Chapter 1 : One day after
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It wasn't the worst break up in the world. Rose had done worse and I'd taken bigger hits to the ego, but it did feel like the end of the world for a few minutes. It was my longest relationship, Rose and I, stretching the full course of eighteen months (and before then the prospect of a relationship had always been on the horizon, just out of reach) and one of the most intense periods of transit - of when we grew up and graduated from Hogwarts, got our first jobs and moved away from our dorm mates. It felt like the end of everything that I knew was certain, just for a little while, before I allowed myself to step back and took in the fact that we'd been rubbish for ages. Fighting, see, not getting on; things had been difficult and I could track Rose's reasoning back to its origin without too much in depth thinking. I wasn't surprised as much as the brutality of the whole thing had shocked me somewhat.
And now, the morning after, and I wasn't quite sure what to think. Something monumental had happened without me giving expression permission, and now it had happened and that was that - I couldn't change history, or else there'd have been plenty I'd have changed by now, but history was a fact and Rose Weasley had broken up with me because we just weren't working out.
Because it started with a breakup in which Rose didn't cry and I nearly didn't either (and I definitely didn't cry in front of her). Well actually, I suppose it all ended with a break up, because before then there was a whole relationship and a whole history that mapped itself across our final two years of education at Hogwarts ( not that we were together all that long, but I considered those two years as belonging solely to Rose). The beginning of the end was that messy period after finishing Hogwarts, but the actual end - or that second beginning - happened in a booth in Dom's favourite pub, where Rose dumped one Scorpius Malfoy. It was glossed over and delivered as a 'mutual agreement' of a relationship that was causing both of us to b unhappy and more than its fair share of arguments, but the bit I remembered was the 'we can be friends again, Scorp. I don't think I could deal with not being friends with you.'
So that night in Dom's favourite pub was the beginning of one of the most complicated minefields I'd ever navigated, because girls often didn't mean what they said and I had every intention of taking Rose Weasley's words as law - we were going to be friends, and that was that. She'd as good as promised.
Mum provided a second alarm call after the actual alarm, which was nice, because without it I was sure I'd have slept well past the start of work and been more than excusably late for my shift - as it was my head felt slightly fuzzy, although I wasn't sure what to attribute that too, and I'd have been more than happy to sleep until way past midday.
I felt like I was floating as I headed to work, spinning through the fireplaces as though that felt any different to the lightheaded, odd feeling that accompanied the morning revelations that after such a long time I was completely and utterly single and not tied to Rose Weasley in the slightest - or, at least, only as far as the basic duties of humanity stretched, or maybe as far as the duties of friendships stretched too - and I entered the office feeling disconnected and separate from my surroundings.
Not that that was particularly unusual, because the office was saturated with women - other than Michael Piercey - that I usually felt outnumbered and disconcerted, but it was made considerably worse that one of the few woman who were obliged to take my side on things was now cut loose and not a reliable source of back up, so now I almost felt as though Lottie, Natasha and Tahirah were about to rip me apart whist Michael looked on with that blank expression of his.
Today of all days I'd have quite liked to have found myself back in the Hogwarts dorm and surrounding myself with my male, simple dorm mates and not worrying about declarations of friendship or the fact that Natasha, my boss, was absolutely terrifying or the fact that Lottie kept calling my 'Scorpio' for no reason that I could identify (and despite the fact that I'd told her, on multiple occasions, that I really did prefer the straight up and simple - or as close as my name could get to it - 'Scorpius) - because on days like this the whole concept of dealing with women was both alarming, terrifying and intriguing all at once.
Intriguing because, part of me felt, if I could just study someone for one more day I might gain some basic understanding of how the hell woman's mind's worked, and the rest because this belief was continually tainted by perpetual disappointment, which continued for as long as I kept up faith in this state of enlightenment.
But, as it was, Lottie Brookes yet again met me at the door and led me through to my office - as though I still might forget the way - and I sat down and started reading notes about individual cases connected with the floo network.
My job wasn't like Rose's - an internship at the Prophet - but it heralded chance of promotion and a position far enough in the ministry to provide for two. But, even I had to admit - on days like these - that it required little to no brainwork to sign off each separate incident as 'approved' or 'requires further investigation.'
