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Chapter 8: eight
Rose stretched, groaning until her muscles ached and her joints popped. It took a moment for her eyes to focus and a second longer for her to remember she wasn’t in her tent – she was in Frank’s. They were trying the whole relationship thing, properly this time. She wasn’t sure why, and she couldn’t remember who had actually suggested it but it meant being pleasant to one another, sharing, touching in public and spending nights together. That part was unchanged, at least, Rose thought.
She rolled over, watching him as he slept. The urge to fling herself out of bed, throw on her clothes and leave was strong but she stamped it out before it could take root and poison her brain so early in the day. She had to be positive about this.
Smiling, Rose trailed her finger tip along his spine, from the base of his neck to where his body was covered by the sheet, bundled loosely around his hips. His dark hair was all over the place, sticking up like some crazy hedge, and he was in desperate need of a shave. He was, as always, too thin and she couldn’t remember when he had lost weight again. It was the potions, she knew that – they suppressed his appetite and messed with his sleep patterns.
Frank stirred as she ran her fingers over his back. “That tickles,” he admonished, his face buried in the pillow.
“Sorry.” She didn’t stop and he rolled over, catching her hand between his and holding it steady against his bare chest. They looked at one another for a long moment and Rose found herself thinking about the last ten years, about all the time she had spent with him. The memories flew through her head like grass fire, intense and devouring and she gasped, burying her face against his chest in a rare moment of vulnerability.
Ten years was such a long time, and they were still so young when she found out she was pregnant. Terrified at the prospect of being parents, they’d promised each other that they would try and stay together, for themselves and for the baby. It didn’t work out though – Frank was too erratic and Rose realised very quickly that she couldn’t do it. She didn’t have a maternal bone in her nineteen year old body – she had no idea how to be a mother and she’d watch Victoire and Teddy with their kids and find herself seething with jealousy over how easy they made it seem.
Her parents offered to help but Rose knew it wasn’t fair on them – Frank’s parents offered their help as well but in the end, it was Victoire she turned too, knowing that William would grow up with his cousins and that he would be happy, as he always was when he visited Victoire and Teddy.
William was two when Rose made the decision to let her cousin raise her son. Frank had argued – “we can do this, Rose. We just have to try a bit longer” – but she knew that it was in William’s best interests to be somewhere stable and secure. The truth had not been kept from him – he knew who his parents were and he knew where they were and why they weren’t with him. Rose wrote letters, she owled and when she was home, she visited him all the time. It was always awkward at first, seeing her son and seeing how much he had grown, but after a while, it was easier.
She didn’t feel like his mother though, and she was strangely alright with that. He called her mum, but he called Victoire mum as well. Rose was always amazed at how maturely he handled it all.
“What are you thinking about?” Frank asked her and she was pulled back to the present.
“Will,” she answered automatically.
“Hmmm,” Frank sighed. “I wish -”
“No,” Rose said, sitting up so she could look at him. “He’d be in therapy if he’d stayed with us.”
Frank smiled. “You’re probably right.” He reached up and cupped her face, pulling her down for a kiss. “See, this is nice, waking up together and not fighting about it.”
“It’s odd,” Rose answered without thought. Frank pulled her close and flipped them over, pinning her down with his weight. He gave her a serious look, playing with a strand of her hair.
“It is, isn’t it? I keep waiting for you to throw me out, or for you to run off on me,” he said softly.
“I keep wanting to,” she admitted.
“Why are we doing this again?” he asked after a pause.
Rose kissed him. “I don’t know.”
“It’s only been a few days and we’re giving up,” he murmured against her mouth. His hands moved down her body and Rose felt herself relax as she always did when he touched her. Nothing else about them seemed to work but physically, she was perfectly content. He pulled away suddenly, giving her an amused look. “Let’s do something insane. I guarantee it’ll keep us together for the next ten years.”
“What?” she breathed.
“Let’s have another baby.”
“Are you completely mental?” Rose almost screeched, attempting to sit up. He held her down, grinning.
