"Rose Weasley and.... Scorpius Malfoy."
The frizzled-haired girl glanced behind at the other fifth-year sitting in the row behind her and exchanged a curt smile.
After Professor Flitwick called the rest of the pairs, the students of the Charms class stood and exchanged seats. Rose took hers next to her new partner, who was rolling his wand between his fingers. They exchanged few words though they were both sorted into the same House. Her cousin Albus said that he didn't like him much.
"Kind of snooty. Reminds me of you, but don't worry, you're plenty better than him."
Pride was the only similarity as far as could she see. But it was justified—they were both always amongst the top of their classes. She had always been competitive in her academics, so they were the only thing she knew about him. She knew his type: hard-working when it mattered, frustrated when it didn't, but in the end he would get the O.
As the chattering grew around her, as it always did with Professor Flitwick growing more lenient and deaf each year, Rose decided she might as well be the one to break the ice, though she was never good at it.
"What's your wand?" she asked.
"Hmm?" He turned toward her as if he barely perceived that she had been sitting there for the past minute.
"Your wand," she repeated, pointing to the object that now paused between his thumb and index finger. "What is it? Mine's maple, dragon heartstring." Stubborn
, she thought, as she recalled how Ollivander described its temperament. Resilient.
There was a slight hesitation as his brows furrowed almost imperceptibly, loosening as a short chuckle escaped his lips. "Mine is too."
Within a week, it was clear that they were quite the pair. Rose was thankful for her luck in partnering with Scorpius; she never had the patience to teach the drooling fools who couldn't even do a proper Banishing Charm. It was an interesting change of pace to be the one trying to catch up instead.
"No... I think it's the last part of your flicking motion. It's too lax," said Scorpius, demonstrating the Colour Changing Charm on the feather again. It turned to a sickly purple colour—the wrong shade from the goal of a bright violet, but purple nonetheless. It was better than how the rest of the class was faring with their yellows, magentas, and chartreuses.
In the end, Rose got the right colour quicker than he did. "I win," she said, holding up her feather.
"Whatever," he grumbled. "It's not like it's a contest anyway."
She muffled up her smile. "I'm just joking." She wasn't, but she knew enough from past examples that rubbing it into people's faces was not conducive to making friends.
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Nah, just sometimes... I mean, Colour Changing Charms? Honestly?
Can't we learn anything better?" His gaze flicked back to hers. "Sorry, I must sound completely full of myself—"
"No, I know what you mean," she said, nodding. "Class is slow, but what can we do? Flitwick's getting old. Here, let me get that." Rose picked up his feather from the desk.
As she went to place the supplies back in the cupboard, she glanced back and saw Scorpius staring at her. She didn't think much of it, but the image of his grey eyes lingered in her thoughts.
"It's ridiculous, isn't it?" Rose said, pulling her chair next to Scorpius' during Divinations. She waved at the second boy at the table, Edgar, who waved back.
"Worst part of my week," Scorpius muttered. He shook the the teacup a few times before slamming it back on the table. Their mutual opinion on the class was that it was utter bollocks.
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.
"Uh-huh. This class is a breeze. Everyone likes it just because it's easy."
"You're so right. No one's taking their future seriously. At least two I know are planning to keep taking this class later just to pad out their credentials, even though I keep telling them what a waste it is." Rose planned to follow her mum's footsteps toward the Ministry job of her dreams. "Our parents' generation was something amazing. Ours is just sort of... lazy
"Don't worry about the others. You're good enough to go anywhere. That's all that matters."
Rose blushed. Scorpius wasn't a compliment kind of person (and 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 do you think will be able to score a top apprenticeship at Gringotts?"
He grimaced out a smile. "Yeah."
Rose heard someone burst out into a laugh to her right. She only then realized Edgar was still sitting at the table.
"Blimey, you two are the biggest elitists I've ever met," said Edgar, still laughing.
They began talking more outside of their classes, whinging by the window seat of the common room about professors and homework. That day, Scorpius brought out his Wizard's Chess set, and they played deep into the evening.
"Rook to E5," he said, watching the piece move across the board and knock out Rose's pawn. "I wonder what our fathers would think if they saw us."
"Didn't I tell you?" she said, smiling despite having just lost a piece. "When I was at the Platform for the first time before school even started
, Dad told me to beat you at all our tests."
He shook his head. "It's... more complicated for me."
"Oh don't do that." She rolled her eyes. "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?"
He looked her straight in the eyes, alight with a smirk. "You don't know the half of it."
