This time, the pre-chapter A/N is short, but if you happen to have any lingering sentimentality for this story, feel free to check out the very long message that comes afterwards.
As always, I adore my reviewers. At the time that I'm writing this, I have 214 reviews. I am so flattered, so humbled, and so very, very touched. :')
September showed all signs of bowing out with one last bout of miserable weather. The morning had seen a violent windstorm which turned into an early snowfall as the afternoon progressed, and then, with only a couple of centimetres of snow on the ground, turned to hail. By five o'clock it had been coming down relentlessly for quite some time, with no hint of an imminent conclusion.
And then, it stopped.
Scorpius, who had been watching the scene for hours from the common room's largest window, decided it was a sign. He set aside the book that had been lying unopened upon his lap, picked up his cloak, considered it for a moment, and then tossed it back upon the chair. He climbed through the portrait hole without a backwards glance.
Outside, it was bitterly and refreshingly cold. His shoes made a satisfying crunching sound against the fallen hail as he made his way down several steep hills, skidding down a few feet every here and there. Despite the overreaching feeling of gloominess that had been strangling him for nearly two days, he found himself enjoying the crisp solitude of the stroll. Though he now knew where he was going, he paused.
Some distance before him, at the lake's edge, stood Rose. He did not question this. Borrowing composure from some unknown source, he walked up to her, his shoes alerting her to his proximity well before he reached her. She was facing away from him, and her hair slipped over her shoulders as she turned her face to him. She caught his eye and looked away, but thankfully made no move to walk away.
Scorpius drew level with her. He stood silently at her side and contemplated her as she looked down at the ground, arms hugging her chest to keep warm – she, too, was jacketless.
"Hi," she said to a patch of grass beside her right foot.
"Hi," he replied warmly, inexplicably comforted by the sound of her voice.
They stood together for a few minutes, staring at the changing hues reflected on the surface of the lake as the sky began to darken in certain patches.
"Decided you're not going to ignore me forever, yet?" said Scorpius casually, breaking the silence between them.
Stricken, she tore her gaze from the ground and looked up at him for the first time. "No, I wasn't – I wasn't trying to ignore you, Scorpius!"
He shrugged and scuffed the grass with his toe. "You've been doing everything in your power to avoid me for the past thirty-four hours, Rose. It kind of seemed that way."
Rose let out a breath guiltily, perhaps due to the absence of her usual nickname, and hugged herself more closely. "Al caught up with me yesterday. He told me what happened, and…"
"I guess… well, I need to apologise to you," she confessed. "I was so selfish at first, I kept thinking about how embarrassed I was, and I didn't consider for the longest time about how it couldn't have been too pleasant for you – I mean, you were there, too. It must have…" Again she trailed off, turning her head to hide her burning cheeks.
Scorpius gave a choked sort of laugh. "It was hardly unpleasant! At least until I realised that it wasn't you – the real you."
Rose glanced at him, thrown off track by his words. Seemingly wrestling with something, she began, "And… Al said—"
"That I've had feelings for you forever?" said Scorpius, cutting to the chase, though not unkindly. Sensing that she had been rendered speechless, he took her silence as an affirmative response. "I figured he would, sooner or later."
"Well?" she demanded, having apparently regained the power of speech.
He looked at her, surprised. "Well, what?"
"Is it true?" she asked, looking uncomfortable as she forced herself to say the words. "Do you… have feelings for me?"
Amazed that she had any doubt, he replied, "Yes. Of course." Even as he said it he felt a great relief settle upon his shoulders.
Rose's eyes widened, but didn't dare permit herself to experience hope. "Then why on earth," she said slowly, "are you going out with Delilah Mackey?"
Scorpius blinked. "Once again… what?"
"What what?" said Rose, exasperated. "You're going out with her, aren't you?"
"I'm not going out with Delilah… who told you that?" he sputtered out.
"Clarisse did, a couple of weeks ago," she told him defensively. Looking much less certain now, she added, "You're really not? Honestly?"
"No!" Scorpius exclaimed. "I'm not sure if I even know her well enough to call her a friend."
Unable to fully accept what he was saying, Rose protested, "But you two were at Hogsmeade together! I saw you; you were sharing drinks!"
"Rosie, she sat down at my table and we talked for less than five minutes," said Scorpius. "If I remember correctly, it was you who was actually on a date with someone else."
Immediately she denied it. "No, I wasn't!"
"…Conrad Aryes?" he reminded her patiently.
"Conrad Aryes does not qualify as 'someone else'," she scoffed. "He is cat vomit reincarnated in human form."
Scorpius suddenly felt as if he was missing something. "Er, if you have such a low opinion of him, why exactly were you on a date with him?"
"I wasn't on a date with him. I mean, I was with him that day, but it was most definitely not a date," said Rose, realising where the misunderstanding had come into play. "The jerk didn't really give me much of a choice. It was either spend an hour at Hogsmeade with him or have the possibility of being subjected to another visit from his tongue looming in an axe-like fashion over my head," she said, showing great distaste.
"Another visit?" said Scorpius, looking slightly ill. "So Conrad was— is—"
"My not-so-secret, not-so-admirable secret admirer? Yeah," Rose confirmed. She raised an eyebrow. "You didn't know that?"
"No," he said, trying to overcome the shock. "I didn't. You never said anything; I'm positive."
"But Al knows. I would've thought he'd have told you."
