

"- know how to pitch a tent by magic, do -"

"Norma's nearby," announced Titania. "So I guess Scorpius is too."

"Can you sense it by telepathy?" asked Rambo eagerly. Titania rolled her eyes.

"No, there's a funny smell. My sister is the queen of funny smells."

Sure enough, they squeezed past a group of chattering Gryffindors to find Norma ensconced in a corner. She was doling out what looked like bits of old cheese on a string.

"Roll up, roll up!" she yelled as the three Hufflepuffs came into hearing range. "Anti-Nargle charms - a steal at a Knut apiece!"

"Nargles?" Rambo pursed his lips.

"They infest mistletoe," said Albus. "But mistletoe only blooms in winter."

"Then she should definitely be charging a Sickle," said Rambo.

Albus rotated slowly, trying to peer over people's heads. Rambo had shot up two inches since Christmas, making Albus officially the shortest person in the group, if not the whole class. At last he spotted Scorpius, who was standing beside Christine Ohtori and looking distinctly uncomfortable. Albus was on the point of charging over, or at least waving to him, when he saw something that brought him up short - Scorpius' hand, gingerly clasping Christine's.

"Yup," said Titania, materialising at Albus' shoulder. "Christine and Gerrold 'broke up' last week, so she and Scorpius are now 'an item.'" She spoke the words as if they were assembled from some ancient, long-dormant language, the pronunciation of which was as yet unclear.

"He didn't tell me," said Albus, trying not to sound as bemused as he felt. Titania snorted.

"He didn't tell anyone. If it wasn't for Christine braying about it on every corner no one would know. I think he's embarrassed." Titania added, with a derisive toss of her head, "I would be. Christine is so annoying. She'll have them in matching hair ribbons before you can say 'whipped.'"

"Whipped?" Albus was aghast at this new and heretofore unrevealed element of romantic interaction. "Why are whips involved?"

Before Titania could explain, Professor Bones appeared at the head of the stairs. Clapping her hands for quiet, she boomed, "Welcome, everyone, to the first Defence Against the Dark Arts field trip of 2017!" She smiled benevolently as a cheer erupted. When it had died down, she continued, "I assume most of you will have chosen your tent-mate already. Those of you who have not, please come to me before we depart so I can assign you a tent. Professor Longbottom will be here shortly with the Portkeys. When we arrive you will find packs waiting for you there. Please take one - they are all exactly alike, so there's no need to fight over them - and await further instructions."

Professor Longbottom had already appeared by the time Professor Bones finished her speech, with an armful of Defence textbooks. "Assemble into groups of no more than five," he called out. "Be prepared to Portkey as soon as I give you a book. If you've forgotten to bring anything, it's too late, so don’t worry about it!" At this, a spatter of laughter broke out across the room.

Albus looked around again for Scorpius, but he'd already been assimilated into a group of Ravenclaw girls. Albus recognised them as Christine's friends; at least, they'd been with her when Christine had accosted Scorpius to show him her new Kneazle. Feeling a pang of loss, Albus stepped into a circle comprising Rambo, the twins and Conan. Conan gave Albus a swift smile. In his peripheral vision Albus could see Eoghan, lining up in front of Professor Bones wearing a pinched and put-out expression.

"Here you go," said Professor Longbottom. "Hello, Albus. How are you feeling?"

"Fine, thanks," said Albus quickly. He grabbed hold of the book, hoping it would transport them before Longbottom could ask any more questions.

"That's good to hear," said Longbottom, as the others put their hands on the book. Rambo, looking puzzled, was the last to follow suit.

With a jolt that hooked him low in the belly, the Portkey took hold of Albus and his friends and whirled them into a clearing in the middle of a forest. All around the clearing, groups of people in various stages of motion sickness were snapping into existence. Professor Bones Apparated with a bang.

"All right people!" she yelled. Her robes had altered from standard black to form-fitting khaki. A camouflage-patterned beret sat atop her straw-blonde head, looking far more at home there than her witch's hat. "Please pair up with your tent-mate and collect your packs. The field trip commences now."

