And I am never this person, never this certain
But you got me willing to try
Willing to try, I want to try...
Honest: San Holo ft. Broods

Chapter Twenty: Catching the Snitch

Scorpius was silent, but it was different from any she had ever experienced before.

At least with him.

Anywhere ended with them back at her flat where they changed into more comfortable clothes.

Rose grabbed her beaded bag and his hand and—since he was no longer shakingshe followed his lead, allowing him to pick their next destination. Scorpius was intense, still quiet when she felt the familiar tug of Apparition, but she trusted him to get them there safely.

And he did.

They landed on the grass just off the dock overlooking a familiar lake. She knew where they were, but still turned slowly until she caught the sight of Malfoy Manor in the distance, which confirmed what she already knew. They were a long walk from the gardens, not far into the forest surrounding the estate.

Rose had been there only once before, at fourteen, when she visited the Manor for the first time with Al; it was a visit that had only happened after long discussions between their parents and Mr Draco. Scorpius and his dad didn't live there, but it had been Mr Draco's birthday and Scorpius had wanted his friends at his father's party. Then they'd all gotten bored and snuck off to the lake to put their feet in the cold water. Al had ruined his clothes by falling in since none of them knew drying charms yet, but Rose remembered only the way Scorpius had looked happy that they were there with him. His grandparents and dad never ventured out there; the former had left the house-elves to do any sort of maintenance needed, mainly for Scorpius' sake.

Because while Scorpius himself hadn't been there since that summer before Fourth Year, Rose always thought of it as his place because of how happy he looked when he was there.

Together they laid out a blanket on the dock. Scorpius sat by the edge, bent forward, letting his fingers skim the top of the water. Then, when Rose lay down under the shifting skies, he lay next to her, closed his eyes, and drifted in the breeze.

Because Scorpius always seemed to recharge by the water.

Rose had never understood why until then. More than calming, it was serene out there with no distractions—just the sound of water, the gentle wind, and the warmth from a dying sun. He had all the time they needed; all the space he wanted. Scorpius was on his back with Rose curled against him. With her head resting on his outstretched arm, their hands knotted together on his chest, Rose concentrated on feeling him breathe as she watched the blue skies as they faded in dramatic fashion to oranges and reds and just a hint of purple.

The water lapped against the wooden beam of the dock rhythmically. Everything was steady…

Except Scorpius.

Even with his eyes shut, Rose could feel the tension in his silence. It was as uncomfortable for Rose as it was witnessing his argument with Astoria. He wasn't asleep; he was far too restless for that. The agitation in him seemed to pulse in the air around them, permeating his skin and settling in his bones.

His energy felt wrong.

He felt wrong.

But Rose had no idea how to make him right again. Or if it was her place to even try.

Unlike Scorpius, her silence was more contemplative as she took to watching him instead of the sky. Like she had been at the party, she was on edge, waiting for him to say something—anything that would give her an inkling of what she could do to help him. Because right then, Rose wanted nothing more than to ease his distress. The problem was that she found she had no words left, nothing to offer him except her presence.

She wondered if that was enough.

Because to her, whenever she had been troubled, his presence had meant far more than anything she could express with words. Rose wondered if he'd known, if she'd even expressed it or told him directly. Maybe she had, but not enough or in the right way. And that was fine because now… now she would.

Now it was important that he knew.

Silence stretched on in all directions, singing with tension until Rose could no longer determine if she was feeling her own emotions or his. Maybe it was both. She shifted, adjusting in an attempt to spare the stiff arm that she had been lying on. Scorpius automatically moved it, folding his arm behind his head without opening his eyes.

Rose propped her head on her hand, allowing her elbow to rest on the blankets. She watched Scorpius and expanded on her thoughts, reflecting on the latest clinking incline and the sharp drop on the emotional rollercoaster she—no, theyhad been on. Because Rose couldn't ignore the fact that he'd been by her side every step of the way, even before the dagger.

But regardless, she hated the ride; not the person sitting next to her on it.

She just… hated how vulnerable she had felt, how much it had hurt, and now replaying his argument with his mother in her mind had left a certain kind of weight on her chest that was foreign. Odd. Tight. Feeling his pain as if it was her own had been a breathtaking experience that left her feeling wounded with him. And she wondered if that was that normal—if it was a result of their bonds of friendship. Or that she had witnessed it firsthand. Or the fact that she genuinely gave more of a damn about him than anyone.

Or perhaps it was something inside of her that was just her.

Rose had doubts.

Many of them.

And when she went to pull her doubts up by the root, she realised they were a lot deeper than she'd thought; she realised they went all the way to the foundation of basic truths in her life concerning Scorpius.

That he was the unassuming centre of everything in her life. It had always been about Scorpius.

Rose had never cared for Astoria, but it had nothing to do with her treatment of her, and more to do with him. Her irritation at Lily throwing him a birthday party? Well, Rose didn't care for loud, frantic parties either, but she knew he hated them more because he just wanted to be with friends and people he trusted. Her annoyance with the articles was fuelled by his, not for her own sake, but because of how people would judge him. And the reason she hated his Malfoy Media Smile?

Because it wasn't who he was.

He put on that smile and became someone she didn't know. Someone who wasn't… him.

And Rose always wanted Scorpius to be himself because she…

Oh, shit.

Alarms went off in her head, but the dam broke anyway.

Her mother had told her to sort through her feelings, and she'd promised that she would. So, she did so by picking up her paddle and allowing her thoughts to carry her downstream as she stared past Scorpius, taking in the endless sight of the sunset that reflected on the water. But as the current of her musings started to swell and her thoughts started to crash together, water began to fill her boat and Rose panicked.

The task was too large. The water was too deep. The current was too strong.

It was going to drag her under.

And she wasn't the best swimmer.

But then she looked back at Scorpius, and her thoughts turned, changed, as her mental waters settled. Calmed. Rose took a deep breath, then exhaled.

Perhaps she had been focusing on the wrong thing—the big pictureand not the smaller things that were most important. The river of thoughts in her mind, no matter how chaotic, was easier to wade through when she didn't think about everything all at once. When she started to use the paddle she'd had with her all along. Rose put it in the water and paddled the stream of memory backwards until she entered part of the river where she'd been on the night they'd kissed outside The Burrow.

Scorpius was something different.

He'd become integral to her. Necessary. While Rose had always known they were tethered, she hadn't fully realised the full extent of their link until today. When Scorpius was happy, so was she. He would laugh and all Rose could do was laugh with him. When he relaxed, so would she. Sometimes, all Rose would need was his presence and everything else would just fade into the background.

Perversely, it worked both ways. When he was upset, so was she. When he was restless, so was she.

Like now.

Rose continued on her course until she looked around and saw something in the distance, coming closer. When it reached her, it said: Your friendship isn't normal.

And perhaps those two were linked. Because he was different, their friendship wasn't normal. It wasn't wrong. It was just… more. The intensity with which Rose had felt his heartache during and after his argument with his mother had transcended the traditional bonds of friendship.

Had she witnessed something similar between anyone else, she wouldn't have been quite as distressed. More than that, she wouldn't have cried from her mother's words earlier or sought her advice had she'd said them about someone she didn't care about. Rose would have handled his feelings for her about as flippantly as she handled most blokes in the past because when it boiled down to it, they didn't matter.

Scorpius mattered.

Had he not, she wouldn't have lost so much sleep over his direct expression of affection.

By his touch.
His proximity.
His kisses.

Okay, so maybe that was enough paddling for the day. Her chest was hurting from exertion; her arms were burning and her stomach churning—not in hunger, but awareness. Not just to Scorpius and his feelings, but to the incoming thunderstorm of her own, a storm that had been gathering strength since the party. Since they'd jumped together. Since they'd snogged the second time. Maybe even the first.

Or longer.

Rose braced herself as there was really nowhere to shelter herself from the storm; she was already so far out in the water with one paddle and a boat not strong enough to withstand so much as a gust of wind.

Fuck.

She moved her elbow to lay comfortably on her arm, still at his side, keeping her attention on him, despite the fact that she knew what was coming. The air around her shifted as her heart continued spluttering on with all sorts of emotions rising in her chest as the storm drew near.

As the rain started in her mind.

Slowly, her eyes slid from his face, to his neck, to their joined hands on his chest in an attempt to ground herself, to stop herself from flying in different directions. Or crying.

It wasn't a big deal. Not at all.

It was fine. Everything was fine.

Rose made a plan. She would survive the storm and paddle (or swim) back to land. Then, she would take a nap and eat some food. She wouldn't yell or be weird about it or bury it deep. She planned to express her newly recognised feelings to Scorpius like the normal fucking human being she was and it would be out there in the universe. Acknowledged. But then her plan went to hell rapidly when that annoying little feeling stood up and introduced itself.

Love.

Rose abruptly scrambled into a seated position, eyes as wild as her hair she'd given up on the moment they'd landed. She looked over her shoulder at Scorpius as she absorbed everything. From his profile to the deep breaths he took. From the glasses on his forehead to the hair that moved with the breeze. From the way his hand flexed when she'd all but ripped it from his grip to the fact that he'd opened his eyes the moment she'd moved.

What. The. Hell? Outside of what she felt for her family, she didn't know what love meant, had no concept of how it felt and had never had any real interest in finding out. What was it doing there? But just when she started to yell like a lunatic, it sat back down, not in any hurry for further confession, just acknowledgment of its presence.

