Rose still hadn’t quite decided what to do about Scorpius the next morning, so she ate breakfast in subdued silence. Albus sent her several curious looks, but to his credit, decided to wait until it was just the two of them and her brother Hugo heading toward the village to question her about it.
“Are you introducing Scorpius to everyone today?” he asked as a cool breeze rustled through their hair.
Hugo whirled around and looked at Rose expectantly.
“I don’t know,” she muttered, shoving her hands further into her pockets. “I like him, I do, I just... isn’t it a bit hasty?”
Albus snorted. “You mean, ‘Isn’t Dominique going to make fun of me for being hasty?’” Rose felt her face get hot, and Albus rolled his eyes. “Don’t worry about Dominique. Really.”
Rose looked away from him. She wasn’t really worried. It was just that Dominique often reacted to information without thinking about it, and Rose was a little worried that her cousin - who she really did love very much - would end up saying something that would put a dent in their relationship.
She was more than a little worried that Dominique would say something to offend Scorpius.
“Hey, there they are!” her brother exclaimed, jolting her back into the present. He was waving to the three figures standing together near the entrance to the village, and they waved back.
“Hey,” Victoire called out as they approached. “I feel like I haven’t seen all of you in ages.”
“It’s only been a few months,” her sister pointed out.
She smiled. “But so much can happen in a few months, can’t it?”
Dominique rolled her eyes at Rose. “They’re -” she started, gesturing to Victoire and Teddy, “ - getting married next summer. I suppose you’re going to have to get dressed up, too. They’ll have a time finding a color that suits all of us that isn’t black or white.”
“Really?” Hugo asked. When Victoire and Teddy nodded, he grinned.
Rose had never been to a wedding before, and while it wasn’t particularly surprising that Teddy and Victoire would decide to take that final step - they’d been living together for years - she wasn’t quite sure how to respond. She was happy for them, but she had absolutely no idea how to express it. She managed to stumble through a congratulations while Albus exchanged hugs with both of them.
“Wow, Teddy, now you really will be part of the family, and I don’t have to live with James.”
Teddy laughed. “Didn’t your father quash that idea every time James brought it up?”
Dominique caught Rose’s eye and seemed to understand her predicament. “I know,” she said dryly. “Can you believe we’re letting that rabble into the family?”
Rose grinned, and Victoire shoved her sister gently. “Shut up,” she said as Hugo threw his arms around her.
Dominique winked at Rose, who felt herself begin to relax. “Congratulations,” she said again. “Really, guys. That’s great.”
Victoire peered into the groups of students. “Where is my brother? Have you seen him yet today?”
Just as they were shaking their heads, however, Louis emerged from one of the groups approaching them.
“Louis!” Victoire and Dominique cried simultaneously.
He hugged them both and returned the greeting. Before he could say anything else, though, Victoire blurted out, “I’m getting married.”
His eyes widened. “Right now?”
“Yes, right now,” she said sarcastically. “No, you idiot, next summer.”
He looked at Teddy. “You mean he’s actually going to be my brother-in-law?”
Teddy rolled his eyes. “Hey, Lou. Nice to see you too.”
Louis grinned. “No, really, congratulations.” He hugged Victoire again. “I’m happy for you.”
This process was repeated three more times in the next fifteen minutes, with first the appearance of Lucy, then Lily, and finally James and Roxanne. By the time everyone had congratulated them and they’d begun to wander through the village, it was just after ten.
It was a perfectly enjoyable morning. Rose looked for an opening to mention Scorpius, but she couldn’t find a way to work him into the conversation - though admittedly, she wasn’t trying very hard - and her cousins were too distracted with talk of the upcoming wedding and generally catching up with Teddy, Victoire, and Dominique to do it for her.
By the time they entered the Three Broomsticks that afternoon, she’d essentially given up. She’d tell them next visit. As a group of them enjoyed their butterbeers (or, in Teddy’s and Dominique’s case, firewhiskey) at a table by one of the windows, Fred seemed to appear from nowhere and pulled a chair up to their table.
“Hey. I thought I might find you here. I can’t be away for too long, but Dad sends a few of their people to help on days that the Hogwarts students come in, so I ducked out for a bit. We’re making a killing. The new swamps are already sold out. What did you do with them?” Lily and Hugo grinned at each other over their butterbeers, and Fred laughed. “Well, keep doing it every time we have a new product.” He turned to Victoire and Teddy. “Sorry I couldn’t properly congratulate you earlier. That’s terrific, really. I’m happy for you both.” He laughed. “I can’t say I’m surprised, but I’m happy.”
