You know the drill folks – everything belongs to JK Rowling (except for the lovely Ms. Bleaker and the owl Ajax).
Okay. So. The inspiration for this story struck me at exactly four o'clock in the morning and refused to let me go back to sleep, so I wrote it all three hours. Nevertheless, I had a (very sleepy) blast writing it.
Never too soon
Oh, reckless abandon
Like no one's watching you
"Sweet Disposition" – The Temper Trap
Rose liked the Scamander twins. She really, really did. Lorcan and Lysander were sweet boys who would never wish harm on another living soul, and they were obviously very taken with the Weasley girl. They had been infatuated with her since they were very young, but the realization that Rose was graduating this year seemed to have sent them into a panic. Now they were scrambling to spend as much time with her as possible before her inevitable departure from their everyday lives.
They liked her so much, in fact, that that they had a habit of, well . . . stalking her, basically. First, they would spot her distinctive copper hair from a distance. Then their identical blue eyes would light up, and they would rush after her like little blond greyhounds chasing the mechanical rabbit at the tracks. Despite being almost pixie-like in stature, even at fifteen years of age, the boys could move remarkably fast when properly motivated. Upon catching up to her, they would then insist on walking with her to her next class, or the library, or the Quidditch pitch, or the Ravenclaw common room, or Hogsmeade, or any other place she could possibly conceive of – Siberia being a particularly tempting option. They would offer to carry her books, compliment her on her lovely appearance (which had remained relatively unchanged since fourth year), comment on the weather, and ask her if she had seen the latest edition of the Quibbler. Should she be so unwise as to confess that no, she had not, they would then launch into an exhausting review, speaking alternately so that one of them would have a chance to catch his breath.
Everyone else thought it was cute. On the surface, Rose could only grit her teeth and smile, reminding herself that her family and the Scamanders were to be lifelong friends. Inside, however, she had to constantly fight the urge to look over her shoulder, and jumped at the sound of people calling her name. She had to plan different routes to her classes every day to avoid running into the boys, who by now had her timetable memorized with almost alarming accuracy. She had even resorted to hiding under tables or behind suits of armour in the corridor to avoid them – and no, she was not all that proud of it. But as flattering as their attention was, Rose rather liked her privacy and independence, and considered these tactics as justifiable means to an end. Namely, to have at least one afternoon of peace and solitude, without having to worry about whether or not she has been spotted.
The day had started off promising enough, with the twins distracted by setting up decorations for the upcoming spring ball. Rose had seen them busily hanging banners and garlands throughout the main hall, and took the opportunity to spend a nice, undisturbed hour reading in the Potions dungeons before supper. The library was too obvious, of course. The twins had learned long ago to look for her there first, and she was constantly rotating alternate study locations.
That hour somehow, miraculously, turned into four, and before Rose knew it, curfew was upon her. Not only had she missed supper, she was also a considerable distance away from the Head dormitories – her one and only safe haven, not to mention the precise place she ought to have been at this time of night. Her parents used to tell her horror stories about Filch, the old groundskeeper who passed on a number of years ago. Ms Bleaker was not nearly as sour as predecessor, but she was also not exactly fond of herding wayward students back to their dorms in the late hours, particularly Head Girls who are supposed to know better.
This is so undignified, Rose thought grimly to herself as she tiptoed up the stairs leading out of the dungeons. It was much cooler down there, especially at night, and she was rather grateful that she had opted for her clingy blue cashmere sweater and fitted jeans rather than her uniform (it was Saturday, after all). She jumped at the smallest noises, flinched at every blur of movement out the corner of her eye. It was difficult not to assume that, were she in a bad Muggle horror film, she was likely to get slashed to pieces by a knife-wielding lunatic hiding in one of the many, many shadows surrounding her.
Why, why, why had she chosen to study in the castle's dungeon? Why couldn't she have gone to the Charms classroom? It was so much closer to her dorm, and the journey would not have had to include passing through long, dark, eerily silent hallways. It was probably a lot drier and smelled better too. In fact, she should probably just go ahead and scratch "Potions room" off her list of possible study areas and –
The sound of another's footsteps stopped her dead in her tracks and sent her pulse racing into overdrive. She then instinctively moved to hug the wall and strained her ears to pinpoint the other's location. The flagstones sent echoes bouncing mutely in every direction, but Rose could tell that it wasn't Ms. Bleaker's noisy, laboured shuffle approaching. No, these steps were quiet and quick, and alarmingly close.
