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And Now A Word From Our Sponsors by TenthWeasley

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Format: Novella
Chapters: 10
Word Count: 28,697
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Humor, Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Scorpius, Albus, Hugo, Rose, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Rose/Scorpius, Ron/Hermione, Other Pairing

First Published: 03/01/2012
Last Chapter: 05/17/2012
Last Updated: 07/13/2013

Summary:





All Rose wants is a date with Julian Murdock. Which could be a problem, since he really doesn't seem to know she exists. Scorpius Malfoy thinks he knows how to make that happen. For a price.

Ladies and gentlemen, grab your tickets -- you're about to witness the worst idea in history.

2012 Dobby Nominee: Best Novella. Banner by justonemorefic @ TDA!
 


Chapter 1: One
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There is, as far as I can see, only one bad thing about Quidditch.

Whoever had the brilliant idea to start the season in the middle of bloody November should be cursed to Mars and back, because up here in the announcer's box I think I might be literally frozen to my seat. I can only imagine how the Gryffindors might feel right now, zooming around on their brooms as they are.

Yet another reason for me to be eternally grateful that I am bad at sports: I could never fly in this kind of cold.

"And F-foote passes to P-potter," I stammered, clenching the narrow golden microphone so tightly in my gloved hands that I absently thought I might snap it. "Brilliant m-move by the Chasers, and they're off t-toward the other end of the field."

“Miss Weasley!” The voice of Madam Hooch, the Quidditch referee, sliced through the air much more powerfully than the wind that was currently whistling past me, and I jumped, causing a loud clunk to sound through the stadium as my shoulder hit the microphone. She was looking sternly at me from halfway up the tiered seats circling the pitch.

“Do you have a mouth full of treacle?” she said, frowning. “Make your words clearer, or the players aren’t going to hear what you’re saying. I don’t want to have to search for a replacement commentator so soon after placing you in the post.”

“Right,” I called down to her, pressing my teeth together so they wouldn’t chatter and giving her what I hoped was a confident grin in spite of this. Although honestly, it might have looked more like an angry wolf baring its teeth. I really have no control over my facial expressions when my entire face feels like it’s going to fall off.

She just pursed her mouth further and snapped her goggles back over her yellow eyes, marching the rest of the way down to the turf.

“I hope you fall off your broom,” I added once she’d gone, mouth still clenched painfully in its half-grimace.

Madam Hooch and I had never seen eye to eye, which was possibly because she associated the name “Weasley” with “troublemaker”.

But despite the fact that my backside had gone completely numb, I turned back to the microphone. I concentrated hard on keeping my voice steady, and began to imagine myself someplace warmer. Lying on a beach somewhere off the Mediterranean coast, maybe, where I wouldn’t need this scarf wrapped up to my eyeballs.

“Kyle’s still scouting the posts for the Snitch, and it’s still anyone’s game!” I called dramatically, throwing my arms wide partly to show Madam Hooch I was capable of the job and partly to regain feeling in my limbs. I needed to be commentating the Quidditch matches – it was all I could see myself doing once I left school, and I needed the training now, since I was in my seventh and final year. Which was scary in itself, but that was another thing entirely.

“Tate narrowly dodges a Bludger aimed at him by Foote– and a pity, too, it could have really fixed that crooked nose.” Angus Tate, one of the Gryffindor Chasers, glared at me over his shoulder as he sped by.

I couldn’t help it: if I was going to have to commentate Quidditch practices so I could get practice in turn, then I was going to make them as lively as possible for myself.

Madam Hooch, however, didn’t seem to think highly of that plan. From down by the front row of the Gryffindor side of the stands, I could see her looking sharply in my direction, whistle already raised to blast in a reprimand. But thankfully, before it could pass her lips, another toll sounded – this one from the castle, signaling the beginning of dinner. Seven scarlet blurs swooped down and touched grass again, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

My post was safe for now.

By the time I reached the pitch from the commentator’s box, I was not only a bit warmer, but was one of the last to remain standing around. Everyone else had either gone off to shower or was already heading back up to the castle for dinner. Madam Hooch was still there, however, and she had roped my cousin Albus Potter into helping her pack the balls back in their crates. I watched, as this was always an amusing activity, although I felt no desire to pitch in.

Madam Hooch, having done this for more years than I cared to count, knew exactly what she was doing. With a quick, catlike leap she pounced upon the Bludger and tucked it back into its compartment, securing it with a thick chain and clicking the padlock closed. Albus, on the other hand, was having a bit more trouble with his Bludger; it kept making leaps for freedom, and he was doing a wild sort of ballet dance in his efforts to wrangle it under control.

He caught me watching him and graced me with an angry scowl, which I returned with a smile that was as cheerful as I could make it.

“You could help me, you know,” he snapped, trying to awkwardly hug the Bludger to his chest as it jumped into the air again.

“Not if you don’t ask nicely,” I said brightly, now examining a clod of dirt by my foot as though it were the most interesting thing in the world. Albus muttered a few words under his breath, and the only one I heard I knew he was most definitely not allowed to say around his parents. I kicked absently at the dirt, purposefully avoiding my cousin’s eyes.

“What would your parents say about your language?” I said lightly, pretending to be affronted. “I have half a mind to go right to the Owlery –“

Please, then,” he said finally, grunting a little and nearly planting his face square in the grass.

I knelt beside him, happy to oblige now that I’d had a little fun at his expense, and wrapped my hands around the Bludger. Together we forced it into the compartment beside its mate, securing it firmly with the chain. Albus wiped a bit of sweat off his forehead despite the chill wind that was still blowing through the stadium.

“You’re welcome,” I said pointedly, rising and brushing the grass from my robes. A voice behind us made me jump quite suddenly; I’d rather forgotten Madam Hooch was still there.

“Weasley, did you have to make a jab at every single player on the team?” she said, her mouth once more puckered sourly. This time, though, it looked as though she was trying to hide a smile. I tried to look demure and repentant, although mentally I congratulated myself on that excellent aside about Angus. “We do not need another Lee Jordan on our hands,” she added, suddenly firm again. I cast my eyes about as though looking for the scoundrel she was talking to.

“Potter, I grant you haven’t forgotten about the captain’s meeting tonight,” she added, turning now to Albus, who shook his head and puffed out his chest slightly. He’d nearly done cartwheels when the badge had arrived in his school letter last July; I knew the captain’s position would go to his head.

The toerag.

“And I want you there too, Weasley. The commentator should meet the team leaders, get a feel for who she’ll be talking about,” she said, and Albus’s chest deflated quickly – he was no longer more important than I was. The older woman gave us each a brief nod and then turned on her heel, heading toward the broom shed on the opposite side of the pitch.

I stared after her, frowning slightly.

“What’s a captain’s meeting?” I asked. I’d never heard of such a thing before in my life.

Albus shot me a look that obviously insinuated I was touched in the head. “It’s a meeting. For, erm, captains,” he said, speaking more slowly than normal as though he wanted to make sure I’d understand him. I frowned again.

“I’d worked that out, thanks,” I said, wondering if I could somehow kick him in the back of the knee without him seeing it coming. Al and I started back up the sloping lawn toward the castle for dinner. I was still wondering why I had to go to the stupid meeting anyway, and Al keeping silent as usual. He wasn’t ever really good company when it was just the two of us.

Just inside the entrance hall, however, Al’s face brightened considerably. I looked around to see why he’d cheered up so suddenly, and smirked. My best friend and Al’s girlfriend, Pippa Teagues, was standing by the doors into the Great Hall, and was obviously waiting for either one or both of us.

“Hey,” Albus grinned at her, and gave her a quick kiss. I made a gagging sound and mimed sticking my finger down my throat and he scowled at me again.

Pippa giggled, looping her arm through my cousin’s.

“Practice go well?” she asked lightly, leading us inside to take our places at the Gryffindor table.

“Other than Rose verbally bashing all my players, it went great,” he said.

“You’ve heard how she reads the announcements every morning – did you expect that to change in her Quidditch commentary?” Pippa said.

It was true. Every morning for the past three school years, I’d read out the announcements before the first class period, and always tried to make them as fun as possible. Mornings were horrid enough without having to hear about the next Gobstones Club meeting, and it was my duty to rid the day of as much boredom as possible. They’re only my opinions, after all, and can I help it if I think Scorpius Malfoy is an arrogant git?

I tried to shift my focus back to dinner, and away from thoughts of Scorpius Malfoy. I didn’t want to eat on an upset stomach.

I sat down at the table across from my brother Hugo, who was talking to our cousin Fred about the upcoming Quidditch season. Like me, Hugo can’t play the sport to save his life, but he’s absolutely obsessed with it. I think Dad was a bit let down to find out that neither of his kids were good Quidditch players, but we just blame Mum’s genes.

Although we inherited Dad’s genes for laziness in school, too, so that was just rotten luck on their part.

As I took my seat, he quickly stuffed something under his jumper, giving me a brief sideways look before acting like I hadn’t shown up at all.

“What are you doing?” I asked, frowning.

Hugo had a sneaky streak a mile wide and twice as deep, especially pertaining to anything about the inter-House Quidditch rivalries, and whatever he was doing, it was most definitely against the rules. He pretended like he hadn’t heard me and resumed talking to Fred, although it was now a one-sided conversation, as Fred was much too interested in the sibling confrontation to talk a great deal.

I cleared my throat.

“Hugo. What do you have under your jumper?”

“But I knew you’d make Beater,” he said loudly, his ears turning bright pink as he spoke. “Uncle George was too good for you not – OW! Merlin, Rosie!”

I’d kicked his shin hard under the table, knowing it was the only way he’d even pretend I was there. I held out my hand wordlessly, and scowling deeply, he withdrew a rather crumpled piece of parchment and thrust it at me ungratefully. I scanned it quickly.

“Where did you get these?” I gasped, and it was Hugo’s turn to kick me. I looked more closely at what I was holding, which seemed to be a copy of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team’s tactics for the upcoming season.

“Nicked ‘em off Quince Clarkwell, in my Charms class,” said my brother, looking pleased with himself. “I was going to give them to Al tonight, to help out with stuff.”

“Hugo, I guarantee you these are fakes,” I said, ripping the parchment straight down the middle. Hugo lunged for it, upsetting the bottle of ketchup all over his trousers. He swore loudly, and if looks could kill, I would have dropped dead in an instant.

“But what if they weren’t - ?”

“It is no secret that you like to play spy for the Gryffindor team,” I said, giving him one of my best glares – Mum had taught me well. “Everyone remembers when you got caught spying on Ravenclaw last year and ended up hanging from the banister by your shoelaces.”

Hugo turned bright red.

“Quince probably put them out so you’d take them on purpose,” I finished, handing him the shredded remains of the so-called tactics. Hugo took them gently, as though mourning their loss, and I could tell he still didn’t wholly believe me.

“Let’s go, Rose,” Al called suddenly from my right, standing up from where he’d been sitting next to Pippa. I whipped my head around, spitting out a mouthful of hair that flew straight into my mouth.

“Why?” I said. “We’ve only just sat down.”

“Captain’s meetings start before dinner ends,” he said, using that same tone of voice he’d adopted earlier, the one that made it sound as if he was talking to a three-year-old. “Makes it so we don’t miss curfew. Now come on. You’re not going to make me late.”

Pippa gave me an apologetic look as I stood up, and blew a great bubble with a wad of Drooble’s Blowing Gum. She was absolutely addicted to the stuff – I couldn’t remember the last time I hadn’t seen her chewing or blowing bright blue bubbles. It was a disgusting habit, but then again, she was the one who had snagged a bloke.

Not that I wanted to snag Albus. Even if he weren’t my cousin, the boy was five feet and eleven-and-a-quarter inches of gross.

“See you later,” I muttered, and followed my cousin out of the Great Hall. We headed back outside and in the direction of the pitch once more, where Madam Hooch had her office.

We weren’t late, as Albus had feared, but we weren’t the first to arrive, either. I stopped right in the entrance to the room, causing him to run into me, as I observed who else was in the room.

Bloody hell.

“Hey, Cheeseley!” Scorpius Malfoy’s voice was the most annoying thing on the planet – the sound of it drove me to madness.

I sneered to the best of my ability and walked into the room. The chairs were arranged in a circle, presumably for the meeting. I took the one opposite Scorpius, in order to be as far from him as possible.

“Loved the announcements this morning,” he said sarcastically, wearing a sneer of his own now. “What was it you called me again?”

“A pimple on a baby giant’s backside,” I said, not being able to keep a note of pride from my voice. In order to keep the announcements at their current level of fun, I’d taken to insulting Scorpius every once in a while – not predictably, of course , but often enough to keep him on his toes. It was fun for me, and for everyone else who thought Scorpius as much of a git as I did. Unfortunately, as he’d taken the slot as Hogwarts’s resident heartthrob, most people ignored the snide comments and remarks. But it was still a source of great amusement.

“You’re funny, Rose,” he said, shaking his head exaggeratedly. “Where do you come up with this stuff?”

I crossed my eyes at him just as Madam Hooch reappeared in the room. She looked at me confusedly and then shook her head, deciding ignoring me was the best strategy. By this time, though, both the captains from the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw teams had arrived, and the meeting started.

I slumped down into my seat, trying to get comfortable. Let the boredom commence.

*

Night had already fallen when Al and I finally started to make our way back to the Gryffindor common room, and he was in an even worse mood than he had been when I’d made him use his manners after Quidditch practice.

“All right, you were bored,” he was saying testily, refusing to look anywhere but at me. “But did you have to fall asleep?”

“It was for, like, five seconds, Al. And if you’d be so kind as to remove that wand from up your –”

“Rosie!”

Admittedly, I wasn’t in such a great mood myself. I’d completely forgotten that Scorpius Malfoy was captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team, and commentating on their games this year could potentially be problematic. Madam Hooch surely wouldn’t stand for all the antics I pulled on him during the morning announcements – would she?

I suddenly started to smile, thinking how I could use this to my advantage. More chances to exploit Scorpius meant more humiliation for him, and that was worth Madam Hooch blustering at me any day.

Albus finally glanced at me and, catching the smirk on my face, asked me what the matter was.

“Evil plans,” I responded in what I hoped was a mysterious voice. Evidently it wasn’t, though, because Al just snorted.

“Plotting to sneak into the Slytherin dorm and take Scorpius’s underwear while he’s at dinner isn’t evil. Besides, about a hundred girls have tried it before you.”

I looked at him as though he’d just kissed a Blast-Ended Skrewt.

“I don’t want to steal his underwear,” I said scathingly. “I want to steal his dignity.”

Although stealing his underwear wasn’t such a bad idea, really.

But Al just snorted again.

“I saw the way you two kept shooting looks at each other. Either you want to kill him or there’s something else going on there, and you’re not the murdering sort, Rosie.”

By this point we had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady outside the Gryffindor common room, and Al said, “Blood pops.”

The portrait swung open, and he clambered through. I, however, remained rooted to the spot.

What Al had just said was ridiculous. Me, looking at Scorpius Malfoy in any way other than pure hatred? Absurd. I could get past his good looks and evident muscles and see him for the git he really was. I wasn’t like all the other girls.

Scorpius Malfoy had better prepare himself for Quidditch commentaries from hell.

A/N: Brand-new story! I'm quite excited about this one, and it's nearly done on my computer, so hopefully updates shouldn't be too long in coming. Massive thanks to Gina and Gubby and Annie for being my go-to crew on this one -- I owe you three a lot!

What'd you think? Don't forget to feed the review box -- he's rather hungry. Thank you!


Chapter 2: Two
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Having an excuse to try and make Scorpius’s life hell was the best thing that had happened to me all year.

I was having entirely too much fun plotting ways to make him look like the jerk I knew he was. I’d had trouble falling asleep after the captain’s meeting due to the onslaught of witty insults that crept into my head. It was just so easy to find ways to make him mad. I’d found this out firsthand, when he’d dated Pippa in our sixth year.

At first it had been a sort of game: I couldn’t very well insult him outright while he was Pippa’s boyfriend, but I’d heard enough about him to be wary. I made him think it was all in fun, all the names and jibes and whatever else I did to him. And the great thing was, it all paid off last summer, when Scorpius sent Pippa a letter saying he’d found some girl on holiday and snogged her senseless.

At least, that’s how I read it. Pippa wasn’t quite as dramatic about it – sent off a quick breakup letter without so much as a how-do-you-do and that was that. She’s fine with it now, but I still can’t get over what an arse he turned out to be. Added to the fact that he is, in general, arrogant and annoying, there’s a lot to loathe.

I carry a lot of chips on my shoulders. They keep me company.

The next day’s Potions lesson drew my mind from the subject of verbal abuse, however, despite the fact that Scorpius had that class at the same time. The distraction came in the form of Julian Murdock. Who was, unfortunately, Scorpius’s best friend, but a boy can make mistakes.

There is something about the dungeons that makes Julian Murdock look even better than normal. I don’t care if he is a Slytherin – he is every kind of hot.

And this is why my grades are slipping.

