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Whispering by magical words
Chapter 24: Chapter Twenty-four: Chance
AN: And so, after what felt like eons, I am back! Huzzah!
I know it has been a terribly long wait and I apologise. For one reason or another, I just didn't have the motivation to write. However, over my spring holiday, I found my muse again, I suppose. So, continue on for the long awaited chapter 24. :) One more chapter then the epilogue after this!
Enjoy! And don't forget to R & R!
simply marvelous image by BitterSweetFlames @ TDA
Chapter Twenty-four: Chance
The remainder of the weekend flew by and before they all knew it, Healer practicals were beginning.
Practicals, Rose believed, were going to be the death of her. True, she was more than prepared, but that didn't dissolve the anxiety she had. And Malena's insistence that she was "going to do fine" did not help in the least.
The first few days actually passed quickly. Before she knew it, it was Thursday, the day she had her first official date with Ben. She had seen him a handful of times throughout her practical shifts, but only in passing since he was also working. Rose hadn't thought of her date once, but once she signed out at St. Mungo's, it was all she remembered.
She was positively overwhelmed by the mere idea. She never liked the whole first date idea. When she was at Hogwarts, it was different. All the boys she dated she had known for ages. There was Zeb Smith, Devin Finnigan, Oliver Beiste, Jonah Thomas, and of course Scorpius. She had grown up with Devin and Jonah, went to school with Zeb since she was seven, known Oliver for years since he was good friends with James, and Scorpius had been one of her closest friends since she started Hogwarts. So naturally, she could skip through all the formalities the "first date" required.
But once she started dating when Healer training began, it was all formalities. Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What's your favourite Quidditch team? What made you go into the blank profession? What's your favourite colour? Blah blah blah. Rose hated that it was so tedious. Occasionally, she had been asked on a date with a guy who was really engaging and didn't make their formal first date conversion awkward and boring. But that was only occasionally.
So naturally, she was dreading this date with Ben.
In attempt to calm her nerves, she started getting ready early. Way too early in fact. She was dressed and prepared to leave almost an hour and a half before Ben was due to pick her up.
Therefore, she sat on the couch her small living room, wearing her dress and heels, a sweater and purse placed beside her casually. She just sat there and slowly, she felt her eyes closing.
She awoke to a pounding on her door, her hair a bit messy and her dress slightly rumpled.
"Bloody hell!" she cried realizing Ben must have arrived, before hurriedly straightening her appearance and rushing to the door. With one last sweep over her hair, Rose opened her door.
Ben stood in front of her, an assorted bouquet in hand.
"Good evening," he greeted her warmly. "You look lovely."
Rose said not a word, but blushed, accepting the flowers graciously.
"Please come in. I'll just put these in water and we can be on our way."
Smiling pleasantly, Rose rushed into her kitchen to find a vase, muttered an aguamenti and place the bouquet in it.
Rose hurried back to her date, grabbing her purse and sweater in the process.
"Ready?" he asked, his face breaking out into a smile.
Promptly, Rose replied, "Of course."
Ben offered his arm, his smile unwavering.
"Well off we go, milady," he said as Rose slipped her arm into his.
Rose giggled as her flat door closed behind her.
"So, where are you taking me tonight?"
"You don't want to ruin a surprise, do you?" Ben replied carefully, a laugh in his voice.
Turning her head, Rose looked at Ben and found what only could be described as a sneaky look stuck on his face.
Rose was anxious at the mere mention of "surprise," but she tried to hide it, and said, adding a little hint of amusement, "I'm extremely worried now."
Ben's smile widened as he chivalrously opened the door into the lobby of his date's building.
"I just want you to be prepared for a really great first date, Rose."
The moment they stepped outside the building, Ben Apparated them to their destination.
When Rose saw where they were, she nearly cried out it was so adorable.
She knew it was going to be a wonderful first date from start to finish. And it definitely lived up to the expectation, down to the very last second and they said goodbye.
As she shut her flat door after an amazing time, she leaned back against it and sighed contently. She brought her trembling fingers to her warm face and bit her lips, tasting a bit of wine.
