Chapter 23 : Chapter Twenty-Three: Change
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AN: Dear Readers,
I just wanted to let you all know that I am so grateful for all of you being so patient for this update. It took so so so much longer than I expected, and I know I had said it would be like 10,000 words, but I decided to cut it in half in order to give you a much-needed update. So finally, after life and moving back to college and losing my friendship my best friend from high school (which I partially attribute to my lack of inspiration) and many cuts and frustrations and edits galore, here is Chapter 23. I hope you all enjoy it. It took a lot from me, but hopefully the best parts.
Please let me know what you think and remember to R & R!
beautiful image by a.perfect.lie @ TDA
Chapter Twenty-three: Change
(End of Chapter 22)
In a matter of moments, Rose had her arms around Scorpius' neck and her fingers in his hair. The cloak lay forgotten on the stone floor of the balcony. Scorpius' arms were wrapped around Rose's waist; he held her close to him, never wanting to let go. She knew she didn't want him to.
"I can't hate you anymore," she sobbed into his shoulder, "and I don't want to lose you."
"Shh. I don't want to lose you either, Rosie, but to make this work, we need to take this a day at a time. A lot of awful things passed between us," he soothed her, his hands running through her hair, comfortingly.
"I know, I know. I'm so terribly sorry! Of course we'll take everything as it comes."
"Friends then?" Scorpius whispered into her hair.
She answered quickly. "Yes, of course."
In the back of her mind, Rose heard someone call to her yet she was far too absorbed in Scorpius' embrace to respond.
Now that she had Scorpius back in her life, she was determined not to lose him.
A year and a half later (late June 2026)
"I'm off Malena," Rose told her fellow Resident Healer.
"Off to your weekly coffee with Scorpius?" Malena winked suggestively.
"Oh please. It's just coffee. We've been doing this for nearly a year!" Rose scoffed, running her fingers through her hair.
A snort escaped Malena. Hurriedly, she covered it up.
"What was that snort for?" Rose demanded to know as she placed her hands on her hips, wildly amused.
Feigning innocence, Malena confessed, "Nothing. There was no snort. I didn't hear anything of the sort."
"Malena Otawa, you will tell me right now what that snort was about this instant."
At hearing Rose's seriously authoritative voice, Malena dared not disobey. Rose was something to be feared.
"Rose, love, the snort you swore you heard was only my way of laughing at your naïveté."
"Bloody hell Rose! The man is madly in love with you and you with him! All this 'it's just coffee' nonsense is driving me bloody insane. If he doesn't ask you on a proper date soon, I swear to Merlin I will Imperious you so you ask him out."
"Malena!" Rose cried, shocked. "The imperious curse is illegal!"
Malena threw her hands up frustrated. "Gah! That's not the point! You are in love with each other. You don't date other people. If one of you doesn't act quickly, you're going to lose your chance."
Rolling her eyes, Rose finally headed for the door.
"I need to find you a new hobby, Malena, so you won't obsess over my love life."
"You can try, but don't think that little threat of mine was an empty one. You're meant to be. I know!"
"See you Malena."
Rose disappeared, leaving Malena alone in the lounge.
Hr. Benjamin Marlow suddenly walked in.
"Resident Otawa –"
"Call me Malena, please," she told him in a bored voice.
"Malena then, you're needed in the catastrophe ward."
"Oh, fuck it."
Angrily, she headed to catastrophe ward, hoping that Rose would see past her blindness and hoping that Derek had something special planned once she was off duty. Malena desperately needed to unwind after Healing in the catastrophe ward.
Meanwhile, Rose had changed out of her neon pink Resident Healer robes and into a pair of dark wash jeans and a thin, green v-neck tee shirt. She slipped on a pair of black flats and donned her trench, grabbing her purse in the process.
Rushing to the lobby of St. Mungo's, she found Scorpius leaning beside the exit.
"Sorry I'm late," Rose apologised, flashing a smile.
"Don't worry. I imagine it was a hectic shift. Shall we then?" Scorpius motioned toward the door.
Rose laughed lightly as he opened the door for her before making their way to the small café two streets down.
They arrived to find the quaint café relatively quiet. Usually at lunch hour it was bustling.
