I appeared in the middle of the gravel path, the wrought iron gate just metres ahead of me, the imposing façade of the manor beyond that.
I walked forward, my bag slung across my shoulder. The gates let me pass right through them, recognizing me and my magic and allowing me access.
The manor doors swung open in a similar manner, a manner I had always found slightly creepy. Most magical dwellings had functions like that, but it still seemed eerie to me as my parents’ hadn’t implemented anything of the sort.
I headed upstairs to the floor that I knew Scorpius’ bedroom was on. I wasn’t sure how I knew he was in his bedroom, I could easily have been wrong, but something was guiding me there.
His door was ajar, so I nudged it open with my foot, revealing Scorpius lying on his back, staring at the ceiling with his hands behind his head. His head swung to the side, to face me as the door swung open and the movement caught his eye.
“Rose?” he asked softly, incredulously.
I just stood there, staring at him. The bag fell off my shoulder, landing with a thud on his bedroom floor. Tears pricked my eyes, and I knew I looked pathetic, but I couldn’t help it.
I was scared, I was tired, I was confused. I shouldn’t have feelings for him, but I did. I knew he was better off without me, yet here I was. We’d been chasing a ring of magical traders, only to have them chase us back.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and that was quite possibly the scariest thought of them all.
Scorpius didn’t ask what happened, as I’d expected him to. He was, after all, a reporter, and naturally curious. He simply stood up, and moved towards me.
“Oh, Rose,” he uttered softly, his tone careful, and a shiver ran through my body as my name crossed his lips.
He moved forward, his arms wrapping around my body, my head resting against his chest as he placed his chin on top of my head. He didn’t ask, he didn’t want an explanation. He simply let my tears soak his shirt, and then cradled me to his chest. We moved to the bed, and he continued to comfort me, cradling me against him.
It was nothing more than that. It was simply a tender moment. I knew, however, that he must have some sort of feelings behind his actions. He knew me better than anyone did, and he was being kind. Kinder than was necessary.
Part of me wanted to test the water and see if he did still love me, whilst the rest of me was stubborn and resolute, believing that he was better without me.
Whatever the truth was, it was a matter for another day. Tonight I’d been through a lot, and I simply cried. Months’ worth of tears came out, months’ worth of emotions I’d been blocking were finally being dealt with.
I cried, and he held me. It was simple, and it worked. It was nice to having something simple for once.
Not that it would remain simple for long, of course.
I woke up before Scorpius did, and it took me a few moments to remember the events of the previous night. Slowly, his arm around me registered in my mind, as did the fact that I was lying on his bed, lying with him on his bed, and that I was still wearing my clothes from my date last night.
Once that thought popped into my head, the memories from the date itself came flooding back, and I cringed. That was followed with the break in at the school and at my house, and I was filled with the overwhelming feeling of dread.
More pressing than that at the present time, however, was my desire to pee. I turned my head slightly to observe Scorpius. From what I could tell, he was sound asleep. His hair was hanging on his forehead, and I resisted the urge to brush it back.
I couldn’t have such thoughts, and I most certainly could not act on them.
Shaking myself slightly to clear my head and focus on the task at hand, I slowly started moving, sliding to the edge of the bed and out from under his arm.
Thankfully we’d falled asleep on top of the bedcovers, which made my escape a lot easier. I managed it without incident, and left a sleeping Scorpius there unawares as I snuck off to the bathroom down the hall.
As soon as I’d completed that task, however, my body decided it wanted me to take another trip, this time to the kitchen. My stomach rumbled, and I decided to obey it. Besides, if Scorpius woke up, I wouldn’t be there to suffer through the awkward conversation that was just waiting to happen.
I’d been pathetic last night. He still had no idea why I’d shown up here, bawling my eyes out, but I knew I had to give him some sort of explanation. It affected him too, in a way. If the traders found out he was doing an article on them, which they quite easily could, especially since they’d been in my house and found god knows what, he’d be on their list as well.
I walked quietly downstairs, finding my way to the kitchen mostly by luck. I’d been here a few times over the years, but not for quite a while, and certainly not in the kitchen most of the time. I’d never stayed the night, though to be fair, I hadn’t meant to this time either.
I could only imagine what Miranda would say if she could see me now. As the thought of Miranda crossed my mind, I wondered how the set up date for her and Albus that Scorpius and I had planned had worked out. I would have to go see her today, as I had no plans of staying with Scorpius for the next few days until the Aurors were done.
