Chapter 13 : Forming a Truce
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“Can we talk?” he repeated. He was already fidgeting a little, and when she didn’t answer him immediately, he scratched the back of his neck with the hand not clutching his bag so tightly his knuckles were white.
He certainly didn’t see to be preparing to jinx her; she could see his wand sticking out of his bag, and it couldn’t have seemed any further from his mind. “Sure, I guess.” She dug her fingernails into her palms, struggling to remain calm. The memory of her dream the night before was roaring back, which made looking at him a little awkward. He didn’t seem to notice her discomfort, though - either she was succeeding at hiding it, or he had more than enough concerns of his own.
The day was clear and cool without being uncomfortable. When she fell into step with him, she took a deep breath and relaxed despite herself; it was difficult to be too tense about anything on a day like today.
“So what’s up?” she asked him after they’d walked in silence for a minute. He seemed to be struggling for words, and she cocked her head to the side. “I thought you wanted to talk. Why didn’t you practice in a mirror first, if you were so nervous?”
“I’m sorry I put you in the Hospital Wing,” he blurted out. “That really wasn’t my intention. I think I must have messed up the potion a little.”
Scorpius looked genuinely remorseful, and Rose couldn’t help but flash back to his apology the week before - for someone who said he didn’t like her, Scorpius was putting an awful lot of energy into making her not hate him.
“I thought you were a potions genius,” she said. “I didn’t think you were cable of mistakes.”
His glare made her bite back any further jibes. “I’m trying to apologize, you know. Even you’re not dense enough to miss that, are you?” She bristled, and he sighed and held up his hands. “Merlin, Rose, I’m trying to make peace.”
“Easy for you to say when you’ve gotten the last word.”
He snorted. “I’ll give you that what I did was worse, considering you ended up in the Hospital Wing, but I’m pretty sure you’ll have the last word - is this hair ever going to fade?”
Rose felt a smile spread across her lips. “It’s started to. Give it another couple weeks.”
“Great.” Scorpius stopped walking and stretched his arms above his head. As the sunlight fell on his face, Rose felt a strange twinge in her stomach and realized with a start that even with his ridiculous hair, Scorpius Malfoy really was quite handsome.
“Why are you trying to make peace, anyway?” she asked, trying to refocus on the matter at hand. It was difficult; the way his shirt fit his chest made her wonder what he looked like without the shirt at all, and she wasn’t sure why she hadn’t really thought about it before this year.
He sighed. “I don’t know. I guess I’m tired of lectures from my best friend, and I know that I can’t really beat you if we get into a prank war - you’ve got plenty of cousins to help you out, and my cousins like the rules. Noah and Andrew are prefects, and Evy’s the Head Girl. I won’t get their help anytime soon, and Albus certainly isn’t going to back me up.”
Given his conversation with Noah in the library that she’d eavesdropped on, Rose doubted that Scorpius’s motivation was limited to that. She wasn’t sure whether that was really something she should be bringing up right now, but she was too curious to exercise better restraint. “Those are your only reasons for wanting a truce?”
The slight tinge that appeared on his cheeks told her what she needed to know. “What other reason could I have?”
Rose stepped a little closer to him. She could hear him swallow now. “I don’t know,” she said, trailing one finger lightly down his cheek. “You tell me.”
His breath was definitely coming a little quicker now; the shade from the trees made the rise and fall of his chest easy to spot. When she glanced down, she saw that he had his hands locked firmly behind his back. He seemed to be at a loss for words.
Rose leaned up to brush her lips across his cheek. “I’m okay with a truce,” she told him, her voice so soft he had to strain to hear it. “You should get to class, though. You must be late.”
“Well, I’m okay with that,” he breathed. “It’s worth a detention.”
She was seized with a very strong desire to put her arms around his neck and kiss him - a real kiss, not just a kiss on his cheek. This urge, however, was one she managed to quell - she had a feeling that it could have far more lasting consequences than the uncertainties she’d pushed to the back of her mind thus far. Rose managed to force herself to take a step back.
“I’m okay with a truce,” she repeated, this time in a more normal tone.
Though the red on his cheeks had deepened, Scorpius had a small smirk spreading across his mouth. “I don’t think I’m the only one with ulterior motives,” he told her.
This time it was Rose’s turn to feel her cheeks get warm. “I’ll see you later.”
He laughed as she brushed by him. “Yeah, you will. Count on it.”
Rose’s concentration for the rest of the day was shot, and when she went downstairs for dinner, she found herself glancing over at the Slytherin table several times over the course of the meal. To her irritation, Scorpius didn’t seem to be aware of her existence; he was deep in conversation with Noah and another Slytherin in their year named Claire. Worse, Rose caught him laughing at things Claire had said twice, and she was disturbed to find a hint of jealousy at his attention toward the other girl.