Albus left his friends to it and began his search for Scorpius. He hadn't gone three feet when an arm shot out from behind a bush and tugged him in. Scorpius was sheltering behind two sheaves of leaves, a handful of burrs decorating his curls. Albus suppressed a laugh.

"We can't stay here," he said. "We need to collect our packs."

"Just one more second," said Scorpius urgently. Albus sighed and hunkered down beside him. They watched as people trooped past in pairs. When Christine Ohtori sauntered by, her smooth hair drawn back in a pink ribbon, Albus poked Scorpius. He assumed Scorpius had been waiting for Christine and was half way to standing up when Scorpius yanked him back down again. Only when Christine and her partner had been given packs and moved to the far edge of the clearing did Scorpius allow Albus to do likewise.

Albus covertly watched Scorpius as they buckled on their packs. His face was mottled pink and his mouth was set in a grim line. Albus hadn't seen that expression since before Celerity was born. Unlike in that case, however, Albus felt absolutely no desire to probe into Scorpius' state of mind. The whole idea of the boyfriend-girlfriend thing Scorpius had going with Christine was deeply unsettling to Albus. He didn't want to think about it more than he could help.

Professor Bones marshalled the first-years into groups of ten, each with a leader carrying a different coloured flag. "If you get lost," she told them, "stay put and send up red sparks with your wand. I shall come and find you."

"Professor," asked Rambo, who was in group blue with Conan and the twins, "where are we? And if we send up sparks, won't the Muggles see?"

"Excellent question, Dursley," rumbled Bones. "As a matter of fact, we are at the site of the 1994 Quidditch World Cup. This area was part of the campsite and the Muggle-repelling Charms are still active. They are maintained by the Ministry at my request, as this is an ideal safe site to test your field skills in Defence. On that note, I warn you all to keep a close eye on where we are going and what's around you. I do not plan to inform you when you may be called on to demonstrate a spell. This is a field trip, not an exam. Before you ask, Dursley, we're hiking to the place where we'll make camp for the night. It's through five miles of forest. Keep your wits about you!"

"Five miles," muttered Albus, biting his lip. He was in team green and directly behind Professor Bones, who had his potions on hand. Still, five miles was a long way - especially when he had spent most of last week bed-ridden.

He hadn't intended Scorpius to hear him, so he was surprised at the light pressure on his elbow. "Don't worry," whispered Scorpius. "I'll keep an eye on you. I won't let you get sick, not again."

"You didn't let me get sick before," protested Albus. He hoped Scorpius hadn't realised the part his birthday cake had played in the first attack.

"Not directly," agreed Scorpius, "but it was my fault you were anywhere near Christine's Kneazle."

"Oh ... right." In any other case Albus would have argued the point, but the mention of Christine's name turned him curiously shy.

The trek through the woods was by no means without interest, although an hour passed without anything Defence-related occurring. The trees were old: mainly oak and spruce interspersed with silver beeches, like Sickles gleaming from a pile of Knuts. Spring flowers were blooming amongst the roots, sheltered by the thick canopy that gave the whole forest a quiet and cathedral-like air. The only event that tainted Albus' enjoyment was a note, passed forward from the red group to Scorpius. It was just a scrap of parchment, adorned with a few hearts pierced by Cupid's arrows and signed with a C. Scorpius blushed and hastily scrunched it into his pocket.

A shout suddenly broke through the sounds of laboured breathing. Albus recognised Rambo's voice incanting a spell and, within seconds, a number of trees were reduced to ashes. Professor Boot raised her eyebrows.

"Not quite the spell I had in mind," she said, "although effective, nonetheless." She strode down the line to where Rambo was staring at his handiwork. "Reducto, was it? How old are you again?"

"Twelve years and two months," said Rambo in a voice that quavered between high and middle C.

"Hmm," said Professor Bones. "Well done - although next time, try not to actually destroy anything."

"Yes, Professor."

Scorpius shook his head, the corners of his mouth quirking up. "Trust Rambo," he murmured. Albus snickered.