Professor Slughorn stood at the front of the classroom before a large cauldron, which was emitting some kind of pea-green smoke. I’d already forgotten whatever it was we were supposed to be making, because Julian had positioned himself right in my line of vision today. It was hard to concentrate on elixirs when I was watching him brush his hair out of his eyes. Pippa had already had to elbow me several times just to keep me somewhat focused.

“And so,” Slughorn said now, clapping his hands together and rubbing them briskly. “Each of you should divide into pairs and begin working on your Wound-Cleaning Concoctions. To work, then!” Pippa popped a Drooble’s bubble loudly next to me, and I jumped.

“Come on,” she said, rolling her eyes and grinning at me. She knew exactly what I was doing – it was what I had been doing ever since first year. Back then, of course, I hadn’t known what a git Scorpius was, and so becoming smitten with Julian had been perfectly sane.

Now, of course, I slightly regret the fact that I’m still hopeless over his best friend. But, again, I suppose a girl can make a mistake now and again.

Pippa dragged her cauldron over to the space between two desks, and I sat down, taking out my textbook and ingredients. I really hoped Pippa had paid attention, even through all her gum-smacking, because I didn’t even know what page Wound-Cleaning Concoctions were supposed to be on, much less how I was supposed to make one. But she was glancing somewhere behind me and, turning in my seat, saw her eyes locked with Al’s.

As if I needed to lose my breakfast.

“Hey,” I hissed, poking her in the side with my wand when Slughorn had turned his back. She gave a small yelp and whipped her head back around, hitting me full in the face with her long black hair. I gave her the same sort of withering scowl I’d bestowed upon Hugo the previous day.

“Stop ogling my cousin,” I said fiercely, scooting the cauldron a bit closer in an attempt to look like I was working, “and help me out here.” Pippa rolled her eyes.

“Please,” she said, with a rather undignified snort. But she flipped right to the Wound-Cleaning Concoction in the textbook, and I breathed a small sigh of relief. My daily Potions grade was saved. Pippa had pulled me out of many a sticky spot – unfortunately, sometimes literally – in this class.

While she kindled the fire under the cauldron and began shredding fairy wings on the desk, my eyes roved back to Julian, who was sitting next to Scorpius across the aisle and three desks up. It was the perfect spot to watch that adorable little crease between his eyebrows as he studied the book. This was arguably my favorite thing about him, although choosing my favorite part of Julian Murdock is like choosing which finger I’d choose to save if the other nine had to be cut off.

I’d probably choose my right thumb, if you must know. Hugo broke it once by slamming it in the door, and I feel it’s had its share of misery already.

Subconsciously I scooted forward on my seat, edging sideways slightly so as to get the perfect view in the dim light the dungeon offered. He had the most attractive hands in the history of forever – all long and thin and white, and the way they clutched his quill as he scrawled something down on a scrap of parchment made me swoon.

I don’t think a body part on that boy is unattractive. Unfortunately, I can’t say for sure about all of them. Maybe someday…

“Rose, hand me that little vial of fluxweed,” Pippa muttered, blowing a large blue bubble and scowling in concentration. The liquid inside the cauldron was a mustard sort of yellow, which frankly wasn’t pleasant at all to look at. Without looking, I reached around and thrust the bottle in her general direction.

My hands met something thin and sticky, and instantly there was a loud crack. Pippa and I were instantly covered in spidery strands of Drooble’s, our mouths hanging open.

Scorpius and Julian whirled around to see what the noise was, and I was embarrassed to find that I was still gazing rather avidly at the latter. He raised one eyebrow slightly and turned back to his desk. My eyes slid over to Scorpius, who was now doubled over with silent laughter.

He was so in for it tonight at practice.

Prat.

“Tut, tut,” Professor Slughorn said, after a little pause to evaluate the noise. He waddled over, smiling maddeningly behind his walrus mustache and wagging a finger in reproach. “I see some of you haven’t been concentrating too hard on your potions! You have thirty minutes left to complete them, you know, and I don’t think I need to remind you that this is your N.E.W.T. year?”

He winked at us, as though he’d just let us in on a very good joke. I think I missed the punch line.

“Come, now, clean up these sweets and try and make a dash at it,” he finished, patting my shoulder a bit heavily and moving back off through the dungeons, hands clasped behind his back. I crossed my eyes at him and began to work to get the Drooble’s out of my hair.

Pippa was mumbling sourly under her breath, rubbing furiously at the long blue strings of gum that now covered our desk and cauldron. My eyes slid over to Julian again, who hadn’t turned back around since he was startled by the bubble popping. He was writing something on his parchment again.

I honestly think I could watch him write forever, that beautiful human specimen.

Something crashed into the side of my head at the moment, but it was so light it didn’t hurt. I reached my hand up and snatched a tiny airplane, folded from parchment, out of the air, where it had been bewitched to fly at me. Pippa was now bent over the potions book again, working furiously to make up for lost time. I snuck the airplane into my lap without her seeing and opened it casually.

Thin, spidery, totally unfamiliar handwriting covered only one line:

Stop staring at Murdock and get back to your potion, Teaseley.

I scowled, and my head snapped up to glare at Scorpius. His eyes were trained in my direction, and a smirk of epic proportions was twisting his mouth. He pointed at the cauldron significantly, and I crossed my eyes and stuck out my tongue at him. He just laughed irritatingly and turned back to help Julian with their work.

I think I hate that boy.

By the time class ended, Pippa, who had decided not to speak to me for the rest of the lesson, had made a passable attempt at our Wound-Cleaning Concoction. It was emitting slightly blue bubbles every now and again, and I think a bit of the Drooble’s had gotten into the cauldron and messed it up.

But honestly, it really wasn’t totally my fault. It’s Pippa who chews the stuff nonstop. And she was the one who’d blown the bubble at precisely that moment. So really, I’m totally off the hook.

It was only after she’d filled a bottle with the potion and given it to Slughorn that Pippa looked at me. “Honestly, Rose, how you passed your potions O.W.L. is sort of beyond me,” she said a bit wearily, waving her wand; the leftover potion vanished.

“You weren’t next to me smacking away at your Drooble’s,” I said cheerfully, scraping my things into my bag and slinging it over my shoulder. She rolled her eyes and popped a fresh piece in her mouth.

Albus sauntered over, tailed closely by Evan Fredericks, his best friend and another Gryffindor seventh year. He’s decent-looking, but a bit too pimpled for my liking, although Pippa got a bit put out when I told her that. She says I shouldn’t be picky.

But even Rose Weasley has standards, and unfortunately for Evan, they don’t include acne.

“Smooth move today, Rose,” Albus snickered, wrapping his arm around Pippa’s shoulders. She put hers about his waist, and I looked at them in disgust.

“A foot of space in between, please,” I said, placing one hand on each of their shoulders and trying to force them apart, all while totally ignoring Albus. Not that that was new, of course. They both rolled their eyes and tried their hardest to pretend I didn’t exist.

The bell clanged, and in a rush everyone in the dungeons swarmed toward the door. Albus and Pippa swept away, arms still around each other, leaving me to trail them with Evan, who was shooting me covert looks from under his sand-colored fringe as though he thought we should be doing the same thing. I pretended to have a rock in my shoe, and slowed down. He was swept away with the tide of people before he realized I’d bent down.

What the boy didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

I wasn’t naturally a vindictive and spiteful person, although I suppose strangers might have been fooled. I might have enjoyed sarcasm more than the average girl, but I grew up with my cousins Albus, James, and Fred, not to mention my own brother, and they emit dry humor like Professor Hagrid’s salamanders emit smoke. Lily and Dominique were my only choices for girl companions anywhere close to my own age, and they were too engrossed in frills and dresses to interest me much.

I am wrongly blamed for my biting sense of humor.

I stood up after making sure Evan was gone, but before I’d even taken two steps further, who should appear at my elbow but Scorpius Malfoy himself. And what was worse, Julian wasn’t even with him to make the scene a bit more pleasing to the eye. I scowled mightily and continued walking, hoping he would disappear the next time I looked around.

“Couldn’t keep your eyes to yourself, eh, Peasley?” he said brightly, walking with a certain spring in his step. I scowled at him from out of the corner of my eye and held my nose a bit higher in the air, trying to look like he wasn’t getting to me just by walking next to me.

“Ah, I love the silent treatment,” he said, grinning. I stuck my tongue out at him again for lack of anything else to do. He raised an eyebrow.

“So attractive.”

“I try,” I said, and gave him what I hoped was a ferocious glare. “Don’t you have children’s lives to ruin?”

“Not until after lunch,” he said. “Aren’t you going to ask me where Julian is?”

“I don’t care where your little friend is,” I said haughtily, tipping my nose a bit further back and looking at him disdainfully as best I could.

“You’d best hope it doesn’t rain,” he said, gesturing toward me. My chin instantly snapped back to my chest and I nearly stuck my tongue out a third time – luckily, I had the presence of mind to refrain. “Anyway, the way you goggled at him all hour tells me differently,” he added, stuffing his hands in his pockets and promptly beginning to whistle.

“Shut up, Malfoy,” I snapped, and without a backward glance flounced away, shoving some people aside as I ascended the steps to the entrance hall. They looked a bit offended, but my pride was hurt, and that trumped offensive behavior any day.

I couldn’t say exactly why Snake Boy’s words bothered me as much as they did, because, if I was honest, he hadn’t really said anything that wasn’t either blatantly true, or any different from his normal behavior. But something about his teasing poked a very raw nerve today.

It was Charms next, and that was all the way at the other end of the castle. Glancing at my watch and knowing I’d be late no matter how fast I ran, I sighed and dragged my feet up the grand staircase. I’d barely cleared the last step, however, when a voice from down below called my name.

“Miss Weasley!” Madam Hooch was marching imperiously up the stairs, clutching a small note in her gloved fist and looking at me directly.

I don’t think that woman ever changes out of her Quidditch things.

“I need you to go to the headmistress’s office and make an announcement about the Slytherin practice tonight,” she said, handing over the note and straightening the goggles perched on her short gray hair. Without quite meaning to, I gave a little groan – Slytherins and Quidditch reminded me of Scorpius. She frowned.

“Without delay, please,” she said crisply. I saluted her.

She studied me a second longer, her yellow eyes narrowed as though she couldn’t tell whether I was joking or not, before finally walking back down the stairs and out through the large double doors. I changed courses, heading for McGonagall’s office, where the public announcement microphone was located.

You’d think in a school of magic, we’d have a better system than a microphone. Granted, we didn’t have to deal with all the plugs and wires and whatever else Granddad Weasley was always so excited about, but still. Microphones.

I quickly let myself into the office, not bothering to let anyone know I was there – McGonagall would figure it out soon enough, anyway, it wasn’t like being an announcer was a quiet job. I flung myself into the desk chair, flattened Hooch’s note on the desk, and tapped the microphone with my wand.

“Attention, all faculty and students,” I said crisply, sitting up a bit straighter although no one could see me. “The Slytherin Quidditch team will be practicing on the pitch tonight at six o’ clock. All members of the team must attend this mandatory practice.”

A sudden idea blossomed in my head, and I paused, gathering my words.

“Students need not be alarmed at the rumors of early snowfall. Measures are currently being taken to treat Scorpius Malfoy’s hideous dandruff. Proceed with caution, and be aware.”

Smiling with satisfaction, I tapped the microphone once more with my wand, and it turned off with a slight click. That ought to teach Snake Boy to keep his pointy nose where it belonged, instead of interfering into my affairs regarding the beautiful Julian Murdock.

I so should have been a Ravenclaw. I positively ooze wit.

A/N: Ah, Rose. She's a lot more fun to write than I anticipated -- as is Scorpius. I think he's my favorite character here! And, while I'm thinking about it, thank you for the incredible reaction that the first chapter received! I couldn't have been more pleased -- you guys are incredible. If you have the time to let me know what you thought of this chapter, too, I'd really appreciate it!


Chapter 3: Three
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Unfortunately for me, Professor McGonagall was not as pleased as I was about the comment on Scorpius’s dandruff. She cornered me the next morning at breakfast, while I was trying to eat my porridge in peace.

Breakfast is the best meal of the day. There is no arguing that fact. You are fully allowed to dump marmalade over everything, and any meal where I can coat whatever I’m eating in something sweet is totally okay with me.

Albus says I’ll break out if I do that, but he’s just jealous.

Our lovely Head of House was about nine million years old – she’d been head of Gryffindor when Nana Weasley was still at Hogwarts, and that was forever ago – but for an old broad, she could move with impressive speed. I admired how flared her nostrils were and how thin her mouth got as she came to stand above me, and from across the table, Hugo smiled broadly.

That boy. Always sucking up to authority figures.

“Miss Weasley,” McGonagall said, tapping her right foot a couple of times against the floor. “A word, if you please.” I shoveled in another mouthful of marmalade-soaked porridge to show her who was boss, and she wrinkled her nose almost imperceptibly.

“Shoot,” I mumbled through my breakfast. She grimaced again and shook her head slightly, visibly pulling herself together.

“Do I need to remind you that reading the school announcements is a privilege and not a right? Or perhaps that it is not a time in which you can make not only untrue but unsuitable remarks about your classmates? Or –“

“Nope. I think we’ve covered it all.” I had finally swallowed the porridge, it having quite a time getting down my throat due to its stickiness.

“Then I think we’ll not need to have this talk again,” she finished – a bit lamely, if you ask me – and stalked back in a rather birdlike fashion towards the staff table. As soon as she was out of earshot, I gave a massive snort and gulped a mouthful of pumpkin juice. Counting myself, I knew exactly how many people were willing to miss the first five minutes of breakfast to haul themselves to McGonagall’s office and speak into a microphone.

That number is one.

“To be fair, you might have gone a bit overboard when you accused his mother of being a hairless Chihuahua,” Pippa pointed out from my right side. Glancing at her, I caught a quick glimpse of her fingers interlaced with my cousin’s and the porridge nearly came back up.

“Rubbish,” I said, waving my hand. “He only got so mad because it’s true.”

Hugo, who had wiped the sycophantic smile off his face at this point, coughed as a way to intrude into the conversation. “Hey, Al, I’ve got another Quidditch idea –“

“No one wants your advice on Quidditch, you shrimp of a little brother,” I interrupted, swiping the last of his bacon off his plate and pinching his cheek before standing up. “Considering that it is Dad’s greatest disappointment in life that both of us are unequivocally awful at it. And speaking of that, I’ve got to head down to the pitch now or I’ll miss commentating the Slytherin practice,” I added, checking the upside-down watch on Hugo’s wrist. “And Hooch really might make good on her promise to have my head someday.”

Al rolled his eyes so hard I thought they might pop out of his head, and I watched interestedly in case such a thing happened – you never knew. “Try not to completely decimate anybody’s self-esteem,” he said, and I patted his head.

“No promises,” I said cheerfully, and began walking toward the doors into the entrance hall. There was a loud sort of thunk behind me, and Pippa’s voice was the last I heard.

“Albus, you’re getting your hair in the jam.”

*

It is one of the greatest tragedies of my life that Julian Murdock is not a member of the Slytherin Quidditch team.

I mean, if I got to stare at Julian’s muscles and his amazing athletic ability for a solid two or three hours, I swear, I wouldn’t mind that splintery seat in the commentator’s box half so much.

Not that I mind it that much in the first place, though, because all great Quidditch commentators have to start somewhere. I am grateful for my lot in life.

And, I suppose if I was being really nice – and I’m really not a horrible person – then Scorpius does fill out his Quidditch uniform quite nicely. In fact, if he’s not running his mouth or snogging girls behind his girlfriend’s back, then he’s not too terribly bad to look at, I suppose. He does fill out the green and silver sweater rather nicely – Beaters have lovely triceps, they’re quite toned – and he is definitely one of the team’s better players.

But he must feel remorse for what he did to Pippa, and I am here to enforce that remorse. After all, you don’t shoot the messenger. So what if it was a year ago, either?

Rationality isn’t my strongest suit, but I have a fine eye for vengeance.

Madam Hooch entered the commentator’s box just then, pulling on her Quidditch gloves. She gave me a narrow-eyed stare when she was done, fingering the referee’s whistle hanging around her neck. “Now remember, Miss Weasley,” she said, and it suddenly occurred to me just how many ‘Miss Weasleys’ I would probably receive today. “There’s to be no funny business, no mindless insults, none of it. You stick to the hard facts of the practice and only the hard facts. Agreed?”

I clasped my hands together and bowed slightly, trying to show her that I did in fact agree, but she just stared at me for a moment before turning on her heel and walking right out of the box, giving three sharp blasts on her whistle. I plunked back down into the seat, trying to avoid the worst of the splinters, and dropped my chin into my hands.

Honestly. It’s like they can’t trust me at all.

The seven Slytherin players walked onto the field at that moment, having emerged from an apparent Scorpius-issued pep talk, and mounted their brooms. Hooch had taken a seat high in the pitch at that point, carefully observing them. Scorpius opened the trunk with the Quidditch balls in it (and oh, I was so glad that it was still cold outside – those sweaters really did look fabulous), and play began.

