Disclaimer: Copyright J.K. Rowling
A trunk was a strange thing, Rose Weasley always thought.
Strange, because it made her realise how many bits and pieces formed her existence. She could never look at one without being a little disheartened as she was reminded of how tethered to her possessions she was. Tethered to her possessions, and hence to the earth. Doomed to always carry their weight with her, wherever she felt like going...
At a knock on her dormitory door, which stood half open, she straightened up and shut her trunk with a snap. "Come in."
"Are you ready to go?" Her cousin Lily entered a few paces. She was already dressed in Muggle clothes in preparation for their journey back to London. Her red hair was pulled back, and she wore no makeup.
"Yeah, just about." Rose cast an eye about the dormitory, strangely big now that it had been stripped of all the personal effects of its inhabitants. "Pity, you know. I'd gotten fond of this room."
"The seventh-year dormitories are supposed to be bigger," Lily said vaguely. "Where's your owl?"
"Albus said he'd bring him on the train."
"Nice of him."
"Right. Let's go." Flicking her wand so that her trunk began to hover behind them, Rose followed her cousin out of the dormitory and down the steps. Lily's trunk was in the common room, and joined Rose's in the air behind them. They squeezed around eagerly chattering first years who were already talking about next September.
"Feels like a lifetime away," Rose murmured to Lily as they passed out of the common room, waving to the Fat Lady in her portrait. She nudged her cousin. "Hey, you'll be doing your O.W.L.s."
Lily smiled vaguely. "Yeah, I suppose."
The whole castle was on the move, and the rumble of feet sounded in their ears. There was something comforting about the crowds, and Rose and Lily fell in with them, stepping onto the moving staircase to the third floor. As it started downwards, Lily said, "I wonder how he would have got on."
Rose did not need to ask who Lily meant. She smiled wryly. "You know James. He would have gotten all O's, without even studying."
"Yeah. Probably." With her wand, Lily directed her trunk a little higher behind them, where it had been in danger of knocking a puny second year off the banisters. "At any rate, he wouldn't know yet."
"No," Rose agreed, a little uncertainly. "Not till August."
"Albus said he was planning on going into magical law. Did you know that?"
Rose looked down. "I didn't."
"He would have been good."
"Yeah." They were set down on the third floor, and Lily sped up her pace, so that Rose, despite being the taller of the two witches, was hard pressed to keep up with her. Many people stared as they passed, murmuring to each other as they saw Lily. "So... will your parents be at the station?"
"Yeah. They're going to take me and Albus to Grimmauld Place. That's where we'll be spending summer, I think. It'll be easier - for Dad to be closer to the Ministry."
"Of course," Rose said quietly. They had reached the marble staircase now, which was so clogged with students that they were held up for a minute or so. She lowered her voice. "Does he know yet, if they plan on opening the school next year?"
"There's going to be another inquiry, I think." Lily tapped her foot on the floor. "He was against the exams going ahead, you know. After. He didn't think it would be safe. But the Board talked him down."
"Would you sit the O.W.L.s at home? If school didn't open?"
"I don't know," Lily said. "Maybe I'd go abroad."
"Really?" Rose raised her eyebrows. At last the crowd was moving again, and they were pulled along, in the tide of students, down the staircase. They passed the new monument in the Entrance Hall, so white that it almost blinded the eye.
The carriages to the station had already pulled up outside, and Rose and Lily were moving over the threshold to make for one when they barrelled right into Scorpius Malfoy.
His grey eyes met Rose's. She blinked at him, caught off guard. No one spoke a word, until at last Lily seized Rose's arm and forcibly moved her along. "Come on. Let's get a carriage."
The rattle of the equipage did little to calm Rose's nerves, and she stared across at her silent neighbours: Lily, Albus and Hugo, without really seeing them. Duke hooted uneasily in his cage.
"Thanks for bringing him," she said to Albus, who nodded to her. He had a copy of The Daily Prophet folded in his lap. Rose tilted her head to look at the headline, vaguely interested.
"Hershia Potts is stepping down? That was quick."