“Joking. But, you were gorgeous when you were pregnant.”
“I was fat when I was pregnant,” she rejoined, lying back and closing her eyes. Frank mumbled something against her skin but she didn’t hear him and she didn’t care what it was he said. It was almost completely light outside and they’d have to get up soon, and for the first time in a long time, Rose considered having the day off.
She knew what was going to happen though and she knew she would only be postponing the inevitable. Frank knew it too, because he was extraordinarily gentle with her, his touch tender and tempered and Rose realised that he was, in his way, saying goodbye.
“This isn’t going to work, Rosie,” he said quietly, when they were dressed and sitting in camp chairs outside his tent. He didn’t look at her; his gaze moved over the camp, the tents and the bright green of the jungle around them. “It’s too strange. I’m going to be waiting for it, expecting it, to fall apart.”
“I know,” Rose said after a pause, knowing what he said was the truth. She would be waiting for it to. She glanced at him. “You shouldn’t smoke so much.”
“I know,” he answered, stubbing out his cigarette.
“And you have to take your potions, and you can talk to me if you need to and I really do care about you, Frank.”
“I know,” he smiled. Rose sat still as his hand lifted and his fingers brushed her cheek. She felt like crying but she held it in, giving him a weak smile. “So,” he said softly, withdrawing his hand. “That’s that, then. No more, of anything.”
“I guess,” she replied, swallowing. “Why does it feel like I’m losing something?”
Frank laughed softly. “Because you are, in a way.” He stood up, kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll always be your friend, Rose; that will never change,” he whispered, and ducked back inside his tent before she could say anything. Rose stayed where she was for while, just listening and watching as the sun crept through the camp. Eventually, she sighed, pushed herself to her feet and walked away, wondering if this time, it was for real. Over the last ten years, she had Frank had broken up and made up more times than was healthy.
Louis and Scorpius were in the dining tent but there was no sign of anyone else. She almost went back to her tent to crawl into bed. Missing breakfast wouldn’t hurt – she didn’t feel like talking or even being around people at the moment. That was nothing unusual – people annoyed her on the best of occasions – but now, she just wanted to be alone.
Scorpius glanced up from his breakfast, saw her and gave her a small smile and she found herself smiling back. Louis raised an eyebrow and she scowled at him, not in the mood for her cousin’s tormenting.
“Piss off,” she snarled at him before he could open his mouth.
“What’s with you?” Louis sighed. “You look like you lost your puppy.”
“Frank and I broke up,” she answered through her teeth. “But I’m fine so don’t bother asking. Where is the coffee?”
“On, off, on, off,” Scorpius muttered as Louis floated the coffee pot, milk and sugar over to Rose. “How do they do it?”
“Years of practice,” Louis responded dryly, sliding a mug across the table.
Rose folded her arms. “I am here you know.”
Louis ignored her and gave Scorpius a curious glance. “Don’t you have some experience in the matter?”
Scorpius shook his head. “Lily and I...have never been quite so public about it.”
Louis laughed, tipped the remains of his tea onto the ground beside his chair and stood up, stretching, shooting Rose a sideways glance. “They’ll get back together, eventually. Might take a day, maybe a month, possibly a year, but they always end up back together.” He paused, smothering a yawn. “Frank should just force her to marry him and be done with it.”
“Marry me?” Rose snorted into her coffee.
“You have met yourself, haven’t you?” Louis said simply. “Who else would put up with your crap?”
Rose narrowed her eyes. “Fuck you, Louis.”
Her cousin laughed and wandered away, barking orders at no one in particular. Rose turned her glare on Scorpius, who held up his hands in mock defence.
He shrugged. “Sleeping.”
“Are you okay?”
Her eyes narrowed further until they were nothing but slits. It was actually difficult to see him, but Rose maintained her glare. He didn’t react, just watched her with a gentle expression so she gave up and sighed deeply. “I’m fine.”
“Good,” he said simply. “I’ll meet you in the cavern?”
“In about ten minutes,” she answered, draining her coffee. “Don’t be late.”
