I apologise for it taking so long for this update, but hopefully ~9.5K worth of story & important character development to sink your teeth into will make up for that lag.
Chapter 14: Survivor of Insecurity
Thursday, July 10th, 2013 (late evening) - Friday, July 11, 2013 (early morning)
It was eleven o'clock, and Rose had not yet returned home.
Although Scorpius was all for his lover's personal autonomy, and had for the last two and a half hours, bottled up his anxiety at her lateness in an attempt to respect her request to that end, he was now in agreement with his Veela: something was delaying her on purpose, and he should go out and bring her home. He couldn't shake the sense of foreboding hanging over his head, either, as to the reason.
He took the Floo back to his family's Manor just in case Rose had gotten her wands crossed and had gone there to meet up with him.
To his disappointment, she wasn't anywhere on the lower levels of his family's home, so he headed for the private suites above. Rushing upstairs, he checked his rooms first (no dice), then headed over to his father's wing. He'd paused only a few seconds to catch his breath before knocking on his father's bedroom door. The scent of cinnamon and nutmeg was strong in the air around the old man's wing, tickling Scorpius' nose and making him sneeze.
His father answered the summons in a robe, and stepped out into the hallway so as not to disturb his mate. Immediately, his eyes widened and he made a small production of sniffing in Scorpius' direction.
"Have you-?" He paused, clearly unsure how to phrase the obvious question without causing embarrassment for them both. "I mean... are you-?"
"Mated?" Scorpius supplied, feeling his cheeks pink. He was no blushing school girl about sex normally, but he and his father were still working through the gap in their awkward relationship. It was still a bit difficult to put himself and his private life out there, despite having shared so much already with his family, because he'd spent years emotionally disconnected from them. "I gave her the First Mark and... yeah, but not the Second or Third Marks. She asked to take things slow."
His father's face split with a wide grin. "Congratulations, son!" He clapped Scorpius on the shoulder. "This is great news!"
It was amazing how such a little gesture and a bunch of words could make Scorpius feel like he was ten-years-old all over again. For years, he'd wanted this connection with his father, but his father had been deadened to the world and unable to give him such closeness and warmth. Scorpius now understood why that had happened –to keep his Veela from going feral and consuming him after Scorpius' mum's death, Draco had had to channel all his concentration into a sort of energy stalemate, leaving little room for warm-touchy-feely type things with others– but Scorpius still felt cheated of the chance to have had a proper father-son relationship.
They were making up for it now, though. This was their second chance to make things right. Maybe that's what mattered most.
"I'm sorry to disturb your sleep, but has Rose come here tonight?" he asked.
His father shook his head. "No, we haven't seen her today."
"She was supposed to meet me for brunch," Hermione Granger replied, sticking her head out of his father's bedroom door. The rest of her, Scorpius noted, remained shielded behind the sturdy oak portal. "Apparently, she was held up then, too." A playful smirk lit up her face.
Yeah, Rose had been tied-up earlier this afternoon all right - by a blue, silk scarf, to the iron rails of her headboard, completely naked...
He cleared his throat, and then his mind of its dirty thoughts, focussing on the conversation. "Sorry for making her miss her appointment with you. We were... busy."
He rubbed the back of his head, feeling sheepish. His Veela internally snorted and called him an idiot. He told the beast to 'stuff it'.
"She had Quidditch practise after that, and we'd agreed to meet back at her flat earlier tonight. She never showed. I'm -we're- worried."
Draco and his mate exchanged one of those silent glances that only long-time-in-love couples can interpret.
"What time is it?" Hermione asked.
Scorpius checked the Muggle time-piece on his wrist. "Half-past eleven."
Another look passed between his father and Hermione.
"I'll Floo-call The Burrow," she volunteered, and ducked back inside the bedroom, leaving the door open a crack.
"Have you tried her friends?" his father asked.
Scorpius shook his head. "Came here first. I figured I'd try them next."
"Call them from the downstairs Floo in the library." His dad began loosening the knot on the belt around his waist. "I'll meet you there in a few minutes. Just let me get dressed."
"I'm sorry," Scorpius offered. "I didn't mean to get you and Hermione up this late at night."
Draco's hand returned to his shoulder, this time to comfort with a slight squeeze. "If you're concerned about Rose missing, there's a reason. I trust your instincts, as should you. And don't be sorry to ask me for help. I might not have been able to do anything for you before-" He looked chagrined. "-but I'm here for you now, son." He clapped him once on the shoulder. "I'll help in any way I can."
The older man disappeared behind his bedroom door before Scorpius could reply, and Scorpius dashed off to the library, brushing tears from his eyes.
The first Floo-call he made was to Eleri. She didn't answer, however. Next, he called on each of Rose's friends, as well as Marcus, Hugo, and Al, but the answer was always the same: no, they didn't know where Rose was, and they hadn't talked to her within the last few days, either.
"You tried Eleri, right?" Al asked.
"Yeah, she's out."
Al was quiet a moment. "On a work night, at this time? That's strange, don't you think?"
"What are you implying?"
Al gave him a flat stare. "Does your ex have jealousy issues?" He held up a hand. "Please, do us both the favour and don't bother denying it. Everyone knew in school you took her cherry. Besides, she mumbles your name in her sleep."
Scorpius was floored by that implication. "But… you're gay!" he protested.
Al's smirk was pure wickedness. "According to whom?" He went serious a heartbeat later, his range of emotions as versatile as his wit. "Don't get your wand in a knot, big boy. She was experimenting to get over you, and it was only once. Turns out two guys at once aren't her thing. Louis was crushed by her rejection, though - it was his first time, you know." He smirked again. "What a way to lose your virginity! Anyway, one thing's for sure: she's got a temper, that one - almost as bad as my mum. If I were you, I'd head over to Eleri's place, pronto, and make sure she hasn't got Rose trussed up like a Christmas goose and laid out on her table for a late night snack."
