Part IV: Checkmate.
"Son, if you don't stop tapping that quill, I'm going to break it," Draco said curtly, pulling the quill out of Scorpius's hand a week later.
"Sorry," Scorpius said hastily.
He went back to trying to study for his teaching credential written exam. As soon as he passed the exam, McGonagall had told him the job was as good as his. His concentration was totally fried though. His mind had been whirring for days after his conversation with Clara, rife with indecision. He knew she was scared; Clara said as much. Rose hated vulnerability, she always had. She was still avoiding him, but the way Al told it, she was making some breakthrough in her research.
Either way, he was now genuinely panicking about whether he'd gravely misread the situation with Rose. But was she really that angry with him? Was she embarrassed about what happened between them? Worse of all, did he hurt her? The idea of hurting Rose, deliberately or not, tormented him. That was the absolute last thing Scorpius wanted.
"Knut for your thoughts," Draco said after a while. His gentle-natured son was normally so laidback and easygoing that the incessant quill-tapping meant something was weighing heavily on his mind.
Scorpius hesitated, not knowing how to start. Rose was very much at the forefront of his mind, but he didn't know how his father would react to that news. He wasn't displeased when he invited Al over for Christmas dinner in first year so much as he was shocked that Harry Potter had allowed it. But he had a different relationship with Ron Weasley and old grudges died hard.
Draco narrowed his eyes at his only son squirming like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "This is about a girl," he guessed. Draco was willing to bet money he knew which girl.
A pink flush started high in Scorpius's cheekbones. Not the best liar to begin with and knowing his father lied his arse off as a sport (so he could spot the lie from a mile away), Scorpius admitted, "She's avoiding me."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Did you do something to make her avoid you?"
The flush burned a little brighter and Scorpius said nothing, averting his eyes instead. Scorpius was really only confirming it for Draco. His son was an open book.
"I see. Well, were you guys safe?"
"Merlin, Dad," Scorpius yelped. "Stop."
Draco laughed. "I have to ask. If you are going to become a father, my mother and yoursare both going to ask me why you haven't made an honest woman out of her yet. And what answer will I give them?"
Scorpius covered his head with his hands. "Please kill me."
"Sex is perfectly healthy, son, don't be such a prude," Draco said, with way too much relish. It was too easy to tease him.
"I used protection," Scorpius practically yelled.
Astoria walked in at precisely that moment. "With who?" she asked excitedly. "What does she look like?"
Scorpius glared at his father. "See what you did?"
Draco smirked. "No one asked you to shout, son."
Scorpius made an inaudible sound from under his fingers, completely mortified by this conversation.
"So, who is it?" Astoria asked.
Draco was still watching his son closely. "He hasn't told yet but it's probably that Weasley girl."
Scorpius yelped again. "Dad!"
"Which one? There's a million of them," Astoria said, ignoring her son's reaction. By now, she was used it.
"Rose," Draco answered, and Scorpius's blush went from pink to red.
"Oh, she's such a lovely girl."
"Probably the smartest one from the whole Weasley lot," Draco said, with some satisfaction.
"How do you know that?" Scorpius asked despite himself.
"She and I play chess here on Sundays when she's free," Draco said casually. "She's one of the best minds I've ever gone up against. She could even beat you."
There was clearly no loyalty in this family. Scorpius gaped at him. Rose Weasley played chess with his father?
"How did I not know about this?"
Draco shrugged. "You weren't paying attention?"
Scorpius's brain, however, had stopped at the idea of Rose Weasley here in Malfoy Manor. "Since when has this been going on?"
Draco shrugged. "Maybe since your first year?" At the look on his son's face, he added, "Don't look like that. Her mother asked me to."
That made even less sense. "I don't understand," he said finally.
"The week after your Sorting, I got an owl from Hermione Weasley asking me to talk to Rose over the Christmas hols. She's the only Weasley to ever go to Slytherin and I think when her cousin and you got Sorted into the same House without her, her mother was worried that she may have had reservations about it or trouble fitting in. Weasel Sr. certainly wasn't happy about it, but he came around eventually."
"But why ask you?"
"I was a Slytherin, was I not?"
"No but…she could have asked anyone."
"It's comforting to know my son has such faith in me," Draco said dryly.