Within minutes shouts and cries erupted from all the groups. Team green was the last to be confronted with a challenge: a tangle of thorns barring their way, ten feet high and six feet wide. Albus turned around to consult with the rest of the team and realised for the first time that it contained his cousin Rose.

"Albus," she said coolly, having obviously been aware of his presence for quite some time.

"Hi, Rose," he said.

Scorpius dismissed Rose with the briefest of looks, much to her evident chagrin. "Anyone got any ideas?" he asked. Most of the group mirrored what Albus imagined was on his own face: the rolled-lip, wrinkled-nose expression of drawing a blank.

"Very well then." Scorpius pointed his wand at the thicket and said clearly, "Sesami." With a graceful motion, the thorns withered back enough to allow them through single-file.

Professor Bones was waiting on the other side. "Very smooth, Malfoy," she said. "The rest of you, get with the programme. You aren't always going to have someone else around to say your spells for you."

Albus risked a look at Rose. Her usually calm and detached face was blotchy red, making her look rather ugly. Albus deduced that she was absolutely furious.

"Rose Weasley?" Scorpius mouthed into his ear. "Nice girl, that one. I'd wager she knows half a dozen opening spells."

"She does," Albus whispered back. "She just didn't say any because she wanted the rest of us to look bad. Pity for her you were here."

Scorpius smiled and, for a moment, everything was right with the world.

+_+_+

Albus felt a little self-conscious about changing in front of Scorpius. He'd got used to the boys in his dorm and while dropping trou in front of them was never going to be something he relished, it was no longer a sticky issue. Scorpius was another story. Moreover, Albus was uncomfortably aware of the fresh bruises on the inside of his elbows. They were plainly obvious when he was wearing a short-sleeved pyjama shirt. Scorpius' eyes flicked to them more than once, but he held his tongue on the subject.

"I hear there's going to be flying tomorrow," said Scorpius, once they were both snuggled down in sleeping bags. The oil lamp between them cast a rosy glow over everything.

"Oh, great," said Albus, with the total opposite of enthusiasm. He'd participated in the flying lessons provided by the school, although he was already competent at it - he couldn't but be, with parents who'd both played Quidditch professionally.

Albus couldn't remember a time when toy broomsticks hadn't littered the sheds of his house in Godric's Hollow. Mum had even brought one to France with them, although she'd attributed his lack of interest in it to his illness.

"Not a big fan?"

"Flying’s okay. I just don't see why people get so bloody excited about it. It's terribly dangerous, for one thing."

Scorpius' eyes glittered in the lamp-light. "That's what makes it so fun."

"If you say so."

A rustling noise interrupted their conversation. "Psst!" said someone who sounded a lot like Norma would, if Norma were standing outside their tent in the middle of the night. "Wake up, you two! Time for the midnight feast."

"Bones never mentioned anything about a midnight feast," said Albus. He clambered out of his sleeping bag and opened the tent flap. Scorpius leaned up on one elbow.

Norma poked her face into the tent. "I'm glad neither of you sleep in the nuddy," she said.

"Ew!" said Albus. Scorpius growled.

"Anyway, what Bones doesn't know won't hurt her." Norma patted a mysteriously bulging bag slung over her shoulder. "You coming or not?"

"Hang on, hang on," grumbled Albus. He shoved his feet into his shoes and tucked Mouse under his pillow. In a few seconds he and Scorpius were creeping through the wet grass after Norma. A few minutes' walk brought them to a bubbling stream, which looked like running ink in the darkness. A tiny fire was lit on the banks and a number of people were clustered around it.

"Who's ready for toasted marshmallows?" said Norma in her normal voice. There was a muted cheer.

Albus and Scorpius found a seat on a log beside Rambo, who was yawning hugely. Christine Ohtori was nowhere to be seen. Albus couldn't quite pinpoint the reason for his relief at this realisation.

Rambo didn't seem inclined for conversation, so the three of them slid marshmallows on to sticks and plunged them into the fire. Albus hadn't been remotely hungry on going to bed, but the gloopy sweets tasted delicious. He expected Scorpius to complain about eating with his fingers, but Scorpius was gobbling them with gusto, inhaling three to everyone else's one.

