Chapter 1 : Free
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Love; it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
-Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons
There were not a lot of things Scorpius Malfoy wanted out of life. In fact, until he'd been sixteen, he couldn't even think of one thing that he wanted out of life. He liked sketching and painting. He did not like school, and didn't do terribly well at it. His father hounded him no end for this, although his grandmother had once told him that his father hadn't been any better at school than he was. He had a vague notion that he didn't want to rely on his family's money forever, any more than he wanted to rely on his family's reputation, but beyond that, he didn't know what to do with himself.
He spent a lot of time feeling a bit listless, a lot bored, and wishing he could do something about it.
Then he met Rose Weasley.
He'd seen her first on the train at age eleven, though he hadn't paid much attention to her then. Her red curls had been untamed and frizzy, and her front teeth had been overlarge. She'd been very eager, and very innocent back then.
Not that she was a jade now. She maintained a fey sort of innocence at sixteen, as if the world had never entirely touched her. She wore a lot of pink, and adored unicorns and pygmy puffs. She had a t-shirt that she'd worn to every Hogsmeade weekend the last two years, a glaring shade of pink that clashed with her hair in a way that should have been horrible but somehow wasn't, with a design of a winged unicorn done in white and glitter. There was a rainbow behind the unicorn. He'd looked it up; it wasn't a real creature at all. Some mythological Muggle animal. She seemed to love it though.
Scorpius remembered quite vividly the first moment he'd become truly aware of her. It had been toward the end of fifth year. They'd been sitting in one of the Gryffindor-Hufflepuff joint classes, History of Magic, and he'd been absently sketching the faces of his classmates instead of taking notes, when the heavens aligned.
It had certainly seemed that way, anyway. Rose Weasley was sitting near one of the high windows in the classroom, and a cloud had budged aside and allowed a shaft of sunlight to tumble through the thickly glazed windows, glowing hazy and golden like honey, illuminating her with the beauty of the heavens. She had appeared a goddess then, one of the young and enthusiastic ones who probably carried a bow and arrow and behaved mischievously in general, and she had turned to whisper to the friend sitting next to her and grinned suddenly. Her eyes sparkled and shone, and the golden light turned her red hair to a halo of flames around her face.
His mouth had fallen open. And then he'd sketched furiously, before the clouds came back and stole the glimpse of glory they'd just shown him.
And he'd never been able to forget that moment, the look of her. He had the sketch hidden safely in his trunk, and sometimes took it out to look at it when he was alone in the dormitory. She was bloody amazing. But she didn't really know him. She certainly didn't know how he felt about her.
And, he had to admit to himself, he didn't really know her. They didn't talk much. He was sure she knew who he was. It wasn't vanity; the entire school knew who he was and who his family was, and if they didn't, they'd learn all about his grandfather's activities in the war in History of Magic, much to his dismay. His family was notorious. He wasn't going to live down to their reputation, and determined to live up to his own expectations only, and hopefully by now he'd proved that to the school (having the Sorting Hat place him immediately into Hufflepuff, without even a moment's hesitation, had probably helped) but his name alone made him well-known. And then there was the thing about his music preferences.
Not that there was anything wrong with Muggle 20th century theater music.
Surely she knew who he was. But she wasn't aware of him in the way that he was aware of her, that was clear. He was always well-liked by girls, so he thought she didn't dislike him, but girls never seemed to be aware of him that way. He hadn't had a girlfriend the entire time he'd been at Hogwarts, come to that.
Probably the theater music.
He didn't speak up enough for himself too, he knew. He kept quiet most of the time, kept a pleasant demeanor, stayed out of trouble and out of the spotlight. Compensating for his family's reputation, maybe, but he made sure he never gave anyone cause to think of him as anything but that rather nice Hufflepuff boy who liked to draw pictures and sing. He supposed this was a bit of cowardice, as he never showed much of himself to people, never let anyone really get to know him. It was easier that way.
But it meant Rose didn't really know him, either, couldn't know him, because no one did.
He knew her brother a bit, and her cousin Albus rather better, though he wouldn't have called either a friend exactly. Hugo, her little brother, was two years younger, and Albus hung around his Gryffindor friends, not the Hufflepuffs. Scorpius got on well enough with each of them, though. Well enough that he didn't think it likely either would object to him asking out Rose.
It made him a bit nervous to think about it, though. In his head, she was still that goddess bathed in gold that he'd seen in the History of Magic classroom.
He spent most of that summer thinking of her, and finally as sixth year began, he screwed up his courage.
She was sitting under a tree near the Quidditch pitch. The late summer sun turned the castle grounds into a pleasant haze of thick meadow-grass and patches of harebell, little islands of blue in the sea of green. Rose had a book open on her lap, but he wasn't sure if she was reading or had dozed off until she looked over at him.
“Hello,” she said with a pleasant smile. “Out for a walk?”
“I was looking for you, actually.” He sat down next to her. She was wearing her pink t-shirt with the glittery pegasus-unicorn on it. It made her hair look quite orange, but she was still beautiful to him. The golden goddess overlaid the somewhat gauche young woman before him like a veil, showing who she might be as well as who she was now.
“Really? What for?” Rose closed her book and looked up at him inquisitively.
“This weekend is a Hogsmeade weekend, you know,” he began, and she nodded.