Scorpius immediately felt bad. He knew how the question sounded. "I didn't mean it like that."
Draco chose to ignore this. "But to answer your question, I am probably one of the few Slytherins she felt comfortable enough asking for such a favor. And I owed her," Draco admitted begrudgingly.
Astoria added, "But Rose turned out to be a lovely girl so we just kept inviting her back."
"Why didn't you ever tell me?" He wasn't sure where the sense of betrayal was coming from. Logically, he knew that, had he asked, his father would have told him. But he still had to know.
Draco raised his eyebrow at him again. "Would it have mattered?"
"I still would have wanted to know."
Draco shook his head. "Her one condition to come here and talk to me was that you couldn't find out about it."
He shrugged. "Perhaps she was embarrassed. I don't really know. Honestly, I don't think anyone but her parents knew about it. She's not the type to announce her weekend plans in the Daily Prophet. Especially not if it's to play chess with a former Death Eater," Draco said mirthlessly.
He wasn't wrong, and so Scorpius wired his own mouth shut before he could put his foot farther in his mouth than he already had today, trying to get his mind around it. He decided he'd be relieved that Draco approved of Rose, rather than annoyed that neither of them saw fit to tell him. Rose had more layers than an onion. He shouldn't have even been surprised. "When is the last time you guys played chess?" he asked instead.
Draco scratched his chin and thought about it. "Oh, it's been a few weeks now. She owled and told me she was making headway on some project at work. Unspeakables never tell you anything," he grumbled.
"That's been the general consensus," Scorpius said unhappily. He'd almost accepted that Rose was probably going to avoid him for the rest of forever.
Draco looked at Astoria, and Astoria made some excuse about meeting Narcissa for tea, leaving as quickly as she came in. "Moping isn't going to get her back, son."
"I don't know what to do," Scorpius said, frustrated. "She won't return any of my owls, and I haven't seen her in weeks."
"So, go find her," Draco said. "And fix it yourself."
Draco Malfoy was a simple man. If there was an obstacle to what he wanted, he just moved the obstacle. His son loved this girl. Unless he was very wrong, she loved him in return. If she was avoiding him, he needed to go after her and prove it to her.
Scorpius wondered if it could be that simple. Up until now, he had been trying to wait Rose out, respect her space, let her think, but it was a futile exercise. Rose kept busy when she was upset so she wouldn't have to spend time dwelling on it. He'd known that since they were eleven. But he needed her to dwell on this, even if she was upset. He needed to know what she was thinking, what upset her, what went wrong, and most importantly, how he could fix it.
Draco had one more surprise up his sleeve. He produced an ancient black velvet ring box from a drawer in his desk. It was the engagement ring Draco had used to propose to Astoria, a Malfoy heirloom. "If groveling her doesn't convince her, this should," he said with way too much satisfaction as he pressed the box into his astonished son's hand. "If my son wasn't born to be a Slytherin, it's fitting that my future daughter-in-law is, don't you think?"
It was just like a Slytherin to think that way, but Scorpius thought he needed to think like a Slytherin would just now. Rose was a strategist at her core, after all. This move was the ultimate checkmate, crazy enough that Scorpius thought it might work.
"Scorpius, stop overthinking this," Draco said impatiently, when Scorpius still hadn't said anything. Draco shoved him toward the fireplace and slapped the chalice of Floo powder in his hand. "Just go find her and snog an explanation out of her. Trust me, it worked with your mother."
Scorpius let out a squeak that made Draco equal parts ashamed and amused. Images of his parents snogging was not the thought he wanted in his head when he was trying to win Rose back. "I'm leaving," Scorpius said decidedly.
"After you're finished snogging her, tell her I want a rematch!" Draco called, as Scorpius stepped into the fireplace.
Draco was satisfied at the look of abject disgust on his son's face as Scorpius Floo'd directly into Rose's apartment.
Meanwhile, Rose's mind was still a thousand miles away, on Love Magic. She'd spent the last three weeks collating all her data on love marriages and love potions to find common variables, and she could feel herself getting close. Rose was sitting on the hearth of the fireplace in her apartment, bent over a tome on love potions, when suddenly her fire turned green and her one-night stand materialized in front of her. She yelped as she got to her feet and stumbled back so Scorpius could step out of the fireplace.