As Scorpius stood there, considering what to do next, an uncomfortable flush of heat hit him out of the blue. It scampered up his spine, and nailed him at the base of his skull. Hot on its heels, an ominous feeling followed, tightening his chest and twisting his guts. He loosened the top two buttons of his shirt and tugged at his collar, taking deep breaths, trying to get some air.
Something was very wrong.
Scorpius' Veela hissed inside his mind, sharing the sentiment, having felt what he had.
"I think you're right," he murmured to his friend, climbing to his feet. "I'm heading to El's place."
"Want me to come with?"
Scorpius stared into the Floo fire at the man. Al may have belonged to the fraternity of Slytherin when they'd been in school together, but there was still enough of his father and mother's reckless loyalty in him to make one wonder why he hadn't been sorted into Gryffindor.
"No, but thanks for the offer," Scorpius replied, waving his friend off. "I need you to stay put, just in case Rose shows up at your place or tries to Floo-call you. If you see or hear from her, send her to the Manor right away."
"Will do," Al promised.
The fire went out as Scorpius closed the connection.
As he headed for the door of the library, the Veela was snarling in Scorpius' head like some sort of rabid dog. In a ferocious, unexpected launch, it tried to force its way to the front of his consciousness, to take over his body. It hammered into the front of Scorpius' skull, nearly dragging him to his knees in the process. Scorpius fought with everything he had to retain control of his limbs, gripping the door frame for support.
You're not thinking rationally, he shouted in his mind at his bestial side. With the state you're in, if you take control, you'll rampage and bring the Aurors down on us. What good will that do Rose then?
Can't you feel that? It screamed at him. She's hurt!
"I feel it, but we don't know for sure-" Scorpius tried to argue around panting for breath. A powerful wave of dizziness suddenly assaulted him, though, curtailing that line of reasoning. He had to lean against the wall for a moment until it passed.
Shit, the Veela was right, wasn't he? Rose was in serious trouble, wherever she was. Somehow, he just knew it was true.
This was bad. Really bad. He could feel his Veela teetering on the edge of sanity as the magical call of their mate's distress banged about inside his head and heart. If his other half went out of control, it might not only devour him, but destroy everything in its path to get to Rose. The Ministry wouldn't hesitate to put him down anymore than it would a berserk Werewolf or a rogue Vampire. It would be the death of them both, with Rose still out there, in trouble, if he couldn't get the monster within to calm down.
"Stomping around and tearing things up won't help us to find our mate any faster. She needs you to think this time, Veela, not act," he tried again, speaking as evenly as he could, considering the physical illness that was beginning to plague him. "Help me come up with a way to find her, and fast!"
He could feel the creature's struggle to temper its wrath. That spell, it offered, the night you stood outside her cousin's house, for a date.
Scorpius considered it. "Point Me only works if the object is nearby." Still, he took his wand out and attempted the spell. All it did was turn once and point to the magnetic north, which indicated Rose wasn't close enough for the magic to latch onto her aura. "At least we know she's not in Wiltshire. Anything else?" His mind whirled with possibilities. "We could follow my Patronus, if I sent it to her."
He gripped his wand in hand, preparing to cast the spell when another wall of pin-prickly heat slammed into him. His entire body flushed and perspired the same way it would if he'd stood too close to a bonfire for too long. Sweat dripped into his eyes.
She's dying, the Veela explained, agonised. I feel her dying! Do something or I will!
The ritual, Scorpius realised. The Veela mating ritual that changed his body and his magical aura the night of his twenty-fifth birthday had done this to him to alarm him to his mate's distress and pain. It had ensured that he'd always know if his mate were in danger. It had created between them a two-way conduit, that he'd been able to exploit to enter her dreams.
Hope flared in his chest as inspiration struck.
Come forward and take the body, he demanded of the Veela, stripping off his shirt so the beast's wings wouldn't be pinned when they emerged, but stay in control. Don't fly off the handle. I have an idea.
He hoped this worked, because it might be their only chance.
Parting the grey curtain of Rose's unconsciousness had proved extremely difficult. Something about its structure and strength had altered just enough for Scorpius and his Veela, working together, to have to exert great force of will to push it aside. Once they were in, though, Scorpius' idea worked like magic.
He was standing in the front yard of the house from Rose's nightmares, only this time, it was daylight. The sun beat down on Scorpius' head, causing another flush of heat through him. He opened his mouth, only to feel the moisture across his tongue dry up.
Quickly, he and his Veela moved down the white, gravel path and to the front door of the house that represented Rose's subconscious.
To his surprise, a bloody hand print still marked the entrance, stark red against a glaring, white backdrop.
The Veela, in control of Scorpius' body just then, spread its vast wings and began pushing air around. It lifted its nose and began sniffing.
A growl emanated from its throat.
It sniffed again… and obviously scenting something it didn't like flew into a rage the likes of which Scorpius had never felt before. It punched a hand right through the solid oak front door. Razor-sharp talons elongated from its fingertips, and he used them to tear at the wood, pulling it apart and turning it into so much kindling. When his progress seemed too slow, the Veela simply slammed his shoulder into the door with a strength Scorpius hadn't guessed it possessed, and tore the thing right off its hinges.
