2. A Night to Forget
“I don’t believe them,” Lily snapped for the fifth time, “who does that? Today’s supposed to be about Albus and Monique. Who the fuck turns up to someone’s engagement party announcing their own engagement?”
“Probably the same sort of person who runs off with his wife’s cousin.” James offered, in a tone that suggested he was trying to be helpful. Lily punched him, hard, in the shoulder.
“You’re a dick. Men are all dicks.”
The Burrow’s kitchen was full of men – alongside scrawny James was Hugo, as well as Albus and Scorpius, but not one of them bothered to contradict her. Scorpius was a bit too preoccupied tending to Rose’s wounds by the sink. His fingers moved gently over her palms – he was careful and precise, muttering incantations as the glass was pricked from the deep indents. He clicked his fingers and the wounds snapped shut, leaving nothing behind but a smooth and slightly shiny palm. Rose opened her mouth to say thank you, but she got caught in his colourless gaze. The sharp grey of his irises had turned translucent set in his sun-tanned flesh. She wondered if he’d moved on, or if he’d thought about her as often as she’d thought about him.
Then the door flew open and Rose’s cousin Roxy - a sable-eyed girl with pigtails and a mischievous smile - burst into the kitchen, and the moment between them was lost. Scorpius dropped Rose’s hand and tore from her eyes.
“That was honestly awesome, guys. I thought Aunt Ginny and Aunt ‘Mione were gonna to deck Fleur.” Roxy grinned. At fifteen, she was the youngest of the next-generation Weasley clan, but like the Aunt Ginny she idolised, she had an affinity for jinxes and a no-nonsense attitude that made people look past her youth. “Fleur came in like,” she stuck her chest out, flicked back her hair, and in a cruel but accurate impression of their French aunt, cried, “ooooooh, sacre bleu. Mi petite fille… engaged! And then, aunt ‘Mione was like shup bitch…”
“You know we were all there, right, and we saw what really happened?” Hugo interrupted, “plus my mum isn’t an American gangster.”
“Fine.” Roxy replied, sourly, “but Aunt Ginny - oh my god. Aunt Ginny just deadass said ‘You two need to leave!’ Seriously. I have new levels of respect for the women in my family. First they helped defeat the darkest wizard that ever lived, and now this?”
“Defeating a mass-murdering lunatic hell-bent on taking over the world and standing up to a woman in her early thirties – such similar accomplishments.” Albus replied sarcastically, “have they left yet?”
Roxy, who had opened the fridge and was now rifling through its contents, shook her head.
“Nope. After you guys all left – wrong decision, seriously, because it was just getting good – Aunt Ginny called Aunt Fleur a bitch and told Bill he was an idiot for marrying her, and Fleur tried to slap her, but then Nana Molly got involved and played the old Fred card,” she adopted a withered old-lady voice and cried, “‘if my Freddy could see you all now he’d be rolling in his grave… family, acting like enemies…!’ I didn’t know Uncle Fred, but if he was anything like my dad, he’d have been proper into it. Anyway, everyone then felt guilty and made amends, and now Teddy’s eating cake and Vic’s telling everyone who will listen about some modelling contract she’s come back for.” She broke off a piece of cheese from a block and stuffed it into her mouth.
“I should go.” Rose said, standing up.
“No, you shouldn’t,” Lily said sternly, “Get back out there. Show him what he’s missing.”
“She’s right,” Monique said, wrapping an arm around her best friend, “he’ll realise what a mistake he’s made. You just need to show him you’re not bothered.”
“I am bothered, though.” She said, hopelessly.
“She clearly is.” James offered pointedly, earning another painful shoulder punch from Lily.
“Act like you’re not, then.” Monique said kindly. Rose looked at her friend and suddenly felt awful. It was supposed to be Monique’s night, but as was the tendency just lately, Rose was the centre of attention instead.
“I’m sorry, Monique. I’m sorry about all of this. I’ve ruined your night - I shouldn’t have come.”
