"Spanning Years and Continents"
Summary: Because no one writes songs about the ones that come easy.
Warnings: Curse words, allusion to sexual situations, and all that entails an R rating.
Written for Morrigane13 at the Rose and Scorpius fic-a-fest at livejournal
"I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire."
With less than six months to go before the start of his Healer fellowship, Scorpius Malfoy was standing in front of his senior Attending waiting to receive the most important letter of his life. Excitement made him feel light-headed and restless, and the air was so thick with hope and nerves in the on-call room that it was suffocating.
Annette Harris, head of the Experimental Healing Department (Scorpius' desired speciality), nodded in his direction as she handed him the bulky envelope containing the response of his fellowship request.
Her smile was brief and distant but with an underlying positivity that made him even more nervous. If anything, it was an indication that he had every right to consider he'd gotten exactly what he'd worked for all those years at St. Mungo's – he would be finally able to prove himself as Scorpius, the Healer, instead of only being seen as the Malfoy heir and the spitting image of his father.
He took his envelope to the privacy of the potions closet on that floor and opened it, his hands shaking a little bit (not that he would ever acknowledge this, though). He'd put eight years, an impressive pile of gold and countless hours into his medical training. He'd studied himself sick, cared for boils on elderly witches, been vomited on, cursed, hugged and yelled at by numerous patients.
Scorpius had graduated at the top of his residency class with the best marks in the program. All modesty aside, he was by far the most promising Healer to have walked the halls of St. Mungo's in decades.
And if only he had finally gotten the letter that said he would be able to dedicate himself to the task that, ever since he'd been little, had fascinated and challenged his mind, he would consider himself validated.
If he had won the Lupine Disease Grant and would be able to work on the cure of Lycanthropy, Scorpius would not only have achieved his life's ambition at age twenty-three, he would also be able to finally clear the stigma his family name carried ever since the end of the war.
Anxiously, Scorpius tore through the wax seal with the Healing Academy's crest. As he read the contents of the letter that shocked him to his core, Scorpius cursed his breath and slid until he sat on the floor, trying very hard not to tear the whole piece of paper into shreds.
He'd gotten the Lupine Grant, yes, but only partially and under such ridiculous and insulting stipulations that it made him tremble with barely-suppressed rage.
He would not be working alone as he had first thought, or with a team of specialized Healers that he personally hand-picked, like he'd dreamed of. His name wouldn't be the only name to make history if the cure for Lycanthropy was found with his aid – he would have to share the glory, the awards, the recognition it would bring with her. No, Scorpius couldn't have that. The mere idea of working with that girl was already giving him a stomach-ache.
He read that damned letter again; trying to will it to the inexistence the fact that the Board of Magical Healers gave Scorpius the grant under the condition he worked side-by-side with the girl that had been the bane of his existence during his Hogwarts years. He was doomed to work with the one person that had the power of driving him up the wall, of making him lose his ironclad self-control; otherwise, he wouldn't get the fellowship.
He would have to work with Rose Weasley.
"Miss Rose H. Weasley,
As the Board of Magical Maladies and Injuries Healers, we're pleased to inform you that your request for the Lupine Disease Grant has been accepted, under a number of conditions that will be addressed and exhibited latter in this letter. If you are noncompliant or otherwise unable to work under such conditions, your grant will be forfeited effectively immediately and given to another applicant.
As of the September 24th, you will be working alongside with Healer S. Malfoy for the next four years, the duration of the Lupine Disease Grant. You are both to share your previously acquired experience and research in the field. A team of expert Healers, Potioneers and Magizoologists will be appointed and selected to aid you in your task, and you are expected to work as a cohesive team under the advisement of Healer Stewart Raymond..."
"Fuck!" Rose screeched, punching her pillow in frustration. "Goddamned sodding bloody buggering fuck!" She furiously moved on from punishing her undeserving pillow to hitting her unsuspecting mattress.
"What the hell is happening here?" Her cousin Al was standing breathless at her bedroom door, his bed sheets wrapped precariously around his waist.
Rose groaned and kicked the foot of her bed, howling in pain when she hurt her foot instead of relieving her frustration.
"That stupid, pale-as-death, maggot!" she informed Al between forceful breaths, "He stole my grant!" When Al did nothing but stare blankly back at her, Rose exploded. "My fucking Lupine Disease Grant, Al! That stuck-up, prissy little know-it-all Malfoy stole it, and now I have to share it with him! With him!"
Al continued to stare unblinkingly at his cousin as if she were a mad-woman.
"Aren't you going to say anything?"
"Colour me unsurprised?" He said with a smiled. Rose growled and tried to hit him, but Al had seen it coming and easily dodged her punch. "Look, Rosie, this isn't exactly the first 'Malfoy is a life-ruining arse' conversation we've ever had, and I'm guessing it won't be the last."
He motioned to his attire, his smile growing even wider while Rose blushed beet-red from head to toe and covered her face with her hands.
