Lorcan and Lysander left the following day. Charlie Weasley was sending a team to collect the Vipertooth. She was going to a colony on the other side of the continent. Scorpius watched the two men leave until they were swallowed by the jungle. He’d enjoyed their company, such as it was, and decided, when he got back to England, he would look them up. That made him laugh out loud, earning a quizzical look from Rose. He simply shook his head, deciding to tell her later.
They worked side by side for the better part of the next week. It was hard – all he wanted to do was touch her but she just looked at him as if she knew what was in his head. Covered in dirt and sweat, her skin shining in the candle light of the cavern they had managed to dig themselves, she looked amazing, like some sort of Amazonian goddess, all strength and curves and fire.
“We need to concentrate,” she murmured. “I can’t do my job with you looking at me like that.”
“Like what?” Scorpius asked, interested and mildly amused to see the faint blush creep over her cheeks. She shook her head, exasperated, but he didn’t miss the small smile that played at the corners of her mouth as she turned back to her work. They had almost cleared the cavern entrance of rock and debris, and the cursed artefacts were close. Scorpius had been up half the night mulling over them and the mystery of this place. If it really was Patiti that they had found, he knew they were on the edge of a major discovery. What had surprised him was how proud he felt of that, and of the knowledge that he would have helped unearth the hidden city and its treasure. He had, he realised suddenly, never done anything so notable in his life, never achieved anything of such magnitude.
He glanced over at Rose. He liked her like this. When she was focused, her face took on a determination he rarely saw in anyone, not even in his best students. Her thirst for knowledge and her passion for her work were, he realised suddenly, incredibly sexy, and then there was the way the little frown pulled at the skin between her eyes and the way she chewed her lip when she was deep in concentration…
Was he falling in love with her? The question came quickly, arriving with all the force of a summer storm and he blinked, sitting back on his heels, stunned. Was he? He didn’t know. He’d thought he loved Lily but he knew in that moment, he never had. He’d never known her, had barely scratched the surface but Rose…
He shook his head. No, he didn’t love her, but he knew he could, if she’d let him.
By the end of the week, they were no closer to uncovering the secrets of the jungle ruins than they had been when he arrived. Louis was in a temper, threatening to sack the lot of them and find himself a team with real skills.
“Oh bugger off,” Rose snapped over dinner. “Who else would put up with your crap, Louis?”
He glared at her, before sighing. “Anyway, we’re all leaving soon.”
“We are?” Scorpius asked, surprised. He’d imagined wild horses, or dragons or something, would be the only thing that would drag Louis, and Rose, out of the jungle.
Louis nodded, fingering his beard. “It’s nearly Christmas, Malfoy, and I suspect even you do not want to work over Christmas.”
Christmas. Scorpius hadn’t even realised. He’d lost track of time, and the date, a long while ago. He had a moment to let his thoughts linger on the amazing Christmas feast he knew his mother would prepare before he noticed Rose was sitting very still and quiet. Before he could ask what was wrong, she was on her feet, throwing the remains of her tea onto the ground, and had stormed off. Confused, he looked to Louis for answers.
“Christmas means family,” the big man answered softly.
“Oh,” Scorpius said simply, understanding instantly. Lily. Will. Frank. Her parents…it reminded him that he had not contacted his mother in over a week and had still not written to Lily. Shame burnt in his gut. He’d promised Rose and now, he’d been a coward about it without even intending. Seemed typical really. The thought of going home stirred something else in him – he would be returning to Scorpius Malfoy, prissy Hogwarts Professor, who always looked immaculate and never did anything out of the ordinary. He chewed his lip, not sure he wanted to be that man again and unsure he’d ever wanted to be that man.
The sounds of the jungle were all around them – the birds, the whisper of the wind through the trees and the brushing of leaves as something moved in the undergrowth. He could smell the rich earth at his feet, smell the heat and rain from last night’s shower and feel the customary humidity of the day, rising to meet him and fold him in its arms like a lover.
Scorpius smiled, realising he’d never felt more comfortable anywhere in his life.
Louis sighed deeply, then shattered Scorpius’ brave new world. “We won’t be coming back here.”
“What do you mean? We…we…haven’t broken the curse and the artefacts…”
“We’re going home, Malfoy,” Louis snapped. “The Ministry has decided that if we haven’t been able to unearth the artefacts by now then we never will, so they’ve pulled the pin on the whole thing.”
