The following morning, Lorcan left early to check on his dragon. A report had come in from a village down river that the Vipertooth had been seen by muggles. Luis hadn’t been too concerned, saying that it wasn’t the first time and there were more than enough ancient cultural myths still in play to make people keep quiet about it.
“Apparently, if you talk about seeing a dragon, bad luck will come your way,” Lorcan said, slinging his backpack onto his shoulder. Scorpius, Louis, Juan, Pedro and the twins were in the dining tent. It was an hour after dawn; Scorpius had never been a late sleeper but unless he’d had something to get up for, he was quite comfortable staying in bed reading a book. He found he liked dawn in the jungle – the smell, the sound and the sense of peace that floated over the camp. That morning, with Lily lying beside him snoring gently into her pillow, he felt completely at ease with life.
“Do you want me to come?” Lysander asked his brother, standing up also. Lorcan made an apologetic face.
“Actually, no. It will be easier if I go alone today. Why don’t you stay here and...I don’t know...umm.”
“I should never have come,” Lysander mumbled miserably. Scorpius cleared his throat.
“I have something for you to do,” he said, and the blonde man smiled brightly. “Rose and I have to work on the curse today, but Lily...has nothing to do. Why don’t you take her down to the river for a bit? She likes the water.”
Lysander nodded seriously. “I wonder if she will let me sketch her.”
“What?” Scorpius blinked.
“Lily,” Lysander answered. “She would look lovely down by the river. Would she like a portrait of herself, do you think?”
Louis burst out laughing. “I should think so, but for your own sake, don’t make her look fat or ugly or anything. She always said the left was her best side.”
Frank appeared and flopped into a chair as Lorcan disapparated and Lysander rushed off to find his sketch pad and his drawing materials.
“Any coffee?” Frank pulled a hand through his already shaggy hair and closed his eyes briefly.
Louis’ eyebrows lifted as he pushed a coffee across the table. “Trouble in paradise?”
“Paradise? I think you mean Hell,” Frank replied, raising the mug to his lips. “But, no more. I am a free man. I have stepped out of the proverbial frying pan and put out the fire.”
“Finally grown a set then, Frankie?” Louis grinned. “Took you long enough.”
“Fuck you,” Frank said, flicking his cigarette at the other man, who merely ducked and laughed. “She’s no bloody picnic, your cousin. And the only person who is allowed to call me ‘Frankie’ is my mother.”
Rose appeared a little while later, looking thoroughly pissed off. She stomped around, snapped at Pedro, apologised, and then smashed the tea pot against the edge of the table. Her face dared someone to challenge her over it. Juan took out his wand, fixed the pot and handed it back to her without a word. Something in her face softened at such a simple act, and she made her tea in silence, sitting at the table as far away from Frank as she could manage.
“Where’s Lily?” Louis asked.
“Here.” Lily breezed into the dining tent, Lysander following, muttering to himself. She was dressed all in white, her hair long and flowing over her shoulders. “It’s so hot,” she declared, sitting and waiting to be served. Rose pushed the tea pot at her absently, setting her cup down at the same time, pushing that away too. Lily reached for the sugar and gasped, shrinking back from the table. Scorpius saw Rose roll her eyes.
“Whose cup is this?” Lily asked in a whisper, pointing.
“Mine,” Rose answered almost challengingly. “But you already knew that.”
“Oh Rose,” Lily said with a delicate shake of her head, reaching for the cup. “This is not good. See that shape there?” She indicated the cup; Rose did not bother moving to look. “It’s a club, which means you will suffer from an attack of sorts. And this here is a skull, which means there is danger in your path.”
Frank peered over Lily’s shoulder. “Actually, I think that looks more like a sun, or an acorn. All good, Rosie, don’t worry,” he added, giving her a wink which she ignored. Scorpius watched them closely, not knowing why; there seemed a double meaning in Frank’s statement, an apology of sorts and he wondered if Rose picked up on it.