I tapped the microphone with my wand, cleared my throat, and opened my mouth, ignoring all the brilliant remarks that were bursting to be said and instead opening with, “Good morning, Hogwarts, and welcome to today’s Quidditch match. Today it’s Slytherin versus Ravenclaw…”

Commentating practices are dead boring. All the fun is taken out of a sport when the game doesn’t count for anything; instead of lively competition and lots of great and potentially painful fouls, it’s just some people zipping about on a broomstick. And there is nothing interesting about flying brooms when near-death isn’t a factor.

Of course, the Weasley-Potter pickup games in Granddad and Nana Weasley’s orchard are different. Even when I commentate for them, there’s always the very real possibility I might get dive-bombed. The family rivalry comes to a head at these games, and many bruises from poorly-lobbed apples have been sustained. Lots of great fun, really.

I don’t think Hooch expected me to take her seriously that morning, either, because her beady eyes kept flashing my way every five minutes, just waiting for me to talk about how Scorpius looked like he’d been dunked in a vat of banana pudding (and really, his hair is exactly that color), but I knew when to hold my tongue. Let it never be said that Rose Weasley couldn’t be an upstanding citizen now and again.

Certain people might disagree, Snake Boy primary among them, but he was right there along with me, so it didn’t count. Besides, there were only a handful of people I truly antagonized. It just so happened I interacted with them a lot.

Somehow, though, I managed to sit there on that seat for two and a half long and somewhat tedious hours, fretting about the amount of wood I’d have to remove from my backside afterwards – and with these temperatures, they’d probably be frozen in there to boot – and not so much as a hint of an insult passed through my pure and honest lips.

I think it threw Scorpius off, actually, not to have to block out my prodigious humor.

But anyway, Hooch seemed a bit more pleased than normal when she came back up to the commentator’s box after the Slytherins had gone off to shower. Her mouth wasn’t set into any sort of disapproving lines or frowns, and her eyes weren’t squinted in anger. I shut the microphone off with another tap from my wand and prepared to receive lavish praise on my reservation.

“See, now, was that so hard?” she said crisply, removing her gloves and stuffing one into each pocket. I merely raised my eyebrows, not wanting to exactly tell her about that one moment when I’d had to get up and do a few jumping jacks to distract myself from a very perfect opportunity to bring back that dandruff comment.

“No, not at all,” I said instead. And I don’t think she caught the sarcasm, luckily. So, instead of waiting around on the off chance that she might pick it up, I scooped up my wand from the desk, pocketed it, and left the box with a bit of a wave.

Two of the Slytherin Chasers – massive blokes called Wallace and Lobb, who quite frankly intimidated me – were coming out of the locker rooms as I reached the turf. Lobb was toweling off his hair with one of the completely grimy locker room towels.

I don’t mind not being a Quidditch prodigy, really. I’ve had to step into the locker room once, to give Albus a note from Pippa, and I am not even going to describe how awful they smell. You couldn’t get me to dry my hair with one of those towels if you paid me ten Galleons.

Well, maybe for ten Galleons.

Wallace looked up as I tried unsuccessfully to march past them without being spotted, and called out. “Hey, Weasley!” I looked around at him, quirking an eyebrow. I had nothing against him – he was actually quite a good Chaser – but the fact that he’d never talked to me before now was a bit suspicious.

“What happened, Weasley?” he continued, shooting a grin sideways at Lobb, who had momentarily become tangled in his towel. “Did you lose a bet? Did Malfoy save your life, or something?”

“Excuse me?” I said, now contracting both brows in confusion.

“You were a bit light on the insults,” Lobb pointed out, having finally reemerged into the fresh air. “Heart’s gone a bit soft, has it?”

I ground my teeth. “Not at all,” I said vehemently, sticking my nose up a bit higher in the air and trying not to register how cold it got when I did so. “Just you wait. Tomorrow morning he won’t be feeling so good about himself.”

Wallace rolled his eyes. “You do know he’s got no idea why you’ve got this vendetta against him?”

“Good,” I said, turning to go once more. Unfortunately, another shout stopped me.

“No, Weasley, but seriously,” Wallace said, “Malfoy’s got something to talk to you about.” He jerked his head in the direction of the locker room door, which he and Lobb were standing in front of. I froze.

This was probably some horrible, horrible trap. I would go missing and nobody would know where I was, and then they’d find my body years later buried under the Quidditch Pitch. And everybody would mourn for me, the next great voice of the Quidditch stadium, and how sad it was that I had fallen so soon at the hands of Scorpius Malfoy, who was currently serving in Azkaban for poaching Crumple-Horned Snorkacks.

Or something.

“What does he want?” I shouted back suspiciously, and Lobb shrugged.

“He didn’t tell us. Just said to catch you as you came down. I don’t think it’s anything too bad,” he added, although he didn’t look entirely sure of this last statement. I wasn’t so sure, either. I’d never known him as a violent or particularly nasty sort – unless he was snogging girls he didn’t know – but personalities can change.

But to my dismay, my curiosity won.

“All right,” I finally said dubiously, crossing a few steps back towards them and crossing my arms as well. “But you just tell Pippa Teagues where I am in case I go mysteriously missing.” Pippa would be sure to organize a search party, at least. It’s one of her most redeeming qualities as my best friend.

Wallace looked at me a bit strangely. “Uh, right,” he said, glancing again at Lobb. “Well, you can just – wait here, I suppose.” He and Lobb hurried away rather quickly, and I was left standing alone, trying not to breathe too much in case I sucked in a mouthful of rank locker room air.

But thankfully, Scorpius came out of the locker room before too long, and I had to bite back a comment about his hair – it was still wet, and all the comments about rotten and slimy bananas would go to perfect waste. I frowned grumpily, and he reacted to this by grinning so widely I wondered if he might not be a bit sarcastic.

“Such a pleasure to see your freckled face,” he said, slinging a towel over his shoulder, and I got hit right in the face with a few of the water drops. I coughed and gagged at once, jumping about, trying to wipe them off me.

“Gross!” I shrieked, and his smile disappeared quickly.

“It’s… water.”

“It’s shower water,” I said, sputtering. It didn’t actually get in my mouth, but it was good for the effect. Scorpius waited politely until I was done, his own arms crossed over his chest now (and really, it did look good in that sweater).

“Well, Breezeley,” he said, leaning one shoulder against the door, “I’ve got a proposition for you.” He waited for my reaction, but I didn’t deign to give him one; this situation smelled fishier by the second. Snake Boy cleared his throat a bit awkwardly and pushed on.

“Anyway. Look, next weekend’s the first big match – exactly a week from today, actually. You know that.”

I had, in fact, forgotten until that very moment, but I wasn’t about to let on.

“We’re playing Ravenclaw, and there are supposed to be a couple of Quidditch scouts there. Not a huge number, but you know, I’m trying to keep my options open. And it would be really, really great if they could get a good impression of me.” He leaned forward then, as though to impress a point.

I pretended to study my fingernails, having now completely recovered from the aftershock of being sprayed with Scorpius-water. “Go on,” I said in my best bored voice, although I knew exactly where this was going. He didn’t want me to go spewing out stuff about his tiny ears or his dandruff or whatever other genius things I could come up with, simply because it might hurt his chances of playing after school.

He knew that I knew this, too, because his mouth dropped open slightly in disbelief. “I just… do I have to spell it out for you?”

I gave him my very best I-have-no-idea-what-you’re-talking-about look, and he groaned.

“Look, Rose.” (And it did not escape me that he was using my first name. This boy meant business.) “All I’m asking is that you continue this nice streak you’ve been on this morning and just… not say anything at next week’s game.”

I patted his shoulder sympathetically. “Scorpius, my dear maggot-attractor, there is nothing that I would love to do more, but unfortunately I have a reputation to keep up.” He rolled his eyes.

“No, you don’t.”

Au contraire – that’s French, you know – but I’ve got legions of fans waiting to hear the next attack against you. I’ve even signed autographs.”

Now Scorpius really rolled his eyes, a gesture worthy of even Albus himself. “But if you do this for me, I’m prepared to do something for you. I guarantee you that I can get Julian to ask you to the next Hogsmeade weekend by this time next week.”

I paused, my hand still frozen in the action of patting Scorpius’s well-defined triceps sympathetically. My eyes narrowed at him, trying to call him on a bluff. That was no joking matter.

“You sure?” I said, eyes locked firmly on his. He nodded.

“Positive. A few tips and tricks, a lesson or two –“

I choked on my own spit. “Forget it!” I said, now having the presence of mind to snatch my hand back and thrust it into the pocket of my robes. “I’m not taking bloody lessons from you!”

“You would give up the very real possibility – no, let’s call it a probability – that you could get a date with Julian Murdock, most handsome boy in school, love of your life, marmalade to your porridge –“

“Knock it off, Malfoy,” I growled.

“ – just because you’d have to spend two hours with me next week?” He smirked, crossing his arms again over his chest and looking like the Kneazle that had caught the canary.

Well, damn. He was good.

“Okay,” I said slowly, my eyes now so narrow it was a wonder I could see through them at all. “Let me just sum this up before I sign away my soul, or whatever. If I don’t say anything brilliantly witty but only slightly offensive at your game this week –“

“And at practice and on the announcements,” he interjected hurriedly, and I might have growled again.

“And at practice and on the announcements,” I repeated through gritted teeth, “then you guarantee me a date with Julian?”

He nodded and stuck out his hand. “Do we have a deal?”

I was loath to do it. On the one hand, I would have to be nice to Scorpius Malfoy, the boy who had apparently snogged a girl behind Pippa’s back the summer they broke up.

On the other hand, Julian Murdock.

I grabbed his hand and shook it. “We have a deal.”

A/N: Plot! It exists! And it's here! It only took three chapters -- although I've written a lot more about a lot less. But that's neither here nor there, I suppose. The important thing is, we're finally getting this story underway, and I am really excited to see everyone's reactions on how it goes from here!

For those who are curious -- this story's got exactly ten chapters planned out, and I'm putting the last touches on the eighth right now. So, as I've said before, updates really shouldn't be too far apart. No more than two weeks, anyway, simply because I've got three works in progress. A bad idea, granted, but bad ideas are often the best ones. No regrets!

Don't forget to feed the review box -- and thank you!


Chapter 4: Four
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“You’re doing what?”

I looked at Pippa mildly over the top of the Daily Prophet, trying to pretend that I’d actually been reading it, a ruse which fooled neither of us. Her jaw had nearly hit the table, and I could see a large wad of bright blue, barely-chewed Drooble’s hanging about near her right molars.

“You don’t need to act so surprised,” I said a bit testily, setting the paper down with a pleasant rustle. There’s really not a lot that sounds better than newsprint, you know. Even if the articles inside it are totally boring and stuffy, it just sounds awesome. I always try and carry a newspaper around with me to look smart, and then I can just sort of crinkle it whenever I’m bored and get that lovely sound back.

I am an expert at these sorts of façades.

“I bloody well need to act surprised,” she retorted. She had finally regained her senses enough to resume chomping away at the gum.

“Merlin, Pippa, it’s only nine o’ clock in the morning,” I said, pointing at the little cellophane wrappers around her golden plate. “We’ve got to get you to a specialist, or a therapist, or somebody. This is getting out of hand.”

It sort of seems like I would get on Pippa’s nerves about the gum thing, but that’s been a factor in our friendship pretty much from the beginning. Considering it sort of began when I lent her a piece, way back in second year, and we just got talking from there.

They say you shouldn’t feed an addiction, and yeah, it makes sense now. But getting a friend like Pippa was well worth all the Drooble’s madness that came later.

And she owes me forever, which is always a plus.

She rolled her eyes. “Focus, Rose. You are taking lessons. From Scorpius. The same Scorpius you ridicule on a daily basis, I’m going to assume? We haven’t got a new student? You haven’t got a new invisible friend?” She looked pointedly at me from beneath her dark fringe, leaning forward on her elbows as though almost expecting this to be the case.

“Little heavy on the sarcasm, Pips. Maybe I’ve decided to become a more selfless person,” I said, clasping my hands over the mess of newspaper that had covered my breakfast. From next to me, Albus, who had tried to stay out of the conversation thus far, let out such a violent snort that I was very surprised there wasn’t a mess of egg splatter all over his plate.

“Rosie, you’ve been stealing my toys since you were born,” he said. “It runs in your blood.”

“Well, Albus, I’m not planning on stealing his toys,” I said patiently, and it was Pippa’s turn to roll her eyes. I felt rather victimized in this situation, not to mention a little hurt that they thought I could turn a new leaf so quickly. Never mind the fact that it wasn’t necessarily true.

“It so happens that I’ve made a deal with him,” I continued, trying to recollect the shreds of dignity that had become scattered between my cousin and my best friend. “Involving one witty announcer and one rather attractive Slytherin –“

“You sold your soul for Julian Murdock?” Pippa screeched, in a very impressive decibel. I winced.

“I did not sell my soul!” That came out rather louder than I meant it to. And, to infer something from the odd looks that were quickly cast my way, half-screaming that one has not sold their soul actually makes it look like they have. A second-year Hufflepuff girl from the table across the way – she’d always stalked Albus, I remembered now, she’d sent him love notes nearly every week our first year – looked like her eyes were about to pop out of her head. I turned back to Pippa quickly, propping up my hand by my face to avoid looking at anyone else.

“I’ve just agreed not to say anything else about him until after next week’s game,” I said quickly. “He wants to impress all those snobbish Quidditch people. And look, he said he could get me a date with Julian. That’s worth playing along for, right?”

Albus snorted again, and I was really thinking about turning him into a pig at this point just to show him how annoying that was. Bloody git. “Did you ever think that maybe he’s just got you to agree to this so you’ll stop? And he’s got no intentions of fulfilling his end of the deal?”

Well, no, that hadn’t exactly occurred to me in so many words. I pretended to look insulted still.

“I am a bit smarter than that, thank you kindly,” I said, drawing myself up to my full height. It was still only tall enough to give Albus’s chin a good glare. “He said he’d teach me –“

Pippa spoke up now, and I was getting good and sick of being interrupted. “That boy is not the one to be giving lessons on dating,” she said, blowing a large blue bubble I resisted the urge to stab my fork in. Albus stiffened slightly at the allusion that Pips and Scorpius had once dated.

It was sort of cute, his protective instinct. Or it would have been, if he hadn’t been my cousin. And totally obnoxious.

“Not mention,” Pippa added, “that Julian seems to be the sort to go for people like… like Scorpius’s family, actually. All those Malfoy and Greengrass types. They’re all, like… elegant and posh –“

“I’m elegant,” I scoffed, stabbing a kipper moodily and gnawing on the end of it, not bothering to cut it. Albus wrinkled his nose and slid a napkin my way, which I promptly ignored just to annoy him. “Besides, I’m a fast learner.”

Pippa shook her head, clucking her tongue. I was rather impressed the wad of gum in her cheek still allowed her to make noise at all. “Better you than me,” she said. "Been there, done that, bought that set of robes."

"Oh, this is totally different," I said, and then leaned across the table and patted her nicely on the head. “Pips, my lovely friend, what is the absolute worst that can happen?”

*

Scorpius had said to meet him in the library after lunch that day for our first lesson, although the prat wouldn’t tell me exactly what it would consist of. I hate surprises, and told him so, but he just smiled and said something about it being good for me.

Which I found to be a load of rubbish, to be honest. He wasn’t my father or my uncle or any of the other men in my life who tried to help me out, and his advice wasn’t, you know, vegetables or vitamins. And I was doing him a favor, too, by saving him from a world of witty humiliation. I didn’t ask for lessons in morality and patience along the way, I just wanted this date.

He was waiting in one of the squashy chairs by the far window when I got there, looking in his element. I, for one, absolutely hated the library, and it really wasn’t all that hard to see why. The place was so dusty you could see little footprints where everyone walked, and anyone with asthma would have been dead in two seconds upon walking in. And it was much, much too quiet – any place where you can’t talk above a whisper for fear of getting expelled was no place for me. And there is, of course, Madam Pince, who I swear should be dead by now. She was librarian when my parents were at school, and Merlin knows how ancient they are. And most unfortunately, she has apparently only gotten crankier in her old (older) age.

Scorpius gave me a far-too-cheerful smile when I plopped my bag on the floor near him. “Lovely to see you, Sneezeley,” he said, sitting an inch or two forward on the cushion of his chair. “Ten minutes late, of course, but –“

“Time is relative to all things,” I said, frowning. He quirked an eyebrow but apparently chose not to comment.

At that exact moment, Madam Pince came stalking around the corner of the nearest stack, her bony, claw-like hands clasped around a stack of moldy books. She froze when she saw me, and her beady eyes narrowed even further than normal. She always seemed to resent my presence even more than that of the other students.

This may or may not have anything to do with the time Pippa and I accidentally set her first-edition copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on fire.

In my defense, though, if you’re going to assign students an essay on fire salamanders, and they want to get a little hands-on experience by bribing Professor Hagrid, you cannot blame them for whatever articles may or may not be returned singed.