"And as you can see, I was otherwise...pre-occupied. So when you're over being, well, you, we can have this conversation. It can wait, while, on the other hand, Hillary and I can't. So I'm going to go, and you keep on doing whatever it was that you were doing, but try not to curse so loud, okay? It distracts me."
With a loud pop, Al Apparated back to his room, and Rose was left to stare at the place in which he had previously been standing.
Al is thinking with his most excitable parts, she thought, a tad calmer. But I'll be damned if I back down from the grant because of the slimy git.
No, Rose thought. She wouldn't be called Rose Weasley if she'd let that Malfoy snob get in her way again, like he'd done while they were in school.
And if Malfoy thought otherwise, he had another thing coming.
"Congratulations, fellow Researchers," said the plumpest man Scorpius had ever seen. He was standing with another five competent-looking Wizards and Witches in the hall of St. Louise's Sacred Heart Facility, located in the heart of Central London. "I'm Healer Stewart Raymond, and I'll be your adviser during the course of your research grant."
"Here at St. Louise's we're a family, so there's no need to call me Healer Raymond or any other nonsense like that. We'll be working together for the next four years, so feel free to call me Healer Stu, or merely Stu." He winked, and Scorpius wrinkled his nose. He liked the man well enough, but he was expecting a commanding, rigorous adviser.
Definitely not someone like Healer Raymond.
"Oh, hell," a feminine voice complained, stumbling into the room with one of her shoes in her hand and a mess of red hair all over her face. With a pang, Scorpius recognized Rose Weasley.
He'd hoped, when he'd failed to spot her there, that she'd backed down from the grant. But that hair was unmistakable, it wouldn't go amiss anywhere.
It was most certainly her.
"I'm sorry, Stu," she said as she hopped to the group, still semi-barefoot. "My alarm didn't go off, and my Kneazle was in one of his moods, and Al's bird was hogging the shower, and –" She knocked into a dark-haired bloke, almost bringing them both down. She smiled gratefully at William Mackenzie, who smiled back, already pathetically smitten by Rose.
Scorpius scoffed – she was as bloke-friendly as he'd remembered her to be. She turned around, sizing him up. He tried not to show how much Weasley's cold, persistent stare affected him, but he was failing miserably. Sensing the tension in the room, everyone avidly watched them until Healer Raymond cleared his throat to catch their attention.
"As I was saying, we at St. Louise's Sacred Heart like to work in a familiar, healthy environment..."
Scorpius tuned out Healer Raymond's words, his sole attention focusing on Weasley. The Lupine Disease Grant appointed them as the head of this research group, so they would be the ones calling the shots over the next four years.
Would they be able to work efficiently? Scorpius had no doubt about it.
But would they be able to work peacefully?
Judging by Rose Weasley's hatred-filled glare, Scorpius could only speculate they would do anything but.
It was going to be a rough couple of years.
Traipsing Trolls, Cobblestone Alley, Six Months Later
Rose sighed lovingly to herself, thinking of the dark-purple potion simmering lightly in the cauldron on her desk at St Louise's. She was completely exhausted; a couple of pounds lighter and in desperate need of sleep, but tonight, there would be a celebration.
William had suggested a night of pub-hopping, but Fiona had simply pointed out they would be due back to St. Louise's twenty-four hours later, which put a damper on things. It was Malfoy, of all people, who suggested they should head down to the Traipsing Trolls on Cobblestone Alley.
Rose smiled at the glass of Butterbeer that Ellie placed under her nose and gratefully drained it before asking for another one. Ellie smiled and motioned to Thomas and Theo, who were deep in conversation with Malfoy.
After spending the first couple of days in silence and making absolutely no progress whatsoever in their research, Rose and Scorpius had sat down to talk about their previous work in their fields – healing and potion-making.
Rose had been the youngest Head of the Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers at the early age of twenty-one. She was well-known for her part in discovering the cause and cure of Scrofungulus. She'd published widely-quoted articles on the use of Shrivelfig to create a vaccine for the Dragon Pox, and she'd been working as the Head Potioneer of St. Louise's for over two years.
Scorpius, as well as being one of the most-promising Healers in England, had helped create a protocol to deal with the Spattergroit cases and specialized with transmittable diseases, writing successful articles and participating in several Vanishing Sickness experiments with well-known Healers from all over the world.
He and Rose were both dead-set on curing Lycanthropy this time, and after a couple of harsh exchanges about their methods, they had come to a silent understanding – they would stay out of each other's way, would communicate their experiments via notes and reports, talk only on meetings, and things would progress wonderfully.
So far, apart from some random accidents, they were doing just fine.
Rose usually worked with the group she'd come to consider "her group of interns" – William Mackenzie, an Irish Healer, Fiona Jackson, another Potioneer who Rose had been friendly with before the experiment, and Ellie Girard, a talented French Healer. Scorpius worked with Thomas and Theo O'Neal, the team's twin Potioneers, and Elizabeth Armstrong, a quiet Magizoologist who was one of the protégés of Rose's Aunt, Luna Scamander.