Which was a fucking relief because she honestly couldn't take it. Not without losing her shit.

But her physical reaction to the presence in her mind had broken whatever tense peace they'd been experiencing. "Are you okay?" Scorpius asked as he lifted up on his elbow, putting his glasses on so he could see her better.

Rose didn't trust any bit of her ability to speak. She turned her head back to the water, unable to look at him any longer because the storm was there. And somehow, Rose found herself already in the middle of it without knowing when the hell it had begun. Jittery energy passed through her and she couldn't shake it. Her throat constricted and she welcomed it because—fuck, she already knew she was about to do something insane.

"Rose?" He tried again.

She snorted to herself and it sounded frantic to her own ears. At least she hadn't had to paddle far to find what she was looking for. Perhaps her mum had been right. Maybe she'd known all along and was just too stubborn and blind and stupid to see what was right there in front of her.

What had always been there.

Feelings.
Emotions.

And a few things she wasn't ready to define, but some things she could.

Later.

When she was more level-headed.

After the storm of acknowledged emotions had passed.

But when Rose tried to satisfy herself with waiting, all she felt was more agitated.

"Are you hungry?" Scorpius asked after he sat up next to her.

She didn't look, but could feel him trying to sort himself and get comfortable. His leg brushed against hers and Rose shut her eyes. Tried to breathe. Tried not to say anything rash. "I could eat." And while that was absolutely true, Rose didn't have much of an appetite. Scorpius only chuckled and muttered something about some things that would never change.

Which was funny, Rose thought hysterically while lost in the storm in her own head, trying desperately to keep her head above water.

Everything had changed.

They sat in silence while she tried to remain the picture of calm that she most certainly was not. How in the hell had he done this? How had he remained so… himself? Day in and day out, how could he wake up in her bed, knowing how he felt, and kept himself from blurting it out? It had been three minutes and she was about to scream at him. How could Scorpius touch her so calmly when his proximity right then made her skin crawl?

And not in a bad way.

Now, Rose understood his hesitations. All of them.

But she took a deep breath and then… she tried to understand his determination.

If he could, so could she. Wasn't how that worked?

"We could go to that kebab place you like."

How could he talk to her like everything was normal when it was not?

"You hate the smell of burning meat." Rose irritably got to her feet, dusting invisible lint off her clothes as she stood by the edge, looking at the water. The sun was halfway below the horizon; brilliant oranges and reds held on to their control of the sky. Rose finally looked down at him. "We can go to that vegan place you like near your flat."

Scorpius gave her an inexplicable look and got to his feet next to her, joining her on the edge of the dock. She felt a bit of fringe touch her face and swatted it away in a move that just wound her up more. That helped nothing. "Rose, you don't like vegetarian food, much less vegan food." He sounded as if he were trying to sort through the reason behind her suggestion.

That made two of them.

But perhaps…

Rose let herself look at him, her heart in her throat; feelings and braveries building. "I—I'm willing to try something new."

For a long moment, he searched her face, tilting his head to the side slightly, eyes narrowed. And because he knew her so well, Scorpius knew something was amiss with her and was determined to figure it out. Curious. Something else that was funny? So was she…

"Rose?" He tucked her hair behind her ear, fingers brushing her face in the softest of touches that made her tense. With new meaning, his touch burned her for the first time and she carefully took a step back, minding the edges. All of them. More than ever, Scorpius looked confused. Concerned. "You're not okay."

Well, no. Not really.

Not even a little bit.

And because she was still very much herself, Rose never responded.

She just shoved him off the dock.

A wet and sputtering Scorpius resurfaced with his glasses in his hand, gasping and spitting out lake water. She eyed the water. It wasn't that deep because he was standing, the water reaching to his shoulders. Rose took off her shoes, then looked back at Scorpius, who was still trying to figure out what the hell had happened. In fact, he looked very much like a wet cat with his hair pasted to his forehead. A rather perturbed wet cat.

She took off her socks, catching a glimpse of him as he shook his head and ran a quick hand over his face to wipe the water away. He put on his glasses and sharply craned his head up to look at her.

He looked a bit miffed.

Okay, angry.
Pretty angry.

He also sounded angry, too.

"What the hell, Rose!"

And well, she had no answer for that either, so she stepped off the dock.

It wasn't much of a drop, but bloody hell, the water was cold. No wonder he was angry.

Once the initial shock passed, it wasn't so bad. Not warm, but not freezing either. Not yet, anyway. They had already passed the heat of the day. She emerged from the water, wiping her eyes and tossing her hair over her shoulders. Rose wasn't able to touch the floor of the lake without the water covering her nose so she used the six months of swimming lessons she'd wrestled through to ease in his direction

For her efforts, she got a face full of lake water, courtesy of an irritated Scorpius Malfoy.

She spat out the water that had gotten into her mouth and rubbed her eyes again. One was open and the other was shut tight when she admitted, "I completely deserved that."

"Why did you push me in?" he asked hotly.

"I honestly have no idea." And when his glare intensified, Rose amended her answer. "I panicked?"

He turned it up another six degrees, reminding her of the time she'd shoved him into the Black Lake during an argument. Ah well, clearly, she had created a pattern. Rose started moving her arms under the water, swimming like a frog that had eaten too many flies, but it worked all the same.

She found herself just within his reach. "Are you going to splash me again?"

"No," he grumbled moodily.

"Sorry, but in my defence, it seemed like a good idea at the time." The lake current made her drift away from him just enough for Scorpius to reach out and grab her, pulling her close and keeping his hand on her waist to steady her. And that… just escalated things quickly.

"Rose?" Scorpius' voice was low, private. "What's going on in your head?"

There was a lot she wanted to say to him right then, things she had only just avoided uttering by pushing him into the lake. But there they were again, a mess of words right on the tip of her tongue, taunting her as emotions rocked her hard enough to throw her overboard. She tried to keep it all together but was falling apart at the seams.

"Talk to me," he implored, touching her chin to angle her face so he could look her in the eyes.

And that did it.

Try as she may, Rose couldn't hold on. Couldn't wait. Couldn't be patient like him. She spoke.

"How did you know for sure?"

The look of confusion that crossed his features was almost comical but Rose was as far away from a laughing mood as someone in a cold lake could get. "About what?"

"No, I mean…" Rose gave a frustrated huff, looking past him anxiously as she bit her lip. "About me," she whispered, most of her initial gusto flooding from her chilled body. She shifted her eyes back to him, only to find him giving her an unreadable look. "How did you figure it out? When did you figure it out? You told you mother that I'm worthy because you say I am. How do you know that I am?"

Recognition flooded his expression with acute understanding. "Oh." Scorpius blinked at her in surprise. Astonishment. But he didn't sound particularly happy to have the discussion. "You're ready to talk about this. Now. In a lake."

After an awful argument with his mother.

And now she felt shit. "We don't have to."

"Just…" Scorpius sighed and it sounded brittle to her ears. "We can talk."

"No, really, it can wait." Rose gave a panicked chuckle. "I should wait. I… I've re-evaluated every other aspect of my life. And now you, as well. I should think about it a little more." She made a small noise. "Best not to have these discussions on an empty stomach."

"You pushed me… into a lake."

It seemed like he wasn't going to let that go for a while.

"Yes, well, you just told your mum… a lot of things," Rose finished weakly, nauseated.

"That I meant," he responded firmly, holding her gaze for a moment before his eyes narrowed in confusion. "Where is all this coming from?"

"I'd say this is all random, but that's not quite true. I've had a few…" Rose smoothed down her wet hair because she was nervous as fuck. "Eye-opening conversations. Taken a look at everything." Him, but she thought it best not to say that aloud.

"I'm scared to ask." He chuckled weakly, but it was tense and wrong so Rose didn't like it.

She didn't smile back.

Instead, Rose opened her mouth in an attempt to sort her own thoughts as she expressed them, but every attempt ended with an "umm" or an "ahh." Finally, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and spoke honestly.

Because that was how an agoraphobic spoke to the person they trusted enough to jump with from any height.

"I don't know what I'm doing, so I'm certain I'm doing this all wrong." Rose opened her eyes and found him staring at her warily. To distract herself, she peeled off a piece of hair that was stuck on his forehead and found the action hadn't helped much at all. It just brought them closer together in a way that felt normal, but different. "I told myself it wasn't a big deal. It wasn't an issue. But then, outside the Burrow, I—well. Then what you said to me, I—that was a lot. And what you said to your mum only confirmed that this is definitely an issue. And I can't ignore this. I can't delay speaking about it. I tried, and that's why we're about to freeze our bits off in this fucking lake."

"It's only an issue if you don't feel anything." His response was soft, but he looked tense; as if he were waiting for something to happen.

His grip loosened a bit on her as he steeled himself and Rose panicked a little more because she knew that look; she had seen it from him after Astoria's many departures. He was readying himself for her to refuse him. And Rose understood right then that refusal, rejection, or denial were feelings she never wanted him to associate with her.

"If you don't—"

"I do." Rose gripped his shirt under the water before he could let her go. "That's why it's an issue." She stared into his eyes. Open, just like her mum said, feeling brave in a way she hadn't before. And also feeling sick. "I do… feel something, that is." Rose peered at the front row of her mind where that wayward emotion sat patiently. "A lot of something that's hitting me pretty hard right now. So much something I kind of want to yell at you and maybe cry a lot, but I'm trying not to be as dramatic as I know I am."

