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Winner Takes All by Violet Gryfindor
Chapter 5: Their Minds as Cold as Ice
Note - there are references toward the end of this to another story of mine, "Betray the Night". They're not no specific that you would need to read that story, but I'm warning you now, just in case the reference comes as a surprise. Enjoy the chapter!
chapter image by the_tofuubeaver.
Day One, cont’d
Their Minds as Cold as Ice
It was perhaps the most cliched line Rose had ever heard. The bastard. She ought to hex his arse off, consequences be damned. She supposed that Scorpius had meant to charm her with the words and smile, making butterflies flitter about her stomach. If anything, it produced the opposite effect.
“Really?” Her voice was more high-pitched than she’d intended. “You shouldn’t let people hear you say that. They might think you actually still have a thing for me.”
There was a slight twitch in his cheek, just below his eye.
“Friends can still greet each other, can’t they?”
He was standing too close for comfort. Too close for propriety, too, if that mattered. His smell filled her nostrils. It was mint, delicious, refreshing mint. But it was overdone, a hint too sweet, a touch too strong. It struck a cord with the bad side of her stomach.
“Friends, Scorpius? That’s an idea.”
Another twitch, this time below the other eye. She was getting to him, yes, and that pleased her. It gave her strength. Maybe even recklessness.
“Scorpius, dear– oh!”
Mrs. Malfoy returned after arranging things with Madam Malkin, balancing on her spiked heels with graceful precision. A handbag hung in the crook of her elbow; it was a grandiose thing of dragon skin and gold fixtures. Her robes were just as overpriced, expertly tailored to her hourglass figure. It was no small wonder that Mr. Malfoy went pale at any reference to money.
“Why, Rose! What a surprise!”
It was just like Mrs. Malfoy to speak in exclamations, but it was unwise to mark her as an shallow socialite. She hadn’t made it through the War on looks alone.
Rose brightened her smile. “Hello, Mrs. Malfoy. Hope you’re well.”
She noticed how Mrs. Malfoy’s eyes flickered between Rose and Scorpius, as though looking for signs of scandalous dealings. Those same eyes took in Rose’s appearance with care, making observations, but not jumping to conclusions.
“Yes, yes, most definitely. And you, Rose, how was your time abroad?”
It was as though Rose had taken the grande tour, not an apprenticeship in rural China.
“Very well, thanks. Educational.” Rose nodded, trying to appear enthused.
Mrs. Malfoy patted Rose on the shoulder. “Excellent, just excellent.” She turned to Scorpius, who had watched with affected disinterest, hands in pockets, just like his father always did. “Now, dear, we really do have to get going. It was wonderful to see you again, Rose.”
Scorpius held out a hand to Rose. The long, delicate fingers were unchanged. Still beautiful. Still aristocratic. Rose shuddered to think what he’d see in her hands, but all the same, she put one out to shake his. It was a friendly gesture.
She hated it.
Those same words, spoken in the same way, with that hint of enticement. It would have taken a second for Rose to whip out her wand and curse him to bits, but she stayed her hand. His voice brought back sweet and bitter memories. Their tastes mingled together, making her want him and reject him all at once.
Confused, she said nothing, only nodded in farewell.
They left, Scorpius looking back as he shut the shop’s door, eyes searching her face, seeking her response. Rose stared after him, her mouth a flat line, her eyes betraying all emotion. Hate. A fragmented desire. The knowledge that she still liked the sound of his voice, the way his eyes were like fingers across her skin....
So it was only a physical thing, then. That, she could deal with. It was the emotional baggage she hated.
Once, she had thought him the only one for her. Watching him until he disappeared down the alley, she wondered what had changed.
Then it hit her.
She had spoken to Scorpius Malfoy, the one she had, while still in China, vowed to strangle, murder, kill. And none of that had happened.
Nothing had happened at all.
How anti-climactic. No sparks had flown. No hexes, jinxes, or curses had been let loose, destroying all of Diagon Alley. Rose hadn’t even managed an insult.