At last they exhausted even Norma's mammoth stock of supplies. Norma was in the midst of convincing people to go for a swim when Albus started feeling dizzy. He clutched at Scorpius' arm. Scorpius responded immediately, wrapping his arm around Albus' back and helping him to his feet.

Norma's exhortation was cut off mid-stream when she saw Albus' face. She ran over to them. "You okay? Need help?"

"I'll be fine - you better get everyone to bed in case I have to wake up Bones," said Scorpius. Norma nodded.

Albus didn't remember much about the short trip back to the tent. He did retain a lingering impression of Scorpius' hands, mother-gentle as he tucked the sleeping bag closer around Albus' shoulders. Scorpius probably asked Albus if he wanted Bones, but Albus must have said no because the next he remembered, the sun was streaming through the thin material of the tent.

His stomach felt queasy, but other than that he was all right. There'd probably been gluten in the marshmallows. Albus couldn't remember seeing them on the List, or he wouldn't have dreamed of eating one - but Madam MacDougal couldn't be expected to think of every food Albus might possibly encounter. Albus would have been content to rest a while longer to let his stomach settle; but his hand groped automatically for the reassuring feel of Mouse and came back empty.

Albus sat up, ignoring the way his head swam, and frantically threw his pillow across the tent. It landed on Scorpius' face, rudely awakening him. By the time Scorpius had blinked himself fully awake Albus had torn half the tent apart.

"What the hell are you doing?" mumbled Scorpius, pushing his hair out of his eyes.

"It's Mouse! He's gone!"

"He can't be gone; you just had him last night."

"I know that, but he's still gone!"

Professor Boot's voice rang out over the campsite, calling them to breakfast. Scorpius forced Albus to sit down and breathe.

"We will look for Mouse later," said Scorpius. "He's bound to be here somewhere, stuck in a corner or something. But right now we have to get ready. All right?"

"All right," said Albus, almost hypnotised by Scorpius' intense gaze.

As Scorpius had predicted, the day's challenge involved broomsticks. Each tent pair shared one between them. They set off at intervals to a place marked out in the air by orange sparks from Professor Boot's wand. As Albus clambered aboard behind Scorpius, Rose and her partner stepped up to wait their turn. It was not until Albus' broom was airborne that Rose called, "Hey, Albus - missing something?" She smirked and waved her hand in the direction of the stream.

Albus saw a pair from team purple hovering over it, one of them holding something in his hand. At Rose's signal, he let it drop. It plummeted like a stone, like a familiar grey-furred stone -

Albus wasn’t aware that he was shouting until Scorpius yelled irritably, "I'm on it - shut up, let me concentrate!" He turned the broom into a sharp dive. Albus clung on for dear life, the wind whipping Scorpius' hair into his eyes.

The brook they'd feasted beside the night before rapidly changed into a thundering river a few metres downstream. The boy had dropped Mouse at the point where the river tumbled over a raging waterfall. Scorpius and the broom flew together as expertly as one creature, chasing after Mouse like an avenging angel.

"Get ready to grab!" hollered Scorpius.

Albus tightened his grip on Scorpius' robes and reached out with his other hand. Scorpius would have to pull up soon or they'd crash straight into the waterfall. Mouse was there - Albus stretched to the limit, his fingers brushing the soft fur on Mouse's head - one last time - Mouse's plaintive voice calling for him as he plunged into the rapids -

With a screech of strained magic, Scorpius yanked the broom vertical and shot directly up into the sky. The sun, Scorpius' hair and his own tears blinded Albus as the broom wheeled around, heading back for camp. Scorpius came to an unsteady stop, his feet kicking up troughs of dirt as he fought to break. Albus tumbled sideways off the broom and lay unmoving. The combination of nausea, hatred of flight and grief over Mouse poured bile into his throat.

Dimly, he was aware of Boot shouting and Rose cowering. "- Portkey you directly back to Hogwarts, young lady, and a week - no, two weeks - of detention -"

A shadow blotted out the sun. Scorpius crouched over Albus and felt his forehead. "You okay?"

"No," choked Albus.

"I guessed not," sighed Scorpius.