Scorpius smiled, stood up and wandered away. Rose watched him go, jumping when Frank sat down beside her. He had shaved and she rolled her eyes.
“Now you get that thing off your face,” she commented, shaking her head. He just grinned and made himself coffee. Rose cleared her throat. “Um, did you want to come today? Into the cavern?”
“I thought you might like some pictures or something,” she said with a shrug. “That is why you’re here isn’t it? How about you do your bloody job, Longbottom.”
He grinned. “Now that sounds like a great idea.”
Ten minutes later, Rose, Frank and Scorpius were clustered together in the cavern. Frank’s camera whirled and flashed and Rose blinked, momentarily blinded.
“Cut that out,” she snapped, rubbing her eyes.
He gave her a grin and moved away, drawn, as Rose always was, to the ornate mask in its hole. She followed him, frowning at the mask, willing it to give up its secrets and let them prise it free.
“Wow,” Frank breathed. “It’s amazing!” He moved closer to the wall, camera raised. Light filled the cavern as the flash exploded and then, Frank lifted his arm. Her instincts kicked in and Rose moved quickly, putting herself between Frank and the wall, terrified at the look on his face – it was the same look he always wore when he was about to do something risky.
“Don’t!” she warned but he reached past her, eyes alight, fixated on the mask. The moment his skin touched the dull gold metal, the air sizzled and the scent of singed flesh and hair floated around them. Frank screamed: the sound was so shrill and terrifying Rose felt the hair stand up on the back of her neck. She reached towards him as he dropped to the ground, desperate to help, to relieve his pain, but Scorpius’ arms went around her and he pulled her back with more strength than she knew he had.
They toppled backwards, hitting the ground hard. Scorpius held her tightly and she thrashed against him, Frank’s screams in her ears.
“No,” Scorpius gasped as she elbowed him in the ribs; he locked his arms tighter around her middle. “You can’t touch him, Rose.”
She choked back a sob, her arms falling slack by her sides and slowly, cautiously, Scorpius released her. Frank’s screams had become whimpers and his breathing was erratic – bubbles of air escaped him and he shuddered with each rattling breath.
Scorpius sat up, taking out his wand. With one stroke, he cast a shield around the mask and with the other, he repositioned Frank on his back, moving him gently against the wall. Rose watched, numb, as soft blue light washed over Frank and he slipped into sleep.
Scorpius sat back, his face tight, a small frown between his eyes. “I can’t do anything else. He needs a Healer and Healing is not one of my skills.”
“What did you do to him?”
“Contained the curse in his hand – it won’t spread to the rest of his body – well, I hope not anyway, as I don’t know what curse it is,” he replied softly. “We shouldn’t move him until a Healer can look at him.”
Rose blinked away tears as Scorpius cast a Patronus and sent it soaring through the walls. They sat in silence, listening to Frank’s quiet breathing. She fished into Frank’s knapsack, pulling out a packet of cigarettes. She stuffed one between her lips and lit it.
“I didn’t know you smoked.”
She coughed. “I don’t.”
Scorpius was quiet for a moment. “He’s not dead, Rose.”
“Not yet, but you said you don’t know what curse it is so he could still die,” she responded.
“You care about him,” Scorpius observed. “You can’t pretend you don’t.”
Her eyes moved again to Frank and she sighed. “But not as much as he would like and that has always been the problem. Want one?”
Scorpius sighed, hesitating before reaching for the proffered packet. “I have too many vices.”
“Name one other,” Rose demanded, sitting back against the dirty wall.
His eyes were shadowed and he leant his head back against the wall, a soft plume of smoke escaping his mouth. “Lily.”
“She’ll never change you know,” Rose said. “She’s been dragging boys around by the gonads since she was fifteen.”
“Comforting, thank you,” Scorpius replied.
“It’s the truth, Malfoy.”
He sighed. “Perhaps.” Silence descended again, the only sound Frank’s now calm breathing. “He’s in love with you, you know that, don’t you?”