As Teddy talked about his most recent trip to France, which had apparently involved the catacombs, Rose saw Charlotte Finnegan walk into the Three Broomsticks with Evelyn and Andrew Nott. She nudged Dominique and jerked her head toward them. Dominique looked over, stiffened a little, and turned determinately back to Teddy.
Charlotte, Evelyn, and Andrew sat down at a table near them. Lucy leaned over and began talking to Andrew about an astronomy assignment. After a moment of hesitation, Charlotte called over, “Hi, Dominique.”
Dominique turned. “Oh, I didn’t see you come in,” she said breezily. “How are you?”
Charlotte shrugged. “A little busy. You know how seventh year is. How’s training?” she asked, her gaze lingering on Dominique’s newly-shorn hair and the bandage on her arm.
Dominique laughed gaily and tucked her hair behind her ears. “Terrific. No regrets at all.” She noticed Charlotte looking at her arm, and gestured toward the bandage. “Got a burn off a Welsh Green on Tuesday.”
“Looks nasty,” Charlotte commented.
“It’ll be mostly healed by next week.” Dominique shrugged. “Really, this is nothing. You should see the burn Piper got three weeks ago, she needed to go into St. Mungo’s for a few days.”
Rose resisted the urge to sigh. From the way Dominique was addressing Charlotte, you would think that they were nothing more than casual acquaintances. In reality, they’d spent half of the previous year going out.
This was exactly why Rose was hesitant to bring up Scorpius. Dominique had issues with relationships, and Rose didn’t need another cousin questioning her choice in a boyfriend.
Victoire had stepped in and seemed to be trying to smooth everything over, which was funny in and of itself. Victoire could be quite blunt; if she was trying to play the peacemaker, Rose clearly wasn’t the only one who thought that Dominique was being a bit unreasonable.
Charlotte hesitated for a moment before asking, “Would you like to take a walk? We should catch up. I haven’t talked to you in months.”
Dominique shrugged, as though it didn’t make any difference to her at all. Rose was fairly sure she didn’t believe the show of apathy, so she wasn’t surprised when Dominique answered, “I suppose. It’s nice out. The fresh air would be nice.”
James had apparently been listening in on their conversation, too, because as Dominique got up, he said, “Right, because you never get fresh air, since dragons are really indoor creatures at heart.” As she walked past him, Dominique smacked the back of his head lightly. “Hey!” She looked over her shoulder and stuck her tongue out at him. He grinned back. After the door had closed behind them, he leaned over to Rose and whispered, “Don’t you wish we had the cloak with us?”
“Yes,” she admitted.
“I’ve been practicing disillusionment charms, I could probably do them well enough that they wouldn’t be able to see us—”
Victoire leaned over to them both and hissed, “No. You leave her be.”
“But we’re curious,” Rose said.
Victoire gave them both a very severe look. “So ask her about it later.”
“She might not tell us,” James pointed out.
“If she doesn’t tell you, she doesn’t want you to know. Leave her be.”
Rose frowned as a thought occurred to her. “Do you spy on me?”
“Nah.” James took a drink of his butterbeer. “Your relationship isn’t interesting enough. And unlike Dominique, you’re willing to tell me about it.”
“What relationship?” Victoire asked.
“Nothing,” Rose said quickly, wishing that she could kick James without anyone else noticing. “James has got a girlfriend, though, he’s going out with Marion Thomas. You should ask him all about it.”
Victoire, Teddy, Fred, and Lucy all looked at James with interest. “Really?” Fred asked.
James, however, unlike Rose, was very difficult to phase. “Seems like that."
Louis did not seem nearly as interested by this. “Have you finally, then? It’s about time. Hasn’t she fancied you for years?”
This clearly did take James by surprise. “Has she?” He furrowed his brow. “How would you know?”
Louis shrugged. “You just need to pay more attention.” He took a sip of his butterbeer and added, “But you shouldn’t let Rose distract you from her relationship.”
Albus grinned. “Yeah, we shouldn’t. She has got a boyfriend. She’s even admitted it.”
