Author's Notes:

Sorry it's been so long since I've updated this fic! Hopefully, this chapter can tide you over for a bit.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Survivor of Division

Sunday, July 13th, 2031 (early morning)

The first thing Scorpius became aware of was the taste of salt and liquorice across his tongue. It reminded him of the Revive Potion Madam Pomfrey used to give him after Quidditch matches where things got a little too rowdy and he was knocked unconscious, only it tasted much stronger.

The second was the sound of a woman's voice, very nearby and lowered in conversation with someone else... male, familiar. He could just make out some of her words: scared, separate, wake up.

Consciousness slowly returned. His eyelids felt heavy and crusted at the corners when he tried to pry them open; they grew teary and hot as he blinked the world into focus. The brightness of the room hurt, and it took him several attempts to adjust.

Two blurry shapes appeared at the foot of the bed, where he was lying.

One was all crimson fire and creamy skin. Rose. He recognised her before her form had even become distinct.

The second had the unmistakable pearly-white skin of a Veela. Bare-chested and muscular, the male had his arms encircling Rose, holding her to him in a possessive hug. As she buried her face against his shoulder to seek comfort from him, his heavy, silver-grey wings flared and stretched behind him before flexing forward at an unnatural angle to encircle her in a protective wall of feathers. His long hair, as platinum-coloured as Scorpius' own, fell forward as he bent his head to her ear, making his identification impossible at this angle.

Rather than becoming enraged by the fact that an unknown male Veela was comforting and protecting Rose, Scorpius instead felt oddly still, empty...hollowed out. The fight in him was simply not there, his inner beast's voice silenced. His heart beat as normal in his chest, and his eyes seemed to have adjusted to the light after an eternity of staring into a black abyss, but he felt strange detached from reality.

It took several moments longer for him to figure out why that was: the presence of his Veela, which had shared a space inside of his body and skull since birth was no longer there. It was completely absent. Where it had once resided, there was now a yawning, echoing chasm, and where its voice had once lived, there was only a nebulous white-noise left behind.

His twin was gone.

More than the scene before him, it was the knowledge that his Veela had somehow magically disappeared from inside of him that set off the panic attack. "Bloody hell," he choked, unnerved and off-balance as he tried desperately to sit up, compelled by a need to flee, to run, to get out and get away. His hands shook, his heart tripled in speed, he suddenly couldn't seem to catch his breath...

As he attempted to sit up, every muscle in his body protested. His limbs were all leaded sinew and cement bone, weighed down by fatigue. Christ, he felt as if he'd just swum the entire length of an ocean!

Get up, getup-getup-getup, the irrational voice of fear dictated, and he tried to obey, but pain slammed into him with all the force of the Hogwarts Express set to full-steam ahead. He collapsed back onto the pillow, panting from the attempt. The room spun and his chest felt as if someone had punched a hole straight through it with a burning fist. He hissed a profanity that came out slurred, his tongue a thick and unruly thing in his mouth.

Rose was at his side in an instant, taking his hand in hers. "Just lie still. You're in hospital, but I'm here with you. I won't leave you, Scor."

At the foot of the bed, the Veela growled.

His lover tsk'd. "Do I need to ask you to leave?" she demanded of the beast.

The Veela didn't reply, but it was clear that Rose had made her point, as it remained silent.

"What–?" Scorpius croaked, attempting to ask what in hell's name was going on. That was all he could manage though, before his dry throat closed up on him and he choked again.

A cup was lifted to his lips and his head was raised by gentle magic.

"It's just water," Rose explained, holding the cup to his mouth. "Open and sip."

He did as bade, his trust in her absolute. The cool water filled his mouth, swept away the foul taste of potions, and helped to relax his tight throat and lolling tongue. He drank the whole glass down and went back for another before he was finally sated and his earlier panic finally subsided.

"Sleep now," Rose told him, setting the glass aside and gently laying his head back in the pillow. She brushed light fingernails through his hair and across his scalp, lulling him into relaxing. "I'll be here when you wake up. I promise."

Exhausted by the act of waking and the return of awareness, Scorpius gave in to Rose's gentle urging to rest. He closed his eyes, listening to her soft whispers and being soothed by her touch, and allowed the peaceful, quiet dark to take him once more.