A wave of numbness washed over Albus, and everything went black.

+_+_+

All in all, Albus was mostly grateful that Professor Boots had judged it wise to send him back to Hogwarts with Rose. Mouse had been a person to Albus; losing him was akin to a bereavement. Mouse had comforted Albus in long hours of illness, when he was too weak to move or read or eat. Rose had as good as killed him. Albus’ enjoyment of the trip was utterly destroyed, and he was glad he didn't have to put up a front.

He knew Rose had a resentful temper. It wasn't unusual for something as small as Albus' friend beating her at a test to arouse it. As Albus sat on the windowseat of the Clubhouse and watched his classmates Portkey into the courtyard, dirty and windswept and happy, he wondered unhappily if everyone in his family was afflicted with anger that was quick to burn and slow to cool.

It was already quite late and Albus didn't expect to see anyone but his dorm mates until the morrow. Everyone looked too exhausted for socialising. Albus was on the point of uncurling himself in order to return to Hufflepuff Wing when Scorpius slipped in the door. He was still dressed in robes that were covered in mud and grass stains, and his face bore smears of red ochre. Albus thought he detected Norma's hand in that.

"How was it?" he asked.

"Brilliant," said Scorpius, with a brief, bright grin. "You'd have loved it too."

"Huh." Albus stared at the windowframe, trying not to let the tears fall. Between being sick and losing his dearest companion, he couldn't see much to love.

"I'm sorry about Mouse." Scorpius moved closer, his hands behind his back. "I know you can't ever replace him, but ... I thought you might like some company, all the same."

"What do you mean?" Albus looked at his friend, confused.

"Here." Scorpius shoved a soft white object into Albus' arms. It looked like a floppy dog, with a black button nose and brown velvet ears. "That's - he's Concorde, my ... friend. I never wanted to share him before. I thought I was too old for toys, anyway, but - I want you to have him. At least for a while."

Albus rubbed Concorde's head. He didn't feel right; he didn’t feel like Mouse. But his fur was worn and his marble eyes scratched. He was something Scorpius loved. "Thank you," Albus said thickly. “I mean ... I ... thanks.”

"Yeah,” said Scorpius. “You’re welcome. Take – take good care of him.”

Albus hugged Concorde close, feeling an infinitesimal amount of grief fade away to nothing. “Of course. The best.”

It wasn’t a perfect solution; but it was still enough.
 
 
Current Mood: soresore
Current Music: brand new colony (the postal service)
 
 
 
ang \\: hp \\ is this how we say goodbyecallmeang on August 9th, 2007 09:41 pm (UTC)
Oh my god, Mouse. I am in TEARS. I loved him! Rose was so, so, SO not right for that.

I love this story, so much.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Death of Ratsscoradh on August 9th, 2007 09:48 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but she was eleven and pissed off. I've done worse.

Thank you! ♥
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on August 12th, 2007 08:25 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - snackbreak on August 14th, 2007 12:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
Bellebelleamant on August 9th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
Is it sad that I almost cried over Mouse? Wonderful as usual. -Belle
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: ASS: I want somescoradh on August 9th, 2007 10:06 pm (UTC)
Well, it was supposed to be sad, so no? :D

Thank you! ♥
Cas: adulthoodaella_irene on August 9th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
Oh no, Mouse!

Rose really isn't a very nice girl, is she?

Loving Scorpius.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: P&P hatscoradh on August 9th, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC)
She's neither nice nor not nice - she's a human kid. Probably one with poor impulse control, but. The point is: a kid.

Ah, Scorpius and his curls. :D

I LOVE your icon.
themadpokerthemadpoker on August 9th, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC)
T_T Rose is pretty vindictive isn't she? I felt really bad for Albus. It was sweet of Scorpius to offer Concord though. -gives hugs all around-
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Inui: Earphonesscoradh on August 9th, 2007 10:24 pm (UTC)
Yup. No idea where she gets that from. *coughHermionebirdscough*

Well, I had to follow Chekhov's third rule sooner or later!

featherofeelingfeatherofeeling on August 9th, 2007 10:40 pm (UTC)
I adore this story and was really excited to see the update!