Chances were I'd never find out the results of the investigation, and instead end up wondering about it on late nights when I couldn't sleep, mapping out the faces of the potentially innocent in my mind and trying to pinpoint whether I thought them actually innocent: it was the sort of thing, had I told Rose, that would have driven her crazy.
Rose. We had spent such a long time together - by anyone's standards, eighteen months was a long time - and even my parents had to grudgingly admit that our relationship scoped beyond the boundaries of teenage rebellion (from Rose's side, not from mine; they never doubted me) and instead sat somewhere close to serious, but it was all those mornings we met for breakfast before classes, the study sessions for two and the pub dates that made me feel slightly lost. Rose used to say that I was no good at grounding myself to people (a leftover effect from my less than functional funny), and whilst she had Dom and Albus and all her Hogwarts friends and her Prophet friends my social circles were much smaller than that. And so suddenly I felt cut off from all of it.
"Morning," Lottie said, her hair falling over her eyes as it always did and looking unduly cheerful, as she always did, "cup of coffee, Scorpio?"
I nodded as I made my way towards my desk. There was a picture of Rose and I next to the photo of me with my parents, taken by Imogen in the middle of seventh year (back before Rose and Imogen had fallen out) and the moment it had been taken had been a rare moment of publically displayed affection. Rose always hated that sort of thing, but it had been in the middle of a snowball fight and any occasion where I joined in with things like that with her family she seemed to take the success to heart (she said, on occasions, that in her view I'd missed out on a childhood all together). In that moment, she was tucked under my arm, her bright red hair bigger than normal thanks to Albus rubbing snow into her scalp, her face flushed pink and her hands wrapped around my waist. I'd beamed and kissed her forehead and then the camera flashed. Snap.
"How is Rose?" Lottie asked, approaching my desk with a cup of coffee - doubtless with the number of sugars and an odd amount of milk, as Lottie tended to make up people's orders if she forgot to ask or you didn't tell her, as though not directly stating a preference meant you were indifferent. She pushed her glasses up her nose and nodded towards where I was staring at the photograph.
"Oh," I said, plucking the photo from my desk and placing it face up in my draw. I shut it. Snap.
"Ah," Lottie said.
I'd rather have left the photo on the desk, but that seemed inappropriate and strange now. It was just plain pathetic to have a photo of your ex girlfriend on your desk, however good friends you were after the break up.
My coffee, this time, at least appeared to have milk in it.
"Who else is in?"
"Just Michael and me," Lottie said, "and your documents haven't arrived yet."
Being alone with Lottie also left me feeling slightly disconcerted. Although I couldn't pinpoint why, exactly, she made me want look in the mirror and make sure that someone hadn't drawn something on my face whilst I slept, the feeling was always there whenever she perched on the edge of my desk and chatted away. Which she did just about daily, because despite the fact that the office was comprised of an almost entirely female workforce, the fact that she was the secretary seemed to convince her that she was beneath the other's social standards.
Or, as Rose had said, maybe she just preferred talking to guys. And Michael was certainly not a conversationalist.
"If you ever want to talk about Rose, Scorpio, just let me know," Lottie said, smiling before she left me alone to sample my coffee.
At least three sugars today and about fifty percent milk content which, really, wasn't all that far off how I usually made it for myself.
"Lottie says you're back on the market," Natasha Bevis - my boss - said as she dumped my pile of documents onto my desk, "she warned me to be sensitive to your plight," she continued, raising her thick eyebrows and an expression not unlike a smile tugging at her wide mouth, although not a smile because Natasha Bevis never did anything soft like smiling, "so I'll schedule the Scorpio auction for tomorrow. You're sure to find someone who'll have a Malfoy - personally, I think Piercey's had his eye on you from the second you walked in." And then she laughed loudly, sending an amused glance towards Lottie, before disappearing into her private office.
I glanced in Michael Piercey's direction. He was still slumped over his desk in the corner and showed no signs of acknowledging that anyone else was sharing the same oxygen as him, let alone in showing actual interest in a person.
"Morning," Tahirah said in that silky way of hers, before sitting down at the desk next to me and beginning to scan through her own documents, which meant either Lottie hadn't told her about my 'plight' yet, or she'd deemed Tahirah sensitive enough not to be warned against stomping on my allegedly broken heart.