"Looks like we've lucked out today! We will actually get to sit at our table, rather than in the corner," a rather excited Scorpius informed Rose.
Of course he would be instantly pleased with such a small change. Rose couldn't help but smile as she watched his glee.
Her mind began to wander, taking in her friend's appearance. He had on grey trousers, paired with a shiny black belt and shoes. The sea green dress shirt he wore offset his sparkling blue-grey eyes. The gentle flow of his golden blonde hair made him look like a model. This instantly made Rose jealous and haughty; jealous because he was just so stunningly beautiful without really trying and haughty because she was with this stunningly beautiful man.
Sitting down at their favourite table, a cheerful waitress came over.
"Hello Rose and Scorpius. Are we going to have the usual today?"
"Of course, Chelsea. And can you bring us some tea please?"
"Sure sure. Be back in a few," Chelsea answered pleasantly before taking her leave.
Rose smiled as her eyes met Scorpius'.
"So, is today an Auror day or a professor day?" Rose wondered of Scorpius.
"It is a professor day. Alison wished to take a long weekend with her family. I'll be the resident DADA professor until Monday, then on Tuesday, I'll be the assistant professor once again."
"So you're off this weekend?" Rose sounded surprised and pleased.
Letting out a hearty laugh, Scorpius confirmed the question.
"This calls for a celebration then. We haven't gone out in ages!"
"Well then, we'll have to see if Al and Cecelia would like to join us. After all, soon, there'll be a full-fledged Healer on our hands with very little time left over for friends and family."
"Oh, don't remind me!" Rose cried, covering her face in her hands. "My practicals start in roughly a week and a half and I have hours and hours and hours left of my Residency."
"Rose, you're more than ready for these practicals of yours. And from what Malena tells me, you have at least twenty hours more than your Residency requires. Not to mention I've heard from one aforementioned friend that you've signed on for roughly sixty more hours before your Residency is over."
Rose lifted her face and rolled her eyes. "That traitor," she whispered.
Malena was meddlesome and Rose most certainly didn't appreciate hearing that she kept Scorpius up to date on her over-achievement and, most likely, personal matters (i.e. dating, or lack thereof).
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" Scorpius asked having missed what she said.
Rose brushed it off before asking about the lessons he had given that morning.
In no time at all, they were catching up on their weekly happenings and Chelsea had brought their tea and lunches.
Rose was having a fine enough time with Scorpius, but in the back of her mind, she kept thinking about what Malena said. And she couldn't help but remind herself that Malena had been talking to Scorpius about her behind her back. And yet, she wondered, could Malena really be right? Could she and Scorpius be meant for each other? Or was it just wishful thinking on Malena's part?
In complete honesty, Rose had no idea if she was meant for Scorpius or if he was meant for her. She would have liked to think that there was somebody, somewhere, meant for her. An eternal love was exactly what Rose had always hoped for. Of course this "eternal love" existed in fairytale books that she had been told about since birth. Hermione insisted that Rose be cultured in all sorts of legends and tales; fairytales were Rose's favourite, regardless of how inaccurate they may or may not be.
Stopping mid-sentence after noticing Rose's lack of attention, Scorpius asked, worried, "Rose, are you alright?"
Rose snapped out of her fairytale funk to see Scorpius staring at her concerned.
"Oh, I'm perfectly alright. I just began to drift away for no apparent reason."
Scorpius nodded before consulting his watch.
"Damn it. It's half twelve. I've got to get back. I have lessons with some fifth years at two and I've yet to prepare their lesson. Same time next Thursday?"
Rose smiled at Scorpius as he dropped a tenner on the table. He stood up and offered a hand to Rose.
"I can't have you pay again, Scorpius."
"It's not a problem Rose. I have more money than I know what to do with, both in Muggle and wizarding currency. I might as well spend it on you." He smiled lazily, as a sort of apology.
Rose couldn't help but flush at the comment as she took his hand. What did he mean by that? Scorpius certainly must have meant something by it. And what about that smile? Was it just friendly?
Rose was quite conflicted at the moment.
Scorpius leaned in and gave Rose a kiss on the cheek. The touch tingled.
"Have a good day at St. Mungo's, Rosie. I'll owl you this evening about catching up later this weekend."