"Well, it looks like you had a good night."
Jumping in fright and her heart lurching into her throat, Rose turned to the voice and saw her brother leaning casually against a wall.
"Merlin, Hugo. You don't scare people like that!"
"Come on, Ro-Ro. You didn't need to be so scared. Who would be in your flat on a Thursday night?"
"Well, for one, you shouldn't be here. You've got NEWTs to study for!"
"Where have you been? It's July. You went to my graduation two weekends ago. You saw I passed all my NEWTs and know that I just signed with the Cannons when Dad and Galvin retired."
Rose stepped out of her heels and went to sit down on her couch. She was kind of out of it.
"Mum and Dad asked me to check on you, make sure you weren't working yourself too hard. Seems that you're a bit overwhelmed and it looks like there's more than one reason," her brother commented, intrigued.
Wordlessly, Rose got up and headed into the kitchen, grabbing a bottle of wine and a glass. "Well, you got it in one."
As she settled back down, Hugo found a seat across from his sister. "Is that a wise decision, Ro?"
She looked at him blankly as she poured the cabernet.
"The wine and being overwhelmed," he clarified calmly.
Rose rolled her eyes. "I'm an adult and it's necessary after the week and night I've had."
"Then share, dear sister of mine. I've got nothing planned tonight. I'm dedicating my night to you."
With certain ease, he propped his feet up on the coffee table and laid back in his chair. Hugo looked at Rose expectantly as she swirled the wine in her glass before taking a sip.
She closed her eyes and savoured the taste, a flash of cool blue eyes and chocolate hair passed through her mind. Sighing contently, a small smile broke out on her face.
"I had a date tonight."
Rose opened her eyes, finding Hugo's gaze locked on her face.
"His name is Ben Marlow. He's a Healer and was one of my Healer Superiors during my training. We went on the most wonderful first date."
Hugo looked surprised, but pleased for his sister.
"He Apparated us to a rooftop, entirely lit up with floating candles. The view overlooked a beautiful lake and the sky was a gorgeous pink. There was a table for two underneath a huge arbor, flowers everywhere. Merlin, the view, the set-up, the mood it was absolutely stunning.
"Ben led us to our seats, holding the chair out for me before he took his seat like a proper gentleman. A house elf he hired for the evening brought us wine and we talked for ages. There was no awkwardness or the obligatory first-date nonsense talk. It was so natural. Dinner came and went I don't even remember what we had because the conversation was just so easy and so interesting. I didn't feel uncomfortable once.
"After we ate, I remember thinking to myself, 'This cannot get any better.' I was wrong. Dessert was delicious lemon chiffon cake; I remember that since I had to ask what it was. But it was once we were done that my previous thought was proved wrong. He asked me to dance.
"He asked me to dance Hugh! If that isn't the perfect moment of a perfect date, I have no idea what is. Throughout, he was gentlemanly, kind, and funny. He didn't stop smiling at all that night and I just wanted to know if no, when! he was going to kiss me.
"We danced so closely. He held me tightly, his hand on my lower back, the other holding my hand. Our clasped hands rested near our bodies and every so often, he would brush his lips across my knuckles. We danced beneath the stars and from the moment my hand slipped into his, I only wished he would kiss me.
"But the music ended and he pulled away from me. 'It's late,' he said. 'I should get you back so you're not too tired for Practicals in the morning.' I tried not to look crestfallen, but I really was. I can't remember the last time I wanted someone to kiss me so badly!
"So he Apparated me back and he graciously walked me back to my door. We exchanged pleasantries while I looked for my key. I unlocked the door, thanked him again for the wonderful night, and turned to open the door. Before my hand found the door handle, his hand caught my wrist, turning me to face him. His hands took hold of my face and his lips claimed mine. It sounds ridiculous, but they did claim mine. And it was glorious."
Rose grinned like a fool, staring into her now half-full wineglass.
Glancing up shyly at her brother, she continued, "And then you know what happened after that since you scared the bleeding hell out of me."