The inside of the house was much different from the last time they'd been here. It was neat as a pin, with cosy furniture, plush carpet, and tasteful wall decorations and colour. It was a picture-perfect setting of mental tranquillity – minus the blood that began oozing and dripping from the ceiling the moment they'd stepped foot inside.
"MATE!" his Veela shouted. "WHERE ARE YOU?"
No sound was forthcoming at first. Then, very faintly, Scorpius heard the sound of Rose crying.
Back bedroom, down the hallway, he directed the Veela, following a hunch.
The Veela moved so fast, the room blurred. A second or two after he'd made his suggestion he stood before the closed door to the back bedroom, where he'd last found Rose hiding and in tears. A simple shove of the door with the flat of his palm, and the flimsy inside lock was snapped in two, and the door thrown open.
Rose was kneeling in the centre of the room, naked, giving him her profile. She was covered from head to toe with dark smudges that looked like dried mud and...
He and the Veela just stopped, both of them too shocked to move at first.
Even from the side, they could see very clearly that the soft flesh of her back and chest had been cut into ribbons, and blood flowed freely from the long, slashes. The ends of her hair and the front of her body were drenched by it. She was rocking back and forth, saying his name, sobbing in between, and her hands were covering her eyes.
"Scorpius… my Veela," she cried. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
Scorpius mentally kicked his Veela into action. They crossed the room to kneel before Rose, and reached out to gently take her wrists.
"Mate, look at me."
His Veela was grief-stricken by Rose's suffering. He retracted his claws -easily done with the same inherent magic that conjured his wings and drew shadows to him- and touched her with gentleness.
"Rose, babe, please."
Her sobbing only grew louder. "Don't look at me," she wailed. "I'm dirty now. So dirty."
Use your magic to heal her wounds. Just like you did with her virginity that night at school, Scorpius nudged his beast.
The Veela did as bade, but Scorpius noted it took a lot out of him to do so. There was a queer jolt that went through him, and for a minute, he felt nothing but a blinding white pain that seared his frontal lobe - like brain-freeze times a hundred. Eventually, it tapered off, leaving behind a nasty headache.
Warn me next time you do that, he groused, shaking his head.
When his vision returned, he was pleased to note that the blood flow stemming from Rose's wounds was greatly reduced. However, it didn't stop all together and the wounds did not close. Whatever had hurt Rose had damaged her too severely for them to fix. She would eventually bleed to death.
With a despairing sob, the Veela wrapped his wings around her and drew her into his arms, cradling her smaller body against his. "My beautiful mate," he whispered, nuzzling her, kissing her everywhere he could reach. It didn't matter that she was filthy, or that she smelled of blood and the rich scent of earth. All that mattered was they were comforting her. "I'm here."
"Veela... I'm sorry," she murmured around pulls of their lips. "I couldn't stop him."
Between one breath and the next, the Veela stopped kissing her. He sniffed again, then again, deeper, pressing his nose into her wilted, dirty hair.
"No!" he moaned, pained, shaking in growing rage. "No, no, no!"
Scorpius tried to pierce through the Veela's separate consciousness, to understand what was happening. He and his beast may have shared the same body, but with the Veela this much in control, he was not able to access its memories or its thoughts. He began putting the facts together instead, and what he was imagining frightened him more than anything ever had.
It's another Veela, isn't it? A male Veela. When his other half didn't respond, he knew his guess had hit the mark. Tell me what you know!
His bestial side ignored him. Clearly, he was teetering on the edge of sanity; his jaw was clenched so tight his teeth nearly cracked from the pressure. "How?" he asked their mate, his voice little more than a feral growl.
Rose began crying harder, and this time, she wrapped her arms around the Veela and buried her face in his chest. "I didn't know he was a Veela. His whole family… they're like the Malfoys! I never knew!" Her sobs grew in strength and in modulation, wracking her weakened body with powerful spasms. "His father knocked me out and held me down with spells, and... Oh, God, he changed! He had gold wings and gold eyes! He changed!"
With a tenderness that belied his monstrous anger just then, the Veela tilted her head and push her hair aside, seeking something... and with a sinking despair, finding it.
Two puncture holes bruised the side of Rose's throat.
Scorpius' worst fears were confirmed.
"It's him, isn't it?" his Veela asked. His voice was low and filled with menace. "I smell him through the veil of dreams. It's Corwin."
"Yes," she whispered, hiding her face with humiliation against him again. "He's twenty-five today."
Scorpius went temporarily numb at the revelation.
His cousin was Veela? How was that possible? How had he and his family never known? Sure, they'd never been close, but… Did he give her all three Marks, he asked his Veela, but the beast wasn't listening just then. It had gone stone still. Anger clouded its mind.
Scorpius used the distraction as a chance to creep forward, taking back some control of their shared body. The moment his and the Veela's mind merged again, he knew everything it did, felt everything it did, as usual. What he saw in his mind's eye was an abyss of despair, filled in with a fury so red hot it nearly scorched him to look too long upon it.
Taking control of their shared mouth, Scorpius asked the pertinent questions, since it seemed his Veela was incapable of doing so just then.
"Rose, tell us: did Corwin give you all three Marks?"
She shook her head. "He never gave me the First Mark, he just bit me, and then he…" Her tears came fast once more, and were painful to witness. "He forced his way inside me, but he didn't… finish."
Scorpius felt his Veela go completely still at that revelation.
"He raped you?"
Slowly, she nodded her head.
He and his Veela both saw red.
"But his mother stunned him," Rose explained. "She pulled him off me and got me out of that house." She looked up at him, her big, blue eyes begging him to understand. "I didn't want him! I swear to you, I didn't want him! I fought him, and I begged for him not to mate me, but his Veela… Scor, his Veela is like yours. It's separate. It completely took him over! It's... twisted and cruel – nothing like Corwin. I could tell Cor didn't want to hurt me, but his Veela was too strong. He couldn't stop it."
