When Scorpius found the courage to show his face at breakfast, Rose was sitting glaring into her coffee. She gave him a sharp look and narrowed her eyes as he looked away, his lip between his teeth. She wasn’t concerned that they had slept together – sex was sex and could be nothing but sex, but she was appalled she had let her guard down for that split second in her half-awake state.
Louis sat at the wooden table, his face buried in pieces of parchment, food untouched at his elbow. He glanced up, a frown gracing his features. “What did you do to her?”
Louis indicated Rose with a tip of his head. “Her you git. She’s...”
“Pissed, yeah, I get it,” Scorpius muttered, pouring himself coffee and sinking into a seat across from Louis. The older man looked at him curiously while Rose glowered. She was used to Louis playing unofficial big brother and while she didn’t like it, she knew he meant well.
“She’s upset, Malfoy,” Louis said simply. “Even you should be able to tell that. I thought she was about to cry, although she might have just been embarrassed at being spotted leaving your tent in the same clothes as yesterday. Her shame has probably gotten the better of her.”
“Piss off,” Rose snapped, punching her cousin hard in the arm. Louis merely grinned at her.
Scorpius mumbled something that sounded a lot like an apology.
Louis sighed. “Did you sleep with her?”
“It’s not your business, Louis,” Rose cut in, folding her arms protectively across her chest.
“Look, the thing you need to know is that my lovely cousin here craves attention. She needs people to love her and at the same time, she hates being around people,” Louis continued, ignoring Rose and her threatening looks. “Plus, she doesn’t need this; you don’t need this,” he added.
“What do you mean?” Scorpius asked quietly. His eyes found Rose across the table and he held her gaze, not blinking and not looking away. It was unnerving and despite what had happened between them, Rose did not like him looking at her so intimately. She found she couldn’t even muster a scowl, looking away instead to focus on the steaming mug of coffee sitting before her.
Louis pulled at his beard, his face harassed. “Frank can handle her because Frank is like her; I don’t know if you’re up for the task. She’s not as tough as she makes out, Scorpius.”
“You can stop now,” Rose told her cousin loudly. “I’m not about to break, Louis.”
“Just looking out for you,” Louis murmured.
“I appreciate it; I do,” Rose answered quietly, “but leave this to me, please.”
Scorpius swallowed and cleared his throat. “So what am I supposed to do?” The question was directed at Louis but Rose knew it was meant for her. She felt her cheeks heat, watching as Scorpius played absently with his coffee mug, turning it around in his hands. She tried not to remember how it felt to have him touch her but the feelings came anyway, making her suck in her breath as her face grew hot and her palms clammy.
Louis busied himself with his papers. “Be gentle.” It wasn’t a suggestion; it was a command, and Scorpius had no choice but to nod, especially when the bigger man added, “Or I won’t be.”
Rose rolled her eyes and wiped her hands on her shorts as her cousin stood up and walked away. She sat watching Scorpius watch her and sighed. “He won’t kill you and bury your remains in the jungle or anything.”
“Will you kill me and bury my remains in the jungle?”
“That remains to be seen,” she countered.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly after a moment of contemplative silence.
“I know. I’m sorry too.”
He raised an eyebrow. “What for?”
“Throwing myself at you. Louis is right – I do like attention, and I...”
His expression softened. “You don’t need to explain.”
She should have seen it for what it was – an attempt to be kind, to understand, but instead, she narrowed her eyes as something twisted deep inside her. “Get women throwing themselves at you all the time do you? Something you’re used to?”
Scorpius sighed crossly. “That isn’t what I meant and you know. Why do you have to be so difficult all the time?”
She tossed her head, ignoring his question. “I bet Lily never threw herself at you, or anybody for that matter,” Rose said sharply, the words escaping her before she had a chance to think. She sounded petulant and childish, she knew that, but she couldn’t help it.
Scorpius pulled at his hair and his face darkened. “I don’t understand you one bit, you know that don’t you? Whatever this thing is you have with Lily it has nothing to do with me, nothing at all. Work it out or get over it but leave me out of it, Rose. I’m sorry that last night was not what you wanted but -”
“It was,” she argued back, annoyed. “It was this morning that pissed me off; how you were thinking of her while you were with me.”
“I didn’t realise you’d be so bloody jealous,” he snapped.
Rose glared, her face heating against her will. “I am not jealous of her.”
“Then what is your problem? You can’t tell me honestly that you didn’t think about Frank at all last night or this morning? I’m used to people comparing me to someone else so don’t think you’ll hurt my feelings by telling the truth.”
