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Chapter 10: Rules Must Be Obeyed
chapter image by Antiquity
The Final Day
Rules Must Be Obeyed
It was perhaps the most reeling moment of her life. Nothing before could quite measure up to it. She knew it couldn’t be blamed on her head, not now, yet she had to pinch her arm to make sure that it was all very real.
And it was.
Teddy Lupin had been right there. Her hand touched the place on the floor still warm from him. Strange, it was. Very strange. She wasn’t exactly sure how it had happened, what had actually happened, and how it had ended. It was a dream, but not a dream, and she wanted... she wanted– what?
Rubbing her forehead, she set aside the ice and tried to put the stool to rights. It worked after a particularly long battle and she pushed herself off the ground to perch upon it, leaning over Teddy’s desk, head in hands.
Things only seemed to get worse and worse, didn’t they?
She would go away, return to the place where she belonged. Yes, she didn’t belong in England any longer. All her family, all her old friends, they couldn’t fix things. They were only good at making them worse, from what she’d seen so far. It was time to admit that coming back was a mistake – the understatement of the century – and that she was flying back as soon as possible. She liked the sound of that. Very assertive.
Eyes closed, brain focussed entirely on this single train of thought, it was very easy for Rose to imagine herself stepping off the plane onto Chinese soil, taking in the different feel of the air, the smell of spices, the buildings, the people, the very world these things created, so very disparate from her own.
No, wait. It was her own.
A smile came to her lips.
At the very least, the tea was better there.
When she at last looked up, her head cleared of its residual fuzz, she wondered where Teddy could have gone. Not back into the garden, surely? With no noise to guide her and no fragment of him visible through the window, she could only suppose that he had wandered off, horrified, disgusted that he had almost gotten himself into a situation with his ex-wife’s cousin.
Horrified and disgusted did seem like the best words to describe what Rose knew he had to be feeling right then. It was easy for her to believe.
Teddy was always a distant presence in her life, the oldest of them who was rather too quiet and reserved for someone of his age, preferring books to Quidditch, daydreaming to reenacting the great battles with whatever sticks they could find near the Burrow. She remembered how she loved to write letters to him even if he was only living a few miles away, then in London, but she’d stopped eventually. She couldn’t remember why. Then, of course he’d been off for France before she got into that stage of life, the best worst stage.
It seemed that she still wasn’t out of the stage yet, as much as she thought she should be, because there was one question on her mind, and it had nothing to do with where Teddy had taken himself off to.
What would it have been like to kiss Teddy Lupin?
He would probably be good at it. After all, he was a poet. She had this idea that poets, because they wrote about love all the time, had to be good lovers themselves. It had to all come from experience, right? His appearance had very little to do with it, and that wasn’t that bad anyway. He did have the power to change it at will, which had to be a handy thing.
But to actually kiss him and deal with all the consequences thereafter?
Not so much.
Probably a good time to go.
As she moved to rise, her hand slipped across his desk, shifting his already messy piles of parchments and papers into greater disarray. She glanced down at them, perhaps with the hope that she could put them back into some semblance of how they’ been before. That would be a nice thing to do for him, she thought, to make up for... earlier.
Something caught her eye. Large loopy script on thick creamy paper, leaves and flowers painted on the margins, overdone and hideous, but it was the words that her eyes followed, and she could almost imagine that she’d hit her head a little too hard.
It was something she should not have seen.
Perhaps that’s what hurt most.
You are invited to the wedding of
Lily Luna Potter and Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy
And after the location, date and time, it just had to say one more thing, the thing that threw Rose over the edge.
Join us in our grand celebration of love.
If there was one thing that Rose Weasley could not control within herself, it was her temper, a passionate flare that made her the colour of her name and just as thorny, too.
It was one of those painfully soppy things that people put on their wedding invitations and, later, in their photo albums, exaggerating the romantic fairy tale aspects of their marriages to hide the fact that, underneath, they were anything but happily ever after. It was the very sort of thing that Rose couldn’t stand because she could see the hypocrisy of it. She could look at her parents, at all the married couples she knew, especially her own parents, and she could see how idiotic such a statement really was.