Rose smiled. "Thanks. Have a good day marking up essays! I'd like to get together sometime."
"Maybe we can get together with Al and Cecelia on Friday," he suggested. "Go to a pub."
"I'm off duty Friday night and all day Saturday," Rose informed him eagerly.
"Friday or Saturday it is!"
Scorpius smiled in parting and left Rose with a little wave. Four steps and he was out of the small, intimate coffee shop.
Rose sat back down in her seat and groaned.
She put unnecessary things into Rose's head that made her rethink everything she thought she knew and then stressed her out beyond belief because she was so preoccupied with these unnecessary things. It would be only a matter of time before Rose cracked.
Hoping that theHopin walk back to St. Mungo's would clear her head, she found it only made it more jumbled.
And so, entering St. Mungo's, Rose was still stuck on the Scorpius conundrum. She could not tell if it was Malena's words that made her on edge or the feelings she may be experiencing.
She made her way into the Resident lounge and found Malena to be nowhere in sight. Quickly, Rose changed back into her standard neon pink Resident robes in anticipation of being called on-duty. With a wave of her wand, she alerted the Resident office that she had returned and was on-call.
Within minutes, a Healer by the name of Amnell came by to take her to the catastrophe ward.
The Healer briefed her on her specific tasks and what Healer she would be working alongside.
"You'll be taking over for Resident Otawa and be working with Hr. Marlow. Hr. Marlow would have come down to get you had he been able to, but he has a Code 40-11c. Hr. Marlow is working with Hr. Zorander and her Resident Willoughby. You shall be on until five, then you'll get an hour break before staying on until half eleven. I believe you will be with Hr. Marlow for the rest of the night."
They reached the catastrophe ward and it was clearly chaos.
"Thank you Hr. Amnell," Rose said, ready for the 40-11c.
"You're welcome, Resident Weasley."
With a nod, Hr. Amnell rushed off.
That night's work was tiring and difficult, but it proved to Rose that she would be a wonderful Healer. Hr. Marlow, without saying a word, also told Rose this. She already was a wonderful Healer.
Rose left sometime around five a.m. after a few more patients and went home to sleep before her next shift started at 2 p.m.
As she walked into the office to check in, her former Healer Superior Marlow stopped her.
"Do you think I could talk to you for a moment?"
Slightly worried, Rose followed him into the break room.
"Resident Weasley," Hr. Marlow began.
"You can call me Rose," Rose interrupted.
Hr. Marlow smiled kindly. "Alright. Rose. I suppose you can call me Ben when we aren't on duty. You know how some of these old-fashioned Healers are."
Rose laughed lightly. "Of course. What was it you wanted to talk to me about, Ben?"
"Well, I just thought I would tell you directly that you did fantastically last night. You were fearless, which is what we absolutely need in the catastrophe ward," he told her quickly.
"Thank you. That means a lot coming from my former Superior."
"I'm glad. You're doing very well. Not that it wasn't clear that you would be during training."
The two of them stood there, neither one of them talking. Finally, Rose broke the silence.
"Was there anything else? Otherwise, I should get on duty –"
"Oh, um, yeah. There is. I hope this isn't too forward or inappropriate, considering you're a Resident – granted for only a few more weeks – and I'm one of the overseeing Healers, but I was wondering if you'd like to go out sometime. Just to get to know each other better."
Rose was taken aback. Hr. Ben Marlow was much talked about by the healers, Medi-Witches/Wizards, and secretaries on staff. Rose certainly thought he was attractive but never would she have imagined that he would ask her out. And at work, no less!
When Rose didn't answer immediately, Ben started apologising. "Damn, I knew it wasn't appropriate. It's the first time I've done anything like this, so I'm really sorry if this is uncomfortable…"
"No, no! I'm – I'm just surprised," Rose breathed. "I actually would love to get to know you better."
Rose couldn't believe what she was hearing herself say. Just twelve or so hours ago, she was fretting over the looks Scorpius was giving her, wondering if they were more than friendly, and now she was accepting a date from someone who was essentially her boss.
"Yeah, I would," she answered, truthfully. Maybe this would be the answer she was looking for. Maybe going on a date with a handsome, successful, amusing man would help her figure out this Scorpius thing.
