Author's Note: This story is being written for the "Greatest Love Story Ever Told" challenge on the forums, and while it may not seem to be very romantic, it will hopefully turn out that way. One of the story's heaviest influences is Jane Austen, and you may be able to pick out little plot points and characterizations that match up with something from Austen's novels.
Some quick thanks are required: to Drue, Sammy and Julianne for helping with the summary, and to Gubby and Lyn for their helpful (though divergent) criticisms.
image by ariana_tithe
Now It's History
They were sitting together in the shade of the garden overlooking the roses. Reds, yellows, pinks, and whites merging in a perfect maelstrom of fiery colour. The sunlight hit the blooms at just the right angle, making them impossible to look at for long. Not that either of the individuals sitting together were looking at the roses.
They were too busy looking at each other.
It was the most beautiful of romantic moments, so often written of in novels, but never quite accurately depicted. Inaccurate because the romance between these two was not easily gained, nor was it a match made in heaven. Many battles had been fought to attain the perfection of his moment.
“Rose, will you marry me?”
He was handsome, talented, intelligent, rich, the list went on and on. Scorpius Malfoy was the most perfect of wizards.
And she was going to turn him down.
First year. Her father had especially ordered her not to get too close to him, and here she was, of all places, sitting right next to Scorpius Malfoy on the train to Hogwarts. Cousin Albus sat across from them, brow furrowed as he still worried over what house he’d be sorted into. Rose was above worrying over such things. Ravenclaw would be a nice choice. Auntie Luna had always spoke well of it....
“I can’t believe there were no more compartments!” The voice that broke into her thoughts hadn’t yet broken like her cousin James’s. Scorpius could have been mistaken for a girl, as high-pitched and whiny as he sounded.
It was difficult for Rose to hold back a giggle. “Comes from taking too long to say goodbye to Mummy and Daddy.”
The sarcasm in her voice made him turn to look at her. It was the first time their eyes met, his a cold grey, hers a chilly blue.
“It’s not like you were first on the train either, Weasley.”
“I know.” She had her mother’s know-it-all voice. “That’s why we got stuck in here with you.”
Love at first sight is so overrated.
It took far longer for Rose Weasley to find herself sitting in the garden at Malfoy Manor, experiencing what should have been the happiest moment of her life. The potential was certainly there, even though her mind and heart were divided between the wizard beside her and the opportunity that had presented itself only the day before.
“I wasn’t expecting this,” she said quietly.
There was obvious disappointment in his face, the usual lowering of the lips and creasing around the eyes she had come to recognize. The spoiled little boy still lurked within him, ready to burst out in tears and pleas when his desires were unfulfilled.
“We’ve come this far, Rose.”
Yes, they had. The battles they’d fought, with each other, with their parents, seemingly with all of humanity. And she was going to make it all for nothing.
“There’s no need for you to leave me. You won’t need to work when you marry me.”
When, not if. Trapped, that’s where this would lead. Did she want to marry when she could go to the Chinese apothecaries and become a herbalist? It was the perfect job for her. Professor Longbottom always said she had a knack for plants, that she could grow them unlike anyone else he’d seen in years. Since himself, her mother had told her with a smile.
Scorpius was still looking at her, holding her hand, waiting for her answer. He was sweet-looking in his own way, the downy blond hair clinging to his forehead in childish curls, the dusting of freckles across his nose. The sweetness did not make its way into his eyes; they were cold, always cold, even when he said he loved her.
She pulled her hand away. “I don’t know.”
Scorpius sat back, his breath shortening, his hand ripping away from hers.
“Again? You never seem to know, Rose.”
She was only a stupid Weasley, after all.
Second year. She was proving to be an average student, the perfect combination of her father’s procrastination and her mother’s cleverness. Perhaps if she’d actually finish her assignments on time she would receive that “Outstanding” her mother so worshipped, but that, of course, would mean disappointing her father. She always loved her father best.
Scorpius was always better than her at everything, but still not as good as Albus. The only difference was that Albus was a lot more humble about it. There wasn’t a day when Scorpius would tout his brains, that he was smarter than Hermione Granger’s own daughter.
“It must be from being a Weasley. They’re always stupid.”
Rose crossed her arms, hand itching for her wand. “Albus is half-Weasley too, Malfoy.”
The infamous smirk appeared, and Rose wanted to wipe it off his face with her fist.
“But he doesn’t have the name, does he, Weasley?”