His gaze was always intent, and it made Rose uncomfortable. Sometimes she wondered if an indecipherable emotion hid behind those pupils, challenging her to unravel its mystery, or if it was just stone cold.
She blinked, realizing that his lids were once again lowered, guarded. "Yeah?"
He gestured toward her dormant chess pieces. "It's your turn."
On rainy days, they watched the water streak down windows.
"Sometimes I wonder if it's all worth it," said Scorpius.
Rose closed her eyes, the orderless pattering drumming her heart. "It's not, but we go through it anyway. And it's... satisfactory."
"Like sheep," he murmured. "It's all we are."
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. It made her consider aspects of her own life. Where it was headed. The other half, she thought he was just too scared to not beat around the bush.
She constantly feared that she was misinterpreting his words; it was the looming consequence of their conversation style. Most of the time, she assumed that he was complaining about his father's expectations of him. Just to be careful, she always responded 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 one day in class.
Her quill stopped bobbing up and down on her essay. She didn't need the specifics to know that 'it' was referring to her ability to always keep a smile up. A genuine one, not like the one he always had.
Rose peeked over to see what prompted the question. She saw the Gringotts pre-apprenticeship form underneath his hand on the desk. Her own life always seemed far simpler than his. She worked hard to prove to herself that she could do just as much as her parents, but Scorpius pushed himself because he had no other choice. His family name was his to rebuild. No matter how many similar views they shared, their circumstances remained different.
Was that all that separated an optimist and a pessimist?
She was never certain how far to fill her glass, half-empty or half-full. She always made the best of a situation, which was definitely a step up from Scorpius' constant brooding. But she didn't hold much faith in her peers or the rest of the wizarding world.
Rose sighed, tired of thinking too hard about simple questions. She ended up flashing the very smile he questioned and said, "Sometimes, I really don't know."
"Do you fancy him?" asked Albus.
Rose looked up from her book. Her cousin was standing in front of her, hands in his pockets. It was an innocent question even though she knew 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. But they knew no matter what, the other would understand.
She never felt that connection with anyone before.
"A little bit," she finally answered.
He nodded. "Just try not to get too caught up in it. He... goes through a lot of girls."
Rose swallowed nervously as her fears were confirmed. She saw them sometimes. Hyacinth Matthews ate with him 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 something about it still didn't sit right with her. In the eyes of others, she and Scorpius were also friends
, but it seemed like an inadequate label. She wanted to be special.
That what he told her was meant only for her.
On her way to Herbology, Rose saw Scorpius and Gwen heading in the same direction. There was a short exchange of greetings before the latter two resumed their conversation.
"I don't know why you're going to keep going," Gwen said, looping her arm through his. Rose felt the prick of jealousy. "After the O.W.L.s, I'm done with Potions."
A pause prefaced Scorpius' response. "I see."
Rose's eyes narrowed, confused. She and Scorpius always criticized people for making rash decisions, especially ones as important as this.
As they passed the next classroom, Gwen patted his arm. "Well here's my stop, but remind me later, because I need to tell you about my dad's letter." She grinned at Rose. "Depressing one, isn't he?"
Rose laughed, "Yeah." Why was he hanging around someone like her?
She brought it up as soon as Gwen left. "I don't talk to her much," she said, "but I've heard she wants to work in the medical field, doesn't she?"
Scorpius looked away for the briefest of moments. "There's plenty of jobs that'll take an O.W.L."
"Yeah," she said, frowning deeper, "but she's so obviously throwing her chances away. What, no criticism? Not even advice? She's being stupid
. You know that."
He stayed tight-lipped until they reached the next hallway. "Some people don't want to hear the truth."
Sylvia was the one Rose didn't know about until winter. She was the one who made Rose feel uneasy, because she was smart, too. Smart girls were competition. What Sylvia shared with Scorpius was Quidditch, and during the first game after the holidays, they were in the same booth as Rose and her friends.
Rose couldn't help but peek over a few times. She understood why girls flocked to Scorpius. He was a brilliant flirt who understood exactly how to appeal to a girl. She could hear him crack jokes and make her laugh. Compliment. It was strange how outwardly perfect he seemed—the consummate gentleman. As many girls as he knew, it never seemed like he led them on. And yet, the Scorpius she saw was far from perfect. Snobby, heartless, lost.
What she had with Scorpius was meaningful. He showed her how he truly was, and all Sylvia saw was a facade. Her thoughts stewed like tea, until it was too bitter to hold in her mouth.
"And this one?
" Rose scoffed, as she left the pitch with him after the game.
If Scorpius noticed her tone, he ignored it. But he was avoiding her eyes. "Sylvia? I've known her since I was a kid."