The librarian’s eyes flickered over to Scorpius at that moment, however, and her gaze became a fraction less hostile – for whatever reason, she seemed to like him well enough. She settled for a loud sniff through her wrinkled old hook of a nose and stalked off, heels tapping. I stuck my tongue out at her retreating back.

“So, shall we get started?” Scorpius lugged his own bag onto his knees and rummaged around in it for a bit, pretending he hadn’t seen the tongue thing at all. Which was big of him, really. He deserved a pat on the head, maybe a biscuit.

Like one you might give dog that hasn’t peed on the rug. That sort of pat.

He finally pulled out a piece of parchment and set it on the arm of his chair, and I could see that it was covered in tiny black writing – how he ever managed to write that much, I’ll never know. I was rather impressed that it hadn’t come out looking like a herd of centaurs had trampled on it, as all the essays that came out of my own bag usually did.

The paper was, rather optimistically, titled Lesson One: How to Make Rose Seem Attractive to Julian. I jabbed it with my forefinger, feeling rather offended. “And what’s this supposed to mean?” I asked, crossing my legs under me leaning on my own armrest. “I’m plenty attractive to Julian.”

“A precursor to the lesson, if we may,” Scorpius spoke up, not looking at me as he continued to rummage. He held a forefinger in the air as though he were making some philosophical point. “Staring unsubtly at a boy all through Potions and then getting covered in gum does not equal attractive. Learn these things now.” He glanced up, smirking. “I could make you take notes.”

“I could make you eat frog spawn.”

Scorpius sat up a bit straighter now, clutching a quill in his right hand. He raised another eyebrow, and I noted that he was rather good at this. Whenever I tried to raise just one, my whole face looked sort of lopsided.

“Are you going to learn this, or not? I’m trying to help, Rose.” He looked so serious at that moment that it unnerved me a bit, so I just resorted to mumbling something, straightening my robes over my knees for something to do.

“You may continue,” I said primly. He let out a long sigh and cleared his throat, pulling the parchment a bit more towards himself.

“What I’ve compiled here is a list of Julian’s interests, things I know he likes and dislikes. What we can do first is go down and see if any of them match up, and sort of build conversation from there.” He glanced up at me, and I noticed that his eyes were rather blue.

Quite blue, actually.

“From there,” he was saying, and I pulled myself together enough to listen, “we’ll plan out potential responses and where to set up this conversation between you two. So with luck, you’ll have bonded from the first conversation. And where there’s bonding, there’s the potential for a date.” He tapped the paper with the quill for emphasis. “Are you with me so far?”

I nodded. Well, this sounded easy enough, after all. I already knew that we probably had tons in common. Conversation would be a breeze. Heck, he’d probably ask me to the Three Broomsticks after ten minutes of talking. And then we’d go and grab a butterbeer, and afterwards…

“Rose.” Scorpius was now snapping his fingers in front of my nose, and it appeared that I’d sort of forgotten he was still talking. He waved the paper in my direction, and I pouted, annoyed that he was treating me like a four-year-old. “Okay, just listen. Can you do that?”

“I resent your bad attitude,” I said sniffily, and was treated to another rolling of the eyes.

Honestly. Could anyone keep their eyes firmly in their sockets today?

“Okay, here’s one,” he ventured, straightening the parchment. “The Rhythm Runes. Do you like them?”

I blinked. “Should I know what that is?”

“They’re a band, Rose,” Scorpius said, and I could have sworn a smile was twitching around the corners of his lips. He’d never own up to it, though. I huffed, rearranging myself on the chair.

“Well, I’m not good at music stuff. Nana brought us up on all the Celestina Warbeck stuff.” Scorpius mimed gagging, and this time – finally! – it was my turn to roll his eyes at him. “Okay, there’s got to be something else,” I persisted, trying to peek over the top edge of the parchment. “Next thing, come on.”

“Ancient Runes?”

“Ick. No. That class is worse than Divination, and at least Divination’s easy to fall asleep in.” He stared at me for a second again before turning back down to the paper, scanning it with a slight hint of desperation now.

“Steak and kidney pie.”

“Disgusting.”

“Old books – oh, no, we can scratch that one off.” He grinned wickedly at me. If you’re asking me, he was asking for a good punch in the head at that moment, but I was working on being elegant, like Pippa said. And elegant women, as far as I knew, did not punch their matchmakers.

Although it’s something I should probably research. Just in case I was missing a prime opportunity.

“Keep going!” I said, flapping my hands at him. Truth be told, I was feeling a bit panicked now myself, but there had to be something we had in common.

“The color green. Lectures on goblin rebellions. Early morning swims in the lake. Black shoes?” Scorpius shot me another look, and I really couldn’t tell if his was expression was because he was about to laugh, or cry, or maybe both. “Come on, black shoes.”

“They’re too plain! What’s the fun in wearing plain shoes?” I wailed, now more than a little anxious. I clasped my hands around my throat dramatically. “What if – I could just sort of… lie?”

Scorpius tossed the paper in the air in defeat, and I made a wild scramble to snatch it. “You can’t lie to the bloke, for Merlin’s sakes! Are you sure you want to go through with this?”

“And who are you to tell me what I’m supposed to do?” I snapped, now looking at the list for myself. I pointed at one with a little shriek of triumph, and Madam Pince reappeared almost instantly around the corner.

“Shh!” she hissed at me, looking as though at any moment she’d sprout wings and swoop down on my face. I looked reproachfully back at the old hag until she finally resumed her place behind the desk, looking austerely at the two of us.

“Taking difficult examinations! We can totally bond over that!” Scorpius laughed so loudly that it was his turn to be hushed by the birdlike librarian. I stared at him a bit incredulously, mouth slightly open, as he choked and gasped for air.

“You’re being a mite rude, you know, Scorp.” I waved the list in his red, tear-streaked face. “I mean, I like when difficult exams are over, that’s a start… It’ll work! This was your idea, you know!”

He wiped his eyes and fought down the last of his giggles. It was rather unmanly for him to be giggling, actually. At the rate he’s going, it’s a wonder he managed to snag Pippa at all. Maybe he’s got a thing for gum.

“My idea was that you might have something in common,” he began. “Not –“

“It’s worth a shot,” I said stubbornly, crossing my arms over my chest. “Or we can just go back to the old days of my announcing your hair care problems for the whole school to hear.”

“I don’t have – my hair – oh, fine,” he grouched, snatching the list back from me; by this point, it was quite crumpled and dog-eared. “If you want to start building your whole relationship around this one rather flimsy fact, be my guest. If it means you think that got something out of this –”

I smiled, patting his knee in what I thought was a rather kind gesture. “Now you’re seeing things clearly, Scorpius. I’m proud of you.”

He snorted, and he reminded me distinctly of Albus at that moment. “Lessons are over for today. Let’s go.” Standing up, he led the way out of the library, and I had to try very hard to resist dancing out after him.

Julian Murdock was as good as mine. I could feel it. 

A/N: Happy Friday, everybody! And I do normally update on Thursdays, so this is a tad later than my schedule dictates. But there was a slight queue rush and I was trying to time this right -- and, to make a long story short, yesterday didn't work out so well. But now sod it, I wanted to get this chapter out, so here it is! Hope you enjoy, and thanks so much for the already incredible response this story's gotten. In a month, no less!

Also, Scorpius is delicious. That is all.


Chapter 5: Five
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Professor McGonagall was mysteriously absent from her office on the morning Scorpius and I had chosen to enact Operation: Rose Has So Much In Common With Julian It’s Not Even Funny.

I seriously thought the world was about to spin off its axis.

“But seriously, she’s never not been here,” I said anxiously to Pippa, who did not look nearly as flustered about this change in schedule as I was. I gnawed on a hank of my hair without quite realizing it, buckling and unbuckling the bag slung across my chest and occasionally drumming my fingers on my thighs. “I think we need to go send someone to check on her. Make sure she didn’t choke on a muffin or something.”

Pippa smacked her gum particularly loudly and made a derogatory sort of noise in the back of her throat. “I think she can be allowed a smidge of tardiness sometimes without Death knocking at her door,” she said, absentmindedly fluffing her fringe. “What are you so worried about?”

“I’ve got to do the announcements, haven’t I? And I’m a right grouch when I don’t eat breakfast, you know that,” I said, a bit more tartly than I had intended. Pippa nodded in rather amiable agreement and continued toying with her hair.

I wasn’t about to tell her that I was seriously considering skiving off lessons and heading up to the hospital wing to wait out Potions. Scorpius might hate my guts, but then, he already did, so it wouldn’t be much of a loss there. I just didn’t want him to see how jittery the upcoming conversation with Julian was making me.

At that precise moment, Hugo came barreling around the corner and ran smack into Pippa, who, not seeing it coming, was sent sprawling.

“Sorry! Sorry!” Hugo gasped in his squeaky sort of way. He popped right back up like the jack-in-the-box he’d loved so much when he was three, the one I’d accidentally-on-purpose put my foot through.

That stupid clown had given me nightmares for months.

“Rosie! Rosie! I was looking for you!” he said now, hopping from foot to foot in anticipation; it rather made him look like he had to use the loo. Pippa, whose robes had somehow ended up over her head, was still flailing about on the floor like a beached mermaid.

“Don’t be such a gentleman, Hugo,” I snapped, bending down and trying to sort out the writhing mass of black fabric that had once been my best friend. A hand emerged and yanked on my school tie, and I spluttered, wrenching back and massaging my throat.

Pippa managed to haul herself to her feet after nearly choking me, looking cross, although not cross enough to prevent her from continuing to chomp away at the bright blue piece of gum in her mouth. She muttered something about “Weasleys” and I shot her my most charming smile.

“This is why we’re friends. I provide you with your daily dose of excitement.” I patted her head, and then turned back to Hugo, who was still doing his absurd variation of a bathroom dance. “Merlin’s pants, what do you want?!”

“I’ve got something for you to say on the announcements! It’s urgent!” He stopped hopping about and shot Pippa a look, as though unwilling to confide this juicy secret in front of her. I waved my hand impatiently for him to continue.

“I’ve got word that the Ravenclaw Quidditch captain snogged a Slytherin Chaser in the locker rooms in exchange for some of their tactics.” He raised his eyebrows as if to say, Who knew? I waited, but that seemed to be all he had to say on the matter.

“Not buying it unless you’ve got a photo,” I said dully, now resuming chewing on my hair; his mention of the word ‘Slytherin’ had reminded me that I’d be making conversation with the fairest of that House in less than an hour.

As long as I didn’t make an idiot of myself, I’d be fine.

Which was a lot easier said than done, if I was being honest, seeing as last lesson I’d gotten covered in Pippa’s gum.

“But –“ Hugo spoke up again, evidently not finished with his end of the conversation. I let out a garbled sort of yell, the sort I imagine a captive of the giant squid might have emitted at one time or another, and tried very hard not to kick Hugo in the shin again.

“Look,” I said through gritted teeth. “Unless anything you’re about to say has to do with Julian Murdock and how much he loves and adores me, I don’t want to hear it. Okay? You’re being annoying. Go away.” I made a shooing motion, and his lip stuck out. “You’ll trip over that,” I added, pointing at said lip.

“Julian Murdock?” Hugo wrinkled his nose. “Gross.”

“You’re gross,” I shot back.

My comebacks were not exactly on par today.

“You’re not gross, Hugo,” Pippa amended quickly. “It’s just that Rose is a bit neurotic today” – she quickly reached over and clamped a hand over my mouth, sensing the protest that had just found its way to my lips – “and she’s not making a lot of sense.”

The cloud briefly lifted from Hugo’s brows, although he was still shooting me dark looks. “All right,” he said sulkily, and I was a bit insulted at how easily he took that insult as fact. “I guess I’ll see you around, then.” Pippa beamed at him as he turned to walk away, looking a bit mopey, before she finally removed her hand from over my mouth.

“Can I borrow your lotion?” I asked immediately. I hadn’t appreciated her cutting me off, but her hands smelled really good. Pippa rolled her eyes and began fishing about in her bag for the bottle.

Professor McGonagall turned the corner just then, and not a moment too soon – I may or may not have jumped directly in her path in my eagerness to get the stupid announcements over with. “Where have you been?” I cried. Her eyebrows rose in shock, and I saw her gaze fall on the damp strand of hair lying on my shoulder.

“I don’t see how it’s any of your business, Miss Weasley,” she said, drawing herself up a bit. “If you must know, I had to see to a group of second-year who thought it might be amusing to drip paint on the gargoyles near the headmaster’s office.”

I shook my head. “Youth today,” I said tragically, and then clapped my hands together, rubbing them briskly. “Shall we do this, then? You know, classes to attend, things to learn…” I tapped my temple for emphasis and nearly poked myself in the eye. Pippa let out a very unhelpful giggle.

McGonagall looked even more concerned now. “Are you feeling quite well, Miss Weasley?” she asked, tapping the door of her office with her wand; it opened with a soft click.

“Spiffing,” I amended quickly, darting inside the room before she tried to detain me. The announcements sheet was lying in place beside the microphone, and I turned it on as quickly as possible. I had to get down to the dungeons before Julian; it was imperative.

I launched into rapid speech.

“Good morning students and faculty of Hogwarts Mr. Filch has demanded to remind everyone to please remember to take particular care with your shoes today as he does not want to spend the morning sponging up mud.” I paused for breath, ignoring the burning look McGonagall was giving me at that moment. Pippa gaped from the doorway, open-mouthed.

“The chess club will meet after dinner tonight in Professor Vector’s classroom so members are once again asked not to throw chess pieces at first-years and finally as always be diligent in your studies and remember to learn something new today.” I tapped the microphone again to turn it off with such pent-up force it very nearly snapped.

I do believe I’d broken a record.

“Miss Weasley –“

“Thanks, Professor,” I panted, slightly out of breath, and jumped up from the stool. “Sorry, but I’m in a bit of a rush – let’s go, Pippa –“ I bolted from the classroom. I’d probably be in a lot of trouble for that set of announcements later, but right now Julian was more important.

Let’s face it. He was always more important, wasn’t he?

Scorpius was already waiting outside the dungeon when I got there, although I couldn’t quite figure out why; he looked half-dressed as it was. His tie was draped loosely about his neck as though he simply couldn’t be bothered to put it in properly. Somewhere along the route I’d lost Pippa – she’d probably intercepted Albus – and so it was just the two of us in the dank and moldy-smelling underground corridor.

“Loved your diatribe this morning, Treesley,” he said as I approached, looking around subtly for Julian. “He’s not here yet,” he added.

Well. I thought I’d been subtle.

“You’ll notice that I steered away from your malodorous stench this morning,” I pointed out, and he grinned at me. That grin sent a little shiver through my stomach, and I took it as more nausea at the fact that in less than an hour I’d have to draw up conversation from basically nothing to go on.

“You ready, Rosie?” he asked now, fishing about in the pocket of his robes and pulling out the old list we’d used in the library, looking thoroughly worn by now. “D’you want this?”

I grabbed for it as though it were the only life preserver being tossed to me in a churning ocean. “I can’t do this,” I said suddenly, clutching the parchment to my chest. “I’m going to vomit.”

“Disgusting,” he said conversationally. “You can do this – it’ll work as long as you remember what I told you.”

“Right.” I paused. “What exactly did you tell me again?”

Scorpius gave me his best impression of a dirty look, although the amusement in his eyes belied it a bit. “Relax. Breathe. Just stick to – what was it you resolved to talk about?” He came around and peered over my shoulder at his list. “Difficult exams.”

“Erm. Right.” I swallowed as a clattering of approaching footsteps met my ears. “And if I do vomit?”

“Don’t go blaming it on me.” He squeezed my shoulder. “You’ll be fine, Rosie.” I could still feel the place where his hand had touched my shoulder as he walked into the classroom. I stayed where I was to wait for Pippa, wishing to Merlin I had his confidence at that moment.

*

“And so, you can just take the chrysanthemum root… like so… and cut it at a forty-five degree angle…” Slughorn bent over his massive desk at the front of the class, the tip of his tongue poking between his lips in concentration. I was trying desperately to regain control of all my senses and not fall asleep. I could not miss my chance.

Pippa nudged me in the side, blowing a small bubble and releasing it with a small pop. “Are you seriously going to stick me with Scorpius?” she hissed, her eyes still trained on Slughorn in case he decided to look this way.

I’d decided the best plan was to have Scorpius wander over to our desk on the pretense of borrowing one of our ingredients, leaving the place next to Julian open. And then I would casually saunter over and say something incredibly witty and bright about exams (exams - oh, Merlin) and we would wind up finishing the day’s potion together.

And then he would take me in his arms and ask where I’d been all these years, and I would tell him I’d never taken my eyes from him since the moment I first saw him, and we would be happy forever and ever.

I was awakened from this very lovely fantasy by Pippa snapping her gum close to my ear. She knew I hated it when she did that.

“What?!” I said in a frenzied whisper, jerking my head up from the desk and flailing my arms wildly. She jerked her head towards the front of the class. Thankfully, Slughorn was still engrossed in his roots.