"They want her out," Albus said, appearing relieved that they had found something to talk about. "Because she supported the Dementor Act." He paused, raised his eyebrows at Rose behind his glasses. "Rumour has it they're tapping your mother for the next Minister."
"Can't be," Hugo said at once. "She doesn't even work in the Ministry anymore."
"That's not what I've heard."
"No, Hugo's right. It's nonsense. Mum has no interest in going for that kind of thing."
"Famous last words," Albus said.
"No, really." Rose shook her head. "Politics is the last thing on her mind right now."
"You mean because of James?"
Silence. The carriage went over a bump, and Rose put out a hand to steady herself. Lily's lips were pressed tightly together as she stared out of the window, but Albus was looking at Rose, awaiting a response. Hugo's face had drained of colour.
"Yes," Rose said at last. "Well, it would seem callous..."
"I don't agree." Reaching up, Albus straightened his glasses, as was his habit, with all the calmness as though they were discussing the results of a Quidditch match. "I think we need more people like your mother in government, to stop what happened to James from ever happening again."
"It was James's fault," Lily said, still staring out the window.
"What?" Albus swivelled around to look at her; he did not look so calm now.
"How can you say that, Lily..." Rose began, but her cousin shook her head firmly, her red hair shifting over her shoulders as she did so.
"Don't act like you haven't thought it." She looked around at the rest of them. "Don't act you didn't all think it, when it happened."
"We didn't," Albus said, with a bite to his tone, "and you have no right to say such..."
"He was an idiot," Lily said harshly. "He shouldn't have gone after Nott alone, when he knew it was dangerous. But he did. That was James. He did stupid things, and now he's dead."
Rose and Hugo were both staring at the floor now, wishing very much that they were somehwhere else. Albus continued to gaze at his sister for a solid minute before saying slowly, "Well, thank Merlin you weren't in charge of coming up with the inscription for his headstone. 'He did stupid things, and now he's dead'."
Bizarrely, Lily began to smile, and, chancing a glance up, Rose saw that Albus was smiling too. She exchanged a look of disbelief with her brother. "Are you two really..."
"Joking? Yeah, I suppose we are. That's weird."
"It keeps happening to me," Hugo confessed, and the others looked at him. "I laugh at funny stuff, you know? And then I think, oh, I shouldn't..."
"But that's not right," Albus said, frowning. "It's not what James would have wanted. At least, I don't think it's what he would have wanted." His frown deepened. "To be honest, I have no idea what he would have wanted."
"We're here," Rose said, glancing out of the window, and sure enough, the carriage pulled up a moment later. They hauled out their luggage, stepping into Hogsmeade Station. Before them, the Hogwarts Express gleamed scarlet in the faint morning sun, merrily spewing steam all around. Intending to patiently wait their turn with the rest as the students milled about on the platform, they were a little discomfited to find that the crowd parted for them, leaving the way free onto the train.
"Nice of them, I suppose," Lily reflected as they made their way up the aisle. Behind her, Rose cursed colourfully as she stubbed her toe on the edge of her trunk. Her cousin glanced back. "But I don't want their pity either, you know?"
"I didn't mind so much," the ever-practical Hugo muttered, but no one paid him much mind. They found a compartment with relative ease, since the train was still mostly empty, and settled themselves and their luggage.
Cassie joined them a little later, along with a couple of other Gryffindors. Their lively chatter soon filled the compartment, and Rose found it relaxing, as she curled up in her corner, drawing up her legs and propping a book open on her knees. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Nina Meyer pass the glass door of their compartment, slowly, as though she were looking for somewhere to stop.
"Nina!" she called out involuntarily. The compartment fell silent, but the Slytherin girl did not turn. Rose was about to call again, but Lily reached out, put an appealing hand on her arm.
"Please don't, Rose."
"But she - doesn't have anywhere to sit." Blinking, Rose looked around at them: Albus, Cassie, Rory, Jackie, Hugo and Lily. Their faces were all united in lack of sympathy.
"She's his friend, Rose," Hugo pointed out.
"She was my friend, too." And so was he.
"But not anymore."