There were a few breaths of silence before she 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. Rose had just been joking, but his response brought new questions to her mind. 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?" she asked, scrambling to catch up.
He only turned and smiled.
Scorpius was complaining about Gringotts again. Sometimes he sounded like he was thankful for the opportunities it presented. Other times it sounded like he wished the bank never even existed. Rose never knew the whole story, though it was easy to make her own assumptions.
There was nothing unusual about that day, but his half-answers suddenly didn't satisfy her anymore. She even found them 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 once again. She still didn't understand what his gaze did to her, but it made all the veins in her body throb.
But then he resumed his vacant stare at the courtyard with his barely-there smirk. "You always do understand me best, Rose."
And just like that, she forgot about his other girls and let herself keep falling.
People had begun talking. With how much they were seen together, it was only a matter of time before gossip spread. Rose was always caught off-guard when people suggested how nice they looked together. He, however, remained unfazed.
Rose knew he knew 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 stop. When he finally lifted his eyes, they held a strange compassion she rarely ever saw from him. Apologetic. Pitying.
"I know," he said at last.
Rose didn't need to hear the words spelled out for her. She had already half-expected his answer, but it didn't make it hurt any less. Their relationship had gone beyond the call of mere friendship long ago. She didn't understand what was missing.
"You still mean a lot to me, Rose," he said, reaching for her hand, but she pulled away.
She didn't want to unravel an enigma without a prize at the end.
Everything went back to 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 like they always did when they hit somethings particularly sensitive, but after going on pure assumptions for so long, she 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."
When he lifted his eyes, she could see the struggle, how he wanted to put her down gently but that he knew she was going to crack and crash anyway.
"But we'd kill each other before we make each other happy," he said at last.
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. What if he was just scared to give this a chance?
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 looked back down at his parchment.
They went through summer in stasis. Rose stayed at home. Scorpius went to his pre-apprenticeship. They owled letters for the first month, but it stopped abruptly. When Rose saw him again at the train station, she saw him with Sylvia. They had been dating for the past month.
Rose and Scorpius shared fewer classes that year and 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 his harbinger of all his melancholy, the one who held up a mirror that showed all his faults. She couldn't be there with him if he wanted his chance with happiness.
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.
"It's not how we're supposed to be," he said as he gathered his books.
"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, Rose noticed that he was still the same Scorpius she knew last year.
She took a chance. "Does she make you happy?"
He didn't answer.
"I just... I don't know why I keep doing this," Scorpius said, kicking stones into the lake.
He still went to Rose in his moods, but she had long lost her patience. She rattled off her speech to him 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?"
She knew he was trying to do. Misery loved company.
"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 a cheerful holiday. He was badgered into it by one of his girls. He couldn't say no. Not to them. He was nice to them.
She was watching the garlands fly up the walls of the Great Hall when 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 thing. If he was desperate for more hands, she would have considered it, but he wasn't. "Why?" she asked, raising a brow.
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 ever 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, resolve melting. 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?" she asked, defeated.
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 adorned with flowing gauze. 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. As they spun around the other dancers on the floor, their gazes never left the other. It had been over a year since Rose met him and he remained as hazy as ever.
Her steps were graceful, elegant but most of all, resentful.
"Why do you do this to me?" Rose caught a glimpse of Sylvia sitting at a table, watching them.
His eyes followed hers, but did not answer.
"Do you like ruining your life? Does it give you a kick?" she hissed, heart pounding in the thrill as their faces came inches apart. But she knew she wasn't going to be kissed that day. There were a dozen lines he would cross, but never that one.
They danced a full circle around the floor before Rose spoke up again. "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," she 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. They were knee-deep in snow, brisk winter air unrelenting as lucidity filled her lungs. He checked to see no one else was nearby, and when he turned around to face her again, he was livid. "How could you do that, Rose? It's your fault that their relationship is in pieces!"
Rose turned away, face 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!" He shook her by the shoulders. "And because you're better
Rose was so close to cracking, too close, but she couldn't. She had said it herself. 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, Rose."
Seeing no response, Albus let her go, and left 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. Not even a flinch. His expression stayed the same bitter, self-loathing grimace he sported for the entire day.
"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to." His voice was hoarse.
Rose lowered her eyes. She knew she should talk to Sylvia, but she could barely stand to hear about the girl. A constant reminder of the mess she helped create. But there was also the side of her that wanted to yell out at all the gossipers ruining her reputation that it wasn't just her fault. Every dance had a partner. She let her inhibitions go, but Scorpius encouraged it.