“He’s not my boyfriend!” Rose snapped, a little louder than she’d meant to. Several people from surrounding tables were glancing at her, including Andrew and Evelyn—who, she remembered too late, were Scorpius’s cousins. Albus raised his eyebrows, and she felt her face start to burn. “Well, he is, but - oh, shut up.” She looked down at the table. “You know, you’re not helping.”
“Were we meant to?” asked Roxanne. “I thought we were meant to embarrass you. My mistake.”
“Who?” asked Victoire quickly, before Rose could respond.
Rose crossed her arms and looked resolutely out the window.
“Scorpius,” Albus said. When she turned her gaze to glare at him, he was still grinning.
“Scorpius Malfoy?” asked Victoire. “Your friend?”
Albus nodded, and Fred said, “But he’s a Slytherin.”
“Fred, haven’t you gotten past that by now?” Victoire sounded thoroughly exasperated, and Rose supposed that by this point, she had every right to. She’d been having this argument for years, and she always seemed to be outnumbered.
Rose was just starting to wonder if getting her typically tenacious cousins to let go of something as important as little-Rosie’s-brand-new-boyfriend was going to really be as easy as falling into Slytherin bashing when Roxanne brought them back to what Rose was sure she considered “the point” of the conversation.
“I’d love to start on about the many bad qualities of Slytherin house,” she said, smiling, “but let’s not get off the topic at hand. Which is Rosie’s new boyfriend.”
Rose felt rather like a cornered rabbit. She was starting to wonder whether it would be worth it to jinx a cousin or two to make an escape when James shook his head.
“Rosie, you can’t jinx us.” He held up his arm. An innocent-looking charm was dangling off the cord around his wrist.
She scowled and glanced around the Three Broomsticks. She didn't see anyone who might have rescued her from the conversation, and Lucy had gotten distracted and was now chatting with Evelyn. This was quite unfortunate, as she was probably the only cousin who would have helped Rose escape the conversation.
“Leave me alone,” she mumbled. It would be just her luck if Scorpius walked into the Three Broomsticks just then.
“Hey, Scorpius!” Albus called. She jerked her head up and looked toward the door. There was no one there. She glared at Albus, and he laughed. She had just put her head back down onto the table when he called out again, and this time, she heard Scorpius’ voice calling back.
She groaned and picked her head up off the table just in time to see Scorpius separating from Noah and Claire and made his way toward them. “Hey, Al. Rose.” He paused. “The rest of you. It’d take half the afternoon to name all of you. No Dominique?”
“She’ll be back at some point.” Louis pulled a chair over to their table. “Sit down and let us interrogate you.”
Scorpius hesitated. “Only if Rose is okay with it, since I assume that’s why I’m being interrogated.”
Rose sighed. It was probably best to just get it over with, since she didn’t have any plans to break up with him. “Yes, it’s fine.”
“All right.” He sat down. “It’s only that it looks like you could fry an egg on your face, and that’s usually not a good thing.”
“You’re Johanna’s cousin, right?” Teddy asked, and Scorpius nodded. “Who’s your team?”
That was such an abrupt change of subject that it took Scorpius a few moments to process it. “Pride of Portree,” he said at last. He looked apprehensive; he clearly knew that one’s Quidditch team could be a major factor in getting a person’s approval. This was especially true in Rose’s family, but she didn’t see how he could know that, unless he was drawing his conclusions from the number of them who had played Quidditch in school.
Teddy’s expression cleared. “Oh, good.” Teddy had been raised on Pride of Portree - not even Rose’s Aunt Ginny’s time on the Harpies had been able to sway him from his grandmother’s favourite team. “I’m a big Portree fan myself.” He made a face. “No matter how much I hate McDonnell. I’ve heard they’re getting tired of him, though; did you see that they started Cooper instead yesterday?”
Scorpius shook his head. “No. How’d he do?”
“Scored a hundred points,” Teddy said. “Though I think Anderson and Grant both passed when they could have shot, to make him look even better. They’re tired of McDonnell, too.”
“Hold on,” Fred said loudly. “Maybe Portree makes him acceptable to you, but it just makes it worse for me. Portree aren’t willing to play rough. They’re always whining about being hit or fouled—”
“So says the Falcons fan,” Teddy said scornfully. “No, seriously, Scorpius, don’t listen to Fred. He doesn’t matter.”
Rose had to admit to some amusement when, fifteen minutes later, they were all still bickering about Quidditch teams. Quidditch really was a good ice-breaker. Scorpius had clearly relaxed a fair amount: he was arguing with Louis about whether how inconsistent the Tornadoes were season-to-season was due to simple bad luck when Dominique returned.
