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Chapter 8 : Things We've Gone Through
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chapter image by Azure.
Things We’ve Gone Through
“You should see him, Rose. Talk to him.”
“Did that help you at all?”
“To see Victoire? Yes. I watched her from a distance at first, just to see how she would wait for me to come. It was in a café in the Latin Quarter, and she sat outside, near the street, but she didn’t see anything around her. Not the birds picking up crumbs on the next table over. Not the way the sun reflected off the windows. Not the people who passed by.”
“What was she doing?”
“Reading another report. I don’t even think she tasted the coffee.”
“And you would have?”
“Of course. It was the worst café in Paris.”
Rose stared at the gates of Malfoy Manor, having apparated there rather earlier than she’d planned. It was all in the timing, you see, trying to avoid her hawk-eyed relatives who would advise against this meeting. Even if she had stood her ground, they would have wanted to accompany her – you can’t go alone, Rose – and she could not have that.
Why she was here was a different matter. She would have refused to go had anyone asked her before the previous night. She did not have the strength then. She did not have the will to face Scorpius, not without inflicting violence or worse, revealing her still-existent feelings for the prat.
But now things were different. She could face him, yes, she could do it.
“Isn’t there a saying that opposites attract?”
“Even your parents aren’t complete opposites, Rose. You need to have something in common with the person you want to spend your life with.”
“I see what you mean.”
“My parents may not be opposites, but they still aren’t a perfect match.”
“Still a romantic? Do you believe that there’s someone for everyone?”
“Maybe that’s why I–”
She touched the gate and it opened, its memory not yet erased. It knew her, the once possible future mistress of Malfoy Manor. The thought was a troubling one. She looked at the gravel walkway lined with identical trees, all pruned to perfection. The walkway had just the right curve to it, forcing one to pass along it some distance before the house appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Rose let it surprise her, heart leaping at the sight.
All of this could have been hers.
It looked like it came out of a book, some sort of cross between a fairytale castle and a Gothic ruin, all stone and towering peaks complete with narrow windows and menacing gargoyles. When the sun was setting, the facade turned a glittering crimson, as though the building was painted with blood. But now, it was morning, and the light from behind set the manor into peaceful shadow. The birds chirped from their unseen perches. Bees drifted from bud to bud, seeking the newly-opened blossoms. The wind rustled through the leaves.
Nothing menacing here. Nothing at all.
“You’re going to spill.”
“You made a choice, Rose. Don’t let regret consume you.”
“Is that what this is? Regret?”
“I remember it well. Too well.”
“What is it that you regret, though? You two were together a long time.”
“Maybe that’s what I regret. Having wasted both our lives like that.”
A flash of face in a window high above caught her eye, but when she looked again. It was gone. She wondered which one it would be. The quiet, brooding father? The seemingly superficial mother? Or would it be the son, the strange combination of both parents, mutated and transmuted?
It might also be one of the house elves who cleaned the windows.
Stop being so dramatic, Rose. They won’t eat you. How many times have you been here before, sat at their table, slept in their guest room? She had no reason to be afraid of the Malfoys. Yes, at first, Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy were not the happiest parents when they discovered that their dearest only son was walking out with a Weasley, but they had never been cruel to her.
In fact, in all those years, the only cruelty had come from Scorpius.
At the door, she hesitated. Ring the bell, wait, walk in, say what you need to, perhaps hear him out, then leave. It would not have to be a long visit, but she had to go through with it. She could not walk away now.
“Was it hard, talking to her again, knowing that it was the end?”
“Yes and no.”
“That’s not very helpful.”
“You have to remember that it wasn’t my choice to end things. It was hers.”
“But you agreed with her, right?”
She reached up and pulled the bell. It clanged far within, the echo resounding deep into the kitchens where house elves were set to their chores, preparing this or cleaning that. One of them would come, open the door, ask her business (depending on how new they were – Mrs. Malfoy was notorious for too-often changing her staff), then lead her into the morning room, where she would wait for “one of the family” to greet her.
But when the door opened, it was not a house elf. Rose’s breath caught in her throat as she saw the face in the shadows, the sharp features, the tow-light hair. That he should be here, as though waiting for her–
“I was wondering when you would show your face here.”
