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Hopeless Romantics

 

Ten years ago

Being intoxicated was not the enjoyable experience that Scorpius had been led to believe. The effects of the firewhiskey that James had stolen from his parents’ alcohol cabinet could be seen throughout the house - Albus was doing knee-skids across the living room hard-wood, Lily was shrieking into her grandfather’s karaoke machine in the dining room (it had been magically modified to critique the singers’ performance, and the camp, disembodied voice within was trying and failing to shout over her), and James’s older cousins Freddie and Dominique were dancing on the kitchen table, which was squeaking dangerously with their weight.

 

Scorpius, on the other hand, felt like he was going to be sick from the dizziness and his head felt all wrong, and his tongue was floppy, and he just wanted to go somewhere very quiet and sleep it all off. Also, he needed to get away from Albus’s younger cousin Lucy, who had been following him around even more than usual, and kept offering him drinks he was sure were laced with love potion.

 

He settled for the barnyard. It was far enough away that the sounds from the house were muffled to the occasional shout of laughter and the bass of the karaoke. The stables rose from the darkness of the seasonably chilly night, and hens clucked from their pens as Scorpius stumbled across the cobblestones, searching for a comfortable space he could collapse into. The barn was a welcome solitude from the cold, even if it smelt like horse dung and ancient straw, and he felt his way across the wall for a bale of hay he could melt into. His hands connected with something warm and fleshy, and his confused mind thought it would make a very good seat. The person to whom this warm flesh belonged didn’t seem to share this opinion; a very girlish shriek pierced the darkness, and all of a sudden Scorpius was flat on his back. Green light filled the barn.

 

“Scorpius, what’s the matter with you?!” Rose cried, retrieving her wand. She turned her head, but just before the bounce of her curls and a short sniffle, Scorpius spotted the glittery trail of tears on her cheeks.

 

“S-sorry, I… I didn’t mean to uspet you. Upstet. Ups… I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

 

 “I’d like to be left alone.” Rose muttered, grappling furiously at her tears with the sides of her palms. Ordinarily, Scorpius would have apologised profusely and shut the door behind him – but tonight he felt like he could say just about anything and there would be no consequences.

 

“Why?” he asked stubbornly, “it’s New Year’s Eve. You shouldn’t be alone on New Year’s Eve. Nobody should be alone on New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve is a time for family and new beginnings. I don’t have any family. You have lots of family. I had to get away from them actually, because I felt very strange, and sort-of like I might be sick, and sort of as if my limbs were falling off or at least ceasing to exist, also, there’s something very wrong with my tongue, like it might levitate away.”

 

Rose stared at him for a few seconds, dumbfounded. Then she started to laugh.

 

“How much have you had to drink?”

 

“Too much.” He said blankly, and this made Rose giggle even harder. He felt very confident. “Why’re you crying? It’s New Yea…”

 

“New Year’s Eve. I know,” she shot him a little smile that didn’t meet her eyes, and sat back down on the cold, hard concrete, back resting against the wall. He copied her, collapsing into place at her side, heart hammering with anticipation and drunkenness.

 

“So why’re you sad? You don’t need to be sad.”

 

She laughed, wearily, and rested her head into the side of the barn, closing her eyes to the comfort of it.

 

“I know. I don’t really know why I’m still so sad about it all.”

 

“About what?” he asked pleasantly, admiring how the wand-light reflected in the darkness of her eyes.

 

“Atticus.”

 

The name was still a gut punch to Scorpius, even though Rose had broken up with the burly sixth-year Gryffindor a month before. She must have seen a change in his features, because she suddenly sat up straight and said, calmly, “of course I don’t really care about him, I mean… he was an arse. I just keep thinking about what he said to me when I broke up with him, and…”

 

“What did he say?” Scorpius interrupted bravely, narrowing his eyes to combat the strange feelings of complete intoxication. Rose sighed.

 

“He…” Rose trailed off. She was trying to smile, but the tears overwhelmed her. She batted at them uselessly, “… he said that people only like me because of who my parents are. And it’s… it’s stupid to get this worked up over it, especially when at my age mum and dad and my uncle Harry had much worse to worry about… but it’s something I’ve panicked about ever since I started at Hogwarts, and… urgh, I hate that he can get to me like this, but… it’s true. The most interesting thing about me is the fact that I am a child of two-thirds of the famous golden trio.”

 

“Well, I think you’re the most interesting person I’ve ever met, and it has nothing to do with who your family are.” He said this carefully, which was difficult considering that his tongue was trying to run away again.