"What the bloody hell are you doing here?" Rose demanded, clearing away all her books and notes so he wouldn't see or step on them. She was very conscious of the fact that she had dark bags under her eyes and ink stains on her hands. She hadn't done her hair and her clothes were wrinkled from hours of sitting on the hearth. Scorpius, on the other hand, looked impeccable as always. He was clean shaven, his clothes pressed.
He had an unusually serious look on his face. "We need to talk."
"How did you get in here?" she asked, ignoring his statement. She was frazzled that Scorpius was even here at all. He'd been letting her avoid him for so long, she almost thought she could get away with it. Almost. She should have known that whatever she thought Scorpius Malfoy would do, he did the exact opposite.
"I was at my dad's place," he said simply.
That figured. Draco's study in Malfoy Manor also was one of the few places to have Floo access to her apartment, aside from her parents' house, the Burrow, Shell Cottage, Godric's Hollow, and Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Though he'd always given her freedom, Ron had been excessive with the security measures when she'd moved out. He'd made the exception for the Malfoys, knowing of their long-standing Sunday chess match. Draco probably was the one to persuade Scorpius to come here in the first place, she thought ruefully.
He repeated, "We need to talk."
At this point, she would have made any excuse to avoid this conversation. She didn't want to hear Scorpius try to justify why he didn't want anything real with her, why he just wanted something casual, something with no strings, no commitment. In other words, excuses that she'd heard a thousand times before from men who were far beneath him. was one thing to hear it from wankers like Bradley Decker (who'd sent a short letter two weeks ago penned with those same tired phrases). Hearing it from Scorpius, who she liked, respected, and cared for would destroy her.
"Yeah, so I've heard," Scorpius said, shaking his head. "You haven't answered any of my owls."
Rose looked at him blankly. "What owls?"
"You're joking," Scorpius said, in disbelief.
"I didn't get any owls," Rose protested with injured innocence. "I've been sleeping at the Ministry the last few weeks because of my project. I only came home to get my books."
Well that explained that, Scorpius thought, relieved without really knowing why. Department of Mysteries didn't allow any communication in or out of the research facilities unless they were interdepartmental memos. "It's better to do this in person anyway," Scorpius said levelly instead.
Scorpius took her hands and Rose looked up at him, not expecting him to step so close to her. "I didn't like waking up without you."
Rose averted her eyes. "It was a mistake."
"It didn't feel like that at the time."
"It felt like that after."
"Not to me."
That only made Scorpius angry. "Why? It was great."
"It didn't mean anything, that's why," she spat bitterly. Cut it off before it has a chance to cut you. That was her thinking. She'd been vulnerable in front of Scorpius enough for one lifetime.
Scorpius recoiled like she'd slapped him. "How can you say that? Of course it meant something!"
"Did it?" Rose asked, but the question wasn't scornful. Scorpius couldn't put his finger on what the inflection in her voice was, but it sounded almost wistful.
"Oh, come on, Rose! I made every excuse to spend time with you. When I figured out that food made you happy, that's what I started bringing so you'd smile at me. I thought that you might have given me a chance if you saw me as a friend instead of just competition. I was crazy jealous of all those guys you went on dates with because they never could keep up with you. I knew I could though, and I thought eventually you'd see it."
Rose's startled eyes met his. Her brain had grinded to a painful halt as she tried to process this.
"What?" was her very eloquent response. She was still gaping at him.
"I just want to be with you," Scorpius admitted quietly. "It can't be that much of a surprise."
"You never said anything!" she accused, once her brain started stringing together coherent sentences. He couldn't put that on her! She was not a mind-reader! He never asked her out, or made a move.
"I didn't think I had to! I thought it was obvious," Scorpius snapped. "How many other women did I do that for?"
"I don't know," Rose said in a small voice. She'd always assumed he was being nice to her for Al's sake not her own. And because he was a bloody Hufflepuff who was nice to everyone. She had had no reason to think she was special. "It wasn't obvious though."
Scorpius shrugged haplessly, but his voice softened. "I love you. I've always loved you. I didn't think I had to say it. For me, love is an action. It's a verb. I did everything I could to show you I loved you."