"Great! Um, well I have a shift until five, so how about I owl you after that?"
"That sounds perfect. I don't get off until seven, but I'll make sure I answer shortly after that."
Rose smiled genuinely and Ben smiled back.
"Alright. I won't keep you any longer. Good luck with your shift!"
"Okay. Same to you."
Hr. Ben Marlow smiled once more before quickly leaving the break room. Rose couldn't help but smile to herself.
She was going on a date with a hot Healer.
For her five-hour shift, Rose's mind continuously wandered to one Benjamin Marlow. She couldn't get it out of her head that he – of all people! – wanted to go on a date with her. She couldn't remember the last time she was so excited looking forward to a date. It certainly had been ages that she even went on a meaningful first date.
When she returned home, she noticed Cecelia's owl sitting on the open window-sill.
Rose opened her hand to give him a treat in exchange for the letter he carried.
I know you probably just got off duty, but Scorpius told us you were free tonight and Al thought it would be fun if we went to a Muggle club tonight. If you're in, just send a reply on the back of this and Floo our flat at 8:30.
Hope you want to join!
Lots of love,
Writing down a quick reply, she then attached it to the owl and he was off. Rose then retreated to her bathroom to shower. When she got out, there was another owl waiting for her.
It was unfamiliar, and a dark brown colour.
Pulling her towel closer, she made her way to the window with a treat.
Opening the letter, she realised that it was from Ben.
I hope this letter finds you alright.
I was thinking about our date and realised that it may be in our best interest to wait until you're no longer a Resident Healer. It may raise some suspicions – untrue ones, but suspicions nonetheless – by some of the other residents since I am one of your supervisors. However, that doesn't mean that I don't want to take you out. We just might have to wait until practicals start, if that's alright with you. You can owl me with the days you are free and I can work my schedule around that if necessary.
In the meantime, I wish you all the best in the last week and a half of your residency and hope that you don't worry too much about your practicals. Personally, I believe you will do wonderfully.
Rose smiled at the short and incredibly sweet letter.
Glancing at the clock, she noticed she had more than enough time to write Ben and get ready for a night out.
Still clad in only a towel, Rose sat at the kitchen table to write Ben. Her practical schedule was perfect; each week, she had two nights free.
After St. Mungo's had an intense renovation where every single floor and ward was reevaluated, the Healer program was adjusted accordingly with St. Mungo's changes. Funding provided by Harry Potter and various other wealthy Wizarding families allowed St. Mungo's to expand so that more wards, emulating Muggle hospitals, were added. In addition to the preexisting wards – artifact accidents, creature-induced injuries, magical bugs, potion and plant poisoning, and spell damage – there was now a catastrophe ward, fashioned after the Muggle ER; a maternity ward so that witches no longer had to give birth in Muggle hospitals or at home; a Muggle ward specifically for witches and wizards afflicted with Muggle diseases and afflictions; and even a psychiatric ward.
As a part of her Healer training, Rose had been immersed in the dealings of the creature-induced injuries ward, the spell damage ward, and the magical bugs ward. This was all due to the examinations she had taken early on in her training. After training, her time was focused in those three wards in addition to the catastrophe ward, a little time in the maternity ward, and the Muggle ward. Based on her experiences the summer before starting Healer training, she was also familiar with the psychiatric ward, although only as a patient.
Because of her experiences, her practicals all dealt with the wards she was familiar with. There was a short examination for each ward that took an hour as well as three, eight and a half hour stints actually performing in the ward. Three Healer Supervisors who would diligently take notes as they carefully observed her actions in each ward. There were three weeks of practicals, and each week focusing on two of the wards.
On the first week of practicals, Rose was lucky enough to have either Tuesday and Thursday for her get-together – date? – with Ben. Rose simply couldn't remember the last time she was so giddy to be going out on a date.
She finally finished her reply – after some careful deliberation as to how she should respond – and sent Ben's owl, only to glance at a clock.
She had only twenty minutes to get prepare for the night out.
Frantically, Rose rushed out, charming a pot of water to boil and cook some pasta while she rummaged through her closet to find something suitable for clubbing. In five minutes, she managed to ready herself – makeup, hair, dress and heels – and in the ten minutes following that, enjoy a bowl of alfredo.