I wasn't really sure whether I did have a broken heart.
It didn't appear to have sunk in yet.
"I made you some more coffee, Scorpio!" Lottie said, arriving with another cup -which looked to have been blessed with about a teaspoon worth of milk. She gave me an extra intense smile and I took the coffee as Lottie's misguided attempt to make me feel better, although I imagined all her efforts would only lead to a lot more jokes from my female co-workers and a caffeine overdose.
"Thanks," I said, grudgingly.
You couldn't tell Lottie that sort of thing though; it was just to akin to kicking a puppy to even consider it. Even Natasha didn't outwardly mock Lottie, instead choosing a subtle tone of mockery clearly laced with a lot of affection.
There was a very large part of me that cared even less about the floo network than usual and it was really quite difficult to not take the photograph of Rose and me out of my desk draw just to look at it for awhile.
“Scorpius?” Mum said after I’d floo’d back into the living room, dawdling in the kitchen to avoid the moment when I had to face facts and really think about things. I’d gotten back home late last night, woken late this morning and hadn’t really had a proper chance to adjust to the whole idea yet - and, honestly, the current state of denial was sounding a lot better than the fragile state my work colleagues seemed to have been expecting all day.
“Hey,” I said, distractedly, “cup of tea?”
“No thanks,” she said, a slightly tight lipped smile, “I’m not drinking caffeine after midday anymore.”
“Right,” I said, “Aunty Daphne’s master plan for looking younger.”
“Hmm,” Mum said, watching me fuss with tea bags and milk and sugar, “how was work?”
“Oh,” I shrugged, levitating my tea bag towards the bin and shrugging my shoulders, “it was okay.”
“Your father,” She began, taking a deep breath inwards and her jaw tightening slightly, “has signed up for more Ministry Work.”
“Well,” I said, “you know Dad.”
“I think that’s probably the problem.”
For a long time Dad simply hadn’t worked. From what I knew about the funk he was in after the war I was surprised he actually found time in between feeling sorry for himself to find some poor woman to marry him. But, after he met Mum he seemed to burst into a state of activeness again - ending up doing some of the more menial paperwork for the Auror Department, the sort of stuff that he was overqualified for and a bit too smart for, and put him in the same office as Harry Potter for several hours a day.
That had baffled me for years, but I guess that it was something that they’d hated each other right from the word go - that Harry Potter had detested him even before he’d been roped into becoming a Death Eater with the permanent proof branded onto his arm - so it made it truer or better somehow. The evident dislike was at least based on something more concrete than general prejudice.
“Mum,” I said, taking a sip of my tea, “he goes mad stuck around the house all day.”
“Well,” she returned, “it’s not like I enjoy having nothing to do but, Scorpius, I’m not dragging you into our problems. Tell me about your day.”
“It wasn’t really very interesting,” I sighed, “I met Sebastian Wilkes for lunch and he seems to be liking his job much more than I am.”
“It’s just a stepping stone,” Mum said, stepping forward and brushing my hair back from my face (a gesture that I absolutely abhorred and made me feel like I’d regressed about ten years, but there wasn’t much I could do about it), “you won’t be doing it forever. How was your date with Rose?”
“Not good.” I said, turning away to put the teaspoon in the sink.
“Over,” I said, feeling my shoulders slump slightly and turning back to face Mum feeling oddly grim, “we’re done.”
“Oh, Scorpius,” Mum said, her features twisting into a frown as she face me. My mother was always very well put together - something which I mostly chalked up to her elitist pureblood upbringing - which meant that I’d probably only seen her once and twice without full make up and her hair curled and ready for company, which Rose claimed wasn’t very motherly but, to me, she was the very height of maternal. “Surely there’s something you can do?”
“We’re going to be friends.” I said, but I was aware my voice sounded a little dead, “it’s fine Mum, really.”
“Yes. We were friends before.”
“But…” she stopped abruptly when she saw the look I gave her, rearranging her features into a small smile and said “we’ll talk about this when your father gets home,” which was never a good sign, really, where my parents were concerned.
At that start of our relationship Rose had confessed to being convinced that our parents were going to be dead set against our relationship, in fact, I think it had appealed to her sense of drama - a whole Romeo and Juliette tragic aspect to things that, honestly, I hadn’t really considered - but my parents were nothing short of pleased.
