Chapter 1 : Unraveling
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They had exchanged, perhaps, four words over the four years that they resided in the same house—until Monday's Charms class.
Professor Flitwick called the next pair of partners: "Rose Weasley and Scorpius Malfoy."
Glancing at the row of seats behind her, Rose exchanged a curt smile with the boy rolling his wand between his fingers. When the students stood and exchanged seats, Rose took hers next to him.
Her cousin Albus said that he didn't like Malfoy much. "Kind of snooty. Reminds me of you, but don't worry, you're plenty better than him." Currently, the cooly-staring blond boy didn't even bat an eye at her.
The room filled with chatter; Flitwick grew more lenient and deaf each year. She might as well be the one to break the ice.
"Is that a maple wand? Mine is too."
"Hmm?" Scorpius turned toward her, as if he barely knew that she had been sitting there for the past minute.
"Your wand," she repeated, pointing to the object paused between his thumb and index finger. "Is it maple? Mine is. Maple, dragon heartstring." Stubborn, she thought, recalling how Ollivander had described its temperament. Resilient.
Scorpius' brows furrowed almost imperceptibly, lips hesitating before speaking. Then, he chuckled. "Yeah, it's maple. Dragon heartstring to boot."
They became quite the pair. Rose counted herself lucky for partnering with Scorpius. She didn't have the patience to teach the drooling fools who couldn't even do a proper Banishing Charm, but with Scorpius, she was the one catching up instead.
"I think it's the last part of your flicking motion. It's too lax," said Scorpius, demonstrating the Color Changing Charm on the feather. It turned to a sickly purple—the wrong shade from the goal of a bright violet, but purple nonetheless. Better than the rest of the classes' yellows and magentas.
In the end, Rose got the right color quicker than he did.
"I win." She held up her feather.
His feather broke out in green polka-dots. "Whatever," he grumbled, bunching it in his fist. "It's not like it's a contest anyway."
Rose muffled her smile. "I'm just joking." She wasn't though, but you weren't supposed to say that.
"Nah, just sometimes..." He ran a hand through his hair. "I mean, Colour Changing Charms? Honestly? Can't we learn anything better?" His gaze flicked to hers. "Sorry, I must sound completely full of myself—"
"No, I know what you mean. Class is slow, but what can we do? Flitwick's getting old."
She laughed and he only stared at her as if she grew another head.
Clearing her throat, Rose suddenly felt abashed, but then he laughed, too.
Bored with her own teacup, she pulled her chair up to Scorpius' table when Trelawney wasn't looking. So much for all-seeing eye.
"This class is bollocks." Scorpius shook the the teacup a few times before slamming it back on the table.
She pried the cup from his fingers, lifting it to her face. The pattern looked like a squashed spider. Or an oblong hippogriff. "Look like you're going to die again." She set it back down in front of him. "Well, you know, no one takes their future seriously. I've got friends ready to take this class next year, too, just for the easy marks. Our parents' generation was something amazing. Don't you feel lazy just thinking about it?"
"I don't think about it." There was a short pause when he looked up at her, lip bit. "You're good enough to go anywhere. That's all that matters."
Her cheeks threatened to blush under those grey eyes. Scorpius wasn't a compliment kind of person (even then, it simultaneously put down the rest of the class). She was actually rather fond of his caustic niceness; it felt honest.
She prodded his shoulder. "Don't forget yourself. I mean, how many people in our year would be able to score a summer job in the Ministry?"
He grimaced. "Yeah."
By October, they didn't need to be in class for an excuse to talk anymore. Scorpius brought out his Wizard's Chess set one evening and they played by the lake-facing windows of the common room.
"Rook to E5," he said. "I wonder what our fathers would think if they saw us."
Rose watched the piece move across the board and smash her pawn. "Didn't I tell you? When I was at King's Cross for the first time before school even started, Dad told me to beat you at all our exams."
He smiled, as if in pity for himself. "It's... more complicated for me."
"Oh, don't do that. All our parents went through the war. I know there's some... touchy stuff with your family, but you're not your dad."
"I know. I just keep telling myself that. But it's never good enough."