“It’s not your fault,” she said, fiercely, “and besides, the night isn’t ruined, because my maid of honour’s still here.”
She looked at Rose meaningfully, and Rose gaped at her.
“Me? But I thought you were going to choose one of your sisters?”
“I can change my mind can’t I?” Monique grinned, “and besides, I have four sisters. How was I supposed to choose?”
Rose laughed through her tears.
“Well I guess I have to stay now, don’t I?”
“Don’t sound too thrilled, Rose.” Albus smirked. Everybody laughed except James, who looked offended.
“If I’d said something that sarcastic, Lily would have punched me again.”
“That’s because you’re my least favourite brother,” she fired back.
“Yes, well, you were an accident.”
“I was an accident? James, mum and dad only got married because they found out she was pregnant with you. I was conceived legitimately, from a place of love. You were made from a quick fumble and a forgotten contraception potion.”
The group burst into laughter, which dissolved immediately when Teddy stumbled in through the open door. He looked around nervously and his eyes found Rose, who still had wet, mascara-stained cheeks.
“Erm – hello, everyone, long time no see, I just wanted to talk to Rose, if that’s alright.”
He looked around the room. James, Lily and Albus were glaring at him and Hugo had removed his wand from his pocket and was polishing it with his shirt, in the same sort of menacing manner a hunter might polish his shotgun.
“I don’t think we’ve got anything to talk about.” Rose shrugged, not even looking at him. Her tone was surprisingly casual, considering that her face was still shiny with tears.
“You don’t owe me anything, I know.” he said quickly, trying not to look at the other people in the kitchen.
Lily snorted scathingly, and Monique, who was usually gentle and understanding even at the worst of times, rolled her eyes derisively. Teddy found Rose’s eyes at last. His untidy brows were pulled together into a pained expression, emphasising the deep lines on his forehead. “Can we go outside?”
Rose avoided Lily’s steely gaze. She knew her cousin would be shaking her head furiously, urging her not to heed to his demands. They weren’t married anymore – and it wasn’t like there was anything left to salvage - so what was the point in making amends? But Rose just couldn’t help it. She’d been in love with Teddy for years before he’d finally noticed her as more than one of many redheaded cousins of the Potter clan, and for the six years since then she’d shared her life with him. That sort of devotion didn’t go away within a matter of months; she had to hear him out, so she nodded.
“Rose…” Lily and Albus groaned at the same time.
“I won’t be long.” Rose said brightly, following Teddy back to the door. “I’ll see you back here in a minute. Okay?”
It was one of those pretty midsummer nights, half past eight and the light was just waning, the setting sun painting the clouds pink. Rose followed Teddy down the overgrown garden path and towards the pond. They stopped by the filmy green water; she watched as a large, bright orange fish weaved through the stillness of its depths.
“How have you been?” he asked, quietly.
“Fine.” She shrugged. “What are you doing back early? The trip was supposed to be six months long. I should know. I planned it.”
He took a deep breath and stared down at his feet.
“I just – I want to explain myself, Rose. I – I want to make you see – you know, my point of v…” he cut off and, choosing his words a little more slowly and carefully, sighed “…I’ll always love you, Rosie…”
“Don’t call me that.” She interrupted.
“There just wasn’t any passion between us by the end. Not really.”
“Are you seriously trying to tell me that Victoire’s a better shag?”
“No.” he emphasised the word angrily, then closed his eyes and rolled his temple with his middle and index finger, “Rose, we never – what you need to know is that we never did anything while I was with you. I promise.”
“You promised you would spend the rest of your life with me, so your promises clearly don’t mean anything.” She spat.
“I meant it at the time,” he said furiously, “but please don’t try to pretend that everything was perfect between us. We weren’t happy.”
He reached for her hand, probably as a force of habit, but she was quicker. She pulled the wand from her dress robe’s lining and held it to his jaw, the tip pushing an indent into his flesh. He didn’t move away – he just stared down at her sadly.
