I know I owe everyone an explanation, so here it is (the basic outline, since I'm sure no one wants to be bored with the details):

To make a long story short, I had a bit of a health scare on February 12th, and I ended up spending about a week and a half in the hospital. Don't feel too sorry for me, though; you should have seen the number of pity roses I got on Valentine's Day. ;) I'm perfectly all right now, but my mother flat-out refused to bring me my laptop while I was at the hospital 'cause she thought it was a good thing for me to get away from it for awhile... bah! So, I've been home since the 24th, desperately trying to make up the ungodly amount of work/tests/exams/other assignments I missed while bed-ridden. Heck, I even had to go to make-up dance classes because I missed so much. So I hope you understand why it took so very long for me to update this time. I truly am very sorry, and want to thank you for both your patience and the fact that you actually read this way-too-long Author's Note.

Love and more love,

Hanneli


Gryffindor Common Room

7 February, 2023

Almost-but-not-quite-ten-at-night

Scorpius Malfoy. Kinegal's essay. Scorpius Malfoy. Kinegal's essay. Both subjects had clouded Rose's mind throughout the day, and whenever she succeeded in banishing one thought she was met by its no less troubling alternative. Shamefully, Rose could admit to herself that the one she thought of most often was not the one she ought to have been worrying about.

The day was almost at its end, and the common room grew fuller as students returned before their ten o'clock curfew from the corridors. Among these stragglers was Al, who carried a small box Rose fervently hoped, for his sake, was a peace offering. Still, she stubbornly ignored him until he seated himself beside her on the couch and held the box out. She accepted it as grudgingly as possible, unwilling to let him off the hook so quickly.

"A half-eaten box of chocolates. You really are too sweet, Al," said Rose drily.

Al shrugged. "You weren't at dinner. Even I felt bad about that. So I got you these."

"Really," said Rose sceptically. "That's funny, because this note says" — she held it up so he could see — "Dear Rosie, ignore the prat, they're from me. Love, Lily." She raised an eyebrow, an ancient habit.

Al waggled his own eyebrow, an atypical action. Rose was nonplussed. She followed his gaze and needed no further explanation: Scorpius, climbing through the portrait hole. Dropping the box onto the couch in semi-disgust, she told him, "Forget it." She went over to the opposite wall and leaned against it, crossing her arms defensively.

Scorpius dawdled around the entrance to the room, as if he hadn't decided something yet—or just wasn't quite sure what to do. Dropping her arms, Rose deliberated for just a second and approached him before she could change her mind.

Hoping not to give Al any reason to pay close attention, she refrained from speaking at all until she was standing directly in front of Scorpius, who seemed torn between making eye contact and looking away until he was certain that it was him she was approaching. He looked happily surprised upon realising that it was. He gave Rose an easy smile she didn't feel she deserved. Her internal organs, vastly less concerned, did cartwheels.

"Can I—can I have a word with you? Just… here?" Rose smiled, a bit nervously, in case he assumed she was upset with him. That was the last thing she wanted.

"Of course," said Scorpius, and, as Rose had expected, appeared a trifle uneasy at her tone. She hadn't meant to sound so solemn, but then again, she didn't want him to get the impression that she thought of this as some big joke.

"I just wanted to apologise for earlier," she said, beginning tentatively. "I blew you off, and I really didn't give you any explanation, did I? Well, I know I didn't. See, I was distracted; I wasn't really thinking clearly, and if I hadn't been so angry at Al I would've said yes… I mean… oh, that does not make sense." Rose screwed up her eyes and mentally berated herself for saying too much. "Damnit. I'm sorry. That's what I meant." She could literally feel her cheeks growing redder by the minute.

Scorpius ducked his head and said, "You were upset with Al, then? Why?" Realising what he was asking, he added. "Don't tell me if I'm prying, which I am, probably. It's just that I was wondering before."

Rose sighed. "Let's just say that the fact that I spent nearly two hours carefully plotting and planning and writing and editing my baby—er, my essay—is not going to make much of difference once Professor Kinegal sees the alterations Al made before I could stop him."

"I offered to help!" called Al, who had twisted around in his seat half the room away take part in the conversation.

"No, you didn't!" Rose shot back, tearing her eyes off Scorpius for the sake of clarification. She privately resolved to further lower her voice.

"Really?" A puzzled expression crossed Al's face. "Huh. Well, can I?"

"Thanks, but no thanks."

Al shrugged and returned to his original position. "Well, suit yourself."

Rose returned her gaze to Scorpius' face to find him looking pensive.

"Can I?"

"Sorry?" she said blankly, trying to remember if he had asked her a question.

"Can I help you?" he said, apparently surprised it wasn't obvious.

Rose didn't quite know what to say. "Scorpius… it's really nice of you to offer and everything but I honestly don't know if there's anything you or I could do! That piece of parchment is safe and sound in Professor Kinegal's office by now; it's not looking good for me."

Scorpius smiled and shrugged. "Anything's possible if you're up for a bit of an adventure, Rosie."

Rose couldn't help smiling. "You sounded frighteningly like James just now."

"What do you say?" he asked earnestly. "I'll help you rewrite the essay; we'll sneak down and switch it before Professor Kinegal knows the difference."

"It's far too much trouble for you, Scorpius," Rose protested.

"I want to help," he said simply, and Rose felt her argument wearing thin.

"And if we're caught?"

Scorpius grinned. "Then we'll get Professor Longbottom to intervene, of course. I hear he's a good friend of the family."

