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Our Little Secret by Kerichi

Format: Novel
Chapters: 23
Word Count: 63,774
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature

Genres: Romance
Characters: Ron, Hermione, Lucius, Draco, Scorpius, Albus, Lily (II), Hugo, Rose, OtherCanon
Pairings: Rose/Scorpius, Harry/Ginny, Lucius/Narcissa, Ron/Hermione, Draco/OC

First Published: 10/06/2010
Last Chapter: 04/02/2011
Last Updated: 04/02/2011

Summary:








Banner by Teacup Ghost @ Deviantart

It was like a wizard tale. The clever Slytherin helps a hag who later repays the debt. Except that Rose Weasley wasn't a hag, and Scorpius didn't expect to call in the favour.


Chapter 1: Scorpius
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It wasn't every morning that Scorpius Malfoy's Daily Prophet was used as a landing pad: only on the days his paternal grandparents sent a letter. Their snowy owl, Maleficus, refused to drop the envelope and fly away like a common messenger. He swooped down onto the table and remained until fed a treat. During seven years at Hogwarts, Scorpius had only once tried to reward the owl with an appreciative pat instead of food. He still carried a scar on the tip of his right index finger.

On the first day of March, after Maleficus delivered an envelope and left behind the usual pile of shredded newspaper, Scorpius said, "Hand over your business section, Nott."

Across the table, Nathanial Nott's horsy face turned mulish. "Why is it always mine? Why not take Goyle's?"

"He's still reading the political cartoons."

Nott handed over the section of paper. "The cartoons are in the business section?"

"No." Scorpius plucked a green apple from a fruit bowl to eat later. "Double Potions today, Edgar. You set up, I'll clean up." He'd be on time, but not early, and needed his Potions partner to assemble the ingredients.

Beside him, Edgar nodded and took an enormous bite of muffin.

"Only half? Why not stuff the whole thing in your mouth?" Scorpius asked when he bent to retrieve his schoolbag.

"Uncouth." Edgar's smile displayed berries stuck between large teeth.

Scorpius shook his head as he walked away. They'd sit their exams and leave school in a few months. Maybe then, his best mate would stop pretending he was another Gregory Goyle. That would be a welcome change. In Scorpius' opinion, it was one thing to be underestimated by adversaries and quite another to be called the missing link between man and troll. Edgar never seemed to take offence at slights, but Scorpius wasn't as forgiving. Although he didn't misuse his authority as Prefect, he still settled scores, albeit in a more subtle, untraceable manner.

In the Entrance Hall, instead of heading for the Slytherin common room, Scorpius ducked into the chamber reserved for first-years before they were Sorted. It was quiet, and better yet, private. He wouldn't have to guard his reactions.

Scorpius recognised Grandfather Lucius' handwriting on the envelope, so he broke the seal with extra care. The anti-tampering charm prickled his fingertips as it disengaged. He wondered what would happen if someone else had tried to open the letter. Would it have exploded in their face? Burnt their fingers? He decided he didn't want to know, and that he was stalling.

It was only a letter, thin and flat. There were no objects inside that, while not Dark, per se, could become so if a wizard had the right spell—which always happened to be included. Mere words on parchment; how bad could it be?

Scorpius read the letter and cursed. Then he read it again.

In three weeks time, an elite order will hold a ceremony to initiate new members. It will be my very great pleasure to share further details when I meet you at Kings' Cross.

No greeting, no signature, no naming the group: he was expected to know who was writing and what was implied. And he did. Scorpius had grown up hearing stories from the grandfather who slipped into the nursery after parents bid their son goodnight. The tales of clever Slytherins amused and enthralled until the night of his eighth birthday.

The tip of Grandfather Lucius' wand illuminated the smile Scorpius never saw him give to anyone else. "Are you too old to be read stories now?"

"No, sir." Like the smiles, the stories made Scorpius feel special. "Is that a new edition of wizard tales?" he asked eagerly. Bound in black dragon hide, the book had a red snake on the front.

Grandfather sat on the edge of the mattress and opened the book. "This is better than made up stories. Unlike those Muggles with their round table—yes, I'm aware of what your mother gives you to read—wizards created a circle of power. They became the Knights of Walpurgis."

"Real knights with swords?"

"Spells that cut like swords, wielding magic Muggles only dream of." Grandfather's voice took on a far-away tone. "Their name was changed to suit a powerful leader, but when he died in battle, bold knights who remained loyal to old ways reformed the circle and reclaimed their heritage."

Scorpius was unsure. "This isn't about . . . Voldemort . . . is it?" His mum and dad wouldn't like that.

"No. The Knights of Walpurgis formed centuries before the Dark Lord was born and they will continue as long as wizards draw breath." Grandfather's smile became conspiratorial. "Shall I begin?"

Mum and Dad still might not like it. They said the past was buried and people should live for the future. He looked at the book. His grandfather really wanted to read him the stories, and Scorpius was curious. "Were you a knight?"

"I still am."

"Is father?"

"No, he isn't like us." Grandfather gave him a meaningful look.

Scorpius felt thrilled and disloyal at the same time. He loved his father, who wasn't bold or daring. Father worried about Scorpius being safe and wouldn't let him have a racing broom. "Yes, sir," he said. "I'd like to hear a story."

The memory caused Scorpius to curse again. Loudly. It didn't relieve his frustration. He would do almost anything for his grandfather, but not this. Understanding someone's beliefs didn't mean sharing them, and tales of cunning and adventure didn't change the fact that the Knights of Walpurgis were wizard supremacists. They revered purity of blood and married cousins—even ugly ones they didn't like. No way would Scorpius accept "knighthood."

There was no way to tell Grandfather, either. Lucius Malfoy's word was law. Everyone in the family did as he said and if someone disagreed with him, he acted as though he or she hadn't spoken. It was fiendishly effective. Scorpius had used the tactic himself on his dorm mates, Nott and Willoughby.

He found it easy to imagine Grandfather tossing his letter of refusal in the rubbish bin, discounting it as nerves. Scorpius would get off the train and find himself railroaded into so-called knighthood.

Unless he didn't go home.

The idea was radically appealing. Malfoys didn't stay at school over holidays, so if Scorpius broke tradition and remained at Hogwarts Grandfather would know why, and he'd have to deal with it.

Long distance.

Cheered, Scorpius entered the dungeon with a minute to spare. Every classmate looked in his direction except one: Rose Weasley. She arranged implements on the table she currently occupied all by herself. That was interesting. Albus Potter had never missed a class before.

At the blackboard, Professor Blackwell halted writing in her elegant script. "You have made your grand entrance, Mr. Malfoy. No need to linger in the doorway. Be seated."

A few Gryffindors sniggered; amused the Head of Slytherin House didn't give Slytherins preferential treatment, no doubt. They'd heard too many Professor Snape stories from their parents.

Scorpius knew the way to get on her good side. He said, "Beg pardon, professor, I was reading the list of ingredients."

Thin brown eyebrows winged upwards. "And have you deduced the potion you will be brewing?"

He quickly scanned the list. Monkshood, Echinacea, wild hops, elderflower, porcupine parts, a drop of dragon blood . . . "A version of Pepperup Potion, ma'am?"

"Ten points to Slytherin. Along with a generous monetary donation, Glover Hipworth bequeathed Hogwarts the right to brew his formula for non-commercial use." Professor Blackwell smiled a little. "Each seventh-year Advanced Potions class is invited to help replenish the hospital wing stores, with fifteen points awarded for successful brewing."

When the professor resumed writing instructions, Scorpius took his seat. He pulled his hair back and tied it with a band. "Where's Potter?" he asked in an undertone, glancing at the table diagonal from theirs. Weasley was lining ingredients up in what appeared to be alphabetical order.

Edgar said, "Sick."

Scorpius' gaze flickered to the girl whose reddish brown hair flowed over her shoulder. Not looking up when he walked in; extra-compulsive organisation; no ponytail—the pieces of her unusual behaviour abruptly clicked into place. Rose Weasley, Head Girl, was nervous about brewing a potion without the Head Boy standing by.

Edgar clearing his throat brought Scorpius' attention back to the potion he was supposed to be brewing. He picked up a silver knife and reached for a jar. "I'll handle the porcupine pâté," he said. His friend was squeamish about body parts.

Although the instructions given were minimal, Scorpius didn't doubt his ability to brew the potion. Seventh-years were routinely expected to complete the practical portion of the lesson and then discuss theory. Besides, a failed potion didn't necessarily equal a low mark. Professor Blackwell was strict, but fair. She allowed students a second chance to achieve success.

As Scorpius raised the temperature of the magical flames beneath his cauldron, he couldn't help notice that Weasley had failed to do likewise. What was she thinking? Blackwell hadn't specified temperature, but the potion was curative and left steam dribbling out the ears. Obviously, the brew had to boil, not simmer.

The handle of his wooden spoon clanged against iron when he stirred. Weasley threw him look of irritation, and then her eyes slid to the flames licking the sides of his cauldron. She turned away. Within seconds, her fire matched his.

Those actions were enlightening. Scorpius had wondered over the years whether Miss Top of the Class actually had the instinctive grasp of potions making she and her cousin were credited with. The two were always whispering. Professor Blackwell never caught them at it, and he had never cared enough to tell anyone except Edgar, who figured Weasley was continuing her mother's tradition of assisting her Potions partner. Covert observation gave Scorpius the opposite idea, now proven.

Rose Weasley wasn't like him, only needing to read information to utilise it. She was probably the type that learned by doing—that was why she was always taking notes, even when the assignment was silent reading. She excelled in Potions through imitation and practice, and now here she was, faced with a new potion with no partner to imitate. How would she do?

Not well, he decided near the end of class. His potion poured into the flagon like liquid smoke. From her slumped shoulders, Weasley's potion would not do likewise. How would she handle it?

If he hadn't been watching, Scorpius wouldn't have believed it. Rose Weasley deliberately tipped her cauldron over.

Gasps echoed against stone walls.

"I had an accident," Weasley told the teacher who hurried to Evanesco the dripping mess. She looked down at her spoon as though evil spirits possessed it. "I—I need to start again. May I stay after class?"

"I prefer my students to eat lunch," Professor Blackwell said. "You may wait until your partner returns to class to brew the potion."

Weasley's jaw clenched. "Please, ma'am. I want to make up my work right away. I'll—I'll have sandwiches with tea this afternoon."

"Very well, but remember, my next class starts at one o'clock sharp."

"Yes, ma'am." Weasley lugged her cauldron over to the basin in the corner to scrub it by hand.

Scorpius absently labelled his flagon, unable to get his head around what had happened. Why didn't Weasley take Blackwell up on her offer? Why did she insist on trying to brew the potion without Potter?

He tried to put the whole thing out of his mind. It didn't work. Halfway through lunch he told Edgar, "I'm going to the library," and left.

A Disillusionment Charm allowed Scorpius to slip into the dungeon unnoticed. He watched Weasley put elderflower into her cauldron and then read the notes she must have written down after class. In a sudden move that made him blink, she picked up the notebook and hurled it across the room. "I did it wrong, this won't work!"

"Of course it won't," he said, breaking the charm. "You don't know what you're doing." He retrieved the notebook and flipped through the pages. "Look at the other notes. They're detailed. Precise." Scorpius found the instructions for Pepperup Potion. "Half the directions are missing. Only a Gryffindor would think she could muddle through with this."

"Accio notebook!" She snatched her possession out of the air. "What are you doing here, Malfoy?"

"My duty as Prefect. If there's some brain fever going round, I need to know whether it's contagious or only strikes Head Girls."

Her mouth dropped open. "I don't have brain fever!"

"Really?" He walked over to give her potion a stir. "I think you're out of your mind to try to brew this without help."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes, you do. That's why you wrote down 'Malfoy sprinkled elderflowers into the potion counter-clockwise' and why you got so upset when you forgot." When she didn't speak, he asked, "Why didn't you wait for Potter? There's plenty of time to make up the assignment."

"No, there isn't," she said. "I have schoolwork and exams and essays I have to finish before holiday because I'll never find time to write them at home, much less revise for N.E.W.T.s." Her voice began to rise. "I wanted to get this done and now I've wasted my second chance and I won't get another—" She took in a breath and asked sharply, "What are you doing?"

Scorpius was ladling her potion into a flagon. "I have a second try left. We'll switch labels."

Blue eyes darkened. "Why would you help me?"

He shrugged. "It's like the story of the clever Slytherin. He helps a hag and afterwards she repays the favour."

"I'm a hag?"

"Metaphorically," he said, "Although there's potential, in a hundred years or so, if you stop brushing your hair."

Weasley flushed as if he'd paid her a compliment. "What kind of favour?"

"Don't know yet, but that's the deal. Take it or leave it."

She looked at her failed potion. "I won't do anything immoral."

"Hags aren't asked."

Her cheeks reddened again. "That's my stipulation. Take it or leave it."

Scorpius answered by casting a spell to switch the labels.

"Where did you learn—don't tell me," she said. "I'd probably have to give you detention."

He neither confirmed nor denied. He glanced at his watch. There was plenty of time to check out a book from the library before the next class.

"Is that it?" Weasley said when he made to leave. "No handshake or anything?"

Scorpius considered for a moment and then reached into his schoolbag. Her eyes widened when he offered the apple. "I thought you'd appreciate the Muggle symbolism," he said. "Take a bite."

 




~*~



A/N:  Jo said in a 2003 BBC interview that the Death Eaters were once called the Knights of Walpurgis. She said, "I don't know if I'll need it. But I like knowing it." That goes double for me.

Professor Blackwell was inspired by Elizabeth Blackwell, a resourceful businesswoman and artist who in 1737 not only drew specimens, but engraved copper plates and hand coloured the images for an up-to-date herbal (reference book) that earned the support of the English Society of Apothecaries and sprang her physician-without-a-license author husband from debtor's prison.

Apples symbolise knowledge and temptation in many Muggle cultures and religions. For Twilight fans (no, I haven't read the books), I'm well aware of the apple on the cover of the first book in the series. I thought it fitting that a Slytherin's apple be a green one, and when the HBP movie came out, I grinned through a certain scene. ;)

I'll update frequently (site willing), alternating between Scorpius and Rose's povs. I hope readers will look forward to Rose's perspective next chapter and be so kind as to review this one.

 


Chapter 2: Rose
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Rose used the tips of her fingers to grasp the apple. "What symbolism?" she asked. "Norse? Greek? Celtic?" She tried to sound casual while her stomach twisted into knots. If he said temptation, the deal was off, thanks to Nana Granger. Her maternal grandparents belonged to the Church of England, so Rose grew up listening to stories Nana treasured as much as Mum did The Tales of Beedle the Bard. In those stories, a woman lost Paradise for listening to a serpent and eating forbidden fruit. The serpent—the devil—could also appear as an angel of light.

Her gaze travelled from the apple in her hand to the Slytherin who was taking his time replying. Grey eyes, pale skin, and white-blond hair: only if he became a vampire could Malfoy get any lighter.

He shrugged. "Whichever one has apples symbolise knowledge."

Her racing heartbeat slowed. Malfoy was offering an apple, not a fall from grace. "Celtic," Rose lied without batting an eye. She took a bite. The fruit was crisp and juicy, with a tart sweetness impossible to resist on an empty stomach. She ate it down to the core.

"Apple seeds are poisonous," Malfoy said, watching her with an expression that made her wonder if he'd ever seen a girl enjoy food before.

She hadn't really considered eating the whole thing—for more than a second or two. "Actually, they're not," she said, "unless you ate a barrel of apples and chewed the seeds to release the compound that's broken down into Hydrogen Cyanide." His smirk prodded her to add, "I know because Hugo ate two dozen apples on a dare last summer and I looked it up in a medical encyclopaedia to reassure him he only had a stomach ache."

"Who dared him?"

"None of your business." Rose turned away to hide a revealing blush. She loved her brother, but le misérable was what she called him when he was being a pest. Whenever he and their cousin Lily ganged up, they were les misérables. Neither got the joke—they didn't read Victor Hugo—making it all the more satisfying for Rose.

"It was you?"

"Yes," she snapped, lugging her cauldron to the washbasin.

Malfoy didn't take the hint. "I believe that after seeing you dump the potion earlier." He stood on the other side of the basin with his shoulder propped against the wall, lounging elegantly like he was posing for a menswear advert.

Rose frowned. "I refuse to discuss my ill-considered action, and if you must stay, you could at least be useful and fetch my knife." She scrubbed at burnt hops stuck to the iron rim.

His footsteps were eerily quiet. "How do you do it?" Malfoy asked when he returned. "Make top marks."

If he'd been patronising, implying she had a learning disability or must cheat, she wouldn't have answered. She used a drying spell on the cauldron. "What I write down, I remember. A new potion's tricky, but once I go through the steps, have the directions down, I can brew it perfectly every time." She held out her hand for the silver knife.

He set the flat side of the blade against her palm and strolled over to retrieve his bag.

Rose washed off the knife. "There's a Prefect meeting after lessons," she said, "Will you think of the favour you want by then?" She glanced over her shoulder and discovered she was talking to herself. Malfoy was gone.

Albus was sleeping when she marched into his room at ten minutes before one o'clock. Tendrils of steam oozed from his ears as he lay on his side, fully dressed. She shook his shoulder. "Al, wake up."

"Wha's wrong, Rosie?" he asked around a yawn.

Her urge to thump his ear for skiving off faded. He did sound ill, all raspy, and he had covered his mouth when he yawned. Hugo would've sprayed her with saliva. Rose felt Albus' forehead with the back of her fingers. He was a little warm. "Blackwell gave us a new potion to brew."

Sleepy green eyes widened. "Yeah? What—I mean—bad luck, sorry. We'll make it up next class."

"I already did, during lunch." Should she tell him about Malfoy?

Albus sat up and dragged a hand through his spiky black hair. "You watched someone else and took notes, didn't you? Good thinking. Who was it?"

She opened her mouth, but no words came out.

His gaze narrowed. "No. Not Malfoy." Suddenly, he grinned. "That's . . . genius! He never botches a potion, and he'd never notice. He's too busy coaching Goyle."

Rose found her tongue. "I didn't see them talking."

"No one sees us either."

She wasn't sure about that. Malfoy was far more observant than she'd given him credit. He'd seen her knocking the cauldron over. She cringed to think about it.

"Hey, you aren't coming down with whatever Merry passed onto me, are you?" Albus clapped a hand to her forehead.

Rose rolled her eyes. Meredith Graves, Hufflepuff Prefect and Quidditch Captain, was the nicest, cheeriest person at Hogwarts—and the most bubble-headed. She was just the type to snog her boyfriend and then tell him she was sick. In conversation, Meredith flitted from one topic of conversation to the next like a blonde butterfly. How she managed to focus her attention to perform well as Chaser was a mystery.

"No fever," Albus said, "so why the pained look?"

"Irony. We brewed Pepperup Potion while you were taking it." She wasn't lying, although it wasn't the exact truth.

Albus' face fell. "And I missed out."

If he were her brother, she would've said, "Yes, you did." Since he was her best mate, she dredged up compassion. "There's plenty of time to make up the assignment." The words slid out so naturally, it took Rose a few seconds to realise what she'd done. She'd quoted Malfoy.

"You're right, and I'll have your notes to use." He glanced at her schoolbag.

Rose clutched it protectively. "I have to recopy them first." After I borrow Malfoy's.

He picked up an Orpheus Orb off the bedside table and handed it to her. "Give this a spin before you start. You'll write faster." He smiled down at the magical sphere that broadcasted music. "Merry said it won't be released to the shops until April."

"What is it, the Weird Sisters' Greatest Hits Volume Ten?" Meredith's father Merton was the cello player for the band, and she was always giving Albus orbs and t-shirts.

"Live in Liverpool."

"Oh. Thanks." Rose wasn't a Weirdo or a Weird One—whatever fans called themselves. That didn't mean she couldn't appreciate the music. She'd listen to a song or two. "Are you taking the whole day off?" she asked, tucking the orb into her bag.

"No, I'm feeling better, and if I fall asleep in Binns' class he'll think it's the potion." Albus checked his watch. "We'll have to leg it."

"The Head Boy advocating running in school corridors. Shocking!" Rose rushed for the door. At the top of the boys' staircase, she took a quick peek to make sure the common room was empty and then slid down the banister. She wasn't above breaking a few rules as long as no one was around to be encouraged to do the same. Presenting herself as a good role model was important, but she was no Uncle Percy.

It was easy to keep ahead of Albus until they reached the marble staircase that led to the first floor classroom. He outpaced her with his longer legs and willingness to risk his neck running down the stairs full-tilt.

"C'mon, Rosie, try to keep up!" Albus called over his shoulder.

"Watch where you're going and hold onto the railing for balance," she yelled back. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she sprinted. "You wait. You'll crack your skull or a kneecap one day."

"Not this day, Old Mum, and that's all that counts." He opened the door to the classroom just as the bell rang, waving a hand for her to enter.

Old Mum? She let him call her Rosie but this was too much. Retaliation was in order. Rose tickled Albus and left him to explain to Binns what was so amusing about tardiness.

Before the Prefect meeting, Albus sidled up to her. "I almost got detention, thanks to you."

"Don't exaggerate," she said. "Binns immediately swallowed your side-effect of Pepperup Potion excuse."

"He's a ghost. He can't swallow anything."

"Metaphorically—" Rose broke off, irked that she'd repeated Malfoy again, even though he didn't own the word and she'd certainly used it long before he'd called her a hag. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and looked around the Prefects' common room. It wasn't as grand as the bathroom down the corridor. It was a cosy, eclectic mix of colours and styles of furniture. Most Prefects took their surroundings to heart and mingled freely with their counterparts from other Houses. Only one group stayed to themselves.

Slytherins.

Malfoy stood beside the fireplace, staring into the flames while Orna Bletchley clung to his sleeve. The seventh-year's dark blue nail varnish matched the veins on the back of her hand.

"Merry's here," Albus said. "Do you want to be mother?"

He wasn't asking Rose to pour tea, he was hinting for her to announce the next week's patrol duties while he spent the time making eyes at his girlfriend. Rose usually preferred to oversee the scheduling; it wasn't an unreasonable request. She just wasn't feeling reasonable.

"You do it," Rose said. "I've got a headache." Her eyes went to Malfoy. When he glanced her way, she held his gaze, trying to communicate, I need to talk to you!

He lifted an eyebrow and then turned his attention to Albus, who called the meeting to order.

Albus didn't receive half the requests for schedule changes she usually did. Most Prefects wrote down their patrol times without argument. After the business of the meeting finished, socialising continued for all except the Slytherin Prefects. They immediately filed out. Rose said a hurried goodbye to Albus and Merry, waved to Lily when her cousin called her name, and said, "Go ask the Head Boy," to a fifth-year Hufflepuff girl who stepped into her path.

In the corridor, she found Malfoy waiting near the statue of Boris the Bewildered. "There you are!" she said. "I thought I'd have to track you down to your common room." She approached the fourth door to the left of the statue and said, "Squeaky-clean."

The door opened.

Malfoy followed her into the bathroom. "There are other places to talk in private."

"This one has a lock." Rose slid the bar across the door and leaned her back against it. "I need your Potions notes," she said.

"I don't have any."

Of course he didn't, he wasn't carrying his schoolbag. She said, "Not now, of course. Later, when you get the chance—before dinner or right after—we can meet up. Perhaps in the courtyard."

"Why?"

"So you can give them to me."

"We won't brew the potion again," he said. "Not for an exam, not for N.E.W.T.s."

Rose's cheeks started to burn. "That's not the point. I want those notes." She forced herself to say, "Please."

"Why?"

"Because Albus asked to borrow mine and if I don't have them he'll know I made a deal with the devil," she ground out.

Malfoy reacted to her outburst in an unexpected way. He tilted his head as if she puzzled him. "You keep secrets from your family."

"Doesn't everyone?"

He slowly nodded. "I'll have the notes for you after dinner."

"Thank you." Rose undid the lock and then whirled around, almost bumping into Malfoy. "Wait a minute," she said. "You didn't take notes in class. That's why you said you didn't have any, why you'll give them to me after dinner." They were so close she saw the flash of surprise in his eyes and, oddly, noticed that his eyelashes were several shades darker than his hair. "You're going to write them from memory," she whispered. "You can actually do that."

He held her gaze steadily. "Do you still want to meet in the courtyard?"

She could say no and confess to Albus.

But Rose didn't want to.

 





~*~

A/N: In Irish myth, a bloke named Connla eats an apple that satisfies his hunger and thirst for a month but also leaves him yearning for his fairy lover. Whether Rose said "Celtic" out of random impulse or subconscious association, I leave readers to decide. ;)

Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables, and I while don't know if Hermione was a fan of the author's novel or the musical, I like the idea that she named Hugo for literary reasons over a secret nod to Viktor Krum.

Wizards of the Coast is my source for Merry Graves' father. According to their famous wizard cards, Merton Graves plays cello for the Weird Sisters. I considered using Myron Wagtail (the lead singer) as her father, but, alas, his name was too close to Wormtail.

Special thanks to MollyCoddles, who graciously betas on top of all the other "real life" jobs she juggles, and thanks to every reader

 


Chapter 3: Questions
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Scorpius didn't return to his dormitory to write the notes. Edgar might ask questions. While person of loftier morals would see no difference, Scorpius far preferred to omit the truth than lie outright.

He went to the library, which was practically empty at that time of day. After dinner, students would return in great numbers to revise or spend time with friends who belonged to different Houses. Scorpius rarely socialised with non-Slytherins, but he had once accepted a pretty Ravenclaw's invitation to meet her in the Goblin Poetry section.

He left when she attempted to read him a poem in Goblin.

The library was eerie without the thrum of whispered voices, the hush almost sentient, as though the books on the shelves strained to hear a reader approach. Scorpius enjoyed the atmosphere. It reminded him of Malfoy Manor.

He began to set his bag on a table near the Restricted Section when a voice called out, "Not that one!"

Scorpius looked over his shoulder. Phineas Filch jogged toward him, overlarge robes flapping against his legs. Small for his age, the first-year compensated for his size by creating enormous amounts of mischief. Son of the school librarian and caretaker, blond-haired Phineas looked nothing like his parents. If the boy wasn't mad about books—and ruthless about enforcing proper treatment of them in his duties as library aide—Scorpius would have thought him a changeling. "Why not this table?" he asked.

"Sticking Charm," Phineas said, not sounding at all out of breath. He was likely used to running from the scene of his pranks.

"How long does it last?"

"Three minutes. Long enough to get someone in a nark."

Scorpius chose another table.

Phineas sat down next to him. "Are you wondering why I didn't want to make you angry?"

"Self-preservation, I presumed." Scorpius set out his quill and parchment.

"Ha-ha, yeah, that too."

Scorpius cut through the chat. "Who's your new target?"

Phineas chuckled. "Right to the point. Almost Gryffindor." His eyes bugged out when Scorpius grabbed his tie. "I didn't mean anything by it," he said. "I won't tell—"

"Tell what?"

"M—Myrtle was in the Prefect's bathroom. She saw you and Weasley come in and . . . uh . . . thought I'd like to hear about it."

Phineas had grown up with the ghost, he was fond of her, but Scorpius found listening to moaning complaints too high a price to pay for her friendship. He released the tie. "You'd better make sure she doesn't tell anyone else."

"I will! I'll do it right now." Phineas jumped to his feet.

"Ask your question first." Scorpius gave a steely look that said, And don't come back.

"Oh, right. Beg pardon. When does Lily Potter have patrol next week?"

Scorpius rattled off the times. "I take it The Phantom of the Prefects is about to strike again?" The little snake had approached Scorpius on the first day of term to propose a trade—Prefect schedules for any information he and his ghostly connections could supply.

"Brilliant name, isn't it?" Phineas grinned like an imp. "Myrtle thinks I should wear a mask. Bye, Scorpius!"

Scorpius picked up the self-inking quill and began to list Pepperup Potion ingredients on the parchment. The directions he broke into steps, using his memory of Weasley's notes as a model. They were painstakingly exact.

By the time he finished, dinner was underway. Scorpius glanced at the Gryffindor table as he passed. Rose Weasley stared at him. If she was attempting telepathy, it was a failure, but her expression was easy to read, hopeful and threatening at the same time. He imagined her thinking, You finished the notes, didn't you? You'd better have!

His lips twitched. He did enjoy the irony of a Weasley needing a Malfoy's help and owing him a favour.

At the Slytherin table, Orna Bletchley sat in his usual spot. She'd left room between herself and Edgar for Scorpius to squeeze in. He chose a seat on the opposite side of the table. A goblet filled with pumpkin juice and a plate loaded with roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and buttered English peas materialised before him.

Next to Scorpius, Nott said, "That never happens to me."

"Or anyone else," said Willoughby, on Scorpius' right.

No one else gives elves Butterbeer for Christmas, then. Scorpius picked up his fork and knife.

Nott and Willoughby rightfully interpreted his silence to mean he wanted to eat and not converse. The girl he was trying to ignore cleared her throat.

"Ahem! Scorpius, where were you? You arrived so late we thought something must have happened." Orna sounded petulant, not concerned.

"I was in the library." He took a drink and looked at Edgar. "Thank you for saving my seat."

His friend's chuckle sounded like boulders rumbling down a mountainside. "Anytime."

Scorpius shook his head. For some unfathomable reason, Edgar found Orna's harpy-like disposition attractive. He figured she'd get tired of rejection and transfer her dogged affections to him. If she didn't do it sooner rather than later, Scorpius would brew Amortentia Potion for Edgar to slip into a drink or chocolates.

Out of the corner of his eye, Scorpius saw Rose Weasley leave the Gryffindor table. He tried not to observe her directly, but she kept shooting him that unique, pleading demand of a look. I'll wait for you. Don't make it long!

He couldn't resist a little non-verbal communication of his own. You'll wait as long as I want.

"Who are you smiling at?" Orna's eyes were black slits.

Smiling? The girl was delusional. Scorpius almost cast an Aversion Charm. No matter how much Edgar fancied Orna, Scorpius was through putting up with her clingy ways. He acted as though she hadn't spoken and picked up his bag.

"Are you leaving already? There's chocolate gateau."

Orna's tone was softer, but that didn't get Scorpius to look at her. He strolled to the courtyard, glancing back over his shoulder occasionally to ensure no one had followed.

Outside, the sun had set and the wind had picked up. Weasley stood against the wall beside the door, out of the view of any who might peer through windows. Bluebell flames danced on the palm of her hand. They radiated warmth and matched the colour of her eyes.

He extended the scroll of notes. "Here."

"Thanks." As she grasped the scroll, a capricious breeze blew Weasley's hair across her face like a veil. She shook her head, causing the ends of her hair to fan out. A magical flame leapt onto flyaway strands.

Scorpius reached instinctively to douse the fire. A heartbeat later, darkness enveloped them.

Her hair slid between his fingers as she pulled away. "Bluebell flames don't usually transfer from one surface to another unless they're sent out purposely."

He wasn't interested in dissecting what had happened. "Lumos," he said, shining the beam of light from his wand at the side entrance. He headed for the door. Weasley could follow him or not as she chose.

"Wait!" She ran forward to block his way. "I still owe you a favour."

"And when I require one, I'll tell you."

A gust of air whirled through the courtyard as Scorpius moved forward. He stopped when he felt a tug on his hair.

"Ouch! Don't move or you'll rip out my earring," Weasley said. "Hold still. I'll take care of it."

It felt strange for someone else to touch his hair. A shiver jittered down his spine.

"And boys say girls are dramatic," Weasley muttered. "I'm just as cold as you are, Malfoy. I'm not prolonging the moment to play with your hair, I'm saving my earlobe. There. You're free."

Scorpius didn't look back.

In the common room, Nott and Willoughby played Wizard Chess by the fireplace. On one of the sofas, girls surrounded Orna, no doubt soaking up her account of his cruelty and recounting stories of their own.

He asked me to Hogsmeade, but not to be his girlfriend!

He kissed me beneath the mistletoe and I never got a Christmas Card!

He danced with me at a party and then danced with three other girls the same night!

He said Miley Siren can't sing!

Scorpius didn't linger. He went straight to his dorm.

The peace and quiet he'd anticipated didn't last long. Scorpius had barely taken off his school robes and loosened his tie when Edgar walked in.

"You didn't have to be rude to Orna."

Scorpius sat on his bed and took off a shoe. "Yes, I did."

After a minute of silence, Edgar said, "I'm the one who invited her to sit with us."

"Did you comfort her after I left?"

"She wouldn't let me."

Scorpius removed his other shoe and wriggled his toes.

There. You're free. He could almost hear Weasley's voice.

"Aren't you going to say something?" Edgar asked.

"She's a hag and one day you'll thank me. It may not happen before we leave school—"

"Thank you."

Edgar's tone gave away what his stoic expression concealed. Scorpius didn't press for details. He said, "I read the Captains of the Portugal and Spanish National teams have a bet on which one of them wins the next world championship." The Quidditch World Cup was only two years away.

"What's the stake?"

"A cask of Port against a cask of Amontillado."

"Portugal has a decent chance," Edgar said. "Their Beater-marking system is tops." He pulled a Quidditch Illustrated magazine from beneath his mattress. "Look at their statistics."

Scorpius looked. The next morning, he scanned a different set of statistics: the ones he'd compiled over the season on Hufflepuff. He sat high in the stadium, waiting for the Slytherin team to finish their warm-up laps. When they flew over, he walked to the rail and said, "They don't foul, they don't fly over the boundary lines, and their Chasers have the highest percentage of assists. They aren't the most talented, but every Hufflepuff is team player, and if we underestimate them, Slytherin House will lose like Ravenclaw."

He waited for boos and curses to die down and talked strategy. Scorpius appealed to their pride and vanity, and by the time he finished, players were cheering. Derrick, the Captain, had to use a Sonorous Charm to call the team to practice.

Before Scorpius could resume his spot in the bleachers, he heard, "Malfoy! Over here!"

It was Rose Weasley's voice, coming from the stairwell.

He strode over. "What are you doing here?"

She backed down a stair. "I'm verifying a complaint that the Slytherin team has the unfair advantage of coaching staff."

"I'm a house-mate voicing my opinion, not a coach. Who complained?" The shadows in the enclosed space made it hard to read her expression.

"An anonymous source."

He almost laughed. "You made that up."

"It sounded like you were coaching to me."

Weasley kept secrets from her family, she evaded direct answers. How did she get Sorted into Gryffindor? "You came here for a reason," he said. "What is it?"

"I told you, but since I'm here I suppose I may as well ask—have you thought of a favour yet? I'd like to get it over with as soon as possible."

Blunt. Impatient. Gryffindor flaws outweighed better qualities. "That's too bad," he said. "I plan to take my time, think long and hard about what I want."

Her eyes grew wider and more alarmed as he spoke.

Scorpius couldn't resist. He leaned closer. "And then you'll give it to me."




~*~



A/N: A changeling is the offspring of magical creatures (often fairies), left in the place of a human child that's been whisked away. Changelings have various traits depending on the folklore (some very negative), but this story uses the characteristics that they're wiser and grow slower than other humans, and are eccentric in clothes and personality. Rose used the bluebell flames charm her mother was fond of casting to carry around in a jam jar when she wasn't lighting Snape's robes on fire with it or using it against Devil's Snare. As for what kind of earring snagged Scorpius' hair, I left it up to reader imagination, but I'm curious about what type of earring readers envisioned. (hint, hint, tell me!)

The Cask of Amontillado is a short story by Edgar Allen Poe in which a Spanish nobleman, Montresor, uses the lure of tasting a fine sherry to take revenge on the man who has insulted him. Montresor's family motto is Nemo me impune lacessit—no one provokes me with impunity. Wonder if that's a Malfoy motto . . . ?

 


Chapter 4: Persistance
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He was doing it again, curving his lips in a way that tempted her to wipe the smile off his face—with a hex, of course. Rose said, "Nothing immoral, as per the terms of our agreement."

His eyebrow winged upward. "Define immoral."

"You know."

"Do I?"

He was a Malfoy, but still. "If you don't, look it up," she said. "I don't have time to explain the concept."

"You have to copy my notes?"

"I did that last night." Honesty forced Rose to admit, "They were very thorough. Albus was . . . ."

"Impressed?"

You've outdone yourself, Rosie. Thanks!

She was unable to hide her chagrin.

Malfoy laughed. It was a huff of sound, barely audible. Rose stood close enough to hear it and see a flash of white teeth along with something that made her stare.

"You have a dimple!"

His eyes became hard as grey slate. "No, I don't."

"Yes, you do." And it was wrong. Dimples were for nice boys, not Slytherins.

Malfoy backed away. "You need glasses like your uncle."

Rose started to follow and then came to her senses. What was she doing? She didn't want the Slytherin Quidditch team to see her. The thought of what they would think—and tell others—sent her barrelling down the steps at a reckless pace.

She was hot and out of breath when she reached the school. All the walking she did up and down stairs between classes and on patrols was a lower level of exertion than running. Muggles she'd seen jogging through London parks made it seem effortless. It wasn't. Tendrils of hair clung damply to her scalp.

A shower refreshed her body, but thoughts of Malfoy continued to agitate Rose. How long would he hold the favour over her head? What if he couldn't think of anything? Would she owe him forever?

She dressed in denim jeans and the jumper Granny Weasley gave her for Christmas. Rose only wore it in her room, so she could tell Granny truthfully that yes it kept her warm at school. The "R" on the front was a lighter shade of blue than the rest of the hand-knit jumper. It stood out like the "S" on Superwizard's robes in a Creevey Comic: high profile and embarrassing.

Her dorm-mates were out, so she took out her jewellery box and placed it on her desk. She ran a hand over the hand-stitched roses on the satin covered lid. "Practical can be pretty," her mum said when she gave Rose the flat box to tuck into her trunk first-year. The box was charmed to hold multiple interior compartments that stacked upon each other. Rose removed the first two that held her favourite jewellery.

Earrings.

Sorted by divided sections, the earrings in the first compartment matched her mum's description of the box. Gold and silver, gemstones and pearls, studs and small hoops; whether plain or etched, they were pretty and practical everyday jewellery.

The second compartment held her treasures. Long dangles with Celtic knots; a cluster of flowers in her birthstone; delicate wire threads; chandelier earrings with a modern twist; silver chess jewellery oxidized to create "opposing" Knights; whimsical creatures from dragonflies to dragons; the earrings were a mix of gifts and impulse purchases.

At the bottom corner of the compartment, set apart from the others as if in quarantine, were the earrings she'd worn the night before. Wrapped around miniscule gold claws jutting from an upraised paw was a white-blond hair.

Scorpius Malfoy's hair.

Rose had changed her earrings before dinner, switched the gold owl studs she'd worn all day for rampant lion fishhook earrings. I am Gryffindor, hear me roar! The boost of confidence from wearing her House symbol helped Rose keep her poise until, between the wind and her hurry to get inside and forget Malfoy touching her hair, she'd walked too close.

If she'd thought his fingers in her hair felt weird, it was nothing compared to the sensations that came from untangling his hair from her earring. Her hand trembled as if she had never touched a boy before, which was ridiculous considering all the males in her family.

"It's his fault you were yanked out," she told the hair that looked like a thread of white silk caught by a batting paw. "Shuddering like I was keeping him out in the cold deliberately. He's lucky I don't practice voodoo."

While she was deciding whether it would be tempting fate to wear a pair of spiral mood earrings from "Aunt" Luna, her cousin Lily swept into the room.

"The Phantom of the Prefects has struck again!"

Rose immediately packed up the earrings. "What happened?"

She didn't act fast enough. Outwardly a bird of bright plumage, Lily was a magpie at heart, attracted by shiny things. "Did I see jewellery?"

"Yes, and now I'm putting it away." Rose shut the trunk and leaned against it as an extra security measure.

Lily gave the pout that twined males of all ages around her little finger. "Unfair! You never let me look through your stuff anymore."

"You never returned what you borrowed."

Her cousin didn't deny the charge, or try to say, "I was younger!" Big brown eyes turned puppy-dog. "But I meant to."

"I know you did." That was the reason Lily Potter was the most popular girl in school. Aside from her looks and famous father, Lily was a vivacious, good-hearted person. Even Slytherins seemed to like her, although they probably thought she smiled too much. "So who got pranked this time?" Rose asked.

"Me! I was on patrol, suddenly needed to use the loo, popped into the nearest one, and what did I find?"

"Cellophane over the toilet bowl?"

"Boys!"

"In the girls' toilet?"

"Yes! Or so I thought, until one of the boys—David Corner, actually, the Ravenclaw Captain—pointed out the urinals. I'd thought they were washbasins, which David said was only natural considering I was confunded."

"The Phantom used a Confundus Charm?"

"A powerful one, David said. He insisted on escorting me to make sure I got back all right, and we're going to meet in the library after dinner so he can see if there are any lingering ill-effects." Lily's voice became dreamy. "He wants to be a Healer."

