A/N: My updating speed is abominable, I know. D: But phew, I'm so glad I finally got this done (after more than a year!) I just wanted to say that I'm incredibly grateful for everyone that's reviewed this story. It was actually all your amazingly encouraging reviews that motivated me to finally finish this chapter. I don't even know how to express my gratitude :'D I'm just so glad to know that there are still people reading even after all this time. Hope you guys like it! (:


Seventh Year, Part I


Scorpius regrets his decision to return to Malfoy Manor approximately five seconds after he actually arrives.

The façade of the manor is just as foreboding as ever—all cold brick and black iron. Neatly trimmed hedges about seven feel tall surround the entire perimeter of the austere building. Through the looming gate he can see the hideous statue of his great-grandfather Abraxas Malfoy that he's always hated. Scorpius stands there in the bitter chill, staring at the cold sneer on Abraxas Malfoy's marble face. It's a far cry from the warm, welcoming homeliness of The Burrow that he's already grown used to. For a second he contemplates Apparating back to avoid facing his thoroughly fucked up family, but a sickening image of Rose-and-Toby comes to mind and his resolve strengthens considerably.

(He thinks he needs to stay away from Rose for a while. It's definitely for the best.)

It's a long, long walk up the paved brick path to the front door, and when he finally reaches it (after like a fucking century, or something) he takes a long moment to stare at the Malfoy crest before knocking. It depicts a curlicue M with several silver snakes entwined around it. Beneath the crest is the Latin phrase "Sanctimonia Vincet Semper". Purity always conquers. Scorpius snorts derisively. He lifts his hand up to knock but before his fingers make contact with the polished brass handle, the heavy door swings open.

"Master Scorpius!" someone squeaks from below.

Scorpius can't help but grin. "Peony!"

The tiny house elf gives him a bow so low her pointy nose scrapes the spotless floor. "Master Scorpius, it's good to have you back, sir!"

"Yeah, I haven't been here in a while…" he pats Peony affectionately on her tiny back, levitates his trunk in and steps through the threshold into the lavishly, ridiculously decorated hall. There are silver chandeliers and enormous fireplaces everywhere. The ceiling above is magnificently vaulted and the floor is cold, hard marble. He shakes his coat off and Peony eagerly rushes over to retrieve it.

"Master Scorpius will find his room ready, sir, everything is as how you left it and nothing is touched, and oh Peony is so very glad Master Scorpius is back!" Peony's tennis ball eyes abruptly tear up. "Things have not been good here, sir, no, not good at all…"

Scorpius's jaw tightens. "You mean between my parents?"

Peony clutches the brightly colored beanie that adorns her head with a worried expression on her face and nods vigorously.

He sighs. "Is my father here?"

"Upstairs, sir."

-.-.-

He finds his father slumped in a leather armchair with a bottle of Firewhiskey dangling precariously from his fingers. All the curtains are drawn and the only source of light in the room comes from a dying fireplace. Scorpius wastes no time in shaking his father forcefully awake.

(It suddenly dawns on him that he hasn't seen his father in over a year. If that isn't fucked up, he doesn't know what is.)

His father's bloodshot eyes open blearily and he lets out several coughs. He runs his shaking fingers through his messy hair and scratches the stubble on his unshaven jaw. Quite frankly, it's the worst Scorpius has ever seen him. He almost doesn't recognize him – his father usually doesn't have a hair out of place. The sudden change is jarring.

"You look like utter shit," Scorpius tells him.

It takes a moment for his father to properly focus on him. "Scorpius?" he says hoarsely, pulling himself upright in his armchair. It's almost pathetic, the state he's in.

"Yeah, it's me," Scorpius replies brusquely. He wants to get this over with as quick as possible, though he's not sure how much information his father can process when he's pretty much catatonic. He leans in closer but immediately steps back when the overwhelming reek of alcohol makes his eyes water. "Merlin, how much did you drink?"

His father doesn't bother to answer. "I thought you were at the Weasleys?"

He says "Weasleys" like it's some kind of genital disease.

Scorpius resists the strong urge to roll his eyes. "I changed my mind," is what he offers succinctly as an explanation. "I—well, you and I need to talk."

His father groans. "Not more talking. I've had enough of talking."

His pleas go unnoticed by Scorpius. "It's about mum."