“Does Rose know?” Scorpius asked quietly. He took Louis’ silence for an answer and sighed. “Will you tell her?”
Louis raised his eyebrows. “Of course I’ll tell her you idiot.”
Scorpius narrowed his eyes. “How long have you known exactly?”
“A week? A whole seven days -”
“I know how long a week is,” Louis growled.
“- And you haven’t told her? Do you know what this will do to her? She’ll lose her mind not having work to do and unless you have another job up your sleeve…”
“What do you want me to do, Scorpius? This is out of my control.” Louis put his head in his hands, all his fire and spite leaving him. “I know how important this is to Rose. Not just this place, but her work. I know why she buries herself away and I’ve done the best I can to ensure she can continue to do that, year after year, but there are limits even to my talents, okay?” He paused. “She’s my cousin, my family, and I love her, but I guess I can’t protect her forever, can I?”
He climbed to his feet and walked away, leaving Scorpius sitting alone in the dining tent, his head spinning. Rose without her work. She would go mad, if it meant she had to stay home and take a desk job or something.
Scorpius stayed in his tent the following day, feigning a headache when Rose came to see him. She simply raised an eyebrow but left him where he was and he felt guilty knowing she would be working out in the simmering sun while he lay in the cool of his tent.
When she was gone, he reached for a quill and parchment, plonking back on his messy bed to write Lily his letter. He barely knew where to start. He’d never broken up with a girl before, not that he was sure he had anyone to break up with, and he could hardly begin by telling Lily he was now sleeping with her cousin. With a sigh, Scorpius tugged at the ends of his hair.
“Dear Lily,” he said aloud. “No, just ‘Lily.’ Okay…shit.”
An hour later, he’d written a paragraph, nothing more, but he knew those five sentences contained all he needed to say. He didn’t mention Rose. That piece of information he thought should be given in person. His sense of decency, or what was left of it, owed Lily that much. Never in his life did he imagine he’d find himself ending one relationship when he’d already begun another one.
“Bloody hell I’m turning into Blaise,” he muttered, remembering the walking scandal that was his old school friend.
Scorpius cast his eyes around his tent – his trunk was open, its contents spilling everywhere. His desk was piled with books, some open at random pages. An empty bottle of firewhiskey sat beside them and he blinked, unable to remember when he had finished it off. Clothing was strewn all about the place. He caught a glimpse of himself in the small mirror his mother had sent him. His hair was chaotic, sticking up in all directions, his skin a subtle brown. He’d never had a tan before, had never spent enough time outside to get even the faintest hint of one. It made his eyes stand out – in the golden hue of his face they seemed brighter. Absently, he ran his palm over his face, feeling the stubble there. He needed to shave, to wash, to comb his hair but in that moment, none of that mattered. It hadn’t mattered for a long time, he realised with a grin, watching his reflection.
He had never felt so calm, so himself, and the idea that his world was about to come crashing down because the Ministry of Magic didn’t think they could do their jobs made him angry. He set aside the letter to Lily, scrambling off his bed and reaching for his books.
“Think Scorpius,” he told himself furiously. “Use your brain.” He took deep, calming breaths, forcing his anger aside, trying to imagine he was back in his room at Hogwarts, back in seventh year, working on a difficult Potions assignment, or a Transfiguration essay. He closed his eyes and then he was there, seventeen again, hungry for knowledge and for the satisfaction that would come with it once he completed his task.
For the next two hours he poured over his books, not stopping to eat or drink, or even look up. His neck hurt, his back was cramped and his backside was numb from sitting so long.
“I don’t know enough about shamanism,” he muttered, believing with certainty that was the key. The oldest known spiritual practice of humankind, with a history stretching back 70,000 years, and he knew virtually nothing about it. Scorpius snorted, annoyed with himself.
He felt like he was admitting defeat, reaching for a new piece of parchment, as he quickly scrawled a letter to an old colleague in London, someone with a much deeper understanding of magic and history, and, Scorpius thought, access to a library.
He couldn’t wait for someone to take the mail up the river. His letters needed to be sent across the world now. Chewing his lip for a moment, he decided he would take them himself, at least into the nearest village, where he would find a courier, and if that failed, he’d go to the South American Ministry itself.