The irritation didn’t dissipate as the night wore on, and after snapping at her friends several times, she decided to retire early. She knew it probably wasn’t strictly fair, but as she drifted off to sleep, she was feeling considerable animosity toward Scorpius, truce or no truce. Who was he to throw her emotions into such a state of disarray?
She was in the library the next day trying to find a book when she heard Scorpius’s voice behind her. “Hey.”
Ignoring both the leap in her stomach and the part of her that was a little disgusted with her ability to reliably recognize his voice from one short word, she shot a glance over her shoulder. “Are you following me around now?”
He frowned. “Rose, I’ve been over by the windows with Claire since after breakfast. I saw you come in.”
Embarrassment that she’d somehow managed to not notice him warred with a sudden strike of jealousy. That was the second time in as many days that she’d found herself feeling that way about Scorpius Malfoy, and she found it quite as disturbing as she had the night before. “Oh.”
He eyed her. “Are you all right? You look a little red.” He was smiling again, and she fought the urge to groan. She was starting to feel like he had the upper hand, and she didn’t like it at all.
“I’m fine. I just got hit by a bludger during practice this morning. It’s still sore.” She was seized with a sudden inspiration and pulled down the neck of her shirt to show him the blossoming bruise on her shoulder. When she looked up, Scorpius had a little frown on his face. “What’s wrong?”
Scorpius looked up at the ceiling for a moment before lowering his gaze again, reminding her distinctly of Albus, which in its own way was even more disarming. “That’s your idea of fun?”
Rose had to work to keep herself from smirking at her success. “Yep. Want to kiss it to make it all better?” As soon as she said that, she wanted to kick herself. When he opened his mouth, she added quickly, “I was joking.”
“Too bad,” he said.
Rose immediately felt her face get hotter, and she yanked the neck of her shirt back up, inadvertently smacking the bruise in the process. Her eyes watered at the sharp pain, and she bit her lip to keep from cursing.
‘You should go to the hospital wing,” she heard Scorpius say, and she looked up at him. Through the tears, she could see that a crease had appeared in his forehead.
“I’m fine,” she said through gritted teeth. “It’s just a bruise.” He opened his mouth, and she snapped, “Did you want something?” She dragged her sleeve across her eyes. When she looked back at him, he’d turned away from her and started scanning the shelves. He didn’t answer her, so she added, “I didn’t know you took Arithmancy.”
He glanced back at her. “I don’t,” he said mildly. “Noah asked me to pick up a book for him.”
“Oh.” Rose sighed. She wasn’t sure what she wanted just now, but she did know that she didn’t really want to fall back to their old antagonism. “Look, I’m sorry. I just…” She trailed off and looked up at the ceiling. “I had a rough night, and practice this morning was hard.”
As a result of her irritation with everyone around her the night before and considerable tossing and turning throughout the night, she hadn’t been quite as focused at Quidditch practice as she’d really needed to be, which had led to several painful encounters with bludgers that under normal circumstances she’d have had no trouble dodging and enough dropped quaffles that James had eventually lost his patience and yelled at her.
Scorpius was studying her carefully. For a moment, she thought he was going to make a smart comment, but instead he asked, a little awkwardly, “Er— do you want a hug, or something?”
Her eyebrows shot up in surprise and she actually took an involuntary step back, catching her foot in the strap of her bag. “Oh, hell,” she muttered as she felt herself fall backwards. Her initial instinct was to grab a shelf to catch herself, but she managed to stop herself; she knew that the shelves were not quite as sturdy as they appeared, and the very last thing she needed was old, heavy books cascading down on top of her.
Hitting the ground hurt exactly as much as she’d thought it would, given the large bruise spreading across the back of her thigh, and she felt her eyes water again. She quickly wiped her sleeve across them as Scorpius knelt down.
“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to surprise you into falling down. That’s just always what my cousin Johanna says when somebody’s stressed, and, well, with the truce and all…” He offered her a hand. “Don’t worry. I won’t offer again.”
Rose stared at him for a few heartbeats before placing her hand in his and allowing him to help her up. “You’re very strange.” She studied his face, and he shifted uncomfortably. “Yes.”
“Yes, I want a hug.” Rose could feel her ears starting to burn, but thankfully, her very messy windswept hair was concealing them from view.
“Oh.” Scorpius stepped forward and gingerly placed his arms around her, as though he was half-expecting her to pull out her wand and jinx him instead. She rested her head on his shoulder, and after a moment, his grip tightened.
When they parted, Rose was very sure that more than her ears were red, though she could take solace in the fact that Scorpius was blushing so furiously it looked almost as though he had a sunburn. Before she could stop herself, she let out a loud giggle.