"Well, you're a downer, aren't you?"
Smirking, his eyes were alight. "You don't know the half of it."
He changed between emotions so quickly, and Scorpius never said too much, only too little. But it made their conversations interesting. Her friends wore their hearts on their sleeves, and she'd known them for years and years. Scorpius was fresh air, an indecipherable gaze to unravel while her studies bored her. Something hid behind those pupils made his heart beat and ambitions spin.
She blinked, realizing that his lids were once again lowered, guarded. "Yeah?"
He gestured toward the dormant chess pieces. "It's your turn."
On rainy days, Rose liked to watch the water streak down the glass panes. She couldn't watch in the common room—a drawback of underground housing—but in a castle as large as Hogwarts, there was always a quiet stairwell where she could listen to the orderless pattering speak.
"Sometimes I wonder if it's all worth it," said Scorpius, on a rainy day where he joined her.
"It's not," she murmured, "but we go through it anyway."
"Like sheep for dragons."
Scorpius began going to her when he was in one of his moods, as she liked to call it. He talked in hypotheticals and metaphors that went nowhere. Half the time Rose thought it was profound. Their conversations made her consider her own life, where it was headed. The other half of the time, she thought he was an idiot with big words, afraid of decisions.
And she feared that she was misinterpreting him—the looming consequence of their conversation style. A safe assumption was that he was complaining about his father's stringent expectations again. Just to be careful, she would respond in the same vague manner he did, if only to pretend like she understood.
He had yet to correct her.
"How do you do it?" Scorpius asked.
Her quill stopped bobbing up and down. Rose didn't need specifics; 'it' was referring to her ability to keep a smile up. A genuine one, not like the one he always wore. On his desk, under his hand, lay a Ministry application form.
Her own life was far simpler than his. She worked hard to prove to herself that she could do as much as her parents, but Scorpius pushed himself because he had no other choice. His family name was his to rebuild.
She made the best of a situation, her glass half-full. But on the opposite spectrum, there was all that she believed of the world. It spun so slowly. She scoffed at her peers, struggled with cousins, and had no faith in anyone but those like herself and Scorpius—of which she found few, outside of the Slug Club. Everyone was so dull.
Tired of thinking so hard over simple questions, she ended up flashing the very smile he questioned. "Sometimes, I really don't know."
"Do you fancy him?"
Rose looked up from her book. Albus stood in front of her, hands in his pockets. It was an innocent enough question even though he didn't like Scorpius; Albus wasn't one to intrude or lecture.
It had been about three months since she acquired her Charms partner, and she had felt the faint grasp around her heart when he was around for half that time now. She couldn't help it. They were each other's makeshift psychiatrist. They told each other things they wouldn't tell anyone else. They were cynical, even blatantly unkind. No matter what, the other would understand.
She never felt that connection with anyone before.
"A little bit," she finally answered.
He nodded, head continuing to bob until a final sigh. "Just... try not to get caught up in it. He goes through a lot of girls."
So her fears were confirmed. She saw them sometimes. Hyacinth ate with Scorpius in the Great Hall. Coriandra Jordan studied with him in the library. He laughed with Gwen in the hallways. They were all just friends or so he said, but it didn't sit right with her. In the eyes of others, she and Scorpius were also friends.
But they weren't. They were more than that. There just wasn't a label for what they had.
On her way to Herbology, Rose saw Scorpius and Gwen walking together. She joined them and, after a short exchange of greetings, Scorpius and Gwen continued their conversation.
"I don't know why you're going to keep going," Gwen said. Her arm was looped through his. "After the O.W.L.s, I'm done with Potions."
A pause prefaced Scorpius' response. "Oh, really."
Rose's eyes narrowed, confused. She and him always criticized people for making rash decisions, especially ones as important as this. But she kept silent and kept smiling.
As they passed the next classroom, Gwen patted his arm. "Here's my stop. I need to tell you about my mum's letter later—remind me." She grinned at Rose. "Depressing one, isn't he? Cheer him up, will you?"
Rose laughed. "Yeah, I will." Why was he hanging around someone like her?