Hugo didn't say anything for a while. He silently reviewed his sister's story, and while he wasn't thrilled she had just opened up to him like she would Cecelia or Malena, he was thrilled to see her happy.
"Are you going to go out with him again?"
"Next Tuesday," Rose answered promptly.
Hugo was stoic. Then he jumped up and laughed freely.
"Well, Ro-Ro, have some fun with Healer Ben. Kick ass at St. Mungo's tomorrow. I've got practice bright and early, so I've got to get going."
Rose set down her nearly empty cabernet glass and hugged her baby brother.
"Love you, Hugo."
"Love you too, Rose. And I seriously mean have fun. Sounds like he's a nice guy. Maybe he'll get far enough to bring home, eh?"
Hugo smiled and pressed a kissed on Rose's forehead as she chuckled.
"Maybe. But don't jinx me. We've only been on one date."
"Okay, Rose," Hugo conceded, giving his sister another squeeze.
He smiled at his big sister as he stepped away toward the fireplace.
"See you," he called, grabbing a handful of Floo powder.
In a moment he was gone.
Rose grabbed the wine bottle and her glass, quickly finishing off her drink. Putting everything away, she suddenly felt extremely tired.
Her bed called to her. After climbing in, she fell soundly asleep the second her head touched her pillow.
The remaining days of her Practicals sped by. While Rose worked hard during her shifts, she and Ben managed to find time to be together. They squeezed in a few other dates that week before Tuesday's scheduled one. (Ben had declared they needed to fit in another one before that. Rose couldn't help but agree.)
Saturday, during a rare break, Rose asked Ben along to a brief ice cream date in Diagon Alley. It was a sweet treat and even sweeter when Ben gave her a long kiss before he left to return to work and she to her assigned ward to complete the remainder of her third and final, eight and a half hour Practical in the spell damage ward. It was exactly the encouragement she needed to finish up the day.
Tuesday night was their next date, although since Saturday, they saw each other a fair amount. Ben planned a Muggle-themed date, heading to dinner and a movie. They left half-way through heading back to Rose's flat to make cookies and a mess.
More dates followed over the remainder two weeks of Rose's Practicals: walks through the park, dinners in Muggle restaurants, taking a late night rides on the Thames, and going to Salsa classes. By the end of Practicals, Rose was spending the majority of her free time with Ben and enjoying every moment of it. It was getting serious and Rose could not have been happier.
Before long, the Healer program came to an end and Rose was nervous beyond belief to receive her marks. She only had to wait until Sunday morning to receive them, but it was absolute torture. Whenever she was with Ben, she was tense because she knew he was part of the decision-making process. Repeatedly, he assured her that she didn't need to worry. And repeatedly, she failed to remember that the next time they were together (which was frequently over the weekend).
The day soon came and Rose sat at the kitchen table in her parents' home, waiting for the owl with her parents and Hugo.
At noon exactly, a regal-looking owl tapped on the kitchen window. Hermione pushed her daughter to retrieve the letter and hesitantly, Rose took it from the owl. As it flew away, Rose settled back down and stared at unopened letter.
"Go on Rosie," Hermione urged Rose.
Rose did nothing and it wasn't until Hermione was seconds from tearing the results from Rose's hands that Rose spoke.
"Hugo, here, read through it and let me down gently," Rose asked of her younger brother, thrusting her practical results into his hands. She shut her eyes tight, preparing herself for the worst.
Quickly, Hugo unsealed the envelope and pulled out the letter. His eyes scanned the parchment, his pupils getting larger the farther he read.
"Merlin!" he would exclaim every so often, making his mum, dad and sister very restless.
"For goodness sake's Hugo, I cannot take the suspense any longer!" Hermione cried, lurching forward to grab the results from him.
He pulled away from his mother's grasp to finish reading.
Rose tentatively opened one eye to look at Hugo, and bit her lip furiously, worry growing in the pit of her stomach.
"Merlin's bleeding beard! Rosie, you've passed everything with highest honours! Double O's in the catastrophe, creature-induced injuries, spell damage and Muggle wards. Plus, O's in magical bugs and the maternity wards! Oh fecking hell! You've even gotten an honorable mention in your surprise examination on the psychiatry ward. Your Superiors named you top of the class!"