She hugged her books close and backed into the available shadows, making herself as flat against the wall as possible. Whoever it was, the footsteps were drawing nearer; the sound of bare flesh plodding on the stone floor got louder and louder. Suddenly she caught a reflection in the window across from her, and realized with a sickened jolt that he or she was literally just around the corner, a mere five feet to her left. She promptly stopped breathing and screwed her eyes shut. Oh bugger.
The footsteps came to an abrupt halt. "Weasley?"
A man's voice – well, a young man's voice. Not a teacher then. Rose carefully squinted one eye open to find a pale and decidedly familiar face staring back at her.
Why Scorpius Malfoy was out at this hour utterly escaped her. If any of the ridiculous rumours surrounding him were true, however, either he was on his way back from a secret Death Eaters United meeting, or he had just been shagging some girl up in the Astronomy Tower.
The air left Rose's lungs in a nearly audible whoosh. She had never been prone to believe idle gossip anyway. "Malfoy," she breathed. "Bloody hell, I can't feel my legs."
He stepped forward into an oblique shaft of moonlight, casting a glow on the underside of his features. His grey eyes flashed with clinical amusement. "Didn't mean to startle you. What brings you out past curfew?"
Rose opened her mouth to reply, and then stopped. His hair is so long, she thought vacantly. Which was ridiculous. She had always known his hair was long; he just usually wore it tied back in a casual ponytail. But now the fair strands swung low to frame his face, ending just below the jaw line.
She swallowed and tried again. "I was studying, and lost track of time."
His eyebrows arched up a little. "The library is on the other side of the castle," he pointed out.
"I was in the Potions room." A defensive note crept into her tone, as if to add I know perfectly well where the library is, there are plenty of other places to read, you know.
Understanding dawned in his expression. He smirked and folded his arms over his chest, and Rose could not help but notice that he was not the same scrawny little waif she had first laid eyes on at the train station six years ago.
"Ah," he said knowingly, "avoiding the Scamanders, are we?"
The twins' fixation with her was no secret, by any means, but Rose was still somewhat taken aback that he, Scorpius Malfoy, would have even a passing awareness of it. He did not seem the type to pay attention to something so . . . frivolous.
She shrugged a little. "I – well, I guess it looks a bit silly, but –"
"Not at all," he cut in swiftly, leaning his shoulder into the wall. "I'd probably do the same in your position. Can't stand clingy types myself. Don't know how you put up with it so well, really."
Despite herself, she could not help but feel a bit protective of the boys, who were almost family at the end of the day. She didn't particularly care for his dismissive tone. "They're just a little enthusiastic," she countered. "I don't mind so very much."
His smirk grew and went a little bit crooked, having detected the warning in her voice. "Just enough to risk detention for wandering around after hours."
"Well, what are you doing out here?" she retorted, somewhat crossly. The Slytherin prefect was dressed casually, like herself, and did not have any books or other belongings with him. It occurred to Rose that she had hardly ever seen him in anything other than his Hogwarts robes before now, and was surprised that he could manage such a laid-back Muggle look. Barefoot, with a pair of loose-fitting pajama bottoms and a black wife beater that seemed almost uncharacteristically informal.
Malfoy gave a lazy half shrug. "Couldn't sleep. Figured I'd go to the Owlery and visit Ajax. He hasn't had much to do lately, and he gets lonely."
Rose had a hard time envisioning the Malfoys' famously irritable great horned owl as 'lonely', but she supposed she would have to take his word for it.
He gave a short laugh then, nearly startling her, but it over almost as quickly as it came. "I guess I'm a night owl myself."
She blinked at him, and found herself grinning unexpectedly. "Wow. Was that a pun?"
"Yes, the Malfoy sense of humour does exist," he drawled. "Try not to die of shock."
"No, I didn't mean that," she said hastily. "I just expected something a little more . . . I don't know, refined from you, that's all. Puns are so pedestrian."
He gave her a quizzical sort of look. "Refined?"
"Well, yeah. You just seem so . . ." She trailed off uncomfortably under his stare. "That is, you don't strike me as the type to laugh at, like, farts or dirty jokes, or that kind of thing."
"Why, do you?"
She rolled her eyes. "Of course not."
"Then you must be pretty 'refined' yourself."
His eyes dropped slowly to take her in from head to toe, and then sidled back up to meet hers. Embarrassment flooded to her cheeks, though in the dark it would have been impossible to tell.
"Ha," she spluttered, "refined. Me. That's rich. I can't even stand The New Yorker."
"Oh please," he snorted. "The New Yorkers can't stand The New Yorker. That doesn't exactly count."
Her lips twitched mutinously. "I didn't know you were familiar with any Muggle magazines."
He tilted his head to the side a little. "Why would you? I don't think we've exchanged so much as three words to each other until now."