Her eyes widened; the voice was too deep. No, not Scorpius at all. He did not know such bitterness, such depth of despair.
“Hello, Mr. Malfoy.” She stumbled over the words.
The hard grey eyes, sunken into his cheeks, were glaring, and he seemed prepared to slam the door in her face.
“What do you want here?”
She stared at him, not quite sure how to answer. It certainly didn’t help that she knew about what had happened between him and her mother over a decade before. What he must have seen when he looked at her, the pale imitation of her mother’s face set under Weasley-red hair. Or maybe it was that she had failed his son, failed to control him, to make Scorpius settle down, to give him purpose.
When she said nothing, Mr. Malfoy’s eyes narrowed and he opened the door wider.
“I suppose that you want to speak with him.”
“Yes, sir. If possible.” She took in a deep breath. “I need to know–”
“No, it is not likely that he cared anything for you.”
Rose blinked, her heart stopping. Mr. Malfoy stepped forward, further into the light.
“My son has never been in want of anything but feeling. I’m sure that you understand by now that you were his mode of rebellion.”
She flushed, all the blood rushing into her cheeks. “And him marrying a Potter isn’t? Sorry, Mr. Malfoy, but that’s not a good enough excuse.”
His face, already stone-like, hardened further. “Then come speak to him, by all means. I’m sure that he can easily illuminate the matter.”
He stepped aside to let Rose pass and closed the door behind her with a loud snap.
“Scorpius has not yet come down. You will have to wait for him in the morning room.”
And with that, he vanished down a corridor, leaving Rose to find the morning room on her own. She knew where it was, but it was not a pleasant room, even with such a name. It was bright, yes, being on the other side of the house, but it was over-decorated with guilt frames around the portraits (only portraits of affluent Malfoys were found here) and eighteenth-century furniture that could have been taken from Marie Antoinette’s salon. It was meant to show off to guests, to put them in their proper place.
Rose was properly cowed by the room and took a seat on the very edge of a delicate-looking chair. It was funny, she thought, as Lily would love this room, this furniture. It was as dramatic as she was, an appropriately beautiful setting.
No. It was not funny. It was true.
She frowned, looking once more at the furniture, the walls, the wide window onto the lawn, the gardens just beyond, not quite in sight. There was little life there, not yet. For her, not ever. This place could not be hers; she did not want it. She did not belong here, in Malfoy Manor. Her own place... where was it? Where did she, Rose Weasley, belong?
“But what happened when you talked to her?”
“Oh? Right, yes. She was not reading a report, apparently. They were, instead, the divorce papers. You can imagine how the conversation went from there.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Those were my words exactly.”
“I’m sorry, Teddy.”
“And those were her words. See? It wasn’t that hard to imagine.”
The door opened again, but it was only a house elf bearing the tray of tea things. Rose leapt up to take it from hi– no, not his hands. It was balanced on his head, the tray was so expansive, covered in biscuits and mounds of sugar lumps, the tea pot bouncing off all the other articles, spots of tea flying about.
“You must be new here,” she said, smiling at the elf.
At the sound of footsteps outside the door, the elf squealed and vanished with a POP. Rose turned toward the door, knowing that he was outside listening, waiting for just the right moment to enter, preferably when she was at her weakest.
“Come in.” She raised her voice, sitting to pour out a single cup of tea.
He laughed as he opened the door. Rose did not look up at him, though, keeping a steady eye on the tea pouring down into the cup. She added two lumps of sugar and a generous dollop of milk before settling back into the rock-hard Windsor chair. Only then did she look at him, he who had not moved from the door, his hand still on the knob.
“Hello, Rose. What a surprise to–”
“Don’t start that bullocks, Scorpius. You know why I’m here.”
The smile did not fall from his lips. It faltered a bit, perhaps, but was not killed.
“It wasn’t wise of you to come here, Rose.”
She took another long sip of tea even though her nerves were tingling, fingers itching to reach for her wand. “Why? Because people will think we’re carrying on behind Lily’s back? Now wouldn’t that make for great gossip.”