She tried to smile, but it was probably too wide and scary because Scorpius looked alarmed, so Rose just smothered it. Still, it didn't stop him from blinking at her multiple times. She could tell he was shocked because his mouth opened and closed several times before he exhaled. "Oh."

And because of her tendency to ramble, the words tumbled out of her in a rush. "I don't know what to do. You're giving me something important and I have no fucking clue what to do with it. Am I supposed to water it or feed it or take it for walks?"

"It's a heart," Scorpius deadpanned. "Not a dog."

There was a moment where they just looked at each other and started laughing. Rose rested her forehead on the crook of his neck for a moment before lifting her head again. The tension that had lifted a bit between them returned with a vengeance.

"I think." Rose's smile faded just a bit. "I'm not just your friend, am I?"

Scorpius didn't answer because perhaps he understood how rhetorical her question had been.

"I'm an idiot."

He shook his head. "It's not like I was upfront."

"You actually told me," Rose argued, annoyed with herself more than anything. "I just let this linger for two whole weeks because I've been scared and confused and trying to figure out what to do. How I should feel." Rose lowered her eyes, then raised them back up.

Scorpius' face was unreadable but so intense that it put her on the second edge she had stood on that day. Like before, when they had been fifty metres in the air, Rose felt every type of fear possible along with a heavy sprinkle of what the fuck because—seriously, what was she doing? Rose hadn't planned so far ahead. Or at all. And yet, here she was. In a lake. Not really sure what the hell was next.

But then his grip on her changed and Rose automatically wrapped her legs around him, locking her ankles around his waist. His hands went to the back of her thighs as he adjusted her in his grip, but kept his attention on her. And the fact that they were in water bled into the background like the hum of magic she felt when entering the wards at her mother's house.

It was just about them being in the moment. Together.

And they stayed like that, timeless and motionless. Neither knew what else to do.

But it couldn't last forever.

"Did you find out what you should feel?" Scorpius asked softly.

"I got as far as knowing I shouldn't be terrified because it's you, but gods, I am," Rose admitted with a small shudder, feeling as vulnerable as she was cold and both just hurt. "I'm so scared."

"Me too," he confessed as he caught the same chill and shivered. "You've been through a lot."

With an ease she could only feel with him, Rose left herself as open as he had two weeks ago. "I have, and I've got a lot to sort through, but I will. I'm already doing it. I'm growing. I'm changing, and fuck, it doesn't feel very good most of the time, but I am. I'm accepting it just like—"

"I know you're changing," Scorpius interjected. "I see it every day. It's why I told you. After what Lily said, I couldn't let you think that about yourself."

And it was funny how his acknowledgement meant as much as her mum's, but felt different in a new way that she was beginning to associate with him. "Thank you for telling me, but sometimes I forget that it's not about me and my feelings. You're struggling, too, and you have been. I didn't fully understand that until today because while you're good at hiding it, I'm even better at missing every fucking clue I've been given. My mum—"

"I swear your mum knows everything," he choked out a laugh, teeth chattering a bit.

"Gods." Rose snorted, feeling like the bottom of the ice-cream carton. "It's horrible having a mother two steps ahead of everyone." She adjusted her hold on him and found herself very close. Her smile fell slightly. "Especially when you're like me and last to arrive. Everyone knows how you feel about me, even my dad. Were you ever going to tell me?"

Scorpius cringed, but answered her honestly. "Eventually, when I was sure."

"Of what?"

"Of you."

He's given you the power to hurt him… and all he can do is hope against all hope that you won't.

It didn't make her feel great, but she understood his fears. Rose wasn't really built for the sort of permanency this felt like. She wasn't easy to pin down, slow to recognise things she should have known a lifetime ago. But awareness brought her right to the point where she could acknowledge that she wanted to be more—both for him and mainly… for herself.

And with the determination that had been building with every word she spoke—the same in him that kept taking her hand, even after hesitating—she brought one arm out of the water and wrapped it around his neck, putting herself right there.

Heart to heart.

And despite the fact that she was shivering and scared, she touched his face with cold fingers. "I don't want us to ever get to the point where you'd rather suffer than talk to me. I'd hate it," Rose told him with an intensity that almost startled her. He swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing with the effort as he stared at her. Listening. "I know I don't say it enough to you, but you're my favourite person. I don't want you to keep things from me because you don't think I can handle it. Tell me what you want and—"

"You," he told her earnestly. "I want you."

Rose felt her breath catch at the passion in his voice, the very real fear that echoed in his words, and the truth in his blue eyes. It was overwhelming, but she couldn't force the doors to herself shut if she tried. Not now. Not after so much had been shared between them. So she continued on the same path. "I've got no clue how to be everything you've ever wanted."

"Just keep being you." And like she'd done in his bedroom the morning after her inquiry, Rose listened to what he wasn't saying. You're good enough.

Rose felt her breath hitch, felt the energy between them, felt herself continue to open up more—so much that her chest felt impossibly full. "But I'm no good at this." I'm scared.

"We'll navigate this together." Grow together. Learn together. Figure this out.

"I've got issues." I'm more trouble than I'm worth.

"Obviously, with the way I just yelled at my mother, we both do." I don't care.

"But it's me." She vocalised her unspoken words in a whisper that was nearly lost in the wind.

"It's you." Scorpius sounded so certain that it made her almost lightheaded. After a shaky breath, he rested his forehead on hers, closing his eyes, shivering a bit more as he spoke. "But we don't have to sort through everything right now. We can just build on this. It's a lot, even for me, and I'm in no rush." He chuckled and it sounded a bit dazed. "I didn't think my day would end up here and I'm just trying to process this."

"Me too," Rose confessed with a high-pitched laugh of her own that turned into a quiet gasp when he moved his hands from the back of her thighs to her lower back. "I just want…" Her words trailed off in a whisper.

"What do you want?"

"I…" She closed her eyes, trying to find something to keep her emotions from going wild. Scorpius inhaled and, like always, she settled on him, now with the understanding that she did so because it was right. Natural. Easy. The chill of the water they were standing in became even more of an afterthought despite her physical reactions to the cold.

"Be honest," he reminded her in a voice barely above a whisper.

Be open.

She lifted her head up to look at him once more. "I don't want to make a mistake and destroy what we have. I don't think I'd be able to stand it."

Scorpius nodded. "I understand, but that's not what I asked." Rose watched as water streaked down the centre of his forehead, down to the tip of his nose. And naturally, her eyes went further, to his mouth as he repeated his question: "I asked: what do you want?"

Rose didn't answer immediately, giving herself a minute to reflect quietly in her own head. The minute turned into two as they held onto each other. It hadn't taken long for her to relax and allow herself to feel the comfort in the arms that were holding her, the comfort in the body that was so close to hers.

Definitely not normal for any sort of friendship.

"I want…" She shut her eyes, momentarily struggling to verbalise her feelings.

And it wasn't so much about them becoming real—because things were very real. It was more about her next actions. The storm in her mind had passed and now came the recovery. He'd given her the opportunity to pause, to wait to put her words into action. While that was nice, Rose—with her chest so impossibly full of emotions that it almost hurt—wasn't sure if she could accept the offer. Not when there was so much that she wanted right then, so much she wanted to share with and be for him that it was tearing her apart.

Now that Rose understood it, those wants had been tearing her apart for weeks. Which explained why she had been flailing so hard, why she'd been so overwhelmed by his confession. Why she needed direction on what to do or how to feel. Why she felt like she had to do something.

This was it.

Those wants and feelings were so unlike anything she'd associated with Scorpius that it scared her. Not in a fearful way that would stop her or make her doubt her sanity—which she probably should—but rather fearful in the way she'd been on the platform earlier.

Earlier when she'd been holding on to him for dear life, willing to take the leap because she trusted him, all while hoping that they wouldn't be that one in ten million chance of failure.

Yes, she understood that all over again.

But in the end, even with her heart hammering and her nerves threatening to take control, Rose knew what she wanted. So she brought her other hand to his cheek and whispered in a voice that trembled under the enormous weight of the newly acknowledged affection she had for him. "Can I show you?"

This time, when Scorpius agreed with the slightest inclination of his head, Rose was the one who tipped them off the edge by pressing her mouth to his, gently working his open. Indulgent. Easy. Soft. Her kisses were everything she wasn't, everything Rose knew she had to be as they fell from the cliff of friendship and into the void of something more.

And falling had never been easy, it would never be easy, but as they descended, Rose focused on the way he felt, on her heart that was still beating, on his shaking hands that were holding on to her just right, all while understanding and accepting that nothing would be the same.

But acceptance didn't make her feel less anxious or terrified, nor did it suddenly give her the wisdom and fortitude she needed to not fuck any of it up.

It was just this: acceptance of him, appreciation for what this was, and acknowledgement of everything that was to come. All the work it would take, all the changes they would make, all the growth it would take. In her and in him.

And while Rose didn't want to rush anything, she couldn't be stagnant either.

Not when she wasn't alone.

Scorpius followed her lead, allowing her to set the pace to an ebb and flow all their own. It was nothing to fall into the rhythm of kissing; nothing at all to test each sensation with every nip of his lips and slow drag of her mouth against his.

Then another.

And then Scorpius sank into it, taking everything Rose had to offer, kissing her like he had all the time in the world and a plan to use every bit of it. There were no nerves or hesitation coming from him because he was sure, so certain of her that she wanted to feel the same way about herself.

His confidence made her determined that she would.