For a start, whilst I was pretty average, Rose definitely wasn’t - she was a top (or there about) student with lots of friends, a romantic life, Prefect, then Head Girl, all round well liked and damn beautiful (or at least, so I thought). If anything, I thought pulling Rose Weasley was the moment my Dad was most proud of me: not only had I redeemed our name to an extent and proved that I was a nice normal boy who didn’t stand by and let people tortured, I’d really undermined two of his school nemesis by shacking up with their daughter.
He actually properly encouraged me to have her stay over which was admittedly a tad disturbing, but it was a lot better than Rose’s parents throwing a hissy fit when Rose tentatively suggested that I could, maybe, stay a few days at hers over Christmas? Staying in Albus’s room, naturally, but staying over… just a night or two? I’d never felt less like a Gryffindor as when having Hermione Granger looking at me like that whilst Ron had lost the ability to speak. It was only because Ginny and Harry, who apparently let Albus and or James have their female friends or girlfriends stay over all the time (in one of the spare bedrooms), that I wasn’t lynched on the spot, hung, drawn and quartered into bite sized Scorpius chunks.
For the most part it was nice having my parents onside and actually liking my girlfriend, but in situations like this when I really felt it was none of their business, I wasn’t sure how I felt about them mentally cheering us on.
“Mum,” I sighed, “this really is my business.”
“Well,” Mum said, sending a desperate look in my Dad’s direction and leaning forwards across the table, “what was your squabble about?”
“It wasn’t a squabble,” I said, sighing irritably “we just talked about it and we’ve been arguing for a long time so…”
“Scorpius,” Mum said, “if your father and I broke up every time we argued then frankly… well, you wouldn’t have been conceived.”
“With the way this conversations going, that doesn’t sound too bad.”
Dad caught my eye and cracked a half smile - which was just about as close to happy that my father ever got, so that was a nice note of approval from him. And those were quite rare.
“Oh,” Mum said, her face crumpling, “I know you’ve been together for a long time Scorpius, but you can’t really mean that.”
“No,” I said, “of course I don’t, I was just… never mind, Mum. Fine, let’s talk about it.”
“You should eat your food,” Dad piped up, ignoring his own to stare at me, “it’ll get cold.”
“Thanks,” I muttered, grudgingly picking up my fork and preparing for the onslaught of listening to my mother rattle on for a very long time about how Rose was probably the best thing that was ever going to happen to me and that I had to fight to get her back or lose her forever to some bloke who didn’t live with his parents, have a slightly crummy job and a tarnished family name that usually led to people suspecting I was about to go crazy and start Adava Kedavra some ass. Naturally, that was all just subtext; because my mother was quite adept at brainwashing herself into thinking she thought that I was perfect.
“So,” Mum said, taking a sip of her white wine before placing it down again, “what exactly have you been arguing about?”
“Everything,” I said, “she was mad because I blew her off for some Quidditch match and then dinner, because I was mad about her turning into her mad cousin Dom because she thinks that’s the only way anyone at her internship will like her. And then I argued with Dom and she argued with me about arguing with Dom -”
“Dominique Weasley,” Dad interjected, “second daughter of Bill Weasley and Fleur Weasley, the girl who was champion for Beauxbatons.”
“Ah,” Mum said, drinking more wine and ignoring her dinner, “and you don’t like Dom?”
“No,” I said, “but the bigger problem is she doesn’t like me, and as Rose is currently under the influence Rose doesn’t much like me at the moment either.”
“And they… live together?”
“Yes,” I said, “because Dom works at the Prophet and Rose really wants to be a journalist.”
“Why did you cancel dinner?” Dad asked, staring at me properly.
God, the whole thing was ridiculous and far too akin to some sort of interrogation for me to be comfortable with. I didn’t think it was exactly considered normal for most late-teens to discuss their relationship problems with their parents, particularly when we usually avoided the topic of feelings all together because there were just too many issues to deal with on that front.
“Didn’t feel like it.”
“So you’ve gone off her?”
“No, Mum,” I said irritably, “it’s complicated, okay? We’re not at Hogwarts anymore and things are different and now we’re not together and we’re just going to be friends and that’s that.”