“Hello, Scorpius Malfoy,” she said, sitting down.
He looked at her. “Hi,” he said, rubbing the back of his head. Her reappearance had clearly made him feel a little more awkward, and Rose had a brief moment of jealousy and insecurity before she realised that it was probably just Dominique’s slightly discomforting appraisal that was putting him on edge.
Rose knew the feeling.
“We’ve been arguing about Quidditch teams,” Fred told her, grinning.
“Who’s your team?” Scorpius asked. She had the sudden desire to kiss him for trying to smooth things over despite Dominique being... well, herself.
Rose had to stop herself from groaning and Dominique leaned back in her seat. “Arsenal.”
Scorpius frowned. “Come again?”
“Arsenal,” she repeated, folding her arms.
“Football,” Rose said quickly. “Dominique thinks that football is better than Quidditch.”
Scorpius opened his mouth, looking confused, and closed it again.
Teddy laughed. “Yeah, we all think she’s mad, too.”
Rose expected Dominique to begin reciting her list of all of the reasons why football was better than Quidditch, so she was surprised when her cousin led Teddy’s comment go and instead asked, “What do you want to do when you leave Hogwarts, Scorpius?”
Despite the initial appraisal, Dominique was clearly on her best behavior. Rose made a mental note to thank her later.
“I’m thinking about being a Healer,” he said tentatively.
She nodded. “That’s what my ex-girlfriend is going in for. Worthy profession. I hope you can patch me up when they wheel me in covered in hideous burns.”
Well, maybe not her best behavior.
Scorpius glanced at Rose. “It really does run in your family, doesn’t it?”
“Mmm,” she said.
Louis looked across the table at Scorpius. “How long have you liked Rosie for?”
Rose couldn’t quite manage to stop herself from giggling at Scorpius’s expression. Now that the Quidditch banter was over, he was beginning to look rather like a trapped animal looking frantically for an escape route.
Albus was scrutinising his friend. “That’s a good question. I don’t think you’ve actually told me, just alluded to it and made vague comments about it.”
“He probably hasn't,” Louis said. “It doesn’t seem like something he’d want to tell you, judging from his expression.”
“I’ve changed my mind,” Scorpius said abruptly. “I don’t like Louis. Andrew and Evy are clearly delusional.”
Louis snorted. “Is the question really that hard to answer?”
“With Al breathing down my neck? Let me think about it.” He paused. “Yes. Next question?”
“Don’t you basically hate Gryffindors?” Fred asked, his tone still rather unfriendly.
Rose was not surprised. She had been expecting Fred, Roxanne, and Dominique to be more critical than the rest of her cousins. Fred and Roxanne both deeply disliked Slytherin house. Friendliness did not get you anywhere near as far with Fred or Roxanne as it did with Teddy, and they were less easygoing than James was. And Dominique… well, Rose already knew what her reaction was going to be.
Scorpius shrugged noncommittally. “I don’t like arrogant people in general. Gryffindors tend to be arrogant.”
“And Slytherins tend to be cowards,” Fred said.
“This is a stupid conversation,” Albus cut in before Scorpius could respond. “I call you out on being arrogant all the time. Can you please just grow up?”
In the silence that followed, Dominique asked, “If you don’t like arrogant people, why are you interested in Rose?”
“I don’t know.” When Dominique raised her eyebrows, Scorpius added, “I’d really appreciate it if you all made an effort to remember that there are eight of you and one of me. You know, I didn’t have to sit down and get interrogated. I’m making an effort. And I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t call me a coward when I chose to get interrogated by all of you because I like your cousin.”
Albus looked like he was hiding a smile, which didn’t surprise Rose.
She said, “Well. This has been fun. Let’s do it again some time.”
Fred shook his head. “Don’t bother leaving. I have to get back to the shop anyway, and I know that I’m the most obnoxious one.” He frowned at Scorpius. “Don’t take it too personally. You seem like an okay person. I just don’t really like you.”
“Thanks. I’ll try not to take that personally.”
The corner of Fred’s mouth twitched. “I’ll see you all later. And V, Teddy, congratulations again.”
“We just got engaged,” Victoire said in response to the confusion on Scorpius’ face.
“Oh,” he said. “Congratulations.”