As soon as Gwen left, Rose didn't waste time with asking: "I don't talk to her much, but I've heard she wants to go into healing."
He looked away for the briefest of moments. "There's plenty of jobs that'll take an O.W.L."
"Yeah." She frowned deeper. "But she's so obviously throwing her chances away. What, no criticism? Not even advice? She's being stupid. You know that."
Scorpius stayed tight-lipped until they reached the next hallway. "Some people don't want to hear the truth."
Rose didn't know about Sylvia.
During the first Quidditch match after the holidays, Sylvia and Scorpius were in the same booth as Rose and her dormmates. Every so often, Rose would hear a shriek of laughter from their direction.
Rose knew why girls flocked to Scorpius. He knew exactly how to appeal to a girl. She could hear him crack jokes, compliment. He was outwardly perfect—and yet, the Scorpius she saw was snobby, heartless, lost.
At least more meaningful than a facade.
"And what's she to you?" Rose asked, as she left the pitch with him after the game.
If Scorpius noticed her tone, he ignored it. "Sylvia? I've known her since I was a kid."
There were a few breaths of silence. Then, Rose said quietly, "I've never seen you laugh like that. It's like you have three different personalities or something."
"Actually, it's five," he said, not skipping a beat.
His response made her halt. She'd just been joking, but then—what were they? Which one was the one he used with her? Did anyone else see the one she saw? Most importantly—
"Which one's the real one?"
He only smiled.
Scorpius was complaining about the Ministry job again. There was nothing otherwise unusual about that day, but his half-answers suddenly didn't satisfy Rose anymore. They were annoying.
"Stop it," she finally snapped in the middle of his sentence. "You say all these things like you're the world's punching bag, looking for pity. But really, you're just looking for attention. So stop sounding like you're better than everyone else."
Scorpius turned to her in an almost curious manner, their eyes locked. She didn't understand what his gaze did to her, but it made all the veins in her body throb.
But then his stare turned vacant, above his barely-there smirk. "You always do understand me best, Rose."
And like that, she forgot about his other girls and let herself keep falling.
People had begun talking. It was only a matter of time. Rose was caught off-guard when friends suggested how nice they looked together. Scorpius remained unfazed, but he must have known about her feelings. Compared to what they already deciphered of each other, it was an utter cakewalk to figure out.
Her confession arrived on a particularly sunny spring day. She found him after his class with Hagrid. There was no forewarning, just a simple, "You know, right?"
Scorpius drew in a deep breath, his steps slowing before coming to a complete stop. When he finally lifted his eyes, they held a compassion she rarely ever saw from him.
"I know," he said.
Rose didn't need to hear it spelled out. She expected this answer but that didn't make it hurt any less. Their relationship had gone beyond the call of mere friendship long ago and she didn't understand what was missing.
"You still mean a lot to me, Rose." Scorpius reached for her hand, but she pulled away.
She didn't want to unravel an enigma without a prize at the end.
Everything was normal the next day, as if her confession never happened. Scorpius knew exactly how to make Rose feel better, and she couldn't hold a grudge anyway. He was going to avoid the topic, the solution to every struck nerve, but after going on guesswork for so long, Rose needed answers.
They were sitting in the common room studying for their O.W.L.s when she asked, "Why not?"
Scorpius didn't look up or speak for a full minute. Finally, he said, head still down, "You know me better than anyone else. And I can trust you with anything on my mind. You're my ground, Rose. You give me something solid to stand on. I've needed you to get through this year. I don't think... I've ever needed anyone more." He lifted his eyes, swallowing. "But we'd kill each other before we make each other happy."
It was such a perfect, concise explanation of their strange relationship. But they were so skilled in avoiding the truth, Rose didn't want to start then. If she was deluding herself, she didn't care.
"Maybe I want someone messed up," she said.
"You say that now."
She narrowed her eyes. "Don't you dare patronize me."
Scorpius pressed his lips together, frustrated. "One day, you'll understand." With those words, he went back to his writing and didn't look up again.
They went through summer in stasis. Rose stayed at home. Scorpius went to his summer Ministry job. They owled letters in June, but it stopped abruptly by July. When Rose saw him again at the train station, he was holding hands with Sylvia. They had been dating for the past month.
