NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This story was originally written for katieay for the smrwficafest on LiveJournal. She asked for a post-Hogwarts hook-up with a dose of angst. This started with her saying, "Perhaps they both take jobs at the Ministry and bump into each other a lot." I took that literally and ran with it!
As always, thanks ever so to my betas HeidiBug731 and Vanime for wading through this monster and fixing everything I did wrong. Also, inspiration credit has to go to LM Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series (loosely) for the pattern of romance, and Diana Son's play Stop Kiss for the alternating time format.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Rose Weasley or Scorpius Malfoy or any of the other characters you see here.
Among Thorns - Chapter One
"Ron?" came a soft voice from the doorway across the hall. Ron Weasley's head snapped up, and he looked up at his mother's face poking out from behind the barely opened door.
"Is she–" he tried to ask, but his voice was barely working. He scrambled to his feet, fearing the worst, but his pounding heart was quieted a little by the smile on his mother's face.
"She's fine," Molly Weasley whispered. "It was touch and go for a while there, but she's going to be all right." Ron let out a shaky sigh that was almost a sob, closing his eyes tight.
"And–?" he forced himself to ask, knowing his mother would know what he meant. She smiled again.
"You have a fine, beautiful, healthy daughter, Ron. Would you like to come in and see her?" With a numb nod, he let his mother led him into the bedroom. His heart leapt into his throat at the sight of his wife – deathly pale, hair plastered to her forehead with sweat, lying limp on the bed – but even as he tried to swallow and calm his nerves, she opened her eyes and gave him an exhausted but coherent smile.
"Come see your daughter, Ron," Hermione whispered, and only then did Ron note the bundle of blankets in his wife's arms. Silently, he crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed and peered inside the blankets. A tiny face peered out, bright blue eyes looking curiously up at him, a dusting of dark red hair just visible above them.
Ron's breath came out in a shaky laugh. The infant – his daughter – turned her head slightly and look up at him, those eyes bright and engaged. "Hermione," he breathed. "She's beautiful."
Hermione beamed, closing her eyes. "I want to call her Rose," she whispered. "I know we'd decided to name her after my mother, but I want to call her Rose."
"That's a beautiful name," Ron said, his eyes never leaving his daughter.
"It's because of you and me," she continued, even as she gave herself over to sleep. "And how hard we had to work to get to this moment. I want her to . . . stand as proof that . . . the best and most . . . beautiful things in the world . . . come nestled . . . among thorns."
Ron smoothed the damp hair away from his wife's forehead and kissed her softly. Then he picked up his daughter, held her for the first time, and whispered, "Welcome to the world, Rosie."
Two lefts, a right, down the small flight of stairs, then right again, center passageway, and it's the third door on the right, twenty-year-old Rose Weasley thought to herself as she hurried through the crowded corridors of the Ministry's lower levels. Once she got to the Headquarters of the Auror Department, she'd have no trouble getting to her uncle's office; it was just getting there from the International Liaison's Office that was the trouble.
She paused just long enough to shift the immense stack of parchment in her arms, concentrating on balancing on one high-heeled foot long enoughto accomplish this task without falling over. She was beginning to think the heels might have been a bad idea.
Today marked both the start of the summer and her first day as an intern in the International Liaison Office of the Ministry of Magic. Her first assignment was to take the immense stack of parchment to Auror Potter. She could have used magic, but at the time of the assignment, it had seemed like such a silly thing to whip out her wand for.
There were days when she wanted nothing more than to curse her mother for instilling the value of old fashioned, hard work. Today was one of those days.
The parchment scrolls settled more securely, she took off again, hurrying as fast as dignity and her shoes allowed her.
She stepped onto the landing at the bottom of the stairs and rounded the corner only to collide heavily with a rather large and solid human-shaped something. The impact sent her load flying, her wand clattering across the marble hall, and herself to the ground. Mortified, she hurried to pick herself up, scrambling around on the floor for her wand and her scrolls, speaking apologies over the person who, much to her dismay, had knelt beside her to pick up parchment, and was apologizing as well.