The invitation crumbled in her hand, her fingers squeezing the life out of it.
She wanted to see it happen. Speaking of idiotic, but it was true. She wanted to see them bound together in marriage, each trapped with the other, one believing it was true love, the other doing it to prove a point. And she would make sure that it did indeed happen.
To see them married would be the ultimate revenge.
It was Rose, but also not Rose. She was not one to have an cruel smile lifting the corners of her mouth, and when one really thought about it, she wasn’t being particularly cruel at this moment. Gone were the plans of sabotaging Scorpius and Lily’s marriage, preventing that catastrophe from actually occurring. No, she could not bear the thought of stopping it now.
Something else was also gone, this time from Rose’s heart.
Perhaps it was the physical proximity to another man. Perhaps it was her anguish this long and trying week. Perhaps it was another thing. But Rose knew something now, something terrible and brilliant.
It was, however, something that could only be spoken aloud to one person, and one person alone, for his ears only.
The invitation still in her hand, she went to the last place anyone would expect her to go.
~ * * * ~
Her emotional response was already waning when she landed on the doorstep of 9 Charnel Road, Godric’s Hollow, rubbing her knee where it had come in contact with the middle step. She swore as she struggled to extricate her key from the inner pocket of her jacket. She’d given up the whole purse/bag thing ages ago, likely due to Albus’s influence.
The door opened and she winced, half-expecting her dad or mum to come rushing out, arms spread wide to envelop her in an enthusiastic parental embrace, admonishing her all the while. But nothing happened. No one was home.
She let out a breath, and wondered just what she meant to do here. Her luggage was still all at the Burrow, leaving only the oldest and nicest clothes here, which suited her. Food was possible, though it wouldn’t be hot and wholesome, but that was fine enough. She looked at the new wallpaper and the old mirror, hating the former and admiring the latter. Likely her mother lugged in the mirror from some antique shop in London while her father had closed his eyes and put his finger down on whatever wallpaper samples mother had placed before him.
Yes, that would be exactly it.
There was a loaf of bread in the kitchen, stale but not yet mouldy, and she slapped some hazelnut spread on it before making her way up the stairs, the snack in one hand and a bottle of butterbeer in the other. Her knee smarted, as did her head, more than she could ignore, but she stubbornly refused to give her hurts the attention they clamoured for, preferring to munch and swig on what would end up being the most exciting meal of her day.
Her bedroom hadn’t changed at all except for the persistent layer of dust that had settled on everything. At least it assured her that Hugo hadn’t taken anything recently, if he was still living at home at all.
Taking the last bite of the makeshift sandwich, Rose set down the half-empty butterbeer and threw open the doors of her wardrobe, sneezing as a cloud of dust exploded in her face. There weren’t any moths, but it meant that everything now smelt like that moth repelling potion her mother would make in the kitchen, stinking up the whole house. It was certainly stinking up Rose’s clothes now.
In the furthest corner of the wardrobe was a set of robes wrapped in plastic. Silky and blue, the deep blue of the midnight sky, they were an extravagance, something she had worn once and thought never to wear again. They weren’t her style at all, but for her new purpose, they could not be more suitable.
The plastic pushed back, Rose ran a finger along one embroidered seam, the delicate swirls and leaves of the pattern the same colour as the fabric, visible only in the light, or when one touched it.
The one time she had worn it–
“What are you doing here?”
Rose stepped back, dropping the dress in a heap on the floor.
The figure in the doorway laughed. “Obviously. Everyone’s looking for you, unless that’s why you came here.” Her brother crossed his arms. “You wouldn’t otherwise.”
“Don’t you have some match to be at?” Rose bent down to rescue the now-creased garment. “I could say the same thing about you never being here.”