I would never understand teachers like him, or like Professor Sprout. Why you’d want to spend your life dealing with dirt and grime and gross stuff was beyond me.

“He’s nearly done,” Pippa whispered conspiratorially. “Scorpius is going to be coming back here in a minute.” She still didn’t look happy at this prospect, and on her left, across the narrow aisle, Albus looked ready to snap his quill in annoyance.

“Right,” I said, and began running my fingers through my hair, trying to make sure it didn’t look too tangled. “Can I see the list?”

“What list?”

“The list,” I said impatiently, “Scorpius’s –“ I gasped so loudly that the Slytherin girl next to me looked over, her eyes narrowed. I mouthed something at her that was intended as an apology, but she apparently read my lips wrong, and cracked her knuckles at me warningly.

But I had bigger kettles to charm at the moment. Because when Pippa had startled me awake, and I’d waved my arms about, I’d apparently sent Scorpius’s list flying. And it now resided approximately ten inches from Julian’s right foot.

Bloody. Hell.

Pippa had spotted the list at this moment, and immediately dissolved into a massive fit of hysterical giggles. Her breathing hitched in the middle, thus attracting Al’s attention. It didn’t take him long to piece together what had happened, either. He choked on a bit of spit (disgusting) and had to duck beneath his desk to straighten himself out.

I had to get that list back. “Cover for me,” I snapped at Pippa, who was still trying hard to hide her laughter, but she managed a nod amidst the hilarity. Taking a deep breath, I slid slowly sideways on the bench, towards the aisle. If I crawled very quietly, I could snatch the list back before Julian (and, preferably, Scorpius) ever noticed it there.

If only it didn’t have How to Make Rose Seem Attractive to Julian scrawled across the top. Scorpius would be hearing about that one from me later.

My neighbor to my right was now observing with more than passing interest as I slowly lowered myself to the stone floor - it was like ice beneath my rear end - while Slughorn droned on about his blasted chrysanthemum roots. The sounds of my shoes scraping against it sounded like banshee screams. It was amazing how loud everything seemed when you wanted nothing more in the world than for them to be quiet.

The Slytherin girl was still watching me, and so I pressed a finger to my lips in a silent plea for secrecy before making another executive decision. Trying very hard now not to be heard, I flipped over onto my stomach and began army crawling towards Julian and Scorpius’s desk. Three feet to go… two feet now… I was going to make it, the paper was almost within reach…

And suddenly my way forward was impeded; my arms wouldn’t haul me any further. I pulled as hard as I dared on the edge of the stone, grimacing, but something had caught around my foot. Oh, this could not be happening. This could not be happening. I chanced a glance back behind me, and saw that somehow it had become tangled in the strap of my school bag.

Of course it had, though. I couldn’t do anything successfully, could I? Pippa’s face was bright red from suppressed laughter by now, and there were already tears rolling down her cheeks. Next to her, Albus looked to be in similar spirits.

Help me! I pleaded silently, gesturing at the strap of the bag, which looked nice and cozy where it lay with no intention of loosening itself simply because my entire life was on the line. Pippa swallowed bravely and slid over to the seat I’d recently vacated, bending down to extricate the strap.

“Weasley?” I lifted my eyes to the voice that had spoken. I knew that voice. I knew that voice really, really well.

“Julian!” I smiled as brightly as I could possibly manage, trying to pretend that I currently wasn’t sprawled on the floor behind him, foot caught in a canvas strap, my hand reaching toward his shoe, and that the rest of the class didn’t now have their full attention tuned into the spectacle. Slughorn had even looked up from his roots, mouth slightly open in numb shock. Scorpius was looking down at me from beside Julian, and the expression of glee on his face cannot be properly expressed in words.

I would have given anything in the world – all the Galleons in my vault at Gringotts – to sink through the floor and disappear at that moment.

“So,” I said, feeling as though my throat had suddenly gone extremely dry. I gathered my elbows up underneath me and propped myself on them, hoping the pose looked casual enough. I blurted out the only thing I had in my head to say to this god among mere mortals. “Do you like difficult exams?”

A/N: Oh, Rose. She just needs a lot of hugs, and maybe a bit of time in solitary. Although I've got to admit, her character is one of the most fun I've ever written -- I feel like I can just make her do all sorts of wacky things, and it'll be perfectly agreeable to the plot line. A skeleton key to mischief, as it were!

As always -- don't forget to review, if you've got the time, and thanks so much for all your incredible support!


Chapter 6: Six
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I had the distinct impression that what happened in the dungeons would be something that would be hard to live down for a while.

I mean, it wasn’t as though anything had seen in class yesterday was all that unusual. The week before Pippa’s gum had exploded all over my hair, but for some reason it was infinitely more funny to be caught sprawled out on the floor near Julian Murdock’s seat.

I had gotten the list back, though – Scorpius had decided he’d be a decent human being and distracted Julian until I’d scrunched it up in my palm, out of sight – so I still say score one for Rose Weasley.

The sense that people were still talking about my less-than-graceful moment, however, was confirmed when I walked into the common room a whole day later and people’s heads still swiveled in my direction. Quite a few of them were laughing rudely, too, which I didn’t appreciate. It wasn’t like any of them hadn’t ever made a fool of themselves in class. I knew for a fact that Albus’s brother James had once lit his hair on fire trying to impress a girl.

I just happened to embarrass myself more frequently.

My otherwise-sunny disposition did not improve when I saw that at the cluster of this rude group was none other than Albus. Pippa was, for the first time in recent history, not attached to his side with a Permanent Sticking Charm. This opportunity was absolutely too good to pass up; ignoring the snickers running rampant on either side (and really, as I’ve said, they have more flaws than Pippa has spare packs of Drooble’s), I marched up to him and placed my hands on my hips in my very best imitation of Nana Weasley.

“Albus Severus Potter, you are a prat.” He looked up at me and tossed his hair arrogantly, and it was all I could do not to hex the smirk off his stupid face. Last I checked, being a Quidditch captain did not make you a god, and it was high time someone took a pin to that fat head of his.

“Am I?” he said, sounding like he didn’t care much.

“You are,” I confirmed. “And you could either stop regaling this bunch of dunderheads with your falsified and blatantly exaggerated story –“

“We aren’t dunderheads!” piped up a small third-year girl – with a rather impressive spattering of freckles, I might add. They would give Dad’s a run for their money. I was still proud enough of having used two large words in one sentence to only give her the smallest of scoffs. Children are our future, and all that.

“Your bow’s upside down,” I said, pointing to the offending ribbon. She scowled and righted it.

“If you say one more word I will tell everyone what Roxanne and Louis did to you last Christmas,” I said, turning back to my cousin now and raising one eyebrow in a rather menacing way. I’d spent all summer practicing it to use on Scorpius, figuring he could use a lot of these sorts of withering glares, but it was too perfect to not use on Albus now. And, to my satisfaction, the combination of threat and eyebrow seemed to work.

“Hey, all right, knock it off,” he said, standing up abruptly and shoving his hands into his pockets.

“Thank you,” I said. “Now, kindly go do something else with your sorry life.”

“Have you seen Pippa?”

“Do anything but her.”

“Rose!” I had never seen his cheeks turn such a lovely shade of pink; I would have to remember that particular witticism for later.

“To answer your question, no,” I said pleasantly. “I’ve got to meet Scorpius down at the Quidditch Pitch in half an hour anyway –“ I was again interrupted – the prospect of finishing one bloody sentence today was rather dim – as Albus let out a groan that the situation did not call for as he smacked his forehead with his palm.

“You’re not still trying to make that fiasco work, are you?”

“Yes, I am still trying to make that fiasco work.” I paused, considering how that had sounded, and then shrugged it off. Whatever. “The thing is, he’s got to help me or I’ll start telling people about his lack of hygiene –“

“What lack of hygiene?”

“Oh, like it has to exist,” I snapped. “Keep up, please. If I insult him left, right, and center when those stupid scouts are here next week, he’ll look bad.” I frowned suddenly. “I have explained this all to you before. And you are wasting my breath.”

He shook his head mournfully. “Rose, you are wasting your own breath.”

Rude.

I turned to the common room at large and spread my arms wide, just so everyone could see me well. “Roxanne and Louis Weasley convinced Albus that a diaper was his Christmas cracker hat and he wore it for eight straight hours,” I said loudly. “Pictures available upon request.”

Albus very well might kill me.

*

Scorpius was waiting at the bottom of the staircase when I descended forty-five minutes later. And yes, I was late, but hair this lovely does not happen by itself, and I like to look presentable at all times. Never know when a wild Julian Murdock might appear and profess his love.

Although he’d sort of not answered my question yesterday about the exams, and that had dampened the tone of friendly bonding I’d hoped to put in place. But you know, having a girl appear mere inches from your foot without your knowing about it had to shock the nerves somewhat. He’d come around, and in the meantime, I had another lesson from Snake Boy to iron out the kinks.

Well, that sounded a bit dirty.

His smile looked a bit less like a smirk today, and I was hoping he might be taking pity on me for how well his last plan had worked out. Because really, when I thought about it, wasn’t his fault? He was the one who had told me to strike up a conversation, after all. Yes. He was decidedly to blame.

So why couldn’t I seem to tell him that?

I probably had the flu. It’s what comes from crawling about on dungeon floors. I read that somewhere, I think.

“And good afternoon to you, Kneesley,” he said with a melodramatic sort of bow as I came alongside him. “How is my favorite ginger?”

“I am not defined by my hair color,” I responded, with as much pomp and arrogance as I could muster, giving said hair a little toss. Not for the first time that year, I wished that ‘Malfoy’ was a name that was easier to rhyme with. He started walking in the direction of the doors leading outside, and I followed him.

“Where are we going? And what are you teaching me?” I asked. Scorpius gave me a sideways smirk and shoved his hands into his pockets, whistling a bit.

“We are going to teach you how to flirt.”

I scoffed so loud that Scorpius stopped, as though checking to see if a bug had flown in my mouth. “Been there, done that, bought that set of dress robes,” I said, trying to scrape back the remaining shreds of my dignity. “You don’t need to teach me how to flirt!”

Scorpius stopped again – at the rate we were moving, we’d be lucky to get anywhere by February – and began ticking points off on his obnoxiously perfect fingers. “One – I have had dates before, Rose. You have not.”

“I’ve had –“ I began, a small fiery sort of indignation beginning to burn in my stomach.

And I don’t think it was heartburn.

“Two,” he continued, as though I hadn’t spoken at all, “the last lesson you took from me ended up with you sprawled on a dungeon floor full of hundreds of years of potentially toxic potion spills. I would rather a repeat of that incident not happen.”

I beamed at him a bit too widely. “Scorpius, you do care!” But his words had put me in mind of stupid Albus, tossing the story out to the other Gryffindors like it was candy, and the smile disappeared just as quickly.

He rolled his eyes. “And third, I have to at least make attempts to do this until after the match this weekend. So that actually requires teaching you stuff.”

“Fair point.” I suddenly realized that we had walked quite a ways from the castle. “Where are we going, anyway?” He gestured ahead of us, and I realized we were coming up to the Quidditch Pitch. I frowned. “There’s no one out here, Scorp. I cannot practice flirting with an old broom.”

I looked over in time to see faint pink patches bloom on his cheeks. It actually looked sort of adorable – maybe I could coerce him into wearing blush now and again. I pondered if he might be up for that, and suddenly realized that the problem at hand was as-yet unsolved.

“Well,” Scorpius said finally, and gave the sort of polite cough that Mum always had when she was about to tell me something I wouldn’t like to hear. “I mean… you’re going to have to practice on me.”

I sincerely hoped the sudden squirm in my stomach was nausea. “Oh.” I suddenly became extremely interested in my right thumbnail. “Yes. I knew that.”

But a rather awkward silence pervaded the rest of the walk down to the pitch, made all the more uncomfortable because I had to admit to myself that I preferred even arrogant, snobbish Scorpius Malfoy to a run-down old Cleansweep 11.

I always thought the Quidditch pitch looked weird during practices, when there wasn't anyone there besides the team and Madam Hooch and me. But it looked even weirder now that it was just Snake Boy and me. I felt very, very small.

"Ladies and gentlemen," I broke out suddenly in a fit of irrational nerves, "welcome to the Nine Hundred and Ninety-Ninth Quidditch World Cup!" Scorpius was watching me with his eyebrow raised.

"Not bad," he said, pretending to applaud. I bowed grandly, grinning at him.

"I try." I closed my eyes now, almost able to hear the crowds screaming my name (because, of course, I would be much more entertaining than the game). When I opened them again, Scorpius was still studying me. "Stare too long and I'll start charging," I informed him.

He blinked. "Yeah, no." He cleared his throat, and the way he did it made my own close up just a little. It was the sort of noise that came before a question I might not want to answer. "Why do you want to be a commentator, Rose?"

I couldn't think of a single thing to say. My throat still felt like someone was stomping on it with giant-sized feet. "I don't know," I finally managed. "Fame and fortune, probably."

Damn him. He was making me uncomfortable with all this talk about feelings.

Scorpius rolled his eyes now. "Come on. I'm asking you a serious question." I flopped down on the turf and propped myself up on my elbows, thinking about it intently for perhaps the first time in my life.

It was true that it was the only thing I could see myself doing after Hogwarts. And it was also true that it was the only thing no one else in my family had done yet, so no one could do it better than me. I would be the first - nothing to compare it to.

Well, brain, you hid that revelation rather well.

I expressed this to Scorp, who had by now sat down across from me and was engaged in picking out bits of grass and flicking them away. He nodded though he understood. Which was weird, him understanding.

Time to dispel awkwardness.

"Okay, your turn," I said, sitting up and brushing off the grass I hadn't realized he'd been sprinkling on my legs, desperately feeling the need to bring this conversation back around to terms I could live with. The same fiery sort of burning feeling crept up to join the giants still squeezing my throat. “And you’ve got to be honest, now.”

I felt a bit triumphant at the momentarily fearful look that passed through Scorpius’s eyes (blue eyes!), but it disappeared pretty quickly. He folded his arms over his chest. “Shoot.”

“Why’d you cheat on Pippa?” The words sort of tumbled over me like a man falling headlong down a staircase, and I popped my lips closed as soon as the last word had passed them.

“What?” he sputtered. His mouth had gone so slack, doxies could have comfortably built a nest in the newfound space.

“What?” I tried playing dumb. Which was harder to do, really, when you’d initiated this vein of conversation.

“I – you think – what?” He stood up and linked his hands behind his head, pacing in short, tight circles over the turf in front of me.

“You snogged another girl that summer,” I said staunchly, although one might have thought he’d remember the finer details. “That’s why Pippa sent you that breakup letter, you know.”

“But I didn’t!” he cried out, now thoroughly distracted from his own question. “I wrote her dozens of letters, asking her what I’d done – didn’t she get any of them?”

I had vague visions of Pippa’s desk in her bedroom, piled up with unopened letters. And then of us making a celebratory evening of it and taking all those letters and chucking them in the fireplace while we drank iced tea and toasted our single status.

Oh, bugger.

“Nope. Don’t think so."

Scorpius had his eyes narrowed at me, as though trying to see into these memories as well. I gulped. “So – so you never…?” My voice trailed off, searching for a proper way to end that sentence. He shook his head once.

“Well… she’s with Albus now,” I said feebly, suddenly feeling the need again to become vastly intrigued in my thumb.

“I don’t want to get back with her,” he said bluntly. And then, finally, he just blew a lot of air through his lips and sat down next to me again. I glanced up through my fringe, trying to gauge what he was feeling – if he was about to explode or burst into tears, he’d be on his own – but he just looked sort of… relieved.

Relief was unexpected.

“Well, anyway,” he said after a long and tense stretch of silence. “Let’s just… put that behind us and get back to the lesson for the day. Agreed?” He turned to me and, for the stupidest moment, I was struck by how well that jumper fit him. All sinew and muscle outlined by itchy gray wool.

I reached up and put my hand in his, and if he was surprised, he covered it well. “Already forgotten, Snake Boy.”

A/N: And so now Rose has made a royal tangle of things, as usual. (Because we expected differently? Never.) But hark, what is this? Scorpius is over Pippa? Rose might have been wrong about something? Shock and scandal, where is this story going to end up?!

I think I'd be a good stay-tuned-until-next-time television voiceover.

Thank you guys so much for reading and reviewing and favoriting -- you're incredible. Hope you enjoyed the chapter!


Chapter 7: Seven
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I was in an inexplicably good mood upon arriving back in the entrance hall, sans Scorpius, who had decided to take a little jaunt down to his common room. I might even have been whistling, I was in such a good mood. Which was really embarrassing, because my whistling just sounded like a lot of creepy breathing, but you just can’t control happiness.

I intercepted Albus coming down out of the Great Hall, clutching a book under his arm. He stopped dead on the landing when he saw me, and I hurried trotted up the stairs to join him on the first landing of the grand staircase.

“What do you want?” he asked warily, flicking his fringe out of his eyes in that annoying way of his. He had perfected a way of doing it so that he didn't even have to touch his face anymore - he just gave his head a sort of flick and his hair shifted back into place.