Half a day more had passed before a second attempt at consciousness succeeded, that according to the Medi-witch who was examining him at the time.

She'd flashed her illuminated wand's light into his eyes, checking their dilation, then opened his mouth and looked down his gob. He'd followed her fingers and answered incorrectly how many she was holding up. Her disappointment at that led to another round of potions being shoved down his throat.

As the Medi-witch left the room, Rose was instantly at his side again, holding his hand. She was speaking, but whatever she was saying he couldn't interpret, as the medicines in his system knocked him for a hard one-two punch.

Within seconds, his light was put out like a well-cast Nox.


The third time was the charm.

His next attempt at consciousness succeeded with a full return of his faculties and control over his body once more.

However, once he came fully awake, there followed the pressing need to urinate.

The trip to the loo was humiliating, as Rose had to first help him to his feet, then to steady him, and then to help support him as he made his way over on shaky legs to the private hospital room's water closet. She stayed outside as he did his business, and then helped him back to bed.

After that, though, he felt greatly improved. His focus was sharp, his mind clear, and his strength began to return. It seemed he was finally out of the woods and on his way towards recovery.

"What happened?" he finally asked Rose, once the Medi-Witch and the Healer had finished examining him and left the room. His voice was rough from disuse, but his sight was keen as he zeroed in on the male Veela standing against the far wall, watching him and Rose through a narrowed gaze. The creature's arms were folded, but its frown made it clear it didn't like its mate touching another man.

It was his Veela.

Any resemblance to him aside, he'd know his bestial half anywhere; he could feel the lingering connection between them, despite the physical distance. Besides, he'd seen the creature once before like this, in all its alien glory: shadowed eyes, long feline fangs, shimmery skin that reminded him of moonlight reflected over the surface of dark waters.

Somehow, some way his Veela had broken free of the bonds of his body, and now had a body of its own.

How was that even possible?

He recalled the night of his transformation the female voice in his head, speaking to him upon the opening of his Third Eye. Whoever she was, she'd pronounced his fate that night: "Two beasts to split..." Who was that woman he'd heard and had this situation with his Veela, right now been what she'd meant back then?

Rose was silent for a few moments, clearly considering how best to start off the conversation. "How much do you remember?" she finally just asked him.

Scorpius glanced at her, at her make-up free, pink mouth and at the bite mark he remembered leaving at her throat as he'd made her his at long last, and he felt a wave of unexpected lust roll over him. "All of it," he murmured, threading his fingers through hers. "Making love to you, mating you and giving you the Third Mark."

On the other side of the room, the Veela dropped his arms and came instantly alert, hissing.

Rose slowly turned her head in the creature's direction. When she spoke to him, her tone was firm, no-nonsense. "We discussed this. If you can't handle it, go wait in the lobby."

The beast's chest pumped up and down as if he struggled with his anger and jealousy, and he turned his face away to stare at the opposite wall. Once again, he opted not to argue, but it was clear that he was barely restraining himself in the doing.

Scorpius merely stared at him, trying to wrap his mind around the fact that his Veela was living outside of him, somehow. It hardly seemed real, like looking into some Wonderland-warped mirror only to see an exotic, sexually alluring, bestial version of himself staring right back. They'd been crammed together in one body since birth, sharing every thought since the Veela's awakening. They'd experienced sex and love together, jealousy and hate, melancholy and despondency. They'd been two big personalities taking up the same small space.

Now, Scorpius couldn't even read Veela's thoughts, had no clue as to its feelings or its motivations or its intentions. He didn't know if he could even trust the guy not to gut him.

Gently, Rose touched the back of his hand to get his attention. "Do you remember what happened after that?"

Silently, he shook his head.

She sighed. Her fingers absently wandered to her throat to trace over the dark red punctures he'd left behind on her skin. They were closed, but bruised, as if still healing. With the mating ritual consummated and completed, Scorpius knew she would bear those marks forever, just as they were. No glamour would work to cover them up and there would be no spell on earth that could erase them from her skin. They were proof that she'd accepted their mating, their marriage...him as her husband and lover.

