Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. Rather, characters, the magical world, etc. is property of JK Rowling.
A/N: Dear reader, just a little warning of sorts before you proceed: this is not your regular fluffy next-gen fic. I sincerely tried to make the plot original and the concept fresh, but it's not exactly light or cutesy or fluffy. It is romance, though, and I really hope you enjoy it all the same. Happy reading :)
To Dance with You
"Will you dance with me?"
She looks up, and is thoroughly surprised to see a handsome young man with longish blonde hair smiling at her, waiting for her to take his hand. She takes in how he looks with one sweeping glance, from piercing grey eyes to charming smile to impeccably elegant dressrobes and expensive, polished shoes.
"No," she says sweetly, and smiles even wider. She is sitting alone in a table for eight, simply watching the festivities, but she does not mind that she is mere spectator. Tonight – just for tonight – she has turned down every man who has asked to dance with her, simply because she wants a different experience.
But she is turning him down for another reason.
"Why not?" he asks, and his face does not betray even a trace of annoyance. He draws out the chair beside hers and sits, leaning towards her and looking interested.
She inclines her head, no longer smiling. "Well, why would I? And why would you, for that matter?" she asks, exerting effort to hide any hostility in her voice.
"Because you are the most beautiful woman I see tonight, and I want to dance with you," he replies smoothly. The words fall easily from his lips, but that makes not much difference – even the most impossible lies fall easily from his lips. He was a damn good liar, after all.
She smiles again. "What a liar you can be, Scorpius," she says amusedly, shaking her head a little.
But he has been watching her all evening, watching her red locks flutter gently in the occasional breeze, her bared, white shoulders gleam golden in the candlelight, her deep blue robes shimmer as she moves. Her face is one that can haunt any man's dreams, and he thinks she is even more beautiful than the bride whose party it was.
He is almost willing to forget she is not worthy. He is almost willing to forget his reasons. In any case, this time, he is telling the truth. Or at least, part of it.
"What would you have me say, then?" he asks her, his expression still smiling, and his voice still pleasant. "I simply want to dance with you, Miss Weasley."
At any other time she would have been very annoyed to hear her name spoken so formally, but perhaps she is a little bit tipsy and perhaps it is strange to hear a Malfoy speak her surname without any hostility or mocking that she does not object.
It doesn't mean she has forgiven him. And it doesn't mean she doesn't know what he really wants.
"Maybe if you just tell me you want to dance with me to piss your father off, I'd believe you more," she suggests wryly, taking a sip of her drink.
He laughs, and he can see that it is much to her surprise that he does. She has always been the smartest in their year, but now he realizes he does not know her well enough to be aware that her intelligence was far beyond academics. He was certainly not aware that she possessed such sharp wit.
She is, of course, correct, but he does not admit it, and merely points out that his father was not there to witness the feat. Inwardly he thinks it does not matter, as long as a picture of the two of them dancing makes it to the papers tomorrow morning. He has argued with his father innumerable times to insist that he does not want to marry Agatha Selwyn, but he has never yet won, and so he thinks it is time for a new strategy.
Rose considers him for a moment. He has much audacity to think she will be used. It galls her much to think that he has chosen her for the express purpose of insulting his father, because it shows what he thinks of her and her blood – a big insult.
And she considers that perhaps, it is time to teach him a lesson.
"Well," she says slowly, "it's not as though I object to annoying your father."
He wonders why she is suddenly conspiratorial, but he takes advantage of it anyway. He stands up and leads her to the dance floor.
It has been fourteen nights since that wedding celebration – fourteen nights since he has immersed himself in a haphazardly planned revenge of sorts and danced with Rose Weasley. Yet, as he lay in bed, restless, only one memory fills him.
It is not his father's anger the following morning, when the Prophet comes out with a spectacular photograph of the two of them dancing together. It is not his scorn for the woman he had chosen to dance with. It is not even the outrage of the Selwyns at his misbehavior.
All he remembers is Rose – her smile, her ocean-colored eyes, her flaming hair, her bare shoulders, her slender waist as he held her closer than was appropriate….
And he remembers that she did not object. She even smiled, though the smile had been uncharacteristically a shy one. He remembers that she laughed when he told her about his father, and how ridiculous he found his family. She blushed when he repeated to her, more sincerely, that he found her beautiful.