They stared at one another, Scorpius’ words lingering hotly in the air between them until Rose sighed. There was a degree of hurt and pain in his voice that she knew she should acknowledge but she didn’t, not knowing how to be compassionate. “This is stupid. I’m going to work.”
He laughed bitterly. “Of course you are. Go and hide from your problems, Rose.”
She took a deep breath, calmly stood up, and then threw her coffee mug at his head. He ducked just in time, looking at her with a slightly frightened expression and wild eyes. “I might have let you touch me but don’t presume you know me,” she growled, giving him one final glare before storming away, her body on fire.
She collected her tools from Louis’ tent and made her way onto the dig site. With the cavern collapsed she had to abandon her own plans for the moment and do some general work. She groaned loudly, reaching up to rub at her head. There was still the issue of the curse or whatever it was that lurked in the dark under ground and she knew she needed Scorpius in order to figure it out. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw that he had left the dining tent and she felt a small pang of regret claw its way uninvited inside her.
It was not her fault that he made stupid assumptions and asked ridiculous questions.
Louis yelled at her to hurry up and she sighed, dumping her tools at the edge of the shallow trench he had dug. He looked at her critically and once satisfied she had put her mood aside for the moment, began barking orders.
“Get in here and start working. Luis seems to think that if this place was Patiti and your mess over there was part of a temple, there should be something like a sun gate, or even the foundations of a pyramid somewhere. I need you to start troweling back the area for me.”
“And what will you be doing while I’m slaving away?”
“Helping, you idiot,” Louis snapped. “Look, whatever is going on with Malfoy, I don’t care, but if he mucks up your work I’m sending him home, dark arts expert or not. You never got this hot-headed over Frank.”
“Whatever,” Rose mumbled, dropping gently to her knees and reaching for her tools. Louis grumbled something she couldn’t hear and put his back to her. Sighing, Rose began her work, keeping her movements light and delicate. It was hard – all she felt like doing was smashing something and she had to bite her lip and clench her fists to prevent herself throwing her trowel at Lysander when he came and offered to help.
“I could use a drink,” Rose said, forcing a cheery smile. The blonde man nodded and disappeared, back almost instantly with a mug of water which Rose made herself swallow. She hadn’t really been thirsty but she could understand Lysander’s frustration at feeling useless.
“Do you mind if I draw you while you work?” he asked, startling Rose, who blushed. Her first instinct was to tell him to bugger off and draw something pretty, but then she smiled and shrugged.
“Why not?” After all, if it was good enough for Lily...she scowled and turned her attention back to the faint outline of what she thought could be a foundation stone. Scorpius had been right – she needed to let it go and in truth, no matter how annoying her cousin was, Rose missed her at times. They used to be close, as children, but then, adolescence and petty fights and jealousy over boys happened. After the accident that left Rose scarred and Lily untouched and apparently untroubled, Rose could not look on her younger cousin the same again.
Scorpius appeared just before lunch, looking worried. Rose had taken a break and was sitting with Lysander at the fallen in entrance to the cavern containing the mask. Lysander was showing her the picture he had sketched and Rose felt the hair stand up on the back of her neck as Scorpius approached. She knew it was him without having to look: to stop herself glancing over her shoulder, she focused on watching Lysander’s quill as it moved over the page while he filled in details and sharpened edges.
“You’re good at that,” she remarked, and he grinned, telling her it would be finished soon, that he had enough to work with and if she didn’t need him he would go back to his tent and continue. She smiled and told him to go.
Once he had moved away she was more aware of Scorpius than ever. Some part of her wanted to turn around and apologise but another stronger, fiercer part was determined to ignore him, to make him suffer for her vulnerability.
“Rose...” Scorpius began but she tossed her head like a wild thing.
“Unless you have something marginally intelligent to say to me you can get lost.”
“I’m sorry,” he replied gently. She snorted, stood up and stalked away, stepping with precision into Louis’ trench. Her cousin looked up at her briefly and returned to his work as Rose squatted in the dirt. Scorpius followed, going to kneel outside the trench beside her. “Will you talk to me about this please?”
“Pass me that trowel,” she demanded. When he didn’t move, she glared at him. “Either pass me that trowel or get out of my sight, Malfoy.”
She watched him carefully, almost able to see the string as it snapped. Snatching up the trowel, he held it firmly in his hands, giving her glare for glare, before he thrust it at her violently. He climbed quickly to his feet, not waiting until she had closed her fingers around the instrument and strode away.
“Nice,” Louis said blankly in the silence that followed. “You’re so warm and caring, Rose. You should have been a Healer.”
