a/n: for Sid (loras-tyrells) for being thoroughly fucking awesome.
would you stay
"is that how people see me? vulnerable?"
—ashley greenwick, sirens
"People disappoint you."
They are sitting on the edge of the Astronomy Tower. Rose is kicking her legs gently, trying not to look down. Scorpius is being uplifting, as per usual.
They are not pretending to be close. Rose has shifted a bit nearer to press her thigh against his, he has trailed the ends of his scarf around her neck to keep her warm, but they are not holding hands. They have not kissed. She has not dropped her head onto his shoulder and pointed out stars to him. It is like they are something but trying not to be.
"Always," he says firmly, and Rose rolls her eyes and kicks her legs a bit more violently.
"I'm not staying if you're going to be depressing."
"No, I'm serious," he replies, and when she tilts her head to look at him he does, indeed, have a solemn air. His gaze is fixated on something in the middle-distance. It might be the last sparkles from the charm he performed ten minutes earlier to impress her. It might be one of the demons that plagues him every now and again. Rose can't be sure.
"Scorpius," she says gently, giving him a nudge with her shoulder, "Leave it. You can't change people by complaining about them."
"I can try," he mutters darkly, and Rose rolls her eyes again and then returns her gaze to the clear night sky. She spends a few quiet moments picking out constellations because they're on the Astronomy Tower and she feels she should. She is snapped out of her reverie, however, by what Scorpius says next.
"What if we jumped?" he asks, his head suddenly whipping to look down at her, his eyes very dark when she meets them, "What if, right now, you and me, we just—"
"Fuck off, Scorpius," Rose interrupts hastily. She hates it when he gets like this. Yeah, okay, she gets it, they're so mortal, life's so short, Merlin, "You're such a fucking cliché sometimes, you know that?"
He just smiles and then shifts suddenly, like he's about to jump, and Rose gives a cry and clutches at him before she can stop herself. Scorpius laughs and closes a hand around the fingers she's got grasping his sleeve, his voice dropping to a whisper as he confides, "You'd mind, wouldn't you? If I jumped?"
"Course I would," she retorts, prising her hand away from his, "You're Al's best friend, and he's a grumpy bastard at the best of times, yeah? Can't imagine what he'd be like if you went and killed yourself."
"And here I was thinking you'd mind for you," he says with an exasperated air, his tone mocking and light, his eyes not leaving her face. Rose doesn't look at him. She really, really doesn't look at him.
"Doesn't it ever bother you that you've pissed everybody off?" she inquires after she feels the silence has stretched on long enough, "I mean, like, everybody. Apart from Al, obviously."
"And you," he reminds her pensively, giving her another nudge, "You wish you did but you know what, Rose Weasley, you're just as much a cliché as I am. You just have to be different from everybody else so while everybody liked me, you hated me. And now everybody hates me and you like me suddenly. Why's that, I wonder?"
Rose still doesn't look at him, because what he's saying is so not true, that's not how it is, obviously. "You got my cousin expelled, Scorpius."
"He was being a douche," Scorpius replies defensively, shifting away from her minutely, so they don't touch any more, "He got what was coming to him."
Rose gives him a 'tut' worthy of her grandmother and folds her arms but she doesn't correct him. Because, yeah, Louis was her cousin – but he was also vain and selfish and he used to hit her just because he could, because he knew she wouldn't be able to admit being defeated to anybody, not even her parents. Next to her, Scorpius is equally quiet, and she finds herself wondering if he ever actually saw that bruise she tried to cover up when he walked in on her changing, if he ever remembers that time he came across her sobbing in an abandoned classroom because of something Louis had said to her.
Rose finds herself remembering, and she is definitely not tearing up or anything remotely so pathetic, but suddenly Scorpius' hand is on her thigh, squeezing it almost painfully, his voice low and urgent as he says to her, "He did it because you were better than him, Rose. Because he was the spoilt youngest kid and the whole world got down on both fucking knees to worship him and the way he looked. But you were smarter and stronger and kinder and he couldn't bear it."
"He's lovely," Rose protests, but it's only half-hearted, "And he didn't mean—"
"Bullshit," Scorpius cuts in brusquely, "He did fucking mean to. But it's okay, Rose. I get why you didn't tell anybody."
"There wasn't anything to tell," she argues heatedly, even though there's