"Even for a half-blood?" she had asked, teasingly.
"It doesn't matter," he distinctly remembers himself reply. Tonight, as he stares absently at the dark canopy of his bed, he realizes how he wishes the statement is true.
To say that his father was angry is an understatement. He recalls rage he has never seen from him before, along with the foulest insults that he has ever uttered, and that was saying something, because Draco Malfoy is not a man of subtlety. He called him insolent, an idiot, an ingrate; he blasted random furniture with his wand; he called the Weasleys a pathetic bunch of Mudbloods and blood-traitors, but all the while he, Scorpius, stood there stoically, all his concentration directed in keeping his face free of expression.
For all his anger, he could not feel any remorse for what he has done. Every night since that night, though, he has lain in bed wondering how it would have been if he danced with a different woman. He doubts very much if he would see her face when he closes his eyes, taunting, tantalizing. He does not think his palms would tingle at the mere memory of the warmth of her body as he held her close. He does not think it could have been any other woman but her.
The more he thinks of it, the more he realizes that the memory of her was eating him away.
It isn't right, he tells himself angrily; he isn't supposed to lose control of the situation. He has long since learned that it is best to always be in control. Yet he wants her still, and, all reason be damned, he wants her to be the woman he will present to the entire Wizarding community as his wife.
He no longer knows if it is sheer defiance.
He has tried talking to her at work, thinking that if they speak again, at a setting that was less effervescent, the spell will somehow be broken. She works at the Ministry and so does he, but after the fateful party they have barely seen each other. When they do, she gives him the same enchanting smile she has given him at the party, but their conversations never seem to go beyond platitudes, as she was always in a hurry. And her spell remains as potent as ever.
She was told that Agatha Selwyn had cried. She doubts whether she cried because of Scorpius; in fact, she is more inclined to think she cried because she felt more insulted than hurt by her fiancé's actions. Usually Rose would have been outraged by such a story.
Only, in this particular story, she herself played a rather prominent role, and so there wasn't much room for remorse.
Still she does not know whether to regret having danced with him or not. Her entire family is not fond of the Malfoys, and there has been much bickering about the article that came out in the Prophet the following day, but she thought she ought to have felt satisfied at the very least.
She still thinks so, because she knows that at the same moment she is gazing contemplatively at the stars, sitting by her window frame, he is in bed, wide awake and restless, thinking about that little incident fourteen nights ago.
She remembers how she smiled at him, and how she made sure those smiles held just the right amount of coyness. She allowed him to hold her closer than necessary; she laughed at the nonsense he whispered at her ear; she even managed to blush at his compliments. How many times has she done it before, and how many men have fallen for it? She had all done it on purpose, because she had wanted to teach him a lesson he will never forget.
She has known, when he approached her at the table, what he wanted. Perhaps she could not blame him for his own father's pigheadedness, and perhaps she has pitied all the people like him, who were forced into a lifetime commitment, losing their own identity as other people tried to preserve it for them. She was insulted, though, that he had chosen her, and she thought it would serve him right if he regretted the act not long after.
Not many people condemned the act – perhaps only the dwindling pureblood community. Not even her father has prolonged the issue. To any other friend what happened that night was simple, subtle flirting, and, as is the nature of flirting, there wasn't supposed to be any lasting impacts on both parties.
Of course she has known she was doing something else. She has seen the effect, and it should have satisfied her to see him trying to snatch conversations with her at work, but now she wonders why she finds it necessary to avoid him.
She does not want to admit it, but since that night she has also asked herself repeatedly why she herself kept on thinking of him – of his charming smile and his beautiful voice, of his hands on her waist and his cheek pressed against hers….
Perhaps she is regretting the act herself.
She enters the almost-empty Muggle restaurant, her eyes scanning the room for anyone she knows. She sees him immediately, sitting alone in a table for two and looking immaculate in a Muggle suit, sipping some drink she does not recognize. She is strongly reminded of the night when she was the one sitting alone, sipping cocktails, watching everyone else dance.
She wonders fleetingly why she is not surprised to see him there.
"What are you doing here?" he looks up at her as she approaches, a surprised expression on his face. He is smiling, though, and at the sight of it, Rose swallows hard.