He'd initially planned to give her the Second Mark over her heart, so the scars wouldn't show in such a conspicuous place and Rose wouldn't feel about them as she had about her mother's own set of marks—like they were some kind of attempt at property branding by a pushy male. In the moment, however, Scorpius hadn't been able to stop himself from biting her in that exact spot on her neck. Jealousy fueled, instinct driven, and feeling possessive, he'd wanted Corwin to see his claim of Rose, to know it had trumped his cousin's. He'd wanted to make a statement to the whole world that she was his at long last.

He'd hurt her in the doing. Biting through her skin and pouring his Veela venom into her and shifting her magical aura to resonate with his had caused her immense pain. It's why he'd dropped all pretense of holding back the Veela's natural sex magic and had let the beast free. Ensnaring her with lust had distracted her from the changes he'd forced upon her...

God, it had been good. For him, sex had never been better, not even when he'd experienced the Veela's first time with Rose. Their true mating had been hard, fast, desperate...and he'd come so deep inside her, given her not just his seed, but his heart, his body, his whole future. Everything had been hers. He'd lost himself in loving her, and in letting the Veela do so equally, right there beside him, their conscious desires fully entwined for the first time.

Just thinking about it now was getting him hard again. Shit. He shifted the blanket to cover his lap, embarrassed.

Across the room, the Veela's knowing gaze narrowed on him and the corner of his lip lifted in a silent snarl—a warning. Scorpius frowned at the creature, unsure why it was so hostile towards him. Hadn't they come to an agreement about sharing Rose?

Rose began talking again and he filed away that thought for the moment.

"After the Third Mark, there was a moment when I felt our souls merge. Not just yours and mine, Scor, but the Veela's, too. We were three, together as one. In perfect accord for the span of a single heartbeat." She turned a lovely shade of pink and glanced down at their still entwined hand. "It was the most beautiful moment of my life. I'd never known anything could be so lovely."

The breathless way she described it made heat flush through him. Scorpius' hand tightened in hers, silently letting her know he'd shared that feeling.

She gently pulled away from his touch, as if it somehow hurt her.

Scorpius felt panic returning as she withdrew from him, some dark instinct telling him the other shoe was about to drop.

"It wasn't like that for Veela, though," she said. "After the Third Mark took, after that single moment when our souls merged, the magic changed. It hurt him. He was drowning and suffocating at the same time. He said it reminded him of how he'd felt the first time he'd broken through the magic that held him bound inside you, that night during our seventh year, after we'd–" She stumbled over that memory, her cheeks going red at the thought of how reckless they'd been then. "He thought he was going to die. Then, suddenly, his magical connection to us was severed by something...or someone."

A dark, ominous feeling began to coalesce in Scorpius' gut. "Someone?" he asked, unsure and reeling at the news of not only his Veela's almost-death, but that it was possible that he and Rose and the Veela were not all three bound to each other at all, as he'd thought. "Who? I don't remember..."

A flash of thought and memory tumbled forward from the recesses of his mind, though, and he found he did remember that moment only too well:

They'd come together by choice, their wills and hearts dedicated to their commitment, and the world outside their joined bodies held no sway over them in that moment.

There was no sound, except the whispers of their souls granting each other support and love, forgiveness and hope. A thousand words had been mentally spoken and shared in that infinitesimal second, and by mutual agreement, the three of them had entwined their magical cores, promising each other forever.

And as that acceptance was resolved, the magic changed. Like a two-part spell unraveling the rest of its mystery, there was a sudden and unexpected shift in the bonding...

"What changed the magic?" he asked. "Something changed it. Did someone pull him away?"

Rose's anxiety became a tangible thing. "Or pushed him," she meekly suggested.


But that would imply he or Rose had rejected the Veela at the last second. He didn't recall doing that, though. Had it been her? "Are we not mated then?" he asked, attempting to keep any sort of recrimination from his tone. "Is that what you're trying to tell me? Did one of us do something to keep us all from bonding?"

"I don't..." She kept her eyes downcast as they filled with tears. "Scor, honestly, I don't think it was me or Veela."

"Are you saying I did it?" he demanded, upset at the thought and a little defensive at the accusation. "Why would I do that? How?"

Rose put a hand over her eyes and shook her head, clearly too close to breaking down to give him a proper answer.