They had survived the first six months of research. This was a victory in and of itself, Rose thought. Even though Scorpius was methodical and obsessively anal-retentive in a maddening way that made her want to tear her hair out, they had made it.
After six tiring months of long hours, failed experiments, several blown-up phials resulting in singed eyebrows and burnt hair, and one interesting time when a potion had turned everyone's complexion slightly yellow for a week, they finally had a new and improved batch of Wolfsbane available for subject testing.
A Wolfsbane potion that, if proved effective, could help them a little further along the path to ridding the world of Lycanthropy once and for all.
Rose downed four more glasses of Butterbeer before happily agreeing when William suggested buying the whole group a round of Firewhiskey. She sipped on her shot slowly, offering everyone a lazy smile. She felt decadently elated that night, worthy of having some careless fun and indulging in some alcohol.
Out of the corner of her eye she could see Ellie and Theo dancing slowly under the dimmed lights while Thomas tried to convince a tightly-wound Fiona to do the same. She smiled to herself and accepted William's offer to refill her glass.
From where she was sitting, she could see Elizabeth and Malfoy talking. Apparently something the girl had said was funny, because Malfoy was smiling. Smiling! Rose couldn't recall the last time she'd seen him do that, if she ever even had.
Back at Hogwarts, they had always been at each other's throats, competing for the top marks, the professor's favour, the Head badge. She had certainly never seen Malfoy smile at anyone, and she had no idea if he'd even had any friends back at school, let alone a girlfriend.
He'd been such a stuck-up little brown-nosed twit in those days that she'd never questioned why someone wouldn't want to be friends with him, least of all date him.
Granted, some people may have said there was some sort of attraction to him – in the confidence with which he carried himself, or how he always worked himself ragged to find answers that nobody had ever thought of before, and the way his hazel eyes looked almost green under a certain light, making him look almost kind...
Not that Rose saw or agreed with any of those aspects. She was merely pointing them out as an impartial observer. She'd never saw any spark of anything but smugness and self-righteousness in the guy.
But Elizabeth certainly found something positive in Malfoy, considering the way she was leaning towards him and the hand she'd just put on his leg...
Feeling a sudden large lump forming in her throat at the sight, Rose forced herself to look back at William when he returned with her drink and away from Malfoy and Elizabeth. Chugging it down and feeling the burn wash the lump away, Rose stood up, put her hands on William and smiled seductively at him.
"Come and dance," she said, before losing herself to the music.
He could watch her from where he was sitting. She'd always been larger than life, with her curly wild hair framing her exotic face, her pale skin now flushed, the golden freckles catching the light of the pub, her luscious brown eyes standing out, big and liquid.
Merlin, he wanted her nearly as much as he hated her.
She'd walked into his life, inquisitive and demanding, always commanding the attention, always so sure of her place in the world. He hated how she'd never had to prove herself, how she glided through everything when he'd had to work twice as hard as her to earn it. He hated how with one look she could reduce him to the stuttering, timid child he was back at Hogwarts.
He hated how she danced, sensual and slowly, her body having an innate knowledge of rhythm, her feet light as if they barely touched the floor, her hips swaying and inviting. He hated how she danced like that for any other man but him, and he hated how much control she had over his emotions.
Elizabeth smiled a little bit more and her hand hitched a little bit higher on his thigh, but he could barely feel it, could barely care, not when she was dancing with that fool Mackenzie, letting him touch her as if he owned her, letting him devour her with his eyes as if he'd seen her naked.
Scorpius couldn't stand watching this anymore.
He got up, leaving a flustered Elizabeth behind, and walked up to Rose. She didn't acknowledge his presence; she never did, not until the last possible moment. But he felt her shiver when his body brushed against hers on the dance floor, saw the goosebumps erupt on her arms when his mouth touched her skin.
"You're making a fool of yourself," he whispered against her ear, and she stilled immediately.
"I'm taking you home."
Before she could protest, he grabbed her hand and Apparated them out of the Traipsing Trolls.
He could feel her simmering with anger the moment they landed on her doorstep. She roughly yanked her hand away from his, and Scorpius instinctively took a step away from her, his back connecting with her door.
"What the hell?" She snarled at him, her voice low and vicious and all the more dangerous.
"For Merlin's sake, what were you thinking, Malfoy? And how do you know where I live?"
"I have your forward address on a file in St. Louise's," he said, blushing. "And I was thinking that you clearly had too much to drink, Weasley. I was being a gentleman and bringing you home safely. That's not something you could quite count on Mackenzie to do, not from the way he was staring at you."
"Being a gentleman?" Her voice elevated a few octaves, and Scorpius winced. "You were being a git!"