Hugo shrugged. “It was easier to stay when you weren’t around.”
She made a face at him, smoothing out the dress in vain. “Thanks.”
“Anytime.” He turned away. “I’ll let them know that you’re going to the wedding.”
The dress fell to the floor again. “You wouldn’t.”
Rose let out a very long breath, looking up at the ceiling as though in prayer.
“Okay. What do you want?”
Hugo was back again, eyes bright and lips upturned in a smile.
Sometimes, it could be very helpful to have a sibling. At other times, it could be the greatest curse ever inflicted on a human being. The latter was more often the case for Rose, who often believed that she was related to the laziest, most malicious brother on the face of the planet. He had his mother’s mind in a very strange, backward sort of way, a gifted strategist on the Quidditch pitch and a scheming villain in his spare time.
Well, perhaps not a villain. Scorpius better fit that description.
Some moments later, the house now containing only one occupant, Rose lay on her bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering why she had sold her soul to her brother, but pleased that she was now, her mind clear and rational, able to view Scorpius as something very unpleasant and entirely unmarked by romance. She did not like villains.
It was far better than thinking about what Hugo had asked her to do.
She closed her eyes, the week’s events taking their toll, only meaning to take a short rest.
The clouds closed in over the countryside, dark and threatening a shower. The sun made attempts to penetrate the shadows and rising fog, turning the clouds to gold, but a fine mist obscured the ground.
A beam of light hit her window, then vanished again. Time passed.
It did not take Rose long to dress and fix her hair, the short bob transformed into electrified red curls. She wore no jewelery; the dress robes required no adornment. The invitation lay on the table and she checked once more before shutting her eyes and apparating to the correct location, a drizzling rain spotting her face. It was cool, cleansing. She shook her head, the curls bouncing, and she saw herself reflected in the window glass of surrounding buildings, a vision.
When she entered the correct address, she could see Scorpius and Lily framed in candlelight, their vows heavy in the air, the audience around them revealing mixed expressions of amazement and joy, their eyes shadowed.
Rose stood in the doorway, shrouded in mist. She blinked, her eyes adjusting to the clarity of the room. No one took notice of her, their eyes remaining on the happy couple, their faces beaming, glowing in the day’s waning light. The bride’s hair was a bloodstain streaming down the snowy dress robes, lacy and bejeweled. He, however, was in mourning black, hair a startled gold set off by the candles, the last ray of sun. Rose knew the lines of his shoulders and the way his hair would settle in that particular way. How hard not to admire–
A little crackle of thunder echoed around her.
When the couple at last turned, hands joined, Rose saw their faces, and–
“What are you doing here?”
She heard the voice as though from a great distance, and it surprised her to hear the sound of it, now alien to her ears. The mist obscured her vision, hiding the speaker, hiding all things from view. There was a breeze, his breath, and the mist dispersed.
It had all been real. Perhaps.
Either that or she’d had one of those memory lapses. She was in those dress robes. She was in an unknown place. She could hear it raining outside. She could see him in front of her, the first and last person she wanted to see.
He was standing in front of her, but slightly off to one side, his head tilted at a slight angle as he gazed unblinkingly at her. His hair, that morning slicked-back, was beginning to curl over his forehead. His dress robes were still crisp and unblemished, the only relief from its impossible shade of black the stunning white shirt showing at his wrist and collar. From below the hem of his robes she could see that his shoes, while polished to jet, were scuffed on the inside of his feet. Much to his mother’s despair, he always walked with his feet too close together, and although he never fell, his shoes would show those marks.
It brought a little smile to her face. The memory that is. A memory of long times past, an adolescence that marked a greatly naive period in her life.
But all the same....
His cheekbones were well-defined, high and noble, his eyes looking out from over them, always with that half-amused, half-mocking expression that tantalised and irritated. Their grey colour, sometimes lighter, sometimes darker with a hint of blue, matched his choice of attire rather than his moods. He was still light-skinned. All he would get from the sun was a nasty burn, so he tended to stay out of the light, never going on trips to the south of France or even to the West Indies. He would rather remain in England under sunless dreary skies. But it made him seem more delicate, somehow, that paleness. Like a marble statue, perfectly smooth.