Mum took in a deep breath and took up her fork, seeming to get taller and more refined in her seat. Her Dad sent me a look, a you’ve done it now sort of look which made me want to hide in my room and shut out my parents, at least for a bit.
“Scorpius,” Mum said, in that tight, regal voice of hers, “I’m going to ignore that outburst simply because you’re obviously going through a difficult time, but I will not have you raise your voice at my dinner table.”
“Sorry,” I said, glancing between them and, as if on cue, they both began to eat in silence. I rolled my eyes and wished that I could bitch about the whole thing to Rose - we both knew what dysfunctional families felt like, that was for sure.
It was later, when I didn’t have anyone to write to that I started to feel the loneliness of being cut free after such a long time. It was just that I’d never had a real excuse to feel lonely for the past eighteen months, because I could always combat that with the perfectly logical reminder that I had Rose, and that she cared, so dwelling on that harrowing feeling of being separate from everyone was just indulging needlessly.
Honestly, it made no sense to me. Rose was the single most important figure of my life in the past few years and I was, still, completely in love with her. That, there was no denying, because most of the problems had stemmed from me being worried about losing her and so, in some respects, actually losing her had let me breathe just for a second and stop worrying.
I didn't think the real truth of the matter had hit me quite yet.
I hadn't lost many things in my life because I endeavoured not to gain too much: I had my parents, who's fragile marriage was a source of most of my problems, and I had a few friends but none who I felt were indispensable or whom I wouldn't let myself depend on (as dependable as Rose always told me I was, I didn't much like to be dependent - that might well be part of it, but it was just the way I was and wasn't worth thinking about too much), I had no precious reputation to speak of, no truly valuable possession. All I had, really, that I wanted to keep was my parent’s marriage going and Rose Weasley.
I should have known that Rose was too good to actually last, because as a Malfoy I had been repeatedly reminded that good fortune isn't something I particularly deserved. In fact, losing Rose was probably only a little of the bad karma I'd inherited from my father but that didn't mean the whole thing didn't really hurt.
Except the hurt hadn't really gotten through my calm exterior yet. I should, by all rights, be panicking and crying and stressing out and forming stupid plans to win her back. My parents were exactly right in considering Rose to be the one decent thing about my life. I mean, it wasn't much to speak off - teenager living with his parents pushing paper so he had something to do in the day time and a bit of money put by for a future that contained absolutely nothing. So losing her should have me crying out on the kitchen floor, clutching a childhood soft toy to my chest and sobbing about being alone forever or, worse, not being alone forever and ending up with someone who wasn't Rose (because there was no way that I'd ever find someone as amazing and worth my time as Rose Weasley).
It was the whole notion of friendship that had displaced all the woebegone angst and the heartbreak, I decided, because although a life without Rose sounded horrific, a life being friends with Rose hadn't been all that bad before we'd dated. I'd still spent time with her, we'd still talked, and she’d still laughed and called me dependable and cared about my past and my future and my present. Rose cared about me in a way that no one else in the world quite managed - my Dad loved me, in his mixed up slightly confused way of his, and my Mum dotted on me in the way that only Pureblood mothers knew how (with added simultaneous expectation, criticism and bizarre views on what constituted as a family norm). And then my friends all quite liked me and would probably try and pull me off the slippery slope of depression should I start slipping, but Rose was the only one who'd understand what it was that made me trip and start to fall.
I could manage without kissing and flirting and dates and staying over at Rose's apartment and her sleeping in my bedroom and criticising my room's lack of colour and personality. Those were nice extras, but Rose was the essential component of all those things and, providing Rose wasn't pulling herself out of the equation with the break up, then I would somehow deal with the sudden loss of all the couple aspects to our relationship.
That probably wasn't healthy. I was well aware that it sounded a bit pathetic too, but it was how I felt and there was no denying that.
Rose didn't not want me anymore; she just didn't want the arguments and the stress of continuing our relationship.
Fine. It was all going to be fine.
Hullo and welcome to Ac's 2012 nano! I know it's only half way through November so I'm posting prematurely but... hey. Can't resist. Expect a funky chronology and some madness, as in line with other 50k novels written in 30 days. Thanks for reading! :)
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