She winced. "Well, ah, I just assumed that –"
"What? That a Malfoy can't take an interest in works other than Death Eater manifestos?"
"No!" Rose protested. "Merlin no, that's not it at all."
Rolling his eyes, he held up a hand to stop her. "Relax," he intoned, "I was only joking. Again. Sense of humour, remember?"
"I – oh." She stopped and blinked at him for a moment, before she allowed a wry smile of her own to slip out. "Still, I bet you've read some pretty spectacular manifestos in your time, yeah?"
He gave a somewhat bored shrug, his face perfectly serious. "Sure, every now and then a good one comes along. For the most part, though, it's all pretty formulaic. Enslave all Muggles this, Mudbloods are inferior scum that. Gets old after a while."
"Awful," she sighed. "No imagination whatsoever these days."
"Too true, too true. On the plus side, though," he added, a touch more brightly, "all new members get a free 'I heart Voldie' t-shirt. It's actually quite fetching, even with the Dark Lord's caricature on the front."
"Does it come in pink?"
They managed to keep it together for a full three seconds, before reacting as one and bursting out in barely-suppressed hysterics. For some reason it wasn't enough to have a t-shirt depicting a cartoon Lord Voldemort, but the idea of it coming in four shades of pink was just hilarious.
"I'll," she gasped, bent double at the waist with the sheer effort summoning her voice, "I'll take mine . . . in magenta . . ."
He slumped against the wall, fist held up against his bared teeth, shaking helplessly with silent laughter. It took him a moment to catch his breath, before he managed to choke, "Sorry, my granddad got the last one."
Which then, of course, led to them taking even longer to quiet themselves again. But it wasn't until she'd wiped the last of her tears away that Rose realized it was sad, in a way, to be joking about this sort of thing. The Second War had changed the whole wizarding world, to be sure, but there were some lingering prejudices that would likely persist for at least a few more generations. Scorpius had dealt with his fair share of mistrust and outright hatred all throughout his enrollment at Hogwarts, and even before that. Despite the remarkable work Draco Malfoy had done to improve Muggle-Wizard relations through the various charities he'd opened over the last decade, the family still faced plenty of judgment and scrutiny. It was impossible to ignore some of the things people said about them, often to their very faces. Scorpius had always handled it rather coolly, Rose recalled, but the fact that he could laugh about it, let alone make jokes, was not something she would have anticipated. She was forced, at that moment, to recognize that she could never handle something like that with such grace. There were even one or two occasions, during her early years at school, when some of her bolder peers had been forced to learn that the hard way.
And yes, she decided, the detentions were worth it.
"Well," Scorpius sighed gustily, having finally regained his composure, "now that I've managed to shame my predecessors even more than usual, let me just say that this has all been a very refined evening, thanks to you."
She made a face. "You're never letting that go, are you."
And just like that, his expression was perfectly sincere again. "How could I? It's the nicest thing a Weasley has ever said to me." He paused and watched her fleeting reaction for a moment, before continuing with, "And you can laugh at yourself all you want, but you are different from the others."
"What do you mean?" she asked, brows furrowing together.
"All I'm saying," he went on, "is that I doubt you miss the brilliant repartee of James yo' mama Potter nearly as much as the rest of your lot."
"Are you saying my family is stupid?"
"No," he replied in all seriousness, shaking his head. "Just that you're smarter than they are." The answering look on her face made him chuckle again. "My, you're easy to fluster, aren't you?"
The strange hint of fondness in his voice nearly distracted her from the fact that he was now openly making fun of her, instead of implicitly. She scowled at him. "As if you know the slightest thing about me!" she retorted. "Like you so kindly pointed out, we've never said three words to each other before tonight, and I am not so 'easy to fluster', for your –"
Her jaw immediately snapped shut when he managed to cross the four-foot gap separating them in the blink of an eye and was suddenly standing very, very close to her. It happened so fast that she almost couldn't be certain he had even moved at all. The only indication was the brief, gentle sway of his hair as his eyes bore into her like hot mercury.
Rose took an involuntary step backwards, only to jostle a conveniently placed granite bust of Hermietta the Uncouth – a witch from the medieval age who, despite her title, was known for being remarkably judicial. The pedestal rocked from the impact, and the statue teetered precariously near the edge. Before Rose could even think of drawing breath, his arm lashed out past her and steadied it. Holding fast to the top of Hermietta's head, he smirked down at the trapped Weasley, who could only gape wordlessly back at him. Cornered between him, the statue and the wall, she had never felt more defenseless in her life.
"Really?" he murmured, his voice achingly low. His other hand came up to rest on her hip, idly fingering the hem of her shirt. "Because you look rather flustered to me."