She draws out the other chair and sits, wordlessly holding up a piece of parchment. It is an unsigned appointment slip she has found on her desk that morning.
He looks at the paper, not taking it. His smile turns enigmatic, and he shrugs.
"I should be asking you that question," she tells him icily, leaving the note on the table and folding her arms across her chest.
Scorpius considers her for a moment. "You've been avoiding me."
She inclines her head. "Oh? Now why would I bother doing that?" she challenges. "Have I been ignoring you whenever we meet? No. Have I been snobbing you? I have not," she tells him curtly, defiantly. Then she pauses. "Although I've been noticing," she says more slowly, a smug smile blooming on her face, "we have been seeing a lot of each other recently, don't you think?"
"The Ministry isn't very big," he dismisses, but she ignores it.
"I haven't been avoiding you, Malfoy. I don't see the need for all this," she gestures vaguely with her hand.
He smiles, struggling to look unperturbed. Already he could feel his defenses crumbling all around him. "What a liar you can be, Rose," he says softly.
She is momentarily taken aback. It is the first time he uses her name, and she cannot pinpoint exactly why it sounds so different, from him.
And then she realizes that it is the same phrase she has uttered two weeks ago. A sharp, inexplicable anger rose within her.
"So I'm the liar now?" she almost snarls. "Tell me something, Malfoy," she demands, her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Why did you approach me then? Why did you dance with me then? There were plenty other women there, don't you recall?"
His expression barely changes, but his pallor intensifies. "I've told you why –,"
"And after seven years at Hogwarts you still think I am that stupid?"
But she procures a copy of the Prophet and slams it on the table. There is an article about the Malfoy-Selwyn engagement party being postponed, and another showing a large picture of the two of them dancing.
"Don't think I don't know what you wanted that night," she says, her voice very low, her fiery hair crackling like fire. She leans toward him, so that he is looking directly into her furious eyes. "Don't think I don't know what you still want from me," snaps. "If you think I will be used, think again." She rises from the table and leaves without another backward glance.
He watches her retreating figure with much bitterness. He does not understand why she is suddenly angry. Why has it taken her two weeks to confront him, when the article was published the day after the incident? For two weeks she has been all-smiles, he remembers, and he thought then that, given time, things will turn out for the better.
He sighs, taking from his inside pocket a small, velvet box. He remembers her eyes, furious, but he thinks that what will haunt him forever is the pain he saw beneath the fury. He opens the box and stares at the gold ring inside, cushioned in silk, and wonders if he will ever get it on her hand.
She has forgotten all about Apparition. She is simply marching onward, absently, oblivious to her destination or her throbbing feet. Yet she is struggling to hold herself together, struggling to hold back tears.
She remembers him being friendly with her even before they danced together, and she remembers herself wondering why. She remembers hearing Agatha Selwyn tell a friend that she was going to be engaged to Scorpius Malfoy, and even then she felt the sudden, irrational anger fill her.
She is angry now, of course, but she no longer knows if she is angry with him… or with herself.
She hears the first few raindrops fall to the ground, and she stops walking. It does not occur to her to conjure up an umbrella, though the street is empty. She stands still, feeling the rain seep through her hair, through her clothes. She closes her eyes, feeling the rain run down her face.
Because you are the most beautiful woman I see tonight…
The rain is turning into a downpour, but she has not moved, willing his face to be washed away from her memory.
I simply want to dance with you…
And it dawns on her – she simply wants to dance with him, too. She remembers how easy it had been to smile, to laugh… His hand on her waist, the other on her hand – it felt so right.
And yet it was wrong.
A very upset Florinda Selwyn has informed the press yesterday that the engagement party will push through at a later date…
She raises her face to the skies, eyes still shut tightly. She isn't crying. It is just the rain, she knows, flowing down her face.
Both Scorpius Malfoy and Agatha Selwyn refused to comment on the matter…
She could still hear the rain angrily beating down on the pavement, but suddenly she could no longer feel it on her skin.
"Why are you here?" she asks, her eyes still closed, her voice preternatural in calmness.
He has been watching her raise her face to the rain, and he couldn't remember seeing anyone more vulnerable.
"I was worried you'd get sick," he says rather lamely.
She opens her eyes and faces him. "Why," she says again, "are you here?"
