The ice is thin, come on dive in
Draco was, unfortunately, correct: with his wing-man once again firmly in place, Scorpius was back to his usual arrogant, egotistical, irritable, selfish, cocksure best. He preened like a prized parrot, with his chest puffed out, and feathers gleaming. He strutted, batted his eye lashes and flexed. Hugo the lap-dog was at his side, hoping to scrape up any left-over’s. The whole thing was sickening. Rose almost felt embarrassed for her brother. Almost.
That night, the contestants glided down the grand staircase at exactly six, ready to meet the man they intended to marry. Scorpius stood with Draco at the bottom of the white carpeted stairs, smiling his best smile. He actually looked respectable, in his dress robes, Rose thought from where she and Hugo, who was bouncing around like a dog in heat, were standing. Rose’s camera clicked and whirred, her brother drooled and Scorpius ruined it all when, as the last girl filed into the dining room, he turned and winked at her. Rose almost dropped her camera. Scorpius waved and Hugo bounded after him, all legs and ginger hair. That was the one consolation Rose had in life – that her brother’s hair was redder than hers and his face was smothered with more freckles.
“You coming, Rose? I’ll save you a seat, next to me. You can help Hugo protect me. I can’t predict what they’ll do to me; I think they’re all in love with me already.”
Scorpius. The smug prat! Rose grit her teeth, snapped the lens cap on and marched stiffly into the dining room, certain her ears were blowing steam. She had a quick moment of regret – without Hugo around, Scorpius had seemed almost human.
Dinner was horrendous. Rose wondered if any of the girls could actually hear correctly, or see. If she caught Scorpius looking at any more well-displayed cleavage she would slap him. She sat on Scorpius’ left side, her brother, the right, at one end of the great mahogany table. Draco Malfoy sat at the other end; Rose had the strong sense that he wanted to throttle his son.
“Anyone would think you were an uneducated tramp,” she hissed at him between courses, after sneaking another look at Draco’s strained face. “You’re being disgusting!”
“Stop staring at their...breasts and ask something intelligent. I do not want to know what their bra sizes are!” Rose picked up her fork, stabbed something on her plate and shovelled it into her mouth simply so she was forced to shut up. There were so many things she wanted to say to him but none were appropriate for a formal dinner.
It was easy to pick who Scorpius was going to send home; poor Aurora Abercrombie. Rose felt sorry for her – she seemed like a nice girl, and Rose knew ‘nice’ was not enough for this particular contest. It didn’t matter that Aurora was a skilled conversationalist, with more wit than the majority of the others put together, or that she came with a small fortune of her own, something that was sure to please Draco. It also did not matter that she was highly educated, and in training to be a Professor of Charms at Hogwarts. In the hour that followed dinner, Aurora impressed Rose with her magical ability, her knowledge of the muggle world and her sweet, shy manner.
Rose felt only anger for Scorpius when the idiotic man wouldn’t even speak to Aurora, choosing instead to let Melody sit in his lap. Rose went to sit by Aurora as the others were all clustering around Scorpius, vying to impress with the art of conversation. Rose watched as Dominique, in a particularly low-cut gown that would have her father’s hair standing on end, flipped her hair over her shoulder, leaned in close to Scorpius and whispered in his ear; Scorpius stroked her arm almost absent-mindedly, completely entranced, while Melody pouted and tried to catch his attention.
“I could never do that,” Aurora said softly, watching the performance also. Rose sighed.
“Most people could never do that,” she answered.
Scopius was now laughing at whatever Dominique had said; Rose noted that Roxanne was not the only one to be snarling like an angry cat and she wondered briefly how long the rule suspending all magic against the other competitors would hold. She experienced a quick daydream, where Roxanne, sharing the famous temper Aunt Ginny possessed, hexed the lot of them into oblivion, Scorpius included.
“Why are you here?” Rose asked Aurora gently, not wanting to offend. “You’re a smart woman.”
Aurora smiled sadly. “Smart does not get you a husband, Rose. Good luck with your articles.” She stood up and walked over to the rest, continuing to play her part, even though she knew, as did everyone else present, that she would be the first one to leave. Rose hated the idea of writing her article, and of putting that poor girl’s face in the paper.
