Oh dear, this one came out of nowhere. Please review if you'd like me to continue! I promise to be done with Art & Alchemy soon - I just need time to sit down and finish it.
Chapter 1: The Bargain
Rose Weasley's vision clouded around the edges as the article stared back at her.
ROSE WEASLEY CAUGHT IN YET ANOTHER PUBLIC ACT OF INDECENCY
Son of the Head of Magical Sports Department now Weasley's newest conquest
And under the squawking headline was a moving picture of her caught in Winston Hedge's muscular arms, in the midst of sweeping, passionate kiss.
Despite the rising panic in her chest, Rose squinted at the picture. Her headphones were knocked askew, and she looked bug-eyed from shock. Hedge, on the other hand, looked right at home with his hands up her skirt.
Up. Her. Skirt.
In the name of Dumbledore. Her father was going to get conniptions, and her mother—well, Hermione was a little more understanding about Rose's sad plight in the wizarding media. But this was a new low, even for Rose.
As a highly respected official in the Minstry of Magic, surely it would be difficult for even Hermione to come to terms with seeing her daughter getting groped in the papers.
Rose groaned inwardly. It was a cool autumn day on the Hogwarts grounds, and now it was all ruined for her. In a few hours, there would be a scathing letter from her parents—no Howlers, because the family had learned that Howlers hadn't stopped Rose from getting bad press—and perhaps owls of sympathy from Uncle Harry and her grandparents.
Of all the Weasley-Potter children, the media had been most unforgiving with Rose.
These scandals were torturous for a girl who lacked interest in dating from a young age. She always had more affection for magical creatures and the study of them. After all, why speak of butterflies in the stomach when Winged Poppies held more magic in reality? Why drown in the depths of a first kiss, when there was so much to discover in the realm of river beasts?
Rose knew, on some level, that all of this was partly her fault. All this attention was due to her approachable nature, Lily once told her with a teasing grin. Rose was too open, too kind, too encouraging, without meaning to be—and, as a result, she had always been highly sought after by boys. Winston Hedge… Roland Cliff… Jamie Wilkins… whatever the name was, boys seemed drawn to her like bees to honey. Yet, Rose's unbridled curiosity hindered her attention to romantic signals. How was she to know that when a boy talked to her about Manticores, it meant he wanted to go out with her?
All she had wanted to do with Winston Hedge was to discuss Manticores, and look where that landed her.
Heck, boys were a mystery to Rose. At least magical creatures could be studied.
While Rose's disinterest in boys delighted Ron immensely, it had proven to be her undoing the moment she was old enough to be courted. Since her fourth year, incessant confessions and publicly romantic gestures from boys had turned her into the media's prime target. The narrative was always the same: Rose Weasley has been found again in a compromising position by some eligible young wizard.
And, if the media had their way, it wouldn't be long until the next one.
It was no thanks to her naivety that the wizarding world thought her to be some coy, flirtatious creature.
And now, a year from graduation, Rose was over it. She was going to put a stop to these scandals.
Even if it meant taking drastic measures.
Drastic measures was how Rose found herself standing before Scorpius Malfoy one chilly afternoon in Hogsmeade, the social section of the Daily Prophet clutched in her balled fist.
Scorpius Malfoy was a friend of Albus', and was as curiously handsome as his name. Her brother Hugo once announced Scorpius and his pal, Tarquin Zabini, as tied for the title of Most Eligible Bachelor in Hogwarts.
It had tickled Rose, at that point in time, to realise how boy-crazy Hugo was in comparison to her. She loved her gangly, outspoken younger brother dearly, and was thankful that the media deemed him worthy enough to be left alone. Despite Hugo's 'flaming bisexuality', as he liked to call it, his undisputed brilliance as England's youngest Wizard's Chess champion had acquitted him of undeserving headlines in the social section of the Daily Prophet.
Rose, of course, wasn't quite so lucky.
She saw Scorpius in school often enough. Even if he wasn't a friend of Albus, it was impossible to miss him in her classes, or even when he strode across the hallways, his gaze clear and sharp. There was nothing dull or subtle about Malfoy—he was a force of nature, a virile presence that filled any room he entered. Perhaps it was the fact that he towered over most people, or his aristocratic, fine-boned features, crowned by impeccable silver-blond hair… He was objectively beautiful in all the ways that counted.
And now, as Malfoy stared down at her with the mildest of incredulity in his expression, Rose almost wished she could take the words back.
Almost, but not quite.
"My ears must be deceiving me," Scorpius was saying slowly, his voice low against the bustle of the Hogsmeade crowds behind him. "You want me to be your what?"
"You heard me." Rose fumbled nervously with the headphones hanging over her neck. She never went anywhere without them—they helped conceal the whispering and gossip whenever those silly scandals broke out. As a passing group of students glanced their way, she had an overwhelming urge to put them on again. "It's not a big deal. Look, I just want to get through seventh year unscathed."
"A scandal." Rose felt her cheeks heat up as a look of comprehension dawned on Scorpius' face. "That wasn't how it looked like."
He smiled mirthlessly. "Everyone knows Hedge is obsessed with you." His gaze raked over her. "I suppose I can understand why."