She finished eating and then rushed back to her bathroom to brush her teeth before Flooing to Al and Cece's.
Practically falling out of the fireplace, Rose alerted her friends that she had arrived.
"Right on time!" Albus cried as he rushed over to his cousin to give her a hug.
"Of course, Al." Rose gave Al a peck on the cheek as she returned his embrace.
"And we're still waiting for Scorpius," Cecelia commented, nearing her best friend to also greet her.
"As usual," Al and Rose replied simultaneously.
They all laughed just as the fireplace ignited in green flames.
Puzzled that it could be Scorpius, arriving almost on time, the three stared at the Floo, anxious to see who would emerge.
"Al!" came the voice before the voice's body stepped out.
There was no mistaking the voice.
James stepped out looking a little crazed.
"What are doing here? I thought you were going out with Anna."
"How did you propose?"
Everyone's eyes widened at that. James, proposing? James, settling down? It was a bit unbelievable.
"Eh – I don't think I can just jump into that story right now, James. It's a lot more complicated than you might think. Why don't you come with me into our kitchen and I'll give you a brief retelling?"
Al led a frazzled James away, giving Cecelia and Rose an apologetic look.
They soon disappeared, leaving the girls in the living room.
That was all either could say for a while before Cecelia started some conversation.
"So, clubbing tonight. Are we going to find you a prospective boyfriend, my dear?"
Rose laughed at that. "That was subtle, Cece."
"Well, I hate going out with my single best friend because I always think she feels like a third wheel since I'm a Mrs. Potter now."
"Cecelia, I assure you, I do not feel like a third wheel. Especially since I have Scorpius to keep me company when his best friend and my best friend start acting all cute and married," Rose joked.
Rolling her eyes, Cecelia brushed Rose off.
"I know having a boyfriend and whatnot is not the most important thing in the world, but I don't want you to be alone. You haven't dated anyone in a year and a half."
"But nothing. You've gone on dates, but you haven't dated. You need to get out, put yourself out there."
"Who's to say I haven't put myself put there, hmm?"
"Pftt. Malena would have told me," Cecelia scoffed.
By now, Rose was getting indignant. "I'll have you know, just today, before my last shift, Hr. Benjamin Marlow asked me out! And I was almost late getting here because I was too busy writing him back to schedule our date. So ha! And for your information, he was my Healer Superior as trainee. Oh! And he's outrageously fit and gorgeous. Fit and gorgeous. And not to mention absolutely brilliant."
To be perfectly honest, Cecelia was stunned. Of course she knew Rose was attractive; at Hogwarts, before (and even when) she was with Scorpius, she had to beat the suitors away with a stick. Sometimes literally. (A good repelling charm tended to do the trick.)
"Honestly, Cecelia, would I lie about that?"
"What would Rose not lie about?" a masculine voice said.
Rose and Cecelia both jumped right out of their skin. They hadn't even heard the fireplace, they were so absorbed in their conversation.
"Bleeding hell, Scorpius. You nearly gave me a heart attack!"
"My apologies, Cecelia. That certainly was not my intention. Al would have killed me had I killed you."
Cecelia cracked a little smile before embracing her husband's best mate.
"He most certainly would have."
After greeting Cecelia, Rose also greeted him.
As she leant in to give him a peck on the cheek, he turned his head a little too much. She instead caught the almost-corner of his mouth.
She could almost feel the blush.
An attempt to ignore the near-kiss, Scorpius cleared his throat, somewhat uncomfortable, and re-asked the question he never had answered. "So, what would Rose not lie about?"
"That she has a date!" Cecelia squealed, entirely forgetting who she was talking to and certain histories.
Rose flushed and quickly looked at Scorpius' face to see his reaction. But she turned a moment too late. His face was an emotionless mask, informing her of nothing.
It took some time, but Scorpius congratulated Rose.
"That's great, Rosie. So who's the lucky guy?"
"Er, well he's my former Healer Superior, Ben Marlow."
Scorpius was trying very hard to keep his face relaxed. The mere mention of Rose – his Rose, at least she had been at point in time – having a date set him on edge. He knew that it was unfair, that they had both moved on and restarted their friendship, and yet something inside him had been yanked. Something had been pulled to the point of near-breakage.