"Oh sweet Merlin!" Hermione cried, throwing herself into her husband's arms.
"Woohoo!" Ron whooped.
Rose opened her eyes and just let out a great sigh as she was pulled into a family hug, where she was the center.
She never imagined she would do as well as she did, let alone be named top of the class. The program wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, and she worked her hardest. She only hoped she would get to share this accomplishment with Malena, who was most deserving of gettingher Healer's license.
"I have to see how Malena did and then tell Ben!"
Drawing herself away from her parents and brother, Rose reached for her wand on the table. Nearly out of the kitchen, Hermione called out to her.
"Rosie, do you think Ben would like to come over for dinner tonight to celebrate with us?" Hermione spoke softly, but Rose could hear the anticipation and the hope that she would be able to meet her daughter's new boyfriend.
Catching her mum's eye, Rose's mouth pulled into a gentle smile. "I'll ask him, Mum."
The way her Hermione's eyes lit up, Rose really hoped Ben was up to finally meeting her family.
"Don't worry Rosie. I won't be here tonight for dinner since I have a date with Emily. But tell the boyfriend I say hello," Hugo informed her, popping his head into the kitchen.
Rolling her eyes, she smiled. "Thanks for telling me, Hugh."
But all thoughts of Ben and her parents disappeared when she Flooed Malena.
"Malena?" Rose called out into the studio flat. "Lena, you here?"
Rose wandered further in, hearing suspicious sobbing.
Sitting in the middle of her living room, legs tucked under and head bowed, was Malena. She was sobbing, drenching the letter in her lap.
Rose rushed to her side, falling alongside her.
"Malena, what's wrong?"
She couldn't get a word in edgewise, seeing that her crying had become so violent that she couldn't speak.
Shaking, Malena handed Rose the letter as she curled up in the fetal positional.
Her eyes raced over the slightly blurry words.
"Lena, you passed! You're a Healer!" Rose exclaimed.
When her crying didn't stop, Rose got worried. "Why are you crying, hon? You have accomplished exactly what you wanted to!"
Slowly, Malena unfurled from her position on the floor, not bothering to wipe her face. Her sobs were diminishing, but puffy eyes, a pink blotchy face, and a crying-induced hiccough remained.
"I'm hiccough so hiccough happy hiccough!" she wailed.
Smiling, beyond thrilled for Malena, Rose said, "Well, now we can go look for an outfit for graduation."
Abruptly, Malena's hiccoughs stopped and her eyes searched for Rose's face. Malena looked shocked and didn't move for a few moments before she threw her arms around Rose and congratulated her.
"We get to be Healers together!"
Hugging tightly, the girls squealed excitedly.
"Oh Merlin, I have to see how Derek did!" Malena cried, remembering her boyfriend.
"And I have to let Ben know," Rose added. "Want to meet in two hours to search for graduation outfits?"
"Brilliant idea," Malena answered, giving Rose another small squeeze.
Each girl went their own way, Malena waited for Rose to Apparate to Ben's before heading to Derek's flat.
As she expected, Ben was extremely happy for Rose. She had cried it out ecstatically, before blurting out that her parents wanted to invite him for dinner. Of course, being the supportive and wonderful boyfriend he was, he accepted.
That night, after Rose returned from shopping, she went to see her boyfriend. Hr. Ben Marlow dressed nicely to impress Ron and Hermione Weasley. At first sight, they were pleased to see how put-together their daughter's boyfriend was and they were even more pleased to see how kind, intelligent, and courteous he was.
Dinner went wonderfully. Ben and Ron really hit it off, and Rose couldn't help but be reminded how Ron had never accepted any of her previous boyfriends, especially Scorpius. Hermione repeatedly whispered to her daughter about how pleased she was that Rose had found such a "fine young fellow."
Ben seamlessly joined any and all conversations. There was never an awkward pause where he sought for the right words or stumbled over any misspeak. In fact, Ben seemed to fill those gaps with amusing anecdotes and stunning wordplay that would make Rowena Ravenclaw herself hum with jealousy. When it came time for dessert, Rose feared her mother and father were going to start to fight her for Ben, they got along so swimmingly.