 

“That would be sincerer if you were sober.” Rose sniffed, with a grin.

 

“A sober heart speaks a drunk mind.” He said, very confidently.

 

“Oh, Scor,” Rose giggled, “that was very wrong, but I understand the sentiment. Thank you.”

 

Shouting from the house broke the silence around them – dozens of shrieking voices counting down from ten. Rose looked down at her watch.

 

“Midnight, in four… three… two… one…” Fireworks exploded from far off, but the eruption of cheers from Rose’s family was louder.

 

“Happy new year,” Scorpius said, happily.

 

“Happy new year, Scorpius.” She pulled herself to her feet and dusted off her dress, then held out a hand, “c’mon. We best get back inside.”

 

“People usually kiss on new year’s, don’t they?” He asked contemplatively, letting her pull him up.

 

Wow,” Rose chuckled, “Alcohol makes you very forward, doesn’t it?”

 

“No - no - I just - feel like your cousin Lucy might - use the excuse that it’s new year’s to - sort of - ambush my lips.”

 

“What would be so awful about that?” Rose giggled, wrapping an arm around his back to steady him as he stumbled with drunkenness.

 

“Well, I want my first kiss to be with someone I can actually stand.”

 

“Your first?” Rose paused in the doorway to the barn, “Scorpius, have you never kissed anyone before?”

 

“No.” He stumbled slightly, but Rose pulled him towards her more firmly and he grimaced at her. “It’s pathetic. Sixteen and never been kissed. I know.”

 

“No, it’s not,” she replied kindly. She looked at him, contemplatively, as the floating lanterns from the courtyard threw a halo of light around the brightness of his locks, “it’s just surprising. You’re lovely, Scor. Any girl would be lucky to kiss you.”

 

“You’re lovely too.” He blurted. She smiled at him, shyly. They were breathlessly close. He could see the thin veil of tears on her cheeks; he could probably count every freckle, if he had the time, or each thick curved lash around the almond of her eyes. There were centimetres, if that, between their lips – and that’s when his body made the unconscious decision to close the gap.

 

She didn’t pull away. His lips fit into the soft creases of hers, and they both found a rhythm, and, cautiously, he lifted his hands and rested his palms on the soft undersides of her jaw, wanting to capture every part and feeling of a moment he couldn’t bear to end…

 

Present day

Scorpius woke up in a pool of drool, uncomfortably cold and sticky on his lower cheek.

 

For a few delirious seconds, he didn’t know where he was, but the sun-light filtering dust through a thin crack in the curtains revealed his grand childhood room. Two large white columns split his bed chambers from his personal library, to large walls that were covered by bookcases that groaned beneath the weight of the thousands of volumes that had been Scorpius’s only friends as a child. His childhood prior to Hogwarts had been happy but very lonely.

He quickly realised that it was a light rapping at the door that had roused him. He opened it to reveal his father’s house elf, Tildy – and, for some reason, Monique Thomas. The manor, with its black chasmic corridors and empty soulless rooms, was no place for her beauty.

 

“Tildy much apologises for this intrusion, Mr Malfoy, sir, but Miss Thomas would not leave and insisted I bring her to you, sir. She says it’s a matter of life or death, sir.”

 

“Right,” Scorpius said quickly, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, “erm…”

 

“Can I come in?” Al’s fiancé interrupted. Without waiting for him to reply, she slipped past Scorpius into his room.

 

“Erm… it’s fine, Tildy,” Scorpius told the admonished house-elf, “thanks.”

 

She bowed and disappeared with a static crack. Scorpius turned back into his room. Monique had pulled back the curtains, to the protest of his eyes, and was in the process of making his bed, smoothing the silk emerald duvet and tucking it into his mattress.

 

“Sorry, but - do you mind telling me what you’re doing here, in my room, making my bed?” Scorpius asked lightly. Monique sat down on the freshly-made duvet and looked interestedly around his room.

 

“Do you mind telling me where you disappeared off to last night?”

 

The events of the previous night came flooding back. Scorpius grimaced at the memory.

 

“Well, it’s a bit… of a long story, erm…” he trailed off at Monique’s glare.

 

“Do you realise that we were going to throw a party to celebrate our engagement three months ago when Al first proposed? We ended up putting it off until yesterday – a week before the wedding - because Al wanted you to be there.”

 

“I… I didn’t know that.” Scorpius replied, biting his lip, guiltily.

 

“He hasn’t seen you for five years. It’s been very hard for him, because he’s closer to you than anyone else in the world. Has it been hard for you?” She asked in an accusatory tone.