I beamed so hard I could feel the dimples on my cheeks. “Nothing at all, my favorite cousin,” I said, patting his head for good measure. Which was a bit awkward, since he was quite a bit taller than I was, and I think that threw him off even worse. “Isn’t it a lovely day?”

He flicked his eyes toward the window. “Are you ill?” He narrowed his eyes. “And weren’t you supposed to be coming back from one of those freaky meetings you’ve got with Malfoy? What, did it get canceled?”

I pouted. “I’m surprised at you,” I said, although it was really just like him to get his knickers in such a twist, and therefore not surprising at all. And then, while thinking about Albus’s knickers – not in that way, of course – it suddenly came to my mind why he was being so sore. “Are you still upset about earlier?”

The line between his eyebrows deepened. “You told everybody I wore a diaper,” he growled, and I patted him on the head again. He swatted away my hand irritably.

“On your head, Al. It’s not so bad,” I said consolingly. “I was kidding, too, they could all see that.” But it’s true, you know. He really did wear a diaper on his head. Roxanne had nearly wet her pants, she was laughing so hard.

He made a growling sort of noise, and I stepped back, highly affronted that he had the audacity to ruin my good mood. “You’re being rude,” I informed him helpfully. “I would like you to move on, please, if it’s all the same to you.”

Albus stalked off huffily, heading back in the general direction of Gryffindor Tower and the common room. There went a boy who needed a Calming Draught if anyone ever did. I wonder if I could get Scorpius to make him one.

Not that I’d ever ask that boy for favors. We were on even standings right now, with the whole Rose-says-nice-things-slash-Scorpius-plays-matchmaker thing, and bad things would happen if the scales tipped.

Unfortunately, it was just as I saw Albus disappearing around the corner, all tightly wound, that I remembered that I’d been intending to go back to the common room, too. I’d been stupid enough to promise Pippa a game of Gobstones later – really, that is the stupidest game ever invented, not to mention her set was all sticky from Drooble’s bubbles that had been popped on it over the years – and she was heartless enough to force me to make good on my promise. I decided I’d take one short loop around the first floor, where I’d ended up, to give Al time to cool down before going back there.

It really was a nice day, though, and as I caught a glimpse of the Quidditch Pitch through the sunny windows, I turned my mind back to what Scorpius had said out there. If it was true, and he really hadn’t cheated on Pippa, then that meant I hated him for no reason. And there’s nothing worse than finding out you’re in the wrong about those sorts of things.

But he still was a git, wasn’t he? I mean, he never –

Oh. Well, he had sent Pippa all those letters, hadn’t he? We just sort of, you know, burned them.

Namely, I put the idea in Pippa’s head to burn them.

This was not my fault. And I refused to be guilty about it. I turned about mid-stride, deciding to hell with walking around the castle, I was going back to the common room to drown my sorrows in a hideously boring Gobstones game to make my conscience shut up.

And there, at the other end of the corridor, was Julian Murdock in the living, breathing, eternally gorgeous flesh, hair falling just so over his eyes, walking in a shuffling sort of way that was to die for. I immediately perked up, patting my hair and praying to whomever was listening that it didn’t look too windblown from being out on the Quidditch Pitch.

Sod it all, what had Scorpius said earlier this afternoon about flirting? But all that popped into my head was me practicing my commentating skills – stupid – and me asking him about Pippa – stupid – and me calling him Snake Boy. Stupid.

He raised his eyes at the exact moment I was twirling a bit of my fringe around my index finger, trying to make it curly, and I froze with my hand still raised awkwardly by my face. And at first I'd thought he do what he normally did - sort of pretend he didn't notice and walk away - but then he started walking toward me.

Oh, dear Merlin, he was walking toward me. I tried to remember something desperately witty to say. But the only conscious thing I could do was take my hand down from my face and pretend to be digging in my bag for something so I could at least pretend like I wasn't staring him full in the face.

"Hi, Rose." My head jerked up at the sound of my name, and I'm really not sure how I didn't just turn into a melted puddle right there on the carpet runner. He had an absolutely adorable little half-smile on his face, and I think my lungs might have seized up at the sight of it.

"Hey, Julian," I squeaked, sort of forgetting that my hands were attached to my body. They just dangled by my sides like limp fish. "How's it hanging?"

How's it hanging?

"Good, good." He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his robes and crossed his left leg over his right, and then switched. I was slowly regaining control of my body. "Hey, haven't really heard anything on the announcements this week. You know." Julian jerked his head up, as though gesturing towards my words floating around on the PA system. "About Scorpius?"

"Oh. Right." I gave him a floaty sort of laugh that sounded nothing like my normal one. "Well... you know, I think I might be a bit more mature now. Childish, wasn't it?" I tried giving my hair a sophisticated hair toss and nearly whacked him in the face with it."

"Right." He cleared his throat a bit and re-crossed his legs the other way around. "So, listen, I need to talk to you."

Could it be that Scorpius Malfoy's matchmaking lessons had actually worked? That he actually might have known a thing or two about what he was teaching me? This was the moment I would tell my future grandchildren about. All forty-two of them, darn it, because I'd make them listen to me.

"Your grandfather got down on bended knee, right there in the middle of the school corridor, and professed his deep and undying love for me. And then he took me in his arms and whispered in my ear the best three words in all the English language -"

"Are you okay?"

I blinked, and suddenly became aware of the fact that my eyes were fixed on a point somewhere to the left of Julian's head, my hands clasped in front of me. "I... thought I saw a niffler," I invented wildly. "Must have been a trick of the light." And again there went that stupid floaty laugh. "What were you saying?"

"Well, I just... I mean. Erm."

Spit it out, Murdock, happily ever after's ticking away here.

"I... heard you've got a thing for me?"

All the little fairy tale visions that had been playing out so nicely in my head came to a screeching halt, with an explosion or two to accentuate the scene. My mouth plummeted earthward.

"What?" I said dumbly, cutting him off. Julian scratched the back of his neck, looking thoroughly uncomfortable.

"I mean, it's not like you've been subtle about - with the crawling on the floor in the dungeons - that list thing -“

For the love of Merlin’s plaid suspenders. He saw that?! I thought Scorpius had distracted him!

That git.

“And I don't want -" He forced rather a lot of air through his lips and tried again. "I just don't... We're not... You can't... Erm."

I squinted at him, trying to see if he'd completed any of the sentences he'd started in there. "Right. Okay," I said slowly. "Well, if you don't mind, I'm going to go now before I pass out in front of you." And, to his credit, that sentence made him look more awkward than he had previously.

I may or may not have run away full-tilt.

My brain was buzzing, and my heart was loud in my ears, rocketing around in there like someone had left one of Dad's old Weird Sisters records on in there full blast. But the emotions weren't coming from embarrassment (although I was sure there would be plenty of that later). All I felt right now was pure, untainted, absolute hatred.

There was only one person in the entire castle who could have told Julian about my crush on him.

And that person was in for a whole world - or, quite possibly, a universe - of pain and suffering.

*

Not fifteen minutes later, I was pacing in front of the sofa in front of the Gryffindor common room fire - looking, if I did say so myself, a rather impressive spectacle. I couldn't see myself, of course, but I knew that I had to look that I meant business. Because dear Merlin, did I mean business.

"I just can't believe," I said through gritted teeth, clasping my hands behind my back and continuing to march, "that of all the stupid, self-righteous, low-down -"

"Rose." Albus interrupted my tirade with a weary sigh, running his hand over his face. "What am I doing here?"

I blinked at him in surprise. I had called Albus and Pippa to an emergency sort of meeting, ignoring the former's complaints about being late for studying with Evan, and the latter's complaints about not wanting to be there. And, somehow, my Flobberworm of a little brother had snuck into the proceedings and was now firmly wedged between the both of them.

Sometimes, I like to pretend Hugo wasn't born. He's a nice enough kid at times, but for the most part he's rather obnoxious.

"You are here," I said firmly, lifting my chin a bit higher and glaring down at him, "because Scorpius Malfoy is the scum of the earth -"

"I warned you," Pippa cried out in sudden anguish. "Do you remember what I said to you, what, a little less than a week ago? I told you -"

I glared at her. "Yes, I remember," I huffed. "But that is not the point. Who helped you out when Scorpius snogged that other girl? Who suggested burning his letters and dancing on the ashes?" But even as I said this, a sick sort of feeling rose in my throat, and I hastily stuffed it down.

"You," Pippa admitted. "But this is different. Julian -"

I cut her off and began making a variety of hissing and slashing moments, gesturing subtly with flapping hands at Hugo, who was still sitting innocently between Al and Pippa. Pippa rolled her eyes.

"I told you," she repeated emphatically, and couldn't be made to say more on the subject. She chose instead to shift a bit further away from Hugo and cross her arms, gnawing on her lower lip.

"Is this about that Slytherin?" Hugo asked now, speaking into the uncomfortable silence. I resumed my march.

"None of your business."

"Well, I -"

"If you try and tell me one more time," I said through gritted teeth, "how he really should play Quidditch because of his calf muscles, or something equally preposterous, I am convincing Mum to disown you, Hugo. This is not about Quidditch." He glowered, and crossed his arms in a perfect imitation of my best friend.

But actually - maybe it was about Quidditch.

"So here's what I'm going to do," I said, improvising wildly on the spot. Albus, who had been picking threads from the cushions with an interest that did not match the task, glanced up at me warily. The other continued to pout.

"The big Quidditch game's tomorrow, isn't it?" I said eagerly, marching to a quicker beat now. "The one that started this whole deal, that massive one with all the Quidditch scouts and things. And I'll be commentating, won't I?" I thrust a pointer finger into the air at this sudden stroke of brilliance.

"You can't go back on your word," Albus said stoutly. "That's like cheating, and Merlin knows you do enough of that already."

"I don't cheat!" He gave me a very pointed look, and I gulped, feeling only slightly abashed. "If you didn't want your essays copied, then you should put them in a safer place than your school bag. And besides," I continued, "that isn't the point. Scorpius went back on his side of the deal, didn't he? It's only fair that I should get to do the same!"

Albus didn't look convinced. "That's sort of a different level," he said dubiously.

"Why don't we think of something else to do to him?" Pippa asked, speaking for the first time since I'd shut her up for mentioning Julian's name. "We could - I don't know - we could put Sleeping Draught in his tea, or something."

Hugo raised an eyebrow, still staring at the floor, and I felt a sort of appreciation for him. Even if he talked too much about Quidditch, there was enough sense in the boy to know a lame idea when it bopped him in the nose.

"No," I said staunchly. "I'm going to sabotage him like he's sabotaged me, and we'll see who's laughing then. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go and prepare my material."

Albus rolled his eyes as I started to saunter off to my dormitory. "May Merlin help us all."

A/N: So someone blabbed things to Julian! Shock and scandal abound! And now, of course, Rose is in a tizzy, which seems to be her default setting anyway. Any theories for what's going to go down next?

I finished writing this entirely the other day, by the way! So it's all nice and pretty at ten chapters, which means three more for you guys. I'm really excited for you to see them, as well as tell me any loose ends I might have missed (which, I must say, is a distinct possibility). As always, thanks so much for the reads and reviews and favorites! You guys are awesome!


Chapter 8: Eight
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The next morning promised wonderful Quidditch conditions - blue sky without a cloud in sight, enough warmth to keep my toes toasty in the commentator’s box, and a slight breeze to shuffle along the players’ brooms and keep the game exciting.

Coincidentally, it also happened to be perfect sabotage weather.

Pippa and Albus both tried to talk me out of my master plan over breakfast, hissing comments at me at random from over various breakfast foods. “You’ll get into massive trouble,” my best friend whispered, trying to keep her voice down in case any nearby Ravenclaws were snooping and trying to hear the Gryffindor opinion on the upcoming match. “They’ll never let you out of the dungeons for all the mold you’ll have to clean off those bricks.”

“I’m trying to eat,” I said pointedly, wrinkling my nose at the thought of scraping fungus away - it’d be with my bare hands, too, since this school is sadly medieval when it comes to punishment. “Anyway, I won’t be scraping anything, thanks very much.”

“You made a deal,” Al reminded me fiercely, sawing at a piece of ham and not realizing he’d cut straight through it quite a bit earlier. “You’re -“

“If you try and guilt me into admitting I’m cheating,” I interrupted, delighted to see I’d sprayed his face with bits of soggy toast upon speaking, “you’re wasting your time.” I swallowed the remains of the toast. “He’s the backstabber. I’m just giving him a sip of his own potion.”

“There is a special circle of hell reserved for people who do what you’re about to do,” he said grandly, sitting up a bit straighter. I glowered.

“Then we’ll both have a right party down there when we snuff it, won’t we?”

A second year across from us, who’d been chattering on to her friend about something until that moment, gave me an odd look as I said that last sentence. I crossed my eyes at her, not feeling like explaining that away, and not sure how I could, anyway. Both of them hopped up and walked away quickly as though I were carrying some fatally infectious disease and had just coughed in their direction.

“Shh,” Pippa said quickly, spraying Albus anew just as he’d managed to wipe all the first bits of my toast from his face. “Scorpius is heading this way. Nine o’ clock.”

I looked to my right, but there was nobody there.

“You’re bluffing -“

“Not your nine o’ clock, my -“

“Good morning, Fleasley.”

I choked on a very large mouthful of milk, and Albus’s face took the brunt of the blow for a third time. Scorpius Malfoy was standing there in his Quidditch uniform, quite the picture of confidence and cockiness. Which, unfortunately, wasn’t all that unattractive.

Sodding hell. I hate this boy, and on principle I should not be admiring his biceps.

“Can I help you?” I said, trying to pretend very hard that he was that odd spot on my rug that mysteriously appeared there last Christmas. To my vindictive pleasure, he looked a bit surprised at just how icy I could make my voice.

“I - erm.” He switched gears at once. “Good morning, Pippa.”

“Morning, Scorp,” she said, much too cheerfully, although she’d carefully begun to shred her own toast beneath the table in anxiety. I could hear Albus grinding his teeth from here. He still gets twitchy when Pippa and Scorpius have any sort of interaction, which normally makes me laugh.

Scorpius had decided to return to the attack. “You all set to commentate, Rose?”

I wondered if he knew yet that I’d found out he’d gone and blabbed to Julian about our deal. He was looking much too arrogant for that, I reckoned - so much the better for later.

“Never been more set in my life, Snake Boy,” I said, dabbing my mouth with a sort of dignity that came from years of watching Aunt Fleur at family dinners. His forehead, I was pleased to see, was creased with something that resembled worry.

He looked about ready to confirm our deal - his mouth was open in that annoyingly knowing way of his, like he was about to ask a serious question. And for a fleeting second, I wanted him to. It would be fun to rage at him in such a public setting as a breakfast crowd, almost more fun than what I’d set up for that morning’s commentary. But he kept silent, the noble little toerag.

“Right. Well, see you down there.” He paused, opened his mouth one last time, and then shook his head a bit and walked away.

I cackled a bit and tossed my napkin into the air. “Let’s reel him in, ladies,” I said, standing up from my seat and brushing the crumbs off my skirt. “You’ll want a good seat today, I reckon.”

Albus looked upset at being associated with the female gender; Pippa looked like she’d swallowed a very large lemon, and it hadn’t particularly agreed with her. I could have cared less about either of them at that moment. Scorpius Malfoy, and revenge, and keeping my hair from getting too messed up in the commentator’s box - that was all I needed to focus on.

*

Nearly the whole school had already taken their seats by the time Albus and Pippa and I had made our way out to the pitch. The breeze had picked up slightly, and Pippa had her gloved hands crammed up next to her ears to keep out the chill. I was already feeling rather sorry for myself, thinking of how windy it was bound to be up in the commentator’s box.

“Don’t be an arse, Rosie,” Albus was saying, as a sort of last-ditch entreaty to get me to think rationally. Which was, of course, a wasted effort, but I felt like I should let him try. “You could use your words, you know, and talk to him.”

“I will be using words, Al,” I said, giving him a withering stare. “Now go grab seats. See you in about an hour or so.” I could feel his reproachful, moody stare boring holes in the back of my head as I climbed the short flight of stairs to the box, away from the direction Albus and Pippa would be climbing.

It was much, much too late to back out, now.

Madam Hooch and Professor McGonagall were already in the box when I walked in, and both fastened their eyes on me like hawks as soon as the door shut behind me. I think it must have been some defining characteristic of female teachers at this school - they either had to resemble birds, or they just needed to be off their rockers. Bonus points if you fit into both categories.

“Miss Weasley,” said McGonagall crisply, tucking down the tartan earflaps of her hat with short, sharp movements. “I trust today’s commentary will be done in a satisfactory manner?”

“I -“ But before I could get any words out, Madam Hooch cut in.

“And by ‘satisfactory,’ Miss Weasley,” she said, turning one fierce yellow eye in my direction, “we do mean for others besides yourself? No name-calling -“

“Or slandering -“

“Or gossiping -“

“Or lying.” They folded their arms in an identical motion, McGonagall making her lips rather thin, almost nonexistent. For a moment, I was rather hurt. It was like they didn’t know me at all.