Just so he could avoid her reddish eyes he looks up at the umbrella he is holding. He convinces himself that the red on her eyes was caused by the rain, and nothing more.
Because this is where I want to be. He doesn't say it out loud.
"I wanted to apologize," he says, because he knows that it is the only consolation he can offer her at the moment, if it is any consolation at all.
There is no light in her eyes when she smiles. There is only pain and bitterness. "I don't need your apology, like I don't need your stupid umbrella, and I don't need you-," she takes a step closer to him and jabs a finger at his chest, "-in my life."
He lets go of the umbrella and she watches it fall to the ground, watches as his suit is ruined by the rain. "I don't need your apology," she repeats, her voice almost expressionless. She was the one who said yes to him, who smiled at him and let him hold her close. She was the one who let herself be caught off-guard.
"I apologize, all the same," he says. He feels the rain seep through his hair and through his clothes. He watches the water as it runs down her red hair. Her white blouse is already soaked; it clung to her body in a way that he thinks should be made illegal, so he looks at her face instead, and takes a step closer.
"You know you shouldn't be here," she says, still ignoring his apology.
But this is where I need to be.
She looks at him, watches the raindrops cling to his eyelashes. And this is where I need you to be. She does not say it out loud, but raises her hand and holds his cheek. He lowers his face and she closes her eyes.
He does not know how to describe her lips on his, not even with a million words. There are no fireworks, no explosions of any sort inside him – only a serene ecstasy that tells him he has found home.
She relishes the feeling of his lips on hers, tastes and textures melding into one mind-reeling dream, and she knows it is something that will be embedded indelibly in her memory for an infinite number of eternities. She knows this because she knows, too, that it is both the first and the last.
She is the first one to break away. He looks at her questioningly, and she smiles a sad smile.
"I have to go," she says, and he takes her hand.
"Rose…," he whispers, but his eyes are pleading. "We can run away," he says, but he knows she will refuse. There is no peace in escape, and rarely any honor in it, and it is not a life he wants to offer her.
She shakes her head even before he finishes speaking, and silences him with a finger on his lips. She looks at his eyes, and does not even notice that the skies were clearing.
"Goodbye," she says, before she turns and walks away.
Scorpius turns his face to the skies, now a clear, vibrant blue, like Rose Weasley's eyes. It was as though it had never rained.
The little puddles of water on the street, the droplets of water on the windowpanes, the dark, stained stone walls – these were the only traces of the downpour.
She has not gone to work for a week now. She has tried, countless times, but somehow she only ends up sitting morosely by the doorway of her bedroom, her arms around her knees and her head resting on the doorframe, her eyes closed. She does not know how to pick up the little pieces of her life, because she is painfully aware of the missing piece and she does not know how to replace it. Especially because she thinks the missing piece has never been hers to begin with.
She does not even bother pretending everything is fine.
Her head snaps up, thinking it is Lily. She stands up slowly when she sees it is not her.
"I'm sorry, the door was unlocked, and I thought…," her visitor explained, her voice trailing away.
Rose waves away the apology and forces a smile. "I'll make tea," she says.
"You haven't told me why you're here," she reminds her, as she pours her another cup.
"I… I've been thinking of the best way to say it-,"
"Something about your upcoming engagement?" she suggests, and Agatha Selwyn purses her lips. She nervously tucks a loose strand of blond hair behind her ear.
"Yes," she finally admits, "something along those lines."
Rose does not know if she wants to hear what she has to say. But maybe what she has to say will no longer hurt her; after all, she has already hurt herself to the greatest possible degree, so many nights ago.
"Just say it, Agatha," she says heavily.
Agatha puts down her teacup. "I want you to attend my engagement party."
She stares at her for a moment, the hand that had been stirring sugar in her teacup suddenly still. "Why?" she finally manages to ask.
"Because…," she hesitates, and then sighs. "Because it would mean a lot to him," she replies, her face sincere.
Rose laughs humorlessly. "You know I ought not to care about what would mean a lot to him," she says, a trace of the old bitterness in her voice.
"But you do," says Agatha. It was not a question.
She meets her green-grey eyes. "Yes," she says, her voice barely audible, "I do."
"Then you will be there?"