The only person she could think of who’d be proud of her at this moment was Uncle Percy. Even Uncle Harry would have expected a bit more... oomph. Two years away had made her soft. In the old days, she’d never have let Scorpius Malfoy manipulate her so easily. (But you did once he was nice to you, an annoying little voice jibed.) If anything, she’d have punched him in the face, then and there, no excuses needed.
She sighed. Rose, Rose, Rose.
Oh yes, she would make it through the week.
Hiding out in the Burrow, gorging on Grandmum’s cooking and chasing after the gnomes. And all the while Scorpius and Lily would be preparing for their glorious wedding, surrounded by all their happy family, minus one Rose Minerva Weasley.
“Do you need help, miss?”
Rose turned to Madam Malkin, blinking.
The shop door opened again.
“You done, Rosie?”
Thank Merlin he hadn’t been there five minutes earlier.
“Not yet, Dad.”
She sounded breathless, exhausted.
Ron smiled at Madam Malkin in greeting. It turned into a frown when he turned his attention on Rose.
It was a rather obvious observation, but according to her mother, that was only to be expected from someone with the emotional range of a teaspoon.
“Just a little tired. That’s all.” She tried to smile, failed, then looked to Madam Malkin. “Sorry to have bothered you, ma’am. I’ll come back tomorrow.”
But the witch was already looking to the next customer.
“What about some ice cream? The sugar will help.”
His hands were already on her shoulders, steering her out of the shop.
~ * * * ~
After the ice cream sundae – the largest Fortescue’s could manage – Rose sorted herself back into a reasonable degree of sanity. She hadn’t dared tell her father who she’d seen, knowing that he wouldn’t take it well. Protecting him was nothing new. He needed a lot of that.
“Feeling any better, Rosie?”
Sometimes she wondered how much he was protecting her in return.
Rose nodded. “Thanks, Dad. They haven’t changed a bit, have they?”
“Not since the war.” He put down his spoon. “Reckon we could lick the bowls clean?”
“Merlin, Dad. What would Mum think to hear you say that?” But Rose was laughing, the tension pouring from her nerves. She felt like she could breathe again, Scorpius Malfoy out of sight and mostly out of mind.
Ron grinned, lifting the bowl with one hand. “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
Rose made a show of rolling her eyes, then collected her handbag before rising. She looked out into the alley while her father took the bowls up to the counter. A group of elderly witches passed by, clutching their bags as a group of Hogwarts students passed in the opposite direction, hurrying toward the Quidditch shop. Just like her cursed brother....
Speaking of which, she still had some shopping of her own to do. Going back to Madam Malkin’s was impossible now, not with the image of Scorpius’s face hanging in every corner, reflected in every mirror. The Apothecary sounded tempting, which was a pathetic admission. One would think she’d want a break from that sort of thing for a while. Oh well. She was like her mother in more ways than most imagined, never completely getting away from work.
The surprise came when her father pointed her toward Flourish and Blotts.
“Dad? Is something wrong with you?” Rose choked on the words.
Ron glanced her way, taking in the overly-wide eyes and dropped jaw of his daughter. The lines at the corners of his eyes softened a touch, a sideways smile creeping onto his face.
“Just something I want you to see. It’s in the window, so no reason to upset the universe with my appearance.” He pulled her up to the glass, pointing out a particular display of books.
Rose stared at the books, trying to figure out what was so important about them. It was something of a distraction, and she was perfectly willing to humour her father, if only to keep him in a good mood, just in case Scorpius did pop up again. That would be just like him, showing up right when he wasn’t wanted.
“This is his second book,” Ron was saying, believing that she actually knew what he was talking about. “The first was smaller, less copies made of it, too. But this one is even being sold in America.”
Each book was a small paperback, making Rose how much smaller the first book had been. Positively miniature. The cover was blue, and as soon as Rose saw the moon on it, she knew whose it was. Stupid of her to forget, but she hadn’t actually thought that he’d go ahead and publish a book, much less two.