Not that they should have gleaned any other impressions, really, because I was a rather quick wit on those points. But hadn’t these past few days of silence on behalf of Scorpius been enough to convince them of my pure soul and clean slate?

“You don’t have to worry about that,” I said, blinking in a wide-eyed sort of way. I’d picked up the habit from Lily, who always did that when Uncle Harry was reprimanding her about something. He was wrapped around her little finger, and the entire family knew it.

I tried that on my mum when I snapped her favorite quill, and I still had to pay for it out of my allowance. And of course her favorite quill was her most expensive one.

Professor McGonagall frowned, as though trying to discern whether or not I was lying, but Madam Hooch seemed relatively satisfied with my answer. She snapped on her goggles and adjusted the whistle looped around her neck. “We’ll start the game, then,” she said, and without another word left the commentator’s box. With a final glance at me, Professor McGonagall passed through the small divider that led into the faculty box next door.

And to be fair, I’d never promised either of them anything.

*

“Ladies and gentlemen, the first match of the year is here - let’s have a big show of hands for the competitors, Slytherin and Ravenclaw!”

Down below, distant swarms of green and blue cheered and booed and waved painted bed sheets. I felt a little bubble of excitement rising within me at the prospect of doing this. I’d only get one shot, after all - it wouldn’t take long before I got stopped by McGonagall or Hooch.

Go big or go home, as they say.

“And there go the Slytherin players!” Seven streaky-looking players, with Malfoy at the head of them, waving his Beater’s bat at the crowd like he was something special.

Ugh.

I glanced to my right, at the faculty box - I’d watched the Quidditch recruiters shaking hands with all the professors, and they were currently leaning forward with interest, scribbling something down on small notepads. McGonagall glanced over at me, apparently waiting for me to go on - say something about how Scorpius hadn’t showered in months, or something. I didn’t say anything.

The Ravenclaw players were up, and the captains were shaking hands in the middle of the field. Madam Hooch stood by the giant Quidditch crate, and with a sharp blast from her whistle, the Quaffle zoomed upwards. Cheers erupted again from the stands.

“And it’s Lobb with the Quaffle, speeding down the field - pass to Wallace, and back to Lobb - near miss there, Lobb.” The Slytherin chaser had done a sort of ineffectual barrel roll in avoid getting hit with a Bludger, and it really looked rather stupid. I should have pointed it out - would have made the Ravenclaws laugh, anyway - but I had more pressing matters to attend to.

“And speaking of near misses,” I started up again, improvising just as quickly as I could, “let’s come over here and ask this nice gentleman a few questions.” I dislodged the little golden microphone from its stand, and the entire pitch winced at the feedback.

McGonagall’s nostrils were flaring to an impressive diameter, but she wasn’t quite quick enough for me - I ducked under the divider and plopped myself down next to one of the recruiters, who was still writing something on his pad.

“Good morning, sir,” I said as cheerfully and professionally as possible, trying to ignore the scuffle behind me from where it sounded like the headmistress was trying to stop me from whatever I was doing.

“So, tell me,” I said, crossing one leg over the other with exaggerated patience. “Do you let cheaters on your Quidditch team?”

He looked extremely confused. “Pardon me?”

“Cheaters.” I waved my hand at the air. “Like, for example, if one of those blonde Slytherin players - totally at random, of course, just plucking statistics - if he’s got cheating on his record.” Scorpius had come to a screeching halt in midair, and even from this distance I could see the daggers he was shooting in my direction.

“Well, strictly speaking, our policy -“ The recruiter was rather flustered, and glanced over his shoulder, trying to ascertain whether or not he should answer the question. I darted a look back as well - McGonagall was making a slashing moment over her throat, trying to signal someone to cut the feed to my microphone.

“Ah, so you don’t!” I crowed, hopping up and away from McGonagall’s reach. “So if Scorpius Malfoy was a stinking, dirty, rotten sack of scum -“

“Weasley!”

I tried to ignore the headmistress’s furious, rather high-pitched shriek; the entire game had stopped, and I felt like everyone was staring over into the faculty box, where I was doing a sort of dance to evade McGonagall’s claws, trying to make it back to the relative safety of the commentator’s box.

“Lying to his girlfriend - backstabbing left and right -“ To be honest, I sort of didn’t know what I was screaming about anymore. Things were flying into my head and coming up out of my mouth like word vomit. “Blonde git - probably responsible for that green stain in the dungeons -“

“Rose Weasley!”

“What is she doing?!”

“That’s Rose!”

“ROSE, LOOK OUT!”

That last shout was rather unmistakable - Albus had shouted at me too often when we were growing up for me to miss his voice now.

I looked up in time to see something rushing at me in my box, and barely registered that it was Scorpius before he crashed into it. The roof sort of caved in over us, and then it was just a mass of broken wood and torn canvas, and Scorpius sounding like a really angry troll, and I think I was still shrieking things, although Scorp had sort of wrecked the microphone.

The pitch was going nuts. Madam Hooch was blowing her whistle like it was the last chance she’d ever get to use it, and finally, someone wrenched Scorpius off of me in a shower of dust and debris. I choked on it, trying to sit up without getting splinters in places where no one ever should.

“Miss Weasley! Mr. Malfoy!” McGonagall had rather impressive strength when she was angry. “Both of you - my office - this instant!”

Totally worth it.

A/N: And so it happens! Is anyone surprised? Rose was bound to do something stupid, I suppose, as is her nature... Poor Scorpius, though. I do feel mildly sorry for the bloke. Although nothing's still resolved on the Julian front, is it. That, dear readers, is called suspense! 

As always, you guys are amazing for all the reads and reviews. I can't thank you enough for all you've done!


Chapter 9: Nine
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I probably say this a lot, but this time I am absolutely sure that I’m right - I’ve never seen old McGonagall look angrier than she did as Scorpius and I sat in her office after that Quidditch match.

To the credit of the school staff, the whole thing got cleared away pretty quickly. I’d been yanked away by Professor Longbottom - embarrassing enough, that, considering he’s on pretty good terms with my parents - and we’d both immediately been shunted off back to the castle. I’d gotten a glimpse of one of the Quidditch scouts before I left, and he was shaking his head sadly, marking something off on his stupid clipboard.

It was very, very difficult to resist the urge to have a small victory dance in the middle of the lawn, let me tell you. I’d even had one prepared, but as such, my talents went unobserved another day.

We got shoved all the way back to McGonagall’s office, and were told to stay there and not kill each other until she came in to scream at us - this wasn’t exact wording, mind, but the sentiment is right. To tell the truth, I was sort of nervous Snake Eyes might try something underhanded with one of McGonagall’s inexplicably heavy paperweights, but he just sat there and pouted until she came in.

Our headmistress was now pacing up and down in front of the desk like a saggy old dragon, her nostrils flaring so widely I was sort of concerned she might inhale something. Her arms were folded behind her back, clutching her forearms in a vise grip. “Nothing,” she said at last, with enough venom to poison a troll, “merits the behavior of two of our finest students at today’s match.”

I choked a bit on a suppressed laugh, and both Scorpius and McGonagall shot me nasty looks at the exact same moment. I shut up.

“Miss Weasley, you were under a strict agreement to not insult, torment, or otherwise befoul your post as a Quidditch commentator. Are we in accordance on this?” She raised a spidery eyebrow at me now, and I beamed at her.

“I do believe you are correct, my dear lady.”

Scorpius rolled his eyes so hugely I imagined I could see the whites of them. I stuck my tongue out at him.

“And you did not uphold your end of this agreement, Miss Weasley.”

“To be fair, Professor,” I said in my most polite voice, crossing one leg over the other and clasping my hands atop both of them. “That excuse for a human being sort of crashed into me. I could have died,” I added, widening my eyes to make myself appear more innocent.

Which I was, of course. Mostly.

“We are discussing you. Although,” she said crisply, momentarily deterred from her original line of thought, as tends to happen to old people, “I was rather disappointed in your antics, Mr. Malfoy. I expected better of you, based on past behaviors.

Scorpius mumbled something that sounded like “alligator corset” and didn’t choose to elaborate further. I smirked.

McGonagall heaved a great sigh and unfolded her arms, propping them on her desk and leaning on them stiffly. “Well, I don’t particularly want to get to the bottom of this one. A month’s worth of detentions for the both of you -“

Scorpius’s mouth went earthward.

“ - and I shall be writing letters to your parents, as well,” she finished, standing up straight, her sharp eyes flicking from Scorpius to me and back again.

I gave a small sigh, but it was really more for show than anything else. Mum and Dad had had enough letters from Hogwarts over the years to keep them on their toes, and this wouldn’t have much of an effect. Mum might feign disappointment for a couple of minutes, but then she’d get wrapped up in some new legislation or another and forget just how much her daughter resembled her husband in the mischief-making department.

I blame lots of things on my family, I think, but it’s good for the soul to be a Weasley. There’s always somebody to blame.

After that little pronouncement about the letters, there was a sort of awkward silence, and finally I raised my hand, something I rarely remembered to do in lessons. “Can we go, Professor?”

McGonagall pursed her lips. “Your Heads of Houses will escort you back to your dormitories, in case things should get” - she paused for the briefest of seconds - “nasty.”

Scorpius looked indignant. “They won’t -“

“You will wait here for Professor Slughorn and Professor Longbottom.” She pursed her lips so hard it looked like it probably hurt, and swept out of the classroom without so much as a how-do-you-do. It was at that moment that I became aware of a very pressing problem - namely, I was stuck alone with a murderous Slytherin who clearly wanted nothing more than to conk me in the head and drag my body into the dungeons, where it would become fodder for rats and acromantulas.

Although he was hiding it pretty well, I must say.

Finally, after perhaps the longest silence in the history of time, he spoke out of the corner of his mouth in a sort of hissing voice. “You - are - an - idiot.”

I squawked a bit, but no words came out. “I really underestimated your sheer stupidity, Weasley,” he continued nastily. “Do the words ‘we have a deal’ mean anything to you, or do you just make promises solely for the fun of breaking them?”

“Oh, you are so one to talk,” I snapped back, coherence coming back to me in a miraculous rush. “What about you, then? Hypocrisy sound like a right joke to you, does it?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re not innocent, Malfoy,” I said waspishly; my mouth was a little bitter from the acidity of the words that were seeping out of it. “You’re far from it, and where I’m concerned you deserved to look stupid in front of those scouts -“

Scorpius made a move like he was going to stand up, and then thought better of it, so it looked like a massive twitch. Probably guilty conscience for ratting me out to Julian, the wart.

It occurred to me rather suddenly that I’d left Julian out of the entire equation up until that point. Actually, if I was being truthful, I’d sort of forgotten he’d existed since beginning that whole revenge plan. But that was probably because I was filled with such -

Oh, damn. Scorp-Face was still talking.

“ - and I don’t know what you shoved into your ears, but it’s obviously pierced your brain and I’d kindly advise you to do something about it.” He raised a condescending eyebrow, and I tried hard to look like I’d listened to the rest of what he’d said, and was therefore insulted by it.

Unfortunately, it was a rather good insult. That boy could play this game well.

“You started it,” I said childishly, a bit abashed that it was the only thing I could come up with. He threw his hands in the air and his head leaned back at an alarming angle, so that he was looking briefly at the ceiling. I glanced up there, too, but it looked rather ordinary.

“Why the hell do you keep saying that? I didn’t -“

But whatever he did or didn’t do was a bit of a moot point, because right at that moment the door opened and McGonagall sauntered back in, Longbottom and Slughorn close behind her. The former looked like he’d rather be doing anything than escorting a Weasley away from the headmistress’s office; the latter, like this was a rather amusing end to his pleasure-filled afternoon.

“Quite a speech you gave today, Miss Weasley! Cheeky!” he said jovially upon seeing I was looking in his direction; he added a mock-wag of the finger in unfelt reproach.

“This is not the time, Horace,” said the old bat tartly. “Both of you may go,” she added in Scorpius’s and my direction. He stood up quickly and, without a second look, stomped away, not even pausing to wait for Slughorn. I exchanged an uneasy look with Professor Longbottom, but he just shrugged a bit and resumed studying the nails of his right hand.

That feeling in my stomach could be termed guilt. And it picked the absolute worst time in the world to manifest itself.

*

When I got back to the common room, and Professor Longbottom had high-tailed it out of there as quickly as his legs would allow - bless him, he just does not get enough exercise in those greenhouses of his - I found three people waiting for me on the sofa near the fire in the common room. Pippa and Albus sat on either side of Hugo, who looked like he’d just swallowed a very large and particularly putrid Cockroach Cluster.

Both Al and Pips opened their mouths at the same moment, ready to launch into the verbal attack.

“Look,” I said quickly, holding up my hands in my best stay-away-bubonic-plague gesture. “I don’t really feel like having my nose rubbed in how horribly that went, if it’s all the same to you. Quite frankly, I am going to crawl in bed and stay there for a century or five.”

Albus looked slightly crestfallen for a moment, but Pippa, brave soul that she is, opened her mouth right back up again and forged on with whatever she’d wanted to say in the first place. “We’ve got something to tell you, Rose,” she said firmly, and to my surprise, nudged Hugo in the ribs. He squirmed in discomfort. “Or, rather, your brother does.”

I frowned and leaned against the stretch of wall next to the fireplace. I wasn’t so sure that I bought into this just yet - they might be trying to trick me into something. Like apologizing. And being humble was not something I did well.

It’s all those feminine charms and wiles girls are always reading about in Witch Weekly. Humbleness is one of those, but it’s as out of my reach as Scorpius at the moment.

Julian, rather. Well, I mean, either one’s sort of kaput - but I don’t care that Scorpius is mad at me.

“I’m listening,” I said, trying to wrench my mind back to the dilemma at hand while simultaneously forgetting about the Scorpius-is-a-backstabbing-liar one swimming about up there. Hugo took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes shut tightly.

“Imighthavetoldacertainsomeonecertainthingsaboutacertainsomeoneelse" - he paused for breath - "andtheymightnothavebeencertainlytrueandI’mprettycertainI’msorry" - another breath - "andI’mreallycertainIdon’twanttodie.” He peeped one eye open to see how I was taking that humdinger of a run-on sentence. I blinked at him and looked back at Pippa.

“The only thing I caught from that was ‘certain’.”

She scowled at Hugo, who looked very much like he wanted to sink right into the sofa cushions. And that alone was enough to impress me, because usually Pippa was the one coming to my brother’s aid when I was getting onto him for annoying things. Like existing.

“This is what comes of your snide comments to Hugo about Quidditch,” piped up Al helpfully, but Pippa shushed him with a little fluttering of the hand.

“Your brother,” she informed me stoutly, “heard you talking about Julian a while back and apparently decided it would be good to take matters into his own hands.” Hugo wriggled so pitifully at that that I almost felt sorry for the worm.

Almost.

“You did what?!” I screamed. “And just what is that supposed to - oh, Merlin.” I covered my face with my hands and let out an award-winning groan, because it just slammed home in my brain what that meant. If Hugo had interfered - and it looked very much as though he had…

Scorpius was innocent.

“You were nasty to me first!” Hugo spoke up hotly, although he still largely resembled the sofa behind him in coloring. “You’re always being mean to me, interrupting my Quidditch tactics and calling me a shrimp and all that sort of stuff.” He cleared his throat and fiddled with his tie.

I pinched the bridge of my nose and tried with everything in me not to wrap my hands about his throat. “Okay, Hugo. Focus. When exactly did you tell Julian… what you’d heard?”

He frowned, tipping his head to the side. “It was one of your announcement days -“

“Every day is one of Rose’s announcement days,” Albus tossed in helpfully. He looked as though he was rather enjoying the whole thing; I imagine Roman society wore similar expressions of amusement to attend gladiator fights.

“Oh, no, wait! It was that day I ran into Pippa and knocked her to the ground!” Hugo clapped his hands a bit and glanced at Pippa, who grimaced as she recalled that particular incident and the bruises that she probably still had as a result. “And then you told me I was being annoying,” he added petulantly, with a dark look in my direction.

“I did not,” I said instantly. Rose Weasley may not have a lot of dignity left at this point, but there are shredded remains, and I would like to keep this as long as -

Oh, no, wait. I did call him annoying. And come to think of it, I might have called him gross, too.

“So I got angry,” he was saying now, still in that whiny and defensive tone, “and then I saw Julian in the corridor later… and it just sort of… slipped out.”

There was a very heavy sort of silence then, and I continued rubbing my face, mostly because I didn’t want to look at Albus and see what sort of gloating look he had on at that moment. What else was I supposed to say? It’s all right, Hugo, I’m sure you didn’t mean for things to wind up in a heap of rubble with Scorpius on top of me, while I was shouting -

Oh, hang on. That just sounds weird.

“And tell her what else you did, Hugo.” Pippa was madder than I could ever remember seeing her, looking ready to spit smoke and flames, like a gum-chewing dragon. Which wouldn’t work, but my mind wasn’t really up to making sound allusions at the moment. I stared daggers at my brother, who was still trying his hardest to become one with the sofa. He swallowed.