His father is silent and he lifts the brown bottle up for more alcohol but Scorpius quickly snatches it out of his grasp. "I'm being dead serious about this!" Scorpius's patience is running thin.

They glare at each other for several seconds before his father speaks up. "You're taller."

"Yeah, well," Scorpius says after an uncomfortable pause. "I grew up. I suppose."

(He notices with a pang of regret that his father's white-blond hair is already streaked with strands of gray. When the hell did that happen?)

His father rubs his face with a tired hand. "So what exactly do you want to talk about? I haven't got all day," he announces with a characteristic snippiness.

Scorpius sits down on an armchair opposite of his father. For a moment his words get stuck in his throat and all he can do is look down at his feet. "Um. Is—is everything alright with you and mum?" he manages weakly.

"No," his father replies shortly. He doesn't bother to elaborate.

"Well—why?"

"It's nothing."

Scorpius's temper flares. "Stop giving me vague answers! Look, as the only child of this family, I should have the right to at least know what the bloody hell is going on, don't you think?"

His father sighs. "We've just disagreed on a few things, that's all. Look, by next Christmas everything will be fine."

"How are things going to be fine if mum's at The Burrow and you're just sitting here drinking yourself into a coma?" Scorpius demands and leans forward in his chair. "Why aren't you—I dunno—at least trying to make things up with mum?"

His father places his face in both his hands and grunts. Suddenly it's as though he completely deflates. All the fight goes out of him and he slumps back in the armchair. "It's those damn Potters and Weasleys."

This comes as no surprise to Scorpius. "I know about—you know—how the Malfoys are supposed to completely detest Weasleys and Potters, but don't you ever get—get exhausted of hating them? I mean, it's not like they've ever wronged you, or anything. In fact they're actually nice people, as hard as that is to believe."

His father says nothing in reply.

"I think—speaking as a completely objective third party observer, of course—that the best option for you right now would be to… well, go over to the Burrow and maybe… have a little chat with them. It's been long overdue, actually."

"Merlin."

"Come on!"

"It's completely unnecessary."

"You still love mum, no?" Scorpius asks a bit desperately. His question lingers in the air between them for the longest second, and for a moment Scorpius is terrified of hearing the answer.

(He feels like a ten year old again.)

"Yes, I suppose I do," the side of his father's mouth quirks up in a wry, tired smile.

Relief floods him in waves. "Then this is something that you've got to do sooner or later. This whole grudge thing between you and the Potters and the Weasleys is completely stupid, you should know that."

Silence.

"If this is a matter of pride—"

"Just—just let me think about it," his father mutters. Scorpius's heart jumps into his throat. "Now, please for the love of all that is magical, just let me be."

(He tries not to get his hopes up, but Scorpius thinks he might have actually made some progress here.)

-.-.-

Scorpius can't be bothered to unpack, so when night comes all he does is grab the first shirt he sees from his Hogwarts trunk and turn the lights out.

(He's actually kind of missed his room, to be honest.)

-.-.-

"Well, are we going or not?"

Scorpius is jolted awake by the sensation of someone jabbing him repeatedly (and also rather painfully, in fact) with a pointy finger. "Wha—?"

He hears his curtains being flung open and agonizingly bright light streams into his room. Scorpius buries his face in his pillow and moans. "It's—what—what's going on?"

"Really, Scorpius, it's already eight in the morning."

Scorpius eyes flicker open and focuses on the blurry shape of his father. "Where the hell are we heading off to?"

His father sighs impatiently. "We're visiting The Burrow," he replies, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. The older Malfoy bears no signs of his drinking binge yesterday night. He doesn't even look the slightest bit hung over—his father just looks as aristocratic and proud as ever. Scorpius is actually impressed.

He struggles up in his bed. "N—now?"

"No, how about next year? Yes, now," he sighs in an irritated manner. He says it like it was his idea to visit The Burrow in the first place. A shirt is tossed in his direction and Scorpius reflexively snatches it out of mid-air. "Put it on and we'll be on our way."

-.-.-

They Apparate onto Ottery St. Catchpole at precisely 8.27 in the morning. Scorpius is still feeling slightly dazed about this whole thing. Just seeing his father in his fancy robes standing in front of The Burrow is a bizarre experience in itself. He tries, for a moment, to imagine his father having a conversation with Uncle Ron and nope, he just can't. It just isn't possible in this particular realm.