"Or play one."

Lily burst into giggles. "Rose Nymphadora Weasley! What would your mother say?"

"Tell your boy-mad cousin to stay out of the Restricted Section," Rose said with a smile. Lily collected admirers the way Rose collected earrings, yet treasured none in particular. They were all casual wear.

Once Lily stopped laughing, she said, "Don't worry, I'll pick a table where all can see."

"And stare in envy?"

Lily shook her head. "It's good to be sharp witted, but you need to lighten up. Hugo says you'll never get a bloke to stick his tongue in your mouth if he's scared yours would slice his to ribbons."

"I've had—" Rose pressed her lips together to keep from blurting out that she'd French kissed someone without bloodshed. It was none of Lily—or Hugo's—business.

"Had what?"

"Enough of hearing what Hugo says. He's the last person to talk about romance."

Lily said thoughtfully, "Snogging isn't always about romance, though, is it?"

"It should be."

"I agree." Lily waved a hand at the trunk. "And you should agree to let me prove I return things now by lending those yellow earrings I saw. The spirally ones."

Yellow? They must have turned that colour because she was thinking hard about a problem. Rose certainly wasn't struggling with insecurities.

Lily gave her a hug when she handed over the earrings. "Thank you, Rosie! You're the best!"

"My name is Rose."

"Yes, cheers, thanks a lot. I'm off to find an outfit to do these justice!" Lily flitted out the door after blowing Rose a kiss. "Don't spend all your free time swotting!"

"Revising!" There was a difference between the two, not that her cousin—or brother—would admit it. They preferred to socialise, as, come to think of it, did most of the people Rose knew.

She sighed and went over to her desk to take out a parchment scroll. She'd meant to get rid of Malfoy's notes. She'd held her wand over the parchment. A flick of the wrist and they would have disappeared forever. She could have told herself that she'd improved upon the original notes, that Scorpius Malfoy hadn't really penned the most meticulously crafted words she'd ever read.

But he had.

Rose traced letters with a fingertip. The handwriting was so elegant it gave her a pang. She couldn't destroy it. She rolled the scroll up tightly and hid it away. She had assigned reading to get through, and her own notes to write.

The next few days were a test of Rose's willpower. Anytime Malfoy was in the same room, she had to fight the urge to stare at him. In the corridors, she found herself looking for him. Whenever their eyes met, she immediately dragged hers away. As much as she was dying to, she would not break down and ask the question burning on her tongue. If he wanted a favour, he could bloody well ask.

After a week dragged by, Rose decided patience was an over-valued virtue and she'd better remind Malfoy in case he'd forgot. On Wednesday, instead of glancing away when she saw him in between morning classes, she gave him a meaningful look, jerked her head toward a nearby statue, and ducked into the niche behind it.

Malfoy joined her, making the small space tinier. Rose couldn't help but wish the sculptor had flattered Bertha the Behemoth and scaled down her massive backside. Their proximity was like being in the stairwell again.

It didn't help her unease when he leaned toward her. "Why are we here?"

"Why do you think?"

He said, "Not the usual reason."

It took her a second to realise what he implied. A heartbeat later, the bell rang.

"I'm late," Rose said. "I can't talk now." She rushed to get away.

Professor Vector frowned when Rose slipped into the classroom. "I appreciate your dedication to perfect attendance, Miss Weasley, but I must insist you visit the hospital wing when you're ill."

Rose put a hand to her cheek. It was scalding hot. "I—I hadn't realised, ma'am. Beg pardon." She exited and marched straight to the hospital wing.

Madam Pomfrey pronounced her "glassy-eyed and feverish" and gave her a Pepperup Potion without taking her temperature, thank goodness.

At lunch, Albus elbowed her and said, "Has anyone told you that you look smokin' today?"

Rose waved her hand so the vapours dribbling from her ears would blow in his face. She continued to eat her chicken soup while Albus pretended to cough. A quick peek at the Slytherin table revealed Malfoy was looking in her direction.

She held his gaze until Albus said, "What're you staring at?"

"Nothing." She hastily drank a spoonful of soup, and promptly went into an unfeigned coughing fit when it went down the wrong way.

Albus pounded her on the back. "Payback is hell, isn't it?" he asked cheerfully.

Rose's heart leapt into her throat. He was joking about her making him cough, but what if it was true? What if Malfoy thought of something awful to demand as his favour?

Define immoral.

She drank the goblet of water that appeared on the table, feeling as though she'd received an icy splash in the face. She'd defined the terms vaguely, and she would have to live with them. That didn't mean she would passively wait for disaster to strike, however. She was a Gryffindor. Bold action was called for.

Two days later, Rose left the Prefect's meeting directly after the Slytherins filed out and hurried down the corridor to the Prefects' bathroom. She joined Malfoy in gazing at the flickering lights of the overhead candles reflected on the water in the pool-sized tub.

He said, "Is one of your House mottos never, never, never, never give up?"

"Yes." She took a deep breath. "Have you thought of a favour yet?"

"No, and your persistence isn't going to speed up the process." He shrugged. "All it's doing is creating gossip."

Gossip? In her mind, she heard Albus ask, What're you staring at? Rose's stomach lurched. If rumours—that didn't bear thinking about—spread to Gryffindor House . . . . She thrust the scroll clenched in her fist at Malfoy. "Here. I made a list. You'll find it comprehensive."

Malfoy made no move to take it. "A list of what?"

Rose unfurled the scroll and shook it at him. "Favours!"







A/N: Rose Weasley being a list maker can be no surprise, but was anyone expecting Scorpius Malfoy to have a dimple? :D It makes me imagine Lucius coaching him on how to smirk in amusement without smiling and revealing his "shame" LOL.

The "Superwizard" and "Creevey Comics" idea came from Dennis Creevey's Muggle background and fanon (or did JKR pronounce it too?) pairing him with Gabrielle Delacour. As Bill Weasley proved, to impress a Frenchwoman who's part Veela, a guy has to be out of the ordinary. I can't see a Creevey being a curse breaker, but I can see Dennis being an artist.

When Rose felt that "pang" looking at Scorpius' notes, it reminded me of lines from an Emily Dickenson poem:

A Pang is more conspicuous in Spring
In contrast with the things that sing
Not Birds entirely—but Minds—


Winston Churchill was the one who said, "Never, never, never, never give up." Benjamin Franklin had a Gryffindor-ish saying, too: Energy and persistence conquer all things. I think both go along with the adage by Albert Ellis lived out by the Hufflepuff Nymphadora (and perhaps her namesake). The art of love is largely the art of persistence. ;)

 


Chapter 5: Conflict
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Her mouth trembled, and he noticed her bottom lip was fuller than the top. Scorpius lowered his eyes to the scroll brandished like a talisman.

He remembered one of Grandfather Lucius' sayings: Before all else, be armed. The advice applied to information as well as wands and hexes. "Very well," he said. "Read them."

"You have eyes." She released a breath and said in a conciliatory tone, "My handwriting isn't as fine as yours, but it's legible."

From what he could see, it was feminine and precise without flourishes. Ladylike. Grandmother Narcissa would approve. She had taught him to write "like a gentleman" using sweets as rewards. After countless hours of practice, stuffed to bursting with confectionery, Scorpius developed a "fine" hand and a dislike of sweets. The boxes Grandmother sent to school he intentionally mislaid in the common room to the delight of Housemates.

Scorpius said, "I prefer not to read in low light."

"It might strain them a bit, but it doesn't cause damage. Your eyes adjust." Weasley glanced upward. The flames instantly brightened. She gazed at him expectantly.

A minute went by. While waiting for her to realise he was the one owed the favour, he was in the position of power, and she should do the reading to acknowledge that fact, Scorpius passed the time by searching her face for freckles. It was a Weasley family curse. She couldn't be exempt.

"What is it? Ink?" She rubbed at her jaw.

He said, "Yes, it's gone," and took the unfurled parchment. He read the first line and asked, "How exactly would I make my own patrol schedule?"

"Tell me when it's convenient to patrol and I'll write the schedule around those times, or, if it's easier, you could pick the second suggestion and adjust your—or anyone else's—schedule anytime you choose."

"Why should I care when anyone else has patrol?"

Unaccountably, she blushed. "Well, Albus and Meredith like to have patrol together. If you want to be with Bletchley—" she broke off when he curled his lip. "No? Okay. That'll work too. I could make sure she never has patrol on the same day—"

"Not worth it," he said, reading on. "Attain the services of a personal house-elf for the rest of the term? Explain."

"One of the elves here is a family friend."

"And your mother's S.P.E.W." Scorpius heard Weasley's sharp inhale and said, "She's the head of the organisation—I didn't create the acronym. Grandfather's read her letters to the Prophet at the breakfast table." Sneered over them. "She'd hardly approve."

Weasley bit her lip. "I know, but not all elves are happy without someone to serve. Winky came to me first-year, said if I ever needed a house-elf or any of my family or friends needed her services to call her name." She gave him her trademark beseeching threat of a look. "She may drink more Butterbeer than other elves, but Winky is a kind soul, and very helpful."

And Weasley would jinx him if he implied otherwise. "Are you speaking from experience?"

"Yes."

Kept secrets. Lacked freckles. Made a deal with a Slytherin and took advantage of a house-elf's services. Scorpius previously suspected Phineas Filch was a changeling, but now he wondered if the castle might not hold another. Rose Weasley was mass of contradictions. Not only in personality, but also appearance: she was much more attractive up close than at a distance.

Before he could read further, the Foe-Glass concealed in his robes began to vibrate. He took it out and showed the face reflected to Weasley. "Potter's almost here."

"I forgot to lock the door," she said. "Use a Disillusionment Charm!"

Scorpius did so and thrust the scroll into a pocket while he reached for what he thought was Weasley's arm. His hand closed around slender fingers. "This is the worst place to be if he takes a bath," he said, leading her over to the side.

The painted mermaid on the opposite wall chose that moment to stop combing out her hair with a shell and giggle. The trill reverberated in the marble chamber.

"Shh!" Weasley said fiercely. "Pretend we're not here!"

"Haven't I been doing that?" The mermaid sighed. "And I didn't even get to see a kiss." The click of a handle turning brightened her tone. "More visitors! I'll look out to sea this time. I'm told I have a lovely profile."

"Exquisite," Scorpius said. He whispered to Weasley, "Mermaids always fish for compliments."

He was close enough to hear a faint sound of amusement. Scorpius smiled, and then realised that not only had he joked with Weasley—he was still holding her hand. If he dropped it, she might think him disturbed by the physical contact, which he wasn't.

Her fingers squeezed his like a vice when the door opened and Albus Potter and Meredith Graves strolled in.

"Poor darling, left to fend off all the last-minute schedule changers. You need to release some stress." As she spoke, Graves unbuttoned her robes.

Potter grinned. "If I beat you to the finish, what do I get?"

Scorpius looked at the git in disbelief. A hex.

"A kiss." Graves dropped her robes to reveal a yellow bikini.

Scorpius rolled his eyes. Swimming. The two were going to race across the gigantic tub. How Hufflegryff.

When Potter tossed his robes aside and rushed forward, Scorpius waited for the laughing couple to jump into the water and headed for the exit, dragging Weasley along.

The second they were in the corridor, Scorpius pulled away and countered the Disillusionment Charm.

"You're not leaving, are you?" she asked when he turned to do just that.

He said, "I have your list and I'll consider the suggestions."

"But . . . you might need me to explain something!"

Scorpius said, "If I do, I'll ask," and quickened his stride. He wasn't running away. He was putting distance between them in order to gain perspective.

He took the stairs to the ground floor, shaking fingers that tingled from Weasley's python grip. Scorpius lifted his hand and sniffed. It wasn't his imagination. She did smell like roses. He drew in a deeper breath. Did she like the scent, or did relatives coerce her into wearing it by giving lotion and perfume on birthdays and Christmas? He frowned. If they did, what did he care?

In his dorm, he made a beeline for the ensuite bathroom and washed his hands. The list of favours he examined and locked away in his trunk. All were bribes of one sort or another. Several—like the Quidditch season tickets—were of substantial monetary value. None was comparable to what he'd done.

The next afternoon, his Head of House came round with the list for students to sign up if they were staying at school over Easter holiday. Scorpius remained in his chair by the fire, pretending absorption in the introduction to Gestalt Graphology. Whatever the author wrote about handwriting analysis might as well been Goblin, however. He stared blankly at the page as he covertly tracked the Professor Blackwell's progress around the room. No one signed up.

Scorpius followed when Blackwell started to leave. He brought his book as if he intended to return it to the library. "Professor," he said. "I want to sign up."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, ma'am." He would do anything to keep from going home.

Her aristocratic features were impassive, yet when he took the self-inking quill, Blackwell said in an undertone, "My office is always open to students needing counsel."

"Yes, ma'am." He signed the parchment.

She said, "You're the first Slytherin to remain at Hogwarts in over twenty years."

And probably the first Malfoy ever. He asked, "Is there any way to keep this confidential?"

"All Heads of House are required to turn in their lists to the Headmaster."

"On a specific date?"

"Today. Otherwise, I would comply with the request eventually rather than immediately."

Although that didn't improve his situation, Scorpius felt a little better. "Thank you, ma'am." He glanced over his shoulder. Housemates—including his best mate—were staring. To postpone questions, he said, "I'll owl my parents right away," and trailed the professor out into the dungeon corridor.

The Owlery provided a writing desk and stationery for student use. It didn't take long to compose a note.

I'm staying at school over Easter holiday in order to revise for upcoming N.E.W.T.s. I will miss you all and do my best to make you proud.

He watched the owl fly away and envisioned reactions to the letter. Grandfather Lucius would stalk out of the room. Grandmother Narcissa would assemble a box of sweets. His mother and father, however, would trade a look of relief. They had to suspect Grandfather's ulterior motive for volunteering to make the trip to London.

Scorpius returned to Slytherin House following a stop at the library, where he turned in the Graphology book and perused the stacks for a half-hour. His entrance into the packed common room killed all conversation. He affected nonchalance and strolled toward the boys' corridor.

Orna Bletchley slithered into his path. "Is it true? Have you signed up?"

Her tone made the question an accusation. He lifted a shoulder and let it fall. "What if I have?"

"You can't," she said. "My father's hosting the ceremony. He said you'll be there. You're supposed to be there!"

Scorpius froze. It was no surprise that her father was a Knight of Walpurgis. Even so, to hear the ceremony referred to in the middle of the common room was a shock. Did she think no one was listening? "I'm staying to revise for N.E.W.T.s."

He left Orna to catch flies in her slack mouth.

His roommates were sitting at their desks. They broke off their discussion—of him, Scorpius assumed—when he walked through the doorway. "It's true," he said. "I owled my parents, I'm going to stay at school."

"But we're to be Knights," Nott said. "All four of us."

Willoughby brushed a speck of lint off his monogrammed shirt. "If you aren't joining us, you owe us the explanation why."

"Don't say exams, mate. You never have to revise and everyone knows it," Edgar said.

"The way they know you're not a troll?"

Edgar said, "No one important doubts my intelligence."

Nott's brows drew together. "Hey, I only figured out you weren't stupid a few minutes ago."

The implication of everything that had been said suddenly hit Scorpius with the force of a Bludger. All the time he thought he and Edgar were different from the others he had only been half-right.

"Is it a girl?" Willoughby asked. "You've been going to the library a lot lately."

"And most of the time you don't bring back books," Nott said.

Scorpius looked at his best mate. "What do you think?"

Edgar smiled slightly. "She must be pretty."

Disappointment choked Scorpius. He had mistaken a dislike of people talking about the war and their parents' roles in it to mean Edgar didn't want to follow old ways any more than he did. "Believe what you like," he said and gathered clothes from his trunk. Dressing for dinner—if only in a pressed and clean set of casual attire—was a family tradition he had continued to follow at school. See, Grandfather? I'm still a Malfoy.

On the way into the bathroom, he stopped beside Willoughby's desk and said, "The only thing I owe you is a hex."

Willoughby fell out of his chair when the bat-bogeys attacked. Father was right: it was a hell of a hex. Scorpius left Willoughby flailing his arms to protect his face and set the water charm to full blast to mute the shrieks.

At dinner, the subdued atmosphere of the Slytherin Table drew curious glances from the staff and other Houses.

"Who died?" Hugo Weasley called out.

The gloomy hush and sombre faces did appear funereal. Over the sniggers that broke out, Phineas Filch said, "Malfoy signed up to stay at school!"

Scorpius continued to eat, ignoring the surge of whispers. Rose Weasley was boring holes through him again. He could feel it. Luckily, no one would notice. Most of the school was gaping at him.

Hugo Weasley, who seemed to have inherited a double portion of freckles, spoke again. "I do feel so sorry," he said, "for all those people who have to stay at Hogwarts because they're not wanted at home."

If the sneering words were a jab at Scorpius, they hit the wrong target. A Hufflepuff girl burst into noisy tears.

Scorpius slipped out of the Hall when Professor Longbottom rose to his feet. He didn't care whether Hugo Weasley got detention or lost House points. He wanted to avoid the git's sister.

Rose Weasley proved hard to evade over the next week. Like a lioness hunting prey, she concealed her presence and waited for him to pass whichever statue she was lurking behind to pounce. A few times, she had the nerve to yank his arm. Mostly, she called his name.

He couldn't refuse. If he didn't talk to her in private she might walk up to him in the middle of the main corridor.

She didn't begin each conversation the same way. She apologised for her brother's rudeness the first time; asked if he was really staying at school to revise the second; commented on the stunflowers they'd re-potted in Herbology the time after that. The endings were what never varied. Weasley always asked if he'd decided on a favour, and he always said, "No."

During the next Prefect meeting, she rattled off the patrol assignments in a tone that dared anyone to ask for their day to be changed. No hands went up.

Scorpius waited in the Prefect's bathroom afterwards. Weasley joined him right away.

She didn't waste time on chat. "I made a promise under duress," she said. "It's unfair for you to hold it over my head indefinitely." She squared her shoulders. "There is now a deadline."

"Oh, is there?"

"A week from today."

It was second nature for him to speak softly when irked. "Get it over with and have a jolly holiday, is that your plan?"

"Maybe not jolly, but yes."

Scorpius looked her up and down. "And you're not afraid?"

"Of what?"

"Your mother is Muggle-born. Haven't you heard their saying?"

"Which one?"

Was that a gleam of worry in her eyes? He said, "Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it."

Weasley didn't shrink away as expected. She tilted her head. "How do you know Muggle sayings?"

"I read," he snapped and edged past her.

The random meetings behind statues continued. Instead of varying her openings, Weasley cut out the small talk, immediately asking, "Have you made up your mind yet?"

Scorpius, the first time he was asked, curtly said no. The second time, he leaned against Bertha's generous backside and answered with a question of his own. "Would you carry my books to class?"

"Yes."

"Wearing a bikini?"

Weasley glared. "I'll borrow Meredith's."

"I was asking hypothetically. Testing to see what you'd do."

"Almost anything," she said.

He put that claim to the test during their subsequent encounters. Interestingly, Weasley said she was willing to do everything he asked, including singing the Slytherin running out tune on top of the Gryffindor table at dinner.

By the morning before holiday, Scorpius had decided not to call in his favour. He didn't need anything. It would also put Weasley off-balance. She wouldn't know how to react. He sat at breakfast, smirking over the dumfounded expression he would see on her face, when a snowy white owl landed on his Daily Prophet.

"Good morning, Maleficus." Scorpius gave the owl a treat and picked up the letter from his grandfather.

"Aren't you going to read it?" Edgar asked.

Suspicion prompted Scorpius. "Why don't you tell me what it says? You've written him, haven't you? Told him my real reason for not going home?"

"Why would I do that?"

Scorpius noted the way his friend unconsciously moved his teacup between them. He said, "Do you think the professors will go easy on us today, or do you think they'll make us earn the break?"

Edgar didn't act confused by the shift of topic or try to bring the conversation back to the letter. He relaxed. Like most liars, he wanted to change the subject. Nott and Willoughby joined in, agreeing with Edgar that the professors would heap extra work on their classes. Scorpius took the opposite view. Every in-class essay assigned would become multiple essays for the professors to read over holiday.

"I see your point," Edgar said.

Not when it counts.

Scorpius didn't open his letter until after the last class of the day. The first to arrive in the Prefects' common room, he chose a corner chair and broke the wax seal.

I'm coming to Hogsmeade tomorrow to discuss your recent decisions and your future. I have hired Madam Puddifoot to provide a private tea.

A private tea. Right. The kind that knocked out an errant grandson so his body could be hauled off to a knighting ceremony. Scorpius laughed bitterly. He wouldn't go. He'd pretend to be ill. And then Grandfather can insist I be treated by our family Healer who happens to be visiting Miles Bletchley! The room started to close in on Scorpius. Headmaster Slughorn was too susceptible to flattery. Lucius Malfoy would ply the man with gifts and smoothly talk Slughorn into allowing him to take his grandson "home." Scorpius had seen his grandfather influence Ministry officials. He would sway Slughorn.

"Oh my God, you look like you're about to pass out! What's wrong?"

Rose Weasley knelt beside his chair. She retrieved the letter he'd dropped to the floor. "Did you get bad news? Did someone die?"

She sounded like she'd care. "Read it," he said.

It only took her a few seconds. "I don't understand."

"I can't stay here," he said, "and I can't run away. He'd say I was mental, track me down." Unless I'm somewhere untraceable. "Is your house Unplottable?"

"What?"

"It has to be," he said. "Your parents are part of the Golden Trio. Loonies would make a shrine at their door if they could find it. Pile on the candles and flowers, camp out and ask for autographs. Sing endless choruses of Weasley Is Our King."

"All right, it is. Why are you asking?"

One change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others, Grandfather said.

"I'm calling in my favour. Owl your parents and tell them a friend's coming to stay with you. They'll find out it's me at Kings' Cross." He braced her shoulders when she lost all colour. "Don't faint."

"I wasn't going to." Pink tinted her cheekbones. "My parents—my family—they'll never believe we're friends."

He shrugged. "Tell them I'm your boyfriend."

Her eyes grew huge. "They'll never believe—"

"Won't they?" Scorpius captured her face in his hands and pressed his lips to hers.








A/N: The book Scorpius pretended to read is the wizard version of Felix Klein's Gestalt Graphology. I left off the rest of the title: Exploring the Mystery and Complexity of Human Nature Through Handwriting. Lucius’ “sayings” came from Machiavelli, and Hugo's taunt was a quote from chapter twelve of the first book in the HP series. Like Harry, Scorpius didn't feel sorry for himself, although he was very much wanted at home, lol. Finally, Stunflowers are originally from Xanth, a magical land discovered by the punny author Piers Anthony.

 


Chapter 6: Anticipation
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He stared into her eyes as he kissed her. It was shockingly intimate. Rose could actually see the moment he got into the kiss. His grey eyes darkened like smoke. She scrunched her eyelids closed against the emotional intensity and became overwhelmed by physical sensations. His hands were cool against her heated skin, his lips burning, seeking. She responded with no thought of time or place. There was only his mouth and her need to touch and taste as she strained to get closer.

"OH. MY. GOD!"

Lily's shout cooled Rose's blood faster than a plunge into Hogwarts Lake. She looked into Malfoy's guarded face and realised she was on his lap, her fingers clenched in his hair. "Could—could you give us a minute, Lily?" she asked without turning around.

"Uh, sure. I dropped by early to return your earrings. I'll wait outside. Just open the door when you're, ah, finished."

The door shut, and then Rose heard a faint, Rosie and Malfoy. Oh my God! She immediately scrambled to her feet. "What happens now?"

"Tell your cousin not to tell anyone what she saw. Say I'm coming home with you but we don't want anyone to know until we're on the train—until my grandfather can't stop me."

She watched Malfoy rake a hand through his hair. I know what that hair feels like. Rose looked at his mouth. I know what that feels like too. "You won't have Prefect duty on the train," she said, licking suddenly dry lips. "You—you don't have to stay for the meeting."

"Thank you. I have arrangements to make. We'll meet later—right before the library closes in the Restricted Section."

He was standing now, close enough for her to reach out and straighten his tie if she wanted. She didn't. That would mean admitting she was responsible for it being askew. "I don't have a signed note," Rose said.

"You won't need one." He started to leave.

"Scorpius?" It was weird, calling him by his first name. She forced down embarrassment to say, "Please never kiss me like that in front of my family."

Something indefinable gleamed in his eyes. "All right."

Lily burst into the room the instant Scorpius left. "Here! Hold these." She pressed earrings into Rose's hand and then cried, "Dark blue! Passion. Merlin's twisted knickers, the rumours are true!"

"What rumours?"

"The ones going round about Malfoy having a secret girlfriend." Lily's eyes became round as brown marbles. "The spirals changed to black—you're tense. D'you think I'd tell?"

Rose dropped the earrings into a pocket. "If you do, you'll ruin everything." She glanced over Lily's shoulder and then whispered, "He's coming home with me. It has to be kept a secret until we're on the train. His grandfather . . ." Rose trailed off, remembering Scorpius' desperation.

I can't stay here, and I can't run away. He'd say I was mental, track me down.

She didn't know what Scorpius was afraid his grandfather might do, but it had to be something terrible and Dark.

Lily had drawn her own conclusion. "It's like Romeo and Juliet without all the death!" Her eyes were bright with excitement. "Wait until the family sees you together. It'll be the best holiday ever." She threw her arms around Rose. "Finally, you do something bold and romantic. This proves you're a true Weasley!"

"Who said I wasn't?"

"Hugo. He said your mum used cloning spells and you're all Granger while he's all Weasley." Lily released her rib-cracking hold. "I said he didn't want to admit his parents had sex." She made a face. "None of us do."

Rose didn't want to think about sex—or sexual attraction—period. "Shh! I think someone's coming."

Albus and Meredith walked in, followed by other Prefects.

"Hey, Rosie, you want to announce tomorrow's patrol schedule?" Albus asked.

She nodded. It would stop her from thinking about Dad's expression when he saw her with boy he told her not to get "too friendly" with first-year.

After Rose assigned duties, Orna Bletchley raised her hand. "Scorpius Malfoy isn't here."

"I excused him from attending. Are there any other questions?"

Everyone seemed to be content with the schedule. No one spoke.

Lily came up to Rose when other Prefects were leaving. "Is that you were doing? Excusing Malfoy?" She giggled and then said, "Here comes Al. I'd better go eep-kay the ecret-say."

"What's her hurry?" Albus said, watching Lily dart out of the common room.

"Probably going to meet somebody."

He shook his head. "How does she keep track of all her boyfriends?"

"They're not boyfriends, they're boys who are friends. Hugo flirts with girls all the time. You don't call them his girlfriends. That's a sexist double-standard."

"I didn't mean it like that." Albus gave her a puzzled look. "Is something wrong? You seem . . . stressed."

"I'm fine." Rose tried to smile. "But if you have any chocolate."

"I'm always prepared." He handed her a bar of French dark chocolate. "If you need more I'll gladly sacrifice the last of the box Aunt Fleur gave me at Christmas."

"This should do. Thanks." She glanced around. "Meredith didn't wait for you?"

"We're going to meet up later."

"Behind a statue?"

He chuckled and waved to the last stragglers who called a farewell. "What about you?" he asked. "Are you meeting somebody?"

Rose startled. "Me?"

"I haven't seen you around the common room much. Merry said you could be seeing someone." He held up a hand like a wizard scout. "Even though you razzed me about fraternising with Quidditch opponents, I solemnly swear not to take the piss out of you if you're sneaking around with a bookworm Ravenclaw."

Albus was her best friend. He deserved honesty, or as much of the truth as she could give him. "I'm not just seeing someone, I'm going to owl Mum and Dad that I've asked a friend to spend the holiday with us."

"Sounds serious."

"It isn't," she said. "It's a holiday, that's all. A week. Seven days. Ten thousand and eighty minutes. Six hundred and four thousand, eight hundred seconds." The short, shallow breaths she took made Rose light-headed. All that time as Scorpius Malfoy's girlfriend!

She got a hold on herself and took slow, deep breaths.

"Here." Albus had conjured a paper bag.

She held it to her face and breathed out and back in a couple of times before lowering the bag. "Okay, I'll admit it. I'm stressed."

"Why?"

"Dad—you—what everyone's going to say—how they're going to react."

Albus wrapped an arm around her. "The bloke is human, isn't he? As long as you're not inter-species dating, I think the family can overlook whatever defect you're worrying about: hunchback; huge cranium; Miley Siren fan."

Oh Hades, she was tearing up. "I couldn't overlook Miley Siren."

"Yeah, that was a stretch."

She took a deep breath. "I want him to sit with us on the train." So his Slytherin friends can't stun him and hide him in a baggage compartment. She wouldn't put it past them. They were going to be less than thrilled to see Scorpius with her.

"So I can meet him? Find out secret information—like his name?"

"It won't be a secret after tomorrow." Don't be mad at me.

"Enough with the puppy eyes. I can wait to meet Quasimodo. I'm not Lily, going to pester you until you crack like a Cockroach Cluster." He gave her a one-armed hug and an evil grin. "I'm going to tickle you."

Pinned by his side and the "hug," she screamed with laughter. "S—stop! I'll tell you his name!"

Albus let her go. "Really?"

She cast a jelly-legs jinx and took off running. "Yes, tomorrow!"

At dinner, Rose kept her eyes on her plate while Albus looked around the Hall for potential Quasimodos. "There are too many slump-shouldered Ravenclaws to narrow it down," he said.

She picked at her food. "Not every Hufflepuff has good posture either."

"So the bloke's Hufflepuff?" Albus asked.

"I didn't say that."

"Didn't you?"

Rose had to smile. "I'm going to the library."

"To meet Quasi?"

"No, to read. If I hear Charlotte sing a Britney Sparkles song one more time, I'm going to go, "Oops, I broke your orb," she said half-jokingly. Part of her would love to see the Orpheus Orb dissolve into glitter. Her dormmates were mad about wizard karaoke and none of them could carry a tune in a cauldron.

After she went to the Owlery to send a letter to her parents, it was still too early to meet Scorpius. Rose browsed the stacks for a while, found a book, and settled into a comfortable chair. Who's Who in the Wizarding World was a hefty tome, even with a built-in Compacting Charm. She went to the index, found Lucius Malfoy's name, and turned to the page. What she learned didn't surprise her. He was an aristocratic pure-blood, a former Death Eater, pardoned of his crimes for defecting at the end of the Second Wizarding War and for his wife's heroism in saving Harry Potter's life. He resided at Malfoy Manor in Wiltshire, England, with his family.

Lucius Malfoy's picture was that of a coldly handsome man, upper lip poised to sneer. She stuck her tongue out at him and gasped when the image arched an eyebrow. Rose slammed the book shut. She gave a muffled shriek when a voice behind her said, "You're showing a lack of respect toward that book."

She stood to face her accuser. "I didn't know the pictures were enchanted. It startled me—exactly as you did."

Phineas Filch said, "I'll let it pass. This time."

"Thank you." Filch was such an odd boy, cherubic yet intimidating as his mother. "I don't mistreat books," she said. "I'd never dog-ear the pages or break the spines. I do write in them sometimes, but only when they're my property, and in pencil."

His stern expression relaxed. "Malfoy's waiting for you in the Restricted Section."

Filch and Scorpius were friends? No wonder she didn't have to worry about a note. Rose said, "I need to re-shelve—"

"I'll do it."

The book slid out of her hands and floated away. Rose could have taken points for magic use outside the classroom. Instead, she thanked him again and made her way to the rear of the library.

She found Scorpius at the very back corner of the Restricted Section, lounging on the window seat. Wide enough for a boy to sit sideways with his legs stretched out upon the black velvet cushion, the seat was also deep enough for another person to do the same if they desired.

Rose wiped her palms on her robes.

Scorpius' gaze shifted from night-dark panes. "Professor Blackwell agreed to wait until after the Express reaches London to inform Slughorn I've taken my name off the list."

"And your grandfather?"

"Afternoon tea is at five o'clock. By the time Grandfather realises I'm not going to show my face and marches to the castle it will be too late." He uncurled from the window seat.

Rose said, "I owled my parents and told Albus, sort of. No details." She gestured to the seat he'd abandoned. "Shall we practice?"

He quirked a brow very like his grandfather had in the picture.

She refused to blush. She wasn't suggesting they practice kissing like boyfriend and girlfriend! "Practice sitting together so we look natural, not awkward." In case he'd never noticed when patrolling the train, she said, "We'll be in the last compartment of the last carriage."

Scorpius sat on the cushion next to the wall and rapped the plaster with a knuckle. "I'm by the window."

Rose perched on the edge of the seat. "I'll act as a buffer. That makes sense."

He said, "There's too much space between us."

It was a couple of hands' width . . . if she splayed her fingers as wide as they would go . . . "I don't want to crowd you."

"You won't." Scorpius watched her slide over and said, "Closer. I'm supposed to be your boyfriend, Rose, not a stranger."

He thought she wanted to snog, and then turned around and implied she was a prude. Impulsively, Rose scooted until her thigh and shoulder pressed his. "Better?"

"Your family won't think so."

"Don't remind me." I'll deal with them later. She retrieved a roll of parchment from a pocket. "There are things I should know if I'm your girlfriend." She dug out a quill and held it poised. "We'll start with the basics. What's your favourite colour?"

"Blue," he said. "What's yours?"

"Green." She marked his answer down. "What's your favourite food?"

"Pizza."

Rose snorted. "Malfoys eat takeaway?"

"No, we make it at home in a wood-fired oven."

"Who? Your chef?"

"My parents. What's takeaway pizza like?"

"Some of it's good, some of it's cardboard." She tried to get her head around the mental image of Scorpius' family cooking together. Her own parents spent as little time in the kitchen as possible. "Chocolate," Rose said, when it registered that he'd asked what her favourite food was. "Bars of chocolate, chocolate truffles, hot chocolate, chocolate ice cream, I love it all." She paused expectantly. Now it's your turn.

He ran a finger back and forth along his jaw. She remembered the way his touch felt—smooth and firm—and wished she could edge away without appearing prudish.

After a few seconds that seemed incredibly long, he said, "I had dark chocolate gelato with chilli peppers in Italy once. I liked that."

Cold and hot: it suited him. "We have a batch freezer," she said. It was an enchanted Muggle machine won by Granddad Weasley at a Ministry auction. They'd never used it, but surely there were instructions. "If you want I'll find a recipe and we can make some." When she shrugged, her shoulder rubbed his. "That's what a girlfriend would do, right?"

"You tell me," Scorpius said. "You're my first."

 




~*~



A/N: I'd planned for this chapter to begin and end with Rose looking into eyes—Scorpius' and then her dad's—one thrilling, one not so much, heh. When I realised how much had to happen before they got on the train, and how much I wanted to show once they did, I regretfully delayed fun with Daddy Ron for the story's sake. I hope dear, kind, beloved readers will forgive me. ;)

 


Chapter 7: Tumult
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"I can't be," she said. "I've seen you with lots of different girls on Hogsmeade Weekends—not that I keep track or anything."

But she had noticed. Scorpius said, "You went with Terrence Boot last time. Was he your boyfriend?"

"No. He was trying to make Siva Singh jealous, or she told me in the loo of the Broomsticks."

Rose didn't sound upset about it. He wouldn't have to hex Boot to avenge her honour or some rot. "Did you snog him?"

"None of your business!"

Pink tinted her cheekbones. Rose Weasley blushed more than any girl Scorpius had ever known. It resembled a natural cosmetic accentuating porcelain-fine skin. "So you did," he said. "You get my point."

"Not having a girlfriend before doesn't mean you've never kissed anyone else." The "roses" in her cheeks deepened. "I could tell."

He denied the impulse to lift a hand and feel the heat. "I have to go."

"What about the list?"

"We'll finish on the train."

"It's rude to whisper while others are present."

A Weasley lecturing a Malfoy on etiquette, what would Grandmother Narcissa say? "We'll write." He smiled ironically. "It'll look like love-notes." He froze when she touched his face with a fingertip. "Your mother's heterozygous," he said. "Mine has a bifid zygomaticus major muscle."

Rose said, "There's nothing wrong in passing along genes for blue eyes . . . or a dimple."

That was easy for her to say. "Grandfather prefers Malfoy traits to dominate."

"I like your dimple."

I like your mouth. He didn't say it aloud, but even thinking it was disturbing Especially with her sitting so close. He said, "I'll use a Disillusionment Charm, ride on the driver's box of your carriage until we reach Hogsmeade Station. After that—"

"We run the gauntlet?"

"We stroll," he said, "as if we haven't a care in the world."

He was ace at pretending not to have cares. It wasn't the same as being carefree. Wondering how the bloody hell he was going to get through the next week kept Scorpius awake long past midnight, when he cast a Deep Sleep charm on his dormmates and slipped out of bed to pack. His black rucksack was a Featherlight Capacious Bag, enchanted to hold everything in his trunk, if he chose, while remaining light as a feather.

In the morning, his choice of attire raised eyebrows in the Great Hall.

"What's with the new look?" Edgar asked.

Scorpius buttered a croissant. "I've worn jeans before, haven't I?"

"Not that I remember."

Nott and Willoughby shook their heads when Scorpius glanced across the table.

"You've never worn a hooded jumper, either," said Willoughby.

Nott said, "It's brown."

Cocoa, his mum called it, when she presented the outfit at Christmas and said, "Being Slytherin doesn't mean your wardrobe's limited to white, black, grey and green, darling. Try other colours, find your own style."

"I like it," Scorpius said. He chose a satsuma from the fruit bowl, peeled the orange, and methodically divided it into sections.

"If you're not hungry, I'll take the croissant," Edgar said.

Scorpius handed it over.

"Don't be nervous," Edgar said. "Your grandfather would do anything for you."

That's why I can't eat. He glanced down the table. Phineas Filch gave him a thumb's up sign. Scorpius looked away. Everything was going according to plan.

In the general chaos of leave-taking, it was easy to remain undetected as he waited in the entry until Rose finished herding the first-years who milled around her like sheep out to the carriages. The tips of white trainers peeked out from the hem of her robes. Was she wearing jeans? If her shirt was any shade of brown, he was changing his at the first opportunity. Couples that dressed to match gave him the shudders.

He tracked Rose outside. Potter was climbing into the first carriage. She slowly followed—giving Scorpius plenty of time to walk ahead and climb onto the driver's box. When she paused before entering the carriage and looked up, he waved. Disillusionment wasn't total invisibility. The air blurred.

"We're all waiting on you, Rosie," Potter called.

She ducked inside.

At the station, Scorpius jumped down from the box. Students rushed the train like lemmings headed for an ocean cliff. Edgar and a large group of Slytherins sauntered in their wake. Rose stood in the middle of the platform, looking around—searching for him. He gripped the strap of the rucksack hoisted over a shoulder and countered the charm.

Rose saw him right away. She smiled weakly.

He picked up the carryall at her feet.

She lunged to clasp his free hand. "First, I want to introduce you to Albus."

"Who's right behind me?"

"Heading this way fast."

Scorpius moved to stand beside Rose. She looked ready to hyperventilate. He had to distract her. "You have a grip like a boa constrictor," he said out of the corner of his mouth.

"Oh! I'm sorry." She loosened her death-hold and stroked a thumb over the back of his hand. "Better?"

Around them, stragglers yet to board the train halted in their tracks to gawk.

Potter said in a loud voice, "The Express leaves in five minutes. Get moving!" Face set and tight, he strode over and came right to the point. "What are you doing here, Malfoy? You signed up to stay at Hogwarts."

Rose said, "He took his name off the list. He's coming home with me."

Potter raked a hand through his hair, making it stand on end. "Damn, Rosie, I take it back. They'd prefer a house-elf."

"Well, I don't."

She was currently rubbing circles on Scorpius' knuckles. While the hand massage felt good, it seemed to increase Potter's agitation. Scorpius tugged his hand out of Rose's and placed it at the small of her back. "We can discuss matters on the train."

Rose said, "The train. Look."

Faces pressed to the glass of the windows not lowered for unobstructed viewing. Several pairs of flesh-coloured extendable ears dangled against the scarlet exterior.

"I'll take care of this," Potter said. "Accio contraband!"

A wave of projectiles hurtled toward them. Scorpius cast a Shield Charm to deflect the objects raining down.

"Next time be more specific, Al," Rose said.

Potter shot back, "You, too, Rosie."

The train whistle sounded.

"We can't leave this mess," Rose said.

Scorpius waved his wand. "Evanesco!" Debris across the platform vanished. He gestured for Rose to go aboard.

Behind Scorpius, Potter said, "That was personal property you destroyed."

"The rules call for permanent confiscation, but feel free to refund their money," Scorpius said. "I'd ask for receipts." He heard a sharp breath and edged closer to Rose to see what caused her distress. A mob of onlookers jammed the narrow corridor.