Potential decision teetering in mid-air, Rose felt obligated to say, "You're sure?"

Scorpius nodded. "Perfectly."

"Let's do it, then," said Rose happily. In her elation she almost forgot the impossibility of the situation. Recreate her prized essay and somehow manage to make it past whatever security Professor Kinegal had placed on her office? She would have objected to the entire scheme but for the gleeful desire to spend the time with Scorpius, especially without her cousin's interference.

Scorpius led the way to one of the small tables along the wall of the common room, producing parchment and a couple of quills from his bag. Rose found that with his help, the task of reproducing the piece of writing was much less difficult than she would have imagined. Whenever her mind ran blank and she couldn't recall more than the gist of what she had written, his knack for sensing where she was going with a thought proved itself extremely beneficial. In just over an hour and a half they had reached the conclusion, which, fortunately, Rose remembered word for word thanks to the incident immediately following it the first time around.

"We finished," said Rose, delighted. "We finished and it's—" she rose to her feet and looked around to find an empty room, "—wow. Late."

"That it is," said Scorpius, joining her. "So… you ready to risk getting skinned alive?"

"I suppose," she said, giggling nervously. "I just—wait! No! I need to grab something—back in a second." And she dashed off up the stairs to the boys' dormitory, reappearing just seconds later dragging Al by the wrist, him being still mostly asleep.

"Al?" said Scorpius, clearly confused.

Rose nodded, quite pleased. "Well, he did say he wanted to help, and no one is more masterful at sneaking around than him, isn't that right?" she said, the last part addressing Al. "Besides, who knows if we'll need a diversion."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," said Al, who was by then starting to catch the gist of the words being spoken. "Diversion? I don't—" He was silenced by a look from Rose. "Well, at least tell me where we're going!"

"Professor Kinegal's office," said Rose, holding up the newly completed essay. Al's eyes lit up; he understood.

"Damn, I wish I hadn't lent the Cloak to James!" he said regretfully. "But what's a bit more challenge? Let's go."

They found the corridors dark and deserted, being as it was almost midnight. As long as they were quiet, they had a good chance of escaping the notice of any professors still awake. Rose felt daunted upon actually reaching the office, for here was the part she had been most anxious about.

"How are we supposed to get in?" she whispered to Scorpius. "We don't know her password or any of the enchantments she would've—"

"Oh, don't worry about that," said Al smugly. "Alohomora." The door swung open.

"That's it?" said Rose, disbelieving.

"Our dear professor is a very trusting soul," Al replied, in a mock-serious voice.

"You two go on and switch the papers; I'll stay and keep watch," said Scorpius, prodding them on.

Rose and Al disappeared through the entrance; the moment they were out of earshot, Rose whispered, "Please, please, please don't tell him."

"Tell him what… exactly?" Al played along.

"Why we're here," said Rose intently. "What you did to my essay. Trust me, he's happier not knowing."

"Well, I don't know about that…" said Al teasingly. "But I suppose the least I could do is keep my mouth shut, huh?"

"You are very right about that," said Rose, as she searched the room for the mound of papers she had watched Professor Kinegal carry off. Locating it on a chair next to the professor's desk, she let out a huge sigh of relief. "Look, she hasn't even touched them yet!" She pulled out the original paper and replaced it with the new version, muttering an obliteration charm before anything else could happen.

"Right, let's get out of here," said Al, already halfway out the door. Scorpius had the presence of mind to utter a rushed "Colloportus" before they took off, hoping their good luck would continue just a little while longer.

They were almost at the Gryffindor common room, so close to success, when the footsteps came. Not wasting any time with panicking, Rose and Scorpius dove behind the nearest tapestry, flattening themselves against the wall. Al, resigned, did not.

The footsteps stopped within seconds.

"…Potter?" It was Professor Kinegal's voice. Rose prayed she was just returning from a night-time stroll.

"Good evening, Professor," came Al's voice. "I love your slippers. Very fuzzy."

"Potter, what in Merlin's name are you doing out at this hour?" said Professor Kinegal angrily.

"I thought you might like a glass of water, Professor," said Al politely. "But I see you've already got one, so I guess I'll be on my way."

"I don't think so, Potter," said Professor Kinegal. "Are you alone?"

"Oh, no, Professor," came Al's voice, unmistakeably tinged with sarcasm, "Rose and Scorpius are snogging behind that tapestry there—why don't you have a look?"

Even from her current position Rose could sense that Professor Kinegal was less than amused.

"Since you're such a night-owl, Potter, your detention will begin immediately. Come with me." Two pairs of footsteps could be heard, both eventually fading to nothing.

Rose peeked around the tapestry. Motioning to Scorpius that it was safe to come out, she left the makeshift sanctuary.

"Poor Al," she said, giggling.

Scorpius smiled. "You know, Rosie, you have some pretty amazing cousins."

"Yeah, well, I suppose Al's all right when he's not being a git," said Rose fondly. She glanced at him sideways. "I guess we'd better get back before we're really asking to be caught."

"Yeah," Scorpius agreed, "we really should."

"Scorpius?"

"Yeah?"

Rose leaned out and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you for making me do this."

Scorpius blushed. "You shouldn't thank me."

Rose grinned. "Yes, I should. I never would have done it if it weren't for you. And…" She took a deep breath. "I was hoping your Hogsmeade invitation was still open. I'll understand if it isn't."

"It's always open, Rosie."

The end.