The name was stamped across the bottom. T. R. Lupin. He’d called this one Moonlighting. Some sort of inside joke, she guessed. That’d always been his way.
“He said he wanted to be a poet.” The words fell flat, however much she wanted them to sound light, like she was happy about seeing this. “We all thought it a good laugh.”
She swallowed, avoiding her father’s eyes.
She could still remember that day. All the cousins gathered to celebrate her and Albus finishing school. For having so many cousins, they were the only two that had been in the same year at Hogwarts. Already married to Victoire, Teddy had sat in the corner, brooding, as usual. It wasn’t until he approached the others, who were by then giggly on Firewhiskey and other delights, and announced that he wanted to be a poet, that all of them bothered to pay him attention.
“Really, Ted, you must be kidding.” Victoire’s laugh was husky, unnaturally low for a woman’s. “When was the last time you even met a living poet?”
He’s shrugged, face expressionless. “There’s a gap in the market then.”
There had been more laughter then, Scorpius’s loudest of them all.
Nothing more had been said of it as long as Rose had remained in England.
Rose turned away from the glass, the image of the book still imprinted in her mind. So he’d done it. Good for him. The Weasley cousins were always successful in what they did. A charmed family, everyone said. And for the most part, they were right.
Getting bitter again, Rose. It was the nagging little voice, plying at her conscience again.
She stoically ignored it.
“Any other news I haven’t heard yet, Dad?”
There wasn’t much. Still no baby for Victoire. Still no husband for Nicky. Uncle Bill was down in Egypt. Uncle Charlie was still out in Romania, never coming home as often as he should. Ron blushed when he mentioned that his name was now on a Chocolate Frog card. Rose choked for real when hearing that. Like she needed her family to become more famous.
A flash of blond hair caught her eye. Her heart thumped against her chest, drumming in her ears without mercy.
No. No! Don’t let it be him. Not now, not again.
Ron touched her arm, brows creased. He repeated her name again.
Rose still watched the growing crowd of noon-time shoppers. The flash did not reappear.
She blinked and bit her lip. Fool. Now she was paranoid on top of everything else.
“Fine, I’m fine.” Her voice was too high. “Just thought I saw someone.”
Her father wasn’t among the top Aurors for nothing. “Him? It was him, wasn’t it?”
A name wasn’t even necessary.
“He was in Madam Malkin’s too, wasn’t he. Rose, you should have said something.”
He was getting angry now. Not at her. Perhaps he felt sorry for her.
Rose remained silent, trusting neither voice nor mind. She should not have been feeling so terrified of Scorpius’s presence. She didn’t even know that he was still in the alley, but the sight of that blond head had struck a cord. Talking with him earlier, seeing him again, it brought back everything, all that emotion, that feeling. Nothing, not even ice cream, could quell the flood of memory.
“He was there.”
Her voice emerged unbidden. She could not stop it from continuing.
“He was with his mother, getting fitted for the... the...” No that word could not be spoken. She passed it over, knowing that her father would understand. “We spoke. Then he left. It was nothing. Nothing at all.”
Ron placed a hand on her shoulder. The grip was tense, but not painful.
“I shouldn’t have left you alone, Rose. I’m sorry.”
The blond head had vanished into the crowd. Some of them smiled at Ron, his face a familiar one to those who still remembered the war. He did not see the smiles, his eyes still scanning every face for that of Scorpius Malfoy. If he ever got his hands on the filthy git....
“Dad, I’m twenty-two. I don’t need to be watched over all the time.”
Ron clamped his jaw shut, lips thin and eyes blazing. Rose knew what he wanted to say, what he would have said had they not been in public. She’d heard it all before when she was still a child, not able to go out alone or with friends because it was “too dangerous.” She was a child of the Golden Trio, a prime target for kidnapping or worse. Even now, with her parents at the top of the Ministry food chain, she wasn’t allowed a normal life. Anonymity could never be hers, no matter how much she desired it.