He was a good-looking wizard. She could never deny that.
“Why have you come here, Rose? It’s too late now.”
She blinked, raising a hand to rub one temple. How or why were as clear to her as they were to him.
“I don’t know. I was at home, then fell asleep.”
“So you sleepwalked here. Is that it?” He sounded increasingly annoyed, a tinge of red licking up his throat.
“That’s the only answer I can give.”
Scorpius narrowed his eyes, hands dangling at his sides.
When he didn’t answer right away, Rose looked at his hands. They were not like Teddy’s. They were too plain in contrast with the rest of Scorpius’ carved, moulded structure. Square palms. Square nails, almost too long for a male. Fingers of a medium length. But they were lily-white– oh–
“If you are merely here to stare at me like a fish, I shall go back to my wedding, thank you.” He whisked himself away, pulling at the handle of a large door, previously hidden in the shadows behind him.
He looked back, but his face was partially hidden in shadow.
“You’re too late, Rose.”
The door swung open and he vanished into the adjoining room. Rose did not at first follow, but continued to stare (but not open-mouthed. He had, of course, been exaggerating.) She hoped that he had also been exaggerating about that final, parting line, so perfectly suited to his dramatic personality.
What did bring her to the door, however, was an unexpected amount of noise. Yelling, to be exact. Raised voices, negative in tone, shooting through the door so that Rose could even identify the speakers.
“How... you... after all this....”
“... stop it! This isn’t the... or place.”
“It is, dammit.... Look at... so...”
She pushed hard on the, at first, unyielding door. Her arms hurt at its resistance, and she wondered whether Scorpius could have spelled it to keep her out, the uninvited guest, but her desperation to hear more clearly the voices of her parents and see just what trouble they were getting up to now.
When it at last flew open, no one noticed. They were all fixated on the dramatic scene taking place at one side of the giant room.
“Get away from her, Malfoy!”
But it wasn’t the younger Malfoy who was in question here, but the elder. He stood tall yet broken, his face in the light, looking eerily like Scorpius as Rose remembered him in the rose garden, now seemingly ages before. His hand had been outstretched, but was lowering, his hand clasping in on itself. Rose felt numb when she saw, through the shadows and fractured light, her father wearing his Ministry robes and her mother beside him, dressed the same. More uninvited guests crashing the party.
That was not the issue. Rose already knew that. What she did not know was how this altercation had begun and why exactly it was happening here. Now.
“It was a long time ago, Ron. It certainly doesn’t matter to him anymore.” Hermione was unflinching, her voice strained but unwavering.
“It does.” The growl came from Draco, not Ron (who seemed to agree, going by the look on his face).
Hermione shook her head, curls bouncing against her shoulders. “No, Malfoy, leave me alone.” Her hand was on Ron’s arm, nails digging into his robes. “We should never have come. She’s not here.”
She turned and, dragging Ron along, made for the nearest exit. Rose was glad that it was not the one she stood at, especially when Draco stepped forward as though to follow, his wife behind him, her eyes crackling, face tight.
Ron looked back first.
Rose held her breath. So, it seemed, did a lot of others in the room.
When Hermione turned, she had closed her eyes, lips pressed together in some ambiguous expression. She opened her eyes slowly, looking directly at Draco, and her expression changed, focussed itself, one could say. There was a softness in her eyes and a wistful twist to her lips, but only for a moment.
She did not look at her husband as she continued her way out of the room, but Rose had seen that expression and the one that had even more briefly followed. Pain. Sadness of the abject sort. It was a look that held Rose’s breath another second longer, her hand rising to her face, her heart shrinking.
The door closed behind them.
Still no one had seen Rose.