"Do you want me to be there?" Rose asks back.
She is surprised when Agatha takes her hand. "Please," she says, "if he means much to you…." She let the sentence trail off. It has not escaped Rose that she has reversed the phrase.
"Do you want me to be there?" she asks again.
Agatha looks her in the eye. "Yes," she says at last. "It would mean much to me, too."
Rose shakes her head. "I still don't understand why."
"I want this settled, once and for all," Agatha says, her voice almost pleading, and finally Rose understands. It is closure that they want – that he wants. Perhaps he thinks it is for the best. She is not sure if she agrees, but if it would give him some semblance of peace, then she would force herself to agree.
"He promised," Agatha says, "that after this… after this, you will be left in peace…."
She remembers the two of them, standing in the rain, not many words yet so much emotions passing between them.
We can run away…
It is the phrase that has haunted her mind since that moment. Would it have been that simple? she has asked herself many times. But now there was no need to ask it.
So you've finally given up.
She puts down the teacup she has been clutching tightly, fearing she would break it. After a very long moment, Rose nods. "I will be there," she says.
She arrives very late; the dancing has already begun. It had taken her a long time to get dressed – one moment she is determined to face him, and then the next, she wanted to crawl to her bed and sleep all of it off. But she has tried the second option so many times and it has never yet worked, so she slipped on her best dressrobes and arranged her hair carefully for the damn celebration.
She draws stares from a few young bachelors, some Ministry officials and some pureblood matrons, but she ignores them and moves quietly towards an empty table. She watches as Agatha greets her guests warmly, and she thinks that tonight she is glowing. Her eyes scan the festively decorated hall for any sign of him, but she catches not even a glimpse.
When she finally sees him, she sees him leading Agatha to the dance floor. As she watches the two of them dance, she begins to regret that she came. She rises to get some fresh air, heading for the gardens.
He sees her leave, and he turns to Agatha.
"She's heading for the gardens, Scorpius," she says. "She's not leaving yet – not until you approach her."
He only nods, but when the music ends, he leans forward and whispers thank you to her ear.
Agatha smiles and squeezes his hand. "No," she says, "thank you."
He watches her sit on the garden bench, her head turned away from the festivities inside. From the garden he could see Agatha dancing with another young man, and he thinks it is the right time to make the entrance.
"Waiting for someone?"
She turns to see him leaning casually on a nearby pillar, his hands in the pockets of his trousers. She does not know if she is smiling or not; she is only aware that he is walking towards her, face unsmiling, his eyes serious.
"Why am I here, Scorpius?" she asks without preamble.
He does not need to ask her what she means.
"Because I need you," he says, looking into the depths of her ocean-colored eyes, "to be here."
She stares at him questioningly, but he says nothing else, so she turns her head towards the dance floor, and watches as Agatha danced with a dark-haired young man she does not recognize.
"They look good together, don't they?" Scorpius asks, following her gaze.
She turns her head back to him. "Your father still thinks the two of you look better together."
He bows his head, but not before she sees him smile a sad smile. "Yes," he admits, "he still does."
She waits for him to continue, but he has turned his head back to Agatha and her partner. "His name is Julius Greengrass. He's a distant cousin of mine," he says.
He looks down on her again, and even in the dimly lit gardens he thought she shone. "They will be married in August."
It takes her a full five seconds to register what he has just said. After another five seconds she thinks she has misheard. "They will be married?" she repeats, a little disbelievingly.
"In August," he adds, the beginnings of a smile on his lips.
He sees her eyes widen a little. "But she told me-,"
"To come to her engagement party?" he asks. "Yes, she did." His smile becomes more pronounced.
I want you to attend my engagement party.
My engagement party.
Rose raises her face to the stars, and thinks that the distance between the earth and the heavens is not so vast, after all. She inhales deeply, filling her lungs with the cool night air, perfumed by the roses in the garden.
He patiently watches as she looks at the stars. He thinks he can watch her forever and still it will not be enough. When she turns to him, he smiles again, wordlessly holding out his hand.
She looks at it, and for the first time in weeks her smile does not cause her any effort. Wordlessly, she takes his hand, and he leads her away to dance.
Comments, suggestions for improvement, and reactions? Review, please! And thanks so much for reading. It's been fun, writing this.