Rose smiled a sad smile. “No, he isn’t. He’s in love with the idea of me, with the idea of being happy and being ‘normal’, because he thinks that that is what he should do.” She paused and took a deep breath. “We wouldn’t be happy together, no matter how hard we tried and we both know that.”
“You don’t love him?”
“It’s complicated,” she said softly, looking away.
“Because of William?” Scorpius asked gently.
She glanced at him, a sharp, pointed look and he dropped his eyes. She sighed. “That, and other things. We’re not good for one another, me and Frank. We do too much damage to each other when we’re together. I hurt him, all the time, without even meaning it, but sometimes, I do mean it and that’s just bollocks when you’re supposed to care about someone.”
He looked up at her, his expression thoughtful. “It’s easier to hurt those you care about, sometimes.”
She nodded, letting her head fall back to rest against the wall. “I think it’s because they will always forgive you.”
“You said that about Lily,” Scorpius said softly after a pause, “that it was complicated.”
“It’s the truth – it is complicated.”
“Tell me why,” he insisted. She tossed her cigarette away, making a face.
“No.” Her voice was low, pained, and she could feel him watching her. “Don’t say any more, Malfoy. I’m perfectly capable of ripping your head off and no one will hear you screaming.”
He swallowed. “Right.”
Rose sighed again, watching Frank’s face as he slept. “I wish I could love him. It would be easier, for so many reasons, but I...” she paused, rubbing at her face. “I care about him, deeply, but I don’t love him. Maybe I could, if I tried, but loving someone...”
“Requires you to let them in, completely and honestly,” Scorpius finished, and she looked at him curiously. He gave her a wry smile. “You cannot hide yourself when you love someone – all of you is open and bare and that is frightening.”
“But he knows everything about me anyway,” she argued. “So your hypothesis doesn’t make sense.”
“Maybe,” Scorpius mused, chewing his lip, “that’s the problem. There is nothing new to discover. If he already knows all your secrets, what is left for him?” He paused, seeing her look. “People are like buried artefacts, I guess. There are years of life and experiences covering them and the fun part about being with someone is digging through those years and getting to know them.”
“A fitting metaphor,” Rose said with a smile. “And Lily? Have you been able to unearth her?”
His face darkened. “I don’t think so, not really anyway. I know who she seems to want to be, but I don’t think that is her.”
Rose closed her eyes. “Then who is she?”
Scorpius was quiet for a long time before he answered. “I have no idea.”
Silence fell between them - it was companionable, a shared silence, and Rose found herself liking the strange peace and comfort it carried. She told Scorpius he could go, that she would wait with Frank, but he shook his head and she said no more, silently grateful for his presence. It was another half an hour before Louis pushed his way into the cavern, a Healer in tow.
“He’s a friend of Luis’,” her cousin explained as the small Peruvian man bent over Frank. Rose nodded, not taking her eyes from Frank. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she whispered, watching as the Healer sat back on his heels and took out his wand. He muttered some spells in Spanish and then turned around.
“Who contained the curse?” he asked in perfect English.
“I did,” Scorpius said.
The man nodded. “You did good. He will live, but he needs to be in a hospital. He will have to stay there until he is well enough to be moved back to England.”
“What about his hand?” Rose asked.
“He will regain the use of it, but it will be stiff and painful. It will always be a darker colour than the rest of his skin though I’m afraid,” the Healer said softly. “What was this curse? It will help if I know.”
“We don’t know for sure,” Rose whispered. She felt like crying.
“It is an old magic,” the Healer answered slowly. “I will do what I can but I cannot promise that I can remove it completely.” He stood up and flicked his wand and Frank’s body floated off the dusty floor. They stood back as he floated down the dark tunnel, the Healer walking slowly behind him. Rose stayed sitting on the floor, not moving, until Louis slipped his arms around her and lifted her to her feet.
“Come on,” he said gently, and Rose let him lead her out of the darkness and into the watery light of the afternoon. It had rained while they were underground and the mud was slick and wet beneath her feet. She clutched at her cousin and he didn’t shake her off, letting her hold onto his arm as they walked. “Did you want...”