Draco made the announcement, after a short reprieve, nothing more than a quick word in his son’s ear, and Rose watched sadly as Aurora, trunk already packed and floating along behind her, walked through the main doors of the Manor and out into the night. The unfortunate girl had not gone two steps when Roxanne whispered in Rose’s ear.
“One down, seventeen to go.”
“Your sympathy astounds me,” Rose hissed back with more anger than she knew was necessary. It wasn’t Roxanne’s fault; she looked across the hall at Scorpius, despising him for making a fool out of a girl he never had any intention of choosing.
“What’s with you?” Roxanne huffed.
Rose did not bother to explain; she’d apologise later. “Look out; you’ll miss your chance to kiss his feet before bed.” She did not wait for a reply, choosing instead to slip out the back to sit by the pool. It took her a moment to realise she was not alone. Lucinda Parker was sitting on the little bench beneath the willow, looking out over the water. Rose chewed her lip, studying the other woman. No one knew anything about her; she was aloof, haunting and there was an air about her that made Rose uncomfortably curious.
She cleared her throat. “Are you enjoying the competition so far?”
Lucinda smiled; up close, Rose could see that one of her eyes was slightly larger than the other, and that her nose turned up at the end. Rose was mortified to realise she’d even noticed the tiny flaws in the otherwise stunning face, and even more mortified to realise she was pleased about it. She knew she was not unattractive, but Rose was not considered beautiful either. Although she liked her face, liked the long lashes and the splattering of freckles across her nose, she knew there were lines on her forehead (from frowning all the time, according to Hugo, who never failed to point out his sister’s imperfections). Rose knew she should not let Hugo bother her – as her brother, it was part of his job description to drive her mad, but being here, with all the glamour and glitz, made her feel plainer than poor Aurora.
“I love the colour of your hair,” Lucinda was saying. “Is it natural?”
Rose blinked, caught off guard. “Yes; most of my family are redheads, in some form or another.”
“Ahh, yes,” the other woman said, but without the hint of mockery Rose was used to. “Your brother is...interesting.”
“My brother is a prat,” Rose replied.
“I don’t have any brothers, or sisters,” Lucinda went on, ignoring Rose’s angry tone. “It must be nice, to have family.”
Rose’s journalistic senses sprang into life, and she cursed under her breath when she realised she’d left her notepad and pen in the dining room. “Why are you here? You seem different than the rest,” she asked Lucinda quietly. The brunette shrugged.
“My mother’s idea. Scorpius is nice enough, in his way, but...”
“But?” Rose pressed. Lucinda did not reply; she turned her face away and concentrated on stretching out her long leg so she could dip her toe in the water. Rose watched her, curiosity warring with not wanting to be rude, and slowly stood up, saying a quiet goodnight.
“Did you bring your bathers?” Lucinda asked, much the same as Scorpius had the other night at dinner. “We should sneak down and swim later, when the rest are asleep.”
Rose smiled, thoroughly liking the idea. Drowning herself seemed a good way out of this assignment. “Okay.” They arranged a time to meet, and Rose slipped back inside.
Roxanne was waiting outside Rose’s door, still in her expensive cream gown, looking cross, and Rose sighed. “Not now,” she said, pushing the door open. Roxanne followed her in, stamping her pointy shoes on the soft carpet, leaving indents in her anger. Rose slipped her sandals off, shed her shirt and lay back on the bed in her pants and singlet. Black pants and a smart blouse were as dressed up as she was prepared to go for this competition. Her cousin paced the room, muttering, and Rose waited, knowing it was Roxanne’s way to rehearse before berating someone.
“That was unfair,” she said at last, in a quieter voice than Rose was expecting. Usually, Roxanne ranted and raved and everyone sat back and waited for the storm to be over so they could begin collecting the pieces and reassemble some sanity.
“I know.” Rose did not lift her head, or move her arms away from her face. She was being swallowed by the doona again and she liked it.
“If you should be cross at anyone, it should be Dominique,” Roxanne growled.
“She shouldn’t be here; she doesn’t even like Scorpius, let alone want to...”
Rose sat up. “Marry him? I didn’t think you liked him anymore either, Roxie. What’s going on?”
“Nothing; I made a mistake.” There was pain in her cousin’s voice and Rose’s sympathy was stirred. Scorpius may be a prat, but she could tell Roxanne was being serious.