Stepping out into the glaring light of the day, he made a beeline for the dining tent, having spotted Luis sitting alone. Quickly, he explained what he needed. Luis fingered his chin thoughtfully.
“I will take you to my grandmother.”
“Your grandmother?” Scorpius echoed.
“She is a shaman. I cannot believe I didn’t think of this myself. Sometimes,” he said, giving Scorpius a quick and rather impressed look. “It takes fresh eyes to see.”
“When will we go?”
“We will go now,” the other man, standing up and stretching. “Her village is not far. It is a short apparition. Gather anything you need.”
Scorpius glanced across the camp, his eyes searching for Rose. He could see her, crouched at the entrance to the cavern and even from the distance he could see she’d made progress – the mouth of the cavern was wide open, dark and foreboding, and as he watched, sunlight glinted across the face of something golden.
His feet started moving without thought but Luis closed his hand over Scorpius’ arm.
“We need to go now. She will be fine. She will not touch them. She will not end up like Frank,” he said softly. Reluctantly, Scorpius allowed himself to be drawn away, Luis leading them into the jungle. Scorpius wasn’t sure he shared Luis’ conviction that Rose was sensible enough to leave the artefacts be. He knew just how determined she was, how much this job and breaking the curse meant to her.
Luis’ grandmother lived deep in the jungle, her hut seeming to blend in with the dripping green of the landscape around it. She was sitting outside when they arrived, a tiny, wizened old woman with hair like snow. If she was surprised to see her grandson and the shabby foreigner who followed at his heels, she did not show it. She gestured for them to sit and Scorpius dropped obediently to the ground, reeling back in shock when her hand snaked out and she grasped his chin in surprisingly strong fingers. She studied his face, her black eyes sweeping over him until she sat back, satisfied.
Luis spoke to her, not in Spanish as Scorpius had expected, but in another language, something that sounded ancient and seemed to rise from the jungle itself. They conversed between themselves and Scorpius wished he could understand what they were saying. He’d outlined his theories to Luis in detail as they had trekked through the jungle. As he waited, Scorpius felt sweat trickle down the back of his neck. He tugged at his collar, nervous more than uncomfortable, until eventually, Luis turned to him,
“She said she will help us.”
“She will? Tell her thank you, please,” Scorpius said quickly and waited while his thanks was relayed. Luis’ grandmother simply smiled and nodded. “What will she do?”
“She will travel the mayu, in two nights time. She will come to us that morning and begin to prepare,” he said softly, then went on to explain that the timing had to be right, that the celestial river the shaman’s travelled needed to be in the right position, with the northern end, the origin of the river, underground . The shaman would direct the waters of the cosmic ocean upwards, into the sky, hopefully taking the energy of the artefacts curse with it.
“Will that work?” Scorpius asked in wonder, still trying to wrap his head around what he was being told. Celestial rivers and cosmic oceans were not a regular part of his everyday thinking.
Luis looked thoughtful. “We can only wait and see. She will bring others to help as this is a big undertaking and grandmother is old, although her power has not diminished at all.”
Scorpius looked again at the tiny old woman sitting with her legs tucked under herself by a grass hut in the Amazonian jungle, noting the brightness of her eyes and the proud tilt of her head, and he did not doubt Luis’ words for a moment.
Back at the camp, Scorpius left Luis to inform Louis of where they had been and what they had arranged, while he went to find Rose. He couldn’t wait to tell her. His blood was bouncing under his skin, excitement flowing through him.
He found her in his tent, launching into an explanation of his theory and of Luis’ grandmother. “She is amazing, Rose. There is so much power in her. I didn’t even ask was she a witch as well as a shaman. I suppose it doesn’t matter. She is what she is and…Rose?”
Without warning, she threw a book at his head, then another, and another. He ducked, stunned.
“Merlin what’s wrong with you?”
“You…screw you, Malfoy!”
“Stop it,” Scorpius demanded as she reached for another of his books. He moved quickly, grabbing the book from her hands and pulling her into him with his other hand. She fought him, kicked and hit, lashing out with hands and feet and he just held her, shocked, until, unable to take it any longer, he grabbed her face and kissed her into silence.