The night ended and Rose could see on her parents' faces they were sad to see Ben go. However, she promised them they could see more of him in the near future. Ben only reaffirmed this.
Ben gave Ron a strong handshake and Hermione a friendly hug, thanking them both for the wonderful meal and enjoyable company. Ron and Hermione couldn't help but blush, Ron turning a Weasley red and Hermione a graceful pink.
Rose kissed her parents goodbye before walking with Ben to the Apparition point.
"I think that went well," Ben stated, smiling as Rose slipped her fingers through his.
"Well? I think it went brilliantly, Ben. I feared my parents were going to fight me for you!" Rose laughed, her eyes twinkling.
Squeezing her hand gently, Ben let out a hearty laugh. "Regardless, I'm truly glad I came. I like your parents. They're very friendly and down to earth."
"What, did you expect two-thirds of the Golden Trio to be stiff, boring and snobbish?" Rose teased.
They had reached the edge of secure border around the Weasley property. Ben pulled Rose to him, pressing a kiss to her hairline.
"Of course not. They couldn't have such a brilliant, kind, and wonderful daughter unless they were so friendly and down to earth."
Rose smiled into the crook of her boyfriend's neck before gazing up at him through thick lashes.
Standing on her tip toes, she kissed him. "Thank you," she murmured against his lips.
"You're most welcome, but for what, I'm not exactly sure," he responded, grinning.
"For being you."
Rose gave him another kiss, this one a little bit longer and lingering. Straightening up, she took a glance at her boyfriend. It was honestly too good to be true.
"So I'll see you at graduation tomorrow?"
"I wouldn't miss it for the world. And obviously I can't miss it, since I'll be handing out testimoniums and licenses," he joked. "But if I didn't have to be there already, I would gladly go to support my girlfriend."
With one last kiss, Ben Apparated to his flat as Rose did to her flat.
Tomorrow was going to be a wonderful day.
Rose woke up the following morning, sun peaking through the edges of her bedroom curtains. Glancing about her bedroom, her gaze stopped at the dress draped over her vanity chair. Travelling more, her eyes landed on her graduation robes that her mother had must have sent over earlier that morning.
The clock read 8.37. In a little more than three hours, Rose would be a proper, official Healer: Hr. Rose Aurora Weasley.
Taking her time to get ready, Rose tried to psych herself up for this big day.
It was absolutely unbelievable. Unbelievable. She had come out top of her class once again. Her parents weren't exactly surprised. They knew their daughter was brilliant. Hugo knew she would. Al and Cecelia did. Malena kept on telling her she would. In fact, everyone but Rose believed it to be true.
She knew that she was intelligent and hard-working, but she had never expected to be awarded with much glowing honors. Rose prided herself on being humble and grateful for everything life had given her; this was just another one of those instances.
At half ten, Rose Flooed to her childhood home to be greeted with a banner and a buffet of breakfast foods, provided by none other than her Grandmum Molly. The Weasley clan was all huddled into the kitchen, shouting congratulations and fighting to kiss and hug her. In all honesty, it was a bit overwhelming.
After being passed around, Rose was finally able to sit down and eat, earning a bit of peace and quiet.
Hermione found her daughter sitting and eating quietly in a corner.
"I'm sorry, Rosie. You know Grandmum Molly. Once the words left your dad's lips, she couldn't help but begin to plan this. Grandpa Arthur tried to talk her out of it, but she wouldn't have a word of it."
"I know Mum," Rose said amused, understanding entirely. "It's really lovely."
Hermione smiled before embracing her daughter and placing a kiss on her temple. "Eat up, love. It's already quarter eleven. We've got to get you there by half eleven, at the very latest. We can't have you being late to your own ceremony."
Rose got there with time to spare. Some of her fellow graduates were still showing up.
As soon as she arrived, Rose searched for Malena. She found her almost hyperventilating and being comforted by Derek.
"I can't do this " she breathed as Derek slowly rubbed circles on her back.