It was like a lightbulb had gone on in her head. "Love is an action," she repeated. "Hang on one second." She pulled up her notes with her family's data on it and she skimmed through it. "That's it. You're a genius."
"What's it?" Scorpius said, genuinely lost. He'd just poured his heart out to this girl and she was reading.
"The missing piece," she said delightedly, scribbling on the parchment. "I've been looking for it. Love is an action. That's why it works!"
"We're having two different conversations here," Scorpius said, watching her cautiously.
"Love magic," she confided. "I've been studying it."
"That's why you were asking about everyone's marriages," Scorpius realized, almost crestfallen. She hadn't been asking because she loved him.
"Yes. Trying to find commonalities. Why it worked when my uncle's parents sacrificed themselves for him and why it worked when your grandma saved my uncle so she could save your dad. It wasn't just that Gran bought Gramps a book on airplanes."
"You lost me again, Rose."
She waved a hand impatiently. "Never mind. My gran is all about the words of affirmation. Your grandma is more about acts of service. Aunt Fleur was physical touch. Mine was gifts. And you're quality time," she realized.
"You're using that love language book on me, aren't you?" Scorpius guessed.
Rose was way too excited. "Don't you see, Scorpius? Emotions can potentiate spells, but spell casters are only as good as their execution. It didn't matter what the love language was! Love languages are the technique in love magic. The magic itself worked because love is an action. The foundation of every sacrifice, every spell, was based in the action of love not the feeling!"
Scorpius was still lost, but he waited, watching her work through it. "Okay…"
Rose put the parchment down and looked up at him, her eyes burning with a fire that he'd only seen when she'd found out her application to the Unspeakables had been accepted. "Did you mean it?" she asked seriously. "That you love me?"
"I've always meant it," he said quietly.
If she turned him away now, he thought he'd shatter. He wasn't strong enough to take her rejection twice in one month. He always brought her food as gifts, but this time, he put everything on the line. As his last-ditch attempt to show her he meant it, he pulled the ring from his pocket and offered it up for her to see he was dead serious. It was a diamond-and-emerald-encrusted beauty, with a tiny Malfoy crest engraved the underside of the silver band. The ring was exactly to Rose's taste, not to mention worth a fortune. If this didn't work, nothing would.
Rose searched his eyes, and then nodded, letting him slide the ring onto her left hand. This man knew and accepted everything about her. She took two steps and framed his face with her hands, giving him a kiss, more tender than any of the kisses they'd ever shared. She put everything she had into that one kiss, hoping he'd understand. She felt him smile against her lips. She pulled back and met his eyes, the fire in her eyes burning even hotter. She bit her lip. "I love you too."
The dam broke. Elated, Scorpius's hands came up around her wrists and pulled her closer with another kiss. When they split apart, breathless, he said with a sheepish grin, "Good, because my dad wanted me to tell you he wants a rematch and I would have felt really bad telling him no."
Rose snickered. "Tell him I'll hand him his arse after I'm done taking advantage of his son."
She was about to kiss him again but Scorpius was the one to pull back and he couldn't help but chuckle at the irritated look on Rose's face.
"If I don't ask now, I'll never get my answer about why I didn't know the love of my life plays chess with my father."
Rose raised her eyebrows, trying to fight the blush coming on. "I'm the love of your life?"
"Don't distract me," Scorpius said stubbornly. "How come you never told me?"
She rolled her eyes. "Because then you'd be weird about it. Like right now. I'm trying to have sex and you're talking about your dad. Talk about issues. He gave me advice. That's it."
"I had to know. Just so we're clear, you'll marry me?" he checked.
"I'm wearing the ring, aren't I?" Scorpius gave her a look. He needed to hear her say it. He wasn't going to give her any room for ambiguity or assumptions. "Yes, okay, I'll marry you. Now can we have sex?" Rose asked impatiently, trying to kiss him again. If he didn't touch her now, she was going to explode.
"We need to work on your romantic side," Scorpius said, shaking his head, but he pulled her to him nonetheless.
"You're the love of my life, too," she said sincerely.
Scorpius beamed. "That's much better."
"Now strip, Malfoy," she demanded.
Scorpius grinned, kissed her, and did her bidding happily.