"Whipped?" Albus was aghast at this new and heretofore unrevealed element of romantic interaction. "Why are whips involved?"

I cackled aloud! Oh, children. ^^

I loved the parallels and the differences between the Mouse scene and the scene with Neville's Rememberall. A Malfoy and a Potter flying *together* on the broom made me so happy. And sad as it was, I'm glad you chose to have them not save Mouse. Not everyone can have Harry's luck or freak skill their first year of Quidditch, even if they're very good like Scorpius clearly is--these kids aren't the Chosen One, and more often than not for more "regular" kids (compared to child!Harry), petty childish vindictiveness succeeds and doesn't lead to school fame. Did you mean to make a parallel also to Harry's losing Hedwig? It resonated with that to me. Both times the reader learns that, no matter how hard you try or how good you are, you sometimes fail...and also that sometimes you have to choose between pursuing something even after it's become impossible to save and pulling up/flying on, and surviving. I admire Scorpius's non-crashing for that choice.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Candy lipsscoradh on August 9th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
Po' Albus is a wee bit sheltered.

Actually, I only remembered afterwards that a similar scene happened in PS. Most of what's come out here is awfully similar to canon events - I guess there aren't any new ideas in the world (or at least in my head).

Scorpius is going to be a competent flier, but I wasn't trying to show that he had crazy skills or anything. It was more a matter of speed, and if they'd had more time they would have caught up with Mouse before he fell in the river.

Anyway, it's great to hear it resonated with you! Thanks. ♥
(no subject) - featherofeeling on August 9th, 2007 11:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
ura_hdura_hd on August 9th, 2007 11:20 pm (UTC)
I hope that Hermione will find out about the Mouse accident and Rose will be punished. Deeds like that should not go unpunished.

I hope Rose will lose tests/marks in the future to Scorpios or other people more and more. She is nasty in a way, Hermione never was. She should learn her place!


The "romance" between Scorpios and Christine is very funny.

Scorpios seems to have a big (though reserved) heart as long as Albus concerned. Good for Albus!

Great chapter!
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Kitties: pink collarscoradh on August 10th, 2007 09:59 am (UTC)
Oh, what goes around comes around (as Justin Timberlegs would say). Don't worry.

Christine seems like the sort of girl who'd collect scalps. ;D

Thank you. ♥
(no subject) - ura_hd on August 10th, 2007 08:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
ura_hdura_hd on August 9th, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)
I am a bit surprised through, that nobody tried to Accio the Mouse. Poor Mouse.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Bookishscoradh on August 10th, 2007 10:04 am (UTC)
The Summoning Charm is third-year level. And, while I'm sure Scorpius or Rambo would have come across it in their travels, they've had no reason to put it to use before - ergo, no cigar.
Lisanitedula on August 9th, 2007 11:29 pm (UTC)
Mouse! *woeface*
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Black Booksscoradh on August 10th, 2007 10:08 am (UTC)
*comforts you* He died a hero's death?
****: pic#64775409de_flamingo on August 9th, 2007 11:33 pm (UTC)
I hope Rose gets a good scolding from her parents, I wish I could read that part to feel some satisfaction. Or maybe how she receives a howler in front of everyone.

Anyways, this was a great chapter as usual. The Christine part, well, I feel the same as Albus on that matter. I love her character as long as she stays away from Scorpius. But then again it does spice things up a bit ne? I can't wait to read more on that!

Keep up the good work!

every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Attention bunnyscoradh on August 10th, 2007 10:10 am (UTC)
Whatever further punishment Rose receives, it's only going to make her more sullen towards Albus. She's been feted as the clever-clogs of the family, and I've made her pretty too, so she's totally spoiled.

Christine demanded to have more than a bit-part in the story. I think Scorpius is confused about the whole thing and Christine's savvy enough to take advantage. Heehee.