Deciding that I’d head off to Miranda’s after a quick breakfast and a chat with Scorpius, I entered the kitchen to find two people already inside it.
Two people that made this situation very, very awkward.
“Rose Weasley?” Astoria Malfoy said, staring at me with her eyes wide as her omelette lay forgotten on her plate.
Draco Malfoy was gaping at me from over his cup of coffee, and I could feel my cheeks redden.
I’d gotten on quite well with the Malfoy’s in the past, they were lovely people. Astoria especially was warm and nice, according to my mother she’d been the one to soften Draco out.
“Er…good morning?” I said pathetically, trying to look as innocent as possible.
I could tell exactly what they were thinking, but I couldn’t seem to form the words to set them straight. I just stood there, blinking like a gormless idiot.
“Er, Rose, what are you doing here?” Astoria eventually managed to say, and I could see she was trying to not be judgemental.
I had to give her credit for that.
I hesitated. How on earth did I explain my current predicament in a simple, quick way? I had no idea.
Thankfully, my knight in shining armour appeared to save the day.
Sort of, anyway.
“Rose had a bad night, mother, and she needed someone to talk to. She slept in the guest room.”
I turned to find Scorpius, who’d clearly just changed out of his clothes from yesterday, as, like me, he’d slept in them, standing in the doorway, smiling slightly.
Well, he’d just done a fabulous job at saving my arse.
“Y-yeah,” I stuttered, shooting Scorpius a quizzical glance before quickly turning back to his parents.
He knew as well as I did that I hadn’t slept in the guest room, but I suppose it was the easier solution.
Scorpius, being the smooth-talking Slytherin that he is, managed to talk me out of my sticky situation, and the two of us headed back upstairs after some food.
“I…owe you an explanation,” I said as soon as the door to his bedroom swung shut behind us.
He turned to face me, but didn’t say anything. I could see on his face that he was waiting for an explanation, he knew it was inevitable, just as much as I did.
“I…last night, when I told you I had things to do, I had a date,” I found myself saying, though I hadn’t consciously decided to tell him about that part of the evening.
I could have told the story and explained my actions without mentioning it, but for some reason, it slipped out.
I saw his face tighten as I mentioned that, but I continued on and refused to let myself analyse his reaction to my admission.
“It was shit, frankly, but that’s not the point. He’s one of the teachers, and we got called to the school in the middle of the date because there was a break in.”
I started pacing around his room, as he stood like a statue in the middle of it.
“It was the traders, I’m sure of it. They didn’t take anything, but they rifled through the school’s records and found information on me, and Sophia.” I paused, and caught sight of a furrow between his eyebrows.
“Sophia’s the kid who overheard them,” I clarified, and I saw his confused expression clear.
I continued on.
“They went through the classroom I work in as well, which only proves my theory that they’ve been watching me. I wasn’t too worried at that point, because it was nothing personal. I already knew they knew about me at the school.”
I paused slightly, gathering my resolve before I kept going.
“When I got home, however…they’d broken in there.”
I heard Scorpius gasp at that, and I started to shake slightly.
“They know where I live. I already knew that…but I didn’t realise what it meant. They took anything I had on them, Scorpius, but I don’t know why they didn’t lay a trap for me. I’m scared. I think they’ll be waiting for me, and that’s why I wasn’t there. Dad was there with the Aurors, they’re trying to do something but….it’s just so…” I trailed off, turning to look at Scorpius, my gaze full of desperation and hopelessness.
Like he had last night, Scorpius moved to stand in front of me. This time his face was full of understanding, and he sighed.
“It’ll be alright,” he said softly, though both of us knew if quite possibly wouldn’t be.
“I don’t know what to do,” I said quietly, realising as I did so that that statement encompassed many things.
I didn’t know what to do about the traders, about my house, which was now being searched by the Aurors, about my job, about that disastrous date, about Scorpius, about my future.
In short, I was an indecisive mess.
“I’m here,” Scorpius said in response to that, and I smiled slightly.
Whilst that wasn’t a particularly helpful thing to say, it was all he could truthfully offer, and I appreciated him for that.
“Thank you,” I replied, and we stood in silence in his bedroom.
It wasn’t an awkward silence like it sometimes was, or like it had been for most of seventh year. No, it was a comfortable silence, and spoke of how much we both knew about each other, and the level of understanding we had about each other.