Her fisted hand connected with his chest, but there was no force without her punch, not enough to hurt him. He held her fisted hand there, covering with his, smoothing its fingers open. Rose stared at him, flabbergasted.
"I just didn't want to you to do anything you would regret later, Rose."
"Like what?" She asked, her voice a lot more subdued but the fight clearly far from gone from her eyes. "Like shagging William senseless in the back room?"
He clenched his jaw, the idea of it making him sick.
"Something like that," he admitted.
"If I want to shag a bloke, Scorpius, why would you care? You certainly haven't before."
And there it was, the question he had been asking himself for the past six months. Why should he care if she flirted shamelessly with all the blokes in their research team? Why should he care if she made a fool of herself in a crowded pub, rubbing up against a moronic, arrogant, self-involved arse – the type of guys she seemed to usually go for – if she wanted to?
Why should he care?
Why did he care?
Scorpius didn't fancy going down that road. He was afraid that once he started to ask those questions, he would inevitably come up with the right answers, and he wasn't quite sure he wanted to know them.
So he took the easy way out.
"I don't care," he said, "but when you try to shag around with someone from our research team, I can't allow it to happen. It would interfere with our work and we can't afford that."
"No we can't, can we?" She said bitterly, looking him straight in the eye. "Though it is okay for you to shag around with one of them, isn't it?"
"I don't understand what–"
"Elizabeth!" Rose roared. "I saw you with Elizabeth, you liar!"
"You're jealous?!" He was staring at her, shock written all over his features.
"No, I'm not!" The nerve of him,she thought.
"Yes, you are!" The smug smirk on his face was almost too much for her to bear.
"No, I'm not, stop saying that!" She punched him again in the chest, this time meaning it, just for good measure, and Scorpius doubled over to protect himself.
"Nothing happened between Elizabeth and me," he said, seriously this time, but Rose didn't believe him. She had seen it with her own eyes – Scorpius' soft smile, Elizabeth's inviting posture, her hand on his leg...
"You're lying," she spat, crossing her arms and sticking her chin out in a challenge. "What you did back there wasn't out of the goodness of your heart, or because you wanted to protect my reputation. I don't think you have a heart. I think you were acting out of self interest. You're a Malfoy. You're a Slytherin. There isn't a selfless bone in your body. You're just like the rest of your family."
"And you don't have a reputation to uphold," he said, wanting to get to her as much as she'd gotten to him. He was hurt, even if he didn't want to admit it, and he wanted her to feel as miserable as she'd made him feel.
"After all, even back at Hogwarts you weren't exactly known for your rigid morals were you, Rose?"
She wanted to kill him in that moment. No, she wanted to Cruciatus him and then murdering him. But she could feel the tears coming, and she didn't want to cry, especially in front of him. Rose would rather die than give him the satisfaction of knowing that he'd made her cry, made her feel like utter shite.
"We're done here," she spat and pushed him out of the way, walked into her flat and closed the door in his face.
He stared at it for a long time, trying to figure out how and where had it all gone wrong, and if there was still a chance to fix it.
It was definitely weird, Rose thought, seeing Scorpius again after their, for lack of a better word, argument. At first, she'd thought of cutting work and avoiding him altogether. But Al had pointed out that she could lose the grant, her work, and the months she'd dedicated to it because of a stupid fight with a guy she couldn't care less about. Rose felt that, deep down, he was right.
Why should she care about Scorpius' opinion of her? Why did it bother her so much that he apparently thought of her as a scarlet woman?
Why couldn't she get his stupid face and his stupid words out of her mind?
He'd stayed cleared of her for the entire Monday after the incident. The interns seemed to notice the tension between them and did their best to keep things working as if nothing had happened.
William had even started to flirt with her again on Tuesday, something that at first had flattered Rose, but now merely served to annoy her.
By Wednesday, Scorpius nodded in her direction when she entered the laboratory. Rose pretended not to notice and went to work at her station, occasionally making small-talk about Ellie's upcoming birthday with Fiona.
Rose left early on Thursday, just as Scorpius was getting in. Even though she had felt his staring eyes on her retreating back, she walked away from St. Louise's to the Apparation point without a second glance.
Friday, his hand had touched hers when he'd passed a bag of Staghorns around the group, suggesting they should add them to their improved Wolfsbane. Even though the touch had seemed accidental, Rose and Scorpius had both recoiled as if slapped.
On Saturday, it wasn't his turn to work at the lab, and the atmosphere felt a hundred times lighter to Rose. She laughed, made some jokes, and even indulged William by flirting back a little and acting coy when he'd suggested they should get together sometime and talk over some Butterbeer.
Rose declined the traditional Sunday lunch at The Burrow to stay home and think. Yes, it bothered her when people thought she would sleep with any bloke that offered. Though Rose loved to flirt and she had had a healthy number of boyfriends, she hadn't shagged most of them.
She was by no means a puritan, but she knew that most of the guys that had been interested in her only wanted to get into the War Heroes' daughter's knickers, and this was more than enough to put a damper on things.
