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Chapter 2: Act Two
Song of the Nightingale
The rain soon ended.
It was said, many years later, that such weather could not withstand the force of a love as that which existed between Rose Weasley and Scorpius Malfoy. There was too much light between them, burning away the darkness and mist to reveal the sun, long hidden from view, a golden gem buried within a crypt. It shone down upon the school and its inhabitants with all the fury of a summer’s day, even as the winter winds gusted across the mountain tops.
But sometimes the weather is wrong. Sometimes pathetic fallacy is just that: a lie.
No one could account for the great change in the weather, nor the peculiarities that accompanied it. Even the lovers could not, though they, at least, had the excuse of not caring to notice what nature did or did not do. There were far more important things on their minds, or at least, on the mind of Rose. So many things passed through her mind each day, new ideas, new schemes, so many worlds to conquer, so many things she could make her own. Thoughts of Scorpius did not haunt her every minute, but whenever she looked upon him, she liked what she saw.
What else is one to do the first time one believes they are in love?
Nothing is enough. Everything is too much. The world is at once brighter and darker, and although one imagines that this love can last forever, one always knows, deep within, that it cannot, that it is too perfect, too precious, too extraordinary. No such thing can last as that illusion of light, of glory, of pleasure.
Particularly with families such as theirs.
“Even I heard Uncle Ron tell you not to go near that Malfoy.”
James Potter crossed his arms, glaring down at Rose, who proudly glared back.
“You dolt. He told me only to beat him in every test, which I do.”
“It’s not right, you know. No matter what you think. He’s a Slytherin.”
She tossed her head, hair flying every which way.
“And I’m not a Gryffindor, so I’m not breaking any rules, spoken or not.”
With a defiant sniff, she stalked away. It was to her advantage that she was, as of this time, the only one of her cousins in Ravenclaw. There had been one or two, but they had graduated long before and could offer to Rose neither words or support nor of warning. She could roost in her ivory tower, high above Hogwarts, pointedly facing away from Gryffindor Tower so that she need not dwell on her unfortunate origins, but instead dwell upon the novel experience of being in love, or, at least, imagining that one was.
She looked out over the grounds, the light streaming in throwing odd patterns across her face through the leaded panes. Her hands fidgeted with the fringe of the curtain, absently twisting and turning the gold tassels between her fingers, only to drop the last when she saw movement upon the lawn below.
It was the thing that she had waited for.
He carried his broomstick out to the Quidditch pitch, pale hair glinting in the morning sun. The rest of the Slytherin team hoards around him, gabbling like geese. He’s not the tallest, nor the strongest, nor the best-formed, but she saw only him. The others held no interest for her; they were only Slytherins, after all. He, however, was the exception, and rules were not made with exceptions in mind.
They marched to the pitch, nearly out of sight. Of course those Gryffindors could see the pitch clearly from their tower, but Ravenclaws were not supposed to be as interested in such things. Books and parchments were for them, as were the deeper aspects of the mind, but Rose, at that moment, was far more interested in deeper aspects of the physical persuasion.
“Is something wrong, Rose?” one of the other girls looked up from her letters.
Rose had already reached the bottom of the stairs.
“Just had an idea!” her gleeful voice called back.
She raced from the tower, the motion of her long, thin legs mesmerizing to those who caught sight of them beneath her flapping robes. The warm weather meant she did not bother with stockings, her bare feet shoved into an ancient pair of slippers, the edges nibbled by her cat, Paris, who spent most of his aging years sleeping in her trunk.
It did not take her long to reach the staircase of the tallest of Hogwarts’s towers, the one from which she could see everything without encumbrance, without being spied on by any of her creeping cousins. Taking the stairs two at a time, she ascended the Astronomy Tower, half-wishing that there were an easier way while the other half acknowledged that the road to love could never be easy, otherwise, everyone would be in love all the time, and then there would be little point to love. It had to remain something exclusive, felt only by a fortunate few, those deserving of the experience.
The wind caught at her hair as she stood on the balcony, high, high above the grounds, whipping its wild strands across her face. She did not bother to brush them away, but let them swallow her in a flaming beacon that he, soaring past, could not possibly ignore her presence.
He did not disappoint.
She watched as he drew closer, slowly, circling about, catching and throwing the Quaffle with another player. His mouth opened and he spoke, but she could not hear the words, only seeing the reaction of the other Slytherin, who visibly rolled her eyes before veering back over the pitch. Malfoy guided his broom toward the tower, head tilted as he regarded Rose, eyes asking the question he would not put into words for it would be a waste of breath.
“You can fly, can’t you, Rose?” He leaned over her, laughter filling his eyes.
