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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. ;)

 

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