"Well, hurry up!" his father has already started a brisk walk up the tiny hill that you have to trudge up to get to The Burrow. His posture is confident and determined but Scorpius can feel nervousness positively rolling off him in waves. Scorpius shakes his head, half-exasperated, half-amused, and follows in his father's wake.

Even from afar, Scorpius can see that The Burrow is already bustling with activity. Smoke is rising up in large billows from a brick chimney and there's several confused gnomes wandering the yard. Someone is feeding the chickens outside and as Scorpius and his father approach, he realizes that it's Albus.

"Oy! Albus!" Scorpius calls out and waves energetically.

Albus' head snaps up. He lets out a whoop and tosses his bag of chicken feed on the ground as he runs over.

"Glad you decided to come back , mate! Who—oh," Albus's eyes widen and he takes a step back as he notices his father's presence. Suddenly Albus looks pretty much terrified. Scorpius, however, is finding this massively entertaining. "Um—hello, sir. You must be Scorpius's father."

His father nods wordlessly and gives Albus the signature Malfoy once over. "You're Albus Potter?"

"Yes, sir." At a loss for what else to do, Albus sticks out a hand for a handshake. His dad accepts and they both pump their hands up and down jerkily. It's probably the most awkward handshake Scorpius has ever witnessed.

After shaking Albus's quivering hand, he clears his throat uncomfortably and continues his journey towards The Burrow.

"Your dad's here," Albus says in a shout-whisper, his eyes still as large as saucers. "Your. Dad. Is. Here. This isn't—this isn't right at all. What's he doing here?"

"Well, I made him come here to sort some stuff out. And get it together, mate, you look like you're about to have a heart attack," Scorpius raises an eyebrow and grins.

"You can't exactly blame me. I mean, it's your dad!" Albus defends himself. "He's all… intimidating and stuff."

Just as his father reaches the wooden door of The Burrow, he stops completely. Scorpius catches up with his father, sneaks a glance in his direction and is mildly tickled by the fact that Draco Lucius Malfoy looks like he's about to shit his pants.

"You alright, dad?" he can barely stop himself from snickering.

His father scowls in response and hits him on the back of his head with his dragon-hide gloved hand.

(Ow.)

"Well, I suppose it's now or nothing," his father says, taking in a deep breath, and pushes the door open.

The first thing Scorpius sees when he steps in is the entire Potter-Weasley clan having breakfast in the kitchen. Almost everyone with the last name of Weasley or Potter is present—from the ancient Aunt Muriel Weasley (seriously, what is keeping this woman together? She's like fucking immortal, or something) to little Lily Potter. There's barely enough space in the kitchen to contain all of them, so people are sitting on table tops, on couches, even on the floor.

He thinks this might be the single largest gathering of red-heads, ever.

"Morning, everybody," he announces. "This is my father," He gestures behind him at a frozen Draco Malfoy.

Everybody's head swivels around. Like, fucking everybody. It's almost comical. Fred Weasley, who's in the process of levitating a stack of pancakes onto his plate, promptly drops them on Uncle Percy's head. Uncle Ron starts choking violently on his coffee. Grandma Molly's fork clatters onto the table. The cacophony of voices and chatter in the room dies down.

(Is it wrong that he finds this hilarious?)

(Also, this is suspiciously similar to Scorpius' own first meeting with the Weasley-Potters.)

He's never seen his father look so uncomfortable. "Morning," he says at last, and bobs his head. There are a few scattered replies of "morning" but for the most part everyone is still trying to grasp the fact that Draco Malfoy is currently standing in the Weasley's kitchen.

"Draco?" his mother's voice pipes up from somewhere at the end of the room. His mother's lone blond head breaks away from the sea of red. "What're you doing here?"

His father relaxes slightly. "Astoria! I…" his voice peters off when he's conscious of the fact that everyone is listening raptly. "I came to apologize."

His mother's eyes widen and they abruptly fill with tears.

"I've been such a fool," his father says quietly.

His mother throws himself into his arms and the entire room bursts into applause and hoots of delight. Out of the corner of his eye, Scorpius sees Rose clapping with a huge smile on her face. He averts his eyes quickly.

"That's sweet," Albus comments, and Scorpius agrees silently. His father owes him so much.

(Also, the lump in his throat means nothing.)