With the water lapping all around them, Rose let him hold her tighter, allowing herself to make a small noise of surrender as she carded her fingers through his wet hair at the back of his head, deepening her kiss. Letting him take that time, and more, even with the hunger stirring in her.

Gods, she'd been an idiot to try and write any of this off and apologised the only way she knew how—not with words, but with touch. And though Rose still had her own private worries and they both had things to work through, kissing him still felt like coming home after a long day, like realising her fears were nothing to be ashamed of.

Natural.
Human.
Not friendly.

Rose pulled back from kissing him to just exist. And in that moment of perfect silence with dusk settling all around them, they shared the same oxygen, the same peace and fortitude to work through this together. Rose found herself dizzy from the proximity, filled to the brim with emotions that threatened to spill over. She bit her bottom lip and—her stomach started loudly protesting everything.

"Um?"

Scorpius laughed, but didn't move. "Was that what I think it was?"

"Yes," she answered irritably. "I haven't actually eaten in ages. But seriously? Damn you, stomach." Rose grouched. "Couldn't wait just a little longer?"

His nose brushed against hers when he murmured, "Let's go."

Rose shivered, partly from the fact that she was cold, but mostly from the timbre of his words. She was about to ignore the chill in the air and snog him again, but her stomach growled again. Louder and a little more insistent. "Fucking hell."

That time, he laughed. "Come on."

Together, they made their way back to the dock and climbed out with little difficulty. After drying charms—ones that nearly made Rose's hair impossibly fluffy—they settled back on the blanket. Back to where they'd started.

Only things were much different.

Rose wasn't as out of sorts, wasn't as stressed. A bit relieved actually, but she had no idea why. They had work to do, lots of it, but perhaps she was okay with it because they were finally on the same page. Or rather, Rose had finally caught up with her reading. She sat with her legs stretched out and crossed while rummaging through her beaded bag for snacks. He'd mentioned food, but really, neither were ready to go.

She found a bag of crisps and sour watermelons, which they quietly shared until both were gone. It quelled her appetite for now. Scorpius had his knees raised casually as he leaned back on his hands, peering up at the dark sky, deep in thought. But he didn't seem as restless as before. Rose laid back on the blanket and looked up as well. It wasn't quite dark, but dusk had definitely made its appearance while they were in the lake, unaware of their surroundings. She didn't look long, more conscious of him than the sky.

Rose didn't know what she was going to do until she did it.

She uncrossed her legs and stood up, mentally calculating the logistics as she stepped over him, catching his attention from the atmosphere. His eyes tracked her as Rose lowered herself until she sat astride on him, legs tucked carefully. She leaned back on his raised knees, putting space between them that was needed in that moment because—well, it was intimate. Far more than she'd anticipated when she'd made the initial move.

But now that Rose was there, she had no plans to move.

Well, she didn't have much of a plan for anything, except to wait for him to make the next move.

Whatever it was.

Patience had never been her forte, but Scorpius didn't make her wait long. He moved, lifting from his reclined position, hands at her waist like they belonged there as he shifted. His adjustments brought her right into his space and they stared at each other with new awareness.

"What are you doing?" he asked carefully, with just a bit of husk in his voice. Interest.

Rose held his gaze as she leaned heavily into him, resting tentative hands on his chest. "No clue." Well, that wasn't true. She had a clue. It just very much involved continuing their activities from the lake.

Because now that the dam had been let loose, she just… wanted.

And she found that it was harder than she realised to articulate such a thing to him, of all people.

Scorpius looked cautious, but mostly intrigued, so close now that his lips brushed against hers when he asked. "What do you want, Rose?"

And she allowed the first thought to come out. It was an instinct. Another moment of honesty in a long series of them in the last few weeks that had brought them to that moment.

"You," she answered in a voice that was barely audible, her focus completely on him as her hand snaked up to the side of his neck. "I just want you." When he shivered for no reason other than her actions, Rose's confidence grew. As did her words. "And whatever this is becoming." Even though it felt big, like something she couldn't run from or ignore or avoid by sticking her head in the sand.

"We can move at your speed, do things at your pace," Scorpius assured her. "It'll be weird—"

"It's already weird," Rose blurted out, then flushed. "But honestly, all I want to do is snog you until we get bored with it and figure out the rest tomorrow."

"That might take a while." He levelled her with a gaze of open want that made her eyes widen and something warm shoot down her spine. Not quite hot, but getting there.

Rose brought her other hand to his cheek, searching his face before whispering. "Can I?"

"You don't have to ask every time."

And filed that away for the future when she lowered her mouth to his, her shoulders sagging as she relaxed into him. There was something about the air, the rhythmic resonances of the lake, the warmth of their bodies that kept Rose languid and slow, made her not want to hurry to where they were headed.

Not that she knew, but she had the inkling of an idea that was surfacing.

Rose let the idea spring forth in her mind. Let Scorpius kiss her with the controlled intensity that embodied him, the calm focus that assured her there was nowhere else he wanted to be. She let him touch her, teasing firm hands up the back of her shirt, then down, curving at her waist, then her hips, down her thighs. Then back up. Smiling into her kiss, swallowing the small noises she made, tensing when her hands slipped under his shirt, gripping the bottom. A quiet breath escaped him as they stared at each other.

Okay?

He answered by slowly raising his arms for Rose to pull his shirt over his head, tossing it somewhere. It could have landed in the lake for all she cared because um—well she couldn't stop staring. There was objectively knowing that Scorpius was attractive, noticing it when they were unhooking him from the harnesses, and seeing it for herself in a very subjective way right then in the near darkness.

When Rose went to take off her own shirt—even playing field and all—Scorpius stopped her.

"I care," he told her between quick little kisses that made her burn a little brighter. "About this, and how we do this. I don't want to rush."

"That's awfully reasonable for someone without a shirt."

"Maybe you should stop touching me."

And while she probably—no, definitely—should have been weird about everything, all she felt was blown away by how easy this was. How natural it felt. It took her back to the Burrow when she'd had similar thoughts and ignored them. Bloody hell, was she an idiot.

"Do you want me to stop?"

"No."

And that was that. Scorpius pulled her closer, chest-to-chest, her arms automatically travelling to his bare shoulder. He snaked his hand behind her head and brought their lips together, taking over.

With the dam broken, the torrent of interest and emotions that welled up inside her flowed freely. Flush against each other, his hands on her bum and hers in his hair, Rose gasped into his open mouth. She began enjoying herself, enjoying the small thrills, the sensation of their hands and mouths moving against each other in a sync that was natural.

"Is this too much?" he whispered against her lips.

Absolutely yes, but also no. Not nearly.

She pulled off his glasses and sat them next to her. "I'll let you know."

That was all it took for the restraint Scorpius had thus far exhibited to vanish. He met each kiss with equal pressure and enthusiasm, challenging each move with one of his own. He was done holding back, clearly stating his intentions in a way she hadn't understood last time. And Rose found herself shedding a little bit of baggage with each kiss and caress, melting into it, wanting it, and starving the little part of her brain that wondered if she deserved any of this at all because all she was going to do was mess it up.

He wanted this.

And fears aside, so did she.

It really should have been strange, maybe awkward, but actually, there was a sort of tenderness that was beyond anything she'd imagined. They stayed like that for what seemed like ages, just snogging, touching each other, feeling the physical signs of him wanting her, but not ready for more. The constant sound of the water behind them muted the small sounds they couldn't help making. His hands felt warm through her shirt and hers cupped his face, holding him where she wanted, showing him just how she liked to be kissed. Wanted to be touched. Where to be held.

And while Scorpius was excellent at following directions, he was even better at presenting some of his own ideas.

Particularly one that had him arching against her in a move that shot liquid fire to her core.

Oh.
Fuck.

They both froze, breath hitched, and she wondered if she looked as wild-eyed as he did.

"Sorry," he said as soon as he'd done it, shuddering and clenching his jaw.

"Do it again," Rose insisted, completely on board as she rocked her hips into him, trying to find the right angle, what worked with the thin layers of clothes between them. It was more than just biology. More than any other stupid excuse she'd made before because none of her past experiences came close.

Gods, she'd been absolutely clueless.

Now on a new mission of giving, giving, giving, Rose tangled her shaking fingers in his blond hair and kissed him. His face. Neck. Anywhere she could reach. And as Rose slowly dragged her hips against his with purpose and determination, Scorpius said one thing, her name, but his body said something completely different.

And she listened to his body and continued. Slower. The low moan that came from him made her gasp and she ground down on him. It was good. The pressure, the heat coming from him… it was so good. Too good. She'd done it for him, but her body felt like an exposed nerve. His hand squeezed her hips, but his face was so unreadable she silently prayed he wouldn't make her stop, prayed that he would stop thinking and just feel what she felt.

"It's okay," Rose whispered, panting against his open mouth, rocking against him with urgency. "I want this."

"Okay." He exhaled sharply, like he was nearing the end of his tether. His hand travelled up the back of her shirt in a simple move that sent fresh shock waves through her. Rose swore in a sigh and ground down on him harder, giving more and accepting little. Sharing. "Nothing more than this."

"Just—this is fine." Better than fine. All she could handle right then, actually. She urged him on, moving faster, a little harder, their hips working together in rhythm. Nothing mattered. Just them. His hands were gripping her so hard it almost hurt, but she made no effort to wiggle free.

"Could you?" she asked breathlessly. "Like this?"