“Alright. I get it.” She shoved her hands in her pockets, glowering at the pavement. “But I don’t want to go back to the Burrow.” She was damned if she’d be stuck there for the whole week. As much as Grandmum’s cooking was a great temptation, she would not stand to be coddled and protected the whole time, hidden away like a black mark on the family name.
Ron still said nothing. Did he expect Scorpius to pop out and say hello? A Malfoy always knew when danger was about; he’d have scampered back home, clutching his mommy’s robes.
“Dad. Stop it. He’s gone.”
She should have stayed in China, where there was no drama, only work.
This was only the first day of being back home, and already everything was falling apart. Scorpius was clearly up to something, and it bothered her to no end, even the point that hysteria kicked in when he appeared. Her family – seemingly in its entirety – was out to protect her, becoming equally hysterical when something happened.
When was the next flight back to China?
“Your Mum’s waiting for us at the Ministry.” Ron’s voice penetrated her racing thoughts. “For lunch. Just the four of us.”
Oh Merlin, no. That meant sitting across from Hugo as he complained about every aspect of his food. Picky spoiled little brat. The only good thing about sitting across from him was that he was within kicking range.
Ron glanced her way. “And no arguing with your brother. You two should be beyond this stuff by now.” His voice had hardened, the result of being too long married to Hermione Granger.
“Like it is with you and Uncle Percy?” Rose muttered.
He sighed, shaking his head. Rose just caught his own little mutter before he turned away. “Just like your mother.”
And so Rose, the most imperfect combination of her very imperfect parents, followed him to the Floo gates, wondering if she should give into laughter or tears. Maybe both.
Could her visit home get any worse?
“Malfoy was there?” Her mother’s voice could pierce stone. “And he spoke to you?”
The implied question was really “and why didn’t you do anything about it?”
Hugo was failing to hide his smug smile, picking another pea out of his rice pilaf. A small pile of the green balls balanced precariously on the edge of his plate.
“Yes,” Rose managed to mumble. “He hasn’t changed.”
Hermione snorted. The noise startled the people at he next table; they stared at the Weasleys as though wondering how the management could ever allow such a family onto the premises.
“Malfoys never change.” The emphasis placed on this phrase put an end to all conversation for some time.
Hugo, of course, was the first to start speaking again, blissfully ignorant to the glowers of his parents and the kicking foot of his sister.
“The Cannons won again, you know. Knew they’d be good this year, since Wood joined them.” He had at least remembered to swallow before speaking.
Rose wanted to scream out “no one bloody well cares!” but resisted the temptation. She met her mother’s eyes across the table, trying to see if she could get that non-verbal communication thing down. Her parents managed it often enough. Hermione gazed back, anger still radiating from every fibre of her being. Yes, Ron had told her that Rose knew when the wedding was to take place. And that news had not been welcome at all.
Rose looked away, studying the weave of the tablecloth.
She would be getting another parent-to-child talk today. This time from her mother.
It was inevitable, if rare. When her parents had first confronted her about Scorpius, her mother had been the calm, reasonable one. A little miffed, yes, but she didn’t rant or rave like her father had, going red in the face and swearing in five languages. Those were the only foreign words he’d picked up over the years. Hermione had only winced at his poor pronunciation and looked rather sad. Disappointed, that’s all.
That’s all, ha! Rose had suffered under the shadow of that disappointment for years. Silently. Never letting a soul know that she actually wanted to live up to her mother’s expectations, however much she knew that was impossible. Well, not impossible. More like unattainable. Rose could have done it if she’d tried.
And trying by stepping out with someone like Scorpius Malfoy didn’t count.
If anything, it’d given her negative points.
Rose braced herself for the oncoming mother-daughter chat.
Her finger tapped against the table, then her glass, then picked up the fork and tapped that against the plate. It seemed that her hands had a mind of their own.
It was then that Rose realised she was definitely and most assuredly insane.
Scorpius Malfoy wasn’t worth being locked up in St. Mungo’s with Gilderoy Lockhart.
“I saw Harry today.” Her mother’s voice rang out in the silence. After a short pause, Hermione lowered the volume. “He wants to talk with you before seeing Lily, Rose.”