“We weren’t happy, but Victoire and I are…”
“Much happier, right?” she interrupted, irritably, “You’re soulmates. You belong together. You complete each other. Yeah. You’ve already told me. Are we done?”
“No. I want to make this okay.”
“Okay?” she repeated, almost laughing through her disbelief, “were you always this arrogant? Things between us will never be okay, because you left me for my cousin. I don’t give a shit if – if we were having problems or if you fell madly in love with her but you. Left. Me. For. My. Cousin. Get your head out of your abnormally large arse-hole, Teddy Lupin.”
She retrieved her wand and stalked back towards the house. He didn’t follow her.
Teddy and Victoire left shortly after they’d arrived and Rose and her cousins (and Scorpius) went back to the marquee, although there wasn’t much of a party to go back to. Most of the other guests had gone too. A drunken Neville Longbottom was singing an old Weird Sisters’ ballad to an audience comprised only of his wife Hannah, one of the Lovegood’s eight-year-old twins was bawling his eyes out, and Rose’s mother was tiredly clearing plates and emptying bottles of alcohol without the aid of magic.
“It’s only half nine. Where is everyone?” Lily asked incredulously. Her uncle Ron, who was probably on his tenth or eleventh course, licked his fingers.
“Dunno.” He said, “it all got a bit confrontational. Then when I tried to hex Teddy’s balls off – missed, by the way, cause ‘Mione got in the way, told me it wasn’t worth it… people just sort of -left.”
“I wonder why.” Hermione snapped, dropping a whole wine glass into the bin bag.
“Don’t tell me he didn’t deserve it.” Ron retorted.
“Oh, he very much deserved it,” Hermione said, wiping the sweat from her cheek with the back of her hand, “I just don’t think he’s worth getting locked up in Azkaban for the rest of your life.”
“Ah, I’m a celebrity. I’d get two years, tops.”
They all laughed.
“Getting locked up in Azkaban for the rest of my life would be a small price to pay,” Ginny added, “I can’t believe they came here tonight. I’ve never been so angry.”
“That’s hard to believe,” James interjected, “you’ve almost killed me several times.”
“The point is,” Ginny continued, “I would never actually kill you. Fleur, I would kill. I never liked her, did I?”
“You used to call her Phlegm.” Harry agreed. They all continued to laugh and talk, unaware that Rose had snagged a bottle of firewhiskey and slipped out of the tent. Scorpius saw her leave, though – he checked that nobody was watching, and followed her into the night.
“Are you alright?”
He was a bit behind her - about twenty feet or so - and the sounds of the muffled voices from the tent penetrated the fast-approaching silent blackness of the night, but he knew that she had heard him by the sudden stiffness of her frame. She took another swig of the firewhiskey, accustomed now to the burning sensation it left in her throat. He jogged to meet her; he could almost see her face and the sadness in her eyes.
“Yeah.” She managed. “Just needed to get away from – all that.”
He rifled through his breast pocket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes. “Want one?”
“I have something much better, thanks,” she replied, holding up the half-empty bottle of firewhiskey as gracefully as possible, “I would have never pegged you as a smoker.”
“Well, I’ve – erm, changed, in the last four years.”
“Clearly.” She motioned his appearance and took another large gulp of the muddy liquid in her bottle, then held it outstretched. “Want some?”
“No, thank-you. I prefer to always be sound of mind. It alleviates the possibility of being unprepared for risks.”
He lit the cigarette with the end of his wand; the flame threw shadows over his face, emphasising the hollow spaces beneath his protruding cheekbones and the black crescents cast by his long, light eyelashes. Rose snorted.
“That sounds like something the old Scorpius Malfoy would say.”