Teddy stretched. “I’m tired of sitting around. Lou, do you want to go find Hugo and wander up to the shrieking shack?”
Louis stood up. “Sure.” He looked at Scorpius. “Well, I expect I’ll see you again soon, being as we all go to the same school, but you seem like a decent enough person. But, then, I knew that.”
“You’re fine in my book,” Teddy said cheerfully. “Portree fans are very rarely bad people, and you’re clearly a real fan.”
“As opposed to what, Teddy?” asked Victoire. She looked as though she was trying to hide a laugh.
“As opposed to a fake fan. You know, the kind of person who just becomes a fan when the team starts winning and can’t actually name most of the players.”
Dominique smirked. “I’m a real fan. I can name every Arsenal player since 2005.”
“Well, bully for you,” Teddy, Louis, and Lucy said at the same time. They rolled their eyes at each other.
“At any rate,” Teddy said, reaching out a hand, “it was nice to meet you.”
Scorpius shook his hand. “You, too.”
Teddy looked at the rest of them and said, “It was good to see you all. Don’t feel too compelled to behave yourselves. That’s never fun.” After he and Louis had departed, Dominique looked at Rose. “Rosie, can I have a word?”
“Sure,” Rose said, getting up. She followed Dominique to a corner.
Dominique sighed and tucked her short blonde hair behind her ears. “Rosie, he seems perfectly nice. Just don’t get too caught up in the relationship.” When Rose opened her mouth, Dominique gave her a withering look. “Don’t start.”
“Fine,” Rose muttered. Sometimes, she hated the way Dominique could see right through her.
Dominique continued. “It’s clear that he likes you a lot, and that’s terrific and all, but there are so many more important things than boys. Don’t give up anything just because of him. He really shouldn’t enter into any of your decisions about your future. If he can’t adjust, he can find someone else.”
Rose had known that this was exactly what Dominique was going to say. At least she was consistent.
Rose leaned against the wall. “So what did you and Charlotte talk about?”
She was pleased to see a faint tinge of pink in Dominique’s cheeks. “Nothing,” she said levelly.
“Oh, so you weren’t talking, then?” Rose teased.
Dominique smiled. “We also walked.” After a moment, she relented. “We were mostly talking. Honestly, I’m not going to get too fussed about it.” She jerked her head toward the table. “We should get back.”
Not long after that, Dominique and Victoire regretfully got up, saying that they had to get going. After bidding them goodbye, Rose, the rest of her cousins, and Scorpius joined the students who were starting to head back up to the castle. After a few minutes, she realised that the rest of them had melted away, leaving her alone with Scorpius.
“It’s probably my turn to apologise, huh?” she asked.
Scorpius looked at her sharply. “Why would you have to?”
“My cousins…” Rose trailed off, not sure how to finish the sentence.
He laughed. “Oh, that wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it might be.”
“How bad did you think it was going to be?”
“Worse than that,” he said vaguely. “Look, don’t worry about it. Most of them were perfectly nice.” She gave him a sceptical look. “No, I’m serious. Don’t worry about it. Though if I’d known I was going to get interrogated, I might not have bothered to get you a birthday present.”
“You got me a birthday present?”
He grinned. “It is next week, right?”
She tightened her grip on his hand, and after a moment of hesitation, she kissed him. A few passing third years let out loud giggles, and she shot a glare at them.
“You haven’t thought the better of going out with me, then?” he asked. She shook her head, and he pulled her off the path and into the covering of trees. Her heart began to beat faster as he let go of her hand, and he sank his fingers into her hair as he gave her a deep kiss. “Good.”
A/N: Tada. The end.
I want to thank all of my readers for sticking with me and continuing to read this. It's up near 50,000 hits, and while I know things like google are responsible for some of that, I have to figure that a fair number of that 50,000 are readers. I'm so glad that this has gotten such a good reception.
I also want to thank in particular all the readers who left me reviews. Whether you just reviewed once, for every chapter, or somewhere in the middle, I appreciated it so, so much. Knowing that you liked the story enough to take the time to leave a review made my day, and I feel lucky to have such a terrific base of fans.
You've all also inspired me to write a sequel. It's called 'The Wrinkles of the Road." If you click on my author name, it should either be the first story on the list or near the top. I'm posting the first chapter now, and I hope anyone who heads over to check it out likes it just as much as this.
Thank you again for all your support, and I hope the ending didn't disappoint.