-.-.-

All three of the Malfoys are invited over for dinner that night. He really doesn't want to admit it, but seeing his parents happy again makes Scorpius feel the happiest he's been in a long time.

He tries to forget the fact that Rose is there all night. But, you know, according to Toby she's supposed to fucking stay away from him. So he really shouldn't be this bitterly disappointed that Rose doesn't say a single word to him for the entire duration of the dinner. Because he really shouldn't be giving two fucks about this, seeing as Rose all but told him to piss off.

He's doesn't mind. He really doesn't. He's okay with it.

(Oh, Scorpius, the lies you tell yourself.)

-.-.-

Scorpius spends the better part of his summer vacation in the Malfoy Manor by choice. He just thinks that after three years of acting like strangers with his parents, it's about time he started growing up and getting it together.

(Look, he's a mature bloke, alright?)

Of course, he kind of misses The Burrow. To be more precise, he misses the chaos, the sheer unruliness and rowdy atmosphere of that ancient crooked house. Malfoy Manor couldn't be more different—it's more reserved, quiet, muted.

He considers both places home.

-.-.-

It's three days till the end of summer vacation and Scorpius is just about to settle himself into bed when an unfamiliar tawny owl suddenly taps its beak on the glass pane of his window.

Curious, Scorpius unfurls the piece of parchment neatly attached to the owl's leg and instantly recognizes Rose's swooped, curly penmanship.

I miss you.

Scorpius clenches his teeth because this is just unfair. He's trying so hard to forget about everything and anything to do with her it's practically giving him a headache. Then she goes and does something like this and Scorpius is back to square one. Again.

Then he looks at the very bottom of the parchment and sees: P.S. I made Head Girl and he just has to laugh because he thinks everyone probably predicted that would happen.

He spends an embarrassing amount of time staring at those three words. It pains him to acknowledge this, but the letter fills him with a weird sense of loss. Honestly? He misses Rose too.

(Yeah, his transformation into a girl has just officially been completed. )

So he decides the smartest thing to do would be to ignore the letter. Pretend he's never seen it before and forget its entire existence. He crumples the parchment up and leaves it on his bed.

Twenty three minutes later, he smoothens the creased paper out and carefully puts it at the bottom of his Hogwarts trunk.

(Shut up.)

-.-.-

Predictably, Scorpius wakes up twenty minutes to eleven on the first of September. He performs his usual morning ablutions at the speed of light and Apparates onto King's Cross station after saying a hasty goodbye to his mother with a piece of half-eaten buttered toast clamped between his teeth.

He's makes it onto the train with all but five minutes to spare and actually manages to find an empty compartment. When the train starts whistling, he sees a horde of red-heads emerge out of the brick wall gateway and practically stampede their way over to the train in an effort to get on before the Hogwarts Express goes off without them. Scorpius is still laughing when the entire Weasley-Potter pack enter his compartment, wheezing and panting, because the whole thing is just fucking hilarious.

It's bloody awesome to see them all again.

(He studiously tries not to look at Rose.)

A traditional game of Exploding Snap starts and just as Scorpius is dealt his first hand Toby enters the compartment.

"Hello everyone. Is Rose here?" Toby greets as he pops his ugly mug through the compartment door. Scorpius suddenly feels the unexplained urge to put his fist through his face. Don't ask him why.

"Toby!" Rose bounces up and hugs him.

"Aw, aren't they just so cute?" Hugo Weasley coos, and the whole compartment starts to hoot with laughter.

(Guess who's the only one not laughing.)

"Oh, shut it," Toby grins. "C'mon Rose, we've got Head Girl and Head Boy duties."

As soon as the two of them leave, Scorpius turns to Albus, who's ripping into a packet of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. "Toby got Head Boy?" he asks disbelievingly.

"Yeah," Albus chews enthusiastically. "He didn't tell you? Oh—right—" Albus suddenly looks dismayed. "I forgot about you and Toby hating each other's guts."

Scorpius trains his eyes on his hand of cards and slams down a card with a tad more force than necessary.

-.-.-

His first week of his seventh year is basically shit.

Pretty much every single professor starts off their lesson with a lecture about their NEWTs that goes on for-fucking-ever. Yeah, he appreciates how concerned they are about their education and all, but really, when you've heard one NEWT lecture, you've heard them all.