Scorpius turned his attention to the only other person in the room who might give him an answer. The Veela, who was wearing a pair of Scorpius' faded Muggle jeans and nothing else, silently continued to glare at him, though, as if he, Scorpius, was responsible for the terrible and the obvious.

"Do you think I did this?"

Veela's mouth compressed in a hard line and his eyes narrowed, but he didn't respond otherwise. Still, he hadn't needed to as his answer was obvious in his rigid body posture: Yes, you did this, you motherfucker.

"I...I didn't!" he insisted. "How could you think that?"

He looked hard at his Veela, then, taking him in from head to toe, and it suddenly occurred to him what he was seeing that was different about his beastly half. "Wait, what happened to your wings?" he asked, noting their change in colour. "They were snow white with black tips before. Why are they greyish-silverish now, with that...pearly them?" He frowned as another thought occurred. "And why aren't you glamouring them? You're vulnerable when they show."

Rose's resolve not to cry gave out. Quickly, she put a hand over her mouth, to shush her reaction, but there was no holding back the dam when it came to her tears.

Scorpius sat straight up and reached for her, but the Veela was already there, blocking him and cradling Rose in his arms.

"They've changed because you're no longer each other's half. You don't share a body or a soul anymore, so this is the Veela's natural colouration."

At the door to Scorpius' hospital room stood a red-headed witch with the clearest blue eyes he'd ever seen and the most unnatural beauty. She looked like something right out of a fairy-tale drawing, with perfect porcelain features and a blonde stripe of hair that began at her crown and fell to her chin. She was tall and thin, and she wore Muggle clothes, as many of their generation had, embracing the twenty-first century fashions of the world.

"I brought you coffee, Cousin," the woman continued, coming forward with a steaming mug in her hand and holding it out to Rose. "Your cafeteria in this place serves atrocious food, but the coffee is passable."

Rose extricated herself from the Veela's arms and wiped at her cheeks, erasing the evidence of her tears, although her face was still blotchy from crying. "Thank you, Domino. You've been a goddess-send these past few days. I owe you."

The cup exchanged hands and only then did the woman known as 'Domino' shrug. "You've got the most interesting and unprecedented Veela case on the planet going on right now and you've given me front-row seats. I'm the one who owes you, Rosie." She glanced at the Veela, paying particular attention to his wings. "If nothing else, this incident will definitely shut down Skomorovski, and his ridiculous hypotheses that Veela males don't exist at all. I've been telling him for years he was wrong. My research proves it, and just look at Louis, for Circe's sake!"

She turned those brilliant baby blues on Scorpius then...and immediately, he felt as if he was being examined under the combined lens of scientific curiosity and predatory, animal heat—his every breath was catalogued, his colouring and mental clarity filed, and his earlier sexual arousal well-noted by this strange woman.

Her scrutiny made him distinctly uncomfortable.

"It's good to see you awake, Mister Malfoy," she said, and there was a trill of excitement in her tone. "Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm Dominique Delacour-Weasley, Rose's cousin. I work for the Department of Magical Creatures in the Being Division, researching Veela. I've been debriefed of your case by Rose and her family already, but right now... Are you feeling up to a little chat?"

"I'm fine, thanks. Chat away."

He was careful, oh-so-careful about his response. It wasn't that he sensed Rose's cousin was evil or a dark sorceress, but there was something very raptorial and eager about her when she looked at him. He didn't want to encourage that, but he also needed answers, and it seemed as if this witch might be in a position to have them.

"May I?" she asked, and pulled a chair up to the opposite side of the bed from Rose.

He shrugged. "Sure, as long as you tell me what you meant by what you said. The part about Veela's wings changing colour because of me."

With panther-like grace, the lovely Dominique melted into the seat. She crossed her long, bare legs at the knee...and her sassy, summer shorts rode up as a result, showing off a sweet pair of toned, lightly tanned thighs and calves that were a religious experience unto themselves. As if that wasn't enough of a lure, she adjusted a pair of smart, flirtatious glasses across the bridge of her lightly freckled nose, too—a movement Scorpius knew was meant as a silent signal of her interest in him, similar to playing with one's hair and biting one's lower lip.

Rose's cousin was very obvious about her attraction to him, and yet he couldn't help but feel that the entire act was somehow intrinsic to her make-up, rather than intentionally aimed at seducing him.