“Get off me,” she snapped, pushing him away. He waited but she didn’t launch any more of his possessions at him.
“Rose, what’s wrong?”
“I thought you’d left,” she said quickly. “But then all your precious books are still here.”
“Why are you mad at me?” he asked, all his anger forgotten as he looked at her face, at the strength and brazen determination he saw there and he wondered briefly if Louis had been lying to him. Nothing about Rose seemed fragile – at times, she was as firm and enduring as the forest that surrounded them but he had witnessed vulnerability in her and knew that there was softness there.
Suddenly, he understood. “Rose…”
“Don’t speak to me,” she blazed.
“Stop pushing me away,” he said quietly. “I’m not going to hurt you, I promise.”
“How can you promise that, Scorpius?” she demanded. “How can anyone make a promise like that? You might be smart but you can’t predict the future.”
“And you can’t hide forever,” he said gently, waiting with baited breath until she slapped him, or cursed him, or walked out and never came back. Instead, he watched as she crumpled, sinking to the floor of his tent. She pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, holding herself tight. His instinct was to comfort her, to get onto the grubby floor with her and tell her it was okay but he didn’t. He simply watched her, knowing somehow that, in this moment, he needed to leave her be.
“I know.” Her voice was a whisper that crawled from her throat, tentative as the first steps of a child, and he knew how much it cost her to admit such a thing. “But what else can I do? I’ve been doing this for so long I don’t know how to do anything else.”
“Come on,” Scorpius said eventually, offering her hand. “You need to sleep, Rose.”
She nodded and let him help her to her feet. She hesitated a moment, then crawled onto his bed, tucking herself under the sheets and burying her head into his pillows.
“We’re out of money, did Louis tell you?” she said quietly, and Scorpius shook his head. “The Ministry has cut our funding. That’s the real reason we have to leave.” She yawned, covering her mouth with her hand. “Know anyone who has a gold mine, Malfoy?” she mumbled, before falling to sleep.
Scorpius watched the gentle rise and fall of her chest as she slept. He reached out and tucked her hair behind her ear, sweeping it off her face and suddenly started grinning.
He knew more than one person who had access to large sums of money, if not a gold mine, and as Rose slept, he wrote a short letter by the light of the dying candle.
Scorpius managed to get his letter sent, Pedro finding him a bird, and he watched nervously as it flew off into the growing dark, a white dot against the sky. He knew his request could not be denied but he was terribly worried about what the others, Rose in particular, would think.
He didn't have to wait long.
“Explain this, will you, Malfoy,” Louis snapped, striding into the dining tent the following evening with a look of fury. He was carrying a piece of paper which he thrust in Scorpius’ face. Scorpius sighed, brushing Louis’ hand away.
“What did you do?” Rose asked Scorpius.
“You need the money,” Scorpius said to Louis, ignoring the other man’s anger.
“Right, so you what? Raided daddy’s coffers?”
“Louis!” Rose admonished, then turned to Scorpius. “Did you?”
“Did you tell him?” Louis raged. “A little pillow talk was it, Rose? How’s Frank feel about being out in the cold? Oh wait, he wouldn’t know yet, would he?”
“Piss off,” she snarled before Scorpius could interject. “If Draco Malfoy wants to donate money to help us out who cares? It’s not like he’s short of it or anything and we need it. Why are you so angry about this?”
“I don’t want to take charity-”
Rose leapt to her feet, hands on her hips. “That is ridiculous.”
Louis opened his mouth, but Scorpius stood up, putting himself between them, ignoring the dangerous glint in the other man’s eye.
“Actually, it’s my money, not my father’s. He thinks I’m insane even being here.”
Louis narrowed his eyes. “Bollocks.”
Scorpius didn’t reply, letting his silence speak for him, enjoying the look of blank surprise on Louis’ face as the truth sunk in; Rose started laughing.
“Typical; just blunder in like a hippogriff with a toothache why don’t you, Louis.” She turned to Scorpius. “Why would you do this?”
He shrugged. “Why not? Like you said, you need the money. I have the money and I’m not doing anything with it. I’m just making an investment, that’s all.”
Louis was silent for a long moment. “Don’t think this makes you special or anything. We’re not in business together, you don’t have a say in what I do with your money and you’re not going to see any of it again for a long time.”
