Thanks to .asperity @TDA for the lovely CI!
By the time Rose got home the next day, it was already early afternoon. To her surprise, however, Lucy was just sitting down to a very late breakfast.
“Did you just get up?” Rose called as she shed her coat, gloves, and scarf at the door. She could just barely see around the doorway of their kitchen to the table her cousin was sitting at. Lucy nodded. “That’s unusual for you.”
Lucy tended to be a morning person; for her, sleeping past 9 was almost unheard of, and it was approaching 1:30.
“I know,” her cousin said around a mouthful of cereal. Once she’d swallowed, she added, “I didn’t get home last night until about 3. I meant to get up this morning, but...” She shrugged. “Couldn’t do it.”
Rose slid into the chair across from her and poured herself a cup of tea from the steaming teapot Lucy had left sitting on the table. She was more than a little curious about what had kept her cousin out so late, but she’d learned months ago that asking would do no good.
“So how’d Scorpius like his first Weasley family Saturday?” Lucy asked as Rose took a sip of her tea. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there - you know how work is.”
Rose didn’t really know how work was, not in the sense Lucy was talking about; for one thing, Lucy worked in the Department of Mysteries, and for another, she’d already been there for a few years, having been two years above Rose in school. She nodded anyway; there wasn’t really any other appropriate response.
“It was all right,” she said, frowning into her tea. “He felt a little awkward, and he kind of stuck by me, Albus, and James most of the time, but I guess that’s to be expected, right?”
Lucy snorted. “James, huh?” Rose grinned despite the memory of his request the previous night, and Lucy pushed her bowl away from her. “Anyway, yeah, I’d be surprised if he’d felt comfortable the first time out. It can be a bit overwhelming, and he doesn’t exactly have much practice.”
Rose hesitated, but after a moment, she decided to confide in Lucy about the conversation that had followed. “He wants me to meet his grandparents,” she said, and Lucy’s eyebrows rose a centimetre.
“Haven’t you already?”
“His other grandparents.”
Lucy’s eyebrows shot up. “What, the Malfoys?” Rose nodded, and Lucy sat back in her seat looking very curious. “What did you say?”
It took about ten minutes, but she eventually managed to wring the entire exchange out of Rose, who would have liked to just forget it completely. Unfortunately, it was looking like this was going to be a bit of sticking point for him, which left her somewhat at a crossroads.
On one hand, Scorpius really was a good boyfriend. It wasn’t just that his personality fit with hers, or that she enjoyed spending time with him. Those things were true, of course, but he also put real effort into their relationship. He was attentive, he was patient, and once she’d got past the sarcasm and the dry humour, she’d really been able to process just how much he loved her and just how much he would do for her.
It said something that where most of her cousins who had gone into similar fields had been unable to hang onto their significant other - James and his girlfriend had gone through a thoroughly unpleasant and painful breakup at the end of their seventh year, and the only lovers Dominique had managed to hang onto for any length of time either worked in Dragon Research with her or in a similar division like the D.C.B. As far as Rose knew, Louis didn’t even really bother, though she supposed that you never did know with Louis. He tended to keep his own council.
Even Albus, who was involved with a fellow Auror trainee, had more than his share of relationship issues, though Rose privately thought that Albus’s issues probably had less to do with his being an Auror and more to do with his being Albus.
The only Weasley cousin who’d gone into a dangerous profession who really had a healthy, functional relationship was Victoire... but even there, Teddy was a Cursebreaker, which really was quite different from a Healer.
But Scorpius hung in there.
Or at least, he had so far. She supposed it was never too late for a sudden, dramatic breakup.
“What are you going to do?” Lucy asked, and Rose blinked, refocusing on her cousin. Lucy had her head cocked to the side, and there was an openly curious expression on her face.
Rose sighed. “I don’t know,” she said. “I feel like I owe it to him to at least give it a chance.”
Her cousin frowned. “That’s really not the way you should be looking at it,” she told Rose. Her voice was still mild, but something in her deep brown eyes gave Rose the distinct impression that Lucy had a strong opinion about this.
Lucy let out a sigh and shook her head. “Because... Rose, if you do it just because you think you owe him, you’re just going to end up resenting him for it, even though he didn’t actually make you do anything.”
Shortly after that, Lucy excused herself to go take a bath, leaving Rose to puzzle it out. She didn’t come to any conclusions - she was just left feeling more confused and conflicted than ever.