In the silence that ensued, Cassie cleared her throat and suggested that they play wizard charades, a proposal that was met with general approbation. Even Rose agreed, though as she gazed around at her companions in the compartment, she could not remember why.
It wasn't so bad, really.
In a way, he was back where he had started. Generally hated, distrusted everywhere he went, met with hostile murmurs and loathing glances at each turn. It was like home, Scorpius often reflected with a wry smile.
Of course, he had fewer friends than before. But perhaps that was not the worst thing, Scorpius thought as he looked around at his neighbours in the train compartment: Nina, Tobias and Carlos Santini (he supposed Santini counted. He would have to count.) The few he had, he knew he could trust (well, except perhaps for Santini. But then again, he could always trust Santini to be... well, Santini.)
And while it hadn't been exactly easy at first, when he had received that polite but firm reply from Rose's father telling him to stop writing to their address, when she and her brother and her cousins had returned to the school after the funeral and he had gone to the Gryffindor common room and she had stood at the portrait of the Fat Lady and told him that it was impossible, that they couldn't go on after what had happened... No, none of that had been easy. He wouldn't pretend for a moment that it had been. But people moved on, and that was the way of things, wasn't it?
He had his cousin back. And as he looked at him now, fiddling with some gadget he had picked up in Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, Scorpius felt lucky.
That feeling rapidly dissipated as Tobias Greengrass threw the gadget down and grumbled, "You lot are boring."
"I'm not boring!" Carlos Santini looked up from Quidditch Through the Ages, appalled. "Am I?"
"Let's do something," Tobias went on, looking around at the other three. "Something fun."
"This is going to be a long journey," Nina Meyer murmured, burrowing down in her seat.
"I'm afraid our choice of activities right now limited," Scorpius said to his cousin dryly. "We can go to the dining car, see if lunch is being served up yet."
"Yeah!" Tobias jumped up from his seat.
Hardly surprised that any suggestion pertaining to food had met with such enthusiasm on his cousin's part, Scorpius rose from his seat, with the slightest shrug of his shoulders at Nina, and followed his cousin out of the compartment.
The stares they met with on their way through the various carriages did not seem to faze Tobias in the slightest, and Scorpius was well pleased at his cousin's robustness. He would need it, he reflected gloomily. Facing into six more years at Hogwarts with the death of Harry Potter's son hanging over his head...
They had reached the second-last carriage when Scorpius heard his name called, and turning, he saw Rose a little way up the aisle. Hardly able to contain his surprise, he turned to his cousin, who was eyeing him curiously. "Go on ahead."
"But - "
"Go on. I'll catch up."
Only when his cousin was out of earshot did Scorpius properly turn and address Rose. "Everything all right?"
"Fine," she said confusedly. Her eyes moved over his face, and she seemed to be trying to get something out, without much success. At last, she started to mumble something like an apology, but Scorpius shook his head.
"You don't need to apologise, Rose. Really."
"No, but, seeing you earlier, I just realised how much I - I - I miss you." A silence. She did not say anything more. Gently, Scorpius prompted,
"And I wanted you to know," Rose finished lamely. "That. That I'm sorry, and I wish things could be different, but..."
"But they're not." Scorpius eyed her kindly. "Look, Rose, I know all of this. So you don't need to worry, all right?"
"Will I see you?" she blurted. "Over summer?"
Scorpius thought for a moment. "Would that be such a good idea? If your family doesn't want me to see you?"
"I know," she said, her head dropping down to her chest so that she was not looking directly at him, "and I know I shouldn't feel like this, because it seems so disloyal, but..."
For the first time, Scorpius felt his facade of calm beginning to break down, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. "What exactly do you mean by that?"
"I - "
"My aunt," Scorpius said carefully, "was involved in your cousin's death. I am not my aunt, and in case it's not already clear to you, Rose, I had no idea either what she was planning, nor have I seen her since."
"I know that, of course I do. That's not what I meant." Frustrated, Rose ran a hand through her hair; her blue eyes, when they met his, were desperate.
"You know, you're making this harder for yourself than it needs to be."