He was still staring at the other side of the room when she looked up at him. 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 was not going to seek her out, and Rose just wanted to let the incident die. But as she walked to the Great Hall later that week, the sound of muffled crying broke her trance. She never expected to end up in an empty stairwell with one arm around her former victim, consoling her. And yet, there she was, still trying to figure out how to apologize.
Sylvia wiped her tears with a sleeve. "I just want to h-help him," she said. "But he d-doesn't let me in. Not like you."
Fear swarmed Rose's mind. What did she mean by that? Even though Sylvia didn't talk with metaphors, Rose didn't know how to respond to a girl like her. She only understood Scorpius because they shared twin personalities.
"Can you teach me how to help him?" Sylvia asked.
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 upon, and here she was, caring so much about the boy that she was asking for help from her
, Rose—the instigator for all her sorrows. It made Rose sick how selfish she felt, how petty her own troubles suddenly seemed, how little Scorpius deserved someone who cared like the girl beside her.
But Rose knew the answer to the question immediately. Scorpius was an impossible task. She knew now that girls flocked to him not because of his charm, but because he was eternally brooding. They wanted to be the one to fix him. The problem was he wasn't willing to be fixed.
Rose was about to tell her when suddenly his words echoed in her mind, Some people don't want to hear the truth.
She pushed the thought away. No. The truth was the least she could give her.
The next day, Sylvia gave Scorpius a second chance. She had taken Rose's advice of not trying to change him, but to just listen and maybe one day, try to understand.
Their relationship lasted three more months before ending amicably. In that time, Rose stopped talking to him. It was a self-imposed exile. He was always trouble, and she needed to get away. He respected it.
They exchanged barely a dozen words for the rest of the year even though they saw each other frequently. They knew each other well enough to put on a facade. They could see right through it, but as long as neither pointed it out, life went on like clockwork, and what was in the past was left in the past.
She didn't intend to stop talking to him for so long, but she had gotten used to it. She feared that one day she would be left alone with him again, and their ensuing conversation would tempt her to go back to him. But it seemed like fate finally took pity and neither situation cropped up.
Seventh year was more of the same, but she noted that both she and Scorpius had, well, changed
. 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.
Meanwhile, Rose pursued a friend of his, Eli. He liked her despite knowing her history with Scorpius and that itself was enough to catch her attention. He didn't understand her intuitively or share her mind, 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, he sat her down and let her lean on his shoulder. She never knew until him that it was all she ever needed.
Most of all, he made her happy.
The only time Rose ever found herself alone with Scorpius again was when she was helping Eli pack for their final trip home. Eli had left downstairs to see if his younger brother had the shirts that he had been missing for the past month. Rose could have continued packing in silence, but she didn't want to leave Hogwarts without tying up loose ends.
Rose began the only way she knew how. "I was quite the bint, wasn't I?" she asked, flippancy at her best.
"You still are," Scorpius said, smirking. His eyes flicked to hers once before returning to his wardrobe.
She stuck out her tongue. "I still don't understand why you like being bitter so much."
"I wouldn't be half as clever if I weren't."
She couldn't help but break out into a grin. Even after such a long absence, their conversation never lost its ease. After another long silence, she let out a long sigh. "Why did we ever make this so complicated?"
"Because it wouldn't have been memorable if we didn't," he said, as if he had already considered the question many times before.
Rose wouldn't have been surprised if life threw her Scorpius just so she could grow up a little faster. She was thankful for her fifth and sixth years. They were a haze, but the clarity of the lessons never faded. She often wondered if Scorpius took anything from their shared experiences and whether he regretted them, but she knew there was no good in bringing up such matters.
She had a fleeting thought that they would always be there for each other if they needed it. It was a gut feeling, but she trusted them when they were about Scorpius. They had weathered through the worst of their teenage years together, and even though they hadn't had a conversation in over a year, they were having one now and that was all that mattered.
"If you ever crumble under all the pressure and become nothing but a washed-up shell of your former self," she said, only half-teasing, "I will personally hunt you down and hex you until you're better."
Scorpius shook his head, but his lips curled upwards. "I'll keep it in mind."
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, hesitating slightly before saying, "Thanks... for everything."
As Rose held his gaze, she noticed that his eyes were startlingly clear. She wondered if they had always been that way. Perhaps he had never been much of a mystery at all.
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 to this really makes me happy. It's tough to see characters go through this ugly period in their life, but they always come out wiser. I don't want to see this as a sad ending, just not a neat romance-y one. Rose and Scorpius undoubtedly share something profound. He has done more for Rose than anyone else in her life. He helped her grow up and learn the tough lessons of life early.