Scorpius was painfully aware of exactly how likely it would be to have anything other than a friendship with Rose now: it was practically a non-existent figure. But hearing about this Hr. Ben Marlow as Rose's date – and potential boyfriend – Scorpius was feeling what could only be described as jealousy. He knew that because he had felt it many times, because of her, many years before they began dating their sixth year.
It didn't help that Scorpius knew, deep down, that he hadn't "moved on." He was almost completely certain that Rose was his soul mate and he had been in love with her since he was thirteen, almost fourteen. But he could let her go, so she could have her own happiness, with whomever she chose in the end.
"Wow," was all Scorpius could force himself to say.
Rose blushed ever so slightly. It felt odd for her former boyfriend, her former lover, to congratulate her on her date.
She didn't know how to respond to any part of this conversation and it was wonderful that Cecelia didn't give her the chance to do so.
"I know! It's absolutely wonderful. But tonight, we won't worry about this date of Rose's, we'll enjoy ourselves on a hot, sweaty dance floor amongst loads of people we don't know.
"But first I need to pull my husband away from his frantic brother."
Cecelia flashed a smile before going to retrieve Al and send James on his way.
"James is here?" Scorpius asked, thankful for an opportunity to change topics.
"Yes. He Flooed Al in a right state, wondering how he proposed."
"He's here to ask how Al proposed? Why in Merlin's name would he do that?"
Also extremely grateful for the abrupt change in subject, Rose answered. "Perhaps he plans on proposing to Anna. They have been together for near on three years. Maybe he feels as though she's 'the one.'"
"If that's true, the Wizarding world's jaw is going to drop when they learn that James Potter is forever off the market. I'm sure loads of people were hoping his relationship with Anna was only temporary."
"Well it seems Anna has made him think about settling down permanently."
The two stood in silence for a few moments before Scorpius spoke. "Good for James. Everyone needs someone."
Rose couldn't help but agree.
Just then, Cecelia, Al and James re-emerged from the kitchen. James looked much calmer than he did when he arrived and Al looked absolutely ready for a night out now, his face slightly strained with false merriment. Cecelia looked quite pleased with herself.
"Evening Scorpius and Rosie!" James greeted pleasantly. "Have a wonderful night out. Be sure not to get too friendly!"
James winked suggestively before taking his exit by way of Floo.
"Let's get going then!" Al shouted, pushing Scorpius toward the Floo first. He left, calling 'The Leaky Cauldron.'
Cecelia briefly leaned toward her husband where they had a quick discussion in which Cecelia seemed adamant.
Rose could have sworn that Cecelia had something under her breath after Al brushed her off.
"What did you say, Cece?"
"Nothing," Cecelia answered quickly with a wave of her hand.
She immediately took a handful of Floo powder and left without another word about whatever she was saying.
Rose could have sworn that Cecelia had said to Albus, 'I wish she would get back together with Scorpius.'
But she might've just imagined it. She probably just imagined it.
It's not as though everyone around her – Malena, James, and Cecelia – was trying to tell her that she and Scorpius were meant to be.
She pushed it from her mind, determined to have a great night filled with drinks and dancing. And none of that was going to involve Scorpius. Unless he decided to be a good friend – and friend only – and buy her a drink or two.
That night, Rose indeed had a great night filled with drinks and dancing. She slept in late on Saturday in order to catch up on sleep before getting back to her Residency requirements on Sunday.
In no time at all, her Residency was finished. On July third, Rose, Malena and all of the other Residency Healers handed in their neon pink regulation Residency robes for the neon yellow robes they would be wearing during their practicals. It was as though the staff of St. Mungo's needed some kind of warning signal for the general population to keep track of who would soon be the people healing them (if they were able to pass).
With the weekend off for all of the former Residents to relax and prepare for the next three, extremely hectic weeks, Rose was forced out of her flat by Malena and Cecelia. They purposely double-teamed her, literally cornering her, just so she wouldn't study like mad for her practicals. Malena kept on telling her that she was more than prepared to graduate the Healing program, and with honours. Cecelia reminded her that she would have the rest of her life to worry about certain spell treatments and potion prescriptions. And so, Rose conceded.