"Merlin, I'm so sorry, I –"
"No, it was my fault, I–"
"– wasn't watching where I was going –"
"– wasn't really paying attention –"
"– just in a hurry, it's my first day –"
"– hope you're all right?"
"Yes, thank you," Rose muttered, reaching for one of the last scrolls, only to have the man reach it first. As he handed it to her, she glanced up and got a good look at him and nearly dropped everything all over again. She knew those gray eyes . . . "Scorpius," she breathed, shocked to see him, of all people. She watched as shocked surprise flickered across his face, followed by a number of other emotions in rapid succession. When he offered a hand to help her to her feet, he still looked slightly stunned to see her.
"Rose Weasley," he said slowly. "Of all the people to . . . it's been –"
"Three years," she finished for him, her mind whirling. Why, why Scorpius Malfoy, of all people –
"Al said you were traveling the world?" The tone of his voice was guarded, unreadable.
Rose swallowed and forced herself to respond coherently.
"Oh, I, uh, yes. With Ivanna Krum, a friend of mine. We, uh, took an extended World Tour."
"And now you're working at the Ministry?"
She nodded. "In the International Liaison's Office. I'm interning there." He shook his head appreciatively.
"That's a competitive program. You always did have to be the best, yeah?" He grinned before he could remember not to. He did remember halfway through, and ended up with a very odd look on his face instead. "Well, you're obviously headed somewhere, so I'll let you –"
"What are you doing down here?" she blurted out, immediately deepening the Weasley blush already stark against her sunburnt skin.
"I'm, uh, in the Auror program," he said slowly, not quite meeting her eyes. "Just finishing my final year. I'm surprised Al didn't tell you."
"Oh, well, I, uh, haven't really had a lot of time to chat in the past three years," she mumbled.
"I understand," he said. She thought she detected the hint of an edge to his voice, but it was so slight, she may have imagined it. Do you? was the response in her head. Embarrassed and hoping that question didn't read on her face, she looked down at the ground as well as she could.
"Well, I should get back to work," Rose said awkwardly.
"Yeah," Scorpius nodded. "Yeah, me too." He handed her the last scroll, and there was an awkward moment where they each tried to step out of the other's way and succeeded only in dancing around the corridor. Finally, they got themselves sorted, and then he was gone around the corner.
She slumped against the wall of the corridor, trying to return her heart rate to normal speeds. Scorpius Malfoy, here of all places! She hadn't seen or spoken to him in over three years, not since they'd left school, and now, of all the people in the Ministry for her to collide with –
She straightened and set off once more down the corridor, determined to put the encounter out of her mind.
Two eleven-year-old cousins, each trying to pretend they weren't as nervous as they felt, fought their way with their trunks down the length of the train, trying to find a place to sit. The girl was nervously glancing back at each full compartment as she followed her cousin, trying to ignore the looks they were getting from the older students, which ranged from amusement to pity to indifference. She wasn't sure which was worse.
"Al," she pleaded, "let's just go find James. Or Tori would let us sit with her."
"Tori's running the Prefect meeting," Al called back over his shoulder. "And I'm not sitting with James," he said darkly. "Look, Rose! There's an empty one up here!"
But it wasn't empty, not quite. There was a young blonde boy sitting in it, curled up against the wall by the window, gazing out at the countryside streaming past. Rose recoiled.
"I can't," she said. "Come on, Al, let's find somewhere else."
"Rose, there isn't anywhere else!" Al said, exasperated. "Come on, I'm sure he'd let us sit with him, and I'm tired of dragging my trunk around the train!"
"No, I can't!" she insisted stubbornly.
"Why not?" Al asked her. Rose bit her lip.
"Daddy told me not to." When Al just looked at her, she continued hurriedly. "It's the boy we saw at the station, and Daddy told me not to get friendly with him!" And she folded her arms stubbornly across her chest. She had her instructions.
Al rolled his eyes. "Really, Rose?" he asked. She just raised her chin and looked away. Al sighed. "Look, I'm going in and sitting down. If you're so opposed to it, you can go find James." And, true to his word, he slid the compartment door open and dragged his trunk inside. The blonde boy turned.