His cousin had raped his mate. That son of a bitch had hurt his Rose!
The man would pay.
But first, he needed to find his lover. She was the priority, no matter how much his Veela wanted to rend and tear and destroy at that moment. Scorpius forcefully had to remind his beast that Rose was still in danger and needed to be saved. That fact alone kept it from flying off the handle.
Together, they stroked her face with gentle touches. "Where are you? In the real world, where are you right now, mate?"
Rose shook her head, clearly confused. "I don't know. The last thing I remember was Corwin's mum calling out for The Burrow."
Scorpius and his Veela gathered her as close as possible and held her tight to them, using their Veela wings to caress over her and attempt to calm her. "Wherever you are, Rose, we'll find you. Nothing and no one will keep us from you."
She cried even harder, then. "I don't want either of you to see me like this. I feel so dirty!"
The anguish in her voice tore at them.
"You are not dirty," they insisted. "Nothing has changed for us. We love you. You are our mate, and we will find you. Stay where you are." They kissed her again, and with a great concentrated effort, conjured a sheet for her to wrap around herself. It wasn't much, but this was her nightmare, and it sapped a lot of their energy just to do that much for her. They needed to get out of here and back into the real world as quickly as possible.
Scorpius had never before been to The Burrow, her father's family's house, but both he and his Veela supposed it was a visit long overdue.
"Wait for us, pretty mate. We're coming for you."
The trip back to reality was as difficult and exhausting as it had been going into the dream. Scorpius' Veela was on its last legs, having exerted so much of itself to enter Rose's nightmare and affect change while there. The only thing getting them back up on their feet the moment Scorpius' eyes opened was the need to get to their mate, because she was suffering.
"Son, are you all right? What happened?"
His father was at his side, helping him in his struggle to make his feet and stay standing.
"You went into the dream, didn't you?" Hermione asked, supporting him on his other side. "You went to find Rose."
Weakly, Scorpius nodded, leaning all his weight into his father. "She's hurt. Corwin's a Veela. He raped her! Tried to claim her!"
His father's face blackened with thunderous anger. "What?"
"Did he force the Marks on her?" Hermione interrupted, clearly stricken by the news. "Did he succeed in taking her from you?"
Scorpius shook his head. "She said... he never gave the First Mark, but jumped to the Second. He didn't manage to get her with the Third Mark before... his mother stopped him. She saved Rose." He tried to push his father's hold away so he could move on his own two feet, but swayed and began to fall as he took a single step. "She's at The Burrow. Have to... go."
Hermione and his father were there in an instant to keep him from falling flat on his face. They reaffirmed their hold on him, each supporting a side.
"She's not at The Burrow," his step-mother informed him. "No one's answering the Floo there. If Rose was injured, her father's probably taken her to St. Mungo's."
"Take me there. Now," he demanded, barely keeping conscious himself. Whatever was happening to Rose was suddenly draining him, too.
The three hurried to the Floo in the Drawing Room, the only fireplace in the house set-up to transport people. Scorpius' father held onto him in a tight hold with one arm as Hermione gave him a handful of green powder and stepped back.
"I'll get your parents and meet you there," she informed her mate.
His father nodded and tossed down the Floo powder. "St. Mungo's lobby," he called out.
Scorpius had to shut his eyes as they moved with dizzying speed through the Floo network.
His Veela began shouting the instant they landed, despite its diminished energy levels.
It took over Scorpius' body with ease once again, and shoved Draco away, staggering here and there in delirium as it searched for Rose amongst the faces in the main lobby. The heavy weight of its wings drooped behind it until the tips dragged on the floor, but the Veela didn't seem to notice or care that he was leaving a trail of broken feathers in his wake.
"MATE!" it hollered. "Where are you?"
The hospital receptionist hurried over to determine the cause of the ruckus. The moment he laid eyes on Scorpius' Veela, he cautiously stepped out of the range of its sharp claws, which were unsheathed.
"Where is she?" the Veela demanded, hissing and showing off his impressive, sharp fangs. "Where is our mate?"
"Rose Weasley," Scorpius' father supplied. "What level?"
"First level, through there," the wizard replied, pointing off to his right, his gaze moving between the two men. "The 'Dangerous' Dai Llewellyn Ward for Creature-Induced Injuries. She was brought in twenty-minutes ago in critical condition."
The Veela was already heading in the direction pointed before the man had finished speaking. Every step was unsteady, and he weaved back and forth like a drunkard, careening into walls and furniture, but he was determined to get to Rose no matter what.
Let me help, Scorpius offered his partner, trying to push to the front so their energies could combine and sustain them a little longer.
The Veela was too weak to deny him, nearly delirious with exhaustion and from the bizarre draining of its lifeforce caused by their connection to Rose. It allowed Scorpius to move forward in their mind once more. The two of them joined and were able to make it down the hallway with a mostly stable stride.
"MATE!" they bellowed.
From a room further up the hall, an old wizard stepped out of a room and into the hall. He was stooped over, leaning heavily on a cane, and even from the distance, Scorpius could smell the lingering scent of menthol around him. What little there was left of his hair was a shocking white, and it had been cut so short, it appeared a fluffy halo around his ears. "Ah, you must be Scorpius," he said in greeting, his eyes twinkling with interest. He seemed both nervous and inquisitive as he took in Scorpius and his Veela in their combined transformed state. "Big fellow, aren't you?"
Before any more could be said, from inside the room where, apparently, Rose was being tended, there was an eruption.