A month later, Rose had gotten her thesis on the basis of Love Magic published in Transfiguration Today, catapulting her to the top of her career. When Rose had received the owl informing her that her paper had been selected for publication, she'd almost torn the letter in her haste to open it and read the news.
Her father had proudly framed a copy in his office for all the Aurors to see, and then sent a framed copy to all their family members. Ron was so elated for her that he didn't even lose his temper when Rose kissed Scorpius in their kitchen at the news, effectively announcing their engagement in front of the whole family.
Up until this point, they'd kept their new relationship status relatively a secret, exploring each other as a new couple. Only Clara, Draco, and Astoria knew. Clara, because she had noticed Rose working less (and more hickeys peppering her skin), and the Malfoys because Scorpius had returned to his normally sunny (annoying, in Draco's words) disposition after weeks of sulking around Malfoy Manor.
The secrecy just added another dimension to the situation. Scorpius of five years earlier would have wanted to take an ad out in the Daily Prophet and announce that out of all the eligible bachelors in the world, Rose Weasley had chosen to make an honest man out of him. But Scorpius of today was very much a disciple of the church of what is happening now. Al was still as nosey as ever, but now Scorpius had the entire Weasley clan to contend with. He just wanted to enjoy the honeymoon phase with Rose before the rest of her family got involved.
Rose, for her part, had made a concerted effort to be more mindful of the time. She now tried to leave the Ministry at a reasonable time so she could make it to dinner. It wasn't always at the same time but Scorpius always smiled that happy grin of his that made her insides turn to embarrassing mush whenever she walked through the door. She would sit at her now-reserved seat at the bar and do paperwork there until his shift ended. On the days that weren't busy, Rose would quiz him for his teaching credential and Scorpius would help her fine-tune her defense for her thesis. On the days that were super busy, she'd come in, eat, and then meet him at home when he was off shift.
Knowing Rose's workaholic tendencies, Scorpius had ensured a meal was ready for her during her lunch and dinner hours. Scorpius had also made her promise, quite early on, that if she was panicked or angry with him, that she wouldn't bury herself in her work again and actually talk to him. He was a man who learned from his mistakes.
"What if I don't know what to say?" she'd asked. The words didn't always come as easily to her as they did to him.
"I love you," he had said with a carefree shrug. "I'm willing to work it out with you. And if we can't work it out vertically, we can work it out horizontally."
Rose had shoved him and laughed. "Okay, deal."
When Rose kissed him in front of the whole family, he knew there was no going back. He needn't have worried though; Ron was more irritated that he lost the pool with Harry, Clara and George of when they'd get together than anything. The boy had been in love with her for so long that Ron honestly thought Rose was more likely to hurt him than vice versa. He just chuffed Scorpius on his shoulder and gave the boy a semi-threatening blessing, knowing full well that if he hurt her, Rose could come up with far more creative retribution than he ever could.
When he finished saying his piece, the Weasleys brought out the Firewhiskey.
After celebrating with her family, Rose agreed to face off with Draco over a chessboard in his study the following Sunday. Scorpius had finished the last of his coursework for his teaching credential and sent all the paperwork to McGonagall. All that was left was the final exam, which he'd taken three days prior. He was pacing the study, waiting for his exam results.
"Scorpius, for fuck's sake, sit down. The owl is not going to fly any faster to get here with your results," Rose said impatiently.
"Keep pacing, son. If you continue to break her concentration, I'll win this game," Draco said reassuringly as his bishop hacked her knight to death.
A tawny blur whizzed by his ear and dropped a letter in Scorpius's hands. Scorpius froze, his hands shaking.
Still impatient as ever, Rose stood up, snatching the letter out of his hand to rip it open and scan it herself. She grinned.
"Professor Malfoy really does have a nice ring to it," she said coyly.
Scorpius let out a shout of joy, picked her up and spun her around, kissing her fervently. "I really got in?"
"Did you have any doubt?" Draco asked arrogantly as he made his next move on the chessboard. He had gotten very good at ignoring Scorpius's public displays of affection with his new fiancé.
Rose kissed Scorpius's cheek, pranced back over to the board, moved a piece. "Checkmate, old man."
Draco huffed. "I should have never set you two up."
Author's Note: Well, there you have it, folks. Please review and tell me what you guys thought.