She looked up at him, uncomprehending, and Scorpius sighed. "If you need to stay away from me, Rose, then you stay away from me. It's as simple as all that. Though I don't see where Nina fits into that, I have to say."
"I miss her, too," Rose said fervently, "but because she's your friend..."
"Ah, I see. So I corrupt everyone I touch." He smiled blandly.
"That's not - "
"Rose." Scorpius put out a hand, rested it on her shoulder for a moment. "I don't blame you. All right? After everything that's happened, I don't blame you for what you decided. But you're making it harder for both of us right now."
Her blue eyes met his, and he felt that she finally understood. Slowly, she nodded. Scorpius let go of her shoulder. "I should go."
"Have a good summer." Her feeble words floated after him, and Scorpius shook his head, striding fast to catch up with Tobias.
There was a smaller crowd than usual at King's Cross Station, for many of the students had left school early that year. Rose gazed out of the window of the train as it pulled up, straining for a glimpse of her parents through the clouds of steam.
Wading her way out, with Hugo, Albus and Lily close on her heels, Rose found herself enfolded in a fierce hug by her father, then her mother, then Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry, so that by the end of it all she felt rather short of breath.
"We missed you so much!" Hermione exclaimed.
"I've been hearing some interesting things about you, aunt," Albus said, but Hermione tapped her nose and shook her head sternly.
"Don't believe everything you hear, Albus. How was your journey down? How do you think the exams went? How was Neville when you left him?"
The questions kept coming, as the two little families left the platform behind, and they took turns answering. Everyone spoke brightly and cheerfully; Rose's father kept making jokes, Uncle Harry kept putting his arm around Albus's shoulders, and Aunt Ginny very self-consciously teased Lily about whether she had any new romantic prospects in school. They stepped out amongst the Muggles, still talking away, and only when they left the station proper were they compelled to halt and prepare to go their separate ways.
"You're sure you don't want to come back to Grimmauld Place?" Aunt Ginny asked for the fifth time. "You know we've plenty of room; if the four of you wanted to stay for a few days..."
"I think Rosie and Hugo would prefer to get straight back to the coast," Hermione replied warmly. "But we're so grateful for the offer, aren't we, Ron?"
Her husband mumbled an affirmative, but still Aunt Ginny pressed, "You could come back for tea?"
"Ron's anxious to get on the road. Aren't you, love? We've hired a car again." Hermione laughed, a merry, tinkling laugh that was not her own as both of her children rolled their eyes. "I know, I know it would be easier to Floo, the kids are always saying, but driving's so much more relaxing; easier on the nerves, you know?"
"Send us an owl when you get back to the house," Uncle Harry said. "Just so that we know."
"Of course. Of course. Well - " Hermione placed a hand on each of her children's shoulders and gave them a gentle push in the direction of the street. "Off we go, then. I hope we'll see you at the Burrow for lunch soon!"
"Of course!" Ginny called back as she, Harry, Albus and Lily went the other way. "Very soon!"
Rose could feel her mother's hand on the small of her back, directing her movements, and she only let go when they reached the spot where the car was parked. "It's going to be a nightmare getting out of here," her father said, heaving a grunt as he lifted their trunks into the back of the car. "So be prepared, you lot."
Comfortably, Rose settled in her corner of the car, and turned to gaze out the window as Ron started to pull out. Her fingers traced the glass as she thought.
"Maybe we should have invited them back to our house. Do you think we should have invited them back to Holyhead?" Hermione asked Ron, who shook his head, glancing in the rearview mirror.
"Nah, they're best off as they are. We'll see them soon; you heard Ginny." He cursed as a truck indicated left ahead of him, and put his foot on the brakes. "We have all summer."
They were passing Whitehall when Rose sat right up in her seat and said, "Stop the car."
Hugo stared at her. Her father frowned in the rearview mirror. "What's that, Rosie?"
"I said stop the car."
"What's wrong, love?" Her mother turned in her seat to look her over. "Are you feeling sick?"
"No, no, I just - I need to get out." Rose had one hand on the cool glass of the window as she looked between her parents. "Stop the car, please."