She shook her head. “No. I want to stay here and work.”
He nodded. “Okay, but if you want to go, Rose, just go. Don’t be such a proud, stubborn git all the time.”
“Bite me,” she whispered back, making him grin.
No one returned to the cavern that day. Rose sat in her tent, gulping back the tears she could not shed in front of anyone else. Lysander came to see if she was alright and she shouted at him, so he left hastily, mumbling. She knew she should apologise but she didn’t move, remaining on her bed with her knees pulled up to her chest. She knew she should write to Frank’s parents but she couldn’t bring herself to touch the quill and parchment sitting on her desk.
Someone brought her lunch, which she didn’t eat, and she was content to stay in her tent for the rest of the night but Luis came to see her just before dinner.
“He will be alright, Rosa,” the small man said gently and she nodded.
“I hope so.”
“Do you love him?”
She blushed. “Sometimes I think I do; I wish I could,” she amended softly.
“Affairs of the heart are always confusing,” Luis muttered. “He will recover and you will see him and then, you will know.”
“Just like that?” she laughed lightly, and Luis smiled.
“Just like that. Come, join me for dinner,” he said, standing up and offering her his arm. She smiled shyly and took it, letting him walk her across the camp and pull out a chair for her at the table.
“Rose!” Lily exclaimed, pushing back her chair and rushing to throw her arms around her cousin, who stiffened at her touch. “I am so sorry.” Rose said nothing and Lily pulled away, her eyes searching Rose’s face. “I want you to know I am here for you.”
Rose almost snorted but she bit her lip instead, not in the mood to fight with her cousin. Lily opened her mouth to continue with whatever Divinationary garbage she usually spouted.
“Lily,” Scorpius said softly. “Leave her be.”
“I was just -”
“Leave her be,” Scorpius repeated with gentle authority, and Lily blinked, moving away from Rose to sit down again and poke at her dinner. Rose watched Scorpius curiously, her lip between her teeth. She had never heard him speak to Lily like that. She glanced at her cousin – Lily’s mouth was turned down and she wasn’t looking at anyone.
Lorcan started talking about the dragon, and Rose shot him a grateful glance. He winked and launched into a terrifying tale of dragons he had battled in the past, entertaining everyone through the remainder of their meal.
People headed off to their tents, drifting away slowly until it was just Rose, Scorpius and Lily left sitting around the table. Rose glanced up, catching Scorpius’ eye.
“Did I thank you for today?” she asked.
“I can’t remember.”
“Well, thank you,” she said softly. Lily watched them, her expression unreadable, before she sighed deeply and regretfully.
“I’m going to go home tomorrow,” she announced. Scorpius looked at her in surprise. “Yes, I have decided to return to Hogwarts and leave you to your work.” She turned to Scorpius. “I will go in the morning. Juan said he will take me to the boat.”
“Right,” Scorpius said quietly, fiddling. Rose slipped away while they weren’t paying attention, crawling into bed still clothed. She couldn’t sleep, and moments later heard Lily’s angry voice, followed by Scorpius’. Her heartbeat quickened as she listened to them fighting and she wondered what it was about before telling herself not to care. Lily would go home tomorrow, Scorpius would be gone soon and things would return to normal.
Sighing, Rose rolled over and buried her face in her pillow, allowing herself to drift off.
Lily’s departure was a grand affair. The camp turned out to see her leave and she hugged everyone, dabbing at her eyes dramatically before wishing them well. Her gaze lingered on Scorpius and then she turned to Juan, who asked did she want to walk or apparate.
“Walk,” she answered with a small smile. “For some of the way at least.” She gave a final wave and then followed Juan down the path.
“Good riddance,” Rose mumbled, not caring if someone heard.
She snuck a glance at Scorpius; looking for traces of melancholy perhaps. She couldn’t have him moping when there was still so much work to be done. What she did not expect to see was the slow, joyous smile that spread across his face as he watched Lily be swallowed by the jungle.