They had boarded the train through the last door remaining open: the first door of the third carriage. Most Slytherins preferred the second carriage, so the "gauntlet" wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Rose said in an authoritative tone, "The train is leaving the station. Return to your compartments!"

"Whoever does not immediately comply with safety regulations will lose twenty House points," Potter added. His use of a Sonorous Charm carried the threat down the length of the carriage.

Little by little, the pathway cleared.

Rose asked Scorpius, "Is this when we stroll?"

"As if we hadn't a care."

"I'll instruct the Prefects," Potter said to Rose, "and join you shortly."

"Right." She grabbed Scorpius hand and marched toward the rear of the train.

Were all Weasleys as prone to hand holding? Scorpius tightened his grip to slow her pace. "A stroll is a leisurely walk."

Her eyes darted from one side of the corridor—one set of wide-eyed faces—to the other. "I feel like sprinting."

He relaxed his fingers. Compared to running, a brisk march was a stroll. He also understood her urgency. Gryffindors packed the last carriage. When the train cleared the station, passengers were free to move about. He used a silent charm to open the door ahead.

Rose picked up the pace.

They were a third of the way down the fourth carriage when the door to a compartment slid open. A small girl with distinctive red hair and freckles asked Scorpius, "Is Rose your secret girlfriend?"

He said, "Not much of a secret anymore, is it?"

"Get back in here, Lucy!" another girl cried.

Lucy giggled. "Molly's sore 'cause she was wrong. Bye."

"Two of my cousins," Rose said as they continued down the corridor. "Their dad's my Uncle Percy."

Another door opened. A pair of blond-haired lads stepped into the corridor. The rest of the boys in their compartment crowded the doorway.

"More cousins?" Scorpius recognised the younger one. A couple of months ago on patrol, he'd come across the first-year crying in the courtyard over a lost toad.

Loki wanted fresh air and then hopped away when I was trying to catch a snowflake on my tongue. Please help me find him. He'll die if you don't!

"Honorary," Rose said. "We call their mum and dad Aunt Luna and Uncle Rolf." She told the boys, "If you need the toilet—"

"Is he the one, Lysander?" The older brother said.

"Yes, Lorcan."

"Then give it to him. Loki wants him to have it."

Lysander opened his hand to reveal a brownish-green stone the size of a pea. "It's a toadstone," he said. "A talisman against danger and poison. I cleaned it after Loki spat it out."

"Thanks." Scorpius dropped the stone into the pocket of his jeans. "I might need it."

Rose said, "My family won't poison you."

"That isn't what I said, and we have to get to our compartment." Scorpius took Rose's hand and pulled her along.

She dug in her heels. "They won't kill you, either!"

"I didn't say they would."

"What are you saying?"

All down the carriage, Scorpius could hear the snick of compartment doors opening. He couldn't take on Gryffindor House en masse. "Run!"

She ran.

Lily Potter beamed when they threw open the door. "I saved you the window seat." She looked at his rucksack and gasped. "Is that the new Capacious Bag? I need one desperately." She pointed to the pink carryall stored on the rack above the seat. "Mine looks like a baby's changing bag."

Scorpius placed Rose's green-striped carryall on the luggage rack. His rucksack he preferred to keep at his feet. Accessible. He shrugged out of his jacket and asked Rose, "Do you keep your robes on the whole trip?"

"I don't have to."

"You always have before," Hugo Weasley said. He slouched, gangly arms crossed, on the seat opposite from his cousin.

"Things change." Rose took off her robes and folded them. "Thank you," she said when Scorpius placed them with his jacket on the overhead rack.

"You're welcome. I like your shirt."

She glanced down at the blue fabric. "It's your favourite colour."

"Not quite the right shade." He didn't realise how that sounded until he heard Lily Potter say, "Aw."

Rose looked at him questioningly.

Scorpius was glad to take a seat and break eye contact.

I'm Lily and he's Hugo, as you're probably aware," Lily said.

Hugo snorted. "Bet your folks always made sure you knew all our names, didn't they, Malfoy?"

"Yes, they put photographs on cards and quizzed me along with the times tables."

Rose's eyes held the humour her brother lacked. She asked, "Why not earlier, with your colours and shapes?"

"They didn't want to scar my developing psyche."

Lily gave a peal of laughter. "Hugo! You should see your face! Don't tell me you actually believe that."

Hugo scowled at his sister. "Malfoy's using you."

Scorpius felt Rose's body tense. He said, "In what way? To impress my family and friends?" He asked Rose, "Have I ever asked you to do my schoolwork?"

"No. You helped me with mine."

"I'm going to get Albus," Hugo said grimly. "He'll sort this out."

Lily released a deep breath when her cousin left in the compartment. "Well, that wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. Good thing I skivved off Prefect duty. Hugo wanted to climb out a window when someone yelled you two were holding hands on the platform." She sighed. "I missed it. I had to stun him."

"You're brilliant." Rose hugged Lily.

Scorpius had never thought to hug one of his cousins. They were acquaintances more than family, seen once a year at the Greengrass Christmas party. They didn't write or exchange Christmas cards.

A knock drew his attention to the door. Through the glass, he saw Edgar waiting in the corridor, a dark, hulking figure.

"What does he want?" Rose whispered.

"Who cares?" Lily made a shooing motion with her fingers. "Go away! We're all full up on Slytherins."

Scorpius said, "I have to talk to him. There's no danger." He smiled faintly at Rose. "The toadstone would've warned me otherwise." He slid open the compartment door but didn't step outside. His trust in talismans only went so far.

Edgar's eyes flickered from Rose to Scorpius. "Is she pretty enough to ruin your life over?"

"I'm not ruining my life. I'm making a choice. It has nothing to do with Rose, or you, or my grandfather. It has to do with me."

"She's using you somehow."

Scorpius looked back at Rose. "Where have I heard that before?"

She said, "My brother is as happy about this as you are, Goyle, but he has no control over us . . . and neither do you."

"Is there a problem?" Potter strode toward them, trailed by his girlfriend and Rose's churlish brother. With a wave of his wand, open compartment doors banged shut.

Edgar told Scorpius, "If you don't go home, he'll find you," and then turned to Potter. "No problem," he said and lumbered his way up the corridor.

Students who had reopened doors hastily pulled them shut.

Scorpius resumed his seat. The moment Edgar got off the train he would owl Lucius.

"He won't find you," Rose said softly.

"He will if your father won't let me stay."

"Don't worry. I promise, it'll be all right."

Scorpius wished he could believe that. The toadstone was burning a hole in his pocket.



  ~*~


A/N: While I wrote this story, I used the family tree Jo drew for a reference, but I didn't realize that Lorcan and Lysander were twins, so I humbly ask readers to kindly forget that fact while reading, because it only suits my plot for them to be brothers, one older, one younger. Toadstones, on the other hand, are not something I made up. They are mythical stones or gems formed inside a toad's body and, once vomited out, can be used as charms of protection.

 


Chapter 8: Family
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Rose's heart skipped a beat when Scorpius moved her hand up and pressed it against his thigh.

"Do you feel it?" he asked.

Heat radiated through denim. The toadstone!

"Get your hands off my sister!"

Rose cast a Pretrificus Totalus just as Hugo launched himself across the compartment. He froze in place, fist upraised.

"He's like a statue of a Muggle dueller," Lily said. "I vote we prop him in the corner until London."

"We can't do that." There was a touch of regret in Albus' voice.

Lily sighed. "Then can I at least use my coloured quills to draw him a beard and moustache?"

Rose dimly heard Albus' resounding no. The toadstone still felt hot. If it wasn't magical she'd expect to see smoke. "Should you take it out?” she whispered. “Maybe it glows or something."

Scorpius released her hand. "Potter's the danger," he said, so low she had to strain to hear.

Albus and Meredith were dragging Hugo's rigid body back to his seat.

"He wouldn't hurt you," Rose said with conviction.

"There's more than one kind of danger."

Scorpius' breath tickled her ear. A shiver travelled down Rose's spine. "What do you mean?"

He didn't get a chance to answer. Hugo, freed from the body-bind, ground out, "It's rude to whisper when others are present."

Rose snuck a peek at Scorpius. One corner of his lips tilted upward; he remembered her saying that to him. Merlin, she had to stop quoting her mother.

Lily said, "It's ruder to point out someone else's rudeness."

"Stop bickering." Albus' tone implied "or else." He sat facing Scorpius. "We've grown up hearing stories about your family. Rose may trust you, but Hugo doesn't, and I can't either—not without answers." He pulled a small flagon and a teaspoon out of his robe pocket. "Truthful answers."

Rose tensed. Scorpius was right about the danger! Similar to Veritaserum, Verisimilitude Potion compelled truthfulness. One teaspoon would ensure a single, honest answer. She said, "Verisimilitude is to be administered by the Head Boy or Head Girl as a last resort in disciplinary cases."

"This is a potential disciplinary case. How do I know Malfoy actually took his name off the list?"

"Give me the potion," Scorpius said. He scanned the fine print etched into the glass on the back. "Five teaspoons in a twenty-four-hour period is the maximum dosage. I'll answer five questions."

Even surrounded by Gryffindors he was self-assured and commanding. Rose envied that. Her poise was surface deep. She said, "You don't have to do this."

"I want to." He poured out the dose and drank it with a grimace.

"What's it taste like?" Rose asked.

"Don't answer!" Hugo said sharply. "The first question is did you take your name off the list?"

"No. Professor Blackwell did—or will—after the Express reaches King's Cross." As Scorpius poured another dose, he said, "It tastes like medicine without flavour added."

"Yuck," Rose said.

Scorpius took the potion. "My sentiment exactly."

"Look at her smiling at him! It's not natural," Hugo said. "What enchantment did you use, Malfoy? Potion? Spell? Tell us!"

"Rose is acting of her own free will."

She glared at Hugo. "Yes, I am."

He returned her angry look. "Then you're a fool. He's using you!" Hugo jabbed a finger at Scorpius. "Admit it, Malfoy!"

Scorpius swallowed another teaspoon of Verisimilitude Potion. "Is that your question? Am I using her?"

"Wait!" Albus said. "That's not specific enough, Hugo. Let me ask." He leaned forward. "Are you using Rose to spy or act against our family in any way?"

"No."

"His family doesn't know about us—they won't find out until an owl delivers his letter this afternoon." Rose turned to Scorpius. "I'm sorry, I should've made him ask that as one of your questions."

"Don't worry about it."

"What about you, aren't you worried?" Lily asked, scooting to the edge of the bench to see around Rose. "Your family is pure-blood."

Scorpius lifted a brow. "Is that an official question?"

"Drink the potion and answer, Malfoy," Hugo said.

Rose watched the play of muscles in Scorpius' throat as he swallowed.

"I'd be more worried if your house wasn't Unplottable," he said.

The tone was light, but she could see the shadow in his eyes. It brought out her protectiveness. "He won't find you."

Lily overheard. "Who won't find you?"

Rose wasn't about to make the same mistake twice. She asked, "Is that the final question?"

"That's too easy," said Albus. "It's Lucius Malfoy. A Death Eater would never accept a girl who wasn't pure-blooded."

"I'm not asking him to," Scorpius said, "and I'm not asking you to accept me."

Rose almost jumped out of her skin when Scorpius laced his fingers with hers. He'd grabbed her hand a time or two to yank her from one place to another. That was different from reaching for her hand to hold it. It was as though he was showing that she accepted him, and her feelings were the only ones that mattered.

She stared at their entwined fingers. Top of the class. Head Girl. All she'd ever cared about was her family's approval. To keep it she'd made the deal that was guaranteed to lose it. Strangely, she could smile at the irony.

"She's doing it again, Albus," Hugo said. "Make her stop!"

Rose was tired of her brother's attitude. "Go find another compartment if you don't like the view."

"Not until Malfoy finishes answering our questions."

"Don't include me," Albus said. "He isn't plotting against our family. That's all I needed to hear."

Meredith, who had silently watched, said, "I'd like to ask something." She waited for Scorpius to drink the potion. "When did you first know you liked Rose?"

Scorpius didn't answer right away. His jaw clenched. Through gritted teeth he said, "Fifth-year."

Rose could hear the blood pounding in her veins. "When you caught me stealing pumpkins?" Scorpius had arranged for a wagonload for Slytherins to practice on for the first annual inter-House contest. Inexperienced with carving, she had slipped down to the kitchen to do some practicing of her own. "I never guessed."

"I'm not Hufflepuff." Scorpius glanced at Meredith. "No offence."

"None taken. Puffs are known for wearing their hearts on their sleeves. We never make you waste time wondering if we like you." She bit her lip. "Oh, stars, that didn't come out right."

"You were only telling the truth," Albus said.

"Without being forced," Hugo added.

Scorpius handed the flagon and teaspoon to Albus and then slipped his hand from Rose's to unzip his rucksack. "Anyone else want a Butterbeer?" He withdrew a small wicker picnic basket.

"I'd love one," Lily said.

He handed her a bottle.

"Is that a Cornucopia?" Rose asked, peering into what appeared to be an ordinary basket.

"No. Slinky used a capacious enchantment and filled it with everything he thought I might require on the train."

Hugo glowered. "Personal house-elves aren't allowed at Hogwarts."

"Scorpius is a Prefect, he knows the rules better than you. Slinky's assigned to Slytherin House." Rose spoke with assurance, but asked Scorpius a question with her eyes. Isn't he?

He gave her a Butterbeer and a slight nod.

Hugo wasn't appeased. "Hogwarts' elves are free. They serve the school, not the students. That goes against everything Mum works for."

The memory of enormous brown eyes swimming with tears of gratitude flashed into Rose's mind. She said, "Freedom means the right to choose. If she finds happiness in serving others, what right have you or Mum to dictate to Winky or any other elf?"

"He said Slinky, not Winky. Is your hearing as messed up as your taste in blokes?"

"Silencio Hugo! I'm tired of listening to you. Get out!" Rose was so upset—at her slip and her brother—that her voice shook.

Hugo's face went beet red. He stabbed a finger toward her and Scorpius and then pointed toward the door.

"Why should they leave?" Lily asked. "You're the one being a git."

Hugo showed her the back of two fingers.

Lily returned the gesture.

"That's enough," Albus said. "There's no reason for anyone to leave—unless they can't be civil." He gave Hugo a warning look.

Rose countered the charm.

A stomach gurgle broke the silence that fell.

"I didn't eat breakfast," Scorpius said.

Rose splayed a hand across her stomach as it rumbled at the mention of food. "I couldn't eat," she said. "I was afraid it might come back up."

Scorpius drew a chocolate-drizzled croissant on a china plate out of the basket.

Rose said thanks and pinched off a bite. It was soft and warm. "Slinky thought you'd need this?"

"I told him you loved chocolate."

"I love chocolate too," Lily said.

Hugo frowned. "You ate breakfast."

"Hours ago." Lily smiled when Scorpius handed her a plate. "Thank you for being a gentleman unlike some people."

Hugo made a scoffing noise.

Lily stuck her tongue out at him.

To prevent an all-out squabble, Rose asked Albus and Meredith, "Are you hungry?"

"The bacon and tomato quiche is excellent," Scorpius said.

"To die for?" Hugo sneered. "You probably poisoned it."

"I'm not hungry, thanks," Albus said. He shifted his gaze to Hugo. "You're not being civil."

"Because I'm not a hypocrite. I don't care what he said, Malfoy's a snake, and I don't trust him." Hugo wrenched open the door and stomped out of the compartment.

Lily sighed. "You should've let me give him a pink goatee, Al."

"Matters are bad enough. I'll go talk to him."

After Albus left, Lily sat next to Meredith to ask her opinion on Witch Weekly articles. Rose suspected the motive was to give her a bit of privacy.

"There's plenty of food if you want something else," Scorpius said.

Rose used a vanishing spell on what was left of her croissant. "My stomach's queasy again."

He put the basket into the rucksack and took out parchment and a self-inking quill. "We'll write notes until it settles."

She wanted to write What did you like about me fifth year, but she didn't have the nerve. She wrote Why haven't you participated in the carving contest the last two years? His dragon design was the unanimous winner of the first annual contest.

Scorpius read the question and answered, My housemates didn't value my input.

Define input.

He wrote back I found out Gryffindor was carving Snape's portrait and proposed carving Voldemort's.

Rose looked at Scorpius. "That would've won."

"So I told them."

She could imagine the reaction that got. Rose had been called a know-it-all more than a few times over the years. "Before or after the contest?" she asked.

His lips curved in a way that caused a fluttery sensation in Rose's middle. "Both."

"I think I could eat now," she said. "Do you have any fruit?"

The green apple tasted better than the first one he'd given her. She ate two.

The trip went smoothly, all things considered. Hugo didn't return to the compartment, but people constantly dropped by to say hello or ask a question, staring avidly at Rose and Scorpius. While Albus wasn't thrilled to perform "guard duty," accompanying Scorpius to the toilet, he admitted on their return that a number of Slytherins had been loitering in the corridor as if waiting to catch Scorpius alone.

When the train neared King's Cross, they put on their jackets and took down the luggage. Albus, Meredith, and Lily went to oversee the students disembarking.

Cousin Lucy, arms wrapped around her toad cage, waited for Rose to slide open the door and rushed inside, her eyes on Scorpius. "Molly says Uncle Ron won't let a Malfoy stay under his roof. She says you'll have to sleep outside in the cold." Her lips trembled. "You saved Sigyn's husband. I don't want you to sleep on the street."

"He won't," Rose said. "I promise."

"Is Sigyn's husband a trickster named Loki?" Scorpius asked.

Lucy's face brightened. She nodded. "And when we're bigger Lysander and I will marry and bring them to Norway to study trolls."

"Congratulations."

"Lucy!" Molly hollered from somewhere out of sight. "It's time to go!"

"Bye," said Lucy. In the corridor, she yelled, "You're wrong, Malfoy's sleeping with Rose. She promised!"

Rose groaned. "The holiday from Hades, that's what you're getting. My family's insane."

"They're not boring." Scorpius hooked his rucksack over a shoulder and held her carryall in one hand.

She held his hand without thought. "Stay out of hexing range and let me do the talking."

"I'd planned to."

Rose led the way off the train. The platform was a lot more crowded than usual. She heard an ominous click-click of cameras and walked as quickly as possible toward the circle of family waiting off to the side, plain-clothed Auror "courtesy escorts" surveying the crowd and keeping them at a distance.

It was easy to see her dad. He, Uncle Bill, and Uncle Percy were the tall ones in the family. He smiled when she came into sight. Obviously, no one had told him who her "friend" was. Rose watched his eyes slide past her and Scorpius. His brows drew together. He craned his neck, searching for the girl he expected. Abruptly, his gaze swivelled back. His face turned the exact shade of red Hugo's skin had on the train.

"Hold tight to my arm," Rose said to Scorpius before calling out, "We'll meet you at home," and Disapparating.

"This is Thornhill Square," she said, when they stood on the pavement in front of Victorian, four storey terraces. Self-conscious about the graceful house that appeared between its neighbours, Rose explained, "My parents bought it when the garden looked nothing like the famous one at 36, it didn't have more than overgrown roses and rough grass. The seller practically gave it to them because she was well off and had no family and they were war heroes. It's still un-modernised—"

"It's nice. May we go inside?"

"Oh. Right. Sorry." He was worried about being followed and she was concerned he'd think they were nouveau riche when they weren't.

The entrance was on the raised ground floor. "Our guest bedroom is on the lower ground floor past the kitchen. Here's the guest cloakroom," she said, indicating a door to the right when they moved into the corridor past the reception hall. "Study, library—" Rose waved a hand at doorways on the left. "And this is the lounge," she said, leading him into the space filled with large windows, ornate cornicing, and comfortable, durable furniture.

"Is that where you read?" Scorpius asked, looking at a gold velvet chaise in a secluded corner. Beside it was a stack of books.

"Yes." She heard the front door open and said, "Here they come. Do you think it's better to face them sitting or standing?"

"Rosie!"

"Standing," Scorpius said, as her dad's long strides pounded against wood floors.

Rose didn't get in trouble often, so her father's blazing eyes and wrathful expression were intimidating. She tried not to let it show. "Hullo, Daddy. You—you said I was welcome to bring home a friend."

"He can't be a friend. He's a Malfoy!"

That was so prejudiced. "He's my boyfriend!"

"The hell he is!"

"Ronald!" Rose's mother entered the room. "You agreed, after we talked to the children, that a display of temper will not improve the situation."

"Nothing could make it worse," said Hugo, joining them.

Rose made a show of gazing past him. "Are other relatives coming to give unwanted opinions?"

"We'll see them tomorrow at Sunday dinner," her mum said. "It was decided—"

"You decided, Hermione."

Rose's dad received a no-arguing-in-front-of-the-children look. "I suggested, and everyone agreed, that this was better handled in private by those directly involved, so why don't we all sit down." She sat on the sofa.

Scorpius took one of the leather chairs flanking the sofa. Instead of sitting with her parents, Rose chose the ottoman in front of Scorpius' chair.

A muscle twitched in her dad's jaw.

"Let's start with introductions," Mum said. "I'm Hermione Weasley, Rose's mother."

"He knows who we are." Dad narrowed his eyes at Scorpius. "What I want to know is what are your intentions toward my daughter."

~*~







A/N: Finally, they're off the bloody train! I couldn't see Albus and Hugo not asking questions (it would be like the scene in Lion King when Timon says, And everyone's okay with that? DID I MISS SOMETHING?), and when the cameras started clicking I realised Rose would not stand around the platform when her dad was about to explode. She's savvy enough not to want to give the papers any more juicy gossip than they already have.

After I did the research to find the Weasleys a nice place to live near King's Cross, I found out that Thornhill Square is where Four Weddings and a Funeral was shot. Serendipity, I think, and I hope readers will find it serendipitous that Tale of the Pumpkin Thief is posted on my author page, so they can go read the story of when Scorpius first saw Rose as more than just another Weasley.

 


Chapter 9: Promises
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"To be with her." That was as honest as Scorpius was prepared to be.

Hermione Weasley laid a hand on her husband's shoulder. "It fits what Albus told us. He's here to spend time with Rose."

Ronald Weasley's nostrils flared. "It'll take more than Verisimilitude Potion to make me trust a Malfoy."

"I'm not asking for that. I only hope you'll let me stay." Scorpius looked at Rose. Her eyes were a softer, warmer blue than her father's, conveying reassurance instead of threats.

"They will," she said. Her gaze shifted to her parents. "Won't you?"

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley traded glances easy to decipher:

We said any friend of hers was welcome, Ronald.

That was before we knew the friend was male—and Slytherin!

I don't like it any better than you, but if we make him leave she might go with him!

Scorpius wasn't the only one interpreting the silent exchange. "You can't!" Hugo balled his hands into fists. "You can't let him stay!"

"You don't make the decisions for this family," Mrs. Weasley said.

Hugo ignored the ice in her tone. "Dad! What about all those stories you told me? You said the Malfoys were no good! He could be planning—"

"Shut up!" Rose sounded on the verge of tears or physical violence.

Scorpius knew which he would prefer: Hugo with a bloody nose.

"That's enough from both of you," said Mr. Weasley. He exhaled heavily. "Hugo has a point, Rose. The boy's a Malfoy—hear me out—" he said when she started to interrupt. "I can't forget the past, but I can try to live with it . . . if he gives me a wizard's handshake that he won't harm our family or take advantage of you in any way."

The red-hot toadstone in his pocket warned Scorpius that he was in danger of being tossed out if he didn't agree. The request wasn't unreasonable. A wizard's handshake didn't have the deadly consequences of an Unbreakable Vow, yet the pain of breaking it ensured most kept their word. Grandfather Lucius had advised Scorpius never to give one.

"If a business associate demands such a thing, he and I will no longer do business. I never make a promise I can't break."

"Except to family." Scorpius at eight trusted his grandfather implicitly.

"Except to you." Grandfather put a finger to his lips. "Our little secret."

Remembering one of Grandfather's promises drove Scorpius to his feet. He held out his hand to Rose's father. "I give you my word, sir."

The instant Mr. Weasley shook his hand, Scorpius' skin went numb and then returned to feeling with the sharp, tingling sensation of pins and needles. Scorpius' breath hissed through his teeth.

At once, Rose was beside him. She held his hand, stroked her palms from his fingers to his wrists on both sides, and then made circles on his palm with her thumb. She turned his hand over and rubbed the flesh between his tendons. "I'm sorry you had to do that." She pressed small circles down each finger before gripping the base and pulling upward in a gentle stretch.

Scorpius found the experience uncomfortably sexy. "I'll be all right."

"I won't be," Hugo said. "I'm gonna puke."

A sidelong glance revealed that Mr. Weasley wasn't pleased with Rose's massage skills either. He appeared tightly wound, ready to spring off the sofa and attack—something Scorpius preferred to avoid. He eased his hand out of Rose's grasp. "Thank you."

She said, "Mum and I learned hand massage to help Nana's arthritis feel better. It improves blood circulation too." She asked her parents, "May I show Scorpius to his room?"

"No. I'll escort our guest." Mr. Weasley's tone indicated no tagalongs were welcome.

That didn't stop Rose. She said to Scorpius, "I'll fix us drinks and wait for you in the kitchen."

Where she would listen for screams and rescue him if needed? Scorpius said, "I'd like that."

Hugo said, "I'm hungry. I didn't eat on the train. Something turned my stomach."

"Well you're obviously better now," Mrs. Weasley said. "I'll fix you a snack to tide you over until dinner." She rose to join the others.

On the way from the lounge to the kitchen, Scorpius and Rose followed her father with Hugo and Mrs. Weasley trailing behind them. Hugo said, "We usually go out to dinner on our first night back to celebrate. Mum, tell me we aren't taking this freak show out in public."

"Mind your manners." Mr. Weasley's voice was a growl.

"Beg pardon," Hugo said, "but c'mon, we can't be seen with him! If we give The Intruder any more pictures they'll run a special edition!"

"It wouldn't be the first time," Mrs. Weasley said.

Scorpius envisioned his parents and grandparents sitting around the breakfast table. In the middle on a silver platter, magical flames consumed a stack of newspapers. He said, "Please don't go to any trouble on my account."

"Too late," Hugo muttered. A few seconds later, he yelped. "Rosie gave me a Stinging Hex!"

"I did not!" Rose cried, at the same time Mrs. Weasley said, "She couldn't have. There's no welt."

Scorpius caught Rose's eye. Not every hex that stung left a mark.

She gave him a you didn't look.

He smirked.

Mr. Weasley cleared his throat. They had reached the kitchen. It had the same dark wood floor as the rest of the house, with tile around the cooker. The room looked seldom used. There was no lingering smell of food or spices, and the walls were white and bare. There was a wall faucet over the stone sink like the one at the Manor, so they had running water. Illumination orbs too. Rose must have meant something else by "un-modernised."

"I'll take lemonade, Rosie." Mr. Weasley jerked his head for Scorpius to follow him and opened a door at the back of the kitchen.

It took willpower for Scorpius to stroll into the guest bedroom as though he had no worries about his safety once the door closed behind him. Although Father never spoke of his years at Hogwarts, Grandfather Lucius had shared enough stories to make Scorpius leery, and the toadstone was still warm.

Mr. Weasley said, "I'm going to have to search your rucksack."

Scorpius placed it on the floral duvet covering the brass and iron bed. Apparently, it would take more than Verisimilitude Potion and a wizard's handshake to merit Rose's father's grudging hospitality.

The amount of clothing earned a questioning look.

"In case you dress for dinner," Scorpius said.

"Humph." Next, the number of books raised red eyebrows. "What's all this for?"

"Rose wants to spend some time revising for N.E.W.T.s."

Mr. Weasley didn't remark upon the toiletry items. He did look over the Quidditch Illustrated magazine long enough for Scorpius to suspect him of reading the Why the Cannons Can't Win article. Eventually, he tossed the magazine onto the pile of books and said, "No Dark objects, no cameras or recording devices. It looks like you're here for the reason you say you are."

"Yes, sir."

"I still don't want you under my roof, but I'm going to allow it. Do you know why?"

Scorpius said, "Rose invited me?"

Even with dim lighting Scorpius could see Mr. Weasley's face turn a worrying shade of red. He barked, "Because I'm not letting this f—" Abruptly, he broke off, taking a breath to compose himself before saying, "I'm not letting this situation get out of hand. She's not your Juliet, Romeo. I'm not forbidding Rose to see you. In fact, I want you two to spend loads of time together, really get to know each other." He smiled thinly. "We'll see how long this relationship lasts without the thrill of sneaking around." He stalked to the door. Hand on the door handle; he looked back over his shoulder. "The minute you break your word, you're gone. That's a promise."

"Yes, sir." Grandfather held that one of the greatest victories gained over someone was to beat him at politeness. Scorpius thought it was particularly true when dealing with Rose's family.

He was deliberating whether to hang his clothing in the armoire or keep it in the rucksack when Rose came into the room, glasses of lemonade in hand. "Here. Was he awful to you?"

Scorpius took the drink. "No chance this is hard lemonade, I suppose?"

"No." She bit her lip. "I'm sorry. Dad's always had a temper."

"I was joking. He wasn't that bad." He handed her the cooling toadstone to prove it.

"Oh." Rose smiled a little. She gasped when she saw the books on the bed. "I didn't bring mine."

"We'll share."

Her smile lit up her face—something Hugo, entering the room, didn't appreciate the way Scorpius did.

"Merlin, Rosie, stop it with the goo-goo eyes!"

Scorpius saw the way Rose's hand tightened around her glass and said, "Why don't you stop taunting your sister before you get another hex?" Or a splash of lemonade in the face. "I didn't invite you into this room," he said. "Get out."

"Dad told me to keep an eye on you."

"I gave a wizard's handshake. We don't need a chaperone."

"Fine." Hugo turned to go and then whipped back around. "Wait. You gave me the hex, Malfoy? How?"

"I can't tell you. You're underage."

When her brother stomped away, Rose said, "He'll be poring through the books of spells in the library tonight looking for the answer."

Scorpius didn't tell her Hugo wouldn't find it in any book. He'd created the spell after his grandfather told the story of a famous Knight who knew more hexes than anyone else. Scorpius had wanted to become famous too.

He thought of the pictures soon to fill the papers and shrugged. That definitely wasn't the way he'd once planned.

"Do you regret coming here?" Rose asked. "Is that why you're so quiet?"

He shook his head. "I'm trying to decide whether to hang up my clothes or keep them packed for a quick get-away."

Rose mistook his light tone to mean he was joking again. She said, "I'll help you hang things up if you like."

Slytherin instinct urged him to shove everything into his rucksack. His clothing was charmed against wrinkles.

Scorpius handed Rose a shirt.

They had finished putting away his clothes and were sitting on the bed quizzing each other on important dates in the history of magic when there was a knock. Hugo put his head into the room to say, "Dinner's ready," and shut the door with a bang.

"I told Mum you'd never had takeaway pizza," Rose said. "Dad probably just got back from picking it up."

"Should I change for dinner?"

"You're fine . . . I mean you look fine. Presentable. Clean."

Scorpius hid a smile. "Where do I wash my hands? Is there an ensuite bathroom?"

"No, there's the cloakroom I showed you, but the bathroom you'll be using is up on the third floor. I'll give a tour later. For now we can use the sink in the kitchen if you don't mind."

He opened the door and gestured for her to lead the way.

The three standing around a centre worktable loaded with square boxes cut off their low-pitched conversation when Rose and Scorpius entered the kitchen. It felt strange to have an audience while washing his hands beneath the tap. It gave Scorpius flashbacks to childhood and his mother reminding him to sing two choruses of wave, wave, wave your wand to ensure cleanliness.

"You ordered Franco's pizza, my favourite," said Rose. "Thanks, Dad."

She sounded relieved, as though she'd feared he would bring home the "cardboard" variety. "It smells good," Scorpius said.

"We'll serve ourselves in here and eat in the dining room." Mrs. Weasley looked at him expectantly. "The table is set. Just pick up a plate."

"Ladies first," Scorpius said to Rose.

"You're our guest, I'll follow you."

There was a pizza topped with tomato, mozzarella, and basil, one with wild mushrooms, one with capers, olives, and artichoke, and a pizza with chorizo and mozzarella. Scorpius took a slice of each. The crust was thicker than what his family made at home, especially round the edge.

"It's sourdough," Rose said, choosing to sample one of each as well. "If Hogwarts served pizza like this I'd need bigger uniforms. It's addicting." She led the way into the dining room. "The table's reclaimed wood," she said. "Crafted by elves."

"And the chairs?" He chose to sit with his back to the wall. With three dining chairs on each side, his place at one end guaranteed a table's width of space between himself and anyone beside Rose.

"They're new," she said as though admitting an embarrassing flaw. "Dad wanted Italian leather."

"I wanted to be comfortable," Mr. Weasley said, coming into the room and sitting across from Scorpius. He had traded his lemonade for a glass of red wine.

Mrs. Weasley sat across from Rose. She also drank wine.

Scorpius glanced at the cutlery provided, and then at Rose. She picked up a slice. He took his cue from her and ate with his hands. The first bite was a surprise. The crust was crispy on the outside, and yet reminded him of Indian nan bread inside: soft and chewy.

"Do you like it?" Rose asked.

"Very much."

There was a scraping sound as Hugo pushed his plate across the table. He switched from sitting beside his mother to the chair next to Rose. "If I have to look at them I won't be able to eat," he told his parents.

"You may eat in your room if you cannot behave." Mrs. Weasley's voice was like Scorpius' mother's, quiet and firm.

Hugo mumbled, "Yes, ma'am," and crammed half a slice of pizza into his mouth.

Mrs. Weasley turned to Scorpius. "Rose shared that your family has a pizza oven."

"Elitists eat pizza?" Mr. Weasley asked skeptically.

"Anyone can eat it," Scorpius said. "It's only impossible to be elitist and make it." So Mum says.

Mr. Weasley finished off the wine in his glass. "You're telling us Draco Malfoy makes pizza?"

"He supervises."

"That's what I thought." He gave his daughter a meaningful look.

Rose asked Scorpius, "What's your favourite pizza?"

"Quattro Stagioni. Four Seasons." When he was four, dumping ham, mushrooms, olives, and artichokes on top of tomato and mozzarella was the height of culinary achievement. He learned afterward that each "season" was supposed to occupy an individual quarter of the pizza. "What's yours?"

"Pizza Nutella." She could tell he had no clue what that was and smiled as she explained, "It's a dessert pizza, chocolate-hazelnut spread topped with dark and white chocolate."

"Nutella's Muggle," Hugo said. "Dad had to pick it up from a Muggle shop. It's Muggle-made."

Scorpius looked at Rose. "Sounds Muggle-licious."

She giggled, which set him off. They laughed until Hugo threw down his serviette and went upstairs to "eat in peace."

Soon after, Mr. Weasley brought in dessert and a bottle of wine to refill his and Mrs. Weasley's glasses. The chocolate pizza's crust was the best part to Scorpius, light and wafer thin. He'd have to make one for his grandmother. She adored chocolate almost as much as Rose.

Mrs. Weasley graciously refused Scorpius' offer to help clear the dishes. "Show him the rest of the house, Rose, and tell Hugo if he wants dessert, he can eat it in the kitchen."

"If you want a shower take it before bedtime or in the morning," Mr. Weasley told Scorpius in a flinty voice. "You'll regret it if you try creeping upstairs in the dark."

"And what if I creep downstairs?" Rose asked. "What happens then?"

Mr. Weasley's face reddened. "You—you'd better not!"

Rose rolled her eyes. "He's so embarrassing," she said as they climbed the stairs. "Is your dad like that? Over-protective and paranoid?"

"In a different way," Scorpius said. "He can quote accident statistics on every model of racing broom."

She paused briefly on the first floor landing, pointed to the door she said led to her parents' bedroom and bath, and then resumed their climb up the stairway. "Hugo and I have bedrooms on the second floor." She walked past a door painted with pink climbing roses and rapped on a door with a red and white Danger! Keep Out! safety sign attached to the wood. "If you want dessert, it's in the kitchen."

"Bring it up here!" Hugo said through the door.

"No!" Rose headed for a set of stairs that were narrower and without a carpet runner. "We share the bathroom on the third floor. It's the only room up there. The rest is attic."

The third floor landing was tiny and had a low ceiling. Rose indicated the door to the bathroom. "I have to warn you, it's very Edwardian. The bath and shower unit are combined, that's what the hood is for at the end, to stand under." When he looked into the room, she said, "Everything works, and the shower has overhead and horizontal sprays—ten different settings, actually—but it's not modern."

"You have a toilet instead of a chamber pot," Scorpius said. "That's modern enough for me." The ceramic washbasin and porcelain enamel bath, while less ornate, looked very like the ones at home. He examined the flagons on a shelf next to the tub. Rose-scented foaming bath oil. Rose-scented bath salts. Rose-scented shampoo. "Did you choose these?" he asked.

"They were gifts," she said. "Why?"

"No reason." Satisfying curiosity.

Mischief gleamed in her eyes. "You can use them if you like."

"And get a hex from your father."

She groaned. "Oh God. He would." Her lips began to curve. "A Malfoy smelling like roses. What would your family say?"

Scorpius smiled to conceal his unease.

In the middle of the night, when the house was finally quiet, Scorpius relaxed enough to close his eyes.

He dreamed of an owl clawing at the window.

Maleficus had found him. There was a message attached to his leg. In a trance, Scorpius opened the window and untied the scroll to read.

You are under a foul enchantment. There is only one way to break the spell.

Fear ripped away the veil of sleep, leaving Scorpius staring at the ceiling. Trelawney claimed some dreams were portents. What if his grandfather blamed Rose and discovered a way to find her and lure her out of the house?

He scrambled to locate his jeans. The toadstone felt like an ordinary stone. He relaxed, and abruptly tensed. What if it only worked for him? Scorpius couldn't wait until morning to make sure Rose was safe. He had to act immediately. How? Mr. Weasley had wards and Merlin knew what else securing the stairs. That way was blocked. Scorpius could yell, but that would wake everyone in the house.

He sat on the edge of the bed, head in hands. There was only one thing to do. He didn't want to do it, didn't want her to see. If there was another way—any other way—he would take it, but there wasn't. Scorpius had no other option. He took slow, deep breaths and held his wand as he cleared his mind and concentrated on the memory of a trip to Lapland when he was five, snuggling with his parents in a magic sleeping bag on a bed of snow. He could see the room of ice and the stocking filled with presents. "Happy Christmas," he heard his dad say, ruffling his hair. His mother kissed his cheek.

Scorpius said, "Expecto Patronum!"

 

~*~

 

A/N: Sometimes you write a phrase and then think, "Where have I heard that before?" The first line of this chapter struck me that way, and after awhile it came to me. In the film The Illusionist, a Chief Inspector asks the controversial illusionist Eisenheim why he’s doing his new act, to which he answers, "To be with her" (his lover Sophie). If there's anyone who hasn't seen the film, I recommend it highly. While Edward Norton and Jessica Biel are no Scorpius and Rose, I could see our HP pair pulling off so daring a caper as cleverly. ;)

Lucius' view of gaining a victory with politeness was borrowed from American humorist Josh Billings. Scorpius' remark that you can't be elitist and make pizza I took from an Observer article/interview with Giuseppe Mascoli, the owner of Franco Manca in Brixton Market, London.

In case anyone was wondering, yes, the tune wave, wave, wave your wand sounds just like row, row, row your boat, and yes, I have a reason for holding off on revealing Scorpius' Patronus, and wanting it to be Rose's pov when they enter The Burrow. :D

If anyone’s interested in a Draco pov one-shot about confronting Lucius for Scorpius’ sake, Screw Your Courage to the Sticking Place has been validated, and after this chapter posts I’ll be sticking a Ron pov one shot about having Scorpius as a houseguest into the queue. I don’t know how long the backlog will be, but I hope readers who enjoyed this chapter will look forward to Crouching Father, Hidden Terror  and have a Happy Christmas!

 

 


Chapter 10: Patronus
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She took a long bath, listened to soothing music, did breathing exercises, and read Quidditch through the Ages. Nothing helped. She eventually set the book aside and closed her eyes, resigned to willing herself to sleep.

Then someone called her name.

Rose turned her head in the direction of the voice and stared into the eyes of a silvery Patronus. The animal's small face leaned towards hers. Rose heard in her mind, I had a dream you were in danger. Tell me you're all right. I need to know you're safe.

She recognised Scorpius' voice instantly. It took a few seconds longer to recognise the animal that stood so close they were practically nose-to-nose. "Oh my God," Rose whispered. A Patronus was the embodiment of a caster's thoughts, and when corporeal, an animal personification of self. For Scorpius to send his to her—

Rose scrambled out of bed and threw open the door. She ran downstairs, speeding through familiar rooms until she reached the kitchen and crashed into a warm body.

Arms wrapped around to hold her steady. "You're okay. I won't have to yell up the stairs."

Scorpius wasn't wearing a shirt, and Rose's heart was beating like crazy. "How'd you know it was me?"