We knew when to be silent, and at that moment, that was all I could really ask for.
I headed out to Miranda’s house shortly after lunchtime, and I decided right off that I wasn’t going to tell her about the exchange between Scorpius and myself. I’d decided to tell her I spent the night at my parent’s house, and then ask to stay with her.
I couldn’t stay at Malfoy Manor any longer, it was just wrong.
I knocked on Miranda’s door, my bag once again slung over my shoulder. It was strange, I was sort of homeless at the moment.
If Miranda said no I could head to my parent’s house, and thinking back, it was strange that my father hadn’t offered it.
Though I suppose he didn’t want me to be around there, since he’d be working on the case a lot and there’d be a lot of reminders about it. And it would be the first place the traders would go if they wanted to find me, I suppose.
Miranda’s was definitely the better option.
“Hello?” she said rather groggily, pulling the door open and blinking at me.
“Rose?” she said as soon as her eyes had focused on me.
Without another word, she stood aside, clearly having just woken up, and let me in.
“What are you doing here?” she mumbled sleepily as we wandered down her hallway, heading to the kitchen.
“D’you mind if I crash here a few nights?” I asked straight out, before remembering that she didn’t know why I needed to crash at her house.
“What?” she said, blinking at me as the kettle started boiling behind her.
“I…errr…I need to stay here a few nights. There’s a bit of a situation,” I said, and then launched into the full explanation.
I watched as her face changed from confused to incredulous to concerned, and finally to what seemed like a guilty expression.
That didn’t bode well.
“Rose, I’m so sorry, but-“ Miranda started, only to be cut off suddenly by the arrival of someone else in her kitchen.
A shirtless someone else. A male, shirtless someone else.
Who I most definitely did not expect to find in Miranda’s house.
“Albus?” I gasped, staring at my cousin like a gormless idiot, my jaw dropping open.
“Rose?” he said, clearly not expecting to see me either.
I could see Miranda growing redder and redder, as both Albus and I swung our heads simultaneously to stare at her. She gulped, the full weight of an explanation now resting on her shoulders.
Good start Miranda, really good start. I quirked an eyebrow at her, a smile tugging at my lips. Now that the shock had worn off, I had a fair idea why Albus was at her house (and shirtless), and it made me happy. It had certainly been a long time coming.
“Let me guess, Albus spent the night?” I said with a suggestive wink.
I saw Albus glare at me out of the corner of his eye for that, but I ignored him.
“Yeah,” Albus confirmed with a shrug, moving now to the fridge to grab a glass of pumpkin juice.
Albus and I both relaxed, the awkward atmosphere in the room abating slightly. Miranda, however, hadn’t seemed to have moved at all.
“Kettle’s boiled, Miranda," I said, watching her carefully as she was still, her cheeks quite red.
As soon as I said that, however, she started, and rushed to deal with the kettle.
“So, I guess this is why you don’t want me staying here?” I concluded, gesturing to Albus as I did so.
“Well…” Miranda said, looking sideways at Albus before turning back to face me.
“You can…I mean, there’s the couch…but…” she trailed off awkwardly, and I smiled sympathetically.
Miranda was too nice a person to say it straight to my face – she didn’t want me here, but she’d have me if I had nowhere else to go.
“It’s alright. I’ll head to my parent’s house or something,” I said lamely, though I had no intention of doing that.
Being around my mother at such a time would kill both my stress levels and hers. By now she’d know about the situation with the traders and the break-ins from Dad, and I was certain she’d all but put me on house arrest if I went near here.
I stayed with Miranda and Albus for another hour, as they told me what had happened the previous night. I was happy for them, I really was. They seemed to work well together, and were in the happy, delirious ‘start of a relationship’ phase.
Eventually, however, I knew I had to head off and decide where I was going to stay the night. The thought of going to my parent’s house made me shudder, and the Leaky Cauldron wasn’t any safer than staying at my own house.
With a sigh, I apparated over to Malfoy Manor. I knew the Malfoy’s had a summer house (yes, they had two houses, lucky people) out in the country, and decided that I could at least ask Scorpius if I could stay there.
It was worth a shot anyway.
“Scorpius?” I called out into the empty entrance hall, hoping that he was somewhere nearby so I didn’t have to search through the massive house.
“Rose?” he answered, popping out of one of the adjacent rooms to the hall.
“What are you doing back here?” he said, casting a quick glance to the bag that was once again on my shoulder.