Her parents exchanged a glance, and then Ron, muttering something under his breath, pulled over onto a bus space, ignoring the beeps and honks he received from passing drivers. "What the ruddy hell are you doing, Rosie? What are we supposed to do with your luggage... what..."
Rose turned the handle of the car, stepped out onto the bustling pavement and started to run.
Scorpius's mother had been unable to meet him and Tobias in King's Cross, as she was visiting his father in the Ministry, but she was waiting for them when they stepped back into the townhouse. Hurrying up the hall towards them, with her sleeves rolled up and a healthy flush in her cheeks, Scorpius reflected happily that she was starting to look like her old self again.
"Welcome home! I hope your journey went well."
"Something smells delicious," Scorpius said cheerfully, offering his cheek for her to kiss. "You've outdone yourself again, Mother."
"I'm starving," Tobias supplied, then gave an oof as his two brothers hurtled out of the kitchen and slammed him into the ground.
"Will, Sammy! Be careful." Running a hand through her hair, Astoria shook her head, and Scorpius smiled wryly as he followed her into the kitchen, which was a mess of pots and pans and steamed up windows.
"Looks like you've had your hands full." He neatly sidestepped an unruly toy broomstick that was bucking its way around the room.
"But now you're back to help me, you can wipe that smug smile off my face and help me dry up." His mother tossed him a teatowel, and he regarded it sceptically as the sounds of the boys tussling out in the hall carried through.
"I hope you don't expect me to play babysitter to those little terrors all summer."
"That's exactly what I expect!"
"I have a life!" he protested weakly as he took up one of the dishes that had been piled onto the sideboard.
"Too bad," his mother replied, then cursed as the oven door opened of its own accord, smoke pouring out. "Oh no, I left the casserole in for too long..."
"Now that I can fix," Scorpius said, and he bent swiftly, producing his wand and Vanishing the singed top layer of the casserole, then clearing the smoke. His mother looked on as Scorpius gingerly hefted the casserole dish out of the oven.
"I keep forgetting you're of age now. And when in Merlin's name did you learn to cook?"
"Dad and I had to improvise while you were away," he responded, and his mother continued to gaze at him in disbelief.
"Will wonders never cease." She moved to examine the casserole critically, then looked back at him again. "Could this be your vocation?"
He smiled as he began to divvy the casserole onto plates. "Hardly."
"What is it you want to do, then?"
"I like Charms," he said instinctively. "A lot. And there are these... freelance Metal Charmers that sometimes publish advertisements in the Daily Prophet. Maybe that wouldn't be so bad."
"Oh, dear Merlin. My son, a Metal Charmer."
Scorpius smiled to himself. "Well, if you were hoping I'd go down the Healing route, I'm afraid I was always going to disappoint."
"It's your life, Scorpius," his mother said lightly, but there was no real edge to her words, and even if there had been - Scorpius realised, with a funny start - it wouldn't have bothered him.
He knew what he wanted.
"Boys! Time to eat!" his mother hollered, and Tobias, Will and Samuel barrelled into the kitchen, squabbling over which seats to take. Scorpius and his mother served out the casserole, and they were just sitting down to their own when the doorbell rang.
Astoria Greengrass looked up, with an expression of vague annoyance on her face. "Merlin, if it's that reporter from the Prophet again..."
"I'll get it," Scorpius said responsibly, rising from the table.
"Tell him we're eating our dinner!" his mother called peevishly after him as he stepped into the hall. "Tell him to show a bit of decency!"
Scorpius had no intention of admonishing the reporter in the manner suggested by his mother, and was forming a perfectly phrased, polite, cool dismissal in his mind when he opened the door of his house to find that Rose Weasley was standing on the step.
"Hello," he said, after a moment's surprised silence.
"Hello," she said.
For a time it seemed that neither would say anything further, and there they stood, as the sounds of his cousins' loud voices echoed up the hallway behind Scorpius. In the square, beyond the bounds of the Fidelius Charm, he could hear a lawnmower trailing its way across the grass. The sun peered down from a mass of fleecy white clouds.