The darkness wasn't total. She could see a glimpse of smile. "You're pretty unmistakable."

She looked down at her white t-shirt painted with the Cheshire cat’s toothy, glow in the dark smile. "I guess so," she said, fighting the temptation to turn on an orb to see his face. It was more important to keep him at ease. "What did you dream?" she asked. Rose felt his body tense.

"It doesn't matter."

"Was it your grandfather?"

"Yes."

Scorpius' tone was cool. He didn't like being questioned, but she couldn't stop. "Does he know about your Patronus?"

"No. Dad taught me the spell."

"When?"

"Summer before fifth-year."

"And you've kept it secret all this time?"

He gave a mirthless laugh. "It's not something I'm proud of."

"You should be. The charm is simple only in theory. It's impressive that you mastered it at that age, and your animal is special, it gives protection—"

"Against snakes!" His hands came up to grip her shoulders. "What kind of Slytherin has a damned mongoose for a Patronus? If anyone at school found out, I'd be a laughingstock. My housemates would call me a traitor and my grandfather would have a stroke." His arms fell to his side. "I shouldn't have sent it. You don't understand."

"Yes, I do!" She stepped forward when he took a step back. "You're not who people think you are. I understand completely." The dark made it easier to confess, "I'm not like my mother, I'm not the brightest witch of our age. I only revise more."

"No, you're smart."

"Not like you. I can't brew a potion without instructions, I don't have your memory. Why aren't you top of the class?"

"I don't want it."

He was so confusing. And fascinating. "What do you want?"

Scorpius kissed her.

How he zeroed in on her mouth was a mystery Rose didn't puzzle over for long. There was passion in the kiss that made her brain go fuzzy. It was as though getting close to her was all that mattered to Scorpius. No one else ever kissed her with such persuasive intensity. As she had in the common room, she responded, this time determined to make him feel the same—that no other kiss compared.

She parted her lips and pressed closer. The rasp of denim against her legs was as arousing as the glide of hands and tongues. His hands caressed her back while her fingertips traced the smooth muscles of his shoulders and arms.

"Yes," Scorpius whispered, when she hesitantly placed a hand on his abdomen.

Rose held her breath and slid her palms upward.

She froze when the kitchen flooded with light.

"What the hell's going on, Rosie? I heard the stairs creak, waited for you to come back up, and when you didn't, I come down to find you in the dark doing . . . that!"

Rose lowered her hands and got an unobstructed view of Scorpius' chest. "Wow—I mean, sorry, I just wanted to see if he had everything he needed." She closed her eyes, wishing the house didn't have Anti-Apparating security wards inside and out. She would Apparate to her room and pull the covers over her head. For a week.

"Thank you," Scorpius said with no trace of irony. "I'm fine."

It was impossible not to look at the body she'd been touching. He was incredibly fit.

Her father continued the list of transgressions. "You're not wearing a robe," he said. "You're not even wearing trousers! And he's not wearing a shirt—"

"Dad!" Rose turned on her heel to beg him to shout at her in private and almost died of embarrassment on the spot. He was wearing plaid boxers! "You're yelling at us? At least we have clothes on!"

"Boxers are clothes." Her dad crossed his arms.

He didn't have a beer gut or a hairy chest, but that didn't mean she—or anyone except Mum—fancied the sight of Dad in his underwear! "Did you hear that?" she asked Scorpius. "You can wear boxers around the house. They're clothes."

"I don't have boxers." Scorpius' eyes smiled.

Rose said, "What—"

"Rose Nymphadora Weasley! Go to your room!"

"I was going to ask what he wanted for breakfast," Rose said. She left with what as much dignity as possible, walking upstairs when she wanted to stomp.

Her mum stood on the first floor landing. "Your father was all for going downstairs immediately. I persuaded him to wait."

Dad would've stopped her before she reached the kitchen. She would never have talked with Scorpius or shared the kiss. "Thank you, Mum." Rose gave her a hug.

"If you ever want to talk I promise to listen and not judge." Mum kissed her forehead.

Rose nodded and went up the stairs. She heard Hugo's door open.

"What's going on?" he asked sleepily.

"Dad's eating the leftover pizza."

"Not without me!" Hugo marched downstairs in striped boxers.

Rose went into her room and flopped on the bed. She hoped Hugo would meet Dad on the stairs. If he didn't, she hoped he'd break up whatever conversation was going on in the kitchen.

She rolled onto her side and stared at the bedside clock. Ivory and dainty, the arch top was hand-painted with pink rosebuds to match the rest of the furniture in her garden-themed room. After a few minutes, she stared at the floral wallpaper and then at the green border around the skirting boards in an attempt to clear her mind of distractions and concentrate on one of her happiest memories. Eventually, Rose succeeded.

It was the first night of Christmas holiday and her family was sleeping in the lounge. Her parents and Hugo had went out and bought a tree, but they didn't decorate it. It stood green and bare of anything except the magical candles Mum arranged on the branches just before bedtime. The next day they would add ornaments.

"Christmas isn't fun without you, Rosie," Hugo said, placing his pillow on the floor beside hers. "I missed you."

"We all did," Mum said.

Dad arranged Rose's blanket around her, although she was eleven and didn't need tucking in. "You're the only Christmas Angel we need," he said and kissed her cheek.

Rose smiled as she cast the Patronus Charm and a silvery raccoon scurried off to deliver her message to Scorpius.

Are you all right? I told you my family was insane.

Within minutes, an ethereal mongoose scampered onto her bed.

I would rather have seen your knickers, but I'm sure my eyes will stop burning by morning. I'll make omelettes if you like.

Rose sighed. "I like."

She awoke early and hunted through her wardrobe for something that would coordinate with Scorpius' clothes. Not matching, but not clashing. Her floral prints were out. She searched for a dress that was pretty and casual, yet elegant. What she found was the holiday dress Lily had badgered her into purchasing.

Thin straps, v-neck, above the knee—it was the kind of dress Lily adored and Rose thought was too sexy. She'd never worn it.

She tried it on.

Embroidered details on the bodice and frill trim of the skirt gave the dress a touch of elegance. The contrast between the lighter fabric of the dress and the dark embroidery was pretty. She tied her hair back and slipped on casual sandals.

In the kitchen, Scorpius stood by the worktable cutting a peeled orange into thin slices. "You didn't have the right sort of pan so I made a frittata instead of omelettes," he said, glancing up.

He did a double take that brought a flush to her cheeks. "Scrambled eggs and streaky bacon is about the best we do around here," she said. "A frittata sounds delicious."

"I took it out from under the grill a few minutes ago. It's still hot."

Was he eyeing her legs? Unexpectedly, she had no urge to tug down her skirt. She asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"I need a dish for the oranges."

She handed him one of their white, everyday plates. "We don't normally use china and crystal."

"Neither do we," he said, arranging the slices in concentric circles like a chef on one of Nana's cooking programmes. "At least not when my grandparents dine elsewhere."

Her family would be downstairs any moment. Rose felt safe enough to tease. "What happens then? You let down your hair and eat in the kitchen?"

"With our fingers." Scorpius removed the elasticised band holding back his hair. It framed his face in a way that accentuated his masculinity. He held out a slice of orange.

She bit.

And heard a groan. "Bad enough you two wear matching clothes, d'you have to feed each other?" Hugo snagged a piece of fruit.

Rose said, "His shirt is grey, my dress is blue."

"Blue-grey, and his trousers are black and so's that stuff on your dress. You match."

"We coordinate."

"Same thing."

"No, it isn't." Rose looked at Scorpius.

He shrugged. "We're not wearing identical t-shirts."

"That means you don't care 'cause you like her skimpy dress," Hugo said.

Scorpius' gaze travelled over Rose. "She's lovely."

Hugo made gagging sounds until their mum came into the room and told him to behave or go without breakfast. Nothing kept him from eating, or Dad, either. They sat at the table and ate two helpings. Dad grudgingly agreed the bacon and asparagus frittata was "decent."

While the rest of her family did the washing up, Rose showed Scorpius the library.

"It's much larger than it seems from the corridor," he said.

"Small compared to yours, though?"

"To the formal library, but my parents' personal one is much the same size." Scorpius wandered over to a shelf. "We don't display photographs." He examined a picture. "How old were you in this?"

"Eight. I'm smiling like that because I didn't know the gaps on either side of my front teeth made me look like a demented chipmunk."

"You look happy."

She was curious. "Do your photographs smile?"

"Some." He pointed to a group photo taken at The Burrow. "Will all these people be at dinner today?"

"Probably."

He said, "So I'm here for Weasley flash cards."

"It seemed like a good idea."

Scorpius' smile revealed the dimple in his cheek. "Almost Slytherin." He walked over, held out the photograph, and proceeded to correctly guess the identity of every person except Auntie Muriel, although he didn't know the first names of her Granger grandparents or Aunts Audrey and Angelina. "They've never been listed in the Prophet," he said.

"And you remember everything you read."

"I never said that. Don't tell anyone I did."

The seriousness of his tone took Rose aback. She'd been facetious. "I wouldn't even if it was true," she said.

Scorpius dropped his eyes to photo in his hands. To avoid looking at her? He said quietly, "I'm not used to trusting, and I've told you more secrets than anyone else in my life." His mouth curved in a half-smile. "Than everyone else put together."

Her heart turned over. "I won't betray you. I'll give a witch's handshake."

He shook his head. "I'm trying to explain—"

"There's no need."

Scorpius returned the photograph to its shelf and reached for a book. "Pride and Prejudice. I remember the title from the Muggle Studies suggested reading list. I've never read it." He scanned a page and handed her the book. "It is a truth universally acknowledged," he said, "that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters."

Rose listened in awe as he quoted the first page word for word. "Who else knows you can do this?"

"My parents."

But not his grandparents. Rose had so many questions. Why was Scorpius afraid to go home? Her father said, "Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater." Was Lucius Malfoy plotting something? How could she find out? She wasn't a Legilimens.

Was Scorpius? She stared into his eyes. Trust me a little more.

No memories surfaced. No images ran through her mind like a silent film, only a random thought. She said, "When you gave me an apple, you knew it symbolised more than knowledge."

"Yes."

He'd tempted and she'd fallen. A few weeks ago, she would've been wound up. Her outlook had changed. Rose could admit, "My life wasn't paradise anyway."

They spent the rest of their time in the library discussing the books, which ones they'd read and liked or didn't enjoy. Scorpius shared that he'd read a few of the Scamanders' The Believers series chronicling searches for magical creatures like the Blibbering Humdinger, yet preferred the L.L. Scamander novel Night of the Nargles.

"I couldn't sleep after reading that!" Rose cried. "I kept dreaming Nargles were trying to crawl into my ears and control my mind."

"My mother cast an anti-Nargle spell." Scorpius ran the tip of his finger around her ear.

She shivered.

"That's how you know it's working," he said.

When it was time to leave, Rose had an attack of nerves. "Perhaps it would be better if Scorpius and I stayed here," she said.

"Get in the car." Dad's tone was final.

Outside, Scorpius opened the door of the Bentley Flying Spur luxury sedan for Rose. "I've never ridden in Muggle transportation," he said. "Nice colour."

It was dark sapphire. "The car's enchanted." She made a face. "The Flying Spur that flies, Dad and Hugo say that every time." Rose sat in the middle of the back seat. Although the interior was roomy, she scooted towards Scorpius so they could talk without raising their voices.

Her dad engaged the audio system. One of the Whomping Willows Greatest Hits blared from the fifteen speakers. Rose smiled at Scorpius. The song was "I believe in Nargles."

The ride/flight to Devon was too short for Rose. She adored her grandparents and their delightfully ramshackle house. She loved spending time with her cousins and extended family. She just dreaded their reaction to her "boyfriend." She whispered, "If anyone's rude to you—"

"I'll ignore them the way I do my Greengrass relatives."

Hugo tugged her arm. "We're here. Get out of the car, Rosie."

She said, "You're turning into Dad, are you aware of that?"

"I am? Thanks!"

Scorpius chuckled and opened the door.

"Rosie! Rosie!" Lily ran toward them from the side garden, Albus following more sedately.

Rose hugged Lily, who looked like spring in a daffodil-yellow sundress. "It's so warm. Did Granddad cast a Weather Charm?"

"Along with my dad and the uncles," Lily said. "The breeze gets chilly again when you reach the edge of the back garden, so if you go up in the tree house, use a Warming Charm."

"They're not going up in the tree house," said Albus. "They're here for Rose to introduce Malfoy to the family."

"You make it sound like she's throwing him to the lions. We're not that bad." Lily rolled her eyes.

Rose took Scorpius' hand. They began walking.

In the back garden, family members and friends gathered around picnic tables covered with bright cloths and laden with food.

"Scorpius! Rose! "Lucy ran over to greet them. She held an empty jam pot in her hand. "I'm glad you're here," she said.

Rose took in the grass stains on her cousin's white dress. "Did you lose your toad?"

"Uh-uh, she's in the tree house with Loki."

"What are they doing up there?" Scorpius asked.

Lucy said, "Kissing."

Rose tried to distract her cousin from sharing the family tree house's long history of use by snogging couples. "How'd your dress get so dirty?"

"Wrestling with Lysander. Rose, will you please conjure a Bluebell Flame?" She held out the jam pot.

Rose complied and asked, "What's this for?"

"Lysander. It's cold in the tree house. Bye!"

Lily giggled. "If you're lucky she'll leave it for you." Her expression turned flinty. "Look out, there's a pack of testosterone headed this way."

The "pack" consisted of James, Fred, Lorcan, Louis, and Hugo. Lorcan, the "honorary" cousin, was the only one whose hair lacked a tint of red.

"Oh, stars, now Granddad and the uncles are prowling over." Lily made an exasperated sound. "What's next, the aunties get up and everybody fights over who gets to hex first?"

Rose noticed several absences she hadn't before. "Where are the rest of the girls and Aunt Angelina?"

"Roxy, Dom, and Molly are inside helping Granny, and Vicky and Teddy are late as usual."

"Maybe you should go inside and say hello to Granny," said Albus.

"Yes, let's!" Lily hooked her arms through Rose and Scorpius' and marched to the back door. "Have I mentioned how cute you two are in those matching outfits?"

"We coordinate," Scorpius said, pulling away.

Rose took his hand. "We're not wearing identical t-shirts."

Lily opened the door. "Granny! Rose is here."

Around the far end of the table, Granny, Dominique, and Molly sat icing fairy cakes. Granny, ginger spell-perm curls bobbing, rose to envelop Rose in a hug. "My little Rosie's all grown up!" she cried, before whispering, "If he's coercing you in any way I'll—"

"I love you, too," Rose cut in before Granny pulled out her wand. "I'd like to introduce you to my boyfriend, Scorpius."

"A pleasure to meet you, ma'am."

Rose introduced him to her other cousins and then asked, "Where's Roxanne?"

"Upstairs," Granny said. "She's, ah, not feeling well."

Rose saw Scorpius' brow wing upward. He could tell something was wrong too. She asked, "Is Aunt Angelina with her?"

"Why don't you go up and have a natter." Granny patted Rose's hand. "We'll keep your . . . friend . . . company."

Scorpius said, "Take as long as you need."

She went into the lounge and navigated the maze of overstuffed furniture to reach the stairs. On the second floor, in Uncle George's childhood room, Rose found her cousin standing at the window overlooking the back garden.

Roxanne was a part of the older cousin set along with Victoire, Dominique, James, and Fred, but she and Rose were good friends. They were both studious and determined to excel. Roxanne had passed the Auror Office character and aptitude tests after leaving Hogwarts and was in her first year of training.

"I'm not coming downstairs," Roxanne said. "I showed my face, I made the rounds, gave the hugs. Dad can't guilt me into doing more than that."

"What are you talking about? Granny said you weren't feeling well."

Roxanne turned away from the window. "I feel like crap," she said bitterly. "Wouldn't you if your parents were getting a divorce?"

 

~*~

A/N: The Whomping Willows are an actual (if Muggle) wizard rock band. Anyone interested can go to the youtube site and watch "A tribute to Luna-I believe in Nargles" video that uses clips from OotP. I thought the sound quality was better than in the live concert bits. I couldn't find a better book for Scorpius' eidetic demonstration than the first two sentences of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (page 1, :D). If there are any George/Angelina shippers reading, I am sorry. Jo said they got married and had kids, but that doesn't mean they stay married until death do them part. I've always felt it was a mentally unhealthy match likely to be unmade once they hit bottom and went to therapy. The mention of the divorce is as far as it affects this story. It’s to show Scorpius that even the Weasleys, who seem like the ideal family, are normal people dealing with issues like couples splitting up.

I want to give special thanks to everyone who read the Ron pov one-shot of the train station moment, Crouching Father, Hidden Terror. Anyone who hasn't read it is cordially invited to go see what you missed!

 


Chapter 11: Burrow
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Left alone with the cousins and grandmother, Scorpius wished he'd found another way to be supportive than telling Rose to take as long as she needed.

"If you want something to do you could ice fairy cakes." The older cousin Dominique's smile was a dare. "Decorate one especially for Rose."

She likely expected him to say no and planned to recount what he said—exaggerating how he'd said it—to the other cousins. He understood her motivation. It must be a challenge to gain attention in such a crowd. Scorpius decided to give her a better tale to tell than "Malfoy sneered." He asked Granny Weasley, "May I?"

"If you like," she said.

He took a seat beside the other cousin, Molly. She scooted away from him. "I'm almost done icing." The look she shot him added, I don't need your help!

"Then I'll decorate." He selected a fairy cake with white icing. The only other alternative was pink. He took out his wand.

Granny Weasley snatched it out of his hand. "HOW DARE YOU—" She broke off, staring at the cake. "Tint the icing," she said in a small voice.

"Rose loves green." Scorpius' calm manner belied a pounding heart. His life hadn't quite flashed before his eyes, but the granny death glare alarmed him considerably. "I'll use wandless magic if you prefer," he said.

"That would be best." Granny Weasley handed back his wand. "Molly being underage and all."

"But Granny, you use—"

"Hush, child, don't interrupt." She patted Molly on the shoulder. "Be a dear and take a pitcher of lemonade outside. People get thirsty."

"I'll do it." Dominique jumped up, eager to tell what happened and become the centre of attention, no doubt. Lily grabbed the pitcher first and sprinted out the door, lemonade sloshing.

Scorpius asked Molly, "How did you plan to decorate the cakes?"

As though she couldn't help but be honest at any cost, she said, freckled face solemn, "Dominique was having you on. We only ice them."

"No matter," he said. "I'll use spells."

"To make what?"

"What would you like?"

Molly considered the matter and said, "Flowers."

"Jasmine, violets or roses?"

"Violets."

"On which cake?"

"All of them."

Conjure sugared violets for dozens of fairy cakes simultaneously without using a wand? That was asking for a brutal headache, which, on further thought, wasn't a terrible consequence. Rose could take him home. "All except this one," he said, setting aside the green fairy cake. He closed his eyes, visualised, and then cast one of his mother's favourite garnish spells.

"Pretty," Molly said.

A single sugared violet topped each fairy cake. Scorpius rubbed his forehead to ease the band of tightness.

"Are you going to conjure roses for Rose?"

"No," he said distractedly, concentrating on the next spell. Three white, sugared jasmine blossoms appeared on green icing.

"Ooh," said Molly. "They're beautiful."

Scorpius' head throbbed with a dull ache. He thanked Molly for her offer to put the fairy cake on a special plate and asked her granny, "May I sit in the lounge?"

"Of course." Granny Weasley sounded almost civil. Pain must have affected his hearing.

He sank into an overstuffed chair and reached up a hand to grab the back of his neck. He'd been wrong. Suffering wasn't worth it. He tried to rub circles the way Rose had, but the tension in his neck remained excruciating.

Abruptly, the pain faded. The knots in his muscles relaxed. Scorpius glanced up to see a pack of redheaded men and a lone dark-haired wizard enter from the kitchen. The dark-haired one held a wand outstretched in a pose similar to one regularly featured on the covers of Super Wizard comics.

Harry Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World, also cured common headaches. A true hero for all occasions. Scorpius kept his expression carefully neutral. Although Father never spoke ill of Potter, Grandfather Lucius never failed to remind Scorpius who The Boy Who Lived would have killed with a Sectumsempra curse. He muttered, "Thank you."

"Next time take it easy on the wandless magic."

Scorpius glanced toward the staircase. And in his spare time Super Wizard is Super Dad, stating the obvious to the delight of Super Kids. Maybe he should send the idea in as a "fan" suggestion. Creevey would use it.

The Weasley men sat on the sofas adjacent to and facing Scorpius' chair. Harry Potter took the leather chair next to him.

Scorpius peered at the stairs in hope.

"Rose and Roxy are very close," Rose's father said. "They have long conversations."

So she won't save me from gang interrogation. "That's nice." He avoided direct eye contact with any of the men and kept his own mental defences firmly in place.

"Did your father teach you Occlumency?" Harry Potter asked after a few minutes. It must have dawned that Scorpius wasn't naturally shifty-eyed or going to respond to standard Auror tactics. He wasn't the get-nervous-and-babble type.

"Yes."

"Draco learned it from your Aunt Bellatrix, did he tell you that?" asked the uncle with hair almost as long as Scorpius'. George Weasley pushed back his hair to reveal a blackened hole where an ear should be.

"Did she do that to you?" Scorpius asked.

"No."

Then why flash the cursed wound? For the hell of it?

The next person to break the war of silence was the granddad. "There's a picture of you and Rose on the front page of today's Prophet. Have you seen it?"

"No." Rose's father must have hidden it. Or burned it. Rather decent of him and Mrs. Weasley not to mention it at breakfast.

Granddad Weasley leaned forward. "Your grandfather has seen it, I assure you."

Possibly. Scorpius reckoned it depended on how late the Knights of Walpurgis celebrated after the knighting ceremony. With any luck, Lucius and the others would remain passed out until the evening. Unless they didn't hold a ceremony, unless Grandfather asked them to postpone it. He asked Rose's father, "When a house is Unplottable, how do owls deliver the post? Does magic guide them directly to the person a letter's addressed to?"

Ron Weasley's face darkened. "You get any letters, I'll know—and I'll be reading them."

"And if there's a threat we'll deal with it," said the man with scars across his face. Bill Weasley.

Scorpius could see the menacing turn the conversation was starting to take and racked his brain to derail it. Rose's Uncle Bill was a famous Curse Breaker, husband of a Veela . . . and author of a certain letter to the advice columnist at the Prophet. "I remember your Four Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter," Scorpius said. His parents had laughed.

Uncle Bill said, "That was a few years ago."

"They were memorable."

"Name one."

"If you want romance, read a book."

"I've got a library," said Rose's father.

"Yes," Scorpius said. "I spent time in there this morning. Pride and Prejudice. Interesting story."

Harry Potter asked, "Which part?"

"Different ones." Scorpius covertly checked to see if Rose was on her way downstairs. She wasn't.

"Can't have been interesting if you don't remember," said Uncle Bill.

Scorpius said, "You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. How far your nephew might approve of your interference in his affairs, I cannot tell; but you certainly have no right to concern yourself in mine."

"Is he talking about Hugo?" Uncle Percy asked Rose's father, who shook his head.

"I think he was quoting."

Chapter fifty-six, to be precise: information Scorpius kept to himself. He'd opened his mouth enough.

Harry Potter said, "Do you remember things word for word?"

"When it'll impress a girl," Scorpius said. "Which uncle are you? Percy?"

While the real Uncle Percy spluttered, Harry Potter said, "All these years your father's never pointed me out?"

"Not once." His father believed in living in the present.

"Then let me introduce myself. I'm Harry Potter."

Scorpius shook the man's hand with his grandfather's words ringing in his ears.

He humiliated your father . . . made his name a joke . . . attempted to murder him.

Scorpius turned to check the stairs and saw a ghostly raccoon dart into the lounge. It scurried over and jumped onto his lap.

"Why is Rose sending you her Patronus?" her father asked sharply.

"Roxanne is upset and needs to talk. Rose won't be coming downstairs for a while." Scorpius stood. "I'll wait for her outside." He addressed the granddad, the eldest. "If you'll excuse me, sir."

Granddad Weasley slowly nodded. "You may be excused."

The area between Scorpius' shoulder blades prickled until he reached the kitchen.

He found five women huddled around the end of the table listening to the voices rising like steam from the mouth of a glazed earthenware pitcher. The handle of the pitcher was in the shape of an enormous ear.

Don't go after him, son.

But, Dad!

Granny Weasley waved her wand.

The kitchen was silent for a moment, and then Rose's mother said, "I'd say the last voice was Ron's, but the pitch wasn't quite right."

"It was George," said Ginny Potter. "When we were growing up he and Fred used to say that in chorus."

The golden-haired woman Rose had identified as Aunt Audrey said, "He probably wanted to know what Rose said about Roxanne."

"What did she say?" asked Fleur Weasley, arching a silvery-blonde eyebrow at Scorpius. Her regal, French-accented voice dripped with confidence that he would answer simply because she had asked. Grandmother Narcissa pulled the same trick. It worked better on shop clerks than family.

Scorpius repeated what they undoubtedly already heard, "Roxanne's upset," and walked out the back door.

One look at the sea of unfriendly faces was all it took to make him keep on walking.

Lily ran after him. "Hey! What happened? Where's Rose? Where are you going?"

"Rose is still talking to Roxanne, and I'm going to see a boy about a toad," Scorpius replied as he strode toward the tree house visible at the far rear of the garden.

The miniature house hung suspended by magic, with steps transfigured out of the oak's trunk acting as a ladder. His father had never allowed him to have a tree house. They were too dangerous. He started climbing.

"Who goes there?" called a gruff young voice.

"Scorpius."

Lysander Scamander's head popped into view, grinning from the square entrance in the tree house floor. "Hullo!"

"Hello. Permission to come aboard?"

Lucy Weasley's face appeared beside her friend's. "It's a tree house, not a ship, silly. Come on up!"

Scorpius waited for them to move away from the opening and did as instructed. The space was much larger inside. Through the window, he could see family members gazing at the tree house. He ducked down and sat on the floor.

"So," he said, "Are the toads still kissing?" On the opposite side of the tree house, near a jam pot glowing blue from the enchanted fire inside, the amphibians faced each other, apparently transfixed.

"No," Lucy said. "You missed it. We're reading comics now." She waved a hand toward the jumbled stack between her and Lysander.

Scorpius clamped down on the urge to straighten the magazines. They weren't his, they didn't have to be in order. "Muggle or wizard?" he asked. He had never read a Muggle comic.

"Wizard," said Lucy.

Lysander threw down the one he was flipping through. "This one's pretty good. I've read it four times."

"That's not the way to treat art," Scorpius said, picking up the comic. He stared. "This is a copy of Amazing Comics number one. Less than a hundred of these exist. It's the most valuable comic for a given condition, even over Super Wizard volume one, number one."

"Teddy gave it to us," Lucy said.

Teddy Lupin, Scorpius presumed. "Did he tell you to clean your hands before you handle comics, to pick them up by the open edge, top or bottom?"

She shook her head.

"Where do you store them?"

"Over there," said Lysander.

Behind the toads was a small trunk.

Scorpius said, "Tell me there's an acid-free stasis box inside."

Lysander's face fell and then brightened. "There's action figures!" He raced over and came back with a mound of toys bundled in the hem of his t-shirt. "Regular Super Wizard, Aura Sensor Super Wizard, Warlock Zod, Wonder Witch, Gold Goblin, Professor Doomsday, Mastermind, Green Knight—"

"I'll take that one," Scorpius said, plucking the green helmeted figure out from the jumble of toys.

"You like him 'cause he's a hero even though people think he's bad?" Lysander dumped the action figures onto the planked floor and picked up Auror Sensor Super Wizard, clicking the aura wheel in his hand to orange. "Your aura shows power. Use it for good."

Lucy picked up the Wonder Witch toy. "What colour's my aura?"

"White. You're sick."

"No I'm not!"

"Yes you are," Lysander said. "Professor Doomsday poisoned you." He picked up the sneering wizard with a hooked nose. "Nothing can save you now," he said in a hissing voice.

"The Green Knight will save me!" Lucy made Wonder Witch run to Scorpius. "Won't you?"

Lysander said, "Super Wizard's supposed to save you!" He traded the aura-sensing toy for Regular Super Wizard. "I'm your super best mate!"

"You're super-stupid! You let him poison me!"

"You can help me save her," Scorpius said. "Be my super sidekick."

Lucy made her character jump up and down. "I want to be your sidekick too!"

Wonder Witch was fit in a crimson bikini showing beneath sheer gold robes. The Green Knight graciously bowed his acceptance.

The super trio was about to trap Professor Doomsday in his laboratory on top of the trunk when a voice from below said, "Time for dinner!"

"But, Mum! Wonder Witch will die if we don't get the poison's antidote!" Lysander yelled.

Scorpius took advantage of the boy's distraction to have the Green Knight kick Professor Doomsday off the trunk. "I've saved the day," he said. "Game over."

"You're my hero!" Wonder Witch pressed her face against the Green Knight's.

Lysander shook his Super Wizard toy. "I helped. Snog me!"

Lucy obliged and made kissing noises.

Scorpius headed down the ladder rapidly as possible.

"Thank you for playing with the children," said the woman Scorpius recognised as Luna Scamander. She wore a giant nest on her head as a hat. There were speckled eggs in it. She drifted over to call through the tree house "door", "Did you tidy up, Lysander?"

Scorpius heard the sound of flapping of pages, several thuds, and then a bang. The two had thrown everything into the trunk and slammed the lid. He tried to think positive. My near mint condition collection just became more valuable.

On the walk back across the garden, Lucy and Lysander ran ahead.

Luna Scamander tilted her head to see past the twigs. "I must say, I think you're doing awfully well. One of Dominique's friends ran off screaming."

How encouraging. "There's Rose," he said, relieved to see her exit the house. "A pleasure to meet you, ma'am."

"Love without measure is man's greatest pleasure," Mrs. Scamander replied.

Scorpius walked faster.

 

~*~

A/N: When inspiration comes to me, I use it, whether it's sugared edible flowers; one of "8 Simple Rules" from a TV show of the same name; the Ravenclaw House motto (I’d like to think “Love without measure” could be another motto, if less well known, heh; quotes from Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice chapter 56, page 162) ; the old expression Little pitchers have big ears (first recorded in 1546) that means children hear and understand more than you think they do (the play is on the shape of an ear resembling the handle of a pitcher—I made it literal), or Superman comics (changing Action Comics #1 to Amazing and Wonder Woman to Wonder Witch, etc.). I enjoyed the thought of Teddy's eyes getting huge as Bill laid down the "rules" for dating his daughter, and Scorpius conditioned by Lucius to dislike Harry Potter, yet at the same time owning every Super Wizard comic thanks to his mother (and no, I'm not a comic geek, I had to look that stuff up).

 


Chapter 12: Worries
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Rose glanced up at a second story window and waved even though she couldn't see her cousin. She felt sad for Roxanne. Uncle George and Aunt Angelina always seemed happy enough. How awful it must have been to sit down in the lounge after a family dinner and be told your parents loved each other, but not in the right way, and had filed for divorce.

Roxanne had been angry and tearful.

"Dad moved into the flat above the shop and Mum sold the house. She's accepted a position with the Harpies' management. I'll have to visit her in Wales!"

It was easy to see why Uncle George wanted Fred and Roxanne to come to dinner and be reassured they were still a family. Still, she understood why Roxanne couldn't put on a smile and participate like Fred. That wasn't her way of dealing with things. Only time would make the situation better.

Rose looked across the garden. Scorpius strode toward her. For a dizzying moment, she imagined him taking her face in his hands and kissing her breathless in front of everyone. She went to meet him, wondering what he would do if she threw herself into his arms. Probably be knocked out by a dozen different hexes.

"Is your cousin okay?" he asked.

"No, her parents are splitting up."

"I'm sorry."

"Me, too," Rose said, "and I'm sorry I left you on your own."

Scorpius shrugged. "I escaped to the tree house."

"With Lucy and Lysander?"

"And the toad minions of Professor Doom."

The thought of Scorpius playing with action figures brought a smile to Rose's face. "They were in league with Enchantress last time," she said. "I had to sack them for catching flies instead keeping super spoilsports out of my lair."

The dimple in his cheek peeked out. "You played the Enchantress?"

Was he surprised she'd chosen an action figure whose painted curves appeared ready to fall out of her gown? Gryffindors were bold, after all. "And almost talked Super Wizard into letting me go."

Scorpius' lips curved. "What happened?"

"Wonder Witch pounded my head into the floor."

He chuckled.

She moved closer. "If the Enchantress had Professor Doom on her side, she might've won."

He shook his head. "I'm the Green Knight."

Rose went weak at the knees. Over the years, as much as she'd tried to like Super Wizard best for being noble and brave, she'd been drawn to the hero who saved others under cover of darkness. "Your secret's safe with me."

"You say that, but how can I trust you?" Scorpius asked. "You might enchant me."

She hesitated. The line between pretence and reality was blurring. "I can do nothing against your will."

"Exactly," he said.

She moved closer.

Across the garden, Granny cried, "Victoire! Teddy! We'd begun to think you eloped!"

Rose didn’t look. A few months ago, she would have tried not to and been unable to stop herself. Now, while others laughed and greeted the late arrivals, she held Scorpius' hand and brought him to the table where Lily sat between Lorcan and Hugo on one side. She slid onto the bench next to Albus. "Hi."

"How are you?" Albus asked in a tone that said he really wanted to know.

"Ask me tomorrow," she said.

His eyebrows rose. "Is that still on?"

Rose turned to Scorpius. "Albus and I usually do our revising on Monday. I didn't plan, I didn't even bring my books, but if you don't mind—"

"I don't mind."

She had kept holding Scorpius' hand when they sat down. Rose started to give his fingers a squeeze in thanks and realised due to her short skirt their entwined hands rested on her bare thigh.

"Why are you blushing, Rosie?" Lily asked. "Are you two playing footsie or something?" She sighed deeply. "Makes me wish I had a boyfriend."

"You have loads of boyfriends," Lorcan said. "That's the problem. You couldn't fit them all at one table, and if you could, you wouldn't know whose foot was touching yours—OW!"

Lily smirked. "If you wonder who kicked you, it was me." She said to Scorpius, "Don't mind Lorcan, he's been brainwashed into thinking being in the same year means we should pair up like Lucy and Lysander. He can't help slipping into jealous Viking mode now and then. He's fine once I knock him out of it."

"Brainwashed by whom?" Scorpius asked.

"The parental horde," Lily said, waving a hand at the rest of the family in the garden.

"Not me," said Hugo. "I think he should go with Chou Davies."

Lily mimed gagging. "A Ravenclaw who cries at the chip of a fingernail? He can do better than that."

"Then I'll ask Chou to Hogsmeade." Hugo removed the stasis cover off a platter and loaded beef and lamb kebabs onto his plate. Every table had the same variety of dishes on it to ensure what Granny called the equal distribution of food.

Rose let go of Scorpius' fingers. "There's barbecue chicken too," she said. "Do you like—" Her face heated again. She couldn't say breasts, legs, or thighs! "—chicken?" she ended lamely.

Scorpius took a thigh.

"No surprise," Rose heard Albus mutter. She pretended not to hear and asked Lorcan to pass the fruit salad.

Conversation at their table and around the garden was much quieter than normal. Was the family whispering about her and Scorpius? Rose tried not to let it bother her.

"Aren't you hungry?" Scorpius asked.

His plate wasn't scraped clean either. "I'm saving room for afters."

Lily said, "Give Rosie the cake, Al."

Albus set the green iced fairy cake in front of Rose. "Molly delivered it. She said Malfoy decorated it especially for you."

"It's so pretty." She touched the sugared jasmine with a fingertip. "Too lovely to eat, like something in a magazine."

"Yes!" Lily cried. "We need pictures!" She ran over to her parents' table and came back with a miniscule Goblin spy camera. "I'll take a couple shots of the fairy cake, because it's gorgeous, and a few of you two so when you're apart you can look at photos and see what you're missing." She snapped the shots of the cake while she spoke and then turned the camera on them. "Okay, smile like you like each other."

Rose smiled at Scorpius.

He smiled at her.

Lily said, "I'll develop the film and have the photographs ready when you come over tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" Scorpius asked.

The number of questions packed into that single word was extraordinary. Rose said, "A fairy cake like this deserves ice cream to go with it. Scorpius, would you like some too? It's in the kitchen." Somewhere private where we can talk.

"I want some." Hugo started to rise when they stood.

Albus said, "She'll bring out a tub."

Hugo took the hint and sat down. "Two litres," he said.

"Make it chocolate," Lily added.

As they walked through the garden, another voice called out, "Rosie!"

She reluctantly waved at the table where Teddy sat with Victoire, Fred, Dominique, and James.

Teddy used a Sonorous Charm. "Come over here and introduce us to your friend!"

Her stomach tensed.

Scorpius said quietly, "If you don't want to—"

"It isn't that." Rose slid her arm through his. "Anyway, I can always jinx if someone's spiteful."

"I'll offer suggestions."

"You won't help me?" she asked as they strolled across the grass.

"I'm a guest. It would be rude."

Rose was still smiling when they reached the table. She introduced everyone as though Scorpius didn't know who each cousin was, saying, "And this is—"

"Ted Lupin, Victoire's fiancé." Teddy had kept his natural spiky brown hair and regular features and morphed his eyes turquoise blue to match his shirt. He shook Scorpius' hand. "I went into Auror Headquarters this morning to finish a report and that Prophet photo was all anyone could talk about."

"They caused a stir everywhere," Victoire said, smiling at Rose. Even with reddish blonde hair and freckles, she exuded Veela glamour. "C'est adorable et très romantique!"

Romantic, Rose didn't mind. "Adorable" sounded like she and Scorpius were enfants. "Thanks."

"Don't run off," Teddy said, when Rose and Scorpius began to leave.

"We volunteered to fetch ice cream," Rose said.

"I'll go with you. Ma chérie loves strawberry."

Teddy asked the usual how's school type questions as they crossed the lawn. Rose's one-word answers didn't faze him. In the kitchen, she wasted no time locating the ice cream scoops and then headed for the coolant cabinet.

"What are you doing?" Teddy asked over her shoulder.

"Finding the strawberry ice cream." She thrust a litre tub at him. "Enjoy."

"The ice cream was an excuse to talk," Teddy said. "This isn't like you, Malfoy's not your type. What's really going on? Everyone's worried."

Rose bent to look for the chocolate ice cream. Granny loved all things chocolate. She might have eaten it.

Teddy put a hand on her arm. "Rosie—"

"No." She discovered an unopened tub, grabbed it and stepped away from Teddy. "I'm not going to stay here and listen to whatever speech you and the others came up with over dinner." She shook her head. "You don't even realise how insulting you are. Scorpius is exactly my type, and if that worries anyone, they'll have to live with it."

Rose marched outside and then cursed. She spun on her heel to see Scorpius. He held up the ice cream scoop she'd left on the table. "Thank you," she said.

"Let me carry the ice cream."

"It's not heavy, I can do it."

He took the tub. "That's not the point."

Rose heard the back door creak. It was open! Was Teddy eavesdropping? She told Scorpius, "We'll talk soon, I promise."

 

"Soon" turned out to be an hour and a half later, after the dishes and the picnic tables were tidied and the family tromped up the hill to the orchard for the traditional Quidditch match between "Youth and Prime" as her dad liked to say. While the teams assembled and spectators arranged themselves in chairs around one end of the paddock, Rose led Scorpius through the rows of hedgerow elms blocking the view of Muggle neighbours to a grove of apple trees well out of hearing range.

"The trees aren't in bloom yet," she said, "But when they are, it's . . . indescribable. I'll have to show you pictures." She rubbed her arms even though a Warming Charm and Granny's cloak kept out the chill. Scorpius stood with his hands in the pockets of the dark green coat Granddad insisted he wear on their ramble. She drew in a breath. "About tomor—"

"Is there something between you and Lupin?" Scorpius cut in.

"Teddy? He's engaged!"

"He touched you."

"On my arm. He was concerned, you heard him."

"Lupin said I wasn't your type. How would he know?"

"Obviously, he doesn't." Rose crossed her arms defensively. "Why are you acting like a jealous boyfriend?"

"Are you saying you've never kissed him?"

She really needed to research an anti-blushing spell. "I asked you a question first."

He looked away.

The lengthening silence frayed her nerves. She couldn't give in, couldn't be honest if he wasn't honest with her.

Finally, Scorpius said, "It was his attitude. Proprietary." He met her eyes. "I didn't like it."

He was jealous. She said, "Teddy was being protective. We've known each other forever."

"Do you have feelings for him?"

She'd always admired Teddy for being everything she wasn't. Colourful. Outgoing. That wasn't what Scorpius meant. "I used to."