“Miranda…well, let’s just say she has a certain friend of ours sleeping over at her place,” I said with a grin.
Scorpius stared at me blankly for a few seconds in shock, before laughing and moving to take my bag off my shoulder. The gesture, for him, was a natural one, and he took it and carried it with ease as he lead me to his room once more. For me, on the other hand, I froze up slightly as I watched him do something so full of comfort and affection. It probably didn’t mean anything in his mind, but in mine, it was monumental.
I was delusional, though. After what I’d done to him, there was no way he’d have any speck of feelings for me anymore.
“I’m glad they’ve finally come to their senses. Took them long enough,” Scorpius said lightly as we made our way down the corridor.
“Though that does give you a bit of a problem,” he said thoughtfully, casting me a glance back over his shoulder.
I smiled hesitantly.
“Yeah…about that…” I started, and then proceeded to tell him my idea about the summer house as we entered his room.
He kicked the door shut with his foot behind him, and dumped my bag on the floor next to his bed.
Scorpius didn’t speak immediately after I finished telling him my idea, instead he pondered it. I knew him well enough to recognize his ‘thinking’ expression, so I stayed silent and let him do so.
“The summer house is probably your best bet,” he said slowly, as he began pacing, another marker for him being deep in thought.
“I want to come with you,” he said after a moment’s silence, his head turning swiftly to meet mine.
My eyes snapped up to meet his.
“Why?” I asked immediately, my brown furrowed slightly.
“It’s my story, isn’t it? They’ll be after me as well, you already realised that. Besides, don’t you want company?” he said with his characteristic smirk.
I stared at him, knowing I couldn’t deny him this. Hell, I probably couldn’t deny him anything except a relationship. Even then I’d only been denying him it because deep done, it wasn’t something he wanted or needed. It was in his best interests.
I sighed, shrugging.
“Fine. Guess you better start packing.”
And just like that, I was preparing to stay in a holiday house with Scorpius Malfoy. Admittedly we’d be leaving each day to go to work, though I had no idea how that was going to pan out in my case. Still, we’d be living in the same house for the first time since Hogwarts, and back then we had been in separate dormitories.
This was new, and considering me newfound emotions, rather frightening. I had to be sure I could keep myself in check.
“I’ll just need to pay Dad a visit at the Ministry first, I don’t know what he’ll want me to do about work,” I said, realising that it was exactly what I had to do.
I knew Dad would be at the Ministry, he always was when he had a case like this one.
Scorpius nodded, and I apparated away with a promise to return as quickly as I could. Scorpius, whilst I was at the Ministry, was going to tell his parents of the plan and pack. Then, we’d be off.
“You can’t go back there, Rosie,” Dad said, his back towards me as he shuffled with papers on his desk.
I blinked at him. Right, so now apparently it was too dangerous for me to work? I had a feeling this was more of Dad being overprotective than anything. The only reason I’d actually agreed to get out of my house was I knew the Aurors were looking at it, and I didn’t particularly want to sleep with my wand under my pillow just in case. At work, however, I was surrounded by Muggles. Surely the traders weren’t that stupid.
“Dad, I’m surrounded by Muggles all day long. Do you really think they are going to try and attack me there? Surely they’re not that stupid, or that desperate. If I had anything important to share on them, you would already know it, and they’d already know because they would have seen the ramifications. The one thing I had they already took.”
Dad slowly turned around, and I could see an exasperated look on his face.
“Rose…” he started, his voice sounding weary.
“Dad, I’m a grown woman,” I said before he could continue.
“I’m quite fine with working there and apparating off home from a side street, that’s what I did initially. I highly doubt they’re going to be lying in wait for me, it doesn’t seem practical. They have bigger issues to deal with, as you know. If I was you, I’d try and work out if, and when they’re going to try and retrieve that object you have in your custody, and if they’ll try to break their buddy out of Azkaban,” I said seriously, meaning every word. They didn’t need to waste time on me.
Dad looked at me for the longest while, not saying anything. He was thinking.
“Just don’t do anything stupid, Rose,” he said solemnly.
He looked into my eyes, and I knew he half expected me to run off and try and find the traders myself. A year ago, I would have. Hell, I’d gone after them when Sophia came to me. Not intentionally, I’d sort of walked into the situation both times I’d fought them, but still, I could have apparated away.
“I won’t,” I replied, and I did mean it. I really did.