"Where is he? I'll kill the bastard myself!" a man bellowed, clearly enraged.
"Ron, stop!" an unfamiliar female voice pleaded, and there seemed to be a struggle of some sort.
The angry man –balding on top, with a smattering of ginger hair on the back and sides- appeared in the doorway, glaring at Scorpius and his Veela. At his side, a small, mousy woman with greyish-brown hair was tugging at his arm.
"Ron, let him speak," she protested. "We don't know-"
That was as far as she got, before Ronald Weasley, Rose's father, shook off the woman's hold and stomped down the hallway, meaty fists balled at his side. When he was in range, he took a swing at them, which Scorpius and his Veela dodged with some difficulty, still unsteady. They staggered into the wall and used it to brace themselves as Rose's dad loomed over them in a threatening manner.
"You sodding arsehole!" Ron shouted. "I'll kill you for what you've done to my Rosie!"
In an instant, Scorpius' father was there to catch the next punch aimed right at his son's nose.
"Back off, Weasel," his father sneered, his hold on Ron's wrist solid in its restraint. "My son didn't hurt your daughter."
Ron snarled at Draco Malfoy. "The hell he didn't! He... he mated her without her permission, and now she's so sick the doctors don't know what to do for her!" Fury lent the man some power. He shoved at Scorpius' father with enough strength to break the hold Draco had on him. The two were eye to eye as they went toe-to-toe. "You and your freak family have always destroyed everything you've touched, Malfoy! It wasn't bad enough you almost let a mad man destroy our world, but then you ruined my first marriage, too. Now, you're killing my daughter! Someone needs to put you rabid animals down!"
The witch lingering in the background had clearly heard enough. She stormed up to their little merry group, her wand in her hand and the intent to kick a little arse in her expression. "Ron, that's enough," she hissed. "Husband or not, one more word and I'll gag you myself!"
Ron Weasley looked at the small, waifish woman at his side with clear shock, as if he'd never before heard an unkind word pass her lips. His jaw was somewhere around his ankles as he gaped at her. "But, Suze-" he began.
The witch waved her wand, and a cloth gag appeared around Ronald Weasley's mouth, as promised. The man's eyes bulged.
"Remove it and I'll Petrify you instead," the woman warned her husband through narrowed eyes.
The older wizard with the white hair came forward then, and put a hand on Ron's shoulder. "Son, this isn't helping Rose. Our Petal needs us. Better to spend our energies trying to solve the problem, yes? You can duke it out later." He looked at Scorpius' father. "Mister Malfoy, I'm sure, agrees for his son's sake."
Draco nodded. "Rose comes first. If she dies, my boy does as well. I'm going to do everything I can to assure that doesn't happen." He glanced at Ron Weasley and sneered. "So, stay out of my way, Weasel." He turned to Scorpius and his Veela then, and offered an arm to help them regain their balance. "Come, my son. Let's tend to your mate."
It was difficult to catch a solid lungful of air, much less move a muscle; it was almost like they were breathing through treacle. They took their father's hand and let the older man aid them in walking along the wall towards Rose's room.
Hurry, his Veela whined in his head. She needs me!
Us, Scorpius reminded his beast once more.
They rounded the door jamb… and for a fraction of a second, their heart beat fiercely with relief at finding their mate at last. Then, they got a really good gander at her, and breathing became a problem again.
How small and defenceless Rose looked against the backdrop of white sheets and white walls! She was as pale as a ghost, and the freckles on her face appeared as dark specks of mud across the bridge of her nose. Her lips had a bluish cast to them and her fiery red hair was a dull, limp tangle spread over the hospital pillow. Her eyes were closed, her breathing shallow. She looked too fragile to be real.
This wasn't their mate, who had always been vibrant and healthy, of fierce temper and unrelenting spirit. This was a shell of the woman they loved – a broken doll that had been abused and discarded.
Oh, baby, no...
Two Healers hovered by Rose's bedside, completely oblivious to anything outside their patient's caretaking. The men were arguing about how to keep her alive. Scorpius and his Veela gave them no mind, shoving past them to reach for Rose, collapsing at her side.
The Veela regained control of their shared body the instant they touched her too-cool skin, taking the dominant position once more. Scorpius was bloody exhausted, and unable to fight him just then, so he let go and allowed his beast to take control. He marvelled at how much strength the creature actually had to keep going despite how awful they both felt. The Veela truly was an amazing beast.
"Mate," his other half sobbed into Rose's neck, pulling her unresponsive form into him. "I'm here." With soft caresses to her cheek, jaw, and throat, the Veela tried to coax her into opening her eyes. "Wake up for me. Please come back to me."
He shuffled weakly to get even closer to her. Draco came to his aid, assuring the Veela didn't crush his wings, which had sprouted magically from his bare back once he'd regained full possession of the body. His father seemed to take extra care of the fragile projections, assuring they lay flat, rather than hanging off the bed. The Veela didn't seem to notice or worry that someone was touching his wings –a most sensitive appendage, the loss of which would mean a halving of his power according to Daneetzah's tragic tale– because all of his concentration was fixated on Rose.
With his other half fully dialed in on their mate, Scorpius was able to drift, allowing his focus to be on everything else in the room. He was looking for clues, listening for a diagnosis – anything that would give him an idea as to what was wrong with Rose and how they might save her.
Vaguely, he heard Rose's father swearing near the doorway. "Bloody bastard," he murmured, having removed the gag from around his face. Immediately, Rose's step-mum chastised her husband, threatening to put the mouth binding back in place if he said one more unkind word. That seemed to do the trick of reining in the man's temper.