Lily joked about the girls who sighed over Teddy, called them the "Crush Club" and said she'd been a member summer fourth-year, when the family let the seafront villa in Cornwall and Teddy wore low-rise trunks that showcased his physical fitness. Rose's crush, based on soul more than body, lasted until the past New Year's Eve. She remembered the night vividly.

-

Midnight drew near. Rose sat in Uncle Harry's library, rereading Pride and Prejudice, until Teddy came into the room, champagne flute in hand.

"Knew I'd find you here, Rosie," he said, grinning. He downed the champagne and then frowned. "S'posed to give tha' to you."

"I didn't want any."

"Jus' as well, then!" Teddy plopped down beside her on the sofa and announced, "Aunt Muriel is a nasty cow."

Rose closed the book and set it aside. "What did she say to you?"

"Nothing. It was Victoire she upset."

Since Teddy had drunk enough to slur his words, whatever Auntie Muriel said had upset him as well. "Do you want to tell me?"

He nodded. "Old witch said she always s'pected me to marry into the family. Didn' matter which girl, 'ccording to her. I'd take the firs' who'd say yes."

"What an awful thing to say! I hope Vicky told her off!"

Teddy's eyes were puppy-dog brown and mournful. "She didn' say anythin', and then we had a row because I didn' tell the ole bat it wasn' true, and I said she shoulda said it wasn' true, and now she's Flooed home thinkin' it could be!" He suddenly cheered. "Tha's where you come in, or rather where I came in, since you were already in."

Rose's head spun and it wasn't due to his logic. "What do you mean?"

"This." He kissed her, a brief press of wine-scented lips. "See?" he said, beaming. "No chemistry. I proved Aunt Moo Moo wrong and I'm off tell Victoire!"

On the fireplace mantel, the clock struck midnight. "Happy New Year, Rosie!" Teddy said, planting a sloppy kiss on her cheek. He left whistling.

She dazedly picked up her book and opened to the page she'd been reading. Words leapt out at her.

The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance.

-

The memory didn't hurt anymore. "Elizabeth Bennet said a slight, thin inclination will be starved away entirely by one good sonnet, but I think it's killed faster by a short, bad kiss on New Year's Eve."

Scorpius smiled slightly. His gaze lifted as a deep hoot echoed through the grove. A snowy owl glided toward them, its message case glinting silver.

"Do you recognise the owl?" Rose asked.

Scorpius held up his arm for the bird to alight. "His name is Maleficus."

-






A/N: Teensy bit angsty, this chapter, but such is life. Builds character, :D. Did I have anyone worrying I'd make Teddy a cheating dog? He can morph puppy dog eyes and growl, heh, but with Remus and Tonks as parents and Harry as godfather, he can't help but be a good guy...if impulsive and overprotective at times. I had fun using two more Jane Austen/ Pride and Prejudice quotes, this time from chapters10 and 9 respectively.

 


Chapter 13: Surprise
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His reaction to seeing the owl was a mix of dread and relief—heavier on the dread—although Grandfather's determination to reach him was oddly comforting. Lucius Malfoy kept his promises.

"I don't have a treat," Scorpius told the owl. "My apologies."

Maleficus snapped his beak in displeasure.

"He's very expressive," Rose said. "Who does he belong to?"

"My grandfather."

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm not sure," Scorpius said. "I don't have the toadstone to give warning." He'd left it in his rucksack.

Rose kept calm when another girl would run screaming. "Do you think there might be a locator spell on the message case?"

He shook his head. "The owl's special magic nulls any other. If it didn't, there would be no Most Wanted list at the Owl Post Office. Aurors would simply send Dark wizards letters and follow. I'm concerned about what's inside."

"What he wrote in the letter?" Her shoulder brushed the arm not holding the owl. "Do you think there might be a Compulsion Charm to make you go home?" Rose immediately answered her own question. "No, if that would work magical law enforcement and Aurors would bespell letters to make criminals turn themselves in."

"True." He touched one of the clamps holding the case to the owl's leg. Both clamps released. The silvery cylinder fell into his hand.

Maleficus launched into the air.

"Where's he going?" Rose asked. "Doesn't your grandfather expect a reply?"

Scorpius watched the owl fly above the grove and out of sight. "It seems not." He fixed his eyes on the case. It was aluminium and plain instead of silver engraved with the Malfoy crest. Untraceable?

"Are you going to open it?"

He said, "If you'll keep your wand ready."

She drew her wand and gave an encouraging smile. "It's probably only a letter."

The case was made of two pieces, one that fit over the other like a cap. Scorpius slid them apart. Inside, where a message normally went, was something else. It looked like a large marble. When he tilted the case, whatever spell held the sphere in place was broken. The marble rolled out onto his palm. It was jade—and beginning to glow.

Scorpius dropped it to the ground. "It's a Trackingbrall. Burn it!"

"Incendio!" Rose cried.

Grass blackened to ash. The unblemished jade continued to pulse with light from within. Scorpius aimed a Vanishing Spell. The Trackingbrall didn't disappear.

Rose cast a Banishing Charm. The sphere didn't move. "Nothing's working and this grove isn't Unplottable," she said. "We have to get help!"

"Keep trying." He backed up a few steps to blow the thing up with Expulso. The device not only continued to be impervious, it rolled forward. He sidestepped. It followed. "Merlin! What bastard made this thing?" Scorpius stomped it into the ground.

"Uncle George, I think," Rose said. "He and Dad invent special Trackingbralls for the Auror Office. At Christmas they discussed a new prototype." She bit her lip as the jade popped up from the dirt and rolled toward Scorpius. "Tiny Terminator isn't on the market. How would your grandfather get hold of one?"

"When he wills, there's a way, and what do you mean by Terminator?"

Rose said, "It isn't deadly, just virtually indestructible and relentless."

He cast a Stunning Charm and a Freezing Spell in rapid succession to no effect. He kicked the Trackingbrall and cried, "Repello marmor!" The sphere shot through the air. He imagined it landing in the grass and starting its journey back. "And they never considered what the bloody thing could do in the wrong hands?"

"It seems not."

Scorpius wondered if he was cracking up to smile over Rose tossing his words back at him. He said, "Virtually means almost, not completely. How can we stop it?"

Rose's brows drew together in concentration. "Water!" she cried. "Submersion in water!"

He conjured a goblet and pointed his wand. "Aguamenti." He used Accio to summon the Trackingbrall and put it into the cup. "It's still glowing," he said.

"It must have to be submerged in a body of water."

Right. Make things difficult as possible. Par for the course. Scorpius asked, "Is there a lake or pond nearby?"

"The neighbours have a duck pond."

He plucked the Trackingbrall out of the goblet. "You Apparate us there and I'll throw it in." He wrapped a hand around her arm and braced himself to endure black nothingness and the pressure that squeezed the breath out of his body.

Transported to the grassy bank of a clear, well-kept pond, Scorpius hurled the jade as far as he could into the centre. It bobbed to the surface.

Rose said, "That's a horrible feature. Dad and Uncle George should change it immediately!"

Scorpius bent to untie his shoes.

"What are you doing?"

"These can't be spell dried." He took off his socks. "These can, but I'd feel ridiculous swimming in them."

Rose removed the boots she'd borrowed from her grandmother. "You're going to use a Bubble-Head Charm and submerge the Trackingbrall? I'm coming with you." She took off her cloak.

He cast the spell to create a bubble of air around his head and waded out into the pond. Even with a warming charm, the water made his teeth chatter. It had to be spring fed. Scorpius reached the floating sphere and took it down.

When Rose swam toward him, she looked like a water nymph. He held the jade out and watched her lips form words.

It's dimming.

An enormous pale fish glided between them.

Rose mouthed Ghost carp.

Scorpius nodded, although he was more interested in the way she kicked her legs to tread the water and remain vertical. Rose had amazing legs. Long, toned, and smooth. Her dress clung to her body. The rest of her was lovely, too, and the way she moved her arms forward and back emphasised the water nymph image.

As though she was truly beckoning, he swam closer.

She took his hand.

He pulled her to him.

Her lips parted.

Did she want him to kiss her? He didn't know if two bubbles could become one, but he was willing to experiment.

Blue eyes widened. Rose shook his hand.

Scorpius finally understood. The Trackingbrall had deactivated! He swam upward, bringing Rose with him. When they reached the surface, he pressed his bubble against hers. They popped.

"Rose! Rose!" voices shouted.

Scorpius was tempted to duck back underwater. A gaggle of Weasleys stood beside the pond. Rose's father and uncles looked on the verge of diving in. Rose's mother had her wand out. Scorpius found himself lifted into the air and transported to the shore—down the bank from Rose.

"Let me see her! I have to see she's all right!" Granny Weasley edged her way through the others. "The clock said you were in mortal peril. My sweet little Rosie in mortal peril!" She hugged Rose, sobbing.

"Granny checked the family clock on the way back from the loo," Hermione Weasley said. "She was frantic with worry."

"We all were," Ron Weasley said grimly, holding up a Trackingbrall the size of a Snitch. "If I hadn't had this . . ." He pressed his lips together and then burst out, "What were you thinking, Rosie?" He turned to Scorpius. "And what the hell were you doing with my daughter?"

Scorpius' fist clenched the jade.

Rose said, "I'm sorry, Granny, I didn't mean to upset anyone. It all happened so fast." She walked over to Scorpius. "We need to tell them."

Scorpius slowly uncurled his fingers. "In the grove an owl delivered a message," he said.

Rose picked it up the Trackingbrall. "Recognise this, Dad? Uncle George? We had to deactivate it in the pond."

"It's our new model," George Weasley said. "Supposed be under lock and key until the Ministry approves the patent."

"I hope they never do," Rose said. "It's a terrible design!"

"I wouldn't go that far. Glitches can be fixed."

"Not all," said Rose's dad. "Maybe we were the ones who didn't think." He asked Scorpius, "Who sent you the Trackingbrall?"

"It came in a plain aluminium case with no note."

"But you have your suspicions," Harry Potter said.

"Yes." Scorpius kept his eyes on Rose. Would she tell them about Maleficus?

Hermione Weasley said, "We all know who sent it. What we need to discover is who gave Lucius the Trackingbrall. There's a breach in Ministry security."

Granny Weasley bustled over. "That can wait. These children will catch their death of cold!"

Within minutes, Scorpius was dry and sitting beside Rose at the Burrow's kitchen table. After making tea for the entire brood, Granny Weasley ordered everyone to take their cups and biscuits outside or into the lounge and allow the "poor things" to recover. She then went upstairs to fetch Pepperup Potions.

Even though the hum of voices travelled from the lounge, Scorpius appreciated the break from questions and scrutiny.

"Granny believes in dosing us with potions before we sniffle," Rose said.

"My father calls it preventative medicine." Scorpius politely sipped tea that was too sugary. "I didn't know the potion treated actual colds until I went to Hogwarts."

Rose didn't smile as expected. She said, "He sounds so different from everything I've ever heard about him."

"My father?" That was no surprise, considering her source of information.

"Yes. It's as if he's a different person."

"He is." War sometimes changed people.

"And your grandfather?"

Scorpius studied the pattern of roses on the teacup. "He isn't."

Rose laid her hand over his.

They sat in silence, Scorpius contemplating the difference between this sympathetic touch and their earlier handholding. Before, the back of his hand had rubbed her bare leg whereas now her palm simply rested on top of the hand he'd placed on his thigh. He enjoyed both types of contact.

Granny Weasley returned. "Here we go, these will make things right as rain."

"Whatever that's supposed to mean," Rose said, smiling.

Scorpius drank his potion. "Expressions starting with 'right as' have been used since the middle ages to convey a sense of being satisfactory or correct," he said. "Right as a line; right as a trivet—"

"A trivet?" Rose asked. Smoke trickled from her ears. She waved it away from her face.

"A stand for a cooking over an open fire. Charles Dickens used it in the Pickwick Papers. 'Right as a trivet, sir, replied Bob Sawyer'."

"My," Granny Weasley said. "You must read as much as our Rosie."

Her marvelling tone made Scorpius uneasy. Was she planning to tell the others? He said, "I doubt that."

"We'll have to compare reading lists," Rose said.

Couldn't she tell he'd prefer to drop the subject? "I don't have one."

"I'll make one for you. It's my forte."

He refused to stay in the room any longer. "Is there a toilet nearby?"

"Yes, upstairs," Rose said. "I'll show you."

The trek through the lounge reminded him of the stroll on the Hogwarts Express. The staring, mostly. Once they reached the first floor, Rose escorted him to the toilet and stood waiting when he came out.

"In here." She opened the door of a bedroom overlooking the front drive.

He went in. "This isn't the best time to talk."

"It never is. What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"Don't tell me that," Rose said. "You suddenly acted cold. Why?"

Scorpius almost asked why she cared and bit it back. Rose wasn't in the lounge earlier. He should explain, not take his frustration out on her. He briefly summarised the conversation, how her uncles goaded him. "I quoted Pride and Prejudice to prove I'd read it. If you grandmother tells everyone what I said—"

"It will confirm what they already learned. You read. Nothing more. I'm the only one who knows how impressive you are."

She meant his memory, but he couldn't resist saying, "You didn't seem impressed in the pond. I got a handshake instead of a kiss."

Rose blushed. "I thought you were pulling me closer to tell me something."

"I was." He reached out to cup her cheek. When she lifted her face, he kissed her. Syrupy tea tasted much better on her lips. It went with the sweetness of her mouth. Scorpius closed his eyes and imagined sinking to the bottom of the pond as they exchanged slow, wet kisses.




~*~

 

A/N: This chapter came as such a surprise. I originally planned for a romantic middle of the night chat, and then Scorpius opened the owl's message case and I was rolling in a different direction. :D

I invented Trackingbralls off Remembralls back in the days when I wrote about Scorpius' father and couldn't resist putting a new spin on them. At first, I was going to have Rose send a Patronus for help, but as I wrote, the characters decided they could handle the situation. Tiny Terminator is indeed based on James Cameron's film cyborgs (kick them away and they'll be back!). It was sad to imagine Molly compulsively checking her clock to make sure the family's okay, but after Fred, I think she wouldn't be able to have any peace of mind if she didn't. As for the hand with Fred's name on it, since the battle it permanently stays with George's, wherever he goes. (sniff)

The "right as rain" info, although not directly quoted, came from the e-magazine World Wide Words, which describes itself as "international English from a British Viewpoint." The “Right as a trivet” quote came from Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, chapter sixteen.

 


Chapter 14: Kisses
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Rose had kissed boys before Scorpius, French-kissed a few, but those experiences never felt effortlessly wonderful. She'd tried too hard to open her mouth at just the right moment and remember to breathe. She couldn't relax. It was complicated trying to do the things Cosmo Teen Witch said drove boys wild and at the same time gauge whether her partner liked what she was doing. Her own enjoyment barely factored into the equation.

With Scorpius, kissing was simple pleasure. Their lips moved together so beautifully, Rose let instinct take over, brushing her tongue against his lips and smiling when he responded. She caressed his shoulders and threaded her fingers through his hair. She loved the silky feel against her skin, loved the glide of his playful tongue.

Too soon for her, he eased away. "Rose."

"Hmm?" She kissed him and on impulse sucked his lower lip lightly. According to Cosmo, if a boy liked it, he'd kiss the girl back.

Scorpius gave her a lingering kiss. "If we don't go downstairs someone will come looking."

"Or yell up the stairs." Dad had a habit of that. So did Hugo. She didn't move. Rose asked, "What were you trying to tell me in the pond? You said—"

"I remember."

His tone was hard to read. Was he embarrassed? Upset? Rose dropped her arms to her sides. "If you don't want—"

Scorpius took her face in his hands and kissed her.

"Oh," she said, when she'd regained her breath. "You wanted to do that underwater?"

"I want to do that everywhere."

Oh. "Me too." The tingly, fluttery, one-more-kiss-please feeling threatened to drown out the voice of reason that said to leave the room."We should go. We can talk more, later."

Kiss more.

He said, "Is . . . Is there a way for you to come downstairs without waking your parents?"

The tingles in Rose's spine zoomed down her body to curl her toes. "I'll think of something."

Scorpius opened the door. "I'll help."

 

Downstairs, family filled the lounge to bursting as if it was Christmas Day. An air of expectancy hung over the room. Instead of waiting to open presents, however, family members obviously waited for her and Scorpius. Conversation ground to a halt when they walked in.

Not about to let Scorpius face another round of questioning, Rose made a beeline for Albus. "Scorpius has never heard of Skittles," she said. "Let's teach him to play."

"Now?" Albus cut his eyes toward their parents.

If they had something to say, they could come down to the basement. "Yes, I told Scorpius about Granddad's setup and he's interested." Rose turned to Scorpius. "Aren't you?"

"Very," he said, as though he knew what she was talking about and she hadn't made the whole thing up on the spur of the moment.

"We want to play too!" Lucy said, jumping up from the hearthrug. "Snap's no fun with Granddad's Muggle cards. They don't explode!"

"But they're ace for houses," Lysander said. "Dust bunnies needn't worry about fire."

"Only structural collapse." In her seat beside the fireplace, Aunt Luna sighed. "A gust of wind, a careless sweep of broom. Tragedy." She patted the eggs in the nest hat on her lap. "Best to leave the bunnies under the sofas, children, and run play."

"I'll be sticker," Lily said.

Scorpius lifted a brow.

"That's the person who stands at the end of the alley and sets the pins—the skittles—back up and returns the cheese to the person who hurled it," Rose said. "The cheese is a round of hardwood, not actual cheese, although Double Gloucester would be hard enough."

"For how long?" Scorpius asked.

Rose smiled at the thought of cheese striking a pin and crumbling.

Hugo said, "Lily can't roll straight. I'll be the sticker."

"I hit what I aim for," Lily replied.

"My leg?" Lorcan asked.

"Children." Granddad Weasley's voice brought silence. "Skittles is a fine idea—after family business is taken care of."

On cue, Dad cleared his throat. "Rosie, when you said you were bringing a friend home, we planned for you two to spend the week however you liked. In light of today's . . . events . . . however, we've had to reconsider."

Rose stared at her mum. "What does that mean?"

"We want you two to spend each day with different members of the family. Let Scorpius get to know us." Mum saw her look of disbelief and said, "And for better security. Yes, that is an issue, like it or not."

Albus said, "I told them you were coming over to my house tomorrow."

"George and I thought you could visit the shop on Tuesday," Dad said.

"Or come to Shell Cottage," said Fleur. "An' picnic on ze beach."

Scorpius in swim trunks. The idea appealed.

Aunt Luna said, "Rolf and I would love you to come spend a day with us as well. Daddy made our house Unplottable after the war. Seems Quibbler readers can be scarier than Death Eaters."

Rose looked at Scorpius. Was he offended?

He smiled faintly.

Lucy tugged Rose's arm. "Molly and I have to stay with Granny all week. Visit us. We can play in the tree house." Her bottom lip turned down. "I'll be sad if you don't."

The family was shameless when it came to using emotional blackmail. Rose said, "We'll see. Scorpius and I will talk things over later and make our decision." She glanced at Scorpius. "It that fine with you?"

"Sure."

Dad said, "When you're talking, keep in mind the Two for Tuesday sale at the shop. We'll be swamped. It's buy one gag, get one free."

"Of equal or lesser value," said Uncle George.

"And we could use the help in the back with inventory while we deal with the customers," her dad said hopefully.

Will you be sad if I don't? Rose nodded. "May we be excused?"

James, Fred, and Teddy joined the group that went down to the basement. Everyone was quiet and subdued until they reached the wooden alley that stretched a little over seven metres into a torch-lit passageway off the main, cavernous, space. Suddenly everyone spoke at once, vying to be first bowler.

"We play Killer," Rose told Scorpius. "Each person starts off with three lives and gets one bowl to knock down at least one pin or lose a life. The first player bowls a full frame, which is why they all want to go first."

"You don't stick the pins back up?"

"Not until all nine skittles are down."

"We have a guest," James said over the good-natured squabbling. "Let's give him the opportunity to go first."

"I'd rather go last and pick up some pointers," Scorpius replied.

"Then the rest of us will draw lots. You, too, Hugo. We'll switch off as sticker." James picked up a jar off the floor, gave it a couple of shakes, and opened the lid. "Dispergo."

Strips of paper scattered across the basement. Lucy picked one up and yelled, "I go second!"

"I'm first!" said Fred.

"Jammy git, I'm seventh," said James.

Teddy held up his paper. "Three is a magic number."

Albus walked over to Rose. "What'd you get, Old Mum?"

She showed him the slip. "Ninth."

"I'm fourth. Let's switch. Give you more skittles to aim at."

"It would only drag out the inevitable," she said, explaining to Scorpius, "I'm a terrible bowler."

"Do you have fun?" he asked.

"Yes." There was immense satisfaction in performing badly and being able to laugh instead of worry it would disappoint her parents. Rose didn't bother about proper stance or arm swing. She hurled the cheese down the alley and if it knocked down a skittle, great. If not, that was equally fine.

Scorpius said, "That's what matters."

Rose could have kissed him, and might have, if cheers hadn't erupted.

Albus said, "Bollocks! Fred got a split. Seven down."

She patted his shoulder. "Don't worry, Old Man, you'll do fine."

"Thanks." Albus cheered when Lucy and Teddy each knocked down a skittle.

Although they stood to the side and back from the others and no one would overhear, Rose moved close to Scorpius to say, "Albus gets nervous when there's only one target. He says he loses the ability to focus."

"What about you?"

"I'm not competitive so I have nothing to nervous about."

Immediately after she spoke, the cry of Strike rang out. Rose clapped along with the others. It took Lorcan, Lysander, and James to topple the next round.

"I'm going for a strike," Lily said when it was her turn. The cheese hurtled down the alley and toppled all the skittles except the one on the far right. Lily stamped her foot. "Why didn't you fall, stupid piece of wood! Sorry, Rosie." She relieved Hugo as sticker.

Rose's heart sank. If she didn't take down the last skittle, Scorpius would have to bowl for it. To put him under that kind of pressure wasn't fair. Winning didn't matter, but he did.

"C'mon, Rosie, my Galleon's on you," Hugo said as he handed her the cheese. "You brought Malfoy home, you can do anything."

A sense of calm washed over Rose. She could do it. Focus. Aim. Release. The cheese rolled down the alley as if the skittle cast a Summoning Spell. At the last moment, it started to curve away. She held her breath.

The cheese wobbled and fell sideways, knocking down the skittle.

"Yeah, Rosie!" Hugo shouted over the noise of clapping and congratulations.

Lily reset the skittles in their proper places and brought Rose the cheese. Her eyes danced. "You do the honour."

For some reason—maybe the look in his eyes—Rose blushed as she handed the disc to Scorpius.

"It's for fun, right?" He turned the cheese over. "It isn't very heavy."

"Yes, No—I'd better go be sticker. Good luck." She went to take her post.

Scorpius stood at the beginning of the alley flanked by Teddy, Albus, James, and Fred. He appeared enviably relaxed and confident. They offered last-minute advice, complete with gestures to demonstrate personal bowling techniques. Finally, he said, "However I do it, all that matters is that I knock a skittle down. Correct?"

Rose heard him clearly thanks to the basement's acoustic charms.

When Albus nodded, Scorpius smiled wickedly at Rose and threw the cheese like a Fanged Frisbee. It zoomed down the alley.

CRACK!

Skittles slammed to the floor.

Rose burst into laughter.

"Whoa!" yelled Lysander.

"That was like thunder," Lucy said.

"That was ace," said Lily.

Hugo and the rest of the cousins were silent until Teddy said, "Why haven't we ever done that?"

"I'm going to as soon as our Rosie brings me the cheese," Fred said. "Hurry up, cousin dear."

Rose hurried, but not because Fred ordered her to. She rolled the cheese down the alley and went straight to Scorpius. He returned her hug.

"Take it somewhere else, you two," James said. "The skittling is about to get serious."

"What are you talking about? You're always Sirius," Albus said straight-faced.

A collective groan arose.

Rose took Scorpius' hand.

"Where are you going?" Lucy asked.

"To show Scorpius Granddad's washer/dryer." On the other side of the basement in a small alcove sat a white, box-like contraption of Muggle origin. Rose told Scorpius, "Granddad didn't want to retire completely, so he works part-time in Misuse of Muggle Artefacts and is always bringing items home. This is an integrated washer/dryer enchanted to run on spells instead of electricity. No one else wanted the thing because it eats socks. Whole pairs, not just the odd single."

"Fascinating." His lips curved.

"No, it isn't," Rose said. "It's boring, and I'm rambling, when I want to kiss you for being brilliant and incredible."

"Go ahead."

It wasn't the torch light that put a gleam in his eye. The butterflies in her stomach doubled. Rose tilted her head and rose up on tiptoes, holding onto Scorpius' shoulders for balance. It felt awkward and thrilling at the same time to be the one initiating the kiss. She brushed his lips with hers and thought giddily that she had to do it more often.

They rejoined the others, who—after taking turns throwing the cheese—decided bowling was fairer to those with lesser arm strength. James ended up winning. Scorpius took his loss with a shrug, and Rose was too happy to care when she bowled the cheese into the gutter for the third time.

When everyone went to the kitchen to get drinks, Lily grabbed her arm. "Come with me upstairs. I think I ripped my hem in the back."

"I can fix it here," Rose said.

"No, you can't. I need to use the toilet."

That was Lilyspeak for I need to talk to you. Rose followed her to the second floor bathroom. "Okay," she said, "What—"

"Wait," Lily said. "I really do have to use the toilet." She dashed into the bathroom.

"Your hem isn't torn," Rose said when Lily opened the door.

"Of course it isn't," Lily said. "I wanted to get you alone to tell you I know what you did, and you are my hero."

"What I did?"

"The spell you used on the cheese! It was so subtle I could barely feel the magic, and it toppled right over."

"I didn't use any spells."

"Then that means . . ." Lily's eyes grew round.

Rose said, "We don't know Scorpius did it. Someone could have cast a spell in the house at the very same time. Coincidences do happen."

"Uh huh."

"No, Scorpius didn't care about the game," Rose said, "and he hit the same skittle with his Frisbee throw."

Lily hugged her. "He did it for you, because he saw how much you wanted to knock it down for him." She gave Rose a frank look. "We all did."

"You did?"

"MmHmm, but we didn't make fun of you when you dragged him off to snog. Much."

"How kind."

"Yes, it was, and should be rewarded with chocolate." Lily led the way to the kitchen and the fudge cake Granny made for tea.

 

For the rest of the day, Rose waited for the right opportunity to talk to Scorpius about what happened. Relatives were always around. Everyone stayed at the Burrow until past nine, and when her family got home, Dad said, "Go on up and have a shower, Rosie, so our guest is free to take one whenever it's convenient." His tone implied, As long as it's not right after you!

After her shower, she towelled her hair and examined her pitiful array of nightwear. A couple of long, flannel gowns, striped pyjamas, short nightshirts, sleep shorts and camisole tops. Rose tried on a pair of green and white spot print shorts with a white camisole and immediately stripped the top off. It was see through. She replaced it with a green cami that didn't make her feel exposed and cast a Patronus Charm.

A silvery mongoose soon leapt onto the bed.

I don't doubt your mastery of Levitation Charms, but it would be simpler if I use Mobilicorpus to transport you. Midnight?

She sent her Patronus with the message that she accepted his offer and settled down to wait. The hours dragged by. She painted her nails, put on makeup, scrubbed the makeup off, put her hair up in a ponytail, took it down, rearranged her books on the shelves in ascending height, and then changed her mind and reshelved them in alphabetical order, by author. At eleven, Mum came by to say goodnight, but Rose wasn't up for a mother/daughter chat. She said, "No, I'm fine, maybe another time," when Mum asked if she'd like to talk about anything.

At midnight, Rose carefully opened her door and snuck down the corridor. She stretched out on the floor near the stairs and wondered if Muggle magicians' assistants felt a similar jolt of adrenaline before they levitated.

"Are you ready?"

The Sonorous Charm Scorpius used sent his whisper directly to her ear. Rose shivered. "I'm ready."


~*~






A/N: I don't read Cosmo, but I thought Rose would for educational purposes. :D The "round of Double Gloucester" mentioned is what's used for the annual Cooper Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake competition in the Cotswolds. The first person to the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. Those who sprain or break an ankle win a trip to hospital in one of the ambulances standing ready.  :D

 


Chapter 15: Chat
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Scorpius' heart pounded as he watched Rose float down the stairs. What happened to his Slytherin instinct for self-preservation? Was Gryffindor boldness contagious? He was taking an enormous risk.

Aside from the wards on the stairs, her parents might still be up, although Mr. Weasley already made his rounds before midnight. His footsteps had paused in the kitchen, making Scorpius glad he'd doused the illumination orbs. If light had shown beneath the door . . . He grimaced, imagining the awkwardness of conversing with the father of the girl he planned to snog.

Rose levitated down feet-first. For the first time, Scorpius noticed her toes. They weren't long, or short, stubby, or elegant. They were cute. His mind rebelled against the Hufflepuff-sounding label, but nothing else fit.

His eyes travelled up Rose's body, picturing what she'd look like in a bikini. Sexy. His hand tingled with the sensation of pinpricks. A reminder of his promise not to take advantage? He lifted his eyes to her face and lingered. Her expression was serene.

To be trusted so completely was unsettling. It felt good, and yet, he wondered: did her trust come with strings attached? What did she want from him?

When she cleared the stairway, Scorpius countered the spell and flicked his wand to bring Rose to her feet. He put too much wrist into it. She fell forward. "Ahh!"

He caught her and forgot about the risks. Rose's torso quivered with silent laughter.

"That was better than a Muggle carnival ride!"

His hand tingled painfully. Scorpius frowned. Ruddy binding spell. Was it his fault she wasn't wearing a bra? Thinking he'd like to see what he could feel against his chest wasn't the same as pulling up her top. If magic couldn't differentiate between thought and action, he was in trouble.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

Scorpius' hand stopped stinging. He said, "We should talk in the lounge."

Her eyes widened. "My parents. I forgot."

So had he, until the Wizard Handshake kicked in.

They walked down the corridor. The dark light of night orbs made the fabric of Rose's shorts shine with a bluish tint. Scorpius asked, "What cleaning spell makes clothes fluorescent?"

Rose halted. "I hadn't noticed."

He refrained from saying what he was thinking. You weren't looking at your arse.

She said thoughtfully, "The last time I wore these was at Nana Granger's, so I'd guess something in Muggle washing powder or softening agent contains fluorescent dyes that don't entirely rinse out." Rose touched his white t-shirt with a fingertip. "Lumens. Now we're even." She smiled. "I was tempted to make your hair glow."

He gave into the temptation to kiss her.

Before he was ready to let her go, she eased away. "We need to talk."

Those four words usually ranked up with "What went wrong with the other girls you took to Hogsmeade?" and "Would you rather spend time with your friends than me?" in what he hated to hear from a date. "All right," he said.

Once they sat on the sofa, Rose raised the lighting level so they could see each other better. She gave him a "you start" prompting look.

His mind went blank. "Talk about . . .us?" He'd steered clear of such conversations in the past, figuring no girl liked to be told there was a "you" and "me" but no "us." Rose made him tongue-tied in a different way.

She said, "I meant about who we're going to visit, but that can wait if you want to talk about our relationship first."

Relationship . . . a term he normally avoided like dragon pox. Somehow, it didn't sound painful when applied to Rose. As far as he was concerned, they were already in one. "What about it?"

"Is it real? Or is this all pretending?"

One kiss, he could've faked. The rest: he wasn't that good an actor. "It's real to me."

"You don't sound happy about it."

Her tone was simply stating, yet touched off a defensive reaction as though it accused. "What do you want me to do, recite a poem? Tell me which one and I'll go to the library and look it up."

"No, I want to hear your words, not someone else's."

"Create a poem? Right now?"

"That isn't—"

He said over her protest, "There once was a Gryffindor Rose, Who had the most delectable toes, I kissed and I sucked, With my lips I plucked, But why did she have to wear hose?"

Even beneath soft light, he could tell she was blushing. "That was . . .that wasn't what I meant."

"Limericks don't do it for you? You want a sonnet?"

"I want know how you feel," she said. "A few words, that's all I ask."

He snapped, "I have two. Unprepared. Uncomfortable."

Rose leaned forward and put her hand over his. "Understandable."

Her sympathy calmed his turbulent emotions. Scorpius threaded his fingers through hers. He was acting like a git. Was there a word to say he was sorry, that it was easier to snog or push her away than talk? He said, "Unaccustomed."

"Unwanted?" she whispered.

He'd trusted her with other secrets. Why not his feelings? "No," Scorpius said, "The reason I came here isn't why I'm staying." He could write his father, confirm the Knights had held their ceremony, and go home. "I want to be with you for more than a holiday."

Rose's smile was beautiful. "When we're back at school I'll write the schedule so we can patrol together."

"Assign us the floors with the most statues," he said. "We'll check behind each one." He leaned down to kiss her the way he'd wanted to, weeks ago.

When they finally parted, she sighed. "When you said, 'not for the usual reason,' I thought about kissing you and blushed so red Professor Vector thought I was sick and sent me to the hospital wing."

Scorpius released her hand to trace the curve of her ear. "You took a Pepperup Potion. I remember."

Rose made a face. "Albus had a laugh telling me I looked smokin'."

"You did, but not because of the smoke."

"Thank you." Her lips brushed the corner of his mouth.

Scorpius accepted the invitation and kissed Rose deeply. He didn't touch any area that was covered up. There was more than enough bare skin to keep his hands occupied. He caressed her cheek and worked his way down her throat, her arms, and her legs.

Her body jerked when he ran a fingertip along the inside of her thigh. "I think we'd better talk about the other . . . stuff."

"Stuff?" Her skin was petal-soft. His finger slithered a little higher.

She laughed breathily. "What we want to do . . . I mean, where we want to go. Visit. Tomorrow we'll see Albus and Lily—"

"Do we have to spend all day with them?" He lifted his hand to rake back his hair.

"Not all day. Why? Did Albus say something to make you feel unwelcome?"

"It has nothing to do with him."

"If it's James, he won't be there. Puddlemere United's next match is with the Harpies so Coach Wood only gave the players the weekend off. James will be chasing Quaffles."

"It's not the people, it's the house." It was difficult to explain.

Rose said, "Uncle Harry won't be there either."

"But it's still his house."

"You're afraid Lucius will find out? He won't."

Scorpius couldn't sit still any longer. He walked over to the window and stared out into the dark. "I'm avoiding my grandfather because I don't want to fight about our different beliefs. I'm not afraid of him, I'm only concerned about what he'll do—" to you, to carry out his plans for my life.

Rose moved to his side.

They were metres from the illumination orb bathing the sofa in a pool of light. Standing in shadow it was easier to admit, "I know about the war. What my family did. Some things I read about, others Grandfather told me. He said it was wrong for my father to pretend the past didn't exist." Scorpius took a breath and exhaled slowly. "I know he's not considered a good person."

"But he's good to you?"

"He told me stories and listened to mine. He taught me how to ride a broomstick when I was five, and when I was eight he taught me to throw a Fanged Frisbee—which his assistant bought when I told him Father wouldn't let me have one because it was too dangerous."

"They are dangerous."

"That makes them fun."

Rose put her hand on his arm. "I agree. We loved Uncle George for sneaking them into our Christmas stockings and telling Mum she had to let us keep them, they were from Father Christmas."

Scorpius said, "We can help your dad and uncle Tuesday."

"All right." She rubbed his arm up and down in a soothing manner. "I'll send an owl, if you want. Tell Albus we want to revise here."

"We'll go. I'm not buying a Team Potter t-shirt. It has nothing to do with family loyalty." And like Rose said, Grandfather wouldn't find out.

Rose giggled. "Team Potter? Why hasn't Uncle George thought of that?"

Scorpius said, "Don't give him the idea, whatever you do. Bad enough I turned down knighthood." Immediately, he realised the slip. "Imagine what would happen if Grandfather saw people wearing Team Potter shirts," he said quickly. "They'd have smiley faces with lightning bolt scars and sayings on the back like 'Have a Harry Day'."

Rose wasn't distracted, and she wasn't smiling anymore. "I read about Death Eaters in A History of Magic. They were once called the Knights of Walpurgis. Are you saying they still exist?"

"I'm not saying anything."

Her hand clutched his arm. "If they're planning another war—"

"With what army? For what reason? There's no Dark Lord, only wizard supremacists who have the right to assemble like anyone else. Prejudice isn't illegal."

She looked at him with an expression that was impossible to read. "You should go into Magical Law."

"And end up defending Grandfather's cronies? No thanks."

"Everyone deserves quality legal representation."

"They can get it somewhere else. There are plenty of Slytherin barristers."

"Yes, there are." Rose slid her arms around his waist and rested her cheek against his shoulder. "Are you angry I asked questions?"

"Do I look angry?" Scorpius waited for Rose to lift her head and kissed her.

They swayed together and ended up on the sofa with Rose draped over him, her hair a silky curtain. Eventually, his hand stung so badly he cursed.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

He said, "I think grabbing your arse was a violation of the Wizard Handshake."

"You didn't grab, you, well, you didn't do anything I didn't like." She braced her hands on the sofa cushion. If she did it to keep from putting all her weight on him, it was a nice gesture. Unfortunately, the movement gave him a view down her top. He groaned.

"I should go upstairs," Rose said.

"No. Just . . . lie down," he said. "And don't move. And turn off the light so I can't see."

"But if you're hurting—"

He tried not to laugh. "This pain I'm happy to live with."

She settled down on her side with her head on his chest and a thigh resting on his. He could hear the satisfaction in her voice when she said, "You sound happy."

His body ached and he was too keyed up to sleep. Scorpius grinned in the darkness. "I am."







A/N: I originally planned for the chapter title to be Chats, plural, but Scorpius and Rose had a lot to talk about, and the other chats will have to wait. In the first draft, I had Scorpius quote a poem, but when I went back over the chapter, I thought, "He's like a mongoose with his fur all on end and chattering his teeth in aggression. He'd be more likely to spout a limerick." I liked that idea better, so I pulled the flowery poem and wrote one that may or may not be foreshadowing. :D.

There are actual t-shirts with Team Potter (I got the idea from seeing Twilight shirts, I looked it up, and sure enough Potter fans can proclaim their devotion too, with a shirt from any number of sites). The smiley face is from another tee, but I'm sure every vendor that sells it would be happy to combine the two. I won't comment about the Accio Edward shirt I saw, other than to state the opinion that some crossovers are an abomination unto fashion and fiction.

 


Chapter 16: Stories
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Rose was happy and not the least bit sleepy.

How could she sleep? She was lying next to Scorpius, wedged between his side and the sofa cushions. His body was toasty warm. She took a deep breath and inwardly sighed. He smelled delicious. She'd noticed the scent before. It was clean and fresh, with a hint of citrus and other things green and growing. Every time she took a shower, Rose eyed the flagon of shampoo he left beside hers and ran her fingers over the "M" carved into the wood box that held his soap. Would he like the way the products scented her hair and skin as much as she liked the way they did his? The thought of touching soap that his hand had touched made the butterflies in her stomach flutter madly.

Victorian thrills.

She giggled.

"What's so funny?" Scorpius sounded wide-awake.

Rose wasn't about to tell him. She said, "I don't have to worry about falling asleep and waking up to find Dad looming over us. This is . . . very nice . . . but kissing isn't soporific like lettuces to rabbits.

"The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies."

She could hear the smile in his voice. Hers would betray surprise that he understood the reference. "When did you read Beatrix Potter?"

"Mother presented me with The Complete Tales when I was six."

She'd probably smuggled the book into Malfoy Manor. "What did your father say?"

"A bad word. He misread the author's name and thought it was Bellatrix."

She gave a startled laugh.

Scorpius said, "That's what my mother did when I repeated the word at the dinner table."

"I like her," Rose said without thinking.

"She'd like you too."

The darkness gave her the boldness to ask, "What about the rest of your family?"

Scorpius was quiet for a moment. "If Grandfather's in the room Father won't show approval openly," he said. "You'll know he likes you when he offers you the first teacake. He loves sweets. Grandmother is more subtle, she'll compliment your dress or shoes."

"And your grandfather?"

"He'll wait for the most awkward moment and ask what your intentions are toward his grandson."

She could picture it easily: the drawing room looking like a set from one of Nana Granger's beloved Austen films, the family elegantly intimidating. She and Scorpius sat close beside each other on a French settee and held hands.

"The bit about my grandfather was a joke," Scorpius said. "You were supposed to laugh."

"I was too busy imagining everything."

There was a heartbeat of silence.

"What would you answer?"

"To be with him."

Scorpius' hand covered hers. "Are you sure kisses aren't soporific?" he said. "We could do another test."

Don't tempt me. "As much as I'd like to, we'd better not." She sighed aloud and said, "You read The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies. That means you remember it?"

"I might."