Scorpius dropped his head on her shoulder, breathing harshly against her. "Yes."

After that, everything became incoherent, a mixture of sighs and moans as Rose undulated her hips. As if out of his control, his fingers began digging into her back, her bottom, as he helped her along to meet each of his sharp, short snaps of his hips. It was happening so fast, the pleasure rising up in both of them. There was no stopping, waiting, thinking. Scorpius said her name in a voice that was somewhere between a whisper and a moan, and she felt something constrict in her. Fuck. Scorpius dug his teeth into the soft skin where her neck met her shoulder and started shuddering, swearing, groaning… and Rose felt something break inside her.

There was no tsunami or tidal wave. No clichéd electric spark. Nothing of the sort.

It was just feelings.

Ones so intense they bordered on painful and left her breathless, heart threatening to punch its way through her chest. She heard herself moaning something high-pitched and fucking terrible, but couldn't stop herself. Then… she let go with him, and they both almost collapsed on the blanket, out of breath. And for a very long time after, they held onto each other, not letting go until the feelings faded, dulled, ended.

When Rose had her wits about her again, she thought about picking up the bits of insecurities she'd dropped along the way, but then Scorpius told her to stop squirming and rubbed her back. And that was that. She left them there and ran tentative fingers through his hair with her eyes still shut. She focused on the quick rhythm of his heart. And they stayed like that for a long while, while the lake rocked gently in the background.

The silence between them was easy in a way that strengthened their connection, not only because of what they'd shared physically, but also in the moment they were having. It wasn't as if they had nothing to say—oh, there was plenty to sort through—but more than words just weren't necessary.

Until they were.

"Well." Scorpius chuckled. "I need a shower."

Rose couldn't help it.

She burst out laughing.

And so did he.


By the next day, there was a problem.

They woke up before dawn like normal, went for their first hour-long morning run like normal, and watched the sunrise over the valley below. Again, like normal. They went back to their flats for showers and met up for protein smoothies. Rose still complained about the vegetables—like normal.

Everything was normal.

Well… except for all the snogging they did between those activities.

Once that physical dam had broken, they couldn't keep their hands off each other.

And that was the problem.

It was like her brain reminded her that she was twenty-one, hadn't been shagged in forever, and was now in the presence of someone very willing to change her circumstances. Funny how that worked. Also funny was the fact that Scorpius very much wasn't on board with shagging right out of the gate. So, Rose found herself repeatedly telling her libido to sit the fuck down and settle for some snogging, heavy petting, and character-building torture.

Because she was a mature adult, who could keep herself in check just as well as Scorpius, who was some sort of Restraint Saint.

It really wasn't fair.

The morning after the lake, there hadn't been a good snog, because Scorpius was too busy trying to force her to let go of the bed, but he'd given her a quick snog when he returned to find her already dressed and putting her hair up. And that had just perked her up, though Rose wouldn't admit it on pain of death. But it did. On their run, he still ran in front, but they barely watched the sunrise because they were at it like Sixth Years in the alcove. They still took showers alone, still drank smoothies at his flat, but afterwards, because Al had gone to help Jane weed her garden at the Burrow, Rose found herself in his lap on the sofa necking like there was no one else on Earth.

That was really the only way to describe it because Scorpius wouldn't leave her neck alone.

In fact, Rose was moaning—the high-pitched one she hated—while grinding against his thigh as Scorpius blazed a trail of hot, open-mouthed kisses down her neck when his dad came through the fireplace.

They both froze.

Well, actually, everyone froze.

As though he weren't groping her bum and very interested in everything that had been happening, Scorpius said in a low, calm voice only heard between the two of them. "I thought you closed off the Floo."

"I don't actually live here," Rose argued through gritted teeth.

A throat cleared behind them. "I'll be back in five minutes and when I return, we'll never speak of this. Agreed?"

Rose gave him a thumbs up.

And then they were alone.

When his dad returned—a bit more warily—they were sitting on opposite ends of the sofa. Rose was happily sipping her coffee with too much sugar while Scorpius pretended to read a book, his eyes darting back and forth between the pages. They both looked up at his arrival.

"Good morning, Mr. Draco," Rose said sunnily.

Scorpius buried his head in the book, and if she listened closely, she could hear his mortified groan. His father, on the other hand, looked far more humoured by her decision to use overly dramatic exuberance to avoid awkwardness. It was a tactic she used sometimes to get out of humiliating experiences, and that one seemed as good as any to use now.

To his son, he said, "I brought your books," and set them on the table.

His eyes skimming over everything except them.

Scorpius looked like a mix between mortified and unbothered—like the two sides of him were at war. "Um… thanks dad." He seemed reluctant for a moment before he asked, "How's—"

"With her family having breakfast."

Rose looked at Scorpius, feeling the heaviness slowly roll in.

"Your mother will be fine, and honestly, she's not my concern. You are. I think you should focus on yourself and…" Mr Draco's eyes cut over to her. "The recent changes in your life. The rest will sort itself out." And while his dad wasn't completely wrong, Rose had never seen Scorpius so flustered. Then Mr. Draco took mercy on him with a wave of his hand. "I'll see you at the restaurant opening this week. Both of you."

Then he left again.

Rose placed her coffee on table and shifted over to the middle cushion, acknowledging the previously ignored elephant in the room by resting her head on his shoulder, curling her body against him, resting a hand over his heart. Scorpius didn't seem as troubled as he had been yesterday, just a little quieter.

Then, bolder still than she had been yesterday, Rose asked. "What can I do?"

"This."

She obliged him for several minutes, long enough for her to nearly drop off to sleep. That was until the wheels in her mind caught up to her and Rose realised what the hell Mr. Draco had said. "Did your dad just—"

"Trick you into dinner later this week? Yes."

Rose almost growled her irritation, but sighed instead. "I suppose if we're sorting this out, I should probably have dinner with your family. Make an effort and all that rubbish." Although she'd tried that once with his mum and that hadn't gone great. "In the spirit of being two feet in this."

Because she was.

"What about around other people?" Scorpius asked diplomatically, resting his hand on top of hers that was still on his chest.

She thought about it. "In theory, I'd like to get used to this before we bring everyone else in on it." At some point, the media would get involved, and as much as Rose hated it, she had also accepted it as inevitable. Scorpius made a little noise of agreement. "In actuality, my mum's going to figure it out the moment she sees us at brunch today, should we decide to go. There will be looks, and if she pulls out her camera, just run for it. Okay?" He snorted and dropped a kiss on her forehead. Ah, so his little funk was over. "Al will also figure it out pretty quickly, too."

At that, Scorpius froze, then swore under his breath, like he'd only just in that instant remembered that Al knew him too well. Rose laughed until he rolled his eyes and brushed his hair from his face. "I've ignored Al's secrets, so he'll ignore this."

"Secrets?"

"You'll figure it out soon enough." And he just left it at that. What? Rose lifted her head to glare at him suspiciously, but he just gave her an enigmatic smile that basically told her to leave it. And she would—for now. Because when had Rose ever left well enough alone?

Besides, they had other things to discuss. "We'll revisit that. But for now, you want to tell those who matter and wait a while before telling everyone else?"

"It'll be an actual zoo when the papers find out, so yes. Let's hold that off as long as possible." Which sounded like a fair enough plan. He looked at her, smirking. "Pet names?"

Rose cut her eyes at him. "Unless you want me to call you something insipid, Score."

He blanched. "Forget I ever said anything."

She laughed loud and long. "Will do." Then she chewed on the inside of her lip. "We could always skip my family's brunch. Just stay here and…"

"Since when have you ever suggested skipping a meal? Much less your grandmother's cooking. And the sausages. She makes sure she gets the spicy ones you like. Besides, I like her vegetarian quiche. I haven't had it in a while."

He had an excellent point, but there were other things she wanted to do. Rose didn't tell him that because she was better than that. Partly. "Fine, we'll go, but only because of the sausages."

Scorpius smiled. "Then we should probably get changed and head over."

Rose grouched, but left through the Floo. They met up half an hour later and stepped out of the Floo into an empty sitting room at the Burrow. She was just about to count her lucky stars when her dad came in, head turned away, yelling to someone that he was going to check in the room where they were, but when he turned and saw them, he gave them both a smile.

"We weren't expecting you…." He cut his eyes over to Scorpius. "Two." Her dad gave Scorpius a look that made him look up at the ceiling as if he'd suddenly seen something interesting. Weird. To Rose, he said, "Al and Jane are outside in her garden. I think the gnomes like her."

Everythingliked Jane, so that wasn't a surprise. "Hi dad." Rose approached him and he swallowed her in a hug that she welcomed. "Where's mum?"

"Helping in the kitchen." Which was on the way outside so if she thought she would be able to bypass her mother, well, that wasn't going to happen. Bugger. Rose pulled back from hugging her dad and caught him giving Scorpius another odd look. She looked over her shoulder at him, then back at her dad. "I thought you were going to the match with your family today."

Rose almost slapped her palm against her forehead at her dad's lack of filter.

To be fair, he didn't know, but still.

As always, Scorpius was calm as ever. "Change of plans."

He blinked twice, then shrugged. "Well, the more the merrier. Everyone will be happy to see you."

There was a pause that was too long and Rose cleared her throat. "Aren't you supposed to be finding something…"

"Oh! Right." When he slid past them, hunting for whatever he was supposed to bring back, she grabbed Scorpius' hand and pulled him out the room.