"You've got a Veela in you," he said, a Lumos going on in his head.

One of her darkly penciled-in eyebrows twitched upwards once in response. "No, I wasn't that lucky. I only have some of a Veela's instincts and residual physical traits. It's the same for my older sister, Victoire. However, my little brother, Louis, may have won the genetic lottery in that regard. We'll find out on his twenty-fifth birthday whether he transitions or not." She tilted her head, considering him. "Was that a random guess or your own instincts telling you I wasn't completely human?" she asked, all business.

"Lady, you're throwing off enough sign that even a Blibbering Humdinger could see it," he replied, "but it's not calculated. It seems too inbred in you, in the way you move. It screams 'Veela' to me."

"A Blibbering–? Aren't those some breed of imaginary creature from that second Fantastical Beasts book the Scamanders recently published?" she asked, amused.

Scorpius shrugged. "As imaginary as male Veela, some might say."

She smiled at his sarcasm, her creamy beige-pink lipsticked mouth parted to reveal a perfectly straight, perfectly white set of teeth...with slightly longer canines than normal. "Well, at least we know your humour wasn't affected by the division. Your mind on the other hand..."

"The Wizengamot's still out," he dryly commented. "Look, could we quit all the dancing around and just cut to it? What happened? How is it that he–" He pointed at his Veela. "–has his own body and what does this mean for the three of us?"

Dominique's expression lost its playfulness, becoming pensive. "I'm not entirely sure, to be honest. I don't think there's ever been a case like yours in the history of magical beings. At least, not as far as my research has dug-up, and I've been knee-deep in Veela analysis and examination for almost eleven years now, ever since graduating Hogwarts." She shifted her legs around and leaned on the opposite arm of the chair, glancing between him, Rose, and the Veela. "You're quite unique, the three of you. Well, you and your McLaggen cousins."

Scorpius stiffened, fiercely jealousy even then at simply the mention of his cousin's name. It was completely an illogical reaction, of course. At this point, he should feel completely unconcerned by Corwin's continued existence, his mating of Rose secured at long last. And yet...

His Veela snarled at the mention of Corwin, too, so Scorpius knew he wasn't alone in sharing this odd uneasiness that slid over him from just the man's name being spoken aloud. There was no closure there, he could sense it. Something more needed to happen before he, Veela, and Rose were safe from outside interference in their mating.

And that's how he knew his mating of Rose hadn't taken.

"He's still a threat to us, isn't he?" he asked, feeling suddenly overwhelmed at the thought of having to fight and kill the other man. "The challenge is still open."

"From what I gather, Mister Malfoy," Dominique said, sitting forward to address him in all seriousness, "your mating failed during the last stage, so yes, there's a possibility another Veela could swoop in and claim her. You have to correctly perform the ceremony in order to nullify his opportunity once and for all." She glanced over at the Veela. "Actually, not you. Him."

That sick, hollow feeling returned to Scorpius' belly. "What do you mean, not me?"

Rose extracted herself from the Veela's embrace and took Scorpius' hand in hers. "Scor, we'll fix it."

"What does she mean, Rose?" he demanded, riled by mounting fear and frustration. All this round-about talk was beginning to grate on his nerves. "You're still mine, aren't you?"

The Veela's wings flared behind him and he growled like a boneyard dog guarding its territory from trespassers. He grabbed hold of Rose's shoulders and yanked her away from Scorpius.

Scorpius stared in shock at his other half's rough handling of their mate.

It seemed he wasn't the only one surprised by the Veela's jealousy issues. "What do you think you're doing?" Rose demanded of the creature and kicked him in the shin, hard. "You do not get to manhandle me!"

The creature winced as her foot connected with its leg, but otherwise gave no indication that she'd hurt him...which Scorpius knew was impossible, as he'd been on the receiving end of a few of Rose's kicks in his lifetime and could attest to her having steel for toes.

"You're mine," the Veela snapped at her, glaring at Scorpius over the top of Rose's crimson and copper head. "Not his! Not anymore!"

Rose made a noise that was a cross between an incredulous snort and an animal-like growl of her own. "We talked about this, and I'm pretty sure I made myself clear on the matter, Veela." She poked her bestial lover in the chest, showing absolutely no fear of him or his menacing stance. "Push me on it and you'll regret it, I promise."