She had only been with three guys, and that wasn't something to be embarrassed of, in her book. She would be long dead before she would let Scorpius Malfoy of all people make her feel bad about herself.
The next Monday, she walked in with her head held high and asked William out on a date. Seeing Scorpius' appalled face as he heard the news gave her a strange sort of satisfaction that made her smile throughout the whole day.
Eighteen Months Later
Two years, he thought. Two whole years, half of the time the Lupine Disease Grant had given him had gone by, and they'd gotten virtually nowhere.
Nowhere wasn't entirely truthful. They had managed to work on a stronger and less foul batch of Wolfsbane and had developed an experimental antidote.
It had been discovered that the longer you took the Wolfsbane, the tamer the beneficiary effects were. They had removed that side-effect of the potion and added a taste much more pleasant to the palate.
They had also begun developing a gradual antidote that was supposed to slow down the number of transformations until they stopped completely, but so far, they'd had no success in that area.
That was as far as they had gotten, and it was far from where Scorpius had expected them to be at this point of their research.
The dream – Scorpius' dream – of finding a cure for Lycanthropy was as elusive as it had been a year before. The questions were already starting. When would they get a breakthrough? Would they get one at all? And what if they didn't?
What if he couldn't? What if everyone was right – what if he wasn't good enough? Smart enough? What if he'd missed something, something vital that –
"Stop," Rose said as she sat down next to him.
"Stop doing what you're doing right now." She sighed, the bags under her eyes very apparent from up close. "Stop over-analyzing, over-thinking."
"You didn't do anything wrong," she said and patted him on the back a little bit.
"How do you know?" He was weary, and he felt like he couldn't be sure of anything anymore. He wondered why he had been so sure before that he'd be able to do this.
"I know it because I know you." The assertion was a testament to how far they'd come in the past two years. It's nice to feel like we're friends, he thought, especially after the horrible fight they'd had over a year ago.
Water under a very tall bridge, she'd said to him months ago, when he'd stammered and blushed his way through an apology.
"You work more than anyone else here. You haven't lost your focus, and you can't lose hope. We will find the cure."
"How can you be so sure?" He asked, and she shrugged.
"Some days, it's very hard," she admitted, and he could see once again just how much their work had cost her. "When one of the volunteer subjects dies, like Michelle."
Michelle, the seventeen year old werewolf they had been testing the antidote on, had died two weeks ago of heart failure, one of the many possible complications of the antidote they were developing. She had not been the first one to go.
"But do you know what I do when things get so difficult it gets hard to breathe in here?" Scorpius shook his head, and Rose smiled softly. "I fly."
It took a moment for her words to settle in and start making sense to him.
"You fly?" He repeated, because he thought he might've heard her wrong.
"I fly," she repeated and took him by the hand, Apparating them both out of the laboratory. When Scorpius opened his eyes again, they were standing in the middle of a relatively unkempt, open field, with a pond and a decrepit house that seemed to be only standing only with the aid of magic within view.
"This is The Burrow," she said, but she didn't let go of his hand, "the most magical place on Earth."
Two hours later, he believed completely in the words that had at first sounded fanciful and a little bit deranged – there should be nothing special about a small propriety in the middle of nowhere with more than one too many garden gnomes. He had been proven sorely wrong - like he had been many times before, almost always by Rose Weasley.
He was usually furious about it, but this time, however, he wasn't the slightest bit bothered.
There was some sort of magic in that place. Rose's laughter was louder and truer, the cooking tasted better (he'd fallen in love with Mrs. Weasley's apple tart), her Grandma was certainly warmer, and her Grandpa was definitely kinder.
Scorpius found himself relaxing, the tension rolling off his shoulders, and before he knew it he found himself laughing right along with Rosie.
That was certainly a first.
She had taken him to her Grandpa's shed and shown him all kinds of Muggle objects Mr. Weasley liked to mess around with. They took turns trying to guess each object's name and use, and even though they knew they were probably wrong, they had fun anyway, competing genially.
This, too, had changed between them.
Instead of finding ways to get one own up on each other, they had figured out a system and worked better together. Now they were competing against Lycanthropy, and even when they tried to best each other it was no longer meant to be hurtful, nor were they always trying to prove who was better.
As the day died down, Rose had decided that they should fly around the pond before it got too dark. She'd given him an old Nimbus to ride and taken off on a Firebolt.
"This was what you meant by 'fly'?" He'd yelled at her retreating figure. "I don't do broomsticks, Rose!" But she'd just laughed from somewhere above his head as he tried to think of it as a challenge, not as a chance to plummet to his death.
At first it had been terrifying. Then Scorpius had started to get what the hype about Quidditich was all about, back at Hogwarts.
Flying was liberating, in a crazy, hazardous kind of way. Even though he wasn't sure he liked it, he couldn't back down, not when Rose challenged him to go up farther, to fly faster, and to chase her around her Grandparents' backyard until he nearly crashed into a tree.