Pulling hair from her eyes so that she could better see him – and the way the midday sun lit his hair from behind, giving him a crown of white, the same sun that flushed his skin a fresh, healthy pink, no more ghostly shades haunting his flesh – she found that she liked what she saw.
“I prefer to keep my feet on the ground.”
And Scorpius, what did he think of the smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks, the bottomless brown eyes that flashed with all emotions at once, the wiry hair that burst into every corner of his awareness of her and all of her, all that she was now and would be forever? Perhaps the light of the sun across her brow faded the freckles into alabaster and made her seem a goddess rather than the gangly adolescent witch that nature had made her. There, on that tower, she was someone else.
“Do you think anyone can see us here?” he asked, peering into the darkness behind her.
She let out a small laugh. “Are you afraid, Malfoy?”
Leaning down from his broom, his lips rising in a smirk that did not entirely reach his eyes. “Of course not. I just don’t like to be spied on, that’s all.”
There was a sudden tightness to her jaw and lips. “Do you mean Hugo?”
He raised his eyebrows. “What would make you think that?”
Their eyes were locked for a long moment. He kept his balance with all the will he could muster while her hands gripped the rail until her knuckles turned a deathly pallor. The tightness in her jaw persisted only for another minute before fleeing like the snitch from the seeker’s hands. Her eyes, raised to his, narrowed now with happiness, the joy of the sun and of him.
“Will you kiss me, Scorpius?”
He frowned at the change, still uncertain of this creature, this girl who had captivated him, but too often failed to make any sense at all.
“It’s probably too dangerous,” he said to save face, straightening on his broom so that he would not fall down, down to the ground eons below. “I’ll come see you after practice.” The wind tore at his robes and he locked his hands around the broom’s handle.
She bent over the rail, gazing at him with giant eyes. “Here, please. Oh, Scorpius, I’ll bet that no one has done it before.”
“And would that be the only reason you’d want to?” He swerved from side to side, moving against the wind that swirled around the tower and them. “There wouldn’t be another, would there?”
Part of her wanted to say no, just to torture him, but as he was the one on the broom, and very liable to fly away, she nodded, her smile coy. “Maybe just one.”
Pushing down with his arms, Scorpius drew the broom as close to the rail as possible and with the greatest care, mentally calculating how far he could bend forward before losing his balance while he tilted his face so that it would align with hers. Standing on tip toe, Rose touched his hand, but did not grasp it, knowing how delicate this balance was. Their lips met, though only for a second before the wind burst between them, thrusting him away.
He would always remember the taste of strawberries and the wafting of hair across his cheek. She would never forget the feeling of hanging high above the ground, her mind and heart soaring through the air, caught on the wind that pushed them apart, not that she much noticed until she caught sight of his back. He had retreated to the pitch, the world of his that she never wanted to share.
Turning back to the tower, she gazed at the instruments within, carelessly poking and prodding the delicate machines for her own amusement. She would have liked for someone to have seen her kissing Scorpius Malfoy. Then at least she would have something to do, someone to argue with, and prove wrong.
She enjoyed proving people wrong, and did so as often as she could, if only because, more often than not, she knew better.
Whether this time was one of those, we still cannot be certain.
The repercussions of this make-shift balcony scene could have no affect on Rose, however much she desired to a great queen of the stage, capturing the eyes of all no matter where she performed her acts. In her lofty towers, nothing could stain her, even the prying eyes of her cousins, who could only suspect, but were never able to validate these suspicions, even once it was too late.
It was deep within the heart of darkest Hogwarts, in the dungeons where Slytherin had placed his house some thousand years before, that Scorpius Malfoy’s housemates finally cornered him. They, of course, had seen it all from the Quidditch pitch, watching in horror as Malfoy had kissed a Weasley atop the Astronomy Tower. Some of the girls would not even go near Malfoy now, lest he be contaminated with that disease of red hair and freckles, as though such deformities were akin to leprosy.
“It’s disgusting, Malfoy.” Bletchley was sprawled across a fine leather chair, tossing a Remembrall up in the air at irregular intervals. “She’s such an ugly little thing.”
A thought pulled one corner of Malfoy’s mouth into a smile. “Perhaps that’s why I prefer her.” When Bletchley and the others crunched their brows in consternation, Malfoy’s smile turned into a laugh, an echo of that cruel sound Rose had made. “I never need to worry that any of you Casanovas will tempt her away.”
Some moments passed before, one after another, the other Slytherins began to laugh. They were hollow, awkward sounds, mostly unpleasant to the ear in their utter lack of sincerity, failing to understand what Malfoy found so amusing. He, who was well-acknowledged to be a handsome, if sickly-looking, wizard, found in the company of one of those despicable Weasleys, all ginger and spice. No refinement whatsoever.