Rose and Scorpius shared fewer classes that year and in those that they did, they sat on opposite sides of the room. Whether this cold shoulder was fate or self-imposed, Rose didn't know. She didn't blame him if it was the latter; she was the mirror that revealed his faults. It didn't stop her from feeling like she had been used up and dropped.
"How do I make you happy?" she asked one day after class.
He gathered his books. "It's not how we're supposed to be."
"Yeah, we've got something better right?" She gave him loaded questions because they made her feel better.
He smiled. "Of course."
And yet for all the change he seemed to want, he was still the same Scorpius she knew last year.
Rose took a chance. "Does she make you happy?"
He didn't answer.
"I don't know why I keep doing this," Scorpius said, kicking stones into the lake.
He still went to her in his moods, but Rose had long lost her patience. She rattled off a speech anyway. "Because wallowing's your addiction. Everyone has problems. You just like making them seem exceedingly gut-wrenching. But you're just a spoiled rich brat looking for pity in the end. And Sylvia's just going to have to accept that."
He dragged a finger across the water, a discord of ripples trailing. "How do I fix it?"
She didn't answer, focusing instead on flicking away at pebbles, until she found a flat rock suitable for skipping: a cold, unbeating heart that fit perfectly in the palm of her hand. "People don't change," she said. If there was anything she took away from knowing Scorpius, it was that.
He snorted, craning his head to smirk at her. "That was pessimistic."
"No," she said steadily. "It's just true."
"If everyone has problems, what's yours?"
"Shut up." She reeled her arm back and threw the stone in the lake as hard as she could.
Rose detected some irony in Scorpius setting up Christmas festivities, it being festive. One of his girls badgered him into it. He couldn't say no, not to them. He was nice to them.
While she was watching the garlands fly up the walls of the Great Hall, Scorpius handed her a clipboard.
"Come help me," he said.
She took it, scanning the lists and check boxes that detailed all the Yule Ball preparations. The pages underneath had more of the same. If he was desperate for more hands, she would have considered it, but he wasn't. "Why?"
He was already walking away. "Because I know you'll always do anything I ask you to."
She nearly laughed, thinking she heard wrong. "Excuse me, isn't that taking advantage of me?" But she couldn't say no. Not to him.
He spun around, hands in pockets, wry smile on his lips. "It'll work, won't it?"
Rose swallowed hard. She hated that he knew her this well. That he was rubbing it in her face. But he was right, and she couldn't change that. "What's first?"
Scorpius and Rose swept across the floor, he in crisp formal robes cut to fit his frame and she in a scarlet floor-length gown. His hair was slicked back, slightly mussed because that was how Rose liked it. Hers was coiffed and adorned with her namesake, because he said they suited her. They spun around the other dancers on the floor, gazes never leaving the other. It had been over a year since Rose first studied his eyes; they were as hazy as ever.
"Why do you do this to me?" Rose caught a glimpse of Sylvia sitting at a table, watching them.
His eyes followed hers, but he didn't answer.
"Do you like ruining your life? Does it give you a kick?" Her heart pounded in the thrill of it as their faces came inches apart. But she wasn't going to be kissed that day. There were a dozen lines he would cross, but never that one.
They danced another full circle around the floor.
"It's because you can, isn't it? You know I won't stop you, because even after all this time, I'm still infatuated with you," Rose spat out. "You like having power. Something you can control, because you can't control your own life."
His lips twitched upwards. His flicker of affirmation, as far as she knew.
She continued to indulge.
Albus dragged Rose outside to the courtyard into knee-deep snow, the winter air relentless as lucidity filled her lungs.
He checked to see no one else was nearby and turned around to face her again, livid. "How could you do that, Rose? Everyone saw you with him—"
Rose turned away, flushed with defiance. "You never liked him anyway. Why do you care?"
"Because Sylvia's a nice girl who doesn't deserve what she's going through right now! And because you're better than this."
People don't change. And that included her. She sniffed. "Maybe I'm not. Maybe this is how I am."
"You're going to end up alone like this."