Scorpius took a single step forward. “Most of society is talking about you, Rose, and how you’ve gone mad over this, that you’ve lost your senses entirely. Seeing you now, I can’t say that I’m surprised. You are mad.”
Rose hoped that this so-called “society” did not include any of her relatives, outside of Lily, of course. If it did....
Enough of that. What did society matter, anyway? Rose had existed without it for two years without a single regret and much personal satisfaction. It was still the life she would return to when – whenever – this maelstrom was over. Society be damned. She would speak with Scorpius Malfoy whenever and however she liked.
She put down her cup.
“That may be so, but I have come to ask you a question.”
Scorpius frowned, eyes narrowing in suspicion. “Only one?” He allowed himself the liberty of taking another step forward while Rose helped herself to a chocolate biscuit.
“Do you really love my cousin?”
Rose let the words tumble out, not caring whether they were rushed or unintelligible. It was simply the question she had to ask and had to know the answer to. After hearing that, she could bugger off back to China without a care as to what Scorpius Malfoy did with his life. Whether he answered “yes” or “no” didn’t matter so much as hearing him say the word.
“Now I feel like an idiot.”
“Sorry. Still a little on the bitter side, you see.”
“It never goes away, does it, that bitterness. Even after all the talking, all the time that passes, you can’t change the fact that you loved her and she let it go.”
“It wasn’t as simple as that.”
“What do you mean? I thought that–”
“She would only continue our relationship if I gave up writing.”
“And you couldn’t make that choice.”
“It showed me who she really was, and it was not a person I could be married to.”
“I can understand that.”
“Adolescent love is an awful thing, you know.”
“Yes, it is. And yet, at the time, there’s nothing more beautiful.”
Rose spilled her tea. Scorpius had answered and she had not heard him, the memory of the night before ringing through her mind. All the things that Teddy had said were still so real, more real than this primped and pretty wizard who... who–
“I said that I do. How can you ask a question like that and not even bother listening to the answer? Have you been drinking?”
She blinked out of her stupor, rubbing her handkerchief over the stain on her lap.
“First mad and now drunk. Thank you for those lovely compliments, Scorpius. You really know how to charm the ladies.”
He was watching her, grey eyes assessing her with great interest. Too much interest. It threw her into the past, a past she would rather have obliterated from all existence. There was the hint of a smile emerging on his face. Rose held her breath, knowing, feeling it in the air.
“You would know, Rose, having first-hand experience.”
Was all of this a game? Rose took out her wand to remove the rest of the tea, wondering why she hadn’t thought of it sooner. The gears of her brain had slowed to a painful stop, leaving her with nothing rational. It was just like being a schoolgirl again, being in his power, being Scorpius Malfoy’s girlfriend.
She set her jaw. No. If this was a game, she wouldn’t let him win.
“Of your charm? Or being the charming one?”
The smile appeared in full, and Rose was discouraged.
“Both, I should think. You can be very charming when you don’t mean to be.”
Not a compliment. At least, she would not take it as one. She sat up straight in the chair and, after some hesitation, placed her wand back into her pocket.
“You haven’t answered my question, Scorpius, and that says a lot.”
Finally, he took the seat across from her and picked up the other teacup. He looked into it, then looked at Rose before pouring the tea himself.
“I think it’s a very stupid question. That is why I avoided it. It has no merit, and therefore, I don’t think it worth answering.”
Rose picked up her cup again.
“Thanks for that honesty. It would help if it was true, but thanks all the same.”
He sipped at the tea. Black, no milk, no sugar. Very unsuitable. He needed all the sweetening up he could get.
“Is honesty all you were looking for?”
Did you find all you were looking for, miss? I’m sorry, we don’t carry that item here. Yes, he had definitely spent too much of his time in the shops since she’d left. Spending his father’s money, no doubt, as she had heard nothing about him becoming employed. His less-than-record-breaking number of NEWTs tended to overshadow his family name.
“It would be nice for once.” Rose brought her cup to her lips.
“Lily wouldn’t have spilt her tea.” The words came out so suddenly that Rose almost dropped her cup. “And even if she had, she would have used her wand right away. Really, Rose, think about it.”