Then, after said lecture finally ends, the professors promptly pile homework on them like there's no tomorrow. By the first day, Scorpius is already severely backed up with mountains of essays, assignments and projects. Professor McGonagall goes extra batshit crazy and gives them a bloody three foot essay on the Five Principle Exceptions that they're supposed to hand in in two days. Three. Feet.

(Yep, that sound you just heard was the collective souls of all seventh year students dying at the same time.)

Scorpius barely sleeps at all. Most of his time is spent hunched over a writing desk, furiously scribbling about cross-species switches or flipping through some musty tome about the seven uses of dragon blood. By the time he gets to the weekend, he's fucking exhausted.

Conclusion: his seventh year gets off to a terrible start.

(It has nothing to do with that fact that he hardly gets to see a certain member of the Weasley family anymore.)

-.-.-

The only thing that gets him through the torture is the promise of Quidditch practice at the end of the week.

It's been a while since he's ridden his broomstick, so as he walks onto the fresh green grass of the pitch at the crack of dawn, the familiar adrenaline rush he always associates with flying charges through him and lifts his spirits. Breathing in the crisp early morning air almost makes him forget about the gigantic Potions essay due on Monday that he has yet to start.

The rest of the team slowly assembles. Albus, who's not exactly a morning person, is barely even conscious as he hobbles over to Scorpius by using his Speedflight 3000 as a crutch.

"Five thirty in the morning is way too fuckin' early," he mumbles.

Scorpius is about to formulate a reply when the very last person he wants to see comes into view.

(He almost forgot Toby was in the team, too.)

"Alright, team! Up and early!" Toby says loudly, and claps several drowsy Slytherins on the back. "Good thing I managed to book the pitch before those Gryffindor's got dibs, eh? Right, let's start off with a few practice laps around the pitch!"

Scorpius' good mood sours instantly. Funny how it had a tendency to do that around Toby Arlington. "Why the bloody hell is he telling us what to do? Acting like he's the captain, or something—"

A horrible thought suddenly occurs to him.

He shakes Albus awake vigorously. "Albus! Don't tell me—Toby Quidditch captain this year?"

Albus blinks his bleary eyes. "Yeah, he is…" he trails off. "You didn't know?"

Why is Scorpius even surprised?

-.-.-

Scorpius gets reprimanded for a total of twenty-six times during the three hour practice session.

Toby criticizes everything about him—his flying technique, his speed, his snitch-hunting methods. He even tells Scorpius that his Quidditch uniform is too dirty. Every time Scorpius makes the smallest mistake, Toby is instantly right there beside him, correcting him on the way he's positioning his fingers on the broom, or whatever. You'd think that by being on the Quidditch team since he was a second year, Scorpius would know how to play. But no, according to Toby, he's been doing virtually everything wrong all this time.

(It doesn't take long for Scorpius to figure out that Toby is out to get him.)

What's worse is that he doesn't even yell or use obscenities. He's as genial and cordial as ever. It's either, "Malfoy, remember to keep your eyes on the Snitch! Don't lose focus!" or "I see you're utilizing the Hawkthorne formation—why not try the Fleming's? It's much more effective." His friendly tone just aggravates Scorpius all the more. He just knows Toby's completely doing this on purpose. There's this patronizing glint in his eye that only Scorpius seems to notice.

Predictably, no one even twigs that anything is going on. Of course, everyone thinks that Toby just wants Scorpius to get better so that the team can win. The perfect team captain. No one would ever doubt Toby. He's a fucking angel, for Merlin's sake.

But he keeps his mouth shut and nods whenever Toby opens his gob, although the urge throw a good Toenail-Growing hex at him is almost overwhelming. But, you know, he'll control himself for the sake of the team. If Toby wants to continue hounding him, he's completely welcome to. Scorpius certainly isn't going to crack anytime soon. He's forced to accept that—regardless of the fact that Scorpius fucking hates Toby—he has to respect his authority as captain.

(Though whoever made Toby Quidditch captain needs a serious mental checkup. Look, he's just saying.)

Despite all that, as the practice progresses, Toby's face begins to morph into a very appealing punching bag. By the time the three hours are over, Scorpius is practically seething. He stomps over to the showers to wash the stink of sweat off him and spends the rest of the day feeling irrationally pissed off at everything.

This year just keeps getting worse and worse.

-.-.-

It takes a while for the relentless onslaught of school work to ease up. For the first time in weeks, Scorpius is finally able to spare enough time and energy in the morning to do his regular laps around the Black Lake.