Rose nodded dumbly, dropping the fork in lieu of a response.
“Forming a battle plan, eh, Hermione?” Her father actually sounded amused, but if he said those dreaded words... “Just like the old days.”
Hades, so he said them anyway. The last thing she needed her parents to do was start talking about those old days again. They were filled with adventure, when the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad (including anyone by the name of Malfoy). Her parents would conveniently forget (with some effort) that those old days had also been filled with betrayal, death, destruction, and a whole lot of heartbreak.
It was starting to sound like Rose’s life right now.
Except for the death thing, that is. Though that was coming.
“All done, miss?”
The waiter was hovering. She hated it when they hovered like that. Looking down at her plate, she noticed that only half of it had been eaten (by her? She couldn’t be sure). She couldn’t taste it in her mouth. Hugo must have been nicking bits under their parents’ noses.
She knew exactly how the coming scene would play out. Her father would say something and then leave with Hugo, perhaps with a bribe to visit Quality Quidditch Supplies or catch up with other Cannons fans at the Leaky Cauldron. That would leave Rose in the clutching grasp of her mother. There would be no escape.
“Hugo, what about taking ourselves off to the Leaky? Somersby said he’d be there.”
Boys and their broomsticks.
Rose rolled her eyes. Hugo kicked her under the table.
“That leaves you and me, Rose.” Hermione was smiling. A terrifying thing to behold.
“Great.” Rose’s enthusiasm failed.
She could, in a way, control her father. Control wasn’t the most accurate way of putting it, but Rose could gauge his reactions, could see what he would say before he said it. He didn’t surprise her. He didn’t think too fast for her. Hermione, however, was a genius, still the brightest witch of her age, and no one could ever forget it. She would know what Rose was thinking before Rose knew it herself.
Rose had always been in awe of her mother.
They left the restaurant side-by-side, walking in an indeterminate direction through the streets of London. The movement made discussion easier; they wouldn’t need to look at one another unless they chose to do so.
“Do you still like him, Rose? Is that the problem?”
Rose had not expected her to be so blunt about it. They had crossed two streets before Rose was able to answer.
“I don’t know, Mum. I think that’s the problem.”
Hermione adjusted the hem of her jumper. “You believed that he would wait for you to return, then?”
It wasn’t so much the phrasing of the question as the way it was spoken that bothered Rose. It questioned her naivety, her innocence in believing that Scorpius would wait, that he was capable of waiting, that he loved her that much in return. Rose remembered her mother’s first question to her on the day she’d found out about Rose’s relationship with Scorpius.
“Are you sure that he loves you?”
There had been no question that Rose loved him at the time, or that she had felt what she perceived to be the state of being in love, whatever that meant. The question had been, rather, whether a Malfoy could ever give any love in return.
So now, on this random street corner, her mother posed the same question, using different words. But it did mean the same thing, in the end.
“I wished for it. It was something to...” To what? Keep her warm at night while shivering to death among the highest peaks on the planet? Keep her sane while spending endless days mixing medicines and cordials? If not that, then what?
Hermione sidestepped a woman pushing an oversized pram.
“We all need something to believe in.”
Rose looked at her mother. The sound of her voice had sounded so strange.
But then it was gone, soon as it had come.
“Things could go very wrong if you keep meeting him like that.” Hermione’s voice had gone deadly serious, the type that couldn’t be reckoned with. “Enough accidents, and people will start to think them planned meetings. Assignations.”
Rose hadn’t thought of that.
“They probably think that already, Mum. With me coming back and all.”
Hermione stared straight ahead, watching the traffic signal with decided attention.
“Yes, there has been talk. But there always is.”
Before Rose could think of a suitable reply, Hermione had continued. “There is something I needed to tell you, Rose. Your father doesn’t know everything that I’m going to say. Understand?”
Rose’s breath caught in her throat. Her mother was going to trust her with something big. That surely meant something, something good.