She considered talking to James about it; they’d always been close, and he’d given her a lot of good advice when she and Scorpius had started going out in their fifth year. Rose wasn’t entirely sure that Scorpius would agree
that it had been good advice, but they’d worked everything out, so it couldn’t have been too terrible.
However, while James and Scorpius were getting along much better as of late than they ever had before, she wasn’t entirely sure that James would really understand where she was coming from, and she didn’t quite feel right about talking to him without someone else there to balance him out. She didn’t need someone to convince her that Scorpius was being unreasonable, especially since she would have loved to take that as an out.
It ended up not being relevant; when she got to work the next day, James stuck his head inside the trainee cubicle she shared with Alex Finnigan and said, “Hey, Rosie, you have plans tonight?” She shook her head. “Al said to tell you that you should come to our flat for dinner tonight.”
“Who’s cooking?” she asked suspiciously. James could be a pretty decent cook when he put his mind to it, but Albus - for all his virtues - was absolutely hopeless in the kitchen. He claimed that he was getting better all the time. Rose thought that that depended entirely on whether you liked cardboard more than the smell of burning rubber. She supposed that she did, but neither was something she wanted in a meal.
James grinned. “Me.”
“So Al volunteered you to do the cooking and
invited a guest?” she asked. “How’s that work?”
“Ask him,” James said. “I take it that’s a yes?” She nodded. He disappeared from the doorway, and she breathed a sigh of relief. If she wanted to talk about it, she could talk to Albus.
“Is Albus a bad cook?” Alex asked curiously. He had his feet propped up on the desk and was studying one of the books from the shelf propped up against the far wall; as the day when they would be sent into the field to face real monsters approached, Alex seemed to be getting more and more paranoid that his father - who headed the D.C.B. - would end up deciding that he wasn’t quite ready after all.
Seamus Finnigan didn’t seem
like that kind of person to Rose, but Alex knew his father better than she did, and at any rate, parents could be rather stupid about their children sometimes. Her parents certainly were, and her uncle Harry seemed to be so intent on proving that he wasn’t playing favourites with Albus that training was even harder for her cousin than it was supposed to be.
“He’s terrible,” she said, turning back to the map that tracked acromantula movement across the British Isles. According to the map, there was an enormous nest in the Forbidden Forest; she wondered why the D.C.B. hadn’t bothered to go in and stomp it out. “His cooking tastes like cardboard.”
Alex snorted as he tossed his book onto the desk. “So the ‘homemade’ biscuits he made for our dormitory after N.E.W.T.s were really from Honeydukes or something?”
“Well, if they were edible, he certainly didn’t make them.”
“Figures.” Alex jerked his head toward the map. “Which one is that?”
“The acromantulas,” she said. “Hey, Alex, do you know if there’s still a nest in the Forbidden Forest?”
“I do, actually,” he said. “I asked Dad about it a few weeks ago. There is. Apparently, it’s too big to get rid of easily, and since nobody’s ever died and they’re really deep in...” He shrugged. “I guess the Ministry decided it wasn’t an appropriate use of resources.”
“Oh.” She glanced back at the map. The glowing red spiders seemed to be spread across an alarming amount of the Forbidden Forest, and there were too many of them for comfort; it was one of the biggest nests in Britain. “Seems - er - dangerous.”
“Yeah.” Alex sighed. “I thought so, too. But I guess that’s why we’re the trainees, huh?”
“Guess so.” She glanced at the Forbidden Forest again, and then tapped the map with her wand. It went dark. “Think we’ll be getting squad assignments today?”
Alex slumped down in his chair. “I dunno,” he said morosely. “But I bet you get a great assignment and I have to follow Dad around for a year.”
They did not end up getting their squad assignments that day, though when they were eating lunch Rose’s cousin Victoire hinted that it would be happening before the week was out. She looked strangely pleased with herself, though Rose wasn’t sure if it was just because she knew when it was happening or if she’d succeeded in convincing their boss to put Rose with her. She had failed to convince him to do so with James, but maybe things were different now.
When Rose tried to press her, however, Victoire had just laughed and changed the subject. She was just going to have to try to be patient.
She already knew from experience that she wasn’t very good at it, though.
At the end of the day, James poked his head in, and she followed him out to the floo network. It landed them in the lobby of the witches-and-wizards-only building he and Albus lived in, and they climbed the flight of stairs that led to the flat.