He doesn't know what he's hoping for, but after running past a particular rock by the lake about twenty times, he feels peculiarly crushed when Rose doesn't show up with her usual book in hand.

(Really, what else was he expecting?)

-.-.-

He's in the Great Hall slurping up a huge bowl of soggy Tarantula Treaties when Albus bounds over and says gleefully, "Scor. Party in the Ravenclaw common room tonight."

It's the first party of the year and though the appeal of parties has sort of worn off for Scorpius, he's looking forward to it. It's a welcome distraction from the constant presence of parchment and quills.

By midnight, the party is in full swing when Scorpius and Albus show up. There's music thumping, the room is packed and the usual charmed kegs are floating merrily in the air. He already has a few drinks in his system and he's laughing raucously at something stupid when Scorpius abruptly notices Rose-and-Toby in the corner, both of them curled up on an armchair in a shadowy corner with their arms wrapped around each other.

He instantly stiffens and his fist tightens around his plastic cup of mild Firewhiskey. The cup crumples and some liquid spills over.

(Needless to say, his rate of alcohol consumption increases dramatically after that.)

He tries really hard to distract himself again, he really does, but somehow the image of Rose-and-Toby snogging is branded onto the back of his eyelids. The more he drinks, the more the sickening feeling in his gut grows. Under normal circumstances, Scorpius would select some willing girl to take back to his dorm, but somehow no one seems to interest him in the least.

(Except one girl. But let's not talk about her.)

So he drinks more to numb everything. It's a vicious cycle but it seems to be the only thing that can keep unwanted thoughts at bay. He came to the party to have fun, damn it. So, he's going to have fun no matter what it takes. Fuck everything else.

However, one more drink later, he's forced to face the fact that the party is as far from fun as anything can get. Seriously, now he can't even get through a party without feeling miserable. All because he saw Rose-and-Toby together. He's weak. It's fucking pathetic.

Scorpius quietly slips away from the crowd and breathes a sigh of relief when he steps out onto the darkened corridors. He's barely taken five steps when someone calls out from behind him.

"Scor! Hold on—wait—"

He turns around and is utterly shocked to see a thoroughly inebriated Caitlyn. It's the first time he's ever seen her completely piss drunk. Her blonde hair is messy and somehow she's only wearing one shoe. She sluggishly makes her way towards Scorpius, her fingers just barely holding onto a half-empty bottle of Firewhiskey.

"Er—Caitlyn?" he says uncertainly.

"Scor!" she slings her arm around Scorpius and giggles. "I'm drunk."

"Clearly," he raises an eyebrow.

She roars with laughter like he just told the most hilarious joke she's ever heard. Scorpius hastily shushes her because, you know, they're not actually supposed to be in the corridors at night. Filch is constantly on the prowl. "It feels weird," she breathes, her eyes bright and dilated. "I can't really feel my feet."

Right on cue, she staggers nearly plants her face on the ground.

He hurriedly steadies her. "What's wrong with you? You don't usually drink…"

"Yes, but that was before I knew how bloody awesome it was," she explains as quietly as possible, a huge smile on her face. "Now I'm going to drink—drink as much as I want…" Caitlyn holds up her bottle of Firewhiskey. "This stuff is amazing."

He snorts with barely contained laughter. "Right, you can barely even walk so I'm going to walk you back to your common room now."

Caitlyn nods energetically. "How nice of you."

Scorpius starts to haul her forward. She keeps up a steady stream of whispered conversation (well, it's not so much conversation as slurred, disconnected sentences that hardly make any sense at all) and all he does is nod and agree at random intervals to appease her. Although he thinks Caitlyn could catch on fire now and she probably wouldn't even notice a thing.

They're rounding a corner when, without warning, Caitlyn stops talking and pushes Scorpius up against the wall with surprising strength. Before he can ask her what in Merlin's name is going on, she leans in and kisses him hard on his mouth.

Scorpius feels like he's been Petrified. He stops moving completely and his face feels frozen. The bitter taste of alcohol seeps through. This whole situation is just so bizarre that he wonders briefly if this is all just some highly disturbing dream.

The first thing Scorpius notices when she pulls away is the tears on Caitlyn's freckled face. It's a complete one eighty turn from her mood a few seconds ago and honestly? Scorpius is a little scared.