At last, Rose spoke, her voice soft. "I had a whole speech prepared. But I... "
Scorpius watched her quietly, one hand on the door.
"If I could take it back, I would. The way I treated you - "
"I told you that you didn't have to apologise," he said, but she shook her head.
"No, no, I do, I..."
Behind Scorpius, the kitchen door opened a crack, and Rose broke off. "Scorpius?" He saw his mother's figure framed through the glass on the upper half of the door. "Who is it?"
"It's no one, Mum," Scorpius called back, and when he saw her figure retreat from the glass, he turned again to Rose. "Listen. I'm having dinner with my family. So if you have something to say to me, say it. If not - " He paused, half-turning his face towards the sounds of the kitchen: the boys shouting over each other, his mother laughing. "I'm going to go back in there."
Rose's eyes filled with tears as she gazed at Scorpius. A burst of laughter sounded from inside the kitchen behind them. "I want..."
"What?" Scorpius's voice was harsher than he intended, but he did not soften his stare as he looked at her, waiting. "What do you want, Rose?"
"I want to start again," she whispered.
"That's not possible." Scorpius heard his mother call his name again, and adjusted his hold on the door, taking a step back. "Goodbye, Rose."
He expected her to protest, to call his name again, but she made not a sound as the door closed between them, and the last thing he saw was her downturned face in profile as she turned to go.
Scorpius walked back down the hall, his steps sounding loud, and re-entered the chaos of the kitchen.
"Will sat on the dish of mashed potatoes!" Tobias exclaimed.
"Thishh is too shhpicy," his cousin Sammy announced thickly, and then proceeded to spit out the piece of meat he had been chewing.
"Who was that, Scorpius?" His mother wore a look of long-suffering patience as she Vanished mashed potato off the back of Will's T-shirt. "They kept you a long time."
"Just... that reporter."
"I can't remember the name."
"Aunt Tori, I want more sauce!"
"I want more sauce please."
"You see, your brother's got better manners than you, Sammy."
"All right, all right, Scorpius, will you get the...?" Astoria stopped as her son stood, scraping his chair back. "You're a dear. It's just in the pantry. No, the pantry - Scorpius, where are you - "
Scorpius pushed the hall door open and strode through, seizing his jacket from the hook on the stair and passing out of the door of the house, down the steps. He pulled his jacket on as he walked fast, passing the lawnmower, whose engine was just guttering down at the edge of the square, and nodding to a few of his neighbours who stood in conversation by the railings of one of the houses. He kept walking, faster and faster, and it was as he rounded the corner onto Charing Cross Road that he spotted her.
She was walking slowly on the other side of the street, her head turned down, and Scorpius broke into a run, waving an apologetic hand at a taxi cab that blared its horn at him indignantly.
Rose did not look around when he called her name, and only when he touched her shoulder did she turn. Her face was blotchy from crying, and there was a calm resignation in her eyes.
"We can't start again," Scorpius said breathlessly. "It's not possible."
"Yeah, you said that." She lifted her chin as she regarded him, the slight breeze blowing strands of red hair in her face.
"I know." He looked down, ran a hand through his hair, and then at last in a rush, "But we're having casserole, back in the house. If you want to join us."
Rose Weasley gazed at Scorpius Malfoy, then beyond him, towards the square they had just left behind, and finally, she said, "I'd love to."
The author feels it rather unnecessary to inform her readers that at the point in time and space where this story ends - that is, at a family dinner in a house on Charing Cross Road, the summer after their sixth year at Hogwarts - Rose Weasley and Scorpius Malfoy had exchanged far more than five words, and were certainly more than school acquaintances.
However, as they were to learn in the days, weeks, months and years to come, their story was just beginning.
A/N: A HUGE thank you to all of those who have stuck with me to the (I hope not bitter) end. You mean the world to me! If anyone is interested in what happens next to Rose, Scorpius and the gang, be advised that there a sequel in the works. So keep your eye out over the next few months ;)
If you have any questions, there's a link to my tumblr on my author profile. So ask away! You can check out the playlist for Love and Glory there as well.
Love you guys,