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Winner Takes All by Violet Gryfindor
Chapter 4 : Though It's Hurting Me
 
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Day One
Though It's Hurting Me


Rose lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. She wasn’t sure if she’d even managed to fall asleep after her discussion with Albus. Her brain had kept her awake, still spinning with the idea that Scorpius and Lily were going to marry in one week. Although Albus had convinced her that putting a stop to the wedding may be too drastic an action, part of her did not want the wedding to take place, no matter what the cost. But she had to weigh her options first, see the happy couple together to see if they were truly in love.

If, and only if, she could be sure of that, she just might stand aside without objection.

Maybe.

“Don’t become obsessed by this, Rose,” Albus had warned, sounding just like his bloody famous father.

He was right in a way. She could feel the obsession coming on, taking hold of her senses, skewing the entire world so that everything focussed on this wedding and this strange pairing of cousin and ex-boyfriend.

She knew that she could not close her eyes again without seeing Lily and Scorpius together, perhaps in all the ways she had been with him. If she ever saw a photograph of herself and Scorpius now, all she would see was Lily’s face where hers had once been. They weren’t all too alike in appearance, Rose being taller with brighter hair, but there was enough Weasley in both of them to...

It was a disturbing thought indeed.

There were voices in the hall, going down the stairs to the kitchen. Albus would be heading off for the Ministry, while Fred and Roxanne packed themselves off to Diagon Alley to help their dad at the joke shop. The adults would probably be going as well, leaving Rose with her grandparents. Granddad would be easy enough to evade, particularly if he went off to tinker in his workshop, but Grandmum, that was a different story.

She tiptoed around her room, sorting through the clothing someone had already hung in the wardrobe. Her robes were all faded and patched, though the worst set was nowhere to be seen, probably tossed in a pile of rags in Granddad’s workshop. Bloody hell, that had been her favourite set, too.

Grumbling about meddling relatives, she stomped down the stairs, making damn well sure that anyone left in the house would know she was coming. Her head was pounding, her stomach growling, and she generally felt like she’d been dropped off the Astronomy Tower. Although she’d been awake for hours, her eyelids drooped, and she stumbled into the kitchen, ready to eat whatever her grandmother put in front of her.

“Rosie?”

Her father.

Rose blinked. “Dad? I didn’t know you were here.”

Even in her current state, Rose knew how to throw in a blatant lie. At least her surprise wasn’t feigned. She should have known that her dad would stay behind just to see her.

He came forward to embrace her before she quite knew what he was doing.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you arrived. Stupid meeting....”

Rose patted her father on the shoulder. “It’s fine, Dad. Really. Great to see you, too.”

But he was looking at her hair. “Merlin, Rosie? Your mother said something about this, but really, is this the new style over there or something? It looks barmy, like something Looney... your Aunt Luna would do.”

It was a funny image, helped along by the way that Aunt Luna wore her hair at Teddy and Victoire’s wedding. Puffy like a cloud, it was. The memory of it made Rose start to laugh.

“And what’s so funny this morning?” Mrs. Weasley bustled into the kitchen, waving her wand at the stove. “Sorry about the wait, Rose dear. I wasn’t sure when you’d be waking up.”

“It was about Luna and her hair, you remember it, Mum.” Ron gave Rose an extra squeeze before letting go. “I thought that Rosie’s was rather looking like that.”

Mrs. Weasley squinted her eyes in Rose’s direction. “One of those newfangled styles, I suppose. You should have seen Lil–” She cut off and cleared her throat noisily, turning her back on Rose to finish off the toast.

Rose hurried to the table, trying to avoid the awkward moment. She didn’t want to be curious about how Lily looked.

“It was a Chinese Chomping Cabbage, believe it or not,” she blurted out, falling into the nearest chair. “It took me by surprise.”

Ron let out a noise of distaste while Mrs. Weasley whirled to face Rose. “A Chomping Cabbage? Now what fathomable reason was your head so close to one of those... things that it did such damage to your hair? What if it had been worse?” She took a breath. “Of all the places to send you for an education–”

“Every place would have had its dangers, Mum. You know that.” Ron’s ears were going pink. “And at least getting an education was better than–”

He stopped abruptly, but Mrs. Weasley did not comment on it. She knew well enough what the end of that sentence was going to be. Better than getting married to a Malfoy.