Once they got inside, James wandered off in the direction of the kitchen, and Rose tossed her coat and gloves onto their couch on her way to Albus’s bedroom. The door was closed, but the light streaming out from the crack where it met the floor indicated that he was already home.
She knocked loudly, and after a moment, he called, “Come in!”
Rose pushed the door open. When he saw that it was her, he tossed the book he’d been reading aside. “You came.”
“I heard you weren’t cooking,” she responded, flopping onto the foot of his bed.
He made a face. “I’m not that
bad,” he said. “Bridget said I’m getting pretty good. I made her breakfast yesterday.”
“It’s a good thing that she’s the one learning Legilimency, not you.” He looked a little stung, and she hastened to add, “I dunno, Al, maybe you are. I haven’t wanted to risk it in so long that for all I know, you’re a master chef now.”
He rolled his eyes but looked appeased. “Yeah, that’s me. Albus Potter, Auror trainee and cook. I’m multi-talented.”
Rose privately thought that her cousin had quite a lot of talents, but she wasn’t about to tell him that, especially since she still very much doubted that cooking had become one of them.
He cocked his head to one side. “You look distracted. What’s wrong?”
She glanced toward the door, which was still hanging open. She could hear James turn on the radio in the kitchen, which meant that they were about as alone as they were going to get that night.
Rose usually didn’t like to drag Albus into issues that she and Scorpius were having. It just didn’t seem fair to put him in the middle, and he was always so conflicted about it that he wasn’t even helpful. Here, however, she had decided to make this an exception - Lucy had given her decent advice, but Lucy didn’t know Scorpius all that well, and she didn’t know Rose as well as Albus did, either. Maybe he’d have some special insight that would solve all of her problems.
Probably not, though. But it was still worth talking to him about it.
“Scorpius wants me to meet his grandparents,” she said. Her cousin immediately looked away from her, and her temper rose. “You knew?”
Albus sighed. “Yes, Rose, I knew that he wanted you to meet his grandparents. Are you really that surprised?”
She supposed she wasn’t; if Scorpius was going to talk to anyone about asking her about that, it would probably be Albus. “So what did he say?” she demanded, leaning forward.
She didn’t really expect him to respond, so she was surprised when he sighed again, ran his fingers through his dark red hair, and answered her. “Just that he was considering asking you.” She continued to stare at him, and he made a face. “Then I told him that if it was important to him, he should ask you, but that it was asking a lot.”
“You get it, then?” she asked hopefully. She’d spent the day before second-guessing herself about whether what he was asking was really so difficult after all.
“Of course I do,” her cousin said. “His grandfather used to kill people like you. I wouldn’t want to get all friendly with him, either.” He glanced toward the door; the strong smell of garlic and olive oil was beginning to permeate the flat, and right on cue, they heard a faint sound of chopping from the kitchen. “But I also understand why it’s important to him.” Albus shrugged. “It’s a hard situation, Rose. I know that, and so do you.”
She slumped back against the wall. So much for Albus’s advice. “What should I do?”
Albus considered her for a minute. “Whatever you think is right.” She wrinkled her nose, but she was completely distracted by his next word. “But...”
“But what?” she asked quickly, leaning forward. Her heart was starting to beat harder.
Her cousin shook his head. “Look, I’m not trying to guilt you into it or anything. I know you, and I know that if you feel guilted, you won’t do it just to be contrary.” Rose smiled despite herself. “But... Rosie, I don’t want to scare you. But how much more ‘Rose gets her way’ do you think your relationship can take?”
Now she could feel her heartbeat in the veins; her neck in particular was throbbing unpleasantly. “What do you mean?”
Albus wasn’t looking at her now. “It’s just - whenever there’s any kind of conflict, it seems like it goes your way, and he just adjusts to it because he’s a lot more easygoing than you are.”
“He does not!”
Albus held up his hand. “The D.C.B.,” he said, ticking off one finger. She opened her mouth to protest, and he added, “I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have joined, or that you should have decided your career based on your school boyfriend. I’m just saying that it’s a hard situation for him, especially since he’s going to become a Healer, and it’s one where he
had to adjust to your
choices, and you didn’t have to do anything.”
She closed her mouth quickly.
He ticked off another finger. “The family Saturday. Yes, he seemed to have a decent time, but that’s not something that he would have gone to if you
hadn’t specifically asked him. He knew it was important to you, so he went.”