“Yeah, I know. Normally the first Hogsmeade weekend I'm trying like mad to stock up on defensive prank stuff against my cousin James, but now he's left school - it's so relaxing.” She laughed then. “I'll actually be able to just wander around Hogsmeade and enjoy myself for once.”
“What about your brother?” he couldn't help asking. He'd seen Hugo Weasley hexing his sister in the corridors a few times, and her hexing him in return. The two of them seemed to find Trip Jinxes particularly hilarious. Maybe it was a family trait.
Rose waved a hand dismissively. “I can handle him, don't worry.”
“Right. Are you going with anyone? To Hogsmeade, I mean.”
“Well, my friends, obviously. Maybe my cousin Lucy too, I dunno though, she hardly ever hangs around me these days. N.E.W.T.s this year for her, you know. She's locked in her room under a pile of books.”
She was clearly not getting what he was getting at. “I could wander around Hogsmeade with you, if you like.”
“Sure, you can come along,” Rose said cheerfully. “The more the merrier. I don't know if you know Lydia Agnelli? She's my brother's ex-girlfriend, he chucked her last week for no reason at all, the little jerk, so I told her she could stick around me at this Hogsmeade weekend. Make sure she has some fun. You can help if you like. She's really sweet, and funny too, poor thing, Hugo goes through girls like water-”
She blinked at him. “Yes?”
He tried to put it in a way she couldn't misunderstand. “Do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me?”
“Oh,” she said in surprise. “Are you asking me out?”
“Well. Yeah.” Why did she look so bloody surprised? Hadn't he been obvious enough? Apparently not. “What?”
Rose giggled then; it seemed to have just slipped out. “I thought... Never mind.”
Scorpius sighed. He knew, suddenly and with perfect clarity, exactly what she'd thought. His father had accused him of it often enough, and he knew damned well the whispers around school. Bloody theater music. “You thought I was gay, didn't you.”
Rose's cheeks turned as pink as her t-shirt. “Yeah, sort of.”
“I like showtunes,” he told her matter-of-factly. “I also like girls. You, specifically.”
Her face softened, and she turned a smile on him, such a smile as he'd never seen before. Delight, and surprise, and a radiant glow. He felt stunned, transfixed. If he'd liked her before, it was nothing to what he felt after seeing her smile at him that way.
“I like you too,” she said in a voice that was half a whisper. “But I thought you were...”
He leaned in and kissed her. She didn't pull away, just sat there while his lips explored hers, and after a moment her hand came up and cupped his cheek. He put everything he had into the kiss, to show her how he felt, even if he couldn't say it yet, and to show her they ought to be together, even if she didn't know it yet.
When he finally pulled away and looked at her, her eyes were still closed and her lips were pink from kissing him. A fierce surge of satisfaction went through him. He had put that look of bliss on her face. He felt fully a man, in ways he didn't even understand really, and totally free. He could have climbed mountains. He had kissed Rose Weasley senseless.
“Holy Kneazles,” Rose murmured, and opened her eyes. She appeared a bit dazed, and Scorpius grinned proudly.
“So is that a yes?”
She nodded. “It's a yes.” She touched her fingertips to her lips for a bare second, and then suddenly those lips curved into a new smile, this one mischievous and playful. “Well, you're definitely not gay.”
“Told you. If you'd write my father to that effect, I'd be very grateful,” he said dryly. She laughed, and he felt compelled to add, “That was a bit sudden. Sorry about that.”
She gave him a little shove. “Don't be an idiot. I'm glad you did it.”
“Yeah,” he said, and a slow smile curved his lips. “Me too.”
Within a month, he had figured out what his life's purpose really was, and it was all thanks to Rose. He felt now that what he was really meant to do in life was prevent Rose Weasley from causing wholesale destruction to herself and everyone around her.
She was absolutely mental. And he was never bored. He couldn't even begin to predict what she might get up to next. She set the Quidditch stands on fire. She managed to make a cauldron five feet away from her in Potions explode. She went swimming in the Black Lake and said something to the Giant Squid that made it sulk for a week. She lied through her teeth on a regular basis. Every week, it was something new. And every time, she claimed it wasn't her fault. He was starting to believe her a bit. Things happened around Rose.
But he felt better when he was with her, smarter and faster and more alive. She made him whole. As if he could conquer entire armies when she smiled at him, swim the ocean when she kissed him. It was mad, insane – dating her was making so many people angry, he couldn't even count them all – but she made him brave. He could do anything when he was with Rose, even tell his father to shut up about her.
Her father wasn't happy they were dating. Her mother got a pinched look when she saw him. His own parents threatened to disown him, and he'd told his father off for saying it. It had been very liberating.
Neither family had disowned their children, though. Sometimes he thought he wouldn't have cared if they did. Being with Rose made him realize how much he liked being independent, being free from the opinions and influence of others. Rose didn't care about that sort of thing, something he admired about her; she bulldozed her way through life, doing things her own way, even if no one approved of what she was doing. He wanted to be more like that. And when Rose was around, he was more like that.
He spoke up more. He felt more open, allowed people in. He got to be rather good friends with her brother. He spent far less time worrying that other people thought he was like his father, and relaxed into the reputation he'd made for himself.
He saw more of the young woman beneath the golden goddess as he got to know her better, but every day he was with her, she became more of the golden goddess to him, brightening every corner of his soul, polishing him up and making him better than he had been before her.
It was always interesting, being around Rose.
And it made him feel completely free.