Lily huffed. “I think I know better, thank you, Frank.”
He laughed. “Whatever you say.”
“Are you the Divination professor at Hogwarts? No, you’re not, so don’t laugh at this. It’s serious.”
Frank shrugged. “I’m not laughing, and I did take Divination at NEWT level you know. Got myself an O, if I recall correctly: what did you get?”
“Some of us have work to do; Malfoy, hurry up,” Rose commanded, standing up and walking away without a backwards glance. Juan and Pedro followed her, glancing back at Lily and shaking their heads. They didn’t care much for Lily’s brand of divination, preferring their own age-old ways.
“Well,” Lily sniffed. “I was only being honest. The leaves do not lie.”
“No, but you do. Smile, precious.” Frank pulled out his camera and snapped a picture of Lily’s cranky face, which transformed into a dark thunderstorm that Scorpius had never witnessed before. “Page one, I think, or perhaps you’re more suited to page three?”
“Go crawl under a rock, Frank!”
“Gladly, if you’ll tell me which one you just vacated.”
Scorpius stared, too shocked to do anything.
“Screw you,” Lily seethed. “Just because you’re Rose’s little play thing and almost family it doesn’t give you the right to speak to me like that.”
Frank laughed. “Right, I forgot, no one puts Lily Potter in her place.”
“One day Rose will get sick of you and then I won’t have to put up with you anymore,” Lily snapped. She looked at Scorpius, a smirk spreading across her face. “He’s shagging Rose.”
“I know,” Scorpius said blankly.
Lily blinked and Frank’s laugh was dark. “Sorry, sweetheart, not quick enough but then again, you’ve never been too bright, have you?” His voice had lost its teasing tone and a hard look had come into his eyes. Scorpius laid his hand on Lily’s arm, totally confused but certain he had to do something.
“Come on, Lily,” he said. She glared at Frank once more, shook herself free of Scorpius’ fingers and stormed away, hair swinging. Scorpius swallowed. “What was that?”
Frank sighed, stretching his arms above his head leisurely. “That,” he announced, standing up, “was one of the many faces of your girlfriend, mate. She’s mental, truly she is.”
Before Scorpius could respond, Frank had wandered away.
Working with Rose that day was as tense as it had been when he first arrived. She would barely speak to him, except to bark orders and ask short, sharp questions and when it was time to finish up for the day, he was glad to be away from her. She wasn’t at dinner, neither was Frank or Louis. Lorcan was still out with the dragon, and Lysander was tucked up in his tent putting the final touches on his sketch of Lily.
Scorpius and Lily ate dinner in their tent, and afterwards, when she clearing up and he was settled snugly against the pillows, stretched out on the bed, he brought up a subject that had been gnawing at his brain for the last twenty four hours.
“I didn’t know Rose had a child.”
Lily glanced at him, her expression unreadable as she flicked her wand and the cutlery and plates stacked themselves neatly at the end of the table. “It’s the family’s dirty little secret; well, that and the fact that Dom is Vincent Ingleback’s mistress.”
“The Quidditch player?”
“Yep,” Lily murmured. “Anyway, why do you care about Rose’s kid?”
“Poor boy. He’s better off where he is, with Teddy and Vic, especially when he’s got a workaholic head-case and a mental patient for parents,” Lily sighed. “I never knew what she saw in Frank Longbottom and then she went and got herself pregnant. Now she’s stuck with him forever, in a way.”
Scorpius swallowed his shock. “Frank’s the father?”
Lily’s lips curled. “They were nineteen when William was born and Rose handed him over to Victoire pretty quickly. I could never do such a thing,” she added with a haughty sniff. “Her parents were so sad, Scorpius. It is tragic really. Children don’t ask to be born – Rose and Frank were irresponsible. If they didn’t want a baby, they shouldn’t have had one.”