Seeing no response, Albus let her go, leaving her standing at the end of the snow trail.
She broke down a minute later.
They sat on opposite sides of the couch.
"I'm sorry, Scorpius."
He didn't look at her. Didn't even a flinch. His expression stayed the same bitter, self-loathing grimace he had sported for the entire day.
"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to." His voice was hoarse.
Rose lowered her eyes. She could barely stand to hear about the girl. A constant reminder of her mess. Part of her wanted to yell at all the gossipers that it wasn't just her fault. Every dance had a partner.
He was still staring at the other side of the room when she looked up. It was only then that she noticed how disheveled he was, like he had been crying.
"I'm sorry, too."
Rose was going to ignore her. Sylvia wasn't going to seek her out, and Rose just wanted to let the incident die. But the sound of muffled crying broke her trance one rainy day, and she found herself in an empty stairwell with one arm around her former victim.
"I just want to h-help him," Sylvia blubbered. "But he d-doesn't let me in. Not like you."
Sylvia didn't talk with metaphors, yet Rose found it even harder to respond. "Um, I honestly don't really—"
"Can you teach me how to help him?" Sylvia wiped her tears with a sleeve.
Rose stared at her, long, unblinkingly, wondering if had heard correctly. In all her crying, Sylvia wasn't even thinking about herself. She had practically been cheated on, and here she was, caring so much about the boy, that she was asking for help from her. It made Rose sick. How petty her own troubles were. How little Scorpius deserved Sylvia.
But Rose knew the answer to Sylvia's question immediately. Scorpius was an impossible task. She knew now that girls flocked to him because they wanted to be the one to fix him, but he wasn't willing to be fixed.
She was about to tell her, when his words echoed: Some people don't want to hear the truth.
No. The truth was the least she could give her.
Sylvia gave Scorpius a second chance. Rose told her to not change him but to listen and one day, try to understand. Their relationship lasted three more months before ending amicably.
In that time, Rose stopped talking to him—a self-imposed exile. He respected it.
Barely a dozen words passed between them for the rest of the year, even though they saw each other frequently. As long as neither pointed out their act, life went on like clockwork. She didn't intend to stop talking to him for so long, but she had gotten used to it. Liked it, even. Sometimes, she'd fear that she'd be left alone with him again, dredging up old feelings, but it seemed like fate finally took pity.
By seventh year, she and Scorpius had, well, changed despite the odds. He began dating a girl from another House and it seemed to improve his countenance. She heard that he whittled out some compromises with his father over the summer. She doubted his smiles less.
And Rose met his friend Eli. He liked her despite knowing her history with Scorpius and that itself was enough to catch her attention. He didn't share her mind quite like how Scorpius had, but she didn't need him to because she was willing to tell him everything and he listened. On the days that she paced around frazzled, wondering if she would ever be able to get a ministry job for herself, he sat her down and let her lean on his shoulder. She never knew that was all she needed.
Most of all, he made her happy.
Rose found herself alone with Scorpius only once, when she was helping Eli pack for their final trip home. Eli had left downstairs to see if his brother had the shirts that he had been missing for the past month, leaving them alone.
She might have finished packing without speaking; she was certain she could have. But she was different now—two years older. She could speak without her heart on her tongue.
Rose broke the silence the only way she knew: "I still don't understand why you like being bitter so much."
"I wouldn't be half as clever if I weren't," Scorpius retorted reflexively, like no time had passed at all. He grinned.
So did she. "Why did we ever make this so complicated?"
Scorpius shrugged, shutting his trunk's lid with a flick of his wand. "Maybe it's memorable this way," he said, as if he had already considered the question many times before.
Scorpius held out his hand as they stood on Platform 9 3/4.
Rose let go of her luggage to accept his parting handshake. "See you around," she said.
He nodded, firm smile in place. "Thanks... for everything."
As Rose held his gaze, she noticed that his eyes were startlingly clear. Perhaps they had always been like that.
She smiled one last time for him, picked up her luggage again, and with a small wave, left for her future.
A/N Reviewers, you're all too sweet :) That people can relate makes me really happy. Thank you for all the lovely responses!
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