The problem was that he was still the same person. Still as annoying and sarcastic and insulting as ever. So why had things changed? If she had to ask herself how it happened, then how real was it?
“I don’t feel ready for this, Scorpius.” She heard the plaintive note in her voice and hated herself for it. “All the things that have happened–”
He let out a sigh, all very dramatic-like. “I thought they didn’t matter anymore, that anything didn’t matter, Rose. We belong together. You know that.”
She wasn’t so sure, not yet.
It wasn’t merely youth that made her hesitate. She knew she was young and that she didn’t know much about the world, but her own parents had married young, and they were happy together. What Scorpius didn’t take into account was that she was hungry for more, hungry for all that adventure her parents had shared. Together.
He was giving her a choice: stay and marry or go and don't. It was simple. Simple and impossible.
She wasn’t ready for this decision.
Fifth year. They were paired up for Defence Against the Dark Arts, her least favourite subject. All those stories from the war bothered her, hearing about those curses and the things they could do to people. She didn’t want to be involved with stuff like that.
It seemed too convenient that the class was Scorpius’s best subject. The professors used to look at him suspiciously. Rose had seen the looks and written to Teddy. He knew those sorts of things, and he wouldn’t be afraid to give her the answers. Her parents never would. They got all funny about Scorpius in a way that Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny never did.
She nodded, jaw set and wand at the ready.
“Don’t let me down.”
Why would he say that? What–?
The spell was coming right for her; it would hit her square in the chest, send her flying across the room. Somehow, she got her wand up fast enough, too shocked to think before she cast the counter-jinx.
He was the one to go flying backwards, hitting the blackboard with a crash. Rose stared at her wand, then at him, unable to move. Albus ran up to Scorpius, picking him out from under the wreckage.
But Scorpius wasn’t crying or fuming at his defeat. There was a wide grin on his face.
“See Weasley? I knew you wouldn’t let me down.”
That had been the moment. So strange and unromantic. So like him to take control and make her into the perfect witch he desired. He could have had any of them, he told her that himself, but it was her who interested him most because she didn’t want him back.
They were both popular in their own way, the charming leaders of their friends, setting the fashion for what to say and how to say it, how to look and how to act. Rose’s friends loved that her uncle ran the best joke shops in Britain. Scorpius’s friends loved that his parents gave him all the pocket money he wanted.
Together, they would have been the most perfect match to come out of Hogwarts since the original Lily and James Potter.
Rose wasn’t much of a fan of perfection herself.
There was only silence between them. She could hear him breathing, quick, shallow breaths that betrayed his annoyance. Annoyed. At her. For being an idiot. Or so he thought. According to the rest of her family, Rose was behaving in the most logical, level-headed manner she’d managed since this mess had begun.
Sixth year. It happened sooner than she expected. All her father’s warnings, the strange looks from Albus and James, the glares of other, prettier girls; she didn’t take notice of them. They had all known before she knew herself.
“Why do you spend so much time with me?” A blunt question, but he would appreciate that.
His reply was prefaced by a smile. “I like you.”
She stopped in mid-step. Both prefects, they walked together on patrol. It was easier to have someone to talk to, especially if it was him. He made the time pass faster with his stories. He always had so many.
One word answers also amused him. The brightness of his smile was blinding.
“You’re the only one who stands up to me.”
Another of his backwards compliments. He was a master of them, slipping them into half the things he said, but hardly anyone knew them for what they were. Hardly anyone knew him for what he really was. Except for her. She liked to think that.
“Someone needs to.” She also smiled.
They were motionless in the empty corridor, the night settling in around them. The Head Boy or Girl could come, or a lost student could pass by, or worse, Peeves could pop out of nowhere, ready to tell the whole school that Malfoy and Weasley were going at it on the fourth floor. Now that would draw a crowd.
Scorpius reached out to push a strand of hair behind her ear. They were standing apart, at least a foot between them, yet he felt so close. He smelled like fresh mint, right from her grandmother’s garden. Rose closed her eyes to better take in the scent. Perfect.
“Rose, have you ever thought–” He paused, his breath shortening, as it always did when he was tense. “Ever thought about us. What we are.”
A bee had drifted over to their bench, nuzzling its way between them, wings buzzing. It sniffed through their hair before drifting off again to a nearby bed of flowers. Rose watched its path, wondering if it was a sign, one of those portents old Trelawney found everywhere. It had gone between them, had gone for the flowers instead.