“I’m sure Rose had her reasons for letting Victoire raise her son,” Scorpius said softly, climbing to his feet. He wanted to pace the small space, like he often did when he was thinking but he forced his feet to remain still. “She’s not callous or mean. A little hot-headed maybe...and anyway, she lives in a tent. That’s not the life for a child.”
Lily sniffed again; she had been clearly expecting to find an anti-Rose ally and wasn’t getting one. “She didn’t try hard enough. Anyway, enough about Rose: when are you coming home?”
“I don’t know.”
She came and took his hands, looking up into his eyes. It was a look he had seen many times before and only now did he realise how completely manipulative it was and how completely she had been manipulating him. Shock rushed over him, cold as ice and he swallowed, forcing a deep breath into his lungs.
“Please, I miss you,” Lily purred.
“I have a job to do,” Scorpius answered firmly, but his voice was watery and weak.
“Rose will just have to find someone else,” she insisted.
Scorpius pulled his hands free and folded his arms, ignoring Lily’s gasp. “You don’t have any respect for what I do, do you, Lily? You don’t care that this is where I want to be at the moment. You only care about yourself.” He paused, shaking his head. “I never realised you were so selfish.”
“Scorpius! How can you think that? I came all the way across the world to see you!”
“No, you came all the way across the world for your own reasons. It has nothing to do with me,” he said.
She pursed her lips; she looked more like Rose than she would ever admit, especially when she was sulking. “I’m sorry that you think that, really I am. What can I do to make you believe that I do care?”
“I don’t think there is anything you can do at the moment, Lily.”
She dropped her gaze, looking back up at him swiftly from beneath her lashes. She stuck her bottom lip out and then pulled it between her teeth, nibbling on it gently. “Really?”
He sighed. “Lily, listen...”
Slowly and deliberately, she undid the buttons on her crisp white shirt, never taking her eyes from his face. Despite himself, Scorpius felt his temperature increase and his heart speed up. Lily was, regardless of her flaws, beautiful. The shirt fell to the floor and he watched, stomach in his throat, as the rest of her clothing followed it. Naked, she took his hands again.
“Scorpius, I miss you.”
He closed his eyes as her lips fell on his neck, moving to his chest and back up again. He shook his head, bit his lip, and stepped away, not knowing how or where he found the strength to resist her, only that he had. She stared at him in shock and anger and without another word, she scooped up her clothes and fled into the little bathroom.
Sighing, Scorpius took out his wand, transfiguring his desk chair into a lounge so he could sleep. Lily returned from the bathroom as he was spreading a blanket across his make-shift bed. She glared at him, before crawling into his bed and turning her back. She sniffed dramatically and no one said another word. He stayed awake half the night, listening to Lily sleep, his brain sorting ruthlessly through the jumble of words and images in his head. He has always known Lily has a selfish side, but he had never thought she was mean, and she had been nothing but to Rose since she had arrived. She looked down on Frank, tolerated the twins because they fawned over her and even had Louis eating out of her hand.
Scorpius glanced at the lump Lily made under the thin blanket. He had never been able to understand why she had picked him, out of all the men at her disposal, to be her lover. Sighing, he rolled over again, looking up at the canvas roof of his tent. He liked it here, in Peru, in the jungle, even though it was hot and sticky and wet and there were too many insects, he was proud of what he had been able to accomplish. Lily made a little noise is her sleep and Scorpius bit his lip, conflicted. He had been mean, cruel even, and that wasn’t like him.
“Lily,” he murmured, knowing instinctively she was awake.
“What?” came the eventual petulant reply.
“I’m sorry, okay?”
She sniffed, hesitated and then lifted the blanket. He crawled off his make-shift bed and nestled in beside her, letting her rest her cheek on his chest and she was still there at dawn, curled around him. He slid out from under her arm, looking down at her, feeling himself, against his better judgement, soften.
She looked so small and delicate; perhaps this new behaviour of hers was simply because she was feeling uncomfortable so far from home and in such strange surroundings. He knew he had been when he first arrived.