However, she didn't know what she had agreed to by staying at Malena's for the weekend.
"You didn't tell me we were going out to fancy places! I haven't put anything in my overnight bag that is remotely appropriate for anything fancy! I'll need to run back to my flat…"
"Oh no no no, Miss Rose Weasley," Malena told her, after telling her friend that she and Cecelia had made plans for Friday night at a 'five star' place. "The only place you'll be headed is this adorable boutique in Muggle London to buy something I deem appropriate for our night on the town. And you'll be getting the whole shebang: outfit, shoes, hair, makeup, jewelry, clutch."
"Malena! I am not willing to throw my money around on one night out. All my Residency hours have really added up and I'll be saving that up for my future, after I pay my parents back for getting me through the program. I need all I can get, especially with my flat rent."
"Oh, please," Malena scoffed. "You're just being ridiculous. I, for one, know that they have been paying you half for overtime. And it may not be much, but it stacks up. Plus, when was the last time you treated yourself to a little shopping? Hmm?"
"Exactly," was Malena's prompt reply. "Not in a while, since you can't seem to remember the last time."
"Fine. Will it just be you and me on this shopping excursion?"
Malena squealed with glee. "Yay! And Cecelia will join us later. She had some wifely responsibilities to take care of."
Rose shuddered at the 'wifely duties'. "Merlin, I did not need to know that. She's married to my cousin."
"Relax, she was just going to make Al clean their flat. Nothing dirty."
Malena looked at Rose pointedly. Rose didn't move.
"What are you waiting for? Go change, get your purse, do whatever you need to do so we can get going. We have only a short time before our nine o'clock reservations."
When Rose still made no move, Malena started to wave her hands with flourish.
"Go on! Go on!" she cried before Rose took the hint.
Two minutes passed and Rose was ready to go.
"Alright. Where is this boutique you speak of?"
The moment they arrived at the boutique in London, Malena pulled a dozen dresses from the racks and practically threw them at Rose.
"Try these on."
Rose was ready to protest, but Malena's defiant look stopped her.
Shuffling to the dressing rooms, Rose peeked at the clothes her friend had handed her. Lots and lots of taffeta and satin and sequins and lace. Where in Merlin's name were they going?
Trying the first number on, a lacy white and exceedingly short dress, Rose couldn't help but feel like a baby prostitute. Quickly, Rose stepped out of the dress and tossed it into the corner.
"How are you doing? Anything yet to model for my approval?" Malena asked from outside the door.
"No," came the hasty reply.
"Well, get on with it then!" Malena ordered.
After trying on super short, super tight, super slutty and super everything in between, Rose was down to two dresses: a cornflower-coloured tank number that was loose, but tight in all the right places and a jade-hued, fitted bodice that flared out at the hips.
"I don't know which one I like better," Rose mused, holding up one in each hand once she was outside the fitting room.
"I'll decide for you," Malena informed her, immediately grabbing the two options before sprinting toward the register.
By the time Rose caught up with Malena, the dress was already bagged and paid for.
"Don't worry. I'll send you the bill," Rose was told as the bag was thrust into her arms. "Now shoes!"
That was an affair of its own. However, Rose very much enjoyed trying on an array of different heels.
The time passed quickly and by eight thirty, Rose had a dress, shoes, a silver clutch, and jewelry Malena swore worked perfectly with the dress she had decided on (since Malena had forbade Rose from peeking in the bag).
The two friends rushed back to Malena's flat to get ready.
Cecelia Flooed over around five till nine, wearing a short and slinky black dress and impressively high heels.
"You're lucky Al was at the office late, or I wouldn't be here right now, nor would I be wearing anything," Cecelia commented proudly to Malena since Rose was finishing up.
Laughing at Cecelia's comment, Malena smoothed down her dress.
Wearing a violet strapless and form-fitting dress, Malena was easily just as much of a knockout as Cecelia.
Malena called to her friend, "Rose! Cecelia is here. Finish up so we can head out!"
"Coming!" came the reply from the loo.
Rose emerged in the jade dress, her hair arranged in loose curls, smoky eyes and pale lips.
"Ready!" she exclaimed, taking a little twirl to show off.