That meant he did, but wanted to know why she asked. She kissed his hand. "Would you tell it to me? I loved the story and the illustrations—especially the one of Farmer McGregor holding the baby bunny he's about to put into the sack."

"So his wife can skin them. Yes, charming."

Rose got the giggles. "The bunnies didn't get turned into cloak lining. Mrs. Tittlemouse nibbled a hole in the sack when the farmer went to put away the mowing machine."

"You seem to remember the plot," Scorpius said. "Why do you want to hear the story?"

"I love your voice." The moment she said it Rose wished she could sink through the sofa. She sounded so girly. Embarrassing.

Scorpius said, "Well, in that case . . ." he trailed off into thoughtful silence. Rose was about to say that he didn't have to tell her the story if he'd rather not, they could talk, when he gave her hand a slight squeeze. "It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is soporific. I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit."

Rose wondered if he could feel her smile.

She leaned over to kiss his cheek when the story was over and found his mouth waiting. A string of kisses later, she said, "I should go upstairs."

He gave a drawn-out, fake yawn. "I'm getting sleepy anyway."

"You are not." She tickled his sides. "Admit it!"

Scorpius rolled away from her, laughing.

Rose heard a thud and used a spell to turn on the illumination orbs. "Are you okay?"

His voice was muffled by the rug. "I feel like I've been hit with a decayed turnip."

Like the Flopsy Bunny that got up upon the windowsill to watch the McGregors argue over a bag stuffed with rotten vegetables and a blacking brush. "Are you rather hurt?"

Scorpius pushed himself up in an admirable display of muscle. "No."

He was sitting beside the sofa. She kissed him. "Then that's for honesty."

His dimple flashed.

"Levitate me upstairs?" she asked.

In the entry, she started to lie down on the floor when Scorpius said, "No need," and cast a spell.

Rose levitated mid air. "I feel even more like a magician's assistant with you beside me," she said.

"This is no trick." He skimmed his hand over her body like a Muggle magician, not touching, as if to show there were no wires.

Her toes curled. Scorpius was beyond sexy. She gasped when he ran a finger along the arch of her foot.

He chuckled. "No fondling my lovely assistant. Right. On with the show."

She began to float toward the stairs. Rose said, "You know, the human body is two-thirds water, so it's possible for Muggles to levitate diamagnetically if they use the right size high-field electromagnet."

"Fascinating."

"No it isn't," she said. "I'm babbling like I did about Granddad's washer because—"

Scorpius had already taken the hint, holding her suspended in air while he leaned down to kiss her.

Rose kept her eyes open and welcomed the emotional intensity. "Good night," she whispered once his lips left hers.

"Good night."

She closed her eyes, thinking she could drift upstairs without magic, buoyed by her feelings alone. She felt lighter than air. By the time she reached her room, dreaminess had turned to giddy joy. The time with Scorpius had been incredible, and they hadn't been caught! She shut the door and whirled in an exuberant pirouette. She'd hated dance class and the vying for perfection, but some moves, she'd loved.

Rose pirouetted again, concentrating on correct form.

The illumination orb on the bedside table flared to life.

"Mum!" Her mother sat on the edge of the bed, looking tired and stern in a white striped dressing gown. Rose's stomach lurched.

"I was about to go downstairs looking for you," Mum said. "Your father believes we're having a heart to heart about what's been going on in your life." Her gaze was steely. "What would he say about your actions?"

Rose didn't want to think about it. "You won't tell him, will you, Mummy?"

"What I tell him depends on what you tell me."

Rose sat on the bed. "We didn't do anything."

"You bypassed the wards on the stairs. Levitation?"

"Mobilicorpus."

A look of surprise crossed Mum's face. "From the second floor when he couldn't see you or the stairs? He must have an excellent memory."

Rose shrugged.

"And you must trust him very much."

"Completely," Rose said. "Scorpius didn't hurt me or break the oath he made. We just talked and spent time together in the lounge and then said goodnight."

Her mum's eyebrows arched. "Just?"

"Only. We only talked and spent time together." Don't ask for details.

Mum drew in a breath and exhaled slowly. "Sweetheart, I remember what it was like to be a teenager."

Rose tried not to cringe. Oh, Merlin, please don't share. PLEASE do not share!

"The intensity of certain . . . feelings . . . ."

I do NOT want to hear this.

"And the difficulty of restraining oneself from acting on those feelings."

Rose buried her face in her hands. "Mum, stop, please. We kissed and cuddled on the sofa a little, all right?"

"No, darling, it isn't all right. The last time your father and I kissed and cuddled on a sofa we had Hugo nine months later."

Rose stared at her mother in horror. "On that sofa? Oh my God!"

Mum's face turned red. "It wasn't our sofa, and that isn't the point—"

"Not Nana Granger's." Rose adored Nana's squishy, comfy sofa, and she'd never be able to sit on it again.

"No, and that is all I am going to say on the matter. Your father's and my private . . . history . . . is not the issue here. I was only using a personal example to illustrate that a cuddle on the sofa can lead to more than cuddling. Have I made myself clear?"

"Yes." And for the rest of my life I'll avoid old sofas. Rose said, "I promise not to go downstairs at night anymore."

"I'm holding you to your word.

Rose held out her hand.

"A Wizard Handshake isn't necessary," Mum said. "Your promise is enough."

"Thank you." Rose looked at the door. Hopefully the interrogation was over.

Her mum didn't leave. "Tell me about Scorpius," she said. "What do you like about him?"

Beyond his looks, his smile, and his kisses— "He's smart," Rose said. "Not like me—it's effortless. He can name a potion by reading the list of ingredients. He can create jinxes and poetry."

"He writes you poems?"

Rose was not going to repeat the Limerick. She hurried to say, "And he's got the most beautiful handwriting. Gran's Mr. Darcy couldn't have finer penmanship."

"Mr. Darcy doesn't belong to Gran, he's a fictional character who belongs to all women . . . I mean, no woman except Jane Austen." Mum cleared her throat. "Anything else?"

Scorpius reads, he's funny. He loves his family and puts up with mine. He makes me melt. "He's a good person." He isn't prejudiced. He doesn't want to be a Knight. "Isn't that enough?"

"Of course." After a contemplative pause, Mum said, "I won't tell your father about the poems."

She was going to tell about the sneaking downstairs, though. Rose stood and yanked back her covers. "Gee, thanks." Go ahead, tell Dad, but before he yells at me he'll probably row with you for sitting up here instead of stopping me from doing who-knows-what with a Malfoy! Rose turned and threw her arms around her mother. "I'm sorry, Mum. I love you."

"I love you, Rose-Red." Mum kissed her cheek.

The pet name brought back memories of a Grimm fairy-tale of two sisters, Snow-White and Rose-Red, who freed a prince from the enchantment that forced him to roam the forest as a bear. Snow-White married the prince "clothed all in gold" and Rose-Red married his brother. Years ago, reading the story with her mum, Rose felt it unfair the second prince had no description other than "brother" and declared he was clothed all in silver, and was more handsome and clever than any other in the land.

She gave her mum another hug.

 

Minutes passed slowly once Rose was alone. She tried to count backward from three hundred by threes to become sleepy, but it didn't work. She decided to daydream her way to sleep. She imagined an ancient forest and a path leading away from her mother's cottage. Through the canopy of trees, filtered sunlight dappled the undergrowth with flecks of yellow radiance. The rustle of leaves was like an urgent whisper.

"Rosie? Are you awake?"

She opened her eyes to see her Dad peering into the room from the doorway. His white undershirt didn't glow in the corridor lighting, but it still gave him a spectral air. Rose said, "Sort of." She'd almost drifted into a true dream.

He ambled into the room. "I didn't say good night earlier. I should've done that."

Did he think tucking her in could have changed anything? "I still would've gone downstairs."

"That doesn't make me feel better." He sat on the edge of the bed and bent down to kiss her forehead. "You're my little girl, Rosie. I have to keep you safe." He started to rise.

She grabbed his arm. Panic brought tears to her eyes. "I'm sorry, Daddy. Don't make Scorpius leave. I promise I won't do it again. I promise!"

"I'm only going to increase the wards." He patted her hand. "You gave your word, and I know you don't intend to break it. This is for my peace of mind, because I remember what it's like to be young—"

"Thanks, Dad," Rose cut in before he got warmed up. Mum's "personal example" was disturbing enough. Any more parental sharing would give her nightmares.

"You're welcome. Night, Rosie."

"Night, Daddy."

When the door closed, Rose snuggled into the covers and wondered if Hugo would stomp down the corridor to find out what was going on. Her eyes grew heavy as she listened for footsteps.

 

"Soon," the forest whisper seemed to say. "Soon."

Rose-Red curtseyed to thank the trees for their message, cryptic though it was, and walked onward. Fingers of light that pointed the way became a waterfall of sunshine at the edge of the forest. She stepped into the golden light, into a clearing, and came face-to-face with a knight leading his horse.

"Hullo," he said. "I'm looking for my brother. He's wearing gold armour, not proper silver like mine, is too bold for his own good and with my luck is bewitched and roaming the forest as a lion. Have you seen him?"

"He was a bear," she said. "The wicked dwarf who bewitched him is dead, and he plans to marry my sister, Snow-White."

"Then I am doubly thankful," the knight said as he drew near. "That he is freed and that you are not the one he is to marry."

Rose-Red had never been shy. She looked up into quicksilver eyes and asked, "Why is that?"

His cheek dimpled when he smiled. "You're free to be with me."

Behind Rose-Red, the rustling of the trees sounded like indulgent laughter.

~*~







A/N: I almost titled the chapter Caught, but I didn't want to give the scene totally away, so I called it Stories. In Crouching Father, Hidden Terror Ron calls Hermione soporific (after beautiful and amazing) because he's hoping she'll make him sleepy. It reminded me of the The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies by Beatrix Potter, and lettuces being soporific. It got me wondering if Scorpius had read the tales. His mother gave him Arthurian legends to read. Why not other Muggle stories? It was a cunning way for Astoria to counter Lucius' Slytherin Tales without openly defying her father-in-law. Only the first two lines of The Flopsy Bunnies and the phrase “rather hurt” were direct quotes. I made up the Rose Red dream using a variation of the general plot of the original tale.

I leave to reader speculation the identity of the owners of the sofa Ron and Hermione cuddled on. Rose will never know. :D

 


Chapter 17: Sink
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Scorpius jerked upright, awakened by an insistent knock. He picked up his Swiss watch from the bedside table and focused on the Roman numerals. A quarter past seven.

He opened the door to find Mr. Weasley, dressed in wizard robes, holding a mug of coffee.

"Thank you." Scorpius took the mug although he generally preferred tea. He didn't want to be rude. The coffee had too much cream and sugar for his taste, but overall was a decent French roast. He asked, "Do I have time for a shower before breakfast?"

"Yeah," said Mr. Weasley. "There's no schedule. Fix what you want when you want." His eyes dropped to the mug. "Including coffee."

Scorpius suddenly noticed the hand-painted red letters on white china.

World's Greatest Dad.

Bloody hell, he'd stolen the man's coffee! He was too used to Stevens delivering a tray to his room in the mornings. Scorpius took another sip. There was no giving the mug back after drinking from it. He asked, "Is Rose up yet?"

Mr. Weasley nodded brusquely. "Look, I'm heading out in a few minutes. If you want to send a letter to your family I'll drop it by the Owl Post Office."

Scorpius' fingers tightened around the mug. "Should I leave it unsealed?"

"No. You gave your word." The look that accompanied the words said, And you'd better keep it.

Scorpius went to find his stationery. He addressed the letter to his parents and kept the message brief.

Thank you for supporting my decision to spend the holiday with Rose. Give Grandfather my apologies for whatever photographs were in the papers. I'll do my best to avoid causing the family further embarrassment.

He found Mr. Weasley in the dining room. He gave him the letter and went upstairs.

Rose, in a white towelling robe, was leaving the bathroom. Tendrils of wet hair clung to the sides of her face. "Good morning," she said softly.

"Good morning." Scorpius observed that her eyelashes were spiky with moisture. They were darker than her hair, and made her eyes look even bluer. "You didn't have to hurry on my account."

"Hugo and I have a deal, no long showers." Her eyes sparkled impishly. "But you're our guest so take your time."

Enjoyed the thought of making her brother wait, did she? "I will."

She returned his smile, and then her expression sobered. "Have you talked to my parents?"

"Your father. He offered to post a letter for me."

Her fingers worried the ends of her belt. "Is that all you talked about?"

Scorpius added the clues together. "They found out you snuck downstairs."

"Yes." She rolled one of the ends of her belt around a finger. "It wasn't too bad. They didn't yell." After a pause, she said, "I promised not to do it again."

The tip of her finger was turning blue. He reached out and freed it from the binding fabric. "I would've done the same."

"You would?"

He nodded. "Being together is what matters, not the time of day."

She hugged him.

Scorpius breathed in and froze. He exhaled raggedly. "You used my shampoo." There weren't words to begin to describe how that made him feel.

"And your soap," she said. "I should have asked. I'm—"

He kissed her before she could apologise. "I'm glad. To hell with taking what you're given. Make your own choice." Scorpius feathered kisses along Rose's jaw and down her neck. He wouldn't give her a so-called "love bite," but he couldn't resist nibbling a little. D'Orange Vert never smelled half as good on his skin. He kissed the base of her throat and lightly sucked. She pressed closer.

A groan sounded. It wasn't feminine.

"It's too early for this." Hugo's voice carried up the stairs. "I'm using Mum and Dad's toilet."

Scorpius stood torn between laughter and throwing a hex as footsteps stomped away. Maybe his parents had done him a favour when he was a child, giving him a niffler instead of a baby brother.

He headed for the shower while Rose went to get dressed. Out of habit, he selected a flannel out of the linen cupboard on his way to the tub. He was about to lather it when a thought struck. Rose touched this soap.

Scorpius eyed the flannel. If he didn't use it, he would veer dangerously close to sentimental behaviour. Besides, he'd seen a flannel drying on a towel rack. Rose hadn't lathered the soap with her hands.

Unless she'd had the same thought he had.

Decency kept him from leaving the tub. Only a pervert would sniff a flannel to check if it smelled like soap. He wasn't perverted. To prove it, Scorpius adjusted the water charm to frigid cold.

After he thawed out from his shower and dressed, Scorpius went to the kitchen. Rose had made scrambled eggs. She looked pretty in her pale green vest top and white shorts.

"For you, she'll cook," Hugo said. "I'm usually given cold cereal."

"My brother's too lazy to make his own breakfast." Rose handed Scorpius a plate garnished with sliced strawberries.

Hugo snorted. "Feeding me is the least you can do after Dad woke me up for chaperone duty."

"What?" Rose stared daggers at her brother.

Unperturbed, Hugo stuffed a triangle of toast into his mouth. "'oo 'eard 'e." He took his plate into the dining room.

"There's juice on the table, so there's no hoping he'll choke," Rose said loudly.

"I heard that!" Hugo called.

"You were meant to!" Rose grabbed her plate from the counter so forcefully it was a surprise her food didn't slide off.

Out of the corner of his eye, Scorpius caught a movement and pointed to the flesh-coloured string wriggling along the skirting board. "When the knockout drops take effect, we won't have to worry about Hugo anymore."

"We won't?"

"No," he drawled. "We'll be free to take up where we left off."

Rose's smile was beguilingly wicked. "Let's start in Hugo's room. No one else will ever snog in there."

Hugo stormed into the kitchen. He ran to the sink and turned on the faucet, drinking in gulps of water. He faced them wild-eyed and dripping. "Ha! Your plan failed! I didn't drink the juice!"

"Who said it was in the juice?" Rose asked silkily.

Scorpius was beginning to regret that the knockout drops were imaginary. "You should have used Chameleon Ears," he said. "Regular Extendable Ears stand out against the woodwork."

Hugo's freckles blended into his red face. "That was a mean trick. The toast wasn't buttered. I could have died!"

"Don't exaggerate," Rose said. "I know the Heimlich manoeuvre." She strolled out of the kitchen.

"We would never snog in your room," Scorpius said before following. "Too odorous." The smell of old pizza was detectable from the stairs. He didn't want to imagine how bad it would be inside the room.

"Oh yeah? Well, I'm gonna keep it that way." Due to the Extendable Ears, Hugo's next remark was audible. "Until Mum makes me tidy up."

-

After breakfast, Scorpius volunteered to do the washing up while Rose finished getting ready.

Hugo became his grudging assistant. "Where does a Malfoy learn householdy spells? The housekeeper?"

"Mrs. Stevens is a caring person," Scorpius said, using a spell to levitate clean glasses to their place in the cupboards.

Hugo tossed a fork into the cutlery drawer. "She got you to do her work."

"It took twice as long to oversee my spellcasting." Scorpius returned plates to their shelf. He loved books, but he couldn't read all the time. When his parents were working in the lab and his grandfather was away, the couple who ran the manor kindly allowed him to tag along as they performed their duties. "Are you going with us today?"

"No. I'm helping Dad in the shop. I'm sure we'll have loads to talk about." Hugo slammed the cutlery drawer shut.

"If you think that's wise," Scorpius said. He picked up the rucksack he'd filled with textbooks and walked toward the entry to wait for Rose.

Hugo followed. "Why wouldn't it be? Because I didn't break up the Tonsil Quidditch? Dad will—aw, crap, who am I kidding, no, he won't. He won't understand. He'll start talking, and sharing, and when we go to lunch I won't be able to eat 'cause I'll still be queasy. Forget it. I'm not saying anything."

"I think that's wise," Scorpius murmured, as Rose walked down the stairs.

She'd put her hair up in a high ponytail and wore silver earrings. She touched one of the simple, curly dangles. "My lion earrings were the ones that snagged your hair," she said. "In case you were wondering."

"I was."

"I don't want to know what you're talking about," Hugo said. "I want to leave while I still have an appetite."

"Does he make any sense to you?" Rose asked Scorpius.

Scorpius smiled and opened the door.

-

Rose Apparated Scorpius to a street she said had transitioned from decay to renewal over the last twenty years. "You should see the pictures," she said, as the house appeared to nudge aside its neighbours, gracefully occupying the space between number eleven and thirteen. "There wasn't a fanlight, the steps were worn, and the old door had a hideous silver—"

"—knocker in the shape of a serpent. I've seen photographs." The gold lion's head wasn't an improvement, in his opinion.

"From your grandmother. Of course." Rose pressed the doorbell. A familiar sounding chime echoed. "Aunt Ginny loves the Westminster Chimes."

The door opened inward.

"Hullo, Rose. Scorpius," Albus Potter said. "Come on in."

Light from the fan shaped window above the door brightened the narrow entryway. Cream-coloured walls displayed family photographs—Weasley and Potter family photos. The Black family portraits resided in the attic, most likely. Scorpius was drawn to a rectangle frame that protruded from a particular stretch of wall. The white canvas provided a backdrop for an exhibit of vividly hued children's artwork.

"Mum and Dad couldn't take Mrs. Black's portrait down, so they covered her up and used soundproof spells," Albus said. "There's a portrait of Kreacher on the other side so she isn't deprived of someone to scream at."

Immured with kindness. How Potter.

The name Kreacher was one his grandparents reviled above the memory of their own disloyal house-elf. "Is he still alive?" Scorpius asked.

"Yes, although he mostly stays in his den off the kitchen," Albus said. "Would you like to meet him? He'd be delighted."

"No thank you," Scorpius said flatly. He saw Rose and Albus exchange puzzled looks and changed the subject. "Who did the art? Children in orphanages and hospital wards?" The drawing of Super Wizard flying over St. Mungo's gave the last one away. He took a closer look. "The eyes are wrong. Blue instead of green."

"Kids often make that mistake. Dad doesn't mind."

"I'm sure," Scorpius said. He looked toward the grand staircase. "Are we going to revise?"

"Upstairs in the drawing room," Albus said. "Rose will show the way. I'm going to finish clearing the breakfast dishes." He went through a door that presumably led down to the kitchen.

"What's wrong?" Rose asked when they were alone.

"It's this house," Scorpius said. On the surface, it was pleasant, remodelled. The ugliness was beneath the paint and polished wood. He didn't have the Sight, yet he could feel the anger and pain seeping through the walls like toxic mould. He walked up the stairs, trailing a hand along the plaster beneath the landscapes. "There used to be shrunken heads here. Did you know that?"

"Of house-elves. They're in the attic now."

Impulse seized him. "Let's go." He took the steps two at a time. On the first landing, Scorpius dumped the satchel of books.

"This is crazy," Rose said. Her cheeks were pink from running to catch up. "Why are we doing this?"

Scorpius clasped her hand and pulled her up the stairs. "Grandmother Narcissa told me a story about this house. We're going to see if it's true."

On the topmost landing, they met Lily. She wore a hot pink dressing gown and yawned as she said, "You wanna see the pictures? Jus' a minute, 'kay?"

"Show us later," Scorpius said, tugging Rose to a steep stairway. The logical portion of his brain said there was nothing to prove. He ignored it and forged on.

Lily trailed after them. "The attic's the opposite of romantic. You'll sneeze instead snog your heads off."

"We aren't going there to snog," Rose said.

"So why go?"

Rose sighed. "He hasn't told me yet."

"Ooh, a mystery. Count me in."

The attic door creaked when Scorpius pushed it open. A single illumination orb floated near the ceiling.

"We carry enchanted torches when we bring down the Christmas decorations," Lily said. "Albus and I pretend we're pirates hunting for treasure."

Scorpius glanced around. "Where are they?"

"The Christmas decorations?" asked Lily.

"The shrunken heads."

"Tell us the story first," Rose said. "The one your grandmother told you."

He tried to peer around the stacked trunks and furniture. "My parents went out for dinner one night and Grandmother tucked me in. I asked for a ghost story. She didn't know any so she told me about this house and the house-elves bound with Dark magic to serve beyond the grave."

"Creepy," Lily said.

Scorpius said, "They appear dead, but if a true son or daughter of the House of Black appears, the spirits will return to serve."

Rose hugged his arm to her side. "It's only a story, and you're a Malfoy."

"I know." Still, the part of him that remembered Grandmother saying the elves' eyes would open for him needed to see that they wouldn't.

"The plaques are hanging on the far wall," Lily said. "Low enough so I—uh, we—don't see them over the boxes."

"Lumos." Scorpius used the light from his wand to manoeuvre around the obstacles in his path. He reached the row of heads.

Rose's thumb stroked across the back of his hand. "Look at each face. They haven't returned to life."

Scorpius moved his wand down the row, spotlighting each head. The elves were dead and pitiful. They had deserved better from those they served. The last face was particularly ancient and sad.

Wrinkled eyelids opened.

"Merlin!" Scorpius yelled. "Petrificus Totalus!"

The elf blinked.

Scorpius raised his fist.

"NO!" Rose shouted. "It's Kreacher!

There was a thud and a muffled curse as Lily ran to join them. "Oh my God, I forgot he hangs out up here sometimes. Is everyone all right?"

The elf peered at Scorpius with watery eyes. "Kreacher lives to serve the noble House of Black."

Lily came forward to pat the elf's shoulder. "Scorpius is our friend. He doesn't belong to this house. You don't have to serve him."

A tear rolled down Kreacher's face. "I will tell my poor mistress a true Black has returned."

In a séance or through the soundproof frame around her portrait? Scorpius turned on his heel. It was a toss up who was loonier, him or the elf. He shoved a box out of his way.

"Scorpius, wait!"

He stopped in the doorway. "I can't stay here."

"Then we'll leave."

"Argeles sur Mer is nice this time of year," Lily said, joining them. "There's cafes and shops and everyone loves the beach."

"We're not going to France, we're revising for exams," Rose said. "In a place no one will think to look."

Anywhere but here. "Somewhere Unplottable?" Scorpius asked.

Rose shook her head. "Somewhere Muggle."






~*~

A/N: The chapter title came from telling someone I was throwing a little of everything into the next chapter and could call it Kitchen Sink (from the saying "everything but the kitchen sink"), except I only use one-word titles for this story. :D I hope that "Sink" wasn't too obscure—at least once I explained it! As for D'Orange Vert, it's the name of a classic men's fragrance line by Hermes with cologne, shampoo, and soap that smell nice on women too.

I used the canon description of Grimmauld Place and gave it an extreme Potter makeover. Lily has Sirius' old room and posters of wizards on flying motorbikes. ;) The blue eyes/green eyes reference is to the film Harry versus canon. Couldn't resist.

Magical creatures have a natural resistance to magic, which is why Kreacher blinked when hit with a body bind curse. Argeles sur Mer is on the "Red Coast" of France, a short distance from Perpignan and a short drive from Spain.

Scorpius' reaction to Grimmauld and Kreacher was the result of his conflicted feelings and lingering issues. Harry and Ginny changed the house for the better and so can live there happily with their family, but Scorpius saw it through the filter of stories he'd heard and his own perceptions, making it a very  grim old place.

 

 


Chapter 18: Niffler
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Nana Granger threw her door open wide and enveloped Rose in a hug. "It was a lovely surprise to receive your call. I didn't expect a visit until the end of the week!" Slim and casually dressed in a striped blouse and cropped trousers, Nana looked happy and enjoying her recent retirement. She hugged Albus and Lily and held out her hand to Scorpius. "I'm Rose's grandmother, Jane Granger," Nana said. "It's a pleasure to meet you . . . ."

"Scorpius Malfoy." He shook her hand without hesitation. "Likewise, ma'am."

Nana waved them into the three storey flat where she and Granddad Granger had lived—excepting a year sabbatical in Australia—since they moved to Islington fifty years ago to open a dental practice. The reception room open to the entrance hall had the appearance of a construction site.

"We're remodelling," Nana said. "Hand-built bookshelves, new paint, refinished floors. Richard rues the day I started watching decorating programmes. We thought we could DIY, as they say, but we were wrong." She shrugged. "We had to send an SOS to the professionals."

That must have been a row. Richard Granger was the one who passed along the know-it-all tendencies. "Where is Granddad?" Rose asked. She peered at the stairs. His study was off the half landing.

"He went to the B&Q supercentre to pick up chipped bark. Nick and the crew are coming tomorrow to finish the renovation, so naturally your grandfather's in a dither to show the back garden at its best."

Prove he was handy at something. Rose understood completely. "We can help."

"I'll tell him you offered," Nana said. "Now, where would you like to revise? There's the study or the lounge off the kitchen."

"They should take the study," Lily said. "And then we can watch programmes in the lounge." She smiled sweetly. "Do you still record my favourite one?"

Nana's sherry-brown eyes gleamed. "I do."

Rose said, "Watching a soap opera won't help you do well on O.W.L.s."

"Maybe not, but I find the continuing drama highly educational." Lily smirked. "And I'll get extra credit in Muggle Studies." She hooked her arm through Nana's as they headed for the steps to the lower ground floor. "I'd love to sample a few of those sugar free truffles we tried last time if you have any more on hand."

Rose led the way to the study, shaking her head in exasperation.

Albus tugged on a lock of her hair. "Don't be tetchy, Rosie. She would never have lasted more than a half-hour anyway."

True, and when she was bored Lily would try to talk them into doing something "fun."

Rose glanced over her shoulder at Scorpius. Perhaps the person she was irritated with was herself. Fun sounded good right then. Only determination not to be one of those girls who let marks slide because of a fixation on a boyfriend kept her from asking if he'd like to take a flight on the London Eye. They could book a private capsule. Have afternoon tea.

She stumbled onto the landing. The lurching feeling of putting her foot on a nonexistent stair jolted Rose back to her senses. Revising claimed priority over sightseeing and anything else they might do to pass the time.

Scorpius wrapped his hand around her arm to steady her. "Are you all right?"

"Just embarrassed. I didn't watch my step."

"I thought Potter used a trip jinx," Scorpius said quietly. "I almost hexed him."

"He could cast a better one than that."

"Beg pardon?" Albus asked pointedly.

Uh-oh, she'd forgotten to whisper. "Nothing," she said. The double doors to the study were open so Rose walked into the room to sit down on the two-seater next to a large bookshelf. Scorpius sat beside her.

Albus, left with the chair behind the desk, rolled it across the room to face the sofa.

Scorpius examined Granddad's books. "Death in the Dentist's Chair, Death of a Dentist, Murder in the Dentist Chair, Proximal to Murder," he read aloud before turning to Rose. He arched a brow.

"Granddad likes mysteries that involve dentists," she said. "He has a strange sense of humour." She knelt on the floor to search through the titles on the bottom shelf. "He collects children's stories too. My favourite is one about a mouse dentist. Here it is, Doctor De Soto." She handed it to Scorpius.

He looked at the cover, opened to the first page, and then closed the book. "I always felt sorry for the pictures not being able to move."

"It sounds like you still do," Rose said, thinking he was sweet.

"Not at all. I know they aren't frozen. They're printed that way."

She re-shelved the book and hid a smile over his dismissive tone. Typical male, he wanted to conceal his sensitive side.

"I think I remember Doctor De Soto," Albus said. "He did bad work."

"Very good work, so he had no end of patients," Scorpius said.

Rose nodded. "Granddad wouldn't have a children's book about a bad dentist."

"That makes sense," Albus said. He unpacked his rucksack. "I think we should revise for History of Magic first."

That sounded nearly as exciting as a lecture from Binns. Rose took out quill and parchment to make notes. She used sharing the text as an excuse to sit closer to Scorpius. That was a perk she didn't get in class. She covertly studied the strong column of his neck and imagined kissing it the way he had hers. Kiss. Lick. Suck.

Snap!

"Defective quill," she muttered and used Reparo to reattach the broken nib.

Forty minutes later, she could finally look at Scorpius without blushing. What she couldn't do was answer another question about dates, treaties, wars, and rebellions. She knew the material and so did Albus and Scorpius. "I need a cup of tea," she said. "Let's take a break."

Scorpius immediately shut A History of Magic.

"We usually revise an hour for each subject," Albus said.

"Today we have a guest to consider." Rose asked Scorpius, "Aren't you thirsty?"

"Parched," he said, in a way that made her mouth dry, but not for something to drink.

Rose set her notes aside.

Downstairs in the kitchen, Granddad was preparing a tea tray. His smile was dazzling white against tanned skin. "Beaut timing, Rosie, love. Now you can pour and I can head out to the garden." He manoeuvred around the oak-topped kitchen island to give her a squeezing hug.

Rose breathed in the comforting smell of sun lotion. Skin cancer was more common for Muggles with increasing age, and Mum worried Granddad was more diligent about dental care than protecting his skin.

"Introduce me to your friend, Rosie."

"Granddad Granger, this is my boyfriend, Scorpius Malfoy."

Granddad asked Scorpius, "Do you chew those brushing/flossing mints like my granddaughter?"

"After every meal."

"Good onya!" Granddad said, in the accent he'd picked up over twenty years ago. Dad told Rosie it was a rare side effect of the counter Memory Charm Mum used to make her father think he'd taken time off, not forgotten his child and emigrated with the intent to make Australia his home. Nana, on the other hand, kept her English accent—along with the collection of boomerangs she still threw regularly.

Scorpius said, "If you need any assistance in the garden—"

Granddad jumped at the offer. "But have a cuppa, no hurry," he said. "Come find me when you're ready." He put on a bushman hat with a crocodile leather hatband and exited through the terrace doors that led to the garden beyond.

Nana and Lily joined them for tea. Ever health-conscious, Nana served a plate of berries and grapes with a yoghurt dip and a sugar-free spiced apple cake with soy cream cheese icing. There were no truffles.

"We ate them all," Lily admitted unrepentantly when Rose asked if there were any left.

Scorpius said, "Try the cake, it's excellent," and held out a forkful.

If he was trying to prevent her from jinxing a glutton, it worked. The innocent action of her mouth closing around the fork became incredibly sexy when she remembered his lips had slid along the same tines. A flush stole across her cheeks, the same way it had when she'd picked up his soap in the shower.

"What's the matter, Rosie? Is it too spicy for you?" Lily asked. "Would you like some water to cool off?"

Rose cast a wandless spell and looked at Scorpius. "It's perfect."

"Have some more," he said.

Rose accepted another bite, and smiled as Lily tried to sip her tea and discovered it was frozen.

After they helped Nana tidy up, Rose performed a charm to protect Scorpius—and his lips—from sunburn and followed Albus upstairs to continue revising. The window behind the sofa overlooked the garden. Rose watched her granddad hand Scorpius a pair of hedge shears and point him to the other end of the line of shrubbery he was pruning. "Oh dear," she murmured.

"I'll be damned," said Albus. He was sitting on the sofa, an open book on his lap. "Listen to this. Doctor De Soto, the dentist, did very good work, so he had no end of patients."

"You didn't remember that? I suppose Granddad only read it to you once—"

"Scorpius didn't even skim it and quoted verbatim."

Rose sat down next to him and picked up The Standard Book of Spells. "Of course he did, it's a children's book, not complex prose."

"Dad said at the Burrow Scorpius quoted Pride and Prejudice."

She put aside the Charms textbook and lifted Advanced Rune Translation. "He reads. That's something we have in common." Rose flipped to the back of the book.

Albus put a hand over the page. "Scorpius looked at you more than History of Magic and never answered a question wrong. Why are you trying to hide that he can memorise bloody near anything?" His expression was troubled. The real question was Why are you trying to hide it from me?

He was her best mate. Rose didn't want to hurt him. "It isn't my secret to tell," she said. "Please understand. Scorpius trusts me, I can't betray him."

Albus raked a hand through his hair, making spikes stand out like exclamation marks. "How can I understand when this whole—thing—between you came out of nowhere? Last month everything was the same as it's always been. Now nothing's the same. What happened?"

She took a deep breath. "The day you were sick I tried to watch Scorpius brew his potion and—" It still pained her to admit, "I failed. Twice. I should have waited to brew it again, or gone to Professor Blackwell and explained when I messed up the second time, but I didn't. I was too proud. I let Scorpius switch labels with me and copied his notes when you asked for mine."

"How did he know you needed help?"

Doxie droppings. She'd hoped to avoid sharing that part. Rose set the book on the cushion between them and stood to gaze out the window. "He saw me tip my cauldron over."

"On purpose?"

She craned her neck trying to see Scorpius. "It's hard to watch someone accidentally."

"I meant you."

Rose looked at Albus. "Not exactly Head Girl behaviour, was it?"

He grinned. "I didn't know you had that in you."

She could almost hear Lily say, Finally, you do something bold and romantic. This proves you're a true Weasley!

"I did," Rose admitted, as much to herself as to Albus. "I was just hiding it."

"But not anymore."

The events of the last few weeks seemed to flash before her eyes. She smiled. "No."

"Good onya," Albus said, imitating Granddad's Aussie twang.

Rose started to laugh, caught sight of Scorpius, and ran for the door.

"What's wrong?" Albus was right behind her.

"Do you remember any Herbology charms?" she asked while they rushed down the stairs.

"Some."

"Good." Rose waved at Lily and Nana as they passed through the open area that combined a dining nook on one side and a lounge on the other. She paused at the terrace door. "We're going out for a breath of fresh air and to see how the garden's shaping up," she told Albus. "Get ready to use one of those charms."

"Why do I need to use a charm if we're going outside for fresh air?"

She elbowed him in the ribs. "I don't want Scorpius to think we saw what he did to the shrub and came running."

"We didn't see anything," Albus said. "You saw. Singular. I won't see until you open the door."

Rose sighed. "Remember he isn't using magic." She turned the handle and walked into the sunlight.

Along the left side of the garden, dividing it from the neighbours, was a hedgerow of tall, closely spaced, evergreen boxwoods. Except one—the shrub Scorpius was pruning. He clipped a few leaves off the right side, lifted his shears, and lopped off a branch on the other side. Boxwood trimmings carpeted the ground.

"Hullo," she called.

Scorpius continued to work. When she drew near, he said, "The sides are symmetrical, but I don't think this is what your grandfather had in mind."

"It's still impressive," Rose said. She meant it. The rest of the boxwoods were squares. Scorpius had cut his into a vertical rectangle. It looked like a work of modern art. "Where is Granddad?" she asked.

"He went next door to answer the neighbour's question about preventing weeds in the front garden." Scorpius laid the hedge shears on the grass. "Can you fix it before he returns?"

"Albus can."

"I'll try," said Albus. "A growing charm won't prune the shrub, but there's another that should make this boxwood match the rest. He waved his wand in a grand sweep. Exemplares!"

"NO!" Rose cried. "That's copies, not copy! You're making the others model his!"

"What's the hollering about?" Granddad walked over in time to watch the conventional hedge transform into a row of topiary. His jaw dropped. "Holy dooley!"

"It's my fault, sir," Scorpius said. "They were only trying to help."

Albus said, "I miscast the spell."

"I asked you to do it," Rose said.

Granddad chuckled. "No one has to take blame. I shouldn't have messed with the ruddy things until June, and they were boring anyway. Now they're a what-you-may-call-it. A focal point. Gives the garden style." After Scorpius cleared the pruned leaves and branches with an Evanesco, her granddad went into the house to get his camera and tell Nana and Lily to "have a gander."

Rose said to Scorpius, "I told you it was impressive."

"Yes, you did." His lips curved. "Want to help me put away the tools?"

The shed was at the very back of the garden, partially concealed by a lime tree. A nice place for a snog. "Sure." Rose bent to pick up the head shears and jumped back. "Something's burrowing up through the ground!"

"Garden gnomes are attracted by magic," Albus said. "Maybe when I cast the spell—" he broke off when a pink nose attached to a long black snout poked up through the earth and was followed by the rest of a head covered in black fur. The animal crawled onto the grass and lay panting like a swimmer reaching the shore after a gruelling swim.

"What're you doing here, little Niffler?" Albus hunkered down. "You must be thirsty." He conjured a bowl of water.

"Don't touch him," Scorpius said.

Albus was already petting the rodent-like animal. "I'm not wearing gold or anything else shiny. He won't bite. Nifflers are gentle, mostly, and this one's a pet. He's wearing a collar."

"I'm aware of that," Scorpius said. "Come to me, Felix!"

With an excited-sounding squeak, the Niffler stopped lapping water and hopped toward Scorpius, tail swishing back and forth. Felix made contented-sounding grumbles when he was picked up and petted.

Rose's blood ran cold. "He's yours?" Lucius must be using the animal—that collar—as a tracking device! He could be there any minute. They had to leave!

Scorpius didn't answer. He stood frozen in place, holding the immobilised Niffler, fingers curled around the black tag dangling from the collar.

She cast a counter-curse.

Albus did the same.

Nothing happened.

Rose cast a different spell. "You and Lily get Nana and Grandpa out of the house for a couple of hours."

"What are you going to do?"

She took off the Niffler's collar, dropped it onto the grass, and used a Vanishing Charm. Rose wrapped her arms around Scorpius, who she'd charmed to be featherlight. It was a strange feeling, picking up her boyfriend like a gorgeous doll. "I'm taking him somewhere safe," she said and Disapparated.

-





A/N: I'll leave it to readers to decide which soap opera is Lily's favourite: EastEnders, Emmerdale, or Coronation Street (and if you have a reason why I'd love to know it). I had fun having Rose think about asking Scorpius if he wanted to go on the London Eye. There's a Cupid's Capsule private flight that has champagne and truffles they'd enjoy, although Scorpius would curl his lip over the name.

I don't say it outright, but I do imply that Nick and the crew are from the show DIY SOS. I gave me a giggle imagining the look on Hermione's face when she's told "Dad and I are going to be on telly!" The book titles came from Amazon. I can only personally recommend Death of a Dentist by M.C. Beaton and Doctor De Soto, by William Steig (whose book Shrek! inspired a far better screenplay imho). The Doctor De Soto quote is from the book’s opening page.

I originally gave Nana Granger a collection of digeridoos, but since a few Australian readers thought she wouldn't play even if Dreaming Law doesn't prohibit informal playing by women, I changed it to boomerangs. I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying everyone in Australia throws boomerangs, although you might be surprised to learn there is a Boomerang Association of Australia with a bi-annual Boomerang World Cup. Granddad Granger’s accent, slang, and hat are also meant to be humorous, an unintended consequence of Hermione's spell, not a blanket description of all Australians.


Chapter 19: Resolve
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He couldn't move. He couldn't speak. But Scorpius could hear and he could see within a limited range. Most of all, he could feel: Felix's fur against his arm; Rose's warm embrace; the squeezing pressure of Apparation; anger at himself for underestimating his grandfather—physical and emotional sensations were heightened by the Body-Bind Curse.

"We all made it," Rose said. "I've never tried Side-Along Apparation with both a person and an animal before. I was a bit nervous."

Scorpius could see part of a wall in what looked to be an alley.

"You're all right, though, aren't you, Felix?" She spoke in the tone girls seemed to reserve for pets and small children. "Nothing splinched." She lowered Scorpius' feet to the ground. "No, that won't do. You're too tall. You can't see my face because your eyes are staring straight ahead."