Rose stared down at the table, scarred as it was with marks from years of children, adolescents, and now adults eating and arguing various subjects. That mark there, it was from James after he’d heard that the Wasps couldn’t take him on, not even as a reserve player. That scratch was from Dominique’s knife on the night that Teddy had proposed to Victoire. There were so many more things, so many stories that Rose would never know in their entirety. She lost herself in them; they were all better than her own.

“Here you are, dear. Just the way you always liked it.”

Blinking to clear her memory-hazed eyes, she saw the plate of food Mrs. Weasley had set in front of her. Eggs still gooey in the centre, toast soldiers lined up around the plate interspersed with sausages. This was the same breakfast she’d had at the Burrow since she was five. How did her Grandmum manage to remember everyone’s loves?

The question must have written itself across her face because Ron grinned when he sat across from her. “She always forgets mine. Gave me corned beef on the first ride to Hogwarts, even though I hated it.”

“I heard that.” Mrs. Weasley turned from the sink, fists on her hips. “Perhaps you would have liked it if you’d tried, Ronald.”

Ron rested his head on one hand, watching Rose eat. When Mrs. Weasley was out of earshot, he said, “Would you like to go for a walk after you’re ready?”

A walk. This did not bode well.

Rose took another bite, this time chewing very slowly.

“What for?”

Ron shrugged in that way that Rose knew all too well. It was the same way that her mother always complained about, so vague and so obvious at the same time. He wanted to talk about the situation. Her. Scorpius. Lily. Everything.

Not even home for a day and she was already going to receive the talk.

She could drag out breakfast as long as possible, but that meant wasting too much time. There were only seven days, and she had to use every hour of those days wisely. So many people to visit, so many things to plan, to think about, to act upon. Gulping down her food in true Weasley fashion, she mentally began to prepare herself for the infamous father-daughter talk. This would be her second.

Yes, her second.

Some minutes later, she was dressed and ready to face the countryside around Ottery St. Catchpole. Her father didn’t even bother to walk slowly, he was making a beeline for the same spot he’d sat her down five years before, after she’d made The Annoucement.

Thinking about it made her remember just how Ron had found out about her and Scorpius. Her lovely cousin had given it all way. Lily. She had told. And now she was marrying Scorpius for herself.

Conspiracy? It wasn’t out of the question.

When they reached the grove, Ron took a seat on the rock, while Rose settled onto the log, facing him. It was as before, with minor alterations.

Rose decided that one of those alterations would be for her to start things off.

“So, he never bothered to tell anyone that I’d asked him to wait. That true, Dad?”

His ears turned red. A sure sign that she had hit just the right note.

“Yes. Albus told you, I suppose.”

“And a few other things to boot.”

He put his hands on his knees. “Look, Rose. Even when we thought you’d refused him, we were opposed to the match. It didn’t seem right at all.” He took a breath, thinking over his next words. “I mean, he made such a do about being with you that there had to be something wrong when he... when he....” He couldn’t do it, couldn’t say it.


Rose went ahead and finished it for him. “When he pounced upon Lily without warning? Did he threaten to run away with her or something?”

He had gone red again, though Rose knew it was more from anger than embarrassment. “Rose, please. If you’re going to be so peevish, there’s no sense in talking to you.” Crossing his arms, he looked away.

“Surely you understand my position, Dad.” Rose was going to be persistent at any cost. She knew that she could be honest with her father, but really, he could be immature at times. “I never entirely refused him, no matter what he says. He’s betrayed me! Made me look like a fool in front of everyone! I can’t... I won’t...”

She broke off, staring at the ground with furrowed brows. The words had come out with greater passion than she actually felt, but she had to go on.

“I won’t let him get away with this.”

Ron looked hard at her, his blue eyes sharper than she remembered.

“Is that what you want, Rose? Revenge?” He sounded like he couldn’t believe it.

Hearing the same question that Albus had asked her only hours before made her wonder if she had been right to come back, to return at this particular time. It must have made them all think she was being vindictive, that bitter ex-girlfriend stereotype that she so wanted to avoid.

“I don’t know, Dad. I don’t, and that’s what’s bothering me.” She took a deep breath. “There’s so much I still have to do before I know for sure.”