They walked the hall leisurely, not running into anyone, and the sound of voices grew louder and louder as they approached the kitchen. Scorpius slowed his steps noticeably enough for her to turn her head. "You should probably let my hand go if we're keeping this to ourselves."

And while it wasn't the first time anyone had seen them holding hands, she thought he made a fair point. Rose let go of his hand just in time for James to spot them as he came out of a room carrying what looked like a tablecloth. "Al said you weren't coming—no matter. The food's not ready yet." Which was notable because whenever she attended family brunch, Rose never turned up before the food was on the table.

Rose nodded and he shoved the bundle of cloth at her, giving her no choice but to accept it.

"Here, I'm going to hide until the food's ready. Mate." He turned to Scorpius. "I suggest you do the same or else they'll make you do things."

"I'll take my chances."

"It's your funeral."

Aunt Ginny called for James and he winced. "Take that. Tell them I went to the loo. Be creative."

Then he made his escape.

Rose took his direction as literally as she felt like it—because she was an absolute prat—and when they entered the kitchen, she had a fully formed plan to get the hell out of there before her mum could get a good look at them.

She dropped the tablecloth on the bare table and when Aunt Ginny, who was standing at the sink between her mum and Victoire, asked where James had run off to, she announced, "James asked me to bring this because he's got a sudden case of bumfluenza."

Scorpius almost choked on air, and everyone just froze. Her mum actually slapped her forehead.

But then everyone burst out laughing when her Nan put her hand on her chest and said, "Oh my."

And during the uproar of laughter, Rose shoved him in the direction of the door where they slipped out… and of course her mum's eyes tracked them all the way. She would bide her time like always, but Rose would be ready.

And for now, at least they were free from her knowing looks.

"Bumfluenza?" Scorpius laughed as he shielded his eyes from the bright sun.

"It did the trick, did it not?" Rose laughed, but stopped to dig around in her beaded bag before producing his prescription sunglasses and handing them to him. "Swiped them off your desk. Thought you might need them."

He stuck his glasses in his pocket, but before he put the sunglasses on, Scorpius gave her a heated look that made her feel warm, a look she ignored by continuing on the path to Jane's garden.

Jane was sitting on a tree stump just outside the garden with her legs folded and her head tilted to the sky in meditation while Al laid in the grass, watching her. The besotted sod. The weeding, as it appeared, was complete.

Rose picked the best greeting that would sound perfectly normal. "Hiya."

She knew immediately it was the wrong one when three sets of eyes gave her varying degrees of strange looks.

She elbowed Scorpius, but he just gave her a fond smile. "Et tu Brute?"

"Hiya?" he drawled, his eyebrow raising above the frame of his sunglasses. Scorpius leaned in a bit closer. Probably too close for all the pretenses they were supposed to uphold. "That's the best you could do?"

"Bumfluenza took all my creativity, o—"

"Bloody hell!" Al blurted out. Both their heads turned sharply in his direction, only to find him pointing at his best friend. Then her. Then back to him. Al's mouth was open, trying to formulate words and Scorpius just sighed impatiently and waited for him to finish spluttering. "You two—"

"Have acknowledged your special relationship," Jane interjected serenely.

Well, that wasn't a bad way of putting it, but Scorpius put it in more realistic terms. "We're figuring it out." Or snogging it out. Or both. Whichever. All of it worked for them right then so they were going with it.

"Must have been some—"

"And we're done talking about it," Rose cut Jane off. When Al opened his mouth to continue, she raised her fist threateningly. "It's a thing. Don't tell a soul or I'll—"

Scorpius tapped her on the shoulder. "I got this. Al."

And the two had one of their weird expressive conversations before her cousin flushed bright red and cleared his throat. "Is it time to eat? I'm starved!" Rose gave him and Scorpius suspicious looks of her own, but then Jane got up and wanted to introduce Rose to her plants while the best friends walked away in the opposite direction.

Rose followed Jane through the wooden archway, looking back just in time for Al to jump on Scorpius' back, an act that took them both to the ground where they laid and laughed about it. Rose found herself smiling at the sound, but then rolled her eyes when Scorpius said something she couldn't hear and Al responded by hitting him repeatedly in the arm while he laughed even harder.

Boys.

Jane's garden was teeming with budding life. She had two raised garden beds stretching down both sides of her designated space with an aisle right down the middle. She had little tags that identified everything. Herbs on one side, flowers on the other, and mint all alone in the back.

"Because it's too friendly," was all she said.

That got weird quick.

Now back on their feet, Al shoved Scorpius, which earned him being pulled into a headlock. Al was flailing his arms and she could hear Scorpius laughing so hard that she found herself chuckling as well. Rose shook her head at their ridiculousness before focusing on her own.

"Over here is Othello the oregano. Around him are his friends: Sally the sage, Lucy the lavender, and Roberta the rosemary. Everyone, this is Rose. Say hello!" Rose blinked at her because she had no idea what was happening and shouldn't have been surprised, but somehow she still was. Jane gave the plants a conspiratorial look. "Don't mind her, she's just nervous around new plants. You're all lovely."

Rose turned her eyes to the sky. "Why is this happening to me?"

Jane just gave her a little smile and hummed to herself while checking her flowers while Rose just watched. She was in coveralls that had dirt on the legs and a white shirt. Her bangs were braided up in pigtails. She looked content, sweaty, and overall pleased with all she'd accomplished—how she had turned the weed infested patch of grass into a garden that was all her own.

Jane was odd, but her determination expanded into all parts of her life.

"I'm happy you've stopped ignoring what I've known since I met him." Which seemed to be a running theme—everyone knowing everything before her. "I'm glad you understood his language."

Whatever that meant.

"Um…" She thought it best to change the subject because she had no idea what to say. "How was the rest of the party?"

Jane shrugged. "We left after his mum came back. She looked upset." Rose shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "We were going to find you all, but we figured Scorpius might need some time away from everyone. So we all went to have pizza and then later on, we went to a silent disco Quincy found. It was so much fun. Henrietta and Marcus—"

Rose's eyes widened in shock. Not so much that Marcus had gone, because he was always looking for an adventure, but Henrietta? Well, that was surprising. "Henrietta went out in public for something other than work? Colour me shocked."

"She did." Jane touched the soil around a budding flower. "She's nice when she's not frowning about everything. And Marcus made her smile a lot."

That was interesting.

She heard her Nan shouting for them to come inside so everyone abandoned what they were doing and did just that.

Brunch was smaller than usual, because Uncle George was visiting Aunt Angelina's family in Surrey since Fred was back in town. Victoire and Teddy were there, but their parents were away visiting Aunt Fleur's family in France; they were set to return later on that day. And Dominique and Louis were about as sporadic with their attendance as Rose, so only Dominique was there. Uncle Percy had an emergency at work and Aunt Audrey was having brunch with friends.

Uncle Charlie sat right next to her and grinned slyly—a look Rose pointedly ignored—when Scorpius took the seat across from her between Al and James, simultaneously organising a pickup Quidditch game for afterwards with her dad, Teddy, and Uncle Harry. James (who was not talking to her because of bumfluenza), Al, Aunt Ginny, and Scorpius wanted in, so Dominique offered to referee—something they all groaned at because she didn't always call fouls.

Despite her sweetness, Dominique had been a bit ruthless when she was the Gryffindor Chaser.

Rose was glad she didn't fly.

Granddad reminded them all that their brooms were still in the shed. He was going to spend his time after brunch on his latest obsession: a computer.

As always, Nan looked happy to see them, but was especially happy to chat with Jane and talk about all the plants she'd seeded for her garden. Jane offered to help Nan with her own gardening—something she agreed to with a gentle smile and a soft look in Al's direction. Her cousin blushed hard before drinking his pumpkin juice.

As for her mum, well, she was smiling one of her all-knowing smiles that Rose hated.

And ignored.

Everything was going well. The food was fantastic, the conversation was lively, and at the end of brunch, Rose was just about to agree with Scorpius that it was a good thing that they'd come.

Then Lily walked in.

Everything got quiet for a moment before all the parents (save her mum who just smiled politely), Uncle Charlie, Teddy, and Victoire—greeted her loudly as though no one had expected her to be there. Nan got up and started fussing about making sure they had enough to fill her up—which of coursethey did—while Uncle Harry greeted his youngest with a hug and a kiss on her forehead.

No one caught the lack of greeting from the rest of the table, but it was fine because Lily greeted everyone else with smiles and enthusiasm, and instead of taking the seat next to James at the end of the table, she didn't look at any of them before she made a seat between her parents and the rest of them shifted down.

Brunch continued as normal, but soon after, the ones playing Quidditch were heading out, while Rose, much to the surprise of everyone, offered to help clean. They shooed her along, instructing her to get blankets for everyone to sit on while they watched the game.

She looked in three rooms before finding a stack of blankets in one of the bedrooms at the end of the hall. Wood creaked behind her letting her know that someone was there.

It was Scorpius. "Need a hand?"

"Aren't you supposed to be outside preparing to play?"

"Yes, but Al's beater bat was up here and he couldn't remember where it was." He held up the bat and continued walking towards her. Rose went into the room and sat on the bed. And sighed. Scorpius shut the door behind him.

"So… Lily's here," she said lamely because she wasn't sure how she felt about it.

"Are you going to be okay?"

Rose shrugged. "As long as she doesn't say anything, I won't."