She tried not to shiver as his breath washed down over collarbone, but his fingertips felt like they were burning exquisite holes in her skin. It was all she could do to keep from physically squirming under his touch, but her body no longer seemed all that concerned with decorum. Of course she knew, on various levels, that this was the stuff of bad teen romance. She was also keenly aware that in most situations, this type of behaviour could qualify even as a mild form of sexual harassment.
It was just that, truthfully, Rose had never had a boy look at her this way, like he could either kiss her or eat her on the spot. She had been kissed before, and quite soundly, but nothing had ever given her a rush like the frank, shameless intrigue in his eyes. They roamed the planes of her face with a sort of speculative wonder, as though trying to decide which area to start on first – where to kiss, where to bite, she couldn't possibly be sure at this point, only she had the faint notion that she might rather enjoy both.
"Speechless," he went on, suddenly looking entranced by her lips. "You're making this too easy, Rose."
He said my name, she thought light-headedly. Scorpius Scorpius Scorpius. Scorpius had a beautiful mouth, she decided.
Ms. Bleaker's raspy voice carried down the hall like an intruding magpie, snapping both students out of their respective dazes. Rose jumped, causing her books to shift and then slip from her suddenly lifeless grasp. Scorpius lunged down and caught the awkward bundle mere inches before it scattered on the floor. No wonder he was an excellent Seeker, with reflexes like that.
Instead of returning them, he angled around her and crammed the books behind Hermietta's pedestal. "Take off your shoes," he hissed.
He shot her an aggravated look and grabbed her forcefully by the back of the knee, lifting it to yank her foot up. She bit back a startled yelp and latched onto his shoulder as he wrenched off her new white trainers, unable to make sense of his hand cradling her leg like that.
"What the hell are you –"
"Stealth purposes," he replied brusquely, releasing her to tuck the shoes behind the statue along with her books. "Trust me."
She motioned wildly around, struggling to keep her voice down. "I can't just leave my things –"
"Rose," he whispered as he straightened, "trust me."
"And stop bloody interrupting –"
Ms. Bleaker's lantern light could be seen bobbing at the far end of the corridor. "I en't in the mood for games, you 'ear me? Come on out now!"
Rose whirled around, unprepared for how close the groundskeeper's voice was, but Scorpius' hand slipped into hers and suddenly he was pulling her in the opposite direction. "Run," he breathed into her ear, and the dizzying nearness of his face to hers made her lose all sense of direction. She stumbled blindly at his side, wordlessly complying with the tug of his hand for lack of any other idea what to do.
They darted around the corner and flat out ran down the hall, their unshod feet flying noiselessly across the flagstones. Stealth purposes. Trust me. Only her father had always told her that Malfoys could never be trusted, and that she shouldn't get too friendly with this one. There was something significant about that memory, and that she should remember it only now, seven years later, as that very same Malfoy's impromptu accomplice.
Scorpius was laughing, not in the least bit concerned that it carried a bit down the hall. It came out in barley-restrained bursts, punctuating every step, and it was so lovely and infectious that Rose couldn't resist joining in. She was Head Girl, for Merlin's sake! And he was a prefect! What on Earth were they even doing?
The walls blurred for a time. They passed through shadows and bars of moonlight, under the sleepy and disapproving gazes of portraits, and very nearly ran into Peeves, whose snores alerted them to his presence just in time (he was sleep-floating). Milliseconds crawled into minutes. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Rose felt a jolt of recognition as she clued into their surroundings.
"Wait," she panted, dragging him to an ungraceful halt. "Wait, this is it. This is my stop."
Chest heaving, he could only blink down at her until comprehension sank in. "Oh. Right."
The Head Dormitory was strategically built into an innocuous-looking wall, easily missed by those who did not know where to look. Marked only by an old painting of an Irish setter, currently dozing by a warm yellow fire, it would have been easy for them to dash right on by.
Remembering her hand in his, Rose coughed somewhat awkwardly and smiled up at him. "Well. That was . . ."
"Bracing?" he supplied with a half grin. She was inescapably aware that he did not immediately let go.
"Bracing," she repeated, taking vivid note of his windblown hair and the fine sheen of sweat gleaming all over him. "Yes, that'll do."
With delicious reluctance, he finally withdrew his hand from hers. "You kept up nicely."
"Yeah, well, hormones, and all that."
He bit the inside of his cheek.
Rose mentally slapped herself. "Adrenaline," she amended weakly. "That's what I meant by hormones. You know, fear of getting caught, and, and . . ."
"Of course." He was staring at her lips again. "I'm sure there were no other hormones involved."
"I . . ."