Nearby, the two Healers were softly speaking to his father about Rose's condition.
"-not sure. Her magical aura is severely damaged," said one wizard. He had a pinched, nasal quality to his voice. "It's almost like it's been torn in two and both halves are poisons of a different kind, each killing her as they try to reshape her to match them. I've never seen anything like it."
"Get a Veela expert in here," Draco demanded. "We need someone who understands the intricacies of mating."
"Is that what this is?" the second Healer asked. His tone was that sterile, clinically professional type of voice meant to ease those who tended towards panic. "A Veela mating gone wrong? I'm afraid it's out of my depth in that case. I'm a magical creature specialist, not someone who knows about bonding rituals among magical beings."
"And I know only what I've read of them – not enough to tackle something this severe," the first Healer ruefully admitted. "Give me a Streeler burn to salve or an Acromantula bite to drain any day, and I know exactly how to cure those things. This-" He waved his hand towards the bed at Rose. "I haven't the faintest idea where to start treating the problem."
There was some movement by the door as a new energy approached, rolling in like a black cloud over a bright horizon. "Call in Skomorovski," Lucius Malfoy ordered as he swept in and came to stand on the other side of Rose's bed. "He's from the Krasnyy Foundation in Samara. The man's been studying Veela for forty years."
"Pardon me, but Skomorovski has dealt primarily with female Veela," the first Healer countered. "I've read some of his papers, and the only references in his writings I recall to male Veelas were in regards to their rarity. Ms. Delacour from the Salem Witches Institute, however, is currently the foremost expert on the male of the species, despite her youth. She's part Veela, herself, and has studied several male Veela for her doctorate thesis while at Université Delphinium in Paris. I've attended several of her lectures. The witch has a fresh insight into the magical aspect of the species that no one's been able to touch upon."
"Well, where is the woman?" Scorpius' grandfather demanded. "Someone find her!"
"Last I heard she was in Turkey on some fact-finding mission for a book she's writing on the subject," the nasally Healer replied.
With a single finger, Draco traced the outer vane of one of Scorpius' wings. "I don't care what you have to do or who you have to push to get it done, but get the Delacour witch here now," he directed the two Healers.
"Which Delacour are you talking about?" Hermione asked from the doorway, having just arrived via Floo and clearly out of breath from rushing through the hospital to reach them.
"Dominique," Ron Weasley supplied. "These two seem to think she's Rose's only hope. I didn't know she was studying Veela." He paused, seeming to consider that. "I'd imagine Fleur would know exactly where her daughter is, yeah?"
Hermione hummed in agreement. "I'll Floo-call her right now. Maybe she can get word to Dom that we need her here stat." Her footsteps retreated back down the hallway towards the lobby, moving with haste.
"'Mione, wait up! Suze and I'll come with," Ron stated. "We can hit the whole family faster with three of us calling out. Suze, you reach out to Gabrielle, I'll take Victoire..." His voice faded off as he and his wife followed after Hermione.
The two St. Mungo's Healers excused themselves from the room as well, letting the others know that they would be on-call down the other end of the hallway. There were promises to return every hour to check on Rose's progress, but really, it was understood that they could serve very little help in this case other than to check on their patient's vitals, as this case was entirely out of their area of expertise. They'd done all they could at this point.
As the room cleared out of all non-essential personnel, Scorpius could feel his father and Lucius both move in to offer comfort and to fortify a position of strength around him, his Veela, and Rose. His grandfather stood stoically by the head of the bed, a powerful, silent guardian, while Draco took up a spot on the opposite side, stroking Scorpius' shoulders and offering him silent support.
Draco's solidarity Scorpius could understand; he and his father had come great strides in patching up their relationship over the past few weeks. They were even now friends, of a sort. However, it struck Scorpius as odd that his grandfather would rally to his need at all, never mind standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Draco, as the relationship between the Malfoy men had always been one of difficulty. That had been true all the way back to Theodosis Black and Lycinus, his son. It was part of the curse, no doubt. Yet, here Draco and Lucius remained, steadfast and loyal to their blood, despite all the disagreements and disappointments in each other.
His grandmother had been right about ol' Lucius: the love was there, just hidden behind whole lot of bluster.
But it wasn't just the men that made the Malfoys resilient, he realised in an unexpected moment of clarity. It had been their mates that had made all the difference in their lives...
First, there was Scorpius' grandmother, who had never wavered in her defence of her husband and the lineage they'd established together. Scorpius had heard the stories of the desperate deal Narcissa had struck with Severus Snape to protect her only son from Voldemort's scheming ways. The woman would do anything for those she loved – including lying to the most powerful and terrifying dark wizard in history. Even now, Narcissa stood nearby. She stroked Rose's forehead with a gentle touch, whispering wishes for the witch to come back to them - accepting a half-blood into their family without hesitation, because she knew how much the witch meant to Scorpius.
Then there had been Scorpius' mother, who had helped gentle his father during a difficult and painful period in his life, and who had provided Draco with his heir. His grandmother had made it clear that Astoria's selflessness and compassion had, most likely, been the only thing that had kept Scorpius' father from drinking himself into a permanent coma when the man had been twenty-five and struggling with the loss of his first love and with society's continued mistrust and hatred of their family name. Astoria had been Draco's salvation during a dark time in his life, and had given him a family of his own to love, even after her death.
When Hermione Granger came around, she'd given his dad a second chance at love. Draco had grabbed it up without hesitation, doubts, or regrets, and now the man was drowning in happiness. In fact, Scorpius could almost feel the warmth in the room rise by degrees as his step-mum returned from her errand and rejoined them, as if the woman carried joy around with her in her pocket. His father beamed at her as she reached for his hand. And her addition to their house was not just one more heart to add to the mix, but two, for she carried Scorpius' sister or brother in her womb, too.