“Do you remember that summer you went to visit Aunt Luna and the twins? They were only infants then.” They had come to a park, a large expanse of trees and lawn and conveniently placed benches. Hermione pushed ahead, ignoring these latter objects. “I was called out on a case, a dead house elf.”
It was the same case Albus had referred to in his letter: Was it because your mum helped him with that house elf problem? The solution had fuelled Hermione’s career, made house elf rights the biggest news of the year.
And all of it had taken place at Malfoy Manor.
“I remember, Mum. But you don’t–”
Rose thought that she knew the whole story.
“No, please. Let me continue.”
The clouds were moving in. Rain was a likely result.
Hermione took a deep breath. Rose braced for impact.
“Malfoy – the elder, Draco – was quarantined in the Manor with me. It was horrible, as you can guess.” Hermione tried a smile. Failed. Then went on. “But something happened between us. The stress of things, the situation....”
Oh Merlin. Her mother wasn’t actually admitting to this, was she? Mr. Malfoy and her? It was... no... just no....
“It was over with quickly, and we went our separate ways.” Hermione’s voice was weakening, her breathing becoming more ragged. Rose wanted to reach out, touch her shoulder, offer some measure of comfort, but her mother wouldn’t want that. She wouldn’t want anyone to see that she, too, could suffer.
“When we heard that you and Scorpius were.... were together, we were all surprised. Part of me wondered if it was the same thing that had gone on with Draco and I, that you were both going through a phase.” She paused, looking out into the park, eyes narrowed. “I went to speak with him. Alone. I was worried, and he... he wouldn’t say anything at all.”
This time, Hermione paused for so long that Rose had to prompt her to continue.
“It’s starting to rain, Mum.”
Hermione glanced upward, eyes widening at the sight of the sprinkling rain.
They started walking toward the closest underground station.
“He denied everything, said it had meant nothing. He had gone cold. I shouldn’t have been surprised, really, knowing who he is, what his family did to me, everyone, during the war. But maybe I was like you. Maybe I thought that he might have changed.”
What was it Albus had said in his letter? Something about Mr. Malfoy claiming that Scorpius’s choice of Rose had been more honourable? Perhaps her mother was wrong. Perhaps Mr. Malfoy had cared after all.
But what did that mean for her and Scorpius? Just because the father could change didn’t mean that the son could. Everyone said that Scorpius was more like Lucius than Draco, that Scorpius was a pureblood of the old school, as cunning and selfish as they came. Even Rose liked Mr. Malfoy better. He was a little softer, more lenient. He had been through horrible things, just like her mother. He knew what it was like to lose everything.
But she wouldn’t say any of this to her mother. Hermione would never believe her. It was better for them all, for their family, that Hermione didn’t believe her.
What would her father say to this? To his wife’s infidelity? Was it at all possible that such a thing could have happened, that her own mother and Mr. Malfoy....?
No, no. Don’t think of that, Rose. It was painful, unhealthy. A thorn in all their sides.
Scorpius did not know. Of that, Rose could be certain. As honest and forthcoming as her mother was, she knew that Mr. Malfoy would not have done the same for his own son. His ignorance would keep him safe. But Rose could never look at him the same again.
“When I saw you with Scorpius, I saw myself with Draco. Rose, whatever you do. Be careful. Don’t be like me.”
Hermione swallowed, seemingly awaiting her daughter’s judgement. How long had she kept this hidden? Did anyone else know?
Rose reached out a timid hand to her mother’s shoulder. When Hermione looked toward her, she smiled. A real, unforced smile. After a moment, a moment of eternity and beyond, Hermione smiled back, and Rose realised that, in her mother, she would have the most loyal and courageous of allies.
Arms linked, mother and daughter went down the steps to the underground, hair drenched, clothes soggy. But together, they could face any Malfoy and send him to Hades.
This should be the only major mention of Dramione, so if you hate the ship, don't worry, it won't be coming back except in the remotest of references. I needed something to work into the plot with Hermione, and this seemed the best risk to take (and it is a big risk, I know).