"That's mature of you." He wasn't being facetious. "One day, you're going to have to talk to her again, but on your own terms. Just like one day…" he trailed off, but Rose understood what he was saying.

One day, should his mother decide to come around, he would have to do the same. He would forgive, but not forget, because that was the sort of person he was. Rose wasn't so forgiving, not so willing to mend the bridge between them.

More inclined to watch it burn.

But the truth was that she didn't want to be like that. Didn't want the bitterness to fester any longer than it had. And the wounds from her words had already lingered too long. So, Rose resolved something in herself. Like Scorpius had decided with his mother, should Lily get her act together, she would try. If she never bothered, then Rose would let it go. There were other, more important things for her to focus on, other changes that needed her attention, and not just the one in front of her.

However, that was the change looking her in the eyes.

And she found it funny that, once again, everything was different, but nothing had changed. Not between them, not their balance and the way Scorpius could put things into perspective for Rose in that quiet way of his. Not in the way he knew to use some horrible excuse to check in on her.

"What?" He quirked a brow at her.

She shook her head. "Nothing."

Over and over, Rose was reminded of the fact that while they were working to be more, while they were playing on a different field with a new set of rules, he was very much still the same person. Nothing had or would change him.

That was comforting in a way she hadn't known she needed.

"After the game..." He looked down a bit. "We could go see a film, maybe get ice-cream."

Rose almost laughed and stood up. "Scorpius, are you asking me on a date?"

"Yes." He looked a little bashful when he shrugged. "A small one. Just so our first actual date won't be the restaurant opening with my grandparents and dad."

That was extremely fair. "I accept, and I won't say anything when you want to go into Flourish and Blotts. I'll even glare at anyone who would dare try to grab the last book from you."

"And I won't say anything about your terrible taste in film. I won't roll my eyes—"

"Or complain about the lack of realism when the main character jumps from building to building?" Scorpius gave her a look and crossed the room in that easy way of his; not stopping until he was standing close to her in a way that would have given her pause twenty-four hours ago.

Even though it was all still a bit tentative, she welcomed it. She was still getting used to it.

To him.

"You're asking a lot." He smirked.

Rose allowed herself to grin and he kissed her for it.

Scorpius dropped the beater bat on the chair next to the bed in favour of wrapping his arms around her. Rose allowed her mind to drift as she thought about their snogging, and how much they'd done in the last twelve hours or so. Seemed like a lot. Honestly, she couldn't remember ever kissing someone so much. Or thinking about it so much. Or liking it so much.

Or feeling so at ease about it.

"I'll take the blankets and you take the bat," he mumbled against her partially opened mouth.

Rose ran her tongue on the inside of her bottom lip and looked into his eyes. "Okay." He gave her a quick snog, smiled, and picked up the blankets. "You know, we've snogged a lot over the last twelve or so hours."

"Is that a problem?"

"No, but you've never…" Been one for showing emotion or affection as openly, she thought but couldn't say. Because when the pot met a kettle that was just as black, it probably shouldn't complain. It should accept it. Appreciate it. Enjoy it. "You don't…"

"I'm making up for lost time."

The only thing she could say to his statement was: "Okay."

But then he chuckled and led the way. Rose grabbed the bat and walked quickly to catch up.

Not too long after, she was sitting on the blankets getting her hair braided into matching pigtails as they watched the four-on-four Quidditch game with two rings instead of three. Uncle Harry and Teddy were chasing the snitch while her dad and Scorpius were beaters for opposite teams and Aunt Ginny and James battled Uncle Charlie and Al as chasers, but it looked like everyone was more or less dodging the aggressive bludger.

Her mum came out and sat down on the other side of Rose with a large book that was the same book Mr. Draco brought by Scorpius' flat earlier. When he'd caught them. "Who's winning?" her mother asked without looking up from her book.

"Tied at fifty because everyone's running from the Bludger." As she said that, Al dropped out of the way of the Bludger that flew through the ring then came back and nearly took out Uncle Charlie. "Why they play with the Bludger, I'm not sure."

"Al's mum says they play with it to keep their skills sharp," Jane chimed in.

"Or they have a death wish."

Scorpius blocked Aunt Ginny's shot and hit the Quaffle right into James's hand. Rose yawned.

"I'm pretty sure you're supposed to cheer him on," her mum quipped in a teasing tone. "You know, since the abrupt change in—"

"Mum!" Rose started to jerk her head, but Jane wouldn't let her. Still, her mother laughed. "You couldn't wait five minutes?"

"No, not with the way you two are so obvious." She paused for a beat. "So, you figured out how blind you've been?"

"You could say that I listened to your advice… and shoved him into a lake."

Jane laughed, but her mum muttered, "Oh gods," under her breath. Then she laid down her book and started braiding the other half of Rose's hair. Then she thought about the brighter side of it all. "At least you didn't scream at him."

Rose chuckled darkly. "It took a lot of effort." Jane laughed harder while Rose sulked as best as she could without the range of motion needed to make it more effective. "You could have just told me that I fancied him. It would have saved us both from freezing our bits off." She rolled her eyes. "I feel like you knew it all along."

"Not all along. Not from you, at least. His dad and I figured Scorpius out years ago. Thought Draco was going to have a stroke when he stormed into my office after I sent Scorpius home with that picture of you two from his first visit to the Burrow." She smiled fondly at the memory while Rose looked at her as she'd gone mad. "Good times."

"You do know you sound like you should be sitting in your lair with a cat on your lap, right?"

Jane started snickering, but Rose was completely serious.

"I would be, but Hugo's allergic to their dander, so here I am, cat-less."

She joined in with her friend, laughing until it faded into sighs.

"Now you, Rose, I didn't figure you out until the winter of your Sixth Year—" At that, she sputtered, because she was absolutely positive that she had never once thought of Scorpius like that back then. But Rose didn't argue. Just listened. "Do you remember the night he came after a fight with his mother? I found you two standing out there in the cold hugging and wrapped up in that thin blanket you loved so much."

"The sloth one." Rose smiled. It was still in her room. Scorpius said it itched, the prat.

"Right," her mum said. "You didn't complain once about the cold. It made me wonder."

But… well, she actually did remember that night—if only as yet another example of Astoria planning her son's life without his consent during one of her visits. What had Rose said to him?

No one can tell you who you are, or who you will become.

Scorpius had given her a surprised and strange look—well, actually. Hmm. She'd seen that look before. So, not that strange, but rather… ah. It had been intense. Warm. Affectionate. The same look he'd given her when he…

"Well, shit."

Her mum ignored her swear word and barked out a laugh. "There's more. I noticed the fact that you actually share food with him. Outside of Hugo and maybe your dad, you don't share with anyone." Jane snorted and mumbled something about language as she finished up her braid while Rose scowled as best as she could at both of them. "In the hospital, you held on to him because he made you feel safe. And though I've looked the other way, I notice that you continue to feel safe around him. Every night." Rose literally stopped breathing and of course—because her mother was the worst—once again, she took her silence as permission to continue. "Al mentioned that he hasn't slept at home in weeks, so I just assumed. Correctly, judging from the look on your face."

"Now, I feel like dying. Thanks." Also like plotting the murder of her cousin. Sorry Jane.

"Lecture aside, just be careful, your dad and I aren't ready to be grand—"

"Mum!" So maybe she had already died and now she was in hell. In response, her mother only shrugged like it was a valid point and finished her braid. Ah, so that was how mortification felt. "I hate it here." But then Rose realised something very important and turned her head, pointing accusatory fingers at her mum. "You dumped his feelings on me on purpose!"

Her mother shook her head and waved a finger. "First, you consented. Second, I did it just to see how you would react." She said it lightly while Jane looked fascinated by her mum's brain. She wasn't the first. "If you really didn't care, his feelings wouldn't have bothered you, but they did. I could tell you had a lot weighing on you and thought maybe it had to do with him. Partly." She shrugged. "It was a lucky guess."

Rose pouted. Or at least she tried to, but honestly, she was in too good of a mood for dramatics.

Which was funny because as soon as the thought registered, Lily and Victoire emerged from the Burrow. While the latter rushed over to let Jane braid her blonde hair as well—electing for a braided crown—the former was slow to approach. She sat in the grass instead of on the very edge of the blanket, as far away as she could get. Conversation over, Rose decided to focus on the game instead while Jane chattered away, rapidly swapping from the game to talking about how soft Victoire's hair was in comparison to Rose's, but that it made it harder to braid.

There was an insult in there somewhere.

The first two people to exit the game were Al, who got clipped by the aggressive Bludger and had to steer his broom down, and Aunt Ginny, who bowed out to keep the teams even. Dominique hadn't called a single foul. And even though Rose didn't know too much about Quidditch that she cared to remember, she knew at least three had been committed.

By the time the players had taken their brooms to the shed and then joined the rest on the blanket, both teams had scored and neither Teddy nor Uncle Harry were close to catching the snitch. Scorpius was busy blocking shots and the Bludger. Aunt Ginny sat next to Rose's mum while Al squeezed by Jane, who smiled at him before putting the finishing touches on Victoire's braid.

Lily, meanwhile, said nothing to anyone. Her silence was as suspicious as her late arrival.

The fact that she was so removed from everyone and quiet was something Victoire took notice of as soon as her hair was finished. "Lily, you know you don't have to sit all the way over there, right?"

Her cousin turned her head, looked directly at Rose, and said, "I wouldn't want to offend anyone."