“Why don’t you just tell him you like him still?” she suggested, to be met with Roxanne’s horrified expression. Apparently, that was something you didn’t do; Rose wondered why she didn’t know what. “Look, all you can do is be yourself. If he picks someone else, then he’s obviously not worth it, is he?”
Roxanne sighed, reaching up to tug on a lock of her hair. “You’re right, I suppose, but gosh, Rose, this place! It’s amazing! I don’t ever want to go home!”
Rose pulled a pillow over her head and settled back, only half-listening as Roxanne gushed about both Scorpius, and Malfoy Manor. At least, Rose thought absently as her cousin came up for air, if Roxanne married Scorpius, Rose could come and swim in the pool.
After Roxanne had gone, smiling and no longer cross, and after Rose had spent fifteen minutes reminding her cousin of her virtues, she dug into the bottom of her trunk and found her bathers. Rose held them up, examining them in the light, checking for tears or faded patches. She didn’t get the chance to swim as often as she would like, and her bathers were years old. Inspection complete, Rose swapped her clothes, threw a towel around her shoulders and slipped out her door.
The Manor was silent; Rose felt the skin on the back of her neck pucker as she walked quickly through the long, darkened halls. As beautiful as the place was, there was something eerie about it; so much had happened here. Rose knew her history, knew her parents history and had to wonder why her mother was comfortable sending her here in the first place. Rose knew, that if their roles were reversed, and she was the mother, she would not want her daughter spending time in a place where she had suffered.
Rose sighed lightly; that was the difference between her mother and herself. Hermione left the past where it belonged, but for Rose, that was harder. She could still remember every negative thing anyone ever said to her, every backwards glance, every boy she had had a crush on who had broken her heart by choosing a girl more attractive, more willing to laugh at everything he said and more able to keep her mouth shut. Rose was aware of her own faults – she was blunt, and not comfortable with telling anybody what they wanted to hear.
The pool area was lit by small lights set back in the stone walls. There were lights under the water too, creating a strange glow. There was no sign of Lucinda at first, before Rose noticed her sitting where she had been earlier. Light caught gently on her skin, painting her golden and Rose watched as those long legs unfurled and Lucinda stood up, as graceful as a cat. Feeling shy wearing next to nothing in front of someone so sinuously beautiful, Rose dropped her towel and ducked quickly into the pool.
The water was warm, blood warm and Rose shivered, not really liking the temperature. It felt strange, unnatural; to be swimming in such a sea and she wanted to get out. She had, however, agreed to this clandestine arrangement and so she waited, watching as Lucinda slipped her lithe body into the water, making a face.
“It’s hot,” she said quietly. Rose said nothing, turning to float on her back, looking up at the intersecting branches, cut through with the night sky. There was no moon, only inky blackness above and with the warmth of the water all around her; Rose wondered whether this was what it was like in the womb. Lucinda did not say anymore, and Rose continued to float, feeling oddly serene, as if waiting to be born.
She stayed in the pool long after the other woman had climbed out and went inside, thanking Rose for joining her. Alone in the water, Rose felt suddenly cold, that sense that someone was watching her making her dip her body beneath the surface, finding purchase on the bottom. She stood, eyes scanning the dark places around the water, all feeling of serenity vanished.
“Get a grip,” she hissed to herself. “And get out of this pool. It’s probably against the rules.”
Rose did not bother to dry herself completely; she wrapped her towel around her shoulders and made her way inside, glancing over her shoulder as she went. The water lapped at the edges of the pool, and Rose laughed softly at herself. It was just this place, the atmosphere, the knowing, and the horrible thoughts that had been in her head hours earlier.
At the base of the staircase she stopped, heart pounding. Someone was definitely watching her this time.
“I told you the water was nice.”
“Where are you?” Rose whispered. She hoped he wasn’t somewhere behind her – she did not need him looking at her rear end, but then again, she didn’t want him looking at her front either. A shape unfurled itself from the top of the staircase and Rose watched with an odd twisting in her stomach as he came slowly down the steps. In the darkness, he looked different; snatches of light played on his face and arms, illuminating the pale skin and golden hair. He appeared older, powerful and it made her nervous. His face was cast half in shadow, the characteristic grin no where in sight.
“Are you okay?” Rose asked on impulse. Water dripped down her back from her hair and she hoped it wasn’t falling onto the carpet.