At the end of the day, Scorpius was sweaty and sore in places he'd never known existed before.
But the smile never left his face, even for the next couple of days, and the newly determined set of his shoulders gave the whole group of Researchers a new life.
Within six weeks, the team had discovered that the Yew's red berries worked well with their antidote and diminished the probability of the subject's immune system crashing and rejecting the potion, as had happened to some of the test subjects before.
It was a victory, albeit a small one, but a victory nonetheless.
Eleven Months Later
Rose could tell that William was thinking about marriage.
He'd been secretive for weeks, hiding pieces of paper that looked like jewellers pamphlets when she walked into the room and whispering gravely with Theo (who had recently proposed to Fiona) on the side.
She felt like there was something seriously wrong with her. She should've been feeling excited, happy. She should've been snooping around his drawers, looking for some clue. She should've been dreaming about her wedding dress.
But Rose didn't want any of those things.
The excitement never came.
All she could think about was curing Lycanthropy. Well, eighty percent of the time. She dreamed of the recognition, the seminars they would give around the world and the books that would be written about it.
She mostly thought about the Michelle's and Remus Lupin's around the world that went through such horrible pain and trauma once a month, for the duration of their lives, something no one should ever have to endure.
When she wasn't thinking about a cure, she worried about her parents – her Mum, who was always working. Her Dad, who needed glasses but refused to wear them. She worried about Hugo, who was away training to be an Auror.
She thought about her numerous cousins, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, her whole extended family...
Sometimes, she thought about Scorpius.
She thought of things to say to make him laugh. She thought of herbs she hadn't yet considered for their antidote, anything that could help him find a definitive antidote. She thought about the way his eyes lit up when he talked about Healing, or the latest books he'd read, or her Grandma Weasley's apple tart.
She thought about his hands, how they looked gentle yet firm, always certain of their purpose, how his hair fell in his eyes when he forgot to trim it (which happened quite often).
Lastly, she thought to herself about her problem with William's impending proposal. Why wasn't she excited about getting engaged? Why didn't the thought of spending the rest of her life with the person that loved her give her butterflies, make her feel as if she could hardly wait?
Rose couldn't find a suitable answer, and sometimes she wondered if she was asking all the wrong questions.
But when William finally asked, she said yes.
Seven Months Later
Scorpius knew that Rose was making a mistake.
William was by no means the man she was supposed to spend the rest of her life with. Scorpius could easily say he knew Rose by now, that they were friendly – friends, even. He knew that she had the kind of intellect that needed to be challenged; otherwise she would be easily bored.
He didn't think Mackenzie was unintelligent – Scorpius wouldn't have a dim-witted Healer on his team. The man just wasn't at all interesting.
The signs were all there.
Mackenzie didn't make Rose laugh until she snorted a little. She hated that, but Scorpius found it endearing. Mackenzie wouldn't know an intelligent quip if it bit him in the arse, and his conversations with Rose were generally centred around either their research or her fiancée's life ambitions.
He had never once asked her about her ambitions, though.
But Scorpius knew all of them. She wanted to become an internationally recognized Potioneer, she wanted three children and four Kneazles, she wanted to grow old with someone, just like her grandparents had, like her parents were doing. Scorpius knew all of this, he knew her, and he could swear, de factum, that Mackenzie and Rose were anything but well-suited for each other.
The problem was, she didn't think so.
He'd given her plenty of reasons not to marry the bloke, but she was so determined to go through with it that there was no convincing her.
Scorpius felt like there was an imaginary clock ticking above his head, saying things like four months until she marries him, or you have to convince her to call it off, and everything in between.
He tried to concentrate on his work, he really did, but nothing could distract him from the fact that Rose was wearing a ring on her finger and was about to become Mrs. Mackenzie. The name suited her as well as the groom – that is to say, not at all.
But for some reason, Rose refused to see this, and Scorpius felt like something was slipping through his fingers.
Stu showed up at the lab one afternoon to hand out assignments. It was the first one the group had received in over three years in the program, and everyone was shocked.
"The Board isn't happy with the results of this program. They seem to think that, from the investment that has been made in it, the results are sufferable, to put it mildly. While I certainly don't feel this way, we have to play by their rules if we want to at least finish the research grant."
"They want to make a world tour so you can observe some of the other researchers and hopefully pick up something from them that can help further things along. You'll be going in pairs to some parts of the world, and you're expected to come back with notes, new ideas and steps away from the cure."
"Now, we can think of this task as impossible, or we can try to be positive about it. I'd like to think that if I taught something to any of you; it was the power of the positive-thinking." He smiled, and Scorpius has to control the urge to roll his eyes. After all these years, he'd grow fond of Healer Raymond, enough to accept and even be somewhat fond of what Rose called "Stu-isms".