They glared at each other, neither backing down. It was a stalemate of wills, and equally stubborn hearts.

Scorpius sighed, rubbing a hand over his eyes. He was starting to tire, his brain and body needing more rest, it seemed. "Look, can we just stop arguing and cut to it? I'm getting the picture. Basically, you're telling me that in addition to having failed to properly mate Rose and the Veela getting free of me, now I'm not longer part of the whole mating thing at all. That about it?"

"Technically, yes," Dominique said, confirming his worst fear.

"How the hell does that even happen?"

She blew a breath out, somewhat resigned to being the bearer of bad news today. "Do you want the long explanation or the short version?"

Scorpius head was beginning to pound, but he didn't feel as if another time-out would be a good idea just now. There was too much at stake.

"Just hit me."

"Okay, basically, by giving Rose the First Mark and then the Second Mark in proper magical order, as the ritual of mating requires, you managed to break Mister McLaggen's magical hold upon her aura and restore her to a place of equilibrium. However, for some unknown reason, the Third Mark was interrupted before it could be completed, and so it did not take as it normally appears to do in your family. Rose isn't pregnant. That means, you didn't secure your mating claim to her."

That lump of heavy, black coal sitting in Scorpius' gut traveled a little higher, lodging itself somewhere up around the region of his heart.

Right, so Rose was free of his cousin, which was a good thing, but in the end, he'd failed to do the one thing that should have been as instinctual as breathing to him: he'd failed to fully claim his mate. That was a bad thing. Very bad.

What exactly had happened to prevent it? What had pulled or pushed the Veela away and interrupted the bonding? Had he really done something wrong, or had it been that he had not done something he should have? Ritual magic, he knew, could be as tricky as potions making; one too many drops from a vial or one missed clockwise stir of the wand, and BOOM! It all went wrong.

Maybe he forgot some important step, so worried about Corwin getting through the line of defences his and her families had erected and interrupting. If so, what had he missed?

"There's more bad news," Dominique warned him.

He gave a mirthless laugh. "Of course there is! At this point, what else could there be?"

"You're going to need to steady yourself for the next part, Mister Malfoy."

She let out a heavy sigh, and he sucked in and held his breath.

"As your Veela has somehow managed to magically break free of your host body and separated the two of you, all tests run by the Healers here indicate that you are now only human...and therefore, no longer Rose's mate. That distinction belongs solely to him now." She nudged her chin in the direction of the Veela. "According to the Ministry, you have no legal grounds for pursuing my cousin or enforcing any sort of marriage claim to her. In fact, if you interfere in his mating of her, by rights he can challenge you to a fight to the death."

That cold chunk of darkness inside him sank back into his belly, leaving Scorpius feeling hollowed out.

"Would you?" he asked, glancing over at his Veela, his heart in his throat and his hands clenching the blanket. "Would you stop me from wanting to be with Rose?"

The Veela refused to answer. Instead, he folded his arms over his chest and stubbornly set his jaw.

It hurt, that avoidance, and the awkward silence that followed.

"Would you really kill me?"

His brooding twin frowned...and turned away. He brought his wings up to act as a barrier between them, shutting the conversation down.

Shutting him out.

In all his life, Scorpius could only ever recall having cried a small handful of times. He'd cried when he'd fallen from the balustrade in the great hall as a child of seven and broken his first bone. At the age of ten, he'd cried when his Crup had died. He'd cried during his mother's funeral when he was twelve, utterly devastated by her death, and then again at the immediate abandonment by his father in the aftermath.

This made him want to sob.

It was so unfair. He'd gone through a god-awful, painful transition to merge his life with that of a beast. He'd figured out how to set the past right between him and Rose at long last. He'd even accepted sharing the woman of his heart with the difficult creature he'd been saddled with thanks to the family curse, setting aside his personal jealousy issues and doing something he, as a single child, had never been good at: compromising. He'd done everything he was supposed to.

And now, in one fell swoop, for a reason he couldn't fathom, he'd lost them both.

For good.

"Please leave," he ground out, barely holding back the tears. "All of you. Just go."