Last to join their ranks would be his Rose... She would be a powerful addition to that line-up of great Malfoy women. Her courage, intelligence, beauty, and personal brand of feminine charm would fit right in.
Of course, none of those relationships might have been possible without the family curse on the Malfoy men. In retrospect, the bane of sharing their lives with a monster had actually been a blessing in disguise, for it had assured their family lineage's continuance, and it had forced them to pick only the best women with the most potent qualities to marry. Kind of a fucked up way to look at it, but... yeah.
And okay, sure, his Veela was annoying, petulant, stubborn, and difficult to deal with at times, but in the end, Scorpius loved the guy. His Veela had saved him from the folly of his youth, when he'd hurt Rose the first time they'd had sex. It had suffered to save them all time and again, and the only thing it had ever asked for in return was the chance to love and mate Rose – something Scorpius had wanted anyway, deep down. It was a vicious, sly, aggressive creature at times, but that single-minded ruthlessness was something Scorpius could respect, too, being a former member of Slytherin House. So, yeah, overall he loved the irascible bastard he shared his life with. The Veela was like his conjoined, dark twin, and he couldn't imagine his life without him now.
These were his family, he thought. All of them. In the middle of the worst tragedy of his life, he'd finally found them.
Funny, but he could almost hear the Veela calling him a big pussy for thinking such things. If it hadn't been so focussed on Rose, he was sure it would have done.
You want me to take the body for a bit, he asked, concerned that the Veela would exhaust itself.
Instead of being annoyed by the offer, his Veela declined with a simple, 'no'.
Scorpius didn't make a fuss over the rejection, understanding by now how the creature he shared his life with operated. If the Veela needed to be the one touching Rose, he would not take that from him. Besides, he was in a much more balanced and reasonable state of mind than his beast, and listening to the others discuss the situation, taking in what they were really saying and noting the things they were not, was just as important a task right then as attempting to coax Rose back into consciousness. So, he'd leave his other half to fret, while he eavesdropped.
"Ron managed to get a hold of Fleur's daughter, Victoire, who was able to get a message to her mother," Hermione informed the small group in a hushed tone. "She's sent her son, Louis, to retrieve Dominique from Turkey. Apparently, he's been helping his sister with her research on Veela and knows where she is and what she's doing in the Middle East. They should be here soon."
"How soon is 'soon'?" Narcissa asked.
Draco let out a heavy, hissing breath. "It had better be quick."
His father sounded very worried, Scorpius noted, and the man kept stroking over his wings... No, not stroking - patting. As if trying to put something back into its proper place. Alarm bells went off in his head. Something's wrong with us, he told the Veela. You've got the body, so I can't see. Pull yourself away for a second and look at what my father is doing.
It took Scorpius two mental kicks to get his other half to comply. When he finally turned his head to look over their shoulder…
His feathers were slowly curling in, blackening, and falling out. Draco was desperately attempting to put back the ones that he'd captured, but they were already disintegrating into a fine ash that stained his skin a dark charcoal.
The Veela seemed wholly unconcerned with their physical deterioration. He turned back to Rose instead, nuzzling his face into the bend of her throat and giving her his full attention once more. "Take what you need, my mate."
Scorpius went cold as the realisation as to why he'd felt so incredibly drained hit him with all the power of a Bludger to the face. You're giving her our life energy, aren't you? You've been doing it since we found her in the dream. That's what the jolting sensation and that pain was, wasn't it? Somehow, you've figured out a way to give her the energy of our aura to try to heal hers.
The Veela snapped, if I hadn't, she'd be dead by now.
What you're doing will probably kill us instead.
His beast was silent before the accusation, and clearly resigned to that fact.
There has to be another way to fix it. A way that doesn't end in our death, Scorpius insisted.
He waited for a response. It wasn't long in coming and was rather predictable.
There is. We kill your cousin.
The Veela's candid, cold-blooded answer left Scorpius feeling a bit unnerved. The beast was asking him to murder a member of his own family. Not that Corwin's Veela didn't deserve having his evil heart ripped from his chest after hurting Rose as he had. Still, the idea of taking a life was a serious line in the sand that once stepped over, could never be undone. He would be forever changed, his soul blackened by the experience. That was especially true if the victim was a close relation. In wizarding families, it was considered the most evil thing in the world to kill a blood relative or a spouse. The superstition was that you would be cursed to die a horrible death if you did so, much as Bellatrix Lestrange had after killing her cousin, Sirius Black, back during the war. Some lines should just never be crossed.
There was also the fact that this was his mother's side of the family. Scorpius was extremely sensitive when it came to anything having to do with Astoria Greengrass-Malfoy. He'd adored her when she'd been alive - hanging on her every word and greedy for her generous hugs. She'd always soothed his bumps and fevers with a skilled touch and a sweet bedside manner. All through his childhood, she'd been his ideal of the perfect woman: poised, gracious, delicately beautiful, soft of voice and gentle of soul. His favourite memories of her were of her doing a Tarot or tea-leaf reading for him every year for his birthday. Divination had been their secret hobby together, for fun.
Honestly, Scorpius didn't think his mother would approve at all with his Veela's plan to kill her nephew, and would urge him to find another way that didn't end in violence.
Also, hadn't Rose said something about Aunt Daphne saving her life? What a way to repay the woman's courage: slaughtering her only son.