“What? Oh, yeah,” he murmured and Rose realised with a little jolt that he was looking at her! She hastily covered her body with her towel and his eyes snapped to her face.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he smiled. “Hugo would kill me for thinking such thoughts about his sister.”
Rose blushed; she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction but she couldn’t prevent it from happening. Her cheeks, those damned Weasley cheeks, flared into life and she knew she was scarlet from her neck to the roots of her hair. He said nothing, watching her and waiting and she took a deep breath, tossed back her dripping mane and pushed past him.
In her room, Rose showered, standing for what felt like hours under the steady stream of hot water. She was still blushing, she knew it, could feel it on her skin.
“Stupid Scorpius,” she muttered, throwing back the doona and climbing into her bed, not understanding what had rattled her so much. It wasn’t like she hadn’t had guys look at her; it was just that he had never, in all the years they had known one another, said anything like that to her before. It was unnerving, and she cursed him under her breath until she fell asleep.
The following morning, Rose woke with a screaming headache. She was dehydrated, her skin clammy and wondered whether it was possible to catch a cold in a warm swimming pool. She groaned and threw back the doona, freezing in the act of climbing from her bed.
Her dreams came back in a rush, snatches of bizarre things and half-heard conversations. Rose concentrated; she could never truly remember her dreams, just pieces of them and she bit her lip, willing last night’s dream to manifest. In the end, nothing came but sheer frustration, and a sense that she had been watching something unfold, something dangerous, and that she, while not involved, had been concerned for those who were. As she dressed, throwing on merlin-knows-what, Rose had the sudden realisation that the person in her dreams, the one she wanted to warn, was Scorpius.
Shaken, she wandered downstairs to the dining room, not hungry but knowing she needed to show her face. Scorpius was sitting at one end of the long table, his eyes shadowed, looking like he hadn’t slept, or hadn’t slept well. Draco Malfoy looked similarly tired, and no one was speaking. It was a sombre occasion, and as Rose took her place across the table from her brother, Scorpius came to life, passing her a plate of toast that Rose nearly dropped in surprise. She muttered a good morning, he grunted in return, and Hugo watched the interchange with an expression that Rose had seen before and did not like.
Draco cleared his throat and all eyes swung to the tall, still handsome man at the other end of the table. He quickly outlined the days events; things would start with an intense two hours of deportment study, to be conducted by his mother, Narcissa Malfoy. Whispers flew along the table like fire, jumping from one girl to the next. The girl beside Rose, Janis Belby, grabbed her arm in her excitement.
“Oh this will be wonderful,” she said, her eyes shining. “To learn from Narcissa Malfoy, the once Lady of this-”
“Wonderful,” Rose agreed quietly, cutting Janis off before she drowned her in Narcissa-induced praise. Rose had met the older woman before, once or twice, and she knew what Narcissa had done during the war, how she had saved Uncle Harry and thus turned against Voldemort. Rose wondered why Astoria was not here – surely it was more than not liking the competition. She snuck a glance at Scorpius, wondering how she would feel if her mother had abandoned her to a pack of loonies.
He was smiling, a genuine smile and Rose found she was glad. Like her, he obviously loved his grandmother and like her, he would want her involved in such a momentous event in his life. Rose turned her attention back to Draco, who told the girls that after lunch they were free to do as they pleased for two hours, while he and his mother conferred with Scorpius about the deportment training. He then made the shock announcement that two girls would be sent home tomorrow, based on the results of the morning’s activities and the evening’s dinner, where the girls were to put into practise what they had learnt in their lessons with Narcissa.
Rose noticed more than a few, including her cousins, looking nervous. Weasley’s were not known for their deportment; Rose recalled more than one family dinner where food was flung across the room courtesy of Uncle George. As breakfast wound to an end, Hugo kicked Rose under the table.
“What was that about?”
Hugo indicated Scorpius, who was escorting two girls through the dining room doors and into the hall beyond. “The toast.”
“Ask him,” Rose snapped, standing up; she was still miffed about the whole thing – since when did Scorpius, lord of the Manor, offer someone breakfast? “I’ve got work to do.”
She left her brother sitting at the long table alone, racing upstairs to grab her camera, email her mother and prepare for the morning.
Chapter title from the song Ice, by Sarah McLachlan.
thanks for all the support on this guys! i really appreciate it!
edited: 19.10 with new chapter image!
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