Rose was still moderately frosty towards him – towards everyone in general – but he was pleased to discover she had thawed out a little. She didn’t snap, she didn’t swear at him and she was pleasant enough to work with.
Lunch time found them both kneeling in the dirt in the cavern with a mountain of texts and spellbooks, wands out.
“Should we try it?” Scorpius asked.
“Why are you asking me? Aren’t you the expert?” she snorted.
He shrugged. “You’re the curse-breaker, aren’t you?”
“Shut up,” she growled good-naturedly. She took a deep breath, swallowed and held her wand out towards the entombed artefacts. “I’ll try the mask.”
Scorpius nodded. The gold mask was the largest of all the treasures. It was an ornate thing; his mother would call it ‘gaudy’ but he thought it was beautiful for the past that it spoke of. The more time he spent in the dark with Rose and the artefacts and the more time he spent on the dig site simply listening and absorbing the more he could see how history and the lure of what once was could have a hold over someone. Like his passion for books and knowledge, Rose, Louis and the others were enamoured with what they did.
She let out a breath. “Here goes.” Slowly, with measured, precise movements, Rose wielded her wand like a conductor might wield a baton but instead of hearing music, they heard a low rumble and the walls of the cavern shook. “Shit,” she hissed, dropping her wand and wiping the sweat from her forehead. They exchanged a worried glance.
“Alright,” Scorpius murmured eventually, opening Ye Olde Forgotten Bewitchments and Charmes. He skimmed the contents page out of habit, already knowing what was contained within the books pages, and opened to chapter seven, Magic of the Ancients. He read in silence, his eyes watering from the dull light.
“What does it say?” Rose pressed. He looked at her out of the corner of his eyes, noting the way her hair hung in snake-like tendrils around her face, and the way her eyes caught the lantern light and how the side of her cheek was golden. There was such strength to her expression, such determination and he saw in her eyes a thirst for knowledge that matched his own. He sucked in a breath, stunned for reasons he couldn’t fathom. “Malfoy?”
“Sorry,” he muttered, aghast to realise he had been staring at her. “Umm...maybe try one of the smaller artefacts.”
Rose nodded and turned to a small golden dagger. She closed her eyes briefly, took a deep breath and Scorpius watched as she lifted her wand and waved it through the air. There was a hissing sound and they both looked to the dagger; green light blazed around it, forming a bubble and then, after a moment, the bubble burst with an audible snap and the light faded.
Scorpius’ grin was echoed on Rose’s face and he laughed. She winked, swirled her wand through the air again and the dagger floated from its place in the wall, hovering in the air before her hand.
“Can you check it, please?” she asked, eyes shining. He nodded, lifted his wand and performed a simple curse revealing spell. The dagger was clean and Rose closed her hand around it happily. “We did it,” she whispered, turning the dagger over in her palm. “Look at this, Scorpius! We’re the first people to handle this piece in thousands of years.”
Slowly, with a type of reverence he understood, she passed it to him. It was heavy for such a small thing and he let it rest on his outstretched fingers for a moment before he passed it back for her to wrap in protective cloth and seal.
“Let’s go show Luis,” she suggested, climbing to her feet and dusting off her knees with her spare hand. He followed her out of the cavern, down the earthen tunnel and into the light, unable to keep from grinning.
Luis was in his tent and the old man’s eye lit up when Rose handed him the dagger. “You did it,” he whispered, touching her hand. “Well done, Rosa. I knew you would work it out.”
“We can’t break the curse around the mask yet,” Rose said with a small frown. “And we haven’t tried any of the other artefacts, but I think we’re nearly there, aren’t we, Scorpius?”
He nodded. “There are a few more spells I want to try tomorrow and hopefully, we will have the cavern curse free in a couple of days.”