"Think of it as a present instead of an ultimatum," Stu continued with an ever-present smile, always the one to think of the glass as half-full. "Now go and make the most of it, team, and always remember: giving your best is the most important thing you can do, okay?" And with that, he winked and left the room.
Rose saw that she'd been assigned to Bulgaria. She felt lucky – they had one of the most well-respected research facilities, and had been, as of late, focusing on the search for Lycanthropy's cure as well. Scorpius was looking at her with curiosity, and she smiled, doing a little victory dance.
"Bulgaria," she explained, and Scorpius shook his head in disbelief.
"Me too," he'd said, and Rose was torn between delight and a sense of foreboding that told her that nothing good would come out of this trip.
Vratsa, Bulgaria, three months later
They had spent five weeks in Sofia with the group of Researchers headed by the famous Raina Kristeva. They'd worked out a way to incorporate Henbane into the Wolfsbane in order to prevent infection and accelerate skin tissue renovation after transformations.
Rose had been so in love with the city and the efficiency of the Researchers that Scorpius joked she would've gladly moved there to work with them and abandoned their team, a little jibe that, from Rose's wistful expression, didn't seem to hit too far from the mark.
After Sofia, they had gone to Plovdiv for three weeks, Silistra for two and Varna for another three. They'd visited the Srebarna Nature Reserve, where Rose had collected new kinds of herbs to experiment with.
Scorpius had taken her to visit one of the Thracian tombs, and Rose made him taste all kinds of Banitsa, the Bulgarian's most popular pastry.
Their last stop had been in Vratsa, where they'd stayed for another three weeks, working alongside Petar Grozdeva and his group of world-renowned Magizoologists, Potioneers and Healers.
They had been away from home for almost three months, and Rose's wedding was looming alarmingly closer, though they seemed to discuss it less and less.
"I can't believe we're going back," she said on their last night in the country. They were sitting at the hotel's bar, sipping a Bulgarian Pamid wine.
"This whole trip felt completely surreal, like something out of someone else's life, don't you think, Scorpius? Almost like a dream."
"A good dream?" Scorpius joked, already guessing her answer.
"A great dream." The smile on her lovely face left no room for doubt, and Scorpius tried not to focus on the part about how they were leaving so soon but instead on the fact that they had gotten to stay there for this long.
"I'm going to miss this crazy food, their crazy language, the beautiful sites to visit." She gave me a subdued smile and added, "Everything else, too."
"You've been awfully quiet," she pointed out curiously. "Tell me: what will you miss the most once we get back?"
You, he thought, but said nothing.
"Look alive, Scorpius!" She pouted, and he laughed. "Stop being all Unspeakable on me and just talk."
"Are you sure?"
"Which part of me begging you to tell me sounded hesitant?"
"That was you begging?" She scowled and he chuckled before continuing. "Okay, I'll tell you, but you have to remember you asked for it."
"Stop postponing it and just tell me."
"You," he said, and it was out there. Now there was nothing he could say to take it back. She knew now, and it was her turn to say something.
"You'll miss me?" She looked at him wide-eyed and trusting, completely innocent to his meaning. "But I'll be there."
"I don't get it, Scorpius. You'll miss me, but I won't be away."
"You were stalling, weren't you? You just didn't want to ans–"
"Rose!" She finally shut up. "You can be very unobservant, for such a smart girl." She narrowed her eyes at him. "I'll miss you because, once we're back, I won't get to have you all to myself. Once we're back, you'll be the world's Rose. Here, you were my Rose. And you'll go back to being William's Rose, the future Mrs. Mackenzie." The words felt like poison on his tongue.
"I'll lose you forever. That's why it's you that I'll miss the most, Rosie... I guess you could say I'm in love with you."
He gave a nervous laugh, avoiding her eyes.
"I have been for a long time. And I was just wondering... wondering if maybe I wasn't crazy, and I hadn't build up something in my head that wasn't there, because I was sure that you felt it too, didn't you?"
"That night in the Traipsing Trolls? Or when you first took me to The Burrow? You loved me back, didn't you, Rose?"
She just looked at him for the longest time, her expression giving nothing away.
"I did," she finally admitted. "I do..."
"I'm so in love with you it's ridiculous how I hadn't realized it before."
He offered her a smile, but her expression didn't invite his touch, as badly as he wanted to kiss her lips, feel the warmth of her skin under his fingertips.
"But now it's too late," she finished, with a sad and wistful smile.
They sat in silence as they drank the rest of their wine, looking into each other's eyes and trying to figure out how they'd made such a mess out of their lives in the first place.
They went back to England, and life returned to a semblance of normal. However, everything was far from normal, not with Rose about to marry Mackenzie despite the fact that he and Rose finally knew where they stood. That knowledge hung like a dark cloud above their heads.
Everyone introduced and shared their acquired knowledge, adding it to the group's research, and there were small but significant breakthroughs. Not significant enough for the Board feel the need to extend the duration of their research under the Lupine Disease Grant, though.