 

“Yes, it has. Look – I get it. I shouldn’t have left without saying goodbye. I’m sorry.”

 

“I’m not the one you should be apologising to.” She snapped. “You need to make it up to him.”

 

“You’re right.” She was still glaring at him so he added, weakly, “I’ll  - take him for a drink tonight.”

 

“No, you won’t.”

 

“Okay. Well… what about tomorrow night?”

 

“Our wedding is in a week, Scorpius. Between final plans and preparations, family events, and the two days for our joint hen and stag getaway in the Lake District… why are you looking at me like that’s new information…?”

 

Scorpius quickly rearranged his features into something less resembling confusion, even though the fact that he’d agreed to join the bridal and groom party in a cabin in the arse end of nowhere for two days had completely slipped his mind.

 

“… between all of the other stuff we’ve got going on, do you seriously think Albus has time to bugger off to the pub with you?”

 

“Erm – no?”

 

“Is that a question or an answer?”

 

“Erm… answer?”

 

“Don’t think I won’t smack you. Because I will.” Monique snapped.

 

Scorpius didn’t doubt it. Monique was usually easy-going and even-tempered, but when it came to fighting for the justice of those she loved, Scorpius wouldn’t have put anything past her. Although not particularly academic, she’d always been gifted with curses; Corbin McLaggen was probably still limping to this day after she hexed him for coming onto Rose and finding it difficult to take no for an answer, whilst she single-handedly took down three sixth-year Slytherins in her third year, because they’d jumped Scorpius and Albus in an unprovoked attack. If you got on Monique’s bad side, you were quite lucky to be able to stay alive to tell the tale. That was why Scorpius quickly closed his mouth and nodded vigorously at nothing in particular.

 

“Tonight it’s Louis’ birthday party. You’re coming.”

 

Scorpius fought the urge to groan. Louis Weasley was a dangerous combination of handsome and hipster. It meant that people listened when he spouted off about bullshit super potions and the carbon footprint of apparation. The party would be full of scary-looking models and painfully thin girls hanging onto him in adoration. It was Scorpius’s idea of hell. But he’d take it over whatever punishment he’d receive from Monique if he didn’t go. And he did owe Albus.

 

“Fine.”

 

Monique pursed her lips.

 

“Settled. I’ll tell Albus you’ll be there. He’ll be thrilled. He’ll need the support - you know how much he can’t stand Louis.”

 

“Him and me both.” Scorpius said, under his breath. Monique stood up and considered him for a few seconds. He flinched in expectation of a jibe or hex, but it never came – in fact, Monique did something remarkable. She grinned.

 

“For what it’s worth, Scor – I really, really hope it works out this time.”

 

He stared at her, blankly, but she obviously knew something he didn’t, because her smile was very meaningful.

 

“Am I missing something?” he asked, hesitantly. Monique rolled her eyes, but her grin didn't shift.

 

“Oh come off it, Scorpius. Yours and Rose’s little disappearing act last night wasn’t exactly conspicuous, was it?”

 

“No - we didn’t – that wasn’t…”

 

“You really didn’t waste any time getting reacquainted with each other, did you?”

 

“No, Rose and I – that’s not what happened,” he said desperately, “we argued a bit, I guess – then she disapparated, and Lily – Lily blamed me for it, and – I disapparated, too.”

 

“Oh.” She looked a bit disheartened. “Well. I’m sure it’ll happen for you. I mean – you spent all your years at Hogwarts hopelessly in love with her, and you tried to stop her wedding. Then when she married Teddy anyway, you were so heartbroken that you left… and now she’s divorced, and you’re single, so…”

 

 He let out a short, sad laugh and shook his head desperately.

 

“Not happening, Monique.”

 

“Why not?!”

 

“Because…” he sighed, “the day Rose married Teddy was a turning point for me, because it was the day I stopped believing that we were ever meant to be together.”

 

“Scorpius, she was getting married. You couldn’t really have expected her to run away from the altar with you – that might happen in those romantic muggle films you used to love so much, but it’s not exactly realistic, is it?”

 

“Yes, well, it wasn’t just Teddy she chose, alright? Time and time again, she picked someone else over me - and I was always there when it failed – I was always available. She took advantage of that, and I can’t blame her for it because she was vulnerable, and I was such an easy form of comfort – but I won’t make that mistake again. I can’t, Monique.”

 

“Don’t you think Rose might’ve been the one making mistakes?” Monique asked, “I mean, I love her to bits, she’s my best friend in the whole world, and she’s a brilliant witch and just as intelligent as her mother, but when it comes to romance, she just doesn’t tend to think with her head. But she deserves someone who won’t break her heart.”