"Al!" she hissed, but her cousin ignored her, leaving her with no real choice but to follow.
"Hi!" he was saying. "I'm Al, and this is my cousin, Rose. Do you think we could sit with you?"
The blonde boy looked back and forth between them, then down at his hands. "I don't know," he muttered.
"Why not?" Al asked, confused.
"My dad said you probably wouldn't be very friendly to me, and so I should try to stay away from you," he said to the floor. Rage flew up in Rose, and she pushed past her cousin, hands on her hips.
"And your dad knows everything, does he?" she demanded. The boy looked up sharply, frowning. "My dad said I shouldn't be friendly with you, either, but that doesn't mean I'm going to listen to him!" And she glared her fiercest eleven-year-old glare at him.
"I was taught to respect my elders," he said loftily.
"And I was taught to think for myself," she challenged. He opened his mouth in anger.
"I can think for myself!" he insisted.
"Prove it!" was Rose's response. The boy's eyes narrowed.
"Fine! Come in and sit down!" he said angrily. "I'd be pleased to share my compartment with you!"
"Fine!" Rose responded, throwing herself huffily into the seat across from him, arms crossed, looking toward the ceiling. The blonde boy held himself in a similar fashion. The silence in the compartment was heavy and tense for a few moments, and then Al began to laugh.
Rose and the blonde boy stared at him, then at each other, seated in almost identical positions. They tried to glare at one another, but Al's laughter was too infectious, and they too began to smirk at the ridiculousness of what had just happened. Within moments, the entire compartment had dissolved into boisterous laughter.
She was home late that afternoon of her first day, sitting on her favorite stone bench in front of the entrance to the rose maze her mother was so proud of, before she let herself think about Scorpius Malfoy again. She could feel the color rising in her cheeks and the tips of her ears.
Their last meeting three years ago was still painfully fresh in her mind, and just thinking about it turned her into a tongue-tied, awkward mess and made her cheeks burn with shame. It was clear he hadn't forgotten it, either.
He hadn't been his normally eloquent self, that was for sure, and there was a quietness and a weight to him that certainly hadn't been there three years ago. That was her doing. She closed her eyes as she remembered the range of emotions that had flickered through his when he first saw her, before a wall had snapped into place behind them. Pain had been among those emotions . . .
And he was an Auror. Why hadn't she known? Her cousin and Scorpius were practically joined at the hip – why on earth hadn't Al said anything? Becoming an Auror had not been his plan the last time she'd spoken to him, and a little bit of warning that she might pass him in a corridor would have been nice.
Or, as the case may be, collide with him. She stifled a groan as she buried her face in her hands, imagining what she must have looked like, sprawled on the floor, scrolls, wand, and limbs everywhere . . .
Could have been worse, said a voice in her head.
Oh, really? another voice spoke up, highly sarcastic. How?
"Al could've been there," she muttered into her palms.
"Al could have been where?" came a voice from behind her. Rose jumped and whirled, glaring in accusation at her messy-haired cousin. He grinned down at her, his green eyes sparkling.
"Could have been standing right behind me without making his presence known and scared me out of a year of life!" she snapped.
"Now, Rose," Al said, flopping down on the bench beside her. "Let's not exaggerate. Only six months, I'm sure." Rose glared at him, but her cousin was so used to such techniques that they no longer affected him. "So, as a wonderful cousin, I came to ask how your first day of internship went."
Rose rubbed her eyes with the heels of her palms. "Ignoring the part of the day where I ran into Scorpius Malfoy? Not bad."
"You ran into Scorpius?" Al repeated with a small grin. "I hope no one was hurt."
"No," she said through gritted teeth. "Though I did deliver several dented scrolls to your dad." Al arched an eyebrow at her quizzically.
"Wait, so you –"
"Literally ran into him? Yes." She tried to keep the grimace out of her voice. Al hissed in appreciation.
"Ouch," he said sympathetically. "Sounds –"
"Mortifying?" Rose's voice was muffled once more by her hands over her face.