"I'm still in love with Toby," Caitlyn blurts, palming at her wet cheeks.

Scorpius stares. His mouth starts working on its own accord. "I think I might be in love with Rose."

(He's never even admitted this to himself before, but it's the wretched truth.)

Caitlyn jerks back in surprise, eyes widening. She takes a while to contemplate this. "This is so fucked up," she says, hiccoughing.

Scorpius wholly agrees.

-.-.-

Later, when it's about four in the morning and Scorpius's head is still buzzing too much for him to fall asleep, he comes to a nauseating conclusion: Scorpius has gone and landed himself smack bang in the middle of a love square.

(Fuck, when did his life become such a teenage cliché?)

-.-.-

Neither of them mention what happened that night again. Scorpius isn't sure if Caitlyn even remembers what she did and what she said but he thinks subject matters like this would probably be better left alone.

-.-.-

Nearly one month of his seventh year passes before Scorpius even gets the chance to say a single word to Rose. He stumbles across her sitting in her usual spot in the library when he's looking for something for his latest Herbology assignment. Her coppery head buried in between the dusty pages of some book that's probably not even in their required curriculum. It's one of those rare moments where she's actually alone, and Toby is nowhere in sight.

Rose is so absorbed with her reading that she doesn't even notice he's there. His first reaction is to turn and leave her alone (it's what she wants, after all) but then he decides, fuck that.

"Hello, Weasley," he says.

Rose's head jerks away from the pages she's nearly kissing. Her mouth forms a perfect O. "Er. Hello, Scorpius."

(Hearing his name come out of her mouth does very strange things to him.)

He languidly drops himself into the chair opposite and makes himself comfortable. "Fancy seeing you here. In the library, of all places. Rather unusual, really. Didn't figure you for a reading type of person."

Rose's mouth forms a smile. "I had a bit of free time, so I'm doing a little light reading." She gestures at the book—A Complete History of Time-Travelling and It's Origins by Miranda Goshawk—that's anything but light.

Scorpius laughs a little. "So, what's going on? Haven't seen you around in a while."

"Oh, you know. Head Girl duties, homework, NEWTs… all that's been keeping me rather occupied. I barely have any time to breathe." Rose looks distinctly uncomfortable but neither of them bring up the topic of Toby forbidding Rose to interact with Scorpius. They both know that's the real reason why.

"NEWTs? Don't tell me you've already started NEWT revision," Scorpius is mildly horrified.

She looks scandalized. "Of course I've already started! I actually started during the summer holidays but now I think I should've started earlier."

He laughs because Rose Weasley? Just as crazy as ever.

She gazes at him with a curious, unreadable expression on her face. Silence falls and Rose breaks it a few seconds later with a quiet: "You didn't return my letter."

It takes him a moment to realize that she's talking about the letter that Scorpius currently has tucked away securely in the bottom of his trunk. I miss you.

Her brown eyes are trained on him. See, this is where being a Legilimens would come in handy. He desperately wants to know what Rose is thinking.

"Yeah. Well. I miss you too," he says.

(He thinks this might be the first time he's ever said these words to a girl.)

Rose gives him a sad smile that he can't seem to decipher. There's something hovering in the air between them, something palpable but not quite tangible that's not entirely unpleasant. Neither of them say anything.

Then, the moment passes and she promptly starts filling him in on her extensive preparations for NEWTs. He spends the next few hours catching up with Rose to compensate for the fact that he hasn't said more than five words to her since the end of sixth year. It doesn't take long for him to realize that he genuinely misses hanging around with Rose. It's almost like old times again, when they used to be kind of, sort of best mates with each other.

Except this time round, everything is different.

(It's the first time he spends his whole Sunday cooped up in the library.)

-.-.-

The next morning, Scorpius is on his usual morning jog. He's on his fifth lap when he sees the all-too-familiar distant figure of Rose sitting down on her rock with a book cradled in her hands. For a second he thinks it's a crazy hallucination, or something, but then she looks up and waves.

"Morning," Rose says, shutting her book. Her smile is tentative and unsure.

He slows down gradually and stops. "Morning," Scorpius replies, a million questions whirring about in his head. Before he can think, he blurts, "Didn't Toby tell you to stay away from me?"

The next second, he feels like kicking himself in the bollocks. There he goes, fucking everything up again. He shouldn't have even mentioned Toby's name.