He looked rather insulted, so she hastened to say, “Sorry. It’s just your hair.” The orange was practically glowing in the sunlight streaming through the window.
He made a face. “So next time, don’t turn it red. When did you say it was going to get back to my normal color?”
Rose shrugged. “I don’t know, I didn’t have anything to do with it, remember?” He rolled his eyes, and she smiled. “Is there anything in particular you wanted, or did you just come over here to make me trip over myself so you could hug me while my defenses were down?”
Scorpius let out a snort and leaned against a bookshelf. It shook slightly before stabilizing. “Yeah, that’s it. Genius plan, right?”
It was really very strange. The more time she actually spent talking to Scorpius, rather than just sniping at him, the more she was discovering that he actually wasn’t a terrible person to spend time with. In fact, sometimes he was downright fun.
How she’d gone four years without realizing that was beyond her, although at this point she was really beginning to think that he was so strange and complicated that it had to be his fault.
A girl appeared at the end of the aisle. “Scorpius, I’m going back down to the Common Room. I left your books on the table.” She stared down at them for another moment and spat, “Have a great time,” before turning on her heel and disappearing from view.
Rose stared after her, not sure what had just happened. Scorpius, on the other hand, groaned and let his head fall against the bookshelf.
“What was that?” Rose asked him.
“That was Claire. She’s…” He paused for a moment, trying to find the words. “She’s pissed off at me for the truce thing, and - other things. I’m sure I’ll hear all about it later.”
Rose spun around. “What, is she—”
Her opinion of him didn’t even have time to plummet before his head snapped back up and he said, very vehemently, “No!” Someone several aisles over made a disgusted sound, and he lowered his voice. “God, no. She’s just annoyed because she really, really doesn’t like you, and…”
He trailed off, and Rose prompted him. “And?” Her heart was thudding in her chest, and despite everything that had happened recently, she was still surprised to find how much she cared about his answer.
Scorpius sighed. “And I was the only one of her friends who felt as strongly about it as she did. She’s been suspecting that I’ve gone over to the dark side since Albus started lecturing me, and my disappearing on her to come talk to you just now probably didn’t help.”
A strong sense of relief that she found deeply disconcerting washed over Rose. “So she’s not…”
“No,” he said feelingly. “Definitely not. Claire can be a real bitch sometimes.”
Rose knew that her entire face was glowing at this point. She wouldn’t have been surprised to find her blush spreading across her body. “And she doesn’t…”
“No,” Scorpius repeated. “Noah actually thinks that she’s got her eyes on Albus. I don’t know if he’s right, but if he is, that’ll be good for a laugh.”
“Albus can’t go out with a Slytherin,” Rose said before she could stop herself, and winced as soon as she’d processed who she’d said that to.
Thankfully, when she looked over at Scorpius, he looked more amused than anything. “Not with any of the ones in our year, anyway,” he said. “They’re all trolls or way too high-strung for him, and I’m pretty sure that he’s straight, whatever else is wrong with him when it comes to girls.” Rose gave him a curious look, and he grinned. “You never heard about Gretchen Creevey?” She shook her head, and he snorted. “In February, Gretchen cornered him in the library and asked him out. He stumbled over his words for a bit and ended up deciding on, “Fifteen is too young to be going out.”
Rose stared at him. “You’re joking.”
He shook his head and pointed down the aisle to the shelf closest to the windows. “It was right over there.”
Rose cast her mind around. She couldn’t remember Albus mentioning that to her, but even for something that embarrassed him, that was a bit odd. “When in February?” she asked.
Scorpius screwed his face up as he thought. “The day you started going out with Julian Fairbourne,” he said after a moment.
That explained why Albus hadn’t told her. She hadn’t seen him as much as usual in February, because he was too busy trying to avoid Julian. But… “How do you remember that?” Rose asked suspiciously, and was rewarded by a renewed hint of pink on his cheeks.
“Because Albus was annoyed about it,” he said calmly, but the tinge didn’t disappear. “He did that thing he does with his mouth whenever Julian comes up.”
Rose decided not to push it, though she had a feeling that Scorpius didn’t remember it because Albus had been annoyed about her going out with Julian.
Impulsively, she leaned in to press her lips against his very warm cheek. When he looked over at her, a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. The cat really seemed to be out of the bag now, but Rose couldn’t really find it in herself to care - her curiosity about what it would be like to really kiss Scorpius Malfoy was starting to become too overwhelming to ignore.
A/N: I love this ship so much. I hope you're enjoying it, too, wonderful readers! :) If you have the chance to leave a review, short or long, I'd love to hear your thoughts (especially since this chapter has definitely been switched around a bit). Either way, thank you so much for reading!
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