She glanced up at the sky, where a faint, speckled whole moon burnt amber with the last light of the sun. They didn’t speak for a few seconds; a thoughtful sadness was etched in her soft features, crumpling into various ravines between her brows. She wasn’t looking at him when she murmured, “Why do I always get my heart broken, Scor?”
He hadn’t been aware of how close their bodies had become, without either of them consciously moving together, and the scent of the alcohol on her breath was making him dizzy. She took another gulp and her dark eyes met his. He exhaled a long steady line of silver and looked quickly down at his feet, heart hammering.
“Every man I’ve ever loved, or thought I loved, has hurt me. Why is that?”
The truth was that she’d always picked the wrong sort of men. At Hogwarts she’d exclusively dated burly Gryffindor quidditch players who dropped her as soon as someone more willing came along; then there’d been the ministry co-worker who had neglected to tell her he was married, and the column writer for Witch Weekly who published the most intimate details of their relationship when they broke up. Teddy, on the other hand, was polite, well-respected and historically monogamous, so it was ironic that he turned out to be the worst of them all.
“I don’t know.” Scorpius said instead, not lifting his eyes. “You’ve just been very unlucky.”
She drained the bottle and dropped it into the grass, where it fell with a soft bumph and rolled away.
“What about you?” she asked, hiccuping.
“What about me?” he replied, inhaling deeply and glancing across the expanse of fields that were quickly being engulfed by the stars.
“Have you been unlucky, too?”
He looked across at her and nodded. She looked as if she was about to cry – but, to his surprise, she laughed instead, the humour lighting her eyes and loosening the slight wrinkles around them.
“What’s so funny?”
“It’s just like before, that’s all.” And with that she reached over, prised the cigarette from his teeth and leaned in to kiss him. The taste of the firewhiskey was overwhelming enough to make him nauseous and her lips were rough and scratchy. He tore away with a sharp breath, wiping the wetness from his mouth as if it was poison. He couldn’t look at her; ignoring the thudding in his chest, he looked at the ground instead. Rose, on the other hand, clutched at her own lips, staring at him – dumbstruck, by what he could only assume was embarrassment. He waited for her to speak. When she did, the words were quiet and hoarse.
“I thought… I thought that you followed me out here, because… this was what you wanted…”
“I followed you because I wanted to make sure you were alright. Look, if you want, I can help you apparate home, and…”
“What’s going on?” Lily interrupted. She hadn’t been there long enough to see the kiss, but her tone was accusatory, and her narrowed eyes drifted from a red-faced Rose to a breathless Scorpius.
“Nothing.” Scorpius managed. Rose wasn’t looking at him anymore; she took a step to the side and felt for the wand tucked in in the lining of her summer dress.
“I was just leaving.”
Lily had already started to move towards her cousin to heed the disapparation before it happened, signalled by the tell-tale gunshot crack. Lily swore and swept around to glare at Scorpius, eyes narrowed and cheeks pink with fury.
“What the bloody hell did you do?”
“Nothing.” He repeated, unable to keep the irritability from his voice, “she just – she tried to kiss me, and I pulled away. That’s it.”
“That’s it?” Lily imitated, sourly, “oh, well, that’s just bloody brilliant. Why couldn’t you have just kissed her back?!”
“Kissed her back?! Merlin, Lily, I didn’t want to,” Scorpius replied, exasperatedly, “and even I had wanted to, I’d have been taking serious advantage of her.”
“Oh, come on, Scorpius. Like that’s ever stopped you before.”
“What are you on about?” He asked stupidly, although he had an idea about what she might say.
“The amount of times she broke up with someone and ended up in your bed,” Lily snarled. She was small but ferocious like a wolverine. He recoiled from her baring teeth as she continued, “it might’ve been four years since you left, and you might look very different, but you’re the same creep who pined after her throughout Hogwarts, who was always very conveniently there whenever her love-life took another turn. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find my cousin.”
She shoved past him and stormed back into the tent. He looked down at his cigarette, eyes burning like the tiny flame, and with a crack he was gone too.
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