He was revealing the fraction of himself that was human. At last, Rose could recognize him as the wizard she had felt something for, not the twat who shopped Diagon Alley with his mummy and showed off for the ladies on the Quidditch field. This was the wizard who had, instead, helped her with her DADA lessons, practising spells in empty classrooms so that she could scrape an OWL in that dreadful, dreadful class. The same wizard who had criticised her to death, and she had borne it like few others could because she knew that each criticism was true.
No, no, no! She must not think like this, she must not remember the things that had been, that could have been if she had not been so proud, so independent, so desiring to make her own course in the world, the course of her choosing. She had made her choice, and now she must live with it. There could be no going back. That was impossible. It was stupid to even think that maybe, that maybe she– that he–
“How long ago was that, Teddy?”
“Three months, one week, four days.”
“If it’s necessary to ask the price, then it’s going to be too dear a cost.”
“You lived in France for too long.”
“What makes you say that?”
“‘Too dear a cost?’ Come on, Teddy. That’s not good English at all.”
“It’s good poetic English, Pinky. Now finish your drink. Albus is waiting.”
Scorpius was staring at her, nibbling on one corner of a biscuit. It reminded Rose of how Lily tended to eat, picking at her food like a flitting sparrow, ready to leap off before the meal was finished. Of course, such habits were what kept her cousin in such trim shape, as delicate like the flower she was named for.
Speaking of which, he had still managed to evade her original question.
“Is it at all about love, then?” she asked, leaning forward in her chair. “Or is it just that Lily will make a nicer addition to the gene pool?”
He glanced from side to side, that smile returning to his face. Rose’s heart sunk.
“She will make a... ‘nice’ addition, as you so deftly put it.”
Rose put down her cup with a loud clank. “Yeah, she’ll look great on the settee or as a portrait over the mantle. Another piece of furniture, with the Potter name to boot.”
He let out a harsh sigh, tapping his fingers against the chair arm.
“Don’t be so vulgar, Rose. It’s unbecoming.”
She got to her feet, the crumbs that had piled in her lap falling to the floor.
“For a moment there, I thought I knew you. I thought you were yourself again. But now, no, you’re this other... thing. I don’t even know what to call it.” She clenched her hands and a scrunched up her face, seeking the right words. “Maybe I– maybe I made a mistake in leaving, in doing something I wanted to, but don’t punish me for it like this. And don’t make Lily pay for something I did. Keep her out of this.”
He had risen, too, but she could not look at his face. She could not bear to see it.
“I have to go. I shouldn’t have come.”
She moved toward the door, hands still clenched and eyes focussed on the swirling intricacies of the oriental rug.
But she did not make it to the door. An obstacle appeared, hands grasping her arms, holding her in place, forcing her to stop, to look, but she would not look. He only had two hands; he could not touch her face, pull her chin upwards to meet his gaze, those cold eyes boring through her forehead. Let them. Let him stare, glare, burn through her skull.
The door burst open.
“See, Malfoy? I told you it would be like this.”
Her father. Ronald Weasley was in the room, pulling Scorpius away just before he had been going to– To what? To profess his love? To confess that he, too, had been mistaken, had merely used Lily as a replacement, a meaningless, thoughtless replacement?
Why did it always have to go badly?
Rose lifted her head now to glare at her father.
“You, young lady, are going home immediately. Malfoy” – this time he meant Scorpius, Mr. Malfoy remaining in the safety of the hallway – “Don’t you ever go near her again, hear me? Even if she throws herself in your bloody arms, you don’t lay a finger on her.”
Scorpius shrugged his shoulders and swept from the room with an unmasculine grace, passing his father without so much as a glance. Mr. Malfoy may as well have been one of the house elves. He watched his son, his face an impassive mask. Rose watched them both, her father too caught up in his own frustration.
“I can’t believe you actually came here,” he was saying in Rose’s general direction. “Walking right into the–” He stopped himself, his eyes flickering toward Mr. Malfoy.
“You might as well say it, Weasley,” came the drawling reply.
Rose thought this should have increased her father’s anger, but it instead cooled the flushed cheeks. He did not smile, but there was something there of the old days, a reminder of something beyond Rose’s knowledge.
“Pit of snakes.”