Was that to be her path as well? To go beyond what Scorpius could ever offer her?
The mansion, the contents, the endless parties, the clothes, everything a witch could have wanted to achieve the perfect happiness. Except that none of it interested her. The library at Malfoy Manor was pitifully small, and her mother had never liked how the house elves were treated here.
“I need to do this for me, Scorpius. Not for anyone else.”
Yes, she was the only one who could stand up to him. He had been right.
His cheeks flushed as though he’d been dipped in boiling water. It was all there: the fury at being refused – who would refuse him? – the frustration of not getting what he wanted, the pain at being refused by the one girl he’d thought was perfect.
Perfect. That word again. Such a hateful word.
“So you’re going to leave, then.”
He sounded more pathetic than ever.
All the romance, where had it gone? She wanted to love him, to have all the things they’d dreamed of together, but now it didn’t seem like such a shining prospect. He was no knight in shining armour. It was more the other way around.
Seventh year. They were far gone by then, sitting by the lake in the warmer weather, sometimes even when it was cold. The beech tree towered above them, the white marble tomb glittered in the late autumn sunlight. There were times when Rose wondered what the old Headmaster must have been like. Uncle Harry spoke of him often.
He also spoke of Mr. Malfoy, how he’d changed, how he couldn’t hurt Dumbledore.
He’d also said that Scorpius was a lot like his father. Rose’s dad hated that comparison, still hated Mr. Malfoy, hated Scorpius more for stealing away his daughter.
Rose laughed at the thought of Scorpius stealing anything, much less her.
“What is it?” the so-called thief said, his arm tight around her shoulders. “Care to share the joke?”
She turned to face him, resting her forehead against his chin.
“My dad claimed you’d stolen me.”
His laughter echoed across the water. Some third years walking past stared, one pointed, recognizing the red Weasley hair, now mingling with the Malfoy blond.
“He’s not that far off the mark, is he?”
Rose frowned. She didn’t like the idea of being stolen.
There had been a lot of those moments, hints of uncertainty that marred the surface of her fairytale romance. He had faults, like anyone, but the nature of some of those faults bothered her, sometimes in an annoying way, at other times in a disturbing way. It must have been the Malfoy coming out in him that made him so possessive, so certain that she would never refuse him.
It still didn’t explain why they had hated one another for so long, or why he had suddenly changed, deciding that, after all, she was worth the pursuit. She wanted an answer, but she knew that if she asked him for it, he would not, perhaps could not, provide it.
She may have simply been his mode of rebellion.
Ugh, why was she thinking this way? It would be blissfully easy to say yes and marry him and spend the rest of her life with the one person who seemed right for her, the one person who made her laugh and cry and feel alive. Their parents were resigned to the match now, even though her own had suggested that they wait until they were older. Ha! The pot calling the kettle black, that’s what kind of suggestion it was.
And yet, she was listening to her parents, wasn’t she? She was telling him no, not yet, wait until she’d come back from that job, wait until she’d explored the world for herself.
She took in a breath.
“If I go, will you wait for me?”
He raised his eyes, veiled by those impossibly long lashes. “Wait?”
“For me to return. It won’t make a difference now or later. You know that.”
She felt like she was hanging by a precarious thread. She needed some assurance from him that leaving wouldn’t change anything, that he would still be here when she returned, waiting with open arms. She was so uncertain of him, but she still needed him. There was something in that perfection she wanted to hold on to.
Her mind was made up. She had to follow up this offer, had to go to China, if only for the sake of her sanity.
And her pride.
“I’ll marry you as soon as I return.”
He still said nothing.
“Or better yet, you can come with me.”
Of course he wouldn’t. He was doomed by his own stubbornness never to leave England’s shores. He possessed no sense of adventure, no curiosity for the world around him.
The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to leave.
“But if you don’t want either, Scorpius, that’s your choice.”
She let those words hang in the air as she rose from the bench, knowing already what he would choose. She’d known it all along.
His voice meant to entice her, that same melodious timbre which had charmed her these last two years. But this time, it didn’t work. She remained standing, looking down at him, with no desire to stay.
She walked down the garden path, taking in the scent of roses with every breath.
Happily ever after didn’t work for everyone.
Another Note: The story title is adapted from the ABBA song "The Winner Takes All", and the title of each chapter will be taken from the lyrics.
I hope you enjoyed reading this. Please let me know what you think. :)