Because Rose knew a trap when she saw one, she knew better than to say or look out of the ordinary. And while Victoire and Aunt Ginny both told her that, no, she wouldn't offend anyone and to stop acting so strange, Rose glanced at her mum from the corner of her eyes and found that she'd gone back to her book. Jane and Al were looking at each other. "I'm fine here. I don't want to spread my toxic ways to you all. I don't want you all to have to continue to pretend."

Victoire looked very confused. "What are you talking about?"

"Why don't you ask Rose?"

Rose sighed. Because of course Lily was going to try and spin all this on her. Everyone looked at her, some for different reasons than others. Jane got up and walked off, then started doing cartwheels in the grass nearby. She was giving them space. Victoire's brows were furrowed and she looked almost hurt. "What is she talking about?"

"Nothing," Rose answered evenly because it wasn't their business.

"Oh, so you didn't call me toxic? You didn't say that you're finished pretending I'm not a complete and utter shit? That you were done keeping the peace? That you didn't care about me? You didn't tell them any of that?"

Rose really tried.

Really.

But diplomacy was more Scorpius' thing and he wasn't there to stop her. Or maybe he wouldn't. He had been rather surprising as of late when he came to vocalising his thoughts and opinions. Her mum was there and she raised her head from her book, mouth open and ready to come to Rose's aid, but she didn't need the assistance. Nor did she want it. And it seemed that her mother realised this and closed her mouth. She looked right at Rose, then at Lily, before her eyes went back to her book.

Fantastic.

If Lily wanted to drag their fight in front of their family, then so be it. "I said all of that. And I meant it."

"What's going on here?" Aunt Ginny asked, more intrigued now. And not in a good way.

"You're really doing this, Lily?" And the question didn't come from her but from Al, who looked thunderous.

"I see you're taking up for her, so yes, I am doing this. I feel—"

"Frankly, unless you're here to apologise, I don't give a fuck about your feelings," he snapped.

Victoire's eyes went wide almost comically as she hadn't heard Al swear like that in years. If ever. His mum looked equally as stunned. Jane was now doing handstands and singing to herself, not that Rose could hear her. "You don't get to call her—"

"I don't owe you an apology."

"No, you don't. I never asked for an apology for myself, because you're my sister and your words don't hurt me anymore." Rose looked at Al because, well, it seemed that Scorpius wasn't the only one finished with remaining silent. "You owe Rose one because your words hurt her. You don't know what it was like when Rose woke up, how terrified she was, and how crazy this has been. And the reason you don't know is because—since it's not happening to you—you don't give a damn—"

"Al," Rose said thinly. "I appreciate it, but I don't need you to fight my battles."

"I'm not fighting your battle, I'm about tired of Lily's woe-is-me shit." To his sister, he said. "Why did you even come today? You knew we'd be here. Did you come to tattle on us for saying everything you needed to hear?"

"I didn't come for you," Lily snapped. "I came to see our family, but you've all attacked me—"

Rose turned her head so hard the ends of her pigtails hit her mum in the face. "You don't get to come here and play the victim, which is ironic because that's exactly what you accused me of doing." She brought her hand to her chin thoughtfully. "Now, was that before or after you called me a—"

"Pause!" Aunt Ginny bellowed over them all. "One person. At a time. Slowly tell me what the hell is going on." Because that was how refereeing worked in their family. As long as she could make it out without having to 'hug it out' in any way, shape, or form, Rose would consider it a victory.

Jane skipped towards the Quidditch game, doing cartwheels as she went.

"Rose started it!"

Which made her scoff. Loudly. "What are we? Five? For fuck's sake!"

"Rose," her mum said, giving her a look. "Language."

"Al said shit and fuck. Also, Aunt Ginny—"

Her mother considered it for a moment, then made a decision. "You know what, Rose? Go for it."

That was all the permission Rose needed.

Lily, however, wasn't finished griping. "She—"

Aunt Ginny held up her hand. "I hear you, Lily. You've told us what Rose said to you, but what did you say to her?" Lily just gaped at her mum. Hell, they all were blinking at her wildly.

Not her mum, though, who had flipped a page in her book, looking ready to step in if needed, but perfectly fine with sitting it out. Rose appreciated her neutrality as it allowed her the opportunity to speak for herself.

"While I believe Rose said every single word of that and more," her aunt gave her a look. "She's never been one to lash out without provocation. That's not in her nature, but it is in yours to start a war when you feel wronged. Even when you haven't been."

Lily's face went red.

Now that she'd gotten their parents and family involved, she looked like she no longer wanted to admit how their fight had started. But Aunt Ginny was waiting not-so-patiently, along with everyone else.

And because Rose was a shit, she tilted her head to the side. "Go on, tell her what happened."

Her cousin had never met a challenge she would back down from, and she wouldn't back down from this. "Rose snogged Scorpius after knowing how I felt about him…"

For the first time in a very long time, Rose stopped listening and started watching everyone's faces. Victoire winced a little and looked off to the side awkwardly. Al rolled his eyes yet again. Her aunt looked at her mum, who gave a barely-noticeable nod. Then she leaned forward to look at Rose, who gave her the most unapologetic shrug that she could muster.

As of yesterday, she was no longer sorry.

Well, she hadn't been that sorry before then either…

Then Aunt Ginny cringed and it was the same sort that she had given to her dormmates at school when they were whinging over a wizard that wasn't interested in them. Her reaction made Rose realise yet again just how much everyone knew how Scorpius felt, but not her. And then she took a deep breath before exhaling slowly.

Lily hadn't noticed any of their reactions as she was still on her soapbox. "So, I confronted her. We got into an argument and she threw me out. I went to James' to tell him what happened, and while I was there, Al came through and lit into me about how I treat everyone, especially Rose, and I don't—"

"Well..." Victoire looked highly uncomfortable. "You do treat her a bit like shit, but then again, you treat us all like we're disposable. It's been about you, your plans, your dreams, and what you've got going on in your quest to take over the wizarding entertainment world. It's all you talk about and I talk to you every day, Lily. You've never once asked about me. And that's fine, I'm used to it, but don't fool yourself into thinking that you're innocent."

"You're defending her?" Lily looked so betrayed. Al rolled his eyes. Rose, meanwhile, was too stunned by her cousin's interference to really say anything at all.

"I'm not defending anyone." Victoire made a hand gesture to further emphasise her declaration. "I'm simply stating facts. Rose is… well, who Rose has always been: annoyed by every living thing on the planet, except Scorpius. But honestly, she's far more tolerant of the way you always criticise everything about her than I would have ever been. You only deal with any of us when you want something—"

Lily looked angry, but it was the sputtering kind where she didn't know where to launch her tirade because she'd been thrown a lot of points she couldn't fend off at once. "I don't treat—"

Rose had no intentions of sitting there any longer. She was more than exhausted with the entire topic and just wanted to watch Scorpius play Quidditch and then see a film and have ice-cream. She didn't want to be bothered with any of this. Not today. While Scorpius was right that one day she would have to deal with Lily, he was also correct when he said it didn't have to be that day, that it could be on her terms in her own way.

However, she had no intention of staying quiet.

"In the interest of time, Aunt Ginny, I'll tell you what she said because she won't confess to it herself." Rose looked directly at her cousin. "You told me that everyone thought I was a fuck up and a waste of potential. That everything that happened to me at the Ministry was my fault."

From the corner of her eye, she could see her aunt and cousin visibly recoil.

"You told me that I wasn't up to anyone's standards, that I had nothing to offer Scorpius or his family. You told me that I'm not good enough—" Rose took a deep breath. "And now you're trying to put the blame on me again. And, okay, you know normally, I would take it. I would because you're a goddamn nightmare and it's easier, but I told you already, I'm done—"

"Lily, she's your cousin, how could you say that to her?" Aunt Ginny asked, looking upset.

"But she—"

"No matter how you spin it, you're wrong," Al cut his sister off. "You need to apologise."

When Rose unfolded her legs and stood up, her mum gave her a little nod and a smile, and she made a decision. "Even if it were sincere, I don't want her apology. I don't need it."

And more than that, Rose knew that despite her own issues, she knew that to the people who mattered most, she was good enough. That was all she needed. She noticed her uncle pumping his fist in victory and then heard Dominique blow her whistle, which ended the game and stopped the conversation. For now, judging from the intense looks her aunt was giving her younger cousin.

"Looks like Harry's caught the snitch," her mum said in the silence.

And without looking back, Rose went to catch her own.


Disclaimer: Harry Potter characters are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: This concludes Act Two of this fic. Someone asked me in a review how long it's gonna be and I'm like "AH, I have no idea." Maybe 10 chapters? 12? Maybe less? All I know is that I've got one more Act to go, where we tackle our last thing. That damn dagger. And a blossoming relationship with all its complexities and FLUFF. And angst. But we made it! I'm not gonna lie, I've started the next chapter, but it's like 2k... but slowly growing. My muse clunked me over the head so now I'm actually writing my next Dramione fic so *shrugs* and I'm going through the rigorous edits of a fest fic that turned into a mini-monster, and I signed up for Fluff Fest...because I didn't need anything else on my plate. *hysterical laughter* But while this is on the forefront of my brain, I'm silently freaking out because we're getting to the good part and I'm trying to make sure I do it right rather than quick, which makes me marinate on it. A lot. *sweats* So, with all that being said, I'm working on it...and everything else, lmao. You all be safe out there, and be kind to one another.

xoxo

inadaze22