A door slammed nearby, and Rose remembered with a sickening bolt of clarity that Professor Finnegan sometimes worked late on Saturday nights, marking homework in his office. His office, located a mere twenty paces from the Head Dorm, where the two of them happened to be standing in plain sight.
Scorpius' head jerked instinctively in the direction of the noise, looking paralyzed for the first time. Rose grabbed his arm and tugged him towards the shadow of a nearby staircase that led up to a storage room. He complied with a mindless sort of obedience, letting her shove him against the wall with a muted thud. Then, remembering himself, he rolled them over so that she was between him and the wall, thinking even now to shield her with his body. Her insides positively hummed as he brought his arms up to pin her close to his chest.
The click-clack of Finnegan's shoes approached, getting louder every second. All Finnegan had to do was turn and look to his right, and he would have spotted one large, amorphous shadow huddled in the corner by the stairs. Rose screwed her eyes shut and didn't dare draw breath, instead burying her face in the curve between Scorpius' neck and shoulder to muffle whatever sound that might try to escape her. He responded silently, tightening his grip on her and turning to rest his chin on her head.
But it was late, and Finnegan was tired, and he breezed on by without even a cursory glance in their direction.
It had only taken a few seconds for him to pass in and out of sight, but they did not dare move until they could no longer hear shoes striking stone. Slowly, Rose felt him loosen his hold on her by mere fractions, just enough so that she could look up into his eyes. He was breathing shallowly now, and she could feel his heart actually pounding in his ribcage beneath her hands. The warmth of his breath on her face raised chills all over her, and she realized with a sinking dread that she couldn't look away. She literally couldn't. And he was staring right back down at her, opening and closing his mouth wordlessly, struggling to say something. Anything. Anything at all.
"Speechless," she breathed, managing a shaky smile. "You're making this too easy, Scorpius."
Something flared up in his eyes, and she didn't know how or when, but suddenly he was kissing her and she was kissing him back and oh God it had never been like this before not even close. He bit, sucked, teased, and did something unbearably sexy with his tongue, prompting in her an almost frenetic desire to reciprocate. Merlin, where did he learn to do this? None of her past boyfriends had ever dared touch her this way, claiming every contour of her body with such brazen, unapologetic possessiveness.
She instinctively went up on her toes for better access, knotting her fingers in his hair before splaying them across his shoulders, then down his arms, over his hips, up his back and down again, down, down –
He made a noise into her mouth, a strangled growl that made her surge with power. She curved her lips into a triumphant smile, and then gasped as his hands figured out the exact same maneuver. Aggressively.
At some point, she felt a pressing need to breathe, and forced herself to break away. "I, ah . . . bed," she stammered, trying in vain not to look back down at his unmistakably flushed and bruised lips.
"Yeah," he murmured back, leaning after her almost drunkenly. "Good idea." There was still something in his eyes, a feverish gleam that she felt sure was positively eating her alive on the spot.
She took a step away from him and smiled at the disheveled, thoroughly kissed mess he looked. Ambling backwards with her hand on the wall, she kept her gaze locked with his until she felt the portrait frame under her fingers.
"Tentatio," she whispered, earning a sleepy 'woof' from the Irish setter. The painting swung open, revealing a circular entrance.
"Temptation," he translated. His eyes roamed her lines and curves with much keener intimacy. "How fitting."
Pausing in the doorway, she cast him a perfectly wanton smile over her shoulder, inwardly thrilling at the one he gave her in reply. "Better not let me catch you sneaking around late at night again."
His grin widened. "Not even at the bust of Hermietta the Uncouth, say, around midnight tomorrow?"
She tapped her chin innocently. "Hmmm, no, I don't suppose I'll see you there at all."
"Nor I you."
They exchanged final lingering looks before the portrait slid back into place, effectively ending the evening. Even if it never went anywhere – even if she didn't find him at the statue tomorrow – if nothing else, at least she'd remember that once, late at night, the two of them had run hand-in-hand through the castle and kissed in the dark. That in itself was permanent. It could never, ever go away or disappear.
The next morning, Rose stepped dreamily out into the hallway and found her books piled neatly outside the door, along with only one of her shoes. As her cheeks flushed with recognition, she nevertheless frowned at the absence of her other trainer. It wasn't like him to do anything only halfway, after all. She knew that about him, not to mention a few other things that made her feel incredibly womanly and grown up.
Stooping to examine the parchment note that had arrived with her belongings, she scanned his impeccable handwriting:
Just a little insurance. See you tonight. – SM
Biting her lip to keep from grinning too widely, Rose clasped the paper to her chest and reveled a small, fleeting rush of adrenaline.