Rose would not look at her cousin; she swallowed, blinking back the quick rush of emotion that swelled in her eyes. She was not going to cry, and she was definitely not going to cry over Scorpius bloody Malfoy.
She ate lunch on the site, sitting in the shade with Lysander, Louis and Juan. Pedro was with Luis, visiting their sister-site further in the jungle. Scorpius had not reappeared and Rose was grateful.
“What are you going to do about the mask?” Louis asked her and she shrugged, chewing and swallowing the last bites of her sandwich. “You will have to -”
“I know, talk to Malfoy,” Rose answered, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. A bird called nearby, and then another, and silence fell over the little group as they sat and listened to the jungle around them. “I wonder how Lorcan is doing with his dragon,” she mused, glancing in the direction of the river.
“Look out,” Louis muttered. Rose swung around in time to see Scorpius striding purposefully across the camp. “I think you’re about to face the wrath of the bookworm. Would you like to borrow my thesaurus so you can keep up?”
“I didn’t realise you could read, let alone read big words, Louis,” Rose snapped. Her cousin laughed but she ignored him. Her insides were burning at the look on Scorpius’ face – he looked furious, older and powerful and she realised that, despite everything, she had forgotten he was an accomplished wizard. Some part of her trembled a little and she felt her hand move towards her wand.
She waited, watching him with interest as he stopped in front of her. She had no idea what he was going to do.
“I need to talk to you,” he announced after a moment of hesitation where his eyes flickered around the small group gathered under the trees.
“Can it wait? I’m digesting.”
“Now, Rose.” He bent over, wrapped his fingers around her upper arm and hauled her to her feet with strength that surprised her, even though she knew he was no weakling. She gave a little shout of protest; Louis caught her eye and said nothing. Rose glowered at her cousin, then at Lysander and Juan, but no one came to her aid. Scorpius dragged her away, practically throwing her inside his tent, where she shook him off.
“Go to hell.”
He gave her the sort of look that would incinerate her if she wasn’t already burning inside. “Been there; it has a nice view of your cousin’s arse which, frankly, I am sick to death of kissing,” he retorted.
“Finally seen some sense then?”
“I don’t want to talk about Lily,” Scorpius said, exasperated.
“What do you want, Scorpius?” Rose asked, suddenly very tired.
He hesitated. “What was it you wrote, on my back?”
“That’s what you want? That’s all? Christ, all this drama,” she sighed.
“I want to know.” His eyes were fierce, intent on her face and she swallowed, nervous. He waited, watching her and she bit her lip, wondering if she really wanted to open up that much, because she knew once she told him, he would ask questions, or worse, pity her.
“’Thank you for not running’,” she answered eventually, her voice low. He frowned and she sighed and lifted her top so he could see the long, snaking scar disappearing under the waistband of her shorts. His frown deepened and then comprehension dawned and his face collapsed into an expression of sympathy.
She shrugged. “It’s not that bad; I’ve had one, maybe two guys freak out about it. It’s a real mood-killer at times. Frank...has never shown any revulsion or fear. That’s...anyway, thank you.”
“It must have hurt,” Scorpius said softly.
“It was excruciating – I can’t think of anything in the world that would hurt as much, except perhaps the Cruciatus curse.” She paused, watching him closely. “I know you want to ask, so just go ahead.”
“Will you tell me how it happened?”
Anger imposed itself across her face so swiftly it felt like she’d put on a mask. “Ask Lily.”
“Yes, Lily,” Rose snapped, and then sighed. “Sorry. I know you don’t want to talk about her but she is involved in this whether we like it or not.” She pulled at her hair, moving to sit on his bed, noticing absently that it was neatly made. “We were young; kids really, I was not long out of Hogwarts and Lily was starting her final year. We’d gone on holidays, all the cousins, to an island in Greece. It was supposed to be this great vacation, a bonding experience of sorts – well, as much as lying around and tanning can be considered bonding – and it was, for a while but then...”
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want,” Scorpius said quietly, and Rose shook her head, curling her legs beneath her and taking a deep breath.
“James had this thing about exploring – he’d heard about some caves on an island nearby that were supposed to be haunted or cursed or filled with treasure or something so being the Potter-Weasley’s, we decided to check it out. We hired a boat from some old muggle man who called us idiots and made a bet with Louis that we wouldn’t all come back. We laughed, ignored his warning and set out.” Rose paused, closing her eyes briefly, seeing again in her mind the sparkling water of the Aegean Sea and the salt that crusted her skin. She heard the birds calling as they circled overhead and heard the slap of the water against the side of the boat. She opened her eyes, finding Scorpius looking at her patiently, his forehead creased. “We found the caves,” Rose went on softly. “And the creature that guarded them.” She smiled bitterly. “You’re smart, Malfoy. Can you guess what it was?”