Thank you, I'll try!
fodirtegfodirteg on August 9th, 2007 11:56 pm (UTC)
Oh dear. Children can be so hateful, and so kind, too. Can't wait to watch them grow up.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Fake: hugscoradh on August 10th, 2007 10:13 am (UTC)
That's exactly the point I was trying to get across. Rose and Albus and James aren't bad - they're just kids. Knowing right from wrong is something you learn, not something you're born with.
i'd kiss you if you weren't so damn ugly: GLOMPtakewing on August 10th, 2007 12:00 am (UTC)
Aww, poor Mouse. Poor Albus. :( I, too, was reminded of the Hedwig scene in DH - both 'deaths' had the same sort of feeling, just sudden and unavoidable and there comes a point where you've just got to let them go.

Scorpius was darling in this chapter, too. Hiding in the bushes to keep away from Christine, looking out for Albus, and giving Albus his own stuffed animal. Awww. :)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Librarianscoradh on August 10th, 2007 10:16 am (UTC)
It's good to hear that, if a little puzzling to me (Hedwig's death had about zero impact on me, I'm afraid - it felt too convenient, like, was Harry going to be lugging a cage around on his Random Hike o' Doom? Anyway).

Scorpius, I guess, is starting to learn the value of sharing. Survival trait - he's got a sister now. ;D

Thanks! ♥
painless_jpainless_j on August 10th, 2007 12:14 am (UTC)
Aww, I nearly cried over Mouse :(

I love it that Rambo is so powerful and so out of control about it :)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Platinum Pair: avec le chat dans gris etscoradh on August 10th, 2007 10:18 am (UTC)
It appears you are not alone in that. (Again with the puzzlement on my ability to provoke reactions from people...)

lol, if I made him too capable he'd be a Stu. Gotta have some faults. *prods him affectionately*
Tani: amitani on August 10th, 2007 12:16 am (UTC)
Oh, Scorpius. ♥ You have to be one of the cutest things ever, only behind Albus and his "Why are whips involved?" So much love for the interactions between the two of them.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Dirty Pair: Phewscoradh on August 10th, 2007 10:20 am (UTC)
Thank you! I try not to make it too saccharine - always a danger when writing about people this young - so I'm delighted to hear that. ♥
Ceares: readingceares on August 10th, 2007 12:23 am (UTC)
OMG-Rose is just dead to me! She committed two unforgivables at the same time-going against the family and harming another creature for sport.

Um, other than bitter grief for Mouse, it was terrific as usual. I love that you gave Albus something magic can't fix. I love Scorpius hiding from Christine, and how devoted he is to taking care of Albus.

It's obvious Albus is sort of oblivious to his possible feelings for Scorpius, but I get the feeling it's not the other way around?
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Marui: kissscoradh on August 10th, 2007 10:23 am (UTC)
Interesting that 'going against the family' should be an unforgivable for you. Don't answer if you like, but is this a personal thing, or something you're applying to the families in HP or this fic? I've never bought the blood-is-thicker-than-water argument at all. Mainly because most of my extended family is hateful.

You mean, does Scorpius realise he's kind of crushing on Albus? No. Scorpius barely realises what he's supposed to be feeling for Christine. They are developing a special bond - at least I hope that's what I'm writing - that goes beyond brotherhood or girlfriendhood, but as to copping on to the sexual/romantic element - again, no. Not for a few years yet. :D
(no subject) - ceares on August 10th, 2007 03:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
freddie_macfreddie_mac on August 10th, 2007 12:29 am (UTC)
Love, love, love this fic! HP:TNG has really sparked peoples' imaginations, and I think your fic is one of the best I've found. I've got an enormous urge to *smack* Rose (yes, she's being a typical kid), and I hope her folks don't sweep this under the rug. Albus' confusion about Scorpius and Christine (or her absence) is just wonderful, as well as Scorpius' willingness to do things for & help Albus. Looks like the beginnings of a beautiful friendship. Somehow, I don't think that the Malfoys will be too surprised . . .
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Comic stripscoradh on August 10th, 2007 10:27 am (UTC)
yes, she's being a typical kid
THANK YOU.

Albus is experiencing some run-of-the-mill jealousy; I expect eventually they'll have the 'bros before hos' discussion. ;D Anyway, glad to hear you're enjoying this!