She slipped out of the room and stood in that shadowy anteroom, the acknowledgement of breath returning, the pangs of her heart feeling insignificant. What were her own pitiful feelings in comparison to that single look of pain on her mother’s face? It didn’t mean that her mother had loved Mr. Malfoy, only that he brought back the memory of something painful. Or that bringing back that memory itself was painful.
Rose could always hope for this to be true. It wasn’t as though she’d ever actually know.
Perhaps the more worrying factor was Mr. Malfoy’s behaviour. Her mother had told her – only a few days ago? Really? – that he had “gone cold” whatever that meant.
Like father, like son. Like mother, like daughter.
It was also time for her to go. It was a sign, that scene, like something from Divination class. She hadn’t been bad at that class, probably could have done better if she had bothered to like it, but that was not the point.
She had a funny feeling. A greatly uncomfortable kind of funny feeling.
The door was as difficult to open from this side as it was the other, making her heart beat a little too fast for her liking while her palms grew clammy, not making it any easier to open the door. The action of yanking on the door caught the eye of some in the room, but she remained in enough shadow to keep her identity hidden.
To most, that is.
It at last relented and she shot through, knowing that she couldn’t concentrate hard enough to apparate. So she would have to run, then. In these dress robes it would not be a successful venture, but it would be better than staying here.
The hallway was rather impossibly long.
He hardly had to raise his voice. She continued.
She did not want to stop.
It was more than a bit pathetic. She stopped at the end of the hallway right before the door to discover that he had only come through the door, but had not followed further. Just like him. But when she smirked, it lacked the proper assurance.
Well, at least she’d tried.
His smile held greater strength, visible from where Rose stood, some metres away. It seemed like no distance at all, which puzzled Rose until she realized that he, unlike herself, had apparated. He evidentially had maintained his concentration throughout the day’s events, the coldness in his heart prevailing, no nerve in his body quaking.
They were not far apart now, his head tilted as he gazed at her.
“My father can be inspiring at the rarest of moments.”
Rose was frozen in place, her eyes glued on his.
“Although I cannot applaud his choice of romantic attachment, I can prevent myself from making the same mistake.” He reached out to touch a stray lock of hair, a different kind of smile playing about his lips. It damn well took its time to fully appear.
She swallowed and took in a breath, attempting to ignore the electric shock pulsating through her wearied heart.
“You’re married, Scorpius. You’re the one who’s too late.”
His hand retracted and his jaw tightened. Rose was pleased with herself.
“Why could you not come sooner, Rose?”
He sounded genuinely disappointed, and for a moment, Rose felt how she should respond, how she should apologise and promise never to do it again, but that was not her, not her way of doing things. He, after all, was the idiot who had married her cousin even after multiple warnings from multiple, not to mention significant, individuals.
“I didn’t want to.” She braced for his reaction.
His smile softened. “I can’t believe that.”
This could not be happening. Instead of the caustically sarcastic response she had expected, Rose saw the most baffling expression cross his face, one so baffling that she couldn’t even begin to describe it, no matter how many times she would be asked about it in days to come. But that was not the important thing, here.
She caught herself in the beginnings of a long sigh, narrowing her eyes. The very thought of her actually succumbing to his vapid, manipulative lies was now disgusting to her. Love was not the issue. It hadn’t been for a very long time.
Though she wasn’t actually sure what the issue was anymore.
Another step forward, or so she could hope. She did not need to hesitate as she clenched her fists and stared him down. In these shoes, she could easily do so, another point for her pride.
“Really, Scorpius? If I remember correctly, you’re the one who’s just gotten married to the most dim-witted and vain witch in all of England!” She was sure that she wasn’t exaggerating. “I ask you to wait and look what you go do.”
She swept her arm wildly in the general direction of the wedding reception, then dropped it suddenly, her features drooping as her voice lowered.
“I can’t do thi–”
Her words were consumed by the mouth of Scorpius Malfoy that had planted itself upon hers without warning and without welcome.