“They’re everywhere, those Weasleys,” a brunette whined, twirling a long curl of hair around her fingers. “The Potters, too, of course. They’re all the same. All perfect little angels who make it impossible for the rest of us to do anything special.”
“Like you could do anything special, Isabella.”
She glared at the speaker, a lanky fifth year. “More than you, I’m sure.”
“Not as much as that Rose girl, though. Did you see her in Charms today?”
Marnie rolled her eyes with aplomb. “She may be able to charm Flitwick, but she’s all show. Could you imagine her in a duel?”
They fell into peals of laughter, the sound so different from the laughter that had come before. This was true feeling, something rare to many, the evil echo of honesty ringing through the dungeons, hitting sour notes within Malfoy’s ears.
“And what girl is good at wizard’s chess anyway? It’s ridiculous!”
Malfoy said nothing, only watched and listened until Montague should arrive. These others, how could they know, how could they understand? These things were beyond them. With their smooth faces and lifeless eyes, their shallow emotions and shallower thoughts, those who would insult the name of Rose Weasley could not even anger him with their words. Malfoy was very certain of his beliefs. He did not require their acceptance.
When Montague did appear, he took his time circling the room, ensuring that the youngest Slytherins were sent to their dormitories at the correct time and that the elder Slytherins were set to their homework. Although Prefect to Potter’s Head Boy, Montague never failed in his responsibilities, leading Slytherin House to have the highest number of points for not one, but two years in a row.
“Anything to report, cousin?” Montague laid a hand on the back of Malfoy’s chair.
They met each other's gaze with eyes a matched shade of copper, the only sign that the blood of Greengrasses flowed within them both. Malfoy’s eyes flickered toward the dungeon door, and soon, under the guise of a forage into the kitchens, the two kinsman found themselves alone in the dark, labyrinthine corridors that stretched beneath the castle like the fingers of Fortunado, scrambling for freedom against the stubborn rock.
“I suppose you’ve heard the news.” Malfoy leaned against a wall, taking in the smell damp and decay with greater pleasure than the air above ground could ever provide. “The others couldn’t stop talking about it.”
Montague took up a position on the opposite wall, his stance relaxed, even negligent, at last revealing a vague resemblance to his father. “Of course.”
There was no certainty as to which statement he had given a reply.
Malfoy was frowning, his arms crossed, his shoulders slumped, his thoughts reaching deep, but finding no solid substance at which he could grasp. Looking across at Montague, he could see a shade of his own mother’s face seeping through the hardened exterior of the elder boy. He was sinking, and sinking fast. Whenever he closed his eyes, he saw only red, the blood red petals of the rose drowning him in what could only end in sorrow.
“It could prove useful, Scorpius, but you know that already.” Montague was looking at his fingernails.
“Yes.” Malfoy moistened his crackled lips. “That hadn’t escaped me.”
“She’s different from the others, Scorpius. I wasn’t sure before the chess game, but now I am. Her brain, it’s not like any other.” Montague paused, eyes narrowing as he regarded Malfoy, perhaps catching sight of the dreamer who wandered behind the lids of his cousin’s eyes.
“Of course she is,” he said, his voice almost a whisper. “And she won that game because of it.”
He closed his eyes for a moment more to relish the furious, blinding shades of his love, forgetting his purpose, all purpose, in the very thought of her.
“We’ll have to be ready, when the time comes.”
That time could not come late enough. Malfoy focussed on the sound of water dripping somewhere nearby, that slow, methodical noise that mesmerised his senses, drawing his consciousness into its perfect rhythm.
“I won’t fail.”
To love, or to hate? At what would he refuse to fail? He could not say.
Montague wandered away without another word, leaving Malfoy to listen. There was no such thing as silence; there were always sounds, always things to be heard. His ears strained against the relentless dripping and dropping of water, residue from those eternal rains of autumn, to catch the distant echoes of the castle drifting into another night of rest.
From the higher reaches of this subterranean maze came another sound, a set of notes playing on a different octave from the rest, a pitch higher and sharper that bounced along the dark, stone corridors to reach Malfoy’s hungry ears. It was joined by a similar tone, but only twice, the main tune rising above, just as its speaker rose above all others, knowing no peer.
There was no flower that possessed a voice. Even the rose was silent, brilliant only for the eyes, never the ears. Her voice was that of the nightingale who called from the blackened skies for a mate to banish the silence and bring light to the heart of the darkness. He wondered how the shuddering scorpion, burrowed deep within the earth, could respond to this call, raising himself into the moonlight only to be snatched and devoured by beak and talon.
He ran his hand against the dungeon walls and he hurried to meet her, to meet his fate, feeling tiny roots dangling from the trees above, or perhaps they were the roots of the rose, anchored into the moist, green earth, her flaming face turned upward to await the approach of the new day and mourn the loss of the endless night.