He abruptly tilted sideways. Rose shifted his body, holding him in her arms so her eyes gazed down into his. "That's better. For you to see me, I mean." She bit her lip. "I brought you to the safest place I could think of. I'm assuming that the curse lasts for a specific time to allow Lucius to track you, but if I'm wrong, I want you to be close to St. Mungo's."

Held captive by her gaze, literally and figuratively, Scorpius was touched by Rose's concern.

"I can't be wrong," she said. Her gaze lowered.

His pulse leapt—metaphorically, at least. Would she do it?

She did.

Her lips were soft and sweet. The only thing keeping the moment from being perfect was his inability to kiss her back. In a Muggle fairy tale, such a kiss would break the darkest enchantment.

Scorpius remained immobile.

"Everything will be all right," she whispered, gently pressing her lips against his brow, his cheeks.

He was hoping she'd work her way back to his mouth again when a voice said, "You've set off the wards and will be prosecuted for trespassing if you don't—what the hell?"

Rose's face flushed deep pink. She still managed to sound composed. "Hugo, run and get Dad while I carry Scorpius inside."

"Carry? What's going on? What's wrong with Malfoy?"

She hauled Scorpius upright. His view changed from one Weasley to another.

Hugo gaped like a trout. "What did you do, Rosie? He looks like a mannequin!"

"I didn't do anything. He's under a spell, you git, so get out of my way." Rose spun Scorpius around to face her and slid her arms around his waist to pick him up.

"Where are you taking him?"

"Where do you think?" Rose marched past Hugo. "To the office, of course."

"The testing lab has the most advanced security."

Rose whirled around. "You're right. That would be better. Thanks."

"No problem," Hugo said. "I'll get Dad."

Scorpius inwardly groaned. The spell that froze also created a form of motion sickness. Alley. Wall. Corridor. Storeroom. Doorway. Lab. His eyes registered changes that indicated he was moving while his inner ear detected no motion. The conflicting messages gave him a headache. It was a relief to stand in one place.

"I'll conjure a step stool," Rose said. Soon her eyes were level with his. "Dad's worked with Uncle Harry as an Auror. He'll find a way to help." She sighed. "And if he can't, at least you'll be safe while we wait. Uncle George swears the Zonko Corporation is always trying to infiltrate the shop to steal inventions, so this lab and the storeroom have all kinds of extra sensors."

He felt her fingers smooth his hair.

"You know, some girls would love a boyfriend who listens to everything they say without saying a word." The corners of her lips turned down. "Not me." She hugged him. "I want this curse to end."

That made two of them. Being a human statue was frustrating in every way. He could see her hair but couldn't touch it. Smell her skin, but not kiss it. Feel her body pressed to his and not hold her. Thinking about it was driving him slowly round the twist. He tried to distract himself by analysing the origin of the brown residue on the white wall across the room. Explosion? Definitely. Intentional? Most likely, due to the small area affected. A new kind of dung bomb? One that wouldn't smell if detonated accidentally?

Footsteps rasped against stone floors.

"What's going on, Rosie?" Mr. Weasley asked with studied calm. To his credit, he didn't accuse or blame.

She relayed what happened.

Her father cast a different set of counter charms. Scorpius repeated them in his head. Exsolvere. Liberatis. Patefacere. None of the spells released, freed, or unburdened him from the Body-Bind.

"I believe there's a timing component," Rose said. "Is that why you can't break it?"

"Exactly," said Mr. Weasley. "It's multiple spells. I'd have to figure out the exact combination and deal with each individually. One Counter Charm does not fit all." His tone was wry.

"How long do you think he'll be like this?"

"Your guess is as good as mine."

Rose looked at Scorpius. "Felix was tired, but he perked right up after drinking some water. I think your grandfather's in London. He planned to locate you, and if you were somewhere unfamiliar he could take a Squire Cab and still be there in minutes." She said to her father, "Yes, Albus and Lily took Nana and Granddad somewhere else."

"I wasn't going to ask that. I trust your common sense." There was a pause. "I want to know why you're standing on a stool."

Her gaze returned to Scorpius. "It's awful enough to be mute when people talk. It would be horrible not to see who's talking, to stare at a wall instead of a face." She smiled determinedly. "I'm going to stay here until the curse breaks."

"That's nice of you, Rosie, but we need to talk privately first."

She shook her head. "Anything you have to say about Scorpius can be said in front of him."

"It's about you." Scorpius detected exasperation beneath Mr. Weasley's carefully patient tone.

"Me?" Rose asked.

Mr. Weasley said, "I don't think you realise the seriousness of this situation. Lucius Malfoy is determined to reach his grandson. You're standing in the way. Next time, he could target you."

Scorpius' nightmare replayed in his mind.

You are under a foul enchantment. There is only one way to break the spell.

Rose said, "You don't know that. This isn't the war. Things have changed."

"Not everything."

Her eyes flickered to Scorpius. "That doesn't mean he'd hurt me. Lucius Malfoy isn't a Death Eater anymore."

"That we can prove."

"Who's we?"

"The Auror Office."

Rose said, "Have you considered that there's no proof because he's innocent of wrongdoing? Prejudice isn't illegal."

Scorpius was impressed. She remembered his defence and used it. Perhaps Rose was the one who should consider Magical Law as a career. She was a zealous advocate.

Her father answered, "Maybe not, but prejudice can be deadly. There are still hate crimes."

"And domestic crimes, public order crimes, property crimes, and violence crimes. Am I to live in constant fear of victimisation?"

"No. You're to live. Full stop. End of discussion. Quit arguing!"

Rose pressed her lips together.

Scorpius, previously given a view of her right profile as she spoke to her father, now had the opportunity to compare it to the left. He decided Rose's face was remarkably symmetrical, and that her defence of his grandfather was almost as perfect. At the same time, he couldn't help agreeing with Mr. Weasley. There was a chance Grandfather would target her. If nothing else, kidnapping Rose would bring Scorpius running back to the manor.

"Dad?" Hugo's voice came from the storeroom.

Scorpius didn't blame him for not wanting to join the row.

"Is everything okay?" Hugo asked. "We could, ah, hear you."

"How? The lab's soundproof," Mr. Weasley said.

"There's audio surveillance. I asked how he did it, but Uncle George said if he told me, he'd have to Obliviate me."

"That's your uncle. He and I need to talk," Mr. Weasley said. "Stay with your sister."

"And watch her stare at Malfoy? I'd rather count inventory. You can hear what goes on, and I can guard outside better than in there, anyway."

Rose turned her head. "Yes, do it. Lock the door and leave us alone!"

Mr. Weasley exhaled heavily. "Very well."

"Remember," Hugo said. "They can hear you, Rosie. Ix-nay the issing-kay."

When the door shut, she said in Scorpius ear, "I need to learn your Stinging Hex." Rose kissed his earlobe. "And I have to stop doing that," she whispered. "Even if they can't hear, it's not right when it isn't mutual. I should wait."

She didn't sound happy about it. That was flattering.

Rose gazed into his eyes. "Let's have a staring contest. One-two-three-begin!' She held out for over a minute. "We'll have a rematch when you're not such stiff competition." Her eye roll echoed his mental one. "Oh Merlin, I'm so lame," she said. "I can't tell a joke. Sorry." A thoughtful expression settled over her face. "I can tell you my favourite fairy tales."

She was finishing the story of Snow White and Rose Red when Scorpius blinked. Rose didn't notice. She was frowning over the prince's brother having no description and saying she'd always fancied him wearing silver.

Felix whimpered.

Rose's eyes grew huge. "The spell's broken! Just like that!"

Scorpius set Felix down. "Not very dramatic was it? I'm sure Aphrodite brought Galatea to life with more fanfare." He held Rose close and then kissed her passionately. Words couldn't express how good it felt to hold her.

A few minutes later, the door handle started to turn.

Scorpius cast a sticking charm and stole one last kiss. "I think they heard us."

"Snogging?"

Rose didn't seem embarrassed. That was quite a change for a girl who once asked him never to kiss her in front of family. "Talking," he said.

"Oh."

He glanced down. His well-trained pet had remained at his side. Felix had also made a puddle on the floor. Scorpius cleared the mess with an Evanesco.

"May I hold him?" Rose asked.

Scorpius cast a sanitising spell and then gave her the Niffler. "He likes to be scratched behind his ears."

When the door opened, Scorpius tensed to see the man accompanying Mr. Weasley. Was this a job for Super Wizard?

"Uncle Harry, what are you doing here?" Rose asked. In her arms, Felix squeaked. She resumed petting him.

"Your dad thought I could help." Potter smiled faintly. "I'll do my best to try."

Even the man's glasses glinted with sincerity, just like in the comics.

By day, a mild-mannered Ministry official . . . until EVIL appears!

If Super Wizard was holding his breath waiting to be asked for help, he'd better have super lungs. Scorpius wasn't playing along. He moved closer to Rose and scratched Felix's fur right above his tail. Felix grunted contentedly.

Potter eventually took the hint and tried a different tact. "A Niffler is an unusual pet."

"Felix is adorable," Rose said.

In the uncanny way animals had when talked about, Felix lifted his head to gaze at her soulfully.

Potter said, "I can't imagine Lucius Malfoy approves of letting Felix roam the manor. Aren't Nifflers destructive?"

"Not particularly," Scorpius said, wondering where the turn in conversation was leading.

"Really? All that Louis the fourteenth gilt furniture, the gilded panels on the wall, the shiny mirrors . . . . Your grandfather must worry."

"He trusts me to keep Felix away from the formal areas." And how did Potter know the exact style of furniture?

"Does he?" Mr. Weasley asked. "What if he thinks you care more about your pet than family heirlooms?"

Potter said, "What if he decides a Niffler isn't a worthy animal for a Pure-blood? What if he decides you should exchange Felix?"

Mr. Weasley's jaw clenched. "What if he decides to do it for you?"

"He won't." Scorpius curled his lip. Whichever one of them was supposed to be the Good Auror was doing a poor job, and talking about Felix in lieu of Rose was the opposite of subtle.

She appeared ready to hex. "I can't believe you, Dad! Do think any of that went over my head? Even when I was three and you and Mum spelled words out I still knew what they were. I could tell by context or inflection. Don't insult my intelligence!"

"I wasn't trying to," Mr. Weasley said. "Tell her, Harry. It was your idea."

"That you agreed to." Potter looked at his niece. "I apologise. I thought a Slytherin would respond better to indirect—"

"Badgering?"

"Conversation. That he would draw a parallel and—" He shrugged. "Ask for help."

Scorpius gave in and asked the question he didn't want the answer to. "What kind of help?"

Potter said, "The Auror Office monitors the activities of groups like the Knights of Walpurgis. We're aware that Lucius Malfoy is a member of influence, and that he expected you to join in the recent ceremony held at the Bletchley estate."

Held. Past tense. They went ahead with the knighting without me.

"If he's pressuring you—threatening you—we can put a stop to it," Potter said. "You have options."

"Options?"

"A private interview at the Ministry, or we can accompany you to Wiltshire."

"It has to be done," Mr. Weasley said. "Next time someone could get hurt. Rose could get hurt."

"You don't know that!" she said.

Potter put his hand on Scorpius' shoulder. "No harm has been done yet. Let me help you keep it that way."

Stinging hex. Jelly-legs. Boils. Poison-ivy. Jinxes and hexes flashed through Scorpius' mind. He didn't cast any. Super Wizard was programmed to fly in and save the day. He wouldn't comprehend that some people would rather handle matters themselves. "I need some time to think about it."

Rose said, "Dad, why don't you let us do inventory and let Hugo work the shop? We might not be here tomorrow."

"All right," Mr. Weasley said. "If that's what you want."

Potter checked his watch. "I have a couple of meetings and then I'll return."

"With lunch?" asked Mr. Weasley.

"Yeah, sure. Two hours?" Potter's eyes were on Scorpius.

Scorpius nodded. Two or ten, it was all the same to him. He shook Potter's hand, followed Mr. Weasley into a room lined floor to ceiling with shelves packed with magical items, and listened to a speech about the importance of inventory accuracy and preventing inventory shortage. When Mr. Weasley returned to the shop, Scorpius took Felix from Rose and cast a sleeping spell.

"Why did you do that?" she asked.

"I don't want him getting into trouble while I'm gone."

"Where are we going?"

"I'm going home." He set Felix down and faced Rose. "Your father's right. It has to be done. I have to face my grandfather before someone gets hurt." And I'm not bringing Harry-Bloody-Potter with me. I want to stop Grandfather, not give him a heart attack!

"Then do it," she said. "I'll have tea with your parents."

"You can't." Scorpius felt like a bastard for looking into trusting blue eyes and casting a sleep spell. He readied to catch her.

Rose didn't fall into his arms.

She said, "I used a Shield Charm. Petrificus Totalus!"



  ~*~

A/N: Everyone who wanted to see the Malfoys in their native habit is about to get his or her wish. :D

 


Chapter 20: Resolution
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He'd given her no choice. "I won't be left behind," Rose said. "I'm going with you—or, rather, you're going with me, as soon as I figure things out." She needed to cast a Featherlight spell and then a Disillusionment Charm to make toting him around less conspicuous. The thought of Intruder headlines if someone photographed them made her stomach twist.

Rose Weasley Body-Binds Boyfriend! Says Malfoy Is A Living Doll!

"This is going to be tricky," she said. "If we go by Knight Bus and I sit in a chair you'll get your head bashed the way everything slings around. I'll have to ask for a bed. With my luck it'll be the one with the dip in the centre, which will make things awkward to say the least."

She thought about conjuring a stool to look into Scorpius' eyes, but if he saw her face, he'd know she was blushing. Horrid fair complexion!

Rose decided to think of an alternate plan. Immediately. "We don't have to take the Knight Bus," she said. "We could Floo to Salisbury. I'll use an Appearance Charm, flag down a Squire Cab, and say, 'Malfoy Manor, please'." She covered her face with her hands. "And when the driver asks where that is, I won't be able to tell him because the Who's Who book didn't list an address!"

"Grandfather didn't authorise it. He prefers visitors by invitation only."

Scorpius' voice made her go weak in the knees, but not in the usual way. Rose slowly lifted her head. "I should've expected you to use a nonverbal counter curse."

"Liberatis was very freeing."

She felt guilty for cursing instead of talking. "I'm sorry."

"I underestimated you first. I'm the one who should apologise." Scorpius took her face in his hands and kissed her. "I'll try not to do it again."

Spells, apologies: he worked magic without saying a word. She sighed. "Me too."

"You'll use more complicated spells?" Scorpius' lips curved irresistibly.

Rose pressed her lips to his smiling mouth, drawing back before she gave into the temptation to snog his face off. "Only if necessary."

He chuckled, and then his expression became serious. "You really want to meet my family?"

"Yes." Your grandfather won't try to coerce you into anything with me around. I hope.

"All right. We'll Floo to Salisbury. I'll Apparate us to the manor from there."

"Malfoys don't travel by bus?"

Scorpius reacted to her banter unexpectedly. His jaw clenched. "I rode the Knight Bus once," he said. "Grandfather brought me to London and had meetings after lunch. I didn't want to wait."

"What happened?"

"The conductor recognised my name. He decided all the other passengers were higher priority so I received a window tour of the British Isles."

Rose could tell the memory still upset him. His eyes were grey flint. "How old were you?"

"Nine."

To treat a boy that way was despicable! "Were you scared?"

"Shunpike was when he saw my family waiting at the end of the drive."

"I hope he was sacked."

"He apologised and was given a letter of reprimand, I believe."

"He got off too lightly!"

"That's what my father said." Scorpius nodded toward the door. "Do we sneak out through the alley?"

She took the hint. "The shop. They'll have warded the back exit."

Scorpius conjured a quill and parchment. He used a box as a table. "I'm leaving a note saying we'll return in a few hours and not to disturb Felix." He set the parchment on the floor beside his pet. "You're the hostage to show good faith, old boy." He ruffled the Niffler's fur. "Go easy on them if they wake you."

Rose clasped Scorpius' hand before casting Disillusionment Charms. "We need to stick together."

"Lead the way," he said. "I'll use an Aversion Charm if anyone gets too close."

Another spell Rose would like to learn. If she used it on Hugo when he pestered her, she might not give him a Stinging Hex.

The corridor was empty. She eased opened the door to the shop. The main showroom was much larger that it appeared from the outside. There were rows of shelving filled with unique gifts and "wheezes" flanking a centre aisle that led to the rear checkout counter. Uncle George was operating the till. Hugo stood near the entrance, chatting with Christopher Hooper and George Kirke, two Gryffindor fifth-years. Her dad was nowhere in sight. Rose hoped he was in the office, not at the Ministry. Mum would insist on "helping" and make things more complicated.

Rose kept to the perimeter of the shop. As she and Scorpius neared the door, Hugo and his friends grimaced and looked accusingly at each other. Kirke scrunched his face as though he smelled a foul odour, and he and Hooper marched out the door while her brother stomped in the opposite direction. She and Scorpius hurried to leave while Hugo distracted Uncle George by requesting an air freshener.

Once they put distance between themselves and WWW, Rose asked, "Did you cast an Aversion Charm or a Stink Spell?"

"Aversion Charm. With multiple targets the spell causes fight or flight."

"That was definitely flight." She laughed. "I didn't think there was a stench capable of overpowering my brother. I'll have to learn that spell."

Scorpius became visible.

Rose gasped. "People will see you!"

"That's the point."

She used a counter charm too. "You want us to be seen together?"

"Yes." Scorpius halted in view of the apothecary window. "It shouldn't take long."

A few seconds later, a hefty young wizard rushed out, camera in hand. "Crispin Pry, I was a Beater for Hufflepuff last season. Reserve team, I—I didn't actually play, you might not remember me. I'm a freelance photo—erm—journalist now. May I take your picture?"

"Since you asked so nicely." Scorpius slid his arm around Rose's waist.

"What are you doing?" she whispered through her teeth, smiling up at him.

"Are . . . are you two shopping?" Pry asked.

Scorpius answered, "Flooing to Wiltshire."

"May I quote you?" Pry looked ready to burst into tears if they said no.

Rose said, "Of course. I'm looking forward to meeting Scorpius' family."

"You're—it's official?"

Heavens, did the man think they were announcing an engagement? She set the matter straight. "Yes, we're dating."

Scorpius said, "And we'd best get going."

"Thank you for the interview!" Pry beamed.

"It's exclusive," Scorpius said meaningfully. "No one else knows . . . yet . . . ."

Pry's eyes grew huge. "I'll make the afternoon Prophet!" He took off running.

Scorpius answered Rose's earlier question. "I thought it would be better—safer—if your visit was public record." He pointed to the cauldron shop. "Let's use their Floo. Too many journalists hang round pubs to get stories."

"We wouldn't want Pry to lose his exclusive," she said. "Since he asked so nicely."

Scorpius smiled a little as they walked across the street. "You have to admit, it was more agreeable than 'Look 'ere, give us a picture!'"

"Or 'Smile, Rosie, people think you're hiding beaver teeth!'"

"Who said that to you?" Scorpius asked.

"Why? Planning to defend my honour?"

He opened the door to the tiny shop. "No, I'm sure you handled the matter capably."

"I used a trip jinx." Rose gave Scorpius a quick kiss and went to ask the owner for permission to use the Floo

~

In the Salisbury Station, no one appeared to recognise him or Rose. They were just another couple going about their own business. Scorpius led her to a side alley.

Rose gripped his arm. "I'm ready."

Malfoy Manor's security wards included Anti-Disapparition. All visitors, even family members, had to pass through the front gates. Scorpius Apparated to the driveway just beyond.

"Are we going to levitate over the hedges?" Rose asked.

"No." Anti-Intruder spells repelled anyone who tried to go over the tall, yew border. Scorpius placed his palm flat against wrought iron. The gates opened.

Rose slipped her hand into his. They started down the long, gravel drive.

A scream broke the quiet.

"We have peacocks," Scorpius said. "Albino, since Grandmother's favourite colour is white."

"They go with the house. Very stately."

A tactful description. His father called the manor The Mausoleum. Scorpius liked the opulent severity—it looked grand decorated with cobwebs for Halloween—but Rose was used to homier surroundings. He noticed her eyeing the Malfoy Coat of Arms carved into the triangular corbel above the front door. Did she find it pretentious? He diverted her attention to the Italian bronze fountain. "I used to swim in that."

"Until you got too big?"

"Until Grandfather redid the conservatory to add an indoor pool."

Rose shook her head. "You got everything you wanted, didn't you?"

"Not quite. Father said no to a pony, a tree house, a racing broom, trying out for the Quidditch team—anything that might be dangerous." He saw the door open. "This will be Stevens. He manages the house and keeps Grandfather on the Witch Weekly best-dressed list." Scorpius raised his voice. "Good morning! Are Mother and Father working in the lab today?"

Silver-haired and dignified in a grey vested suit, Stevens said, "Yes, young master. I informed your parents of your arrival and they bid me to convey their welcome to your guest. They will join you shortly." He bowed slightly. "Welcome to Malfoy Manor, Miss Weasley."

"Thank you, Mr. Stevens."

"Are my grandparents at home?" Scorpius asked.

"The Mistress is still abed and Master Lucius had business to attend in London."

His business is looking for me. Scorpius gestured for Rose to precede him into the entrance hall. "We'll wait in the drawing room."

Stevens said, "Your parents requested you escort Miss Weasley to the East Wing."

That was a pleasant surprise. The drawing room was the "impress the guests" French-styled centrepiece of the manor. Inviting Rose into their private quarters showed his parents understood how important she was to him.

When they reached the family lounge, he said, "Not much different from yours, is it? Sofas, chairs—"

"—that belong in an art gallery along with the modern sculpture and paintings." Rose sat on a sofa with scrolled arms and silver leaf finish on the legs. "The similarity is uncanny."

It was stupid to feel defensive. In a way, her teasing reminded him of Edgar, who said, "You really are a nob," the first time he visited. Scorpius said, "The furniture's comfortable."

"Very." She patted grey cashmere velvet. "Aren't you going to sit?"

"I thought I'd show you my room."

"I never showed you mine."

Not yet. He said, "I'll go first and maybe that will change."

"I doubt it. My room was created for a six year old. I feel like Briar Rose surrounded by a hedge of bad decorating."

Another fairy tale reference. Scorpius remembered the story. "I'll turn the thorns into flowers."

"It does seem like I've lived with the style for a hundred years," she said wistfully.

"So you'll let me in?" His body tensed as he waited for Rose to answer.

Her cheeks turned an enchanting shade of pink. "Yes."

All of a sudden, giving a tour of his room was not a good idea. At that moment, even sitting close together was problematic. "The garden," Scorpius said. "It would be better to show you the garden."

And the hammock for two?

The voice of reason in the back of his mind had shifted to naughtiness. He tried to ignore it. He would show the garden except for the oversized hammock. Unless Rose saw it and wanted to try it out.

"Scorpius!"

His mother rushed into the lounge. Her exuberance raised eyebrows in Slytherin circles. His father's smile was reserved, but his greeting was just as warm. Scorpius hugged his mother, who probably had changed from jeans into her turquoise sundress to make a good impression. He shook his father's hand. Father, too, had made an effort to be casual and approachable. He had rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt.

Scorpius introduced them to Rose.

"It's lovely to meet you," she said.

"Really?" a voice drawled. "I find that hard to believe unless your parents told you as little about our family as Draco's told Scorpius about yours."

Scorpius watched his grandfather stroll into the lounge. With his long hair and high-collared black robes, Lucius Malfoy was the epitome of a traditional wizard. As planned, he had heard news of the breaking story and returned home.

"Miss Weasley is our guest," Scorpius' father said warningly.

"You're afraid I'll make the girl leave if I share you called her mother a filthy Mudblood? I disagree, Draco. She's much more enamoured of Scorpius than Hermione Granger was of you. Didn't Granger punch you in the face?"

"I deserved it."

Scorpius' mother told Rose, "We've done our best to focus on the present and the future, not live in the past like some."

"Was that an attempt at sarcasm, Astoria? A refreshing change." Grandfather Lucius turned to Scorpius. "What? No greeting? After all the trouble you went to get me here?"

"It's not half of what you did to locate me."

Grandfather Lucius inclined his head. "One does like one's efforts appreciated. How did you elude the trackingbrall?"

"We submerged it in a pond."

"And the Petrificus Totalus?"

"Rose."

Grandfather Lucius said, "Ah. I underestimated you, Miss Weasley."

"It happens."

Scorpius said, "Grandfather, we need to talk."

"Isn't that what we're doing?"

"Privately," Scorpius said.

Grandfather Lucius feigned astonishment. "Without the counsel of your doting parents?"

"This is between you and me."

Manicured fingertips flicked toward Rose. "And her?"

"She'll wait with them."

"How trusting."

Rose said, "I have every faith in Scorpius."

"Ardent, too." Grandfather Lucius smirked.

Scorpius refused to take the bait. "Shall we talk in the library?"

"I prefer the drawing room."

"NO!" Scorpius' father shouted.

Grandfather Lucius' eyebrows winged upward. "No need to row. If you wish to give our guest a tour, do so, and be sure to explain the drawing room's historical significance for her family."

"What do you mean?" Scorpius asked.

"I'll tell you in the library. I don't want to spoil Draco's moment."

Scorpius' mother said, "Go on, love. Have that talk."

His father nodded. "It's overdue."

"I'll wait." Rose smiled unwaveringly. "Nothing will make me leave."

A comforting thought. Scorpius Disapparated. Security wards prevented Apparating into the manor, not Apparation within its walls.

In the library, Grandfather Lucius selected a book from one of the mahogany shelves that enveloped the room. "So blindly optimistic, your little friend. I can't decide if it's a Weasley defect or a Muggle one."

"Confidence isn't a defect, and Rose is more than a friend."

"You're using protection, I assume."

Scorpius felt his face grow hot. "We're not—that isn't an issue."

Grey eyes narrowed. "You must have given a wizard's handshake."

Scorpius changed the subject. "Why is our drawing room significant to Rose's family?"

"It isn't. The importance is what happened there."

He wants me to ask him. It's a game and he has to learn I won't play anymore. Scorpius remained silent.

Grandfather Lucius' expression softened. "You had a strong will even as a baby. I'd try to pull my finger or my hair out of your grip and you would hold on tighter."

Scorpius refused to be disarmed by humour and affection.

Another minute passed. Grandfather finally said, "The Dark Lord occupied our home during the war. Stripped of wand and power, I was reduced to grovelling like the basest of minions." His voice was matter-of-fact. Detached. "One night Snatchers captured your girlfriend's parents and Harry Potter and brought them here. Rose Weasleys' father was held prisoner in the cellar while your Great Aunt Bellatrix tortured her mother in the drawing room."

"Tortured." In a room where they had tea and gave parties.

"Bella was exceptionally talented with the Cruciatus Curse," Grandfather said. "Do you think Hermione Granger Weasley forgot the pain, or that she and her husband want their daughter to have anything to do with the family that caused it?"

What Mr. Weasley said the first night replayed in Scorpius' head.

The minute you break your word, you're gone. That's a promise.

In retrospect, the harsh words were fair and the Weasleys—especially Mrs. Weasley—had treated him decently. Potter, too, could have told Scorpius how he knew what the furniture in the manor looked like, and didn't. He offered to help.

"They aren't holding a grudge," Scorpius said. "They worry you'll harm Rose."

"Naturally. The universe revolves around them, doesn't it? I'm not concerned you're throwing away opportunities, I'm vexed you've misplaced your affections." Grandfather Lucius pinned Scorpius with an indomitable gaze. "Tell me you're aware it isn't the remote possibility of Half-blooded great-grandchildren keeping me awake at night." He lifted the dragon hide bound book. "Tell me you know the tales of the Knights are more than bedtime stories."

"I know." Scorpius' own fears for Rose, whether justified or not, spurred him to confront the issue he'd avoided for years. "I'm sorry to disappoint you."

"It isn't too late. I'll arrange for another ceremony."

"I'm not joining the Knights. I don't support their beliefs."

Grandfather Lucius dropped the heavy tome on a carved table. "You said you understood."

"I do. You want my tale added to those in the book." He told the blunt truth, "You want me to be something I'm not."

"You're a Pure-blood. A Malfoy."

"My father—"

"Isn't half as clever. Draco couldn't remember the plot of stories we read, much less correct me when I misspoke a line."

"I didn't always point out mistakes." Not once his parents told him to keep his ability a secret.

Grandfather Lucius said, "You wanted to. I'd deliberately skip words and mispronounce names to watch you fight the urge." He slid a hand into his pocket. "You have the opportunity to achieve greatness. I won't let you throw it away."

"It's my life, my decision."

"Wrong. Stupefy!"

"Expelliarmus!" Grandfather's wand flew through the air. "I used a Shield Charm," Scorpius said. "Petrificus Totalus!"

-

He found his parents and Rose in the garden having tea.

Scorpius said, "I'll take milk, no sugar, in mine."

Rose was on her feet and in his arms so quickly it took a few seconds to realise she had Apparated—and she was shaking. He held her close. "I'm glad you waited."

"I told you nothing would make me leave."

Mother asked, "Will your grandfather be joining us?"

"Not today."

"What happened?" Father sounded apprehensive.

Scorpius looked at Rose. "I didn't underestimate him."

She smiled, and when his parents left to confront Lucius, Rose accompanied Scorpius to the hammock with a dip in the centre that was not awkward in the least. It brought them together perfectly.









-

A/N: I originally thought this would be the final chapter, but the story’s not finished; there are three chapters left, not counting the one shots . . . or the sequel . . . . ^_~


Chapter 21: Confessions
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Three days later . . . .

 

A small article in the Thursday edition of the Daily Prophet announced Mr. and Mrs. Draco Malfoy were the new owners of a Mayfair penthouse, bought fully furnished. The official story was that the second home would be used to entertain friends and business associates. Unofficially, the purchase was a declaration of intent. If Lucius broke his agreement to respect Scorpius' decisions, Draco and Astoria would move to London permanently.

Rose understood when Scorpius said he felt he should spend a night at the flat. She was happy for him. He and his parents had every right to want to be together and celebrate. Besides, she'd see him the next morning. Mum and Dad had accepted the Malfoys' invitation to brunch.

That didn't stop her from being restless and moody. She went to bed early with the most angst-filled romance she could find in the library.

Propped against bed pillows, Jane Eyre braced against upraised knees, Rose flipped to chapter where Jane met Mr. Rochester. The magic of words transported her to a moonlit lane where a girl assisted a fallen "traveller" whose horse slipped on a patch of ice. As Jane picked up her muff and walked on, her thoughts struck an odd chord. Rose reread the passage.

The incident had occurred and was gone for me: it was an incident of no moment, no romance, no interest, in a sense; yet it marked with change one single hour of a monotonous life.

The day Scorpius switched labels on their potions he offered an apple. The incident had occurred and was gone. Rose had pretended it didn't mean anything. She hadn't realised it was the moment of change in her life.

She tried to concentrate on reading, but like Jane, Rose was hesitant to re-enter the world of Thornfield Hall. Her mind was distracted. What was Scorpius doing? Did he and his parents play card games? Perhaps they listened to music, something classical, while they lounged elegantly and admired the city lights beyond glass walls. She dreamily pictured his face. Was he thinking about her?

With effort, Rose returned her attention to the novel, but Jane's banter with Mr. Rochester reminded her of the conversations she'd had with Scorpius. Had her feelings been as obvious as Jane's? She gladly set aside the book when Scorpius' Patronus appeared.

I wanted to say goodnight.

"Goodnight," Rose said, expecting the silvery mongoose to take her reply back to Scorpius. Instead, it paced back and forth on her duvet cover and then turned its small face up to hers.

I left a gift on the shelf of the wardrobe. It's only a token, you don't have to accept it, but I'd like you to. Sleep well.

Rose hurried over to her wardrobe the second the mongoose vanished. She saw nothing except tidily folded jumpers. She rolled her eyes.

Not my wardrobe. His.

Her dad called her name before she reached the dining room. "Why aren't you in bed, pumpkin?"

"I can't sleep," she said. "I'm going to have some hot chocolate."

"Make some for me too."

"Sure." What else could she say? I lied about the chocolate and I'd prefer you leave so I can find my present? In the kitchen, illumination orbs revealed her dad wore his old school robe and slippers. She asked, "Did you think I was trying to sneak out?"

"Or let Scorpius in. I couldn't decide." Dad grabbed a bottle of milk from the coolant cupboard and used a WWW coffee mug for a measuring cup.

While he poured the milk into a saucepan and lit the cooker, Rose found the chocolate. Scorpius said his mum added a vanilla pod and stick of cinnamon. She'd like to try that. "I'm seeing him in a few hours," she said. "You thought I couldn't wait?"

Dad helped her break the chocolate bar into pieces. "There were times when I couldn't, and that was after a kiss and cuddle on the front doorstep." He added the chocolate to the milk while she stirred. "Luckily for me, the Grangers didn't have a security system," he said. "I only had to use Confundo on a few neighbours."

Oh, Merlin, the mental image was enough to make Rose want to grab the Bailey's Irish Cream hidden behind the cooking sherry. Instead, she found caster sugar and a whisk. Once the hot chocolate was frothy, she poured it into three mugs. "Mum's still awake, isn't she? Tell her I'm going right to sleep and if she comes into my room I'll have nightmares."

Her dad grinned, and then sobered as though realising she wasn't joking. "I'll do the clearing up," he said. "Sweet dreams."

Rose went upstairs, resigned to waiting a bit longer to discover the "token" Scorpius left for her. She set down her mug to pick up her book and let it fall open in impromptu divination. She looked down and read the first words on the page.

I regained my couch, but never thought of sleep. Till morning dawned I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy.

The buoyant sea gave Rose an idea. Once settled in bed, she closed her eyes and envisioned the private cove near Shell Cottage where the sea was tranquil and saltwater gillyweed allowed her to kiss Scorpius without coming up for air. Yesterday's visit was so fresh in her mind, she could almost feel his leg slide between hers as they floated, and shivered as his webbed fingers caressed her skin.

In the morning, Rose woke before the alarm. The kitchen smelled of coffee, so Mum and Dad were up. She wouldn't have to jump on their bed like a child on Christmas morning. Not that it wasn't fun to bounce on the mattress and chant, "Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!" but she was getting too old for it.

The sight of the empty bed in the guest room was wrenching. It was silly to miss Scorpius' physical presence when he'd only left for one night, but her heart didn't care about logic. Rose looked at the pillows. There wasn't a stray hair to reveal which side he slept on. She stretched out a hand and let it drop. She was not going to sniff to find out which pillow smelled of his shampoo.

To resist temptation, she marched over to the wardrobe. There was a tiny red origami box on the empty shelf above the clothes rail. Rose reached for the box with trembling fingers. A tingle ran up her arm when she touched the lid. The paper refolded into a lotus flower. In the centre lay a ring of white gold.

"Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy," she whispered, tracing the engraved letters. He'd given her his signet ring! She slid it onto her finger and cast a Patronus Charm with record speed.

In her room, Rose dug through the jewellery box for a necklace. Scorpius' ring became a pendant. She searched for an outfit to show it off and found a square necked, sleeveless dress, one of Lily's cast-offs. The espresso-coloured jersey fit itself to her curves as if tailored by hand—proof of a sizing charm woven into the fabric.

"Didn't fit, my arse," Rose muttered, appraising her reflection in the wardrobe's full-length mirror. She glanced over at family photo on her chest of drawers. Standing next to Hugo, Lily's image beamed with satisfaction. Rose laughed. "Okay, it fits my arse perfectly, thanks to you." She put up her hair to see what an updo would look like and decided to wear it down, informal. Touchable.

When she joined her parents in the lounge, they were talking in a hushed, don't-want-the-children-to-overhear, tone. She figured they were going over all the subjects not to talk about during brunch. Both were dressed nicely, Dad in a striped shirt and khaki trousers, Mum in a belted shirtdress. Rose said, "Everybody ready to go?"

Dad saw her and frowned. "You're wearing that?"

"Obviously she is," Mum said. "And it's a lovely dress."

"Too clingy." Dad held up his wand. "I'll take care of that."

"A potato sack would gape at the bodice," Mum said, "so quit while you're ahead." She stood. "Is that a new necklace, Rose? The pendant looks like a ring."

"Scorpius gave it to me." There. It was out in the open.

"What?" Dad surged to his feet.

"We're not engaged," Rose said quickly. "It isn't that kind of ring."

"What kind is it?" he asked with a growl in his voice.

Mum was at her side, closely examining. "A signet ring, I'd say. Goblin crafted."

Dad snorted. "Barmy gift. Doesn't even look her size."

"It's a token," Rose said, at the same time her mother said, "It's Scorpius' ring."

Her dad's eyes narrowed. "A token of what?"

"Just . . . you know." Rose shrugged and changed the subject. "Hugo still not coming with us?"

"No, he went to help in the shop."

They Apparated, and then walked. The Malfoys' penthouse was on the top floor of a historic mansion. Rose thought the private lift was romantic with its fine panelling and mirror insert. She checked her reflection.

Dad said in an aside to Mum, "I'll bet they don't use this like we would."

"You think they prefer the stairs?"

"I don't give a rat's arse what they prefer." Dad lowered his voice. "I only care about you."

Mum whispered, "I adore our stairs."

Rose thought whoever first put mirrors in lifts to distract and give the illusion of greater speed didn't factor in parents who acted like they might start snogging any second. It seemed an eternity before the lift reached the fifth floor.

She saw Scorpius waiting in the entrance foyer and almost pressed the button to send Mum and Dad to the lobby. Scorpius had on jeans and a shirt that matched the colour of the jumper he'd worn on the train. Their outfits coordinated. She sighed. "Did you think I was mental, sending a Patronus to say I wanted to tell you in person?"

"No."

Rose walked toward him. "I love it," she said, kissing the engraved initials.

Scorpius' eyes were hot smoke.

She moved closer.

Dad cleared his throat.

Scorpius didn't seem the least embarrassed. "Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, my parents are setting things up on the terrace." He led them into a reception room decorated in honey and cream colours, through French doors, and onto a terrace with a dazzling view.

Mrs. Malfoy greeted them warmly, her husband with polite reserve. Like Scorpius, they were casually dressed. Mrs. Malfoy, wearing a halterneck kaftan, looked perfectly at ease. Mr. Malfoy, who wore a long sleeved t-shirt and jeans, did not.

Rose's dad said, "You're a Harpies fan, Malfoy?" There was a distinctive talon logo on the shirt.

"I married into it."

"There was a Greengrass on the first team and we've supported the club since," Mrs. Malfoy said. She smiled at her husband. "Fortunately green's your colour."

Rose's mum said, "I married into the Cannons. I don't think orange is anyone's colour."

"Is too," Dad said. "But uniforms don't matter. It's the team."

"Your nephew's Chaser stats have improved in his second season with Puddlemere United," Mr. Malfoy said.

The talk of James' goals and assists broke the ice and gave the men something to talk about while they helped themselves to food from the buffet. Rose's Mum and Mrs. Malfoy chatted about favourite Quidditch stadiums, which ones were the cleanest and served the best food. By the time everyone was seated on one of the three curved, high-backed dining benches around a glass-topped wicker table, the silence that came with eating seemed natural instead of awkward.

"Are you saving room for afters?" Scorpius asked watching her pick at a strawberry, raspberry, and rhubarb fruit salad.

He'd chosen scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and buttered crumpets alongside: a quarter of the food on her father's plate. Rose asked, "Are you?"

"Yes. Have you ever had espresso poured over vanilla ice cream?" He arched a brow when she shook her head. "Would you like to help me make it?"

She nodded, trying hard not to blush. There was no shame in wanting to kiss him.

Scorpius made their excuses.

Inside, he escorted her past the kitchen to a room that contained sleek, modern furnishings and his rucksack on a chair. The bed was enormous, and looked incredibly comfortable, but if they made out on it and her dad caught them . . . . "This isn't the best place to snog," she said. "Not with my parents here."

Scorpius' palm felt cool against her cheek. His lips brushed hers. "Thank you."

Her insides transformed into butterflies. "It isn't that I don't want to—"

He interrupted her with a kiss that lingered long enough for her to twine her arms around his neck.

"Thank you for accepting my ring," Scorpius said. "A signet is more than a seal, or a tradition. It's a symbol of identity."

"I know," Rose said. "That's why I love it." She looked into his eyes and bared her soul. "I love you."

 

~*~

A/N: The Charlotte Bronte Jane Eyre quotes are from chapter 12 and chapter 15. I decided to leave the style of engraving on the ring up to reader imagination. Either block style initials or script monogram would look nice.

I have to say a special thanks to the readers who read the Draco pov one-shot What's Done is Done that shows what happened when he and Astoria left to confront Lucius. Anyone who hasn't had the chance to read or didn't even know I posted it is eagerly invited to go see Draco finally take a stand.

 


Chapter 22: Enchantment
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Rose loved him. They'd started talking to each other less than a month ago, gone together less than a week. Was it possible to fall in love so quickly?