But was there a point to going to her old friends, to Lily, even to Scorpius, if they were all going to ask her the same question over and over again. Is that what you want, Rose? Revenge, getting him back, breaking up the wedding, saving Lily from ruin, murdering Scorpius before he ran off with the next flower-girl he picked up.... Merlin, there were so many options.

Ron had moved to sit beside her, touching her on the shoulder with gentleness she wouldn’t normally have ascribed to him.

“It stands to reason that you’re confused, Rosie.” He was in better humour again, the gentleness extending into his voice. “Just don’t do anything that you’d regret.”

Rose leaned against him, watching a lone beetle lumber over the trampled soil.

“I didn’t come back for him, Dad. You know that, right?”

When he didn’t reply, she found it hard to breathe. If he couldn’t believe her...

“Dad? It was impulsive of me to come back like this, but–”

“Will you go see them?”

The beetle climbed over a small rock, then paused as though taking in his victory.

“Lily first, maybe only her.” Rose felt her hands curl into fists. “She’ll know by now that... that things didn’t end between me and Scorpius in the way she thought, or said she did at least.” Oh Merlin, how much Rose still didn’t know about the situation. Lily wasn’t the duplicitous sort, surely she had to be just as naive and romantic as Rose remembered.

She took another breath. “I need to let her know that maybe she’s making a bad choice.”

Ron turned to look down at her. It was comforting to know that she could count on her father to always be taller than she was.

“There was a time, Rosie, when I reckoned you’d never see the truth. He’s a Malfoy, and he’ll always be one, no matter how pretty he is.”

Rose burst into laughter which verged on hysteria. Why was it that when she discussed these things with Albus it was so easy to remain level-headed? Yet here, with her father, she was an absolute emotional mess. She was going barmy. Utterly and completely losing it.

But the image that resonated in her head was that of Scorpius in the garden, sitting amongst all those flowers, his eyes so cold and his heart so closed, shut against her the moment she dared to refuse him. Dared, yes, that was the only way to put it. And she had refused him in a way, giving him that ultimatum – “but if you don’t want either, Scorpius, that’s your choice.” Dammit, how could she be such an idiot? Not then, standing up to him was perhaps the best thing she’d ever done in her pathetic life. No, how could she have been such an idiot to return upon hearing of his marriage? Let him marry Lily and they can suffer together in sanctioned matrimony.

He was still controlling her. All this time, all that distance, and he could get her to come back just when he wanted her to. He might have even suggested it to Lily – write to your lovely cousin and let her know, she’ll be so interested to hear about this.

“Rosie? Merlin’s pants, Rose, what’s the matter?”

She was staring blankly at the ground, eyes wide and jaw slackening. She must have looked an imbecile or worse. Yet she did not feel the need to cry. Confusion, yes. Betrayal, definitely. Pain, not so much.

“I don’t know how I’m going to last this next week, Dad.”

As soon as the words were out, she wanted to bite them back. Damn, damn, damn! She wasn’t supposed to know that there was only one week left.

“So you know then?” He spoke the words so negligently that he must have attributed her knowledge to one of the cousins, not from her nighttime eavesdropping. “Your Mum won’t like this. Likely she’ll blame me.”

Now that both of them were feeling glum, they sat in their shared glumness for a few minutes. Wan sunlight filtered through the clouds and a pathetic breeze wafted through the tall grass. It was not a particularly stimulating atmosphere.

Rose took a breath. “When I last talked to Scorpius, I asked if he would come with me and he said nothing.” She tried to keep her face from betraying any emotion, knowing that he was watching her. “I said that if he didn’t want to come, it was his choice. Then we said goodbye. I just assumed....” She trailed off, not knowing exactly what she had assumed.

That she would return and marry him, like a soldier come back from the wars to claim her groom? It seemed like such a ridiculous idea. Who was the naive one, after all? Lily or her?

“So no definite refusal on either side?” He sounded thoughtful.

Rose shook her head. “Only silence.”

Ron moved to sit apart from her, elbow on knee, chin on hand. “It’s something to work with, surprisingly enough.” At Rose’s questioning glance, he added, “Malfoy was asking about it, apparently. Mr. Malfoy, that is. He couldn’t get a straight answer out of that son of his.”

“He always was so vague about everything. You could ask him the time of day and he’d run you in circles.” She didn’t realise that she was smiling until she noticed her father’s sharp stare. The smile immediately vanished.