“Fine,” Scorpius said simply. Louis blinked once, scowled, and stalked away. Rose sat down, giggling gleefully.
“I will treasure that moment forever,” she said with a delighted smile. Her amusement faded and she gave him a serious look. “Why did you do it, Scorpius?”
He shrugged, suddenly tremendously embarrassed. “I wanted to do something for you; something you would really appreciate,” he mumbled, unable to look at her. He wanted to tell her he would buy her the world or catch her the moon if she asked for it but he knew such a romantic sentiment would not please her.
“You didn’t need to do that,” Rose said after a moment.
“I wanted too,” Scorpius answered, almost defiantly. “I want you to be happy.”
She was silent for a long time and still he would not look at her, ashamed, nervous and completely vulnerable. Eventually, she moved to his side and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek.
“Then thank you. I am very happy.”
“What are you doing for Christmas?” he blurted without thought, lifting his eyes to find her watching him critically, carefully, as if she was waiting for some terrible admission.
“Why?” She did nothing to disguise the suspicion in her voice and he sighed inwardly, wondering if such a thing was a Weasley family trait.
“As you may know, my parents throw a ball.”
She laughed. “A ball? Do people still have those?”
He smiled, relaxing. “Yes. Anyway, I need to bring someone and -”
“You need a date?”
“Yes. If I don’t take someone, dad will just find me a girl and last year I got stuck with Rowena Nott who, while an attractive woman, has nothing between her ears and I really don’t want to have to go through that horror again so, Rose, will you come?” He was practically begging and he swallowed, realising how completely desperate he sounded.
“I don’t know...”
“I need someone who will sit there and whisper how everything is so dreadfully boring and how everyone looks ridiculous and how you would rather be in the Hogs Head or something,” he said softly. “I need someone I can talk with.”
“Well,” she replied, a smile gracing her lips. “Since you put it that way, I am more than qualified for the job.”
“I’m inviting Louis and Frank, too; the Scamander’s as well,” Scorpius added quickly. “So it won’t be like a ‘date’ date.”
She started laughing. “My cousin, Frank Longbottom and the twins in Malfoy Manor, mixing with the cream of society? Having to make normal and polite conversation? Scorpius, there is no way I am missing this!”
He cleared his throat, fidgeting. “Umm, I don’t want to offend you or anything, Rose, but -”
“I have a dress, Malfoy, don’t worry,” she said, grinning. “And it’s clean and hanging in the cupboard in my flat, in a bag, so the moths don’t eat it. I think I can find something suitable.”
Luis’ grandmother arrived in the morning, with two other women Scorpius assumed were also shamans. The women greeted Luis warmly, and he led them over to the cavern and the still-buried artefacts. Louis grumbled something about doddering old biddies in his camp, before telling Scorpius his plan had better work as he didn’t have enough food or tents for them. He needed have worried though. For two days and two nights, the shamans sat outside the cavern entrance. The low hum of their chants floated eerily across the camp, and there was nothing anyone else could do but wait. They ate nothing and drank only of a tea made from the ayahuasca vine.
“It allows them to travel to the spirit world,” Luis explained simply. “It alters their consciousness.”
Rose chuckled. “Frank would love that,” she said with a smile.
“It is very dangerous,” Luis added.
“Then Frank would definitely love it,” Rose mumbled.
They said more, sitting in the dining tent and watching the shamans from a distance. As night fell, Scorpius saw a faint green light wash across the mouth of the cavern, but it was gone so quickly he wasn’t sure if he’d imagined it or not. No one ate dinner and the atmosphere was tense. Rose and Louis were not patient people and Scorpius could feel the line layer of what patience they did have getting ready to snap. He grabbed Rose by the hand, pulling her quickly to her feet.
“Come on,” he said quietly. “Bed.”
“Yes, Rose. You’re tired, I’m tired, we’re all tired. Let the women do their work and we will see in the morning if it worked.”
He watched her face until her frown dropped and she sighed. “Alright.”
Louis laughed suddenly. “I don’t know how you’ve done it, Malfoy.”
“Done what?” Scorpius asked with a sigh, not in the mood.
“Tamed the wild Rose.”
“Piss off,” Rose snapped, and stormed towards her tent. Louis only laughed harder as Scorpius pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers and counted to ten.
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