He smiled.

Yes.

"I love you," Scorpius said. He kissed her the way he'd wanted to when she'd touched the ring to her lips. It was achingly sweet and so hot, only the thought of Mr. Weasley's reaction if they didn't return soon kept him from carrying her over to the bed. "Espresso," he said between kisses. "Ice cream."

"In a minute," Rose whispered, before doing things to his lower lip that weakened his resolve.

Scorpius had to imagine both her parents, standing in the doorway, wands raised, to take a step back. "We have to go to the kitchen. Now."

"All right," she said softly.

In the kitchen he found there was no pot to brew espresso in, and no ice cream to put espresso on. He should've checked before offering. Scorpius said, "And they claimed this place was fully furnished."

Rose slipped her arms around his waist. "It has everything I need."

Scorpius kissed her, and would have kept kissing her if he hadn't seen their parents heading inside from the terrace. "Let's go break the news about the espresso."

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley didn't question why it had taken them so long to discover the kitchen's deficiencies. Mrs. Weasley thanked his parents for their hospitality and complimented the cooking, which Mr. Weasley seconded. His mother thanked the Weasleys and told Rose it had been a pleasure to see her again. His father said, "Yes, it has," which prompted Rose to say she had enjoyed the visit, too.

Scorpius broke into the circle of politeness. "Are we still going to your Gran's today?"

Rose gave him a "you know we are, why are you asking?" look. "Yes. After I change clothes Dad will drive us."

"I'll meet you there. I have something to pick up first. A surprise."

"You can't," Mr. Weasley said. "The house is Unplottable."

"I'll Apparate to the neighbour's orchard."

Rose nodded. "Send your Patronus when you arrive."

"The White Witch Guest House in Ottery St. Catchpole is on the Floo Network," Mrs. Weasley said. "You wouldn't have far to Apparate."

Her voice was slightly questioning. Scorpius thanked her, but didn't volunteer any information about his range of Apparition. "Let me walk you downstairs," he said to Rose.

"Sounds good," said Mr. Weasley, at the same time Mrs. Weasley said, "We'll take the lift."

Mr. Weasley immediately said, "Right. We'll take the lift." He seemed strangely cheerful to be overruled.

Scorpius was thankful not to have Rose's father breathing down his neck. He escorted her to the stairwell.

After walking down two flights, Rose paused on a landing to ask, "How far can you Apparate?"

"How far do you want to go?" He was a Malfoy, a Slytherin. Determination and deliberation were ingrained. He should be able to take her anywhere she wanted. All he needed was a destination. If Rose picked somewhere exotic, though, he'd suggest they use a Portkey. Scorpius had read dry heaves from Intercontinental Apparation could last for days, unaffected by antinauseant potions. That would take the romance out of any holiday.

She said, "I think we should decide together after NEWTs."

Rose's tone—and her pink cheeks—gave the words a double meaning. Suddenly the stairwell felt stuffy, not properly ventilated. "Agreed," he said, a moment before a spectral Jack Russell terrier bounded toward them.

The terrier barked silently. The message was for Rose.

She said, "Dad, of course you're waiting. We're walking, not running." Rose shook her head as the Patronus vanished. "He's embarrassing."

"He thinks we've been snogging."

"And I know why. Don't ask—I'm repressing the memory." She took his hand as they continued downstairs. When they reached the ground floor, she gave him a quick kiss. "See you soon." Her expression was a mix of concern and promise. Wherever you're going, be careful, and, if I don't hear from you I'll come looking!

"I'll hurry."

In the flat, his mother was lying on the sofa with her bare feet on his father's lap. "I said Mr. Weasley wouldn't bring up the war or any other unpleasantness. Your father bet against me."

Father looked content in his role of masseur. He stroked his thumb across the arch of her foot. "Do you need any help picking up that surprise of yours?"

"No, sir." Scorpius fetched his rucksack.

His parents stood to hug him goodbye.

"We'll be at the train station to see you off," Father said.

Mother said, "Your grandparents—both sets—may be there as well."

Father answered Scorpius' unspoken question. "They're your family. They want to show support."

For him, or for appearances' sake? Scorpius took the lift to the lobby and walked outside. It wasn't far to a station; he could Floo to Salisbury the way he had with Rose. He decided to Apparate. Being confident of his abilities wasn't the same as proving them. He stepped into an alley, concentrated, and moved into nothingness.

When he appeared in front of the manor, Scorpius lurched forward to steady himself against iron bars. He promptly vomited.

The gates opened.

He staggered backward, attempting to cast Evanesco and spit vileness out of his mouth at the same time. The sick disappeared from the gravel and bars. He wasn't as successful getting rid of the foul aftertaste. He conjured a goblet and used Aguamenti to fill it with water to rinse his mouth.

"Need a mint?" asked a dry voice.

Grandfather Lucius strolled toward him, far enough away to have used a Sonorous Charm.

"Yes, thank you," Scorpius said, following suit. A few seconds later, he plucked a brushing/flossing mint out of the air. The peppermint flavour cleared away the lingering nastiness.

"How far did you Apparate?" Grandfather asked when they met halfway down the drive.

"London."

"That's quite impressive."

"Is it? I'm still queasy."

"Next time your body will be more accustomed." Grandfather's lips twitched. "Do carry mints as a precaution."

They walked in silence until they reached the house. "I came to get something from my room," Scorpius said.

"I didn't suppose you popped in for tea."

Scorpius said, "I'll see you tomorrow, though, at the station."

"Unless you'd rather I stay home."

"Of course not. You're my grandfather."

Pale eyebrows rose. "You sound very like Draco sometimes."

"But I'm not him."

An odd expression flickered across Grandfather Lucius' face—almost satisfied. "I know," he said. "It's what gives me hope."

Scorpius went to fetch the surprise from his room. Grandfather liked to put people on tenterhooks, to heighten anxiety with cryptic words. The only way to beat him at his game was not to play.

Grandmother Narcissa, and Mr. and Mrs. Stevens were in the foyer when he returned. Scorpius accepted a picnic basket from Mrs. Stevens and a box of Honeydukes sweets from his grandmother, who said he was naughty for not introducing her to Rose. The fact that she'd been sleeping was brushed off with a wave of manicured fingernails.

Scorpius didn't trust his stomach to handle another long-distance Apparition. He Flooed to Ottery St. Catchpole from Salisbury. Once he Apparated to the orchard, the memory of Rose telling him she loved him sent his Patronus shooting like a rocket through the trees.

And then it hit him. Granny Weasley, Lucy and Molly—whoever was around—would see a ghostly mongoose. He'd have to ask them not to tell or else use Memory Charms.

He trudged onward and came across Rose flying on a broomstick.

She landed beside him. "I was alone in the garden, no one else saw your Patronus."

"Thank Merlin." He wouldn't have to choose between unpleasant options.

Rose dismounted. "Is my surprise in the box, the basket, or the case?"

"The case." He set it on the ground and handed her the box tucked under his arm. "The sweets are from my grandmother." He lifted the basket. "Mrs. Stevens sent the picnic."

"How thoughtful." Rose's eyes were on the metal case. "Do I get my surprise now?"

"Not yet."

"I'll carry it!" Rose grabbed the handle.

Scorpius didn't object. The case was padded and featherlight. She wouldn't gain any clues from it. "Let's walk instead of fly," he said, amused by Rose's knowing glance. She thought the surprise was fragile.

They rambled past the family's makeshift Quidditch pitch to the back garden where Lucy and Lysander race-walked with toads on their heads.

"Hullo, Scorpius!" Lucy waved with the hand not supporting her toad and altered her course.

"You forfeit. I win!" Lysander cried.

"Who cares? I get chocolates!" Lucy beamed at Rose. "That box is from Honeydukes, isn't it?"

"Yes, and you can have a sweet if you explain what you're doing."

Lucy patted her toad. "We tried to race Sigyn and Loki but they wanted to race us instead."

Lysander ambled over. "Loki wants to play in the tree house now."

"Take this to the kitchen first." Scorpius handed Lysander the basket.

Rose gave Lucy the sweets. "Share a few chocolates if you like."

The two resembled a pair of waddling ducks as they sped to the house. Scorpius drew Rose over to the side of the garden. "Hurry. They'll be back any minute."

She climbed the tree house ladder, giving him a view of her legs in shorts that were actually short instead of falsely named and ending below the knees. He appreciated the difference, almost as much as he hoped she'd appreciate his surprise.

It was hard to tell when he unlocked the case and opened the lid. Rose stared at what lay within. "Oh my," she whispered. "Am I the first?"

"Yes."

She bit her lip. "You never wanted to—"

"Not with anyone else."

Rose lifted out a work of art from its custom foam padding. "She's exquisite."

"She's you."

"The Enchantress," Rose murmured, examining the mint-condition, limited edition action figure. She gave Scorpius a sultry look. "This doesn't change anything. I have plans."

He took the Green Knight out of the case. "Break them."

"I'd rather take you down hard and make you like it."

Rose Weasley playing the bad girl. Damn, she was good. "Don't expect me to fight fair," Scorpius said. "I'm not Super Wizard. I don't play by the rules."

"That's why you're my favourite." Rose blew him a kiss.

Lucy's voice rose through the opening in the floor of the tree house. "We want to play too!"

"I hear super-spoilsports. Ciao, bello." Rose put the figure behind her back. "The Enchantress Apparates to her secret lair—as soon as I figure out where that is."

Scorpius pointed to the case. "It's in the second compartment beneath the action figures."

"The second compartment? How much stuff do you have?"

He picked up the figure of Green Knight's business tycoon alter ego. "Millionaires love their toys."

It turned out Head Girls and first years did too. Rose, Lucy, and Lysander exclaimed over the sets and played their roles with fervour. The Enchantress, along with her evil toad minions, stole a fortune in jewels from the wizarding elite. Each time she narrowly eluded capture until the Green Knight, Super Wizard, and Wonder Witch banded together to discover her lair and put an end to the crime spree.

"I saved the Green Knight from being enchanted," Lysander told Mrs. Weasley when she asked about their game during tea. He frowned at Scorpius. "Next time don't kiss her!"

"It was action figures, Gran," Rose said. "Part of the story."

Later at Thornhill Square, Rose stayed downstairs to "say goodnight" and twined her arms around his neck. "You're mine now. No one will save you."

"I don't want to be saved." Scorpius fell willingly into enchantment.




The next morning, Scorpius tried to save Rose from the snobbery of his relatives, every last one of whom appeared gathered on platform nine and three quarters. "I avoid most of these people even at Christmas," he said. "You stay here. They'll probably leave when they find out magical law enforcement's banned journalists from the station and they won't be in the papers."

"I'm not letting go of your hand," Rose replied. "So detach it or bring me with you."

"It's the reattachment that's the tricky part," Scorpius said as they picked their way through the crowd.

Grandmother Narcissa rushed over, white robes fluttering, distaste etched on her features. "No wand use allowed in the station and your Grandmother Phoebe wears the most atrocious perfume. Eau de funeral flowers, I'd swear it. I have a headache worse than the time Minister Fudge ruined the Quidditch World Cup with his ghastly cologne."

Scorpius cast a nonverbal fresh air spell. Grandmother had never learned wandless magic.

"Thank you, dear," she said, turning to Rose. "You must be Miss Weasley."

"Nice to meet you, ma'am. Thank you for the sweets."

"It was nothing. Do I smell D'Orange Vert? Charming."

"I should introduce Rose to the others," Scorpius said, to prevent Grandmother asking how Rose and her grandson came to use the same toiletries.

His parents said hello cordially, his grandfather with a mocking gleam in his eye. Of the Greengrass relations, aside from Aunt Daphne, Uncle Michael, and Cousin David, the majority acknowledged Rose with chilled politeness.

"I had no idea you were related to David Corner," Rose said as they retraced their path so she could tell her parents goodbye.

"I barely know him. Aunt Daphne prefers her Ravenclaw in-laws."

"That's sad." Rose's face brightened. "Maybe you'll see them more now that your parents have their own flat. You and David can become friends."

Because he and his parents now measured up to the Corners' idea of acceptability? Scorpius shrugged. Conditional friendship wasn't worth much to him. He had plenty of that already in Slytherin House.

After they boarded the train and stowed their gear, they went to the Prefect carriage. Scorpius listened to Rose give the patrol assignments. He raised his hand. "Martin took my patrol. I'll take his this time." Rose had assigned Scorpius the last patrol with her. Martin was on the first, patrolling the head of the train—the Slytherin compartments.

"All right." Rose gave him one of her speaking glances. If they hurt you, they'll be sorry!

He didn't anticipate physical violence, but Scorpius had expected to be ignored or given dirty looks. It felt weird to receive curious stares and the occasional amicable greeting. He made his way to the first compartment of the first carriage. Edgar sat on a bench across from Nott and Willoughby, reading a paper.

Nott opened the door. "We were just talking about you!"

"We were laying bets on whether you'd autograph my paper," Edgar said.

Scorpius was riveted by the Intruder headline so large it almost obscured the front-page photograph.

YES! WE'RE DATING!

"It's a decent picture if you want to frame it," Willoughby said.

"Or tear it out and carry it in your wallet." Edgar smirked.

Nott said, "Can't. It's too big. He'd have to shrink it."

Scorpius sat on the bench next to Edgar and conjured a quill. He took the paper. "Do you prefer, 'Thanks a lot, you git', or 'you bastard'?"

Nott's groan drowned out Edgar's rumbling chuckle. "I bet five Galleons you'd say 'arse'."

"I bet two you'd set the paper on fire," Willoughby said.

"I did consider turning it to ash." But Rose's picture was too pretty to destroy. Scorpius folded the paper and handed it to Edgar. "Well, it's obvious how I spent my holiday. What have you three done?"

"We became Knights," Nott said.

"Besides that."

Willoughby said, "Goyle signed a betrothal contract."

"You're taking the piss."

"He isn't," Edgar said. "I'm engaged."

For someone who was smarter than people thought, his best mate certainly acted as if he had excrement for brains. "Not Orna Bletchley."

"No."

Only one other girl came to mind. "Marianne?"

Willoughby banged his fist against the window. "I lose again! How did you guess my sister?"

"They're pen friends."

"You never told us that." Nott's tone was accusing.

Scorpius said, "Did you think every owl was from his mother?"

Nott and Willoughby traded guilty looks.

Edgar asked, "Will you stand with me at the joining ceremony?"

"Not if it's soon." His friend was eighteen, only really knew the girl through letters. It would be mental to rush.

"The betrothal lasts a year," Edgar said.

"And you're sure I'm the best man?" Scorpius had to ask. "Things have changed."

"Doesn't matter. You'll see."

Scorpius wanted to believe it. He didn't want to lose Edgar's friendship, or Willoughby and Nott's. What would he trade it for; being mates with David, who pretended they weren't related until he found out Scorpius' girlfriend was Rose Weasley? "Okay," he said. "We'll see."

 

~*~



A/N: In GoF, Harry described Narcissa as looking as if there were something smelly beneath her nose. I couldn't help think, "What if there was? Literally!"  Next chapter is the last (until the one shot and the sequel ^_~), and if anyone notices a slight gap in updates, it’s because I’m posting a Ron pov one shot that goes along with this chapter. It’s called Love in an Elevator and I hope readers will look for it: even those who get a bit squeamish at the thought of parents talking sexy. :D

 


Chapter 23: Epilogue
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Rose tried to listen to Lily and Meredith's conversation about which shops had the best sales in Diagon Alley, but she didn't give a rat's arse, as her dad would say. Scorpius was at the other end of the train. Shouldn't she be nearby? She was Head Girl. She didn't need an excuse to leave the compartment.

Hugo said, "Staring at the door won't make Malfoy appear."

Lily rolled her eyes. "Look who's talking. The one who stared holes in the back of Chou Davies' head hoping she'd turn around and wave."

"And she did."

"But was she waving at you or Lorcan?"

Hugo cocked an eyebrow. "Why? Worried he's changed his mind about her?"

"Are you?"

"I'll tell Lorcan you asked."

"Don't you dare!"

Rose couldn't take the squabbling anymore. She left before anyone could try to talk her out of it or offer to go with her. She was determined to find Scorpius.

"Rosie?"

She recognised Lucy's voice and turned to see the girl's hand sticking into the corridor waving a note.

"Is this for me?" Rose asked.

"Loki."

Rose heard Lucy sniff. "Are you all right?"

"Yes."

"No, she's mental," Molly said loudly.

"Shut up!" Lucy sniffled again. "Will you deliver the note, Rosie?"

"Why don't you come with me?"

"Go. Please," Molly said.

"I will." Lucy stuck her tongue out at her sister.

"Why were you quarrelling?" Rose asked. She checked through glass doors for Lysander.

"Molly started it, calling me a liar. I can too talk to Sigyn. I'm not pretending."

"I'm sure it's very real."

"It is. Lysander says I'm a Bufomouth or a Bufotongue."

Bufo, Latin for toad. Whether Lucy communicated through actual language or empathy, she was a sweet girl. Rose hugged her.

"Here," Lucy said. "You can read the note."

Rose unfolded the parchment. Beneath drawings of tiny black blobs was a message:

I miss our babies.

Merlin. The blobs were tadpoles. "I'm sure they're fine," Rose said, "and by the time school lets out they'll be toadlets, even more fun to play with." She spied Lysander in a compartment and drew her cousin over to it. She had a boyfriend to see and possibly rescue. Toad separation anxiety would have to be resolved without her.

Albus was in the next carriage refereeing a spat between Ravenclaw girls who each claimed ownership of a Paris Wizard Review literary magazine. Rose slipped past with a wave to Albus.

She became aware that schoolmates looked at her differently. Usually, they smiled—if they weren't rushing to hide something she might confiscate. Today, they stared as if she'd grown an extra head.

It was a relief to reach the last carriage. Slytherins looked at her the same way they always had. Warily.

A door jerked open. Orna Bletchley stood glowering at her. "What are you doing here? You don't have patrol."

"My boyfriend does."

Orna's scowled deepened. Her blue-black lipstick heightened her resemblance to a pug. "You're one of those clingy girls who can't let a bloke out of their sight, aren't you? You're afraid Scorpius will find someone else."

Considering the source, the accusation was funny. Rose said, "I'm not afraid of anything," and walked away.

She found Scorpius in the last compartment. "I realised I've never met your friends," she said when he invited her in. She sat next to Edgar. "Hullo, I'm Rose."

He had a firm, warm handshake. "Edgar Goyle."

The dark-haired boy across from Edgar said, "I'm Willoughby."

"I'm Nott," said the other boy. "That's my name. I know you know I'm not Willoughby." He flushed to the tips of his large ears.

Rose said, "Pleased to meet you—all of you."

"Charmed," Willoughby drawled.

Nott said, "You're prettier than I thought."

"Thanks." I think.

Willoughby said, "Goyle has a picture he'd love you to autograph."

Edgar showed her a copy of the Intruder.

Was it some kind of test? If they thought she'd be angry or upset, she wasn't. Rose said, "Do you want me to write 'To my new friend, Ed'?' or 'Eddie'?"

Nott brayed with laughter. "You sound like Malfoy."

"Do I?" She smiled at Scorpius.

"I'll walk you out," he said. "I need to finish my patrol."

The boys didn't say goodbye. Rose didn't mind. That they were polite, more or less, was enough. She didn't want Scorpius to lose his friends. In the corridor, she said, "I'm—"

"Wait," Scorpius said. He escorted her to the next carriage and into a storage compartment filled by a tea trolley, a glass and chrome cupboard with trays of pastries inside, and boxes marked Drooble's and Bertie Bott's. "I don't want to be overheard."

Who did he think would try to eavesdrop? His friends? Girls like Orna Bletchley? "I was only going to say I'm sorry I barged in. I should've waited."

Scorpius put his arms around her waist. "You didn't think I'd be able to protect myself?"

"Not if they used a Body-Bind. Uncle Harry got his nose broken that way. He dropped his guard and—" She didn't want to tell him it was his father who crunched her uncle's nose beneath his heel.

Scorpius pulled her closer. "I only let my guard down with you."

The kiss they shared was sweet and growing passionate when the door handle rattled. Rose whispered, "It's the Trolley Witch."

Scorpius opened the door and said, "No evidence of tampering, ma'am. The rumour that someone nicked liquorice wands was unfounded."

The woman gasped.

"It was a prank, I'm sure," Rose said. "Although it might be best to lock the door in future."

Rose waited until she and Scorpius were in the next carriage to ask, "Liquorice wands? Why not pumpkin pasties or every flavour beans?"

"I like liquorice."

He did? She needed to add that to the list she'd recently titled Fascinating Facts About Scorpius Malfoy. "All kinds?"

"Red. I've never cared for black."

It was a matter of taste, not a telling detail. She couldn't start analysing everything he said and did for hidden meaning. She'd drive herself mad—or to a career in psychoanalysis.

The Ravenclaw girls were still arguing the ownership of the Paris Wizard Review. Albus threatened to go get Verisimilitude Potion.

Rose had a different solution. She marched up to him and took the magazine. "There's only one way to resolve this," she said. "I'll rip it in two and they can each have half."

"No, give it to her, don't tear it," said one girl.

"Half is fair," the second girl said.

Rose handed the magazine to the first girl. "You are the true owner."

The moment she and Scorpius were out of hearing range, Rose said, "I took that from a king named Solomon who determined a baby's true mother by ordering his men to cut the boy in half. The false mother approved."

"What if the biological mother agreed because she was an evil hag?"

Rose answered without qualm, "Her son was happy she lost custody."

"So if the girl you gave the Review didn't buy it—"

"She got the magazine for respecting literature." His approving smile gave her a warm, fluttery feeling that couldn't be acted on in a train corridor. Rose had to be satisfied with holding Scorpius' hand.

Hours later, she forced herself to be content with doing the right thing, telling Scorpius to go ahead and ride in a carriage with his friends. She would meet him in the Restricted Section after dinner. There were duties to attend, clothes to unpack. Surely, the time would fly by.

It didn't. No one misplaced luggage or accidentally let a pet loose in the castle. In the dorm, unpacking only took a few minutes. She reorganised her jewellery box to look busy while her roommates put their things away.

All the girls said hullo and Charlotte asked if she'd had a good holiday, but none asked personal questions. Rose was reminded of what Scorpius said to her earlier. If she had been as truthful, she would have admitted her cousins were her closest friends, and outside her family, she only let her guard down with him. She trusted her roommates not to harm her—with spells at least. She didn't trust them not to gossip about her.

Uncomfortable with her thoughts and the girls' whispers, Rose left the dorm. Her fabricated excuse of patrol duties triggered guilt about another lie, one she had to make right.

Winky was delighted to help, using the elf inter-Floo system to make a request on "Miss Rosie's" behalf. "The answer is yes!" Winky exclaimed on her return to the kitchen.

Rose said, "Le hannon. Thank you."

"Pedich Edhellen?"

"I researched a few phrases, I don't speak Elvish." Rose gave a bow of respect. "No in elenath hîlar nan hâd gîn. May all stars shine upon your path."

Winky bowed solemnly in return. "Calo anor na ven. May the sun shine upon your road."

Rose appreciated the sentiment, although her destination was far from sunny. Enchanted torchlight threw ominous shadows against dungeon walls. She put up her hands to create a bunny rabbit hopping.

The head of a Grim appeared on the wall.

The bunny fell apart. "Professor Blackwell! Beg pardon. I shouldn't have kept you waiting."

The professor repositioned her elegant hands. The dog became a tortoise. "I understand the allure of shadow puppets." The tortoise shifted into a bird that "flew" away. The professor gestured to her office door. "You wished to speak with me about an assignment?"

"Yes, ma'am." Rose squared her shoulders and went inside.

-

The lack of ill will displayed by his housemates surprised Scorpius. He received curious looks, but few glares of accusation. Of course, it was early yet. There was plenty of time before dinner for someone to call him a blood traitor or make a snide remark about his girlfriend.

Edgar suggested playing darts in the common room. Starting at 501, the four of them individually subtracted the points obtained each round to reach zero. Scorpius usually hit whatever he aimed for, but tension put him off his game. He missed the double sixteen he needed to close the match, allowing Edgar to win with a double twenty.

"What'll we play now?" Nott asked.

"Killer," Edgar said. He handed a green dart to Scorpius.

Scorpius threw left-handed, the traditional way to choose a number. He hit the nine slice.

Nott's dart landed in the three slice. "Bottom middle of the dartboard. I have the worst luck."

"Nothing new there," said Willoughby, hitting a six.

Edgar said, "Left, right, and bottom are taken, leaving me the top." He threw. "I'm number one." He looked at Scorpius. "That should be you."

"I don't want it." Scorpius' next throw was a bulls-eye. He was the only one to hit dead centre so he went first, aiming for the strip of green at the wide end of the nine slice. Once he hit his double and became a "killer", he used his last two darts to aim for the doubles of his opponents. Edgar and Willoughby each lost one of their three "lives".

"We should've made you go for triples," Willoughby said.

Behind Scorpius, a girl laughed. "Guy, you'll never be the poster boy of good sportsmanship." Orna Bletchley sashayed over to plant a liplock on Willoughby. "I like it when you play dirty." She asked Scorpius, "Did Guy tell you he's been offered a vice-presidency with Bletchley Imports?"

Of specialised services, no doubt. "Congratulations."

"Thank you." Willoughby picked up his darts and stepped up to the line. "I still think you should have to hit triples, you jammy git." It took three tries for him to hit a double six.

"I'm distracting you, poor darling. I'll go talk to Magaera and let you concentrate." Orna bestowed another mauling kiss on Guy.

Once left in peace, Scorpius said, "The salary Bletchley's offering must be generous."

Willoughby smirked. "The benefits are excellent."

Scorpius looked at Edgar. His friend's expression was carefully blank.

Nott went to the line and missed the double three each throw. "Why do I bother?" he asked. "I'm doomed."

"Not yet," Edgar said. He became a killer on the second try. His third dart scored a double six.

"Bloody hell, Goyle!" Willoughby said. "Why mine?"

Scorpius could think of a motive. Edgar didn't like Orna's preference for Willoughby rubbed in his face.

Edgar said, "You whinged."

"So did Nott."

"He had reason."

The two appeared ready to wizard duel. Scorpius took action. He stepped up to the line, threw two double ones and a double six. "You're both dead."

Willoughby cursed.

Edgar grinned. "Willoughby bet you'd play nice. I knew you hadn't lost your killer instinct." His tone was eerily like Grandfather Lucius' when he said Scorpius gave him hope.

Nott asked, "Does this mean I came in second?"

"We'll call it a draw. I'm going on patrol." Scorpius wasn't assigned patrol duty. He wanted to leave the House without anyone tagging along.

On the other side of the Slytherin entrance, he found Rose sitting against the wall.

She scrambled to her feet. "I've been waiting for someone to leave so I could have them go get you."

"How long?"

"A few minutes. I was about to send my Patronus." She worried her lower lip between her teeth. "There's something I need to tell you. In private."

Scorpius brought her to the room off the entry where the first-years waited before Sorting. "What's wrong?" he asked. In the better light, it was easy to read the distress in her eyes.

She said, "I made the same mistake twice in one day. I didn't wait. I told Professor Blackwell I cheated and asked for another try."

Damn. "What did she say?"

"She'll decide whether to allow me to brew Pepperup Potion again after she talks to you. I'm sorry."

So was he. If Rose came to him, he would have talked her out of confessing. It wasn't just their first-class marks at stake. She could lose her Head Girl Badge. And for what? The potion didn't count toward N.E.W.T.s. She could have volunteered to make it to give an extra boost to the hospital wing stores; because it was a potion she wouldn't brew again. Any reason other than Gryffindor guilt. "Blackwell's in her office?"

"Yes."

He was tempted to leave without another word. He asked curtly, "Are you going to wait here?"

"Not if you're still going to be angry."

He could make no promises. "Fine," he said. "I'll send a note."

Professor Blackwell's door was open. She asked Scorpius to close it and waved him to the seat in front of her desk. "I have one question, Mr. Malfoy. Why did you switch labels?"

Rose was upset. She'd botched her second try. "I liked her," he said. "I thought it would be our secret."

"Secrets have a way of being found out."

"Apparently."

Blackwell smiled. "Miss Weasley may brew the potion on Saturday in Dungeon Five."

"Thank you."

"You will be in my classroom, tutoring a group in need of additional preparation for the O.W.L. exam."

The price he had to pay to keep Rose and himself out of trouble. "What time?"

"Nine o'clock."

"I appreciate it, ma'am." Not every teacher would allow students who cheated to make amends privately.

Scorpius went to the library to find Pride and Prejudice. After a quick read-through for a suitable passage, he shelved the book and asked the hovering aide for a quill and parchment. Phineas Filch cheerfully nicked the items from his mother's desk.

"What are you writing?" Phineas asked, peering over Scorpius' shoulder. His long blond fringe gave him the look of a sheepdog.

"A coded message. The uppercase letters spell a word."

"Is it some kind of love note?"

Scorpius folded the parchment. "I could tell you, but then I'd have to jinx you." He handed Phineas the quill. "Return this or face your mother's awful consequences."

In the deserted library corridor, he called out, "Slinky."

The house-elf with a fervent devotion to Slytherins appeared. "Young sir is in need of assistance?"

"Please deliver this message to Rose Weasley."

"Is Slinky to wait for an answer?"

"No, thank you."

Slinky bowed so low the tip of his carrot-like nose almost grazed the floor. "I is honoured."

Scorpius returned to his dorm to make a list of O.W.L. standard potions and their ingredients. The Draught of Peace ranked highest in level of complexity. If he talked them through the steps, the students should be able to brew it and any other potion.

At the dinner hour, he strolled into the Great Hall. Edgar's bulk prevented all but a glimpse of Rose. He sat down and turned to look. Half the Gryffindor Quidditch team obstructed his view.

He ate as swiftly as was mannerly possible.

Rose beat him to the Restricted Section. She sat on the window seat, holding his note. He asked, "Did you break the code?"

"Blackwell's allowing me to retry the potion on Saturday."

"While I tutor students to pass their O.W.L. exam."

Rose looked properly guilt-stricken. "Oh. I am sorry. Not that I told, but that I didn't tell you first. I'll try hard not to do that again."

He sat down next to her. "I'll try to be more understanding."

She lifted the parchment. "On the train home, I didn't have the nerve to ask what you liked about me fifth-year."

"I liked everything," he said. "It was very annoying."

Her lips curved. "If it makes you feel better, I was always irritated by how smart and handsome you are."

"It does."

Rose giggled. She said, "I love you, and I hated fighting. I'm glad we made up."

"We're not done yet." He lowered his head to hers.

There was a first-time feeling to their kiss, a gentle exploration. He touched Rose's cheek and smoothed her hair away from her face.

She twined her arms around his neck. "Your eyes were storm cloud grey when you were angry." Her lips brushed his. "I prefer the colour they are now. Molten silver."

If his eyes reflected the way he felt, molten was the right word. The teasing glide of her tongue between deep kisses was making him hot. Scorpius resisted the temptation to lie back against the cushions. He was satisfied with kissing the girl he loved.

During the next few days, aside from walking Rose to classes and spending most of his free hours with her, Scorpius' life remained much the same, only better. His friends were polite to his girlfriend, his housemates reasonably accepting.

On Saturday, the five students who needed tutoring—Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors—demonstrated adequate basic skills that improved with his personalised instruction. Each brewed the Draught of Peace successfully.

Scorpius left them cleaning their worktables.

Professor Blackwell didn't appear startled by his entrance or his blunt question. She said, "There's no catch, Mr. Malfoy. If your assignment seemed easy, it's because you're that talented. So talented, in fact, I'd like to offer you an apprenticeship."

He hadn't considered becoming a Potions Master. His grandfather expected him to join Malfoy Enterprises.

"Mordred Ap Meurig is the finest Potions Master in Britain. He was my master and former Headmaster Severus Snape's before me." Pride rang in her voice.

"What about Potter?" Scorpius asked.

"Mr. Potter has chosen Auror Training." Her lips thinned. She didn't have to say that she thought Albus Potter was wasting his gift.

Rose had the second highest marks in class. She excelled due to intellect, not natural facility. Whatever career path she chose—Magical Law or advocate for Magical Beings—it would not be Potions. That left Scorpius. "I'll consider it," he said.

"Do that." Professor Blackwell stood. "I'm interested to hear the students' feedback and examine their Draughts of Peace."

Scorpius asked, "Has Rose finished brewing her potion?

"Yes. Miss Weasley is delivering the flagons to the hospital wing."

He could catch up. "I'll assist her if I may be excused."

"You may."

Scorpius took the dungeon stairs two at a time and jogged down the corridor to the main staircase. "Prefect business, move aside," he said to anyone who got in his way. He dashed into the hospital wing corridor and yelled, "Wait!" to the girl heading toward the other end. "I'm here to assist you." He strolled past her and opened the double doors.

Rose's laughter echoed merrily. "Yes, that's very helpful. How can I repay you?"

"Ask Winky to make us a lunch."

"A picnic?" She handed him the basket to carry. "Sounds wonderful."

It was.

In the weeks that followed, he and Rose revised together and patrolled together. They snogged behind statues, in empty classrooms, at the top of the astronomy tower, and in a linen cupboard near the Gryffindor common room. Twice, they used Freshwater Gillyweed to snog underwater in the Prefects' Bath.

Scorpius ignored his cynical inner voice that said his life was too good to be true until April turned into May and too many things began to ring false. His friends never complained about the time he spent with Rose. Grandfather Lucius' letters were suddenly grandfatherly, asking about his studies and hoping he was well, with no allusions to the Knights or his future. Edgar, Nott, and Willoughby started revising in the library until curfew—or so they said when they returned the dorm.

On a Friday night that Lily and Rose had designated "girl time," a ritual consisting of manicures and Cosmo Teen Witch quizzes, Scorpius went to the library to check on his friends.

They weren't there.

Scorpius tracked down Phineas Filch. He was on the second floor pushing a loaded book trolley toward Muggle Fiction. Phineas' robes dragged the ground. "Why don't you have those tailored?" Scorpius asked.

"Dad's a skinflint. He wants them to last."

"Until seventh year? You won't reach it if you trip and break your neck." Scorpius had heard more than a few tailoring charms over the years. He cast one to raise the hem of Phineas' robes.

"Thanks!"

Scorpius shrugged. "There's a reason why I want you alive. I need information. The location of my friends."

"I'll call Myrtle." Phineas ducked behind a bookshelf and took a whistle out of his pocket. "It's for dogs," he said. "There are none at Hogwarts so Myrtle knows it's me." He blew on the whistle.

The ghost of a teenaged girl floated down through the ceiling, moaning.

"Stop, you'll disturb the patrons," Phineas said.

"What about me?" Myrtle demanded. "Shove off, I want to use this toilet. Get out of my bathtub, you perv. No one cares about disturbing ugly, fat Myrtle!"

"I care," Scorpius said. "I need your help."

Myrtle's petulant expression turned flirtatious. "Like your father. I listened when Draco had no one else to talk to, no one who understood his feelings." She batted her eyelashes behind thick spectral glasses. "We were very close."

Scorpius didn't want to think about it. "I need you to locate Goyle, Willoughby, and Nott. Find out what they're up to without them knowing."

"I'll peek through the wall the way I do in the Prefects' bathroom." Myrtle zoomed away.

To pass the time, Scorpius offered to shelve books. It turned into a contest. Novels floated in air and slid into place with the aid of magic. At the end, Phineas won by crouching down to shelve his last book by hand.

Myrtle returned while Scorpius was transfiguring a white handkerchief into a half mask to honour their bet. He gave the mask to Phineas. "You're officially Phantom of the Prefects. Go hide it somewhere."

"Now?" Phineas looked from Myrtle to Scorpius. "Right," he said. "See you later."

Myrtle broke her silence as soon as they had privacy. "Your friends were in a chamber beneath the castle." She glided over to hover beside him.

"What were they doing?"

"Talking. They said very mean things about your girlfriend." She looked sympathetic, yet gleeful to be the bearer of bad news.

He had to ask. "Even Goyle?"

Myrtle floated nearer. "He said when you get a leg over, you'll realise Rose Weasley's nothing special."

Distantly, Scorpius was aware of ghostly arms encircling him, Myrtle whispering, "I know it hurts. You can cry if you want, I won't tell. I never tell." He focused on sorting the pieces of a puzzle and putting them together. "Did anything else happen?" he asked.

"They left. I followed them down the passageway."

He moved out of her chilly embrace. "Show me."

Myrtle sighed. "Go out the library doors and turn left instead of right. Walk to the end. I'll show you the way from there." She floated through a shelf of books.

He strode to the exit and followed her directions. Myrtle was waiting.

"Put your hand on my heart," she said coyly.

Scorpius reached through her to press against stone. A narrow corridor opened inward. He stepped through Myrtle and kept walking.

The downward-sloped passageway led to a door that opened into a chamber whose torches flared to life ten times more brightly than those outside. The light illumined a finely woven tapestry depicting a giant red snake on a black background. The sight took Scorpius back to his eighth birthday.

The Knights of Walpurgis formed centuries before the Dark Lord was born, and they will continue as long as wizards draw breath.

None of the "historical accounts" in Grandfather Lucius' book told of a secret meeting place at Hogwarts. Who created it? Salazar himself? Marks around the tapestry caught his eye. He walked across the chamber.

The markings were initials carved into granite.

Thousands of them.

"Fateor Salazar Slytherin," Scorpius said. On the wall, two interlocking initials glowed green. "Fateor Lucius Malfoy." A spot on the far left side of the tapestry shimmered, revealing LM. "Fateor Draco Malfoy. Fateor Edgar Goyle." He traced each set of letters with a fingertip. Next to EG were letters that made his skin crawl.

SM

Scorpius Malfoy.

His initials were carved as if he was one of them, proud to leave his mark alongside fellow Knights. There was only one thing to do.

Myrtle was still hovering in the library corridor. He asked her to go to Gryffindor Tower.

A short while later he heard footsteps. A ghostly figure in a white towelling robe barrelled toward him. He swept Rose into his arms. He couldn't hold her tight enough.

"Myrtle said you needed me desperately," Rose said. "Lily thought she was being melodramatic, but I ran as fast as I could."

It took willpower to loosen his hold. "She wasn't exaggerating." Scorpius swallowed to ease the tightness in his throat. "There's something I have to show you." He led the way through the secret corridor.

"This isn't mentioned in Hogwarts, A History," Rose said as she entered the chamber. "The tapestry looks medieval."

"It's the banner of the Knights of Walpurgis. They gathered here, made their plans, and left their mark." He cast the Fateor spell.

Two iridescent green letters stood out among the pale carvings in dark grey granite.

Rose said, "I don't understand. You didn't join the Knights. You're not one of them."

He smiled mirthlessly. "Edgar thought he was doing me a favour. This way, after we leave school and I get over my infatuation, one day our pure-blood sons can look for our initials and find Malfoy and Goyle side by side." Anger and sorrow burned through his veins. "He's been humouring me—they all have. They've pretended to accept my decisions, but really—"

"They're waiting for you to come to your senses."

"And I knew it."

Rose wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. "You hoped if they pretended long enough it would become real. So did I."

He brushed his lips across her hair. "We can keep up the pretence, act like we've never seen this room. Avoid confrontation."

"The way you did with your grandfather?"

Scorpius kissed her cheek for being cheeky. "Or we can go to Plan B."

"Which is?"

"I blast my initials off the wall, tell Edgar, and deal with the consequences." He'd infuriate his grandfather, lose his friends, have most of his housemates turn against him. He and Rose would spend the rest of term watching each other's backs and keeping a Foe Glass handy. After they sat their exams . . . . "I've been offered an apprenticeship," he said. "I could go to Wales, let the dust settle."

"I'd owl every day," Rose said. "Visit every weekend." She blushed. "You might not break Snape's record for youngest Potions Master with me hanging round."

"He can keep it. I only want you." Scorpius cradled Rose's face in his hands and kissed her with all the tenderness in his heart. "I love you. My vote's for Plan B."

She nodded with shining eyes. "Mine too."

Scorpius raised his wand and sent a ball of fire hurtling toward the wall.

-





A/N:  It's the end of the beginning days of their relationship, but there's so much more ahead. I'm thankful to everyone who's reviewed, even if it was only once, to tell me about something you liked. You didn't have to, it isn't mandatory, but it is appreciated. D'oh! Almost forgot. I went Tolkien for the Elvish phrases, and used the name of a fury (Magaera) for Orna's friend. I wanted to use a harpy name, but none of them worked. I don't think even Millicent Bulstrode would name her daughter "Podarge" or the like. The Pride and Prejudice quote was too long to meet ToS, so I cut it, but if anyone wonders it came from chapter six; the evening at Sir William's when Darcy "began to wish to know more of (Elizabeth)."

To use a bit more Elvish, rim hennaid, many thanks, for reading, and cuio vae, fare well. :)

 


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