Besides, killing Corwin would land them a life-sentence in Azkaban. Surely, his Veela was smart enough to understand human law by now. So, why risk being separated from their mate for the rest of their lives just to get revenge?
You think his death is the only way to free her from his claim, don't you, he asked. You're hoping that when he dies, her aura will realign to ours and be whole again. You think she could be saved.
The Veela's feelings on the matter were much more savage and spiteful than that, however. Resentment and the desire for blood possessed his heart.
I want him dead for daring to touch her. She's mine. My mate. No one hurts Rose and lives.
Okaaaaaaaaaay. Right. Clearly his Veela was off the reservation.
But then, the beast's response really wasn't so shocking. It was, after all, a creature of violence, lust, unwavering commitment, and devotion. That was its instinct, its strength. It was also its weakness, as it reacted first, before thinking things through.
Scheming, however, just happened to be Scorpius' gift.
We're too physically weak to duke it out, he pointed out that glaring fact to his partner. If what Rose said is true, Cor's other half is a separate entity and has taken over their shared body. He's full-on Veela, and clearly born without a conscience. No way we win that fight as we are now.
His Veela was still acting peevish, but clearly listening to his logic.
If Corwin's determined in his claim, he's bound to come here after her - if he can follow her like you can, that is, he told his inner beast. Seems to me, the only way to stave him off and keep Rose alive with our energy is to tie us to her in a way that Corwin's Veela wouldn't dare attack us if it meant killing her, too. That would buy time for Dominique Delacour to be found, and for the witch to come up with a plan to save Rose and maybe nullify Corwin's claim on her.
There was a weighty pause.
You're asking me not to fight him, the Veela accused. I can't do that. He's challenged me for the right to my mate.
Scorpius reigned in his anger at the Veela's stubbornness, trying to appear the calm one. She's mine, too, he reminded the beast once more. And there are different ways to fight to hold on to what you want. Your way can only end in our death and Rose ending up mated to Corwin. My way ensures Rose stays alive longer and that, maybe, we survive too, so we can kick Corwin's arse later. He could sense his Veela's interest in that thought and pushed the advantage. Unless you want Corwin to kill us in a fight and then mate her anyway, that is.
That was it. The Veela took up the gauntlet, as predicted. What's your plan, boy-o?
Scorpius explained it in detail to the Veela, who eagerly listened.
We'll be defenceless in the real world, the beast pointed out once Scorpius had finished outlining his idea.
Yeah, he knew, and that was the scary part. It was going to require putting their lives in someone else's hands. Fortunately, he knew just the right people for the job.
Trust our family to watch over us.
The Veela pondered the plan for a bit before agreeing to it. Clearly, he had trust issues when it came to the Malfoy men as well.
He explained the idea to the others in the room for Scorpius.
Draco agreed right away that it was the best option available to them, and promised his fidelity to the plan. He seemed to stand taller as he summoned his Veela to come forward, shedding his shirt so his glossy, black wings could stretch wide in a display of power and strength. He took up a position as guard at Scorpius' right.
Hermione, Ron, Ron's feisty wife, and Narcissa also felt the plan a good stop-gap measure, and all took out their wands, stepping into the hallway and to either side of the door, preparing to defend it with their magic against Corwin, who they knew would show up eventually.
"Magic can't stop him," Hermione reminded them all, "not even Unforgivables work on a fully-feral Veela, as I understand it. No one knows why, but... Iron is said to work against them, like it does against the Fae. Ferrum Incarcerous should work."
"Chain him down," Ron stated and grinned like a shark. "Good one."
"Remember, his speed will be incredible, so try to cast in front of him so he runs into the spell," Hermione advised.
As the four out in the hall prepared the first wall of defence, inside the room Lucius was unbuttoning his shirt, his every movement precise. "Mating her in the dream... very clever, grandson. Let us hope it will be enough to negate Mister McLaggen's Mark. If not, it could kill you both."
"We're aware," Scorpius and his Veela said, their voices combined once more as Scorpius came forward and joined with his other half to become a singular entity. "She's worth the risk."
Scorpius' grandfather looked down upon Rose's unconscious form, a small smile tugging at the left side of his mouth, as if he were secretly amused by some stray, inner thought. "They always are," he finally stated. With that, the eldest Malfoy removed his shirt, and combined with his Veela once again, allowing the magic to change him from human into hybrid monster. He spread his glorious wings wide to cover Scorpius' left flank entirely.
Between the two sets of Veela wings -one as black as an infinite night, the other as crimson as fresh blood- a screen of privacy was erected, cutting the room in half and dousing most of the light. Like a bird in a covered cage, Scorpius began to feel sleepy almost immediately. The need to close his eyes and rest washed over him like a warm compulsion.
It's time, his Veela stated, sounding excited at the prospect of what was to come, despite his clear exhaustion. Finally.
Scorpius took a deep, cleansing breath and let it out nice and slow, regulating his breathing so he could fall into the trance necessary to enter the dream world once more.
Rose was going to kill him for this, but to save her life, he'd risk her wrath. This just meant he was going to have to turn over the other half of his shares of stock in the chocolate company he owned to her, and no doubt buy an ever-blooming strawberry field in his mate's name to keep her from skinning his hide. Maybe he'd invest in an ice-cream parlour, too, while he was at it. 'Rose's Grande Creamery' had a nice ring to it.
Okay, Veela, he murmured, already falling into slumberland, let's go mate our mate.
TO BE CONTINUED...
...and the foreshadowing of several of the very first chapters in the story is hopefully now making sense to you, dear readers.
FYI: There's a reason Dominique is going by Delacour, and not Weasley in this fic. You'll find out in future chapters. Be patient.