"It's unrequited. He ambushed me like all the rest." Rose folded her arms, refusing to be intimidated by his lack of enthusiasm. "So will you do it? I promise it will be relatively painless. I require no maintenance."
Scorpius raised a disbelieving eyebrow.
"I don't need to go on dates. No love letters. No surprise gifts. Definitely no PDA. Everyone just needs to think we're together and that will be the end of it. I'll even let you dump me at graduation, as publicly as you want. I can take it. At least that won't have anything to do with me being a hussy."
"That's what they call me!" Rose waved the Daily Prophet at Scorpius, who took it from her with an almost serene calmness. He glanced at the article, and she thought she spotted a familiar amusement in his eyes, the kind that came when he was up to no good with Albus and Tarquin.
"A conquest," he said at length. "And you don't think you and I getting together will be a scandal in itself? Albus will skewer me, not to mention your father. The media will have a field day. Which goes against your intentions, does it not?"
"Well, we'll let them in on the plan," Rose said, suddenly desperate. "They'll understand my plight. Please. I can't be deflecting confessions all year. And—and you're the only one they're afraid of."
Scorpius glanced sharply at her, and Rose had the distinct impression that she had crossed an invisible line somewhere.
"And you?" she heard him say, his voice now dangerously quiet. "Are you afraid of me?"
"Not any more than I am of a Doxy," Rose said defiantly, ignoring the slight quaver in her voice. "I have no interest in you. And I've seen the girls you get with. I don't suppose I'm your type."
He stepped closer to her then, the length of his body a hair away from hers, his warm breath by her temple. Rose blinked, unwittingly taking a step back. Scorpius followed, and then Rose felt the rough brick against her palms. It reminded her of all the times she was ambushed by boys, for a kiss or a confession, and a familiar dread rose in her stomach. Even so, she forced herself to meet Scorpius' eyes.
"No," he whispered. "You're not. But I could still eat you up and spit you out, Weasley. You don't know what you're asking for."
"You're jealous," Rose said, with maddening sureness. "You're possessive and controlling. No man can make eyes at the girl on your arm without incurring your wrath. You love like a lunatic, and nobody will look twice at me if I'm with you. So you're wrong—I know exactly what I'm getting into." She felt a sudden heat at the back of her collar at the memory of Scorpius' passionate tryst with her friend Georgia Plumes two years ago.
Georgia Plumes, so carefree and bright-eyed, who single-handedly turned Malfoy from a charming playboy into a destructive, lovelorn man.
Their separation had been so severe that Hogwarts rocked in its wake—Georgia had dumped Scorpius publicly, in front of the whole school, and to his fury she had hopped right into Wallace Bolt's bed barely a day after. Bolt had lived in fear for his life for days after, so terrified he was to be the object of Scorpius' rage.
Rose liked Georgia, but she was not the sort of girl who could be held down by one person. And despite his feelings for her, she certainly was never in love with Malfoy.
"Is that what they're saying?"
Rose was brought back to the present by the imperceptible smile on Scorpius' face. It was odd, how she'd always thought that she was aware of what Scorpius looked like. But now, so close to him, she could see the devil was in the details—the sensual slant of his lips, lashes dark against his light eyes, the unspoken wickedness in the the way he studied her. Rose knew she wasn't unpretty, but she had no illusions that half of her attractiveness to the opposite gender came from her very famous name.
He was no stranger to famous names, and had no reason to be looking at her like that.
She refused to be cowed by him. Pfah, so he was handsome. Big deal. So was Buckbeak.
"They've said worse. About you. About me." Rose took a deep breath, suddenly aware of a flurry of movement to the left of her. The signs were all there. Lingering students, odd whispering—she would have to use it all to her advantage. She raised her chin, more determined than ever. "And it's time we shut them up about it, don't you think?"
"What's in it for me?"
"Your reputation. Obviously. You're going to be a reasonable boyfriend to me, aren't you? Not at all mad or possessive or any of those things. Nothing of that nonsense with Georgia. You'll be redeemed. We'll be a model couple. Then I'll allow you to dump me as publicly as you like, and that will be your legacy. Dumping a Weasley."
At this, Scorpius let out a bark of laughter. "Merlin, you've really thought this through, haven't you?"
"Malfoy. I just want to study Grindylows in peace. And if it means being with you, then so be it." A loose crowd was gathering now. Rose gave Scorpius a somewhat apologetic smile, lifting her headphones to her ears. Mozart—how wonderful, she thought absently.
Then, before Scorpius could react, she said, as loudly as she could, "Oh, Scorpius! Of course I'll go out with you!"
Shock crossed Scorpius' features, but it was too late—the cameras were flashing, and students and journalists alike had gathered around them. Rose couldn't hear them past the Mozart, but from the wide-eyed fury on Scorpius face, she supposed a little kiss wouldn't hurt.
So she jumped on her toes, fisted the front of his sweater, and brought his lips down to hers. To anyone else, the way his fingers fisted in her hair was an act of passion.
To her, it was a warning. She pulled away from the abrupt kiss, flashed him a grin, then ducked under his arm and scampered off.
Scorpius Malfoy was officially a Weasley conquest—and one she planned to keep.