“A manticore,” he breathed, sinking into a seat near his writing table. “Christ, Rose.”
She said nothing, letting him digest the information.
“Am I alive? I don’t know to be honest. All I remember is the manticore swishing its tail and then, nothing. Blackness. I woke up in agony on the deck of the boat, everyone in hysterics around me. It felt like I’d been burnt. I can still feel it, everyday. Maybe that’s why I’m such a cow all the time – I’m in pain, Scorpius. Uncle Bill can’t understand it either – his only guess was that the manticore released a curse or some magic not of its own making. Cursed scars, as you know, never fade and never completely heal,” Rose answered, taking a deep breath. “So now you know.”
“What does Lily have to do with it?”
Rose sighed. “According to James, when the manticore appeared Lily freaked out and pushed me in front of her. She used me as a shield and she has never once apologised for it,” she answered quietly. Scorpius was pale, his eyes wide and she smiled bitterly. “I understand that she was scared – we were all scared – and it could have been anyone. It just happened that I was standing closet to her. I’d like to say she ruined my life but I know it isn’t true. I don’t know why I hate her so much – I don’t really. I don’t wish that it was her that got hurt; I just wish she had said sorry.”
“Then,” Rose continued, taking a deep breath, “I got pregnant. Lily screamed at me for giving Will to Victoire and Teddy. I have never seen her like that – she called me horrible names, said I was unfit to be a mother. I laughed and said she was right, which was the primary reason I was giving my son up.”
“Why would she be so angry with you?” Scorpius muttered. Rose gave him a long look, studying him, before she sighed lightly.
“Lily can’t have children, and I am assuming by the look on your face she never told you that,” Rose answered neutrally. “She doted on Will and I was actually worried she’d do something stupid, like kidnap him or something. She even offered to be his mother. Anyway, she didn’t speak to me for years. I’m not exaggerating either, Scorpius. Family dinners were a nightmare, birthdays a strained occasion so I...buried myself in the jungle, or the desert, or wherever I could. It was easier to be away from her, from the whole family. Lily has never let me forget what I did and she has never let me explain. I think she felt betrayed in some way.”
Scorpius let out a breath, climbing off his chair and moving to sit by Rose on the bed. “She never told me any of this. I am so sorry.”
“You don’t need to apologise,” Rose said, letting him put his hand over hers. “And I’m not even sure what I want from Lily. I miss her – she’s my family, but...she hates me.”
“You need to talk to her,” Scorpius said gently. “I’ll help, if you want.”
Rose laughed. “That would be an interesting conversation, to say the least. Even though she may or may not have dumped you she will hate me even more for sleeping with you.”
He sighed, pulling a hand through his messy hair. “I’ll tell her. Maybe she’ll hate me more?”
“Doubtful,” Rose smiled sadly. Scorpius was looking at her intently, his gaze thoughtful and she felt herself grow nervous. “What?”
“Nothing, I just wondered...”
“What happens now?” she asked, indicating their joined hands. He smiled and nodded and she sighed. “I don’t know. What do you want? And what about Lily?”
“I’ll write to her – god that’s terrible but I don’t want to wait until I get home to tell her,” he said softly. “And as to what I want? I don’t know exactly, Rose. There is something about you, something that is so honest and real and I think I need that, regardless of what Louis says.”
She looked at him seriously, biting back on her first instinct to laugh at his words. “I’m a malfunctioning human being at times, Scorpius. I suffer from nightmares and mood swings. I’m a cow, I’m rude and I treat people like dirt, and -”
He silenced her with a kiss and when he pulled away, she smiled shyly. “One step at a time,” he told her, kissing her again. His fingers lingered on her ribs, where her scar was and Rose shivered. “Now go back to work or Louis will be cross.”
“Oh! We need to work this curse out,” she said, jumping up excitedly. “It was being cursed that made me want to be a Curse Breaker, you know,” she added, grabbing his hand and hauling him to his feet.
“You were trying to understand what happened to you,” Scorpius answered quietly. “That’s natural.”
She nodded. “That’s what Uncle Bill said but I don’t know if that’s true. I kind of enjoy danger.”
“I would never have guessed that,” he replied with mild sarcasm which she ignored, dragging him from the tent and into the bright glare of the world.