"Yes you can, Lena. All you have to do is step onto that stage, accept the license and testimonium, and shake our former Healer Superiors' hands. It's really simple."
The moment Malena saw Rose, she threw herself at her.
"Oh, sweet Merlin!" she cried, holding on to Rose for dear life.
"Hello to you too, Malena," Rose responded. Shooting Derek a questioning look, he merely shrugged.
"She's been close to hyperventilating for the past ten minutes. I can't seem to get her calmed down."
"Malena, look at me," Rose commanded. Miraculously, she did.
"You are receiving your Healer's license in less than half an hour and you need to get a hold of yourself. Today is celebration of all the hard work you've done and to commend you on your brilliance and talents. Derek and I are going to be here for you, screaming and shouting your name the moment you are handed your papers, as I am sure your family will be as well. So take a deep breath, shake out all your anxiety and smile. Today is your day."
Almost as soon as the words left Rose's mouth, Malena's demeanor changed. She gave Rose a big hug before kissing her boyfriend tenderly.
"I'm sorry you have to deal with this crazy girl I've become. I promise it won't happen again," Malena apologised.
"Apology accepted, love," Derek replied, grinning like a lovesick fool. "But don't go promising that you won't go crazy like that, because I'm certain it will happen again, some day."
The three friends laughed before getting to their graduation position.
The graduation celebration was small. Only half of their remaining class passed. In addition to Rose, both Malena and Derek graduated as well as a number of their friends. All the Healer Superiors and staff involved in the entire Healer program attended to see the new Healers receive their licenses.
Each of the seventy-odd graduates stepped onto the stage and received their testimoniums and licenses, beaming because of their accomplishments.
As soon as the ceremony began, it ended. New Healers were embraced by their family and friends and cameras flashed all around, capturing the moment.
Rose had hugged and congratulated Malena and Derek before rushing over to the Weasley and Potter clan. Derek had been pulled away by his parents, leaving Malena to search for her own relatives.
"Hr. Malena Otawa, may I speak with you?"
Malena turned to the voice, caught off guard. Who on earth wanted to speak with her, addressing her in that way? Her mum and dad always, always called her Lena. It's a wonder they didn't just name her that.
As she turned, she found herself face to face with none other than Hr. Geoffrey Yang.
"Hr. Yang," she breathed, surprised.
"It's Geoffrey, you know that," he replied kindly.
"Call me Malena then, Geoffrey."
"Malena then," he quipped, smiling. "I was wondering if you would like to accompany me to dinner some night in the near future."
Tilting her head, curious, her eyes flitted from her face to his ring finger. It was empty.
"Like a date?" she asked, not bothering to think about her words before speaking them.
Geoffrey chuckled. "Yes, like a date. I've always wanted to ask you, but you know how it was "
He looked so hopeful and kind. Malena had half the mind to accept. However, she knew she couldn't.
"I'm sorry Geoffrey, but I'm going to have to decline. I'm with someone. I have been with someone for quite some time."
Malena paused, thinking about her first run through the program, where she had him, but then his (now) ex-wife swooped in and caught him in her claws. Geoffrey hardly gave her a second glance after that.
Geoffrey's mouth moved to say something, but Malena beat him to the punch. "But you know how it is "
Without another look, Malena walked away to where Derek stood with his parents. Never one to flaunt her feelings, Malena completed disregarded this and thoroughly kissed her boyfriend of nearly a year.
Ben had joined Rose and her family, giving her a congratulatory kiss, causing her family to collectively 'aw' in response.
He met Hugo, who promptly scared him with the traditional 'If you dare hurt my sister, you won't know what hit you' speech. Al also met him, and although he didn't say it out loud, there was something off about Ben that he didn't like. Cecelia was so very pleased to see Rose and Ben together, barely able to contain her glee.
Ben was then passed around the Weasley clan, meeting aunts and uncles and cousins, and most certainly meeting the patriarch and matriarch of the family.
After getting pictures with Malena and Derek, Rose was whisked back to the Burrow for another celebration that went late into the afternoon.