“I’m only saying that it’s just how he is.”

His reply was interrupted by the arrival of an owl who appeared particularly tired. It collapsed onto the log between them, gasping for air.

“Bloody hell.” Ron untied the note from the owl’s leg. “This, Rose, is Pig the Sixth, and as you can see, he’s just as useless as the last five of them.”

The owl hooted a demure complaint, then snuggled against Ron’s leg. Ron deigned not to notice this as he opened the letter.

“From Harry,” he said without looking up. “Asking how you are.”

Rose held her hand out to Pig the Sixth and he – she assumed it was a he – nipped at her fingers, dancing toward her.

“But you wrote him first, which is why Pig brought the letter.”

His eyes rose. “Just like your bloody mother. Can’t get anything past you two.”

Rose laughed a bit, scratching Pig’s head to his immense pleasure.

After a moment of grumbling to himself, Ron began summarising the letter for her benefit. “Harry’s returning from the Continent in a couple of days, wants to see you, then Lily, then see how it all goes before... well, you know.”

He shifted in his seat, brow creasing. “He’s not wholly opposed to the match, Rosie. You should know this now. He wants Lily to marry for love and a union between the Potters and the Malfoys is, well, you know, good for... um...”

“Politics?” Rose bit her lip, feeling the flush rising up her throat.

The word made Ron frown deeply. “That’s how my excellent brother Percy would put it.” He sniffed loudly as though trying to imitate Uncle Percy’s airs. “Don’t know how I’m related to such a git,” he muttered.

But Rose was thinking about Uncle Harry, not Percy. What had Albus said in his letter? Dad is furious, but that had been more because of the secret than the match itself. While Aunt Ginny may have been angry enough to send Lily packing for Molly’s, even she didn’t seem particularly against the marriage. Was the whole balance thrown off by news of Rose’s return? Was her presence going to bring the whole thing crashing down on her head?

What would she actually do if the wedding was called off?

Her father was speaking to her, but she could not hear his words. Heart pounding against her chest, Rose felt more and more uncomfortable with her situation. The previous night’s discussion with Albus seemed so far away. All that assurance she had felt, all the desire to do something, to act, was gone now.

So this was how it worked. This was now the mind could convince itself of anything if let to its own devises. Rose was disgusted with herself.

Once again she felt like that young girl at Hogwarts, so awkward and confident, but knowing so little about people, their hearts, their minds. She could think about Scorpius, picture his image with breathtaking clarity, but she could neither see into his mind nor his heart. So light on the outside with his pale hair and skin, but so dark within, impenetrable and cold.

It was that coldness that had stopped her, that coldness that had prevented him from promising to wait or wanting to accompany her. It was a coldness that his father wore as a mask, but did not possess to the same extent as his son. Scorpius was like his father in looks, but like his grandfather in manner.

If anything, Rose should have been pleased with herself to have escaped his clutches.

“Harry says he’ll take you down to see Lily, if you want to go with him, that is.”

Rose shook herself awake. It must have been from the long flight, the different time zones. It was making her hysterical, emotionally and mentally unstable. She’d be joining old Lockhart in the loony wing of St. Mungo’s at this rate.

“He’ll write again when he’s sure unless he comes down for dinner.”

Damn, that meant she’d have to share the treacle pudding.

No, Rose, this is no time to be thinking about food.

“That’s good.” She sounded distant, even to her own ears.

“So that’s settled then. Let’s hope that he comes tomorrow. Get this over with, right, Rosie?” He folded up the letter and slipped it into a pocket. When he moved to rise, Pig the Sixth fluttered up to sit on his shoulder.

“And don’t you dare do anything funny up there,” he said to the owl. “Got it?”

Rose followed silently, still caught up in her growing insanity.

She’d have to owl her friends as soon as she returned to the Burrow, letting them know that she was back in England, if they hadn’t heard already. The Weasley Wireless Network may have already been at work in that quarter. Perhaps they’d like to meet her for tea one of these days. Or maybe she’d just go to Diagon Alley to see who was hanging about. She needed new robes, anyway.

“Are you going into London today, Dad?”

He turned, Pig hanging onto his shoulder for dear life.

“It’s not necessary, though I was thinking about checking out the shop.”

Uncle George’s joke shop, still the centrepiece of Diagon Alley.