Rose reached for him, but he turned his head. The thought of her touching him in sympathy, in goodbye was too much. He couldn't bear it.

"Scor, please," Rose whispered, and he could hear the tears choking her up as well.

"Go be with your destined mate," he told her, grabbing onto anger and holding it tight.

"You are as much my destiny as he is!" she growled, pointing at Veela. "You told me you loved me. Unless that was a complete lie, you don't get to walk away now because things are hard!"

God, why was she being so difficult about this? It was really simple: he had no claim left. "Of course I love you," he snarled back, "but I'm not your fucking mate anymore!"

Those weren't just words, either. Inside, he knew what it was that he'd been feeling since he'd awoken: the emptiness of not just losing his Veela, but the urgency and desperation that had been so much a part of his feelings for Rose. The affection and care of her remained, but that all-consuming drive to bind her to him, to breed her and watch her belly swell with his young was gone.

The fear of failing in that duty was no longer a terrifying prospect, either, for his very survival was no longer tied to the purpose of reproduction. Humans didn't have to mate or die, as Veela did.

In a nutshell, the animal instincts had vanished and now he was like any other red-blooded, human wizard. He loved Rose, still found her sexy as hell, but he would let her walk away to go where she belonged...and he wouldn't die from doing so. He'd be heartbroken, but better that than have his or Veela's death on her conscience.

Besides, he didn't think he had it in him to hurt Veela. That would be like ripping his own arm off or something.

"Rose, listen to me: I'm just human now. Your cousin's right. I don't feel the mating imperative anymore."

She gaped at him. "You don't?"

He shook his head. "No, I'm sorry."

There was a moment when Scropius wasn't sure if Rose was going to lose it right there and start screaming at him, fall to the floor and begin crying, or take a swing at him. She didn't do any of those things, however. Instead, shaking from head to toe, she wrapped her arms around her middle in a protective gesture. "You're sorry? What does that even mean?" she asked him.

Shit, he was the one in jeopardy of breaking down now. Her sad, soft question left him aching.

"It means you don't have to worry about feeling torn in two as you have been. There won't be a third person in the middle anymore, baby," he said, sniffling as his vision grew wavy. He recalled the swan statue in the Malfoy garden, how the two beautiful birds met, their long necks and heads forming the shape of a heart as they came together. "It's just you and Veela now, two becoming one, as nature intended."

"We are what nature intended, the three of us together," she argued. "You two were born together for one purpose." She sniffled and wiped at her eyes again. "You were born for me."

He glanced over at his Veela, who was staring off into space, frowning in contemplation. "No, I was just the egg." He nodded in Veela's direction. "He's the hatchling."

At that, Dominique sat up straight, fully alert.

"Say that again."

Everyone in the room paused to glance at her.

"Say it again," she demanded of him.

"I said, he...Veela was born from me," Scorpius said, confused by the woman's growing enthusiasm. "I don't think I was ever anything but an incubator for him."

Dominique smiled.

"What?" he asked her, suspicious of that grin.

"An incubator. That's what this whole thing has been about!"

He scratched his head, not understanding. "Uh, what?"

Rose's cousin became animated, barely staying in her chair in her mounting excitement. "Manifestation. Emergence. Presentation." She pointed at Veela and laughed. "That's the key! And from what you've told me of Scorpius' family's curse, Rosie, it's what their great ancestor, Lycinus Black, had intended from the start when he created the Transition ritual!"

"Domino, what the hell are you talking about?" Rose growled, clearly irritated with her cousin's ambiguous flirtation with the information. "I don't think the rest of us are following your mad logic right now."

The resident creature expert looked between the trio. "I'm saying your Third Mark took, Rose, but instead of conceiving a child and perpetuating Daneetzah's curse, passing it on to the next generation, the magic birthed the Veela, separating man from creature. It seems you three finally broke the spell!"

She grinned and pointed at the Veela.

"And there's your proof! A pure-blood Elohim."


Author's Note:

So, another angsty bump in the road for our trio this chapter (great romances MUST suffer great tragedy and heartache on occasion to test their mettle-that's the rule of writing this genre). And, the over-arcing Veela curse plot is finally on its way to some explaining & fixing over the next few chapters.

What did you think? Please drop me a review. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, XOXO!