Scorpius couldn't quite comprehend how fast those four years had passed them by, and how he and Rose had gone from people who could barely deal with one another to people who were so in love that they couldn't even be together.
He wondered where his whole life had gone – his plans, ambitions, the force that had driven him towards success. He barely recognized himself anymore.
Rose's wedding was two weeks away, and she was adamant about going through with it, stubbornly claiming she had made a promise to William.
Scorpius felt like he was drowning, trying hard to stay afloat.
When they surrendered the grant, two months earlier than intended, Scorpius packed his bags and moved to his maternal grandparents' old house in Dover.
It seemed as if he was running away, and he was. However, to him it was more like conceding defeat, and while it felt like the right thing to do, it positively killed him.
Rose made it into the dress.
It wasn't until she saw herself tucked into the magnificent gown, supposedly looking radiant and beautiful and every other bride-like adjective out there when she was really nothing but miserable that Rose finally realized the enormity of the mistake she would be making if she married William Mackenzie.
Rose knew he didn't deserve this – she'd had every chance to change her mind and yet she hadn't been able to do it until the last possible moment. She hated herself for it, but she knew she would hate herself far more if she went along with this facade. When she told William the news, she could swear she saw him breathe a sigh of relief.
Rose gave William back his ring and they danced at the wedding as friends. They enjoyed their reception as people who have shared a big part of their lives but weren't in love with each other anymore, rather with the idea of one another.
It was when the party was over and she took off her wedding dress, no longer a bride, but still not a wife, that Rose decided to do something for herself.
She applied to an internship job in Bulgaria with Raina Kristeva.
When he returned to work at St. Mungo's as a Healer - no longer a scientist, he reminded himself every day - he still half-heartedly experimented with Wolfsbane once in a while, more out of habit than anything else.
He heard something from time to time about Rose. First it was people gushing over how well she was doing in Sofia. Then he heard rumours about her becoming engaged to a Quidditch star, but those turned out to be false.
Eventually, he heard rumours about her returning to England. They made his stomach lurch, but after three months and no sign of her, Scorpius could only conclude that they must have been false as well.
Until she showed up on his doorstep, her face flushed from standing in the winter cold, her hair curled around her shoulders, her sweater knitted with little roses.
At first, Scorpius thought she was a hallucination, but then figured that any hallucination he would have of Rose would never include such a ridiculous sweater.
He let her in.
"My Grandma made it for me for Christmas." She passed this off as a form of greeting, noticing his aversion to the bulky jumper she was wearing.
"She baked you one of her special apple tarts, too, but she wants you to go down there and visit before she'll give it up. She really misses you, you know," she said, looking at him expectantly.
But Scorpius was sick of playing by her rules, and he just stared at her in response. He ached to hold her, to finally kiss her lips and learn what they tasted like, to make love to the woman he'd wanted for so long but somehow never snared.
"Not enough, huh?" It was her turn to laugh nervously. "How about something along the lines like 'Scorpius, I love you, and I can't bear to live without you'?"
"That's too corny, right?" She sat down on his sofa without any invitation, twisting her hands in her lap. It was a gesture so completely Rose that it made him want to reach out and still that nervousness of hers.
"What if I said 'Everything was shite, and even though the work was great, it meant nothing because you weren't there, and I missed you like hell, even missed you annoying me but encouraging me every step of the way'?"
"No? Yes, you're right. Too dramatic, right? Then what if I told you that I managed to steal Raina and her team away to work at St. Mungo's, and that we're close to a cure, but we need your expertise, and they want you, only you, to work on the team as well? Would that work?"
"Look, I just need you to forgive me, all right? Because everything I said, it was all true. I love you, Scorpius. I love, love, love, love you. So I would, as you often say, 'greatly appreciate it' if we cut right though the grovelling part to the moment where you kiss me and then shag me senseless. Do you think we can do that?"
She was looking at him as though the entire existence of human kind depended on the next words that would leave his lips. Scorpius was suddenly very nervous and highly aware of Rose's presence.
Her scent was inviting, and she looked beautiful. Of course he forgave her. How could he not, when she was the only person able to mess him up and put him back together with such little, insignificant words that meant the world to him?
He thought, if I say anything, I'll just botch things up.
So he finally leaned down and kissed her. It was desperate and bruising at first, and then turned gentle and passionate.
It was everything at once – pleasure and pain, hurt and confusion, love and acceptance without questions, his whole history with Rose. It didn't matter in that moment if they would have the three children she'd always wanted, or whether they'd make it into bed or even find the cure to Lycanthropy.
What really mattered was that, finally, they were together.
Author's Note: Many thanks goes to Cassandra for coming through at the last possible moment – otherwise, I wouldn't have made it, and to Lisa for being the great friend and beta she is, even though she's been crazy-busy. Cookies for those who recognize where the title and summary are from =)