“He should have said something if it bothered him so much,” she snapped, and Albus shook his head.
“Rosie, that’s the thing - a lot of it doesn’t
bother him so much. But it’s still a pattern where you get what you want and he just lives with it, and you
need to be more aware of it. You know
that’s what he’s like - how many times did he smooth over awkward situations for you at school?”
Rose felt her face flush.
Albus tapped a third finger. “Dinner with your parents. Meeting your mother’s parents. Going to -”
“I get it,” she snapped, pulling her knees up to her chest and wishing that she’d told James she couldn’t make it to dinner. “I’m a terrible girlfriend. Though by the way, I’ve been to dinner with his
parents and met his
mother’s parents, too.”
“And who felt more uncomfortable about it?” She winced - Scorpius had definitely felt very awkward and uncomfortable going into the Muggle world. “Exactly.” She looked away from his and down at the blanket on his bed. It looked like one of their grandmother’s; the lion was very distinctive. “Rose, I’m not saying you’re a terrible girlfriend. He
certainly doesn’t seem to think so, and for what it’s worth, I don’t, either. I’m just saying that I don’t think you always give him enough credit, and that I think you need to start putting yourself out there, too, even when it makes you feel uncomfortable.”
“So you think I should meet his grandparents?”
Albus shrugged. “I don’t know. As far as requests go, that’s a pretty big one. I don’t think he’d blame you for saying no.”
“But it would mean a lot to him if I said yes,” she prompted.
“Oh, yes.” Albus nodded. “It would mean the world to him.”
If she seemed a little preoccupied throughout dinner, James didn’t notice, and Albus clearly understood what she was struggling with. He hadn’t given her a magical answer to solve everything perfectly - in some ways, he’d even made it all more complicated - but he had helped to clarify this for her. He wasn’t shocked when she said she had to leave shortly after they’d finished eating what had turned out to be a delicious pasta dish, and James had waved her off after exacting a promise that they’d do it again soon.
They worked together, but it really wasn’t the same, and she knew that there was no way in hell that they were going to be put in the same squad. He was too new at it.
By the time she got to her boyfriend’s, it was well after 9. She knocked, and when he answered the door, he looked a little surprised to see her standing there.
“Hey,” he said, stepping back to let her in. “I - er, did I forget that you were coming by?”
The locks reengaged behind them as she followed him into the living room. “No,” she said, perching on one of the chairs. “I wasn’t planning to.”
Scorpius flopped onto the couch and frowned at her. “Well, not that I don’t love your company, but I’ve got to be up at 6, so I should be getting to sleep soon. Is something wrong?” She swallowed and tried to muster up the courage to speak, but for once, it seemed to have deserted her. His face took on a note of alarm. “Oh, Merlin. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing!” she said quickly. “I - I just -” He was looking more and more wary, which was the opposite of what she wanted. “I’ll have lunch with your grandmother,” she managed to get out. “Just her. But I will.”
His face cleared. “Really?” She nodded, and he sat up. “Come here.” She joined him on the couch, and was more surprised than she probably should have been when he sunk his fingers into her hair and kissed her. She could feel herself begin to get swept away, and when he pulled back, it took her a moment to shake the feeling of being dazed. “Thank you,” he said, leaning his forehead against hers. “You’re sure?”
“Yes.” To her surprise, she managed to keep her voice quite steady.
Scorpius smiled at her. “Thank you,” he repeated softly.
In that moment, Rose knew that no matter how awkward this meeting turned out to be - and she had the feeling that it would probably be quite awkward - she was making the right decision.
A/N: A day early, but I think you'll probably forgive me. :P I'm going to be quite busy tomorrow, and I figured it was better to get it up a day early than a day or two late.
I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who reviewed last chapter, and I'm absolutely stunned that this already has 38 favourites. I'm glad to see new faces, and I'm also really honoured that so many CINAS fans have already found their way over here. You guys are amazing. I want to extend a special thanks to Ryebread for being the very first reviewer of this story - all reviews are special, but the first review of a new story or chapter always makes me feel especially happy. :)
I'm slightly worried that not enough happened this chapter and that all the talking came across as a little boring. There's going to be more action soon, but I would like to know whether this held your interest or whether you wished that there was a little more that happened in it, so I can keep that in mind for future chapters. If you have a moment, I'd love to hear your thoughts. :)
Thank you for reading, and I'll see you all next Wednesday!