 

“And don’t I?”

 

Monique paused in the doorway without turning.

 

“I suppose. I just think you could be good together.” She considered.

 

“I don’t think I’m good for anyone. And Rose is certainly no good for me.”

 

“I don’t think that’s true. I know that hopeless romantic I knew at Hogwarts is still in there somewhere.”

 

“If by hopeless romantic you mean hopeless at romance, then yes, you’re probably right.” Scorpius grimaced.

 

*

 

“Al-buss S-ever-russ Potter,” Arlo told his reflection as he straightened his tie in the mirror that night, “Al-buss. Al…”

 

The day had gone without any major bumps in the road, even if Rose’s parents evidently didn’t believe that Arlo was her real boyfriend. Rose had told them that Arlo only performed magic when absolutely necessary and, when Hugo and dad asked him if he wanted to play quidditch with them in the orchard, she announced that he’d had a really nasty accident involving skinned testicles and was sworn off the sport – and they had said nothing else on the matter.

“Don’t put so much emphasis on the bus and the rus,” Rose replied casually, patting at her unruly curls in a vain attempt to control them. Arlo sighed heavily and flopped down on the bed beside her.

 

“It’s no use. Albus is a terrible enough name, without the Severus. His mother must have had a really difficult pregnancy or something, to call him something so awful.”

 

Merlin,” Rose hissed, eyes darting around the room as if it was bugged, “don’t go saying stuff like that around the family, okay? Al is named after Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape, two great wizards who ultimately both died for my Uncle Harry. It’s stuff like this you need to know, because if you went around insulting wizards like that you’d completely alienate yourself…”

 

“I might be a muggle,” Arlo interrupted derisively, folding his arms tightly across his stomach and furrowing his brows, “but that doesn’t mean I’m socially backwards. And you didn’t even tell me about Albus and Severus until just now, so how was I supposed to know?”

 

Merlin. He actually had a point. There was so much he didn’t know. Could they really, honestly pull this off? Could they really fool some of the cleverest witches and wizards of their age into thinking a man – and one who probably didn’t even know what a niffler was – could be a wizard?

 

Shit. Shit. Shit

 

“Are you okay?” Arlo asked nervously, as Rose paced the room. She suddenly felt very hot. Of course they couldn’t do this.

 

“We have to call the whole thing off,” Rose said desperately, fanning herself with her hand, “it isn’t going to work.”

 

“What? Rose, you said so yourself – this is what I’m good at, I’m an actor…”

 

“That doesn’t matter!” She cried, running a hand through her wild locks, “it doesn’t matter if you can act, you don’t know enough, I mean… how are you going to keep up with general conversation when… oh Merlin, oh…”

 

Rose shook her head worriedly, threw herself across her bed and leaned her face over the side, trying to labour her breathing as Arlo stared on, bemused.

“We’ll say we had an argument. A really bad one. You… you cheated. Yes, yes, that’ll get me some sympathy, and…”

 

No.” Arlo said firmly, kneeling on the floor at the edge of the bed and clasping her wrists, “this is happening. You’re going take me out there, and you’re going to parade me around and make this Teddy rue the day he ever left you for your stupid cousin.”

 

“She is stupid,” Rose reasoned, narrowing her eyes into his wooded brown ones, “I just – do you think it’ll work? Do you think people will really believe you’re a wizard? Or that we’re together?”

 

The door creaked open as if on cue, and Rose’s mother peeked her head around the frame. Her eyes fell upon Rose, sat at the edge of the bed, and Arlo, kneeling before her, tenderly grasping her wrists and gazing up into her eyes. Hermione tried to hide her knowing smile but failed.

 

“Sorry for bursting in, I can see you’re having a bit of a moment…”

 

Rose snatched her wrists from Arlo.

 

“…I just wanted to let you know that we’re going to be leaving for Louis’ party a little bit later than planned. There’s been a bit of an incident at the shop – something to do with a pigmy puff and an engorgement charm – so your father’s had to go and sort it.”

 

Hermione rolled her eyes at Arlo as if to say you know how it is. Arlo nodded like he knew precisely what she was talking about. She looked from Arlo to Rose, and sighed happily.

 

“I’m so glad you’re on the mend, darling. I’ve been so worried about you. Thank you, Arlo,” she said, considering her fake sort-of son-in-law, “I finally feel like I might get my little girl back.”

 

She closed the door to before Rose could reply.

 

“Does that answer your question?” Arlo grinned.

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