"Well, yes," Rose told him. "As a matter of fact, that day we all met up at the owlery, he heard the entire conversation between Conrad and me. And then you showed up so soon afterwards – I remember thinking that you'd probably bumped into him on your way up."
Scorpius shook his head. Everything Rose was saying was news to him.
"Conrad," said Rose in disgust. "It'll be a dull day at Hogwarts before I go on a real date with him."
Scorpius looked in her eyes and couldn't hide a small smile. "You have no idea how much of a rel—" he began. He paused, and his blond eyebrows drew together as he looked past her head. He grimaced slightly and, with hesitation, said, "You know that expression… 'speak of the devil and he shall appear'?"
Rose stared at him. "Please tell me you're kidding." She didn't dare turn around.
"Unless Conrad's forgotten his homework here at the lake, it looks like he's heading right for us," reported Scorpius. A part of him wanted to be able to find some humour in the situation, but the chances of that were not favourable.
Rose closed her eyes and pushed her hair back with one hand. "How far away?" she asked through gritted teeth.
"Forty metres, give or take a few boulders," he estimated. "Ouch. He's not too well-coordinated, is he?"
She drew in a deep breath, and then her eyes shot open. Speaking quickly, she asked, "Are you willing to do me a favour?"
"Kiss me right now," Rose repeated, "and I'll forgive you for making me think I never had a chance. Not to mention for the emotional discomfort I suffered at the thought of you going out with one of my friends." She smiled brightly. "Deal?" Seeing Scorpius unable to speak, she added, "Well, as we don't exactly have much time for discussion right now, I'm going to take that for a 'yes'. So."
Before Scorpius even had the time to process it, she had flung her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly, continuing her pretence of being oblivious to anything but him.
Though she had been anticipating it, Conrad's voice was as cringe-inducing as ever. She broke away from Scorpius and turned her head. "Conrad," she greeted him, her voice on the fence between curtness and politeness.
"What are you doing with him?" Conrad demanded, shooting a healthy glare towards Scorpius.
"Conrad, I'm sure I've told you I had a boyfriend," said Rose innocently. "Many times, in fact."
Appearing to be less than appeased, Conrad retorted, "You also said you were suffering from spattergroit. You're just a bloody liar, Rose Weasley."
Beside Rose, Scorpius tensed suddenly. She, however, remained perfectly calm.
"Could be," she told Conrad coolly, "but then again, maybe you would have been better off listening to me the first dozen or so times."
"Oh, please," Conrad sneered. "Everyone knows you aren't going out with anyone."
Rose raised her eyebrows. "Are you sure we couldn't convince you?" she said, pulling Scorpius' face down again.
Swearing under his breath, Conrad stalked off, enraged and disgusted, the prospect of witnessing another kiss apparently to much for him to handle. Both Rose and Scorpius watched his retreating figure without regret.
"Prat," was Scorpius' sole observation.
"You'll receive no argument from me," Rose replied pleasantly.
Scorpius stole a sidelong glance at her. "You mentioned something about forgiveness?"
She smiled, eyes playful. "Well. Pi needs a father figure in his life, don't you think? And I suppose it wasn't entirely your fault I never realised, as I never said anything either."
"And still haven't, really," he remarked, hoping she'd take the hint.
"I liked you," she said reproachfully, taking his hand. "And you never noticed."
"There was nothing to notice," Scorpius told her gravely.
"Are you kidding me?" Rose laughed. "James leaves us alone whenever he sees us together. Al is so blatantly obvious about the whole thing that I once cursed his mouth shut for a whole day. Even my mum has been dropping embarrassing hints left, right and centre."
"But you, Rosie," Scorpius said. "You never gave me any sign that you liked me as more than a friend."
"That's because I'm an idiot," said Rose earnestly. "A proud, confused idiot who now regrets it very much. Forgive me?" She squeezed his hand.
Scorpius' face was illuminated by a tender smile. "You never have to ask." For once letting his feelings do the talking, he leant down and kissed her on the forehead.
For her part, Rose snuggled closely against him.
"Do you want to go back in?" he asked her after a moment, noting, from a distance, the plummeting temperature of the air.
"Why?" she asked, lifting her head. "Are you cold?"
"No," he responded in surprise. "I thought you might be."
Rose shook her head. "No. I could stay out here for a while." Without warning, she began giggling.
"What is it?" Scorpius asked softly.
"Nothing," she said, grinning. "It's just – if my granddad could only see me now!"
Well… this is hard. I don't want this to be the last time I get to have my little one-way conversations with you guys!
A few last thoughts:
#3. I'll bet you all thought I'd forgotten Pi. Did I prove you wrong? I love that little bundle of fluff.
#2. I may not be JKR, but I am so freaking happy I finished this story. I've never done this before, and I am notoriously bad when it comes to sticking with things. So you know who I owe the finishing of the story to? You guys, one hundred percent.
#1. So many things have happened since I began this story. We found that Neville married Hannah and that Luna married Rolf; that Dumbledore was gay; that even 'Scorpius' begins to sound like a normal name after five months. Isn't it amazing how things have changed?
As we part, I want to tell you guys one more thing: let's keep the Scorpius/Rose love alive! Maybe we were Draco/Hermione shippers and maybe we weren't (I personally wasn't), but we have started the New Ship, forever may it thrive. :D
Goodbye, everyone! Look me up every now and then if you have time, okay?