“I’ll go too, then.”

He nodded, but turned away too quickly, as though trying to hide his face, or the expression upon it. He was worried about her, she could see that much, and although he evidentially didn’t think that going to London was the best thing for her, she knew she had to go.

If left to herself for too long, who knew how she’d last the week?

~ * * * ~

Her father continued on down toward Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes with the promise that Rose would meet him there in a couple of hours. Giving that promise made her feel like a child again, her parents letting her go off for a bit on her own or with her cousins, but only if she would meet them in such-and-such a place by such-and-such a time. The group of them, often inflated by their various friends, would run between the joke shop and Florean Fortescue's. James and Hugo would rush off to Quality Quidditch Supplies, while Molly would slip into Flouish and Blotts to peek into the latest vampire romance.

It was surprisingly nice to go all nostalgic, especially in the Alley of all places. There was so much magic here, something she hadn’t quite realised until that dreadful summer she’d spent with her mum’s family. Muggles, dentists to boot.

Not that she had anything against Muggles.

She looked toward Florean Fortescue’s, wondering if he still made that mint humbug sundae with chocolate syrup, but instead her feet moved her toward Madam Malkin's. A refitting would be boring, but it was necessary. She couldn’t go around wearing ratty old robes. Even the best of those she brought back from China were too short for her – weren’t people supposed to stop growing at eighteen? Rose thought she must have some form of genetic mutation.

The shop was quiet with one or two shoppers browsing through the fabrics and designs. Rose glanced at a few styles, surprised at how low-cut some of the dress robes had gotten. And the colours, so much brighter and flashier than she remembered. Godric’s socks, this was going to take a while.

There were people over in the fitting area. Rose could hear Madam Malkin requesting someone to turn this way, then that way as her measuring tape flew about.

“And how long will the special order take, Madam?” a hesitant female voice asked.

Rose held her breath. That voice. Slightly uncertain, as though asking for something meant paying a frightful price in return.

Madam Malkin chirped back a reply, something about only a day or so.

“Mother, there’s no need. This is perfectly suitable.”

Rose took a step back at this voice, pressing against the nearest rack. The timing she had! To come to Madam Malkin's just at the moment when–

“Scorpius, you will have the best no matter what trouble it takes to obtain it. Now Madam, will further measurements be required?”

The door was within distance. Rose stared at it longingly, but her body was frozen.

No. No, don’t run, she told herself. You need to face him. Running away would only prove cowardice and Rose Weasley was no coward.

Straightening her robes as best she could, Rose turned to poke through the rack she’d stepped into. It was mostly filled with entirely unsuitable styles, but she persisted, buying her time and muttered a script of things she wanted to say to him when they came face to face.

“The robes will be delivered within the next two days, Mrs. Malfoy,” Madam Malkin was saying, probably with a bow and smile. “Another fitting might be necessary with the fabric....”

“Hopefully that won’t be necessary.” Scorpius was probably brushing invisible lint from his robes and pushing aside stray hairs from his forehead. His usual vanity made his disregard for the special order fabric curious.

“Owl us when the robes come in.” Mrs. Malfoy would have flashed a shy smile, trying to ignore her son’s superior attitude. “We do want him to look impressive, Madam, as I am sure you understand.”

“Mother–”

Madam Malkin bustled past Rose, the list of measurements in hand.

“Quite so, Mrs. Malfoy. Weddings are very important occasions.”

Mrs. Malfoy appeared next, passing Rose without any indication of recognition. Rose kept her back turned, examining the embroidery detailing on a particularly ghastly set of scarlet robes.

She heard another set of footsteps behind her, slower, as though he took care to make each step count. Not good. When he moved slowly, he tended to look at everything around him, observing all the details. Even with her robes, her hair, a different way about her, Rose would be easy enough to spot, particularly to someone who had known her so well.

Oh why hadn’t she left the shop when she still could?

No. She had to face him, had to speak her mind.

Or she could remain silent, let him pass without a word.

“That colour wouldn’t suit you at all.” He was looking over her shoulder.

She spun on her heel, sending the rack into a precarious wobble.

“Hello, Scorpius,” she said with mock enthusiasm. “Fancy meeting you here.”

His smile was glorious, but it did not reach his eyes. Cold, always cold.

“I was hoping to see you soon, Rose.”


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