Rose's expression morphs into distress. "Things with Toby… they're not going well."

This is definitely news to him. He'd never have guessed that things were going awry in the perfect relationship that was Rose-and-Toby. It's almost unbelievable.

The way hope rises up in his chest is almost repugnant but he tries valiantly to squash it back down. Scorpius arranges his face into a mask of distant curiosity and raises an eyebrow. "Really?"

She's silent for a bit. Scorpius makes himself comfortable on a patch of grass near her boulder. "Penny for your thoughts."

"You know what I think?" she abruptly turns her head and stares at him. "I think all boys are idiots."

"Harsh, Weasley," he laughs, interest piqued.

"I'm being completely serious! You're all idiots. It might be in different ways, and some are bigger idiots than others, but you're all idiots."

"And how exactly did you come to this enlightening conclusion?"

"Toby…" Rose lets out her breath. "I didn't think he would be like this," she admits quietly. "He keeps thinking you and me have something going on. Which isn't entirely true, but—" Rose shoots him an uncomfortable glance. "—it's becoming horribly suffocating. He keeps wanting to know where I am all the time. And he seems to follow me around everywhere."

(The selfish part of him is doing victory whoops.)

She pulls her knees up. "I think… I think I idealized him. It's just that I've been wanting him for so long—almost since I was a Second Year—that I sort of built up this perfect version of Toby in my head. Caring, kind, and the most wonderful person ever. I honestly thought he could do no wrong. Which is why it comes as such a surprise when he's…"

"A total sod?" Scorpius helpfully supplies.

Rose laughs a little. "Well, no, not that. He's just not who I thought he was."

"What's he done to piss you off, exactly?"

"He's done absolutely nothing. He is, for all intents and purposes, the best boyfriend anyone could ask for…"

Scorpius is a little confused. Of course, what he's hearing is all good news to him but he doesn't understand what her being here means for him. For both of them. "Then why're you here?"

"I… I don't know," she says helplessly. She sets her eyes on his. "I really don't know what I'm doing."

It's highly unusual to see Rose looking so lost and confused. Generally she has an answer for everything. Before he can stop himself, he reaches out and wraps his arms around her small form. Her head is tucked neatly under her chin. "You'll probably find out soon enough. So cheer up, Weasley."

"Thank you," her voice is small and muffled. "Can I just say something that I know you'll absolutely abhor?"

"Shoot."

"I think you'll make a really good boyfriend," Rose smiles hesitantly.

(He hates that he can feel his pulse change. Also, she is the queen of the mind fuck. If this isn't mixed signals, he doesn't know what is.)

So he pulls himself away from her and takes a step back. Deeps breaths. (He's just realizing now how cold it is. He's wondering how she can sit there in that skirt and he worries, for a second, that she's cold. Then he remembers that he's pissed, so he turns his back on her.)

"Scorpius?" Rose looks bewildered.

"This isn't fair," he says angrily. He's aware that he sounds positively childish. "It isn't fair for me, or for Toby."

(Yes, he can hardly believe that he's actually standing up for Toby, either.)

"But—"

"You can't just come to me every time he makes you angry. It doesn't work like that, for Merlin's sake."

"It's not like that!"

"Then please tell me what this is." He gestures rapidly between him and Rose. "Because I'd really like to fucking know what's going on here."

"It's just that—everything between us is so easy and natural We're best friends, right? Or at least, we used to be. I hate this. I really do. I meant what I said yesterday, Scorpius. I miss you. I'm not—I'm not playing with the both of you."

"Rose…"

"I just don't know which is supposed to be better. You know?" she seems close to tears.

"I hope you figure it out," he says coldly. It's happening again—he's seems to be automatically building up this icy wall of apathy so that no one, not even Rose, can see how much this bloody hurts.

"I'm trying to, believe me," a tear slips down her cheek. (His thumb is itching to wipe it off, but his arm stays by his side.)

"It's simple. Make a choice. "

Rose looks up at him. "Don't make me do that."

"Just pick."

She pauses. "Toby," she almost whispers.

He makes sure his expression remains as stony as ever. "See? Simple."

Then he turns and walks away.


Author's Note: Not finished yet but I just wanted to break this up into two parts because otherwise it would've been far too long as one chapter. :D Stay tuned for the next chapter! Reviews would be absolutely lovely.