Two days later, she officially started at St. Mungo's as a Healer.
The weeks passed quickly and Rose hardly noticed that it was well into fall.
It was October 13 when Scorpius owled Rose and they actually went on their first lunch-date in over two months.
He was waiting outside of St. Mungo's like he used to, counting the minutes until Rose showed up. He understood completely that she was a new Healer and extremely busy. Yet, he also knew that she had a new Healer boyfriend. And according to Al, he was beyond attentive, wildly successful, and 'bloody gorgeous,' or so Al claimed Cecelia had said. Needless to say, Scorpius found this Hr. Ben to be a threat, although if he were to be asked that, he would plead the fifth.
So, he stood leaning up against St. Mungo's, anticipating Rose's appearance at any moment. She was already five minutes late.
Scorpius was awfully tense. His body was stiff and his teeth ground against each other. At closer inspection, there was evidence of the throbbing of the veins in his neck and white knuckles from clenching them at the thought of Rose dating that Healer bloke.
Then all of heaven part as Rose stepped out. Her face lit up as her eyes landed on her former boyfriend.
"Scorpius! I haven't seen you in forever. I'm so sorry I've had to keep canceling our lunches. Ben has a tendency to surprise me and take me out," Rose apologised sincerely, giving Scorpius a friendly hug.
Her eyes were bright and hopeful, clearly reflecting the smile that was on her face. Her hair framed her face as though she had a halo. The brisk autumn air had kissed her cheeks, leaving a rosy hue.
All the anger he had stored in his jaw, neck and shoulders dissipated the moment she touched him. It was unfair that with a simple hug a mere glance from her, all forms of negative emotions puffed into smoke.
"It's alright, Rose. I truly understand," he said kindly. Although the majority of his anger had dissolved, it took a lot effort on his part to force a smile on his face. "So what have you been up to? We've got a lot of catching up to do."
"Oh Merlin, I hardly have time to breathe!" she cried excitedly, taking hold of Scorpius' arm and pulling him along.
His heart constricted at her hold and his throat grew dry. The forced smile turned into a grimace. He hoped she hadn't noticed.
"But I absolutely love it," Rose continued before jumping feet first into a telling of all she had been doing at St. Mungo's and about her relationship with Ben.
Scorpius knew that she deserved to be happy. There was a part of him that truly was happy for her happiness, but the jealousy he felt overshadowed that. He tried to remind himself all throughout lunch that he, too, would one day be that happy. He had been that blissful with Rose. That happiness seemed years, decades, no, eons ago.
So, he listened to Rose half-heartedly. He plastered a smile on his face for her sake. He answered her questions with as much fake enthusiasm he could muster. He told her just enough about what was going on with him without making himself vulnerable.
While he kept himself guarded, he memorised each smile, each gesture Rose made. He committed her laugh to memory long ago, and it hurt to hear her laugh about her life now; her life without him. He was no longer a permanent fixture, but just that friend that she had lunch with and dated at one point in the past.
He loved her and loved to see her happy, but he hated someone else stealing her heart and making her happy.
"I am so glad we got to catch up!" Rose cried, pulling Scorpius back to the real world.
Bracing himself, he flashed a forced smile. While his face lied, his words were sincere, he realised. "So am I. It's good to hear how happy you are."
Rose smiled radiantly before setting down money for their lunch.
"I'm paying this time. After all, I am a Healer now."
His heart ached at how proud she sounded and the way her lips curved into that sneaky smile.
"If you say so, Hr. Weasley," Scorpius said, playing along. "But I'm tipping."
They stood up, slipped on their jackets, and made their way out of the cafι.
"We'll do this again soon, I promise," Rose stated, looking up at Scorpius as if it weren't a choice.
"Alright," he replied.
Boldly, he bent down and placed a gentle kiss on Rose's cheek.
"I'm holding you to that then."
Without another word, Scorpius turned away and headed down the street. He could have sworn that out of his periphery, he saw Rose touch her cheek in amazement.
But that could have been his imagination.
AN: Tada! Please, if you have anything to say at all about the chapter or story, remember to review! :)