That night, Scorpius drank more alcohol than he had since he was eighteen and on holiday with his cousins. His eyes kept finding Rose across the dining tent and he watched her, marvelling at the change in her. Their victory that day had completely washed away the bad mood she had been carrying since breaking up with Frank. She was smiling and laughing and not even Lily’s presence seemed to bother her.
Lily tried to talk to him about the portrait Lysander had done and how she wanted to frame it and give it to him but he was barely listening and by the time she stomped away in a huff, he was ridiculously drunk.
The party wound up slowly, with the Scamander’s stumbling off to find their beds first, followed by Juan and Pedro, supporting Luis between them. Louis was passed out with his head on the table and Frank was almost asleep in his chair, a lit cigarette burning dangerously close to his fingertips.
Scorpius jumped as Rose sat down beside him. “You should go to bed,” she said quietly after a moment. “We’ve got heaps to do tomorrow.”
“Are you saying I can’t handle my alcohol?” he managed to slur and she laughed, climbing to her feet and rummaging in the cupboard under the sink. She returned with a potion vial between her hands, which she placed on the table in front of him.
“Drink this, and get some sleep.”
He snorted. “Pepper-Up Potion?”
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t want you unable to concentrate tomorrow, Malfoy.”
“What about you?”
“Just drink the potion, Scorpius,” she said firmly and he obeyed with a sigh, fumbling with the vial’s stopper until she snatched it from him and uncapped it, watching as he drank. Within moments, his head was clear and his senses returned and she nodded.
“Do you need a hand here?” Scorpius asked, indicating Louis and Frank.
Rose shook her head. “They can stay here for all I care,” she muttered and then sighed. “I’ll manage. Good night.”
“Good night, Rose,” he said softly, turning towards the darkness and his tent. He heard Rose shake Louis awake, and then Frank. Louis growled something, swore when Rose pushed a potion on him and Scorpius heard him grumbling as he stalked away.
By the time he reached his tent, the camp was still and silent. Scorpius turned and glanced back at the dining tent to where Rose and Frank were sitting. He watched them talking: she dropped her eyes and put her head in her hands as Frank stood up and pulled at his hair before he made to turn away.
Rose reached for Frank’s hand. He hesitated and Scorpius saw her lips move; they were too far away for him to hear what she said, but the look on her face said it all. Frank sighed and closed his eyes, before he swooped down and pulled her to her feet, spinning her around and lifting her so she was sitting on the edge of the table. They shared a few words and then he cupped her face and kissed her.
Scorpius turned away, going inside his tent to find Lily curled up on the bed asleep. He slipped out of his clothes and was about to crawl in beside her when he heard Louis’ voice race through the night.
“Oi! I’ve got to eat on that table you two!”
“Just because it’s been a thousand years since you’ve gotten shagged, Weasley,” Frank drawled.
“Ugh. Normally I’m okay with you molesting my cousin, Longbottom, but if you don’t take it somewhere else I will curse you.”
Scorpius heard the air snap and moments later, he could hear Rose’s laughter coming from Frank’s tent. He took out his wand and cast a charm around his tent – the last thing he needed was to listen to them making up. When he lay down, Lily stirred, rolling and wrapping her leg across his middle. He froze. It felt like there was a thousand miles between them, but something about the moment felt natural, calm, and he had never felt that before, not with Lily or with any other woman.
He rolled, wrapping his arms around her. She opened her eyes and smiled sleepily, letting him kiss her and pull her close and afterwards, he feigned sleep, and when he heard her breathing deepen and felt her body grow heavy against his, he slipped out from under her arm. Barefoot and naked, Scorpius padded to the entrance of his tent. He took down his charm and listened, waiting, but he wasn’t sure what for.
The night was silent. It mocked him, that silence, warring with the freight train of emotion that flooded his head as he realised just why he felt so calm, so comfortable and so at peace. He snuck a glance over his shoulder – she was still sleeping, her hair spread like fire over his pillow.
Never before had he made love to Lily and wished she were someone else.