Her father’s words hung in the air until Mr. Malfoy turned and left.
It took another minute before Rose realised that she had not been breathing.
“Dad, what was–”
He led her from the room. She was somewhat surprised at how well he knew the corridors, turning into the main foyer without hesitation. Of course he had been there before on social occasions, however few, but she also knew that he had been here on raids, those post-war checks and re-checks on the households of the old Death Eater families.
They passed by the main sitting room, the door open, presumably by Mr. Malfoy himself. She heard him moving about with footsteps too quiet to be those of Scorpius. Her father slowed, looking into the room, the last dregs of anger vanishing from his face. He went so pale that Rose suddenly knew what this room meant.
There, beneath the chandelier, now since repaired, her mother had been tortured by Mr. Malfoy’s insane aunt. The room had changed, as had some of the articles within it, but the memory could not. It made Rose’s own suffering nothing. What were silly relationship troubles to the torture and death that had taken place in this very room? She knew all the stories. In this house, a professor of Hogwarts had died at the hand of another. In the underground room, the traitor Pettigrew had died, at last redeeming himself, if only with the weakest heroism. And her mother... her mother who had... Mr. Malfoy... how could she... knowing... remembering...?
“Rose, is something wrong?” Her father’s voice, worried now. Did he know, after all? The secret of the wife becoming that of the husband, both keeping it from each other, hiding behind their pretended ignorance. Rose could not imagine such a life for herself, so dependent on another.
It was another mark in the list of reasons never to marry. The deepest, darkest part of her congratulated itself on having saved her from marriage to Scorpius Malfoy. The rest of her would never go so far as congratulations, but neither was she upset. Not anymore.
She shook her head and they left the house, her father closing the door behind her. Mr. Malfoy watched them from the window, but neither looked back. They walked quickly down the path. He did not turn away until they passed out of sight.
“Rose, don’t you realise what that just looked like?” Ron tried to round on her, but Rose stalked on.
“So you came to save the family reputation?” She did not bother to hide her sarcasm. “I wanted to ask him a question, that’s all. I don’t need a chaperone for that.”
“Oh yes you do, especially with him. Didn’t you see–”
Rose felt ready to throw things, but took a breath, trying to check her growing temper.
“I was trying to leave. He tried to stop me. That was it. You’re the one with the awful timing, barging in like a crazed hippogriff.”
This time, Ron successfully cut off her progress and she halted, muscles tense.
“Excuse me for caring.”
Rose reddened. “Well thanks, Dad, but next time, let me handle things on my own. I already know that he’s a prig, git, and a bastard. I don’t need you to say it anymore.”
It was the old argument all over again. The “oh Rose, how could you do this to us? Going out with a Malfoy, of all people? Aren’t there nicer boys at Hogwarts?” discussion that never went anywhere in the past, and wouldn’t go anywhere now, even if Rose had come to agree with it. But that was beyond the point.
Ron was not about to back down. “If you truly believed him to be those things, Rose, then you wouldn’t have gone to see him. You wouldn’t have needed to.”
Oh damn, he was right, but she was not going to tell him that.
“For Merlin’s sake, Dad. Stop it. Just stop it.” She threw her hands up to push him away, staggering back from him as she did so. “I wanted to know whether he loved my stupid cousin or not.”
“For your own benefit, Rose? Just in case he was just doing this to make you jealous?” Ron shook his head. “It’s one thing to say that Scorpius is a git, but another to think that he would do such a thing–”
“Fine. It was a stupid idea to care that maybe he’s playing my cousin for the fool, which she is anyway.” Rose’s voice increased both an octave and a decibel.
Her father’s face was red again and getting redder. “You’re always so cru–”
“Shut up! I’m leaving!”
She turned and ran. Probably not the best of ideas, as he was larger and faster and not to mention an Auror, used to running after crazed individuals, but somehow, she had caught him off guard. He did not follow right away, his jaw having dropped an inch or two. Shouting matches were not out of the ordinary for the Weasley household, but to run away? She was more likely to shoot a hex at him, her aunt’s bat-bogey one, for instance. But this? No, this was not Rose.
So what then–?
She was gone. Vanished. Apparated off to somewhere only Merlin knew.
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