"Well, 'exciting' was what I was going to say, but sure. Your word works, too." Rose sat up again and fixed her cousin with a look. "Is this the first you've seen him since . . .?"
"Since we left school? Yes," she replied, not meeting his eyes. She never had explained things to him, and she wasn't really in the mood to now. "We'll ignore the question of why you never saw fit, in three years, to mention that Scorpius was training as an Auror –"
"Hey!" Al broke in, his hands out in a gesture of surrender. "I assumed you already knew!"
"And why would you assume that?" she asked, throwing her hands up in frustration. "When we graduated, he was talking teaching!"
"Yeah, but he was assigned to your Dad's squad! I thought for sure . . ." Al trailed away as Rose looked sharply away, a range of emotions fighting for dominance in her head. She shut her eyes against them and shook her head sharply.
"Never mind," she said swiftly, dismissing it. "It doesn't matter."
"I don't suppose he told you that he's getting married?" Al asked, his eyes darkening.
Rose froze, staring at her cousin. She could no longer feel her hands, and she was having some trouble breathing. "Married?" she breathed, completely in shock.
"Well, officially, he's getting engaged," Al clarified. He didn't look happy about it. "They're having a Bonding Ceremony at the end of the summer." He spoke very gently, watching her carefully.
Rose didn't know how to respond. She sat, numb and frozen with shock. Married? Scorpius Malfoy? "I –" she started, not really sure what she planned on saying. "I thought Bondings were really ancient."
"They are," Al said with a scowl. "From what I can get out of him, the whole thing is his family's idea. It's arranged, you see." Rose stiffened, crossing her arms and frowning away toward the roses. She didn't know how much more new information she could handle.
"Arranged?" she repeated carefully. Al nodded, a scowl on his face.
"Apparently, it's tradition for the Malfoy men to be married at the age of twenty-one. There's been a girl picked out for Scorpius for eighteen years. Ten years before the big day, when the Malfoy is eleven, there's a Swearing, in which the future bride and groom commit to each other and the marriage, provided that by the time the Bonding is upon them, they're both still unattached." Rose could hardly get her mind around what he was telling her. Scorpius had never mentioned that, not in all the years she'd known him.
"That's – barbaric! I mean, to be sworn to someone else for your whole life, without any say in it . . ." she whispered, pained. Al nodded, a dark look on his face.
"I agree," he said, his voice as dark as his face. "Although, technically, he's still single. He's single right up until the day of the Bonding. He could still call it off."
Rose shook her head, staring out through the maze of thorns and blossoms before her. "He won't," she said quietly, more certain of that fact than she'd been of anything in a long time.
"He might," Al started, but Rose cut him off with a more emphatic shake of her head.
"He won't," she repeated. "You know him, Al. You know he won't. Maybe before this summer, but not now that it's started. If he swore on his eleventh birthday to marry this girl once he turned twenty-one, he'll consider that a binding promise now that he's reached that age, with or without a special ceremony." Al sighed darkly.
"I don't like it," he said. "I don't think you can reasonably ask two 21-year-olds to say, no, we're never going to find love on our own, so sure, we'll let our families match us up. But I suppose there's not that much we can do about it. Unless . . . " He looked at her sideways. "Whatever happened to the two of you, anyway?"
She shook her head slowly. "Nothing," she said quietly. She wasn't going to give in to his insinuations.
Al was peering at her, one eyebrow arched again. She hated that look. It made him look far too much like his father. "Rose, you haven't spoken to him in three years. You went on a trip around the world to get away from him –"
"It wasn't like that, Al," Rose broke in. Al gave her another look. She could feel herself coloring up again, and cursed her father's genes. She looked away, into the roses. "Nothing happened between us," she said softly. "We just . . . grew apart."
"We'll let that be the answer for now," he said softly after a pause, "and we'll pretend that I believe that best friends of seven years can just grow apart naturally, as you suggest." And before she could shoot him another glare, he had stood, kissing her swiftly on the cheek. "Just came by to see how your first day went. I've got to get back to work."
Rose sat in the garden long after he had Disapparated, until her parents returned from the Ministry and called her in for supper.
Please review! More to come!
Please review! More to come!