Simultaneously, Malena and Cecelia replied, "Perfect!"
In moments, they Apparated to The Leaky Cauldron for a quick bite before they made way to their true stop.
"What do you mean we are going to Mystique?"
Rose's two friends were taking her clubbing to the newest Wizarding club in London. It was bound to be a fun night.
It took a few minutes for Rose to warm up to the idea, but after seeing how crowded and fun it looked, she no longer was wary. In fact, she led her little trio out onto the dance floor.
The dances and drinks and dance partners blended over the hours, but around half twelve, Rose needed to take a break. Malena had just disappeared, promising to be back in a few moments and Cecelia was busy chatting up with a coworker. Finding an empty table, Rose slid into a seat to get a breather.
As soon as she sat down, she felt a warm hand on her shoulder.
She turned around, expecting Malena or Cecelia, but actually became very surprised when she saw none other than Hr. Ben Marlow.
"Ben! Hi," Rose said, quickly covering her surprise.
"Hullo Rose. Mind if I join you?" he asked charmingly.
Rose smiled and gestured to the seat across from her.
He slipped into the booth. "It's a nice surprise seeing you here."
"You as well. I was expecting only a girl's night out. But it's lovely to see you."
Once again, Ben's face broke out into a dazzling smile. "What are you doing sitting down? Too much dancing?"
Rose giggled and felt a little foolish. She felt like a teenager again, chirping needlessly at some bloke who glanced in her direction.
"Somewhat. I needed to get a bit of air."
"Well, have you had enough air? Because it would be my honour to be your dance partner," the ever-enchanting Healer wondered as he stood up and proffered his hand.
Rose nodded quickly before taking his hand delicately.
Vaguely, she noticed his intake of breath and commented on it.
"You look stunning is all. Healer robes aren't actually the most fashionable, although you do manage them quite well."
Rose had the decency to blush, and blushed even more so when Ben was so audacious as to send her a wink.
This Ben she was being introduced to was much different than the clinical, professional, and slightly nervous Hr. Marlow she had experienced beforehand. She was taking a liking to both really.
They began to make their way onto the dance floor, but not before being interrupted by the busybody Malena. Malena seemed much too calm and collected considering her initial reaction when Rose had told her Hr. Ben Marlow had asked Rose on a date. Rose had a hunch that meeting Ben tonight was such a coincidence.
Malena left them after a few moments, meaning to find Cecelia, and letting them get to the floor.
Weaving in and out of other party-goers, Rose and Ben found a less-crowded spot on the far side. They began dancing, not together, but closely. That is, until Rose's heel caught.
Ben had amazingly good reflexes and saved Rose. He had grabbed her around her waist, pulling her close.
Breathless partially from the near-accident, partially from the dancing and partially because of their proximity, Rose heated up. She wasn't exactly embarrassed, nor was she alarmed, but rather she was curious. This was newish to her. Dating that is.
"Thank you," she murmured, realising her arms were around Ben's neck.
"You're welcome," he replied, also seeming to experience the same sort of unfamiliarity, closeness, and curiosity.
It broke the ice between them and they couldn't go anywhere but forward.
Another hour or two passed and the two shared most of their dances. A few times, Ben loaned his dance partner out yet she always wound up back in his arms. In fact, it was a bit of a thrill for Rose. She was enjoying herself immensely.
The night was slowing and the club crowd was thinning.
It was one of the last songs of the night.
Rose leaned in to her former Healer Superior and told him, "Now Ben, this isn't going to be considered our first date."
"No, it won't. I want to take you someplace rather than meeting somewhere by complete surprise," he replied, smiling.
"There is no need to omit what I already know," Rose said laughing. "Malena must have seen you and told you to come find me. She wasn't as excited to see I was with you as I had expected she would have been. And I noticed that all by myself."
Ben let out a laugh. "You found me out! My mates were already to call it a night and go back to their wives and girlfriends. But when Malena caught my eye, I saw an opportunity. So I took it. And I am certainly glad I did."
"I am too," Rose told him honestly.
She was very happy. And for the entire night out, she hadn't thought of Scorpius.
AN: So, that's the end of this chapter. One more real chapter, then the epilogue.
R & R please lovelies!
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