“I… well, Uncle George was telling me about some of the pranks he used to pull on Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry when they were dating…”

This did not sound promising. At all.

He stopped speaking and looked sideways at Al, beseeching him for help. Albus grinned back at him helpfully. “Go on, buddy,” he said, rubbing Hugo’s hair in a way that he, Hugo, did not seem to find appealing in the least.

“I… may have sent Pippa that original letter from Scorpius,” he whispered. And suddenly, I remembered in a rather vivid fashion what Pippa had said that night we’d burned all Scorpius’s letters of explanation:

“Funny thing is, it didn’t even look like his handwriting on that letter - he probably got that girl to write it for him, the coward…”

Without my approval, my voice box chose that moment to make a strangled sort of squeaking sound.

It was Hugo. It was Hugo’s fault that Pippa had broken up with Scorpius, and Hugo’s fault that I’d encouraged Pippa to burn all Scorpius’s letters, and Hugo’s fault I was so hateful to him in the first place…

Oh my Merlin.

“Hugo Bertram Weasley, you are so dead,” I hissed, my fingers arching into claws and itching to gouge out his stupid eyeballs. “Deader than dead. Deader than that snake you found in the garden when you were three. Deader than -“ There weren’t even words anymore for how dead he was.

“Would it help if I said I was really, really sorry?” Hugo was pouting, something that always seemed to fool Dad into making him think he was serious. He was a brilliant pouter - he had this way of making his eyes go all wide and blinking.

I hissed at him. “Why would you even do something like that?!”

“Roxanne told me it would be funny!” he wailed. “I didn’t think it would go that far!” Poor sap - he actually had tears in his eyes at this point.

Well, good. I hoped he’d cry.

Pippa finally spoke up, sounding as though she really didn’t want to. “So… what are you going to do about this, Rose?” I peeked at her from between my fingers. She was nibbling on her bottom lip like it was the newest flavor of Bertie Bott’s.

“I’m not going to do anything,” I said staunchly. “It’s Hugo who should be apologizing to Scorpius, not me.” But even as I said it, there was that sort of cold, shivery feeling trotting through my insides. My conscience speaking again, probably, after all those years of smothering it to no avail.

It was Hugo’s fault - but I had been the one to act on it.

Conscience, you suck forever.

“Technically, you never had proof enough to warrant calling Malfoy a - what was it? a ‘dirty, rotten sack of scum’.” Albus looked like Christmas had come a month earlier than normal. “I think you need to apologize, Rosie.”

Pippa nodded mutely; Hugo joined in for a head-bob or two, but was quickly deterred by the stinging look I chucked in his general direction.

I flopped to the hearth rug and groaned into it loudly, accidentally inhaling a dust bunny or two and nearly coughing up a lung. I tapped the tips of my shoes, too, for good measure - it added an overall despairing effect.

There are times that call for histrionics, and facing the prospect of sucking up my pride, and actually apologizing to Scorpius for about a year’s worth of wrongs? Definitely one of these.

A/N: I was so pleased to see everyone's faith in Scorpius! And he even had the Malfoy genes working against him, and you still stuck by that boy. As well you should have, this author says in a biased fashion. Shout-out to katti4493 and Lia for correctly guessing Hugo's part in this dastardly deed!

We've got one chapter left to go now -- one chapter! That is so strange. I think I'll miss this story when it's over. But thanks so much for all the reads and reviews and favorites so far -- it means a lot to me!


Chapter 10: Ten
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Finding Scorpius, however, proved to be a bit trickier than anticipated. For a boy who had the ability to pop up at every moment I didn’t want him around, he could hide better than my cousin Fred after a nasty prank, when he really wanted to.

And if you must know, Fred once went missing for twelve hours after he put itching powder in our cousin Louis’s underwear. Uncle George found him strapped to the underside of his bed with belts, taking a nap. Not just under the bed. Strapped to the bed.

I’ve got to say, Fred’s sort of a genius.

Albus, Pippa, and Hugo all point-blank refused to help me look for him, because they kept saying it was my job. Which really wasn’t fair, considering Hugo’s part in all this, but he’s always been a bit twitchy. It wasn’t like I particularly wanted to see him at the moment, either, but I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. I’d sort of potentially wrecked his Quidditch career.

I poked my nose into the Great Hall, on the off chance he’d be studying there, but the Slytherin table was fully deserted. My cousin Lucy was sitting at the Hufflepuff table, though, poking her wand at a goblet, her fringe forever too long and dangling into her eyes.

There are too many Weasleys at this school.

“Hey, Luce,” I said brightly, sliding onto the bench opposite her. She shushed me and waved her wand at me, and a couple of electric blue sparks rocketed out of the end of it. “Erm,” I said patiently, “what are you doing?”

She looked up and blinked at me from behind her large, round glasses. “I’m trying to change the molecular structure of this pumpkin juice to turn it into essence of acorn squash. So far it’s a mix between the two, given its faint burnt scent and goldenrod hue…”

I sort of tuned her out after that point. It’s really not a secret which parent Lucy takes after - my uncle Percy’s even duller than she is, if you can believe that about a girl who spends her free time turning normal juice into squash juice.

“Fascinating,” I said, once I’d realized she’d stopped running her mouth. I hoped it was the appropriate response, but she gave me a sort of frown. “Listen,” I forged on hastily, less I should be detained by more talk of squash, “have you seen Scorpius Malfoy anywhere?”

Lucy pushed her glasses up a bit further on the bridge of her nose. “I think he’s in the library. But I don’t see as how he’ll want to talk to you,” she added, and aimed her wand at the goblet again. I reached across and grabbed her forearm a bit harder than I meant to.

“Is he still there? I sort of need to…” I lowered my voice. It was an embarrassing thing to admit. “I need to tell him I’m sorry.”

Lucy blinked. She looked sort of like a bug in those glasses; I felt a bit bad for her. “You’re sorry? I didn’t think you were ever sorry for anything.”

“If I am forced to torture his current whereabouts out of you,” I said as pleasantly as possible, “I do believe I would be sorry for that as well.” I sort of regretted saying that as soon as I did, though. Because unlike my family, I don’t think Uncle Percy taught his family how to make jokes.

Or how to have fun.

Or how to smile at all.

I do feel rather bad for Lucy and Molly. There was no hope from the start.

“He’s probably still in the library, Rose. I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Just go and check.” She turned back to her goblet, probably already back to thinking about molecules or whatever word she’d used that I’d already forgotten.

On my way up to the library, I had a lot of time to think, mostly because I was dragging my feet from lack of wanting to go in the first place. Scorpius’s response to my attempt to apologize could go one of two ways, even more so because he was a Malfoy. He could either accept graciously and we could return to our tentatively amicable relationship of earlier. Or he could hex my nose and make it fall off.

Now that I knew that he hadn’t, in fact, tried to sabotage Rose’s Happily Ever After With Julian Murdock, I didn’t know if were supposed to review those lesson things again. I mean, I’d sort of gone back on my part of the deal, not to mention gotten him pretty much a lifetime’s worth of detention. I shouldn’t ask him to keep his part of the deal, because after it was all said and done, I didn’t really want to -

Wait. What?

I stopped and squinted out the window, trying to conjure up an image of Julian in all his brooding glory, but for some reason the only thing that popped into my head was Scorp’s muscles underneath his Quidditch jumper, and the way his eyes sometimes looked just like the sky above him, which was surreal in a kind of nice way.

A sort of clenched and panicked feeling sort of hammered on my spleen just then because that was a first, those thoughts. And I didn’t know what to make of them.

This could be a problem.

*

Madam Pince gave me a glare to end all glares when I entered the library, clutching the book she was holding convulsively to her chest. “Can I help you?” she hissed in an exaggerated whisper. Behind her, some fourth year laughed obnoxiously loud, but of course she went selectively deaf at the moment, still glaring at me.

I’ve made such a great impression on this school’s faculty. I don’t think any of them believe for a second that I am my mother’s daughter.

“No, you cannot,” I said bluntly, peering over her shoulder, craning my neck for a view of Scorpius. There was a glimpse of banana-covered hair in the back corner, and I set off in that direction, only to be halted by a claw-like hand.

“Do not disturb students who are studying,” she said fiercely. “They would like to pass their classes -“

“I would like to pass life,” I said, extricating myself from her grip and wiggling away in Scorpius’s direction. From behind me, she made a sort of huffing noise, but I had larger things on my mind than whether I’d disrupted the crotchety old librarian’s literary universe.

I know Scorpius heard me approaching - quite frankly, I sounded sort of like a rampaging hippogriff - but he kept looking at his book, tapping his quill on the edge of it and making little ink blots on the pages. Which was proof enough, really, because Madam Pince would probably take one of his kidneys for that sort of thing later. He was still covered in small scratches from pretty much busting down the commentator’s box - but, then again, so was I.

I cleared my throat as politely as possible.

“Hi, Scorp!”

Tap. Tap tap.

“Look, you can try and ignore me,” I said heatedly, “but I’m going to talk anyway.” And I don’t really know why I got suddenly so angry, because it wasn’t even him I was angry at. And it wasn’t Albus, and it wasn’t Hugo. I was just frustrated and tired and there was a sort of nauseating thing mixed in that might have been guilt.

He glanced my way, and something must have caught his attention, because he stopped tapping his quill, at the very least. And that was enough to get me going.

“Hugo was the one who told Julian about” - I cleared my throat and it did absolutely squat to relieve the awkwardness - “my, erm. Well, my attraction to him, if you will.” It wasn’t even news to Scorpius, and my face still felt like someone had dumped a vat of lava over it. “But I kind of assumed you’d done it, you know, and that’s why I did what I did. Ratting you out to the Quidditch scouts, and all that.”

He continued to stare at me, without saying anything. Which was a bit unnerving, really, because he always had had some sort of rebuttal or snarky comment to throw at me before, and now he’d taken up the old adage of silence being golden.

“Oh.” I’d suddenly remembered the other point I needed to make, and cleared my throat again. “And then, with the whole Pippa thing… Well, apparently my cousin Roxanne convinced Hugo that it would be a good laugh to, erm, apparently sabotage your relationship. I don’t think those were the exact words she used, but that was sort of the gist.”

Scorpius blinked once. It was the biggest reaction I’d garnered from him since cornering him here. Now I was distinctly feeling self-conscious, like I’d gotten a wad of spinach stuck in my front teeth and didn’t know it, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away.

I ran my tongue over them, just to check.

“So, really, it’s kind of Hugo’s fault.” I paused, tilting my head, considering. “And Roxanne’s. But… it’s also sort of mine, and so I just kind of wanted to say that I was sorry.”

And the weirdest bit is… I’d fought Pippa and Albus about it, but I was.

There was a sort of clunk, and I realized, with a bit of a jolt, that Scorpius had just sort of keeled over and was lying face down on top of his library book. For a long moment, he didn’t move - I wasn’t even sure if he was breathing anymore. I poked the side of his head to check.

And then I saw his shoulders shaking. Was he… he was laughing?

“Well, that’s not quite the reaction I’d expected,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest. There wasn’t a lot for me to do at this point besides just sort of let it all happen and wait for his brain to click back into gear.

Scorpius finally looked up from the book - oh, Merlin, he was laughing so hard he was crying - although when he tried to speak at last, there were still traces of him having to smother his stupid giggling. He sounded like he was wheezing - but no, he was actually saying my name.

Weasleys,” he choked, tears streaming down his face. I pouted. “You’re mad! You’re all mad, the whole lot of you!”

“Well… that seems a bit rude.” I didn’t have to stand here and listen to him blaspheme my family tree, despite that fact that - well, yes, we were a bit bonkers. But not lock-me-up-in-Azkaban-where-the-sun-doesn’t-shine bonkers. More the type that would cause a cat to keep running headlong into a wall for no apparent reason.

And damn him, he was still laughing.

“Right, well, that’s what I came to say,” I said, a bit frostily, and turned on my heel to go. And quite frankly, I was hoping he’d stop me - grab my hand or poke my elbow or call my name, at least. But all I got treated to was another burst of hysterical laughter as I shuffled out of the library.

He’s the one who’s stark raving nuts, if you ask me.

I stopped just outside the library, though. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next - find Hugo and punch him in the nose? Find Pippa and drink our Scorpius troubles away in more iced tea? What I should have wanted to do, I realized, was find Julian and fix this thing - but I didn’t want to find Julian. I didn’t want to get anywhere near the sod ever again.

Slowly, I sort of sank to the floor outside the library. A first-year Slytherin tripped over my legs and glared ferociously at me, but I didn’t even have the energy to take the mickey out of her. My brain hurt from all the thinking it had been doing since that morning’s match, something it was definitely not used to doing. Because the truth of the matter was that I was much, much sorrier over the fact that Scorpius thought I was crazy than I was over the prospect of not getting that date with Julian Murdock.

What had I seen in him? He was still good-looking, but we had nothing in common. Which Scorpius had seen from the first - and he’d still tried to help me out, hadn’t he? He was the better person in that exchange. He’d always been the better person, really, because he’d never done anything before I’d done something to him first.

I groaned and slammed my head into the stone wall behind me, which turned out to be a really bad idea. Because now, on top of my massive guilt trip, it felt like someone had beaten me around the head with a Beater’s club.

Fan-bloody-tastic.

But quite suddenly, there was a shout - someone shouting my name - and Scorpius was there, like a dream, speckled by stars from my smashing my head into the wall. He was jogging up the corridor towards me, still holding his quill.

“Rose, there you are.” He stopped, panting slightly - you’d think he wouldn’t, being a Quidditch athlete, but maybe brooms weren’t good for stamina - and I scrambled to my feet. “I didn’t mean to run you off -“

“You laughed in my face!” I said sulkily, my lower lip protruding again without me quite meaning for it to.

“I know. You just caught me off guard.” Scorpius grinned infectiously, but almost as soon as he did, it slid off his face. “Look - I accept your apology. It probably took a lot of guts for you to do that, since I’ve never seen you apologize before.”

I scowled. “You’re ruining the moment, Snake Charmer.”

“I just wanted to - oh, hell.” He clenched his hair in his fists. “I cannot sodding believe I’m doing this. But I’m willing to keep our deal.”

I blinked at him, feeling suddenly rather stupid. “Pardon?”

Scorpius rolled his eyes. “Our deal, Rose. That one you broke?”

“Oh, that one,” I said pleasantly, rocking back and forth on the balls of my feet. He was too easy to antagonize, really. Although I probably shouldn’t be antagonizing him after what I did, but let’s let bygones be bygones, I say.

Except… I didn’t want to keep that deal.

“Actually, can we just sort of forget about it?” I said, becoming momentarily fascinated with the laces of his shoes. “I mean, when it comes down to it… I’m sort of getting the shoddy end of it. It’s hard not to bug you over the announcement system.”

It was Scorpius’s turn to look flabbergasted. “So… you don’t want that date with Julian, then?”

I wrinkled my nose. Might as well milk this for all it was worth. “Gross. No way, Scorp-o. What gave you that idea?” I glanced up from his shoelaces; he looked like he’d swallowed a Flobberworm whole, and it was putting up a massively good fight.

I was still trying to come up with a good comment to follow this when he kissed me.

Merlin, his lips were soft.

He pulled away after several seconds, looking quite as shocked as I felt, but there was something like a smile playing around the corner of his lips. I grinned at him, and he grinned back.

“So. There’s that,” I said finally, after a rather prolonged silence, and he laughed aloud.

“I’ve been wanting to do that for the longest time,” he said, and something inside me sort of melted a bit. “It’s a bit hard to work up the nerve, though, when you’re commenting on how much troll blood I’ve got in me.”

I smiled sheepishly. “Well, you know. That’s my way of attracting men, Scorpius Malfoy. I suppose I didn’t need lessons from you after all.”

Scorpius slung his arms around my waist, the sunlight from the window behind him lighting up his hair to a brilliant color. Less banana pudding, more pie crust, I think.

“So, Squeezeley,” he said, leaning down and pressing his forehead against mine. “I think I’m about to make you a new deal. An offer you can’t refuse, if you will.”

“Bring it on,” I replied, and stood on my tiptoes for a second kiss.

A/N: And cut! I must admit, while I don't generally (or ever) write romantic comedies, this story was a heck of a lot of fun to work on. Especially this last scene, if you catch my drift. And now it's finally finished! Wow! I'm really pleased, and, yes, a bit sad, as I always am upon posting the last chapter of something. But mostly pleased, because this was one little experiment gone right, and that's so awesome!

There are a lot of people to thank in conjunction with this story. Firstly -- because they did come first in the little biography that makes up this story -- Annie and Gubby and Gina, for plot-hashing. And of course to Lily, and to Erica, and to Sarah, for being the best support team I could have ever, ever asked for. I love you guys!

And to anyone who's ever reviewed, or favorited, or even just read a chapter: Thank you, too! This couldn't have happened without you, and that's the plain and simple truth. Thank you for reading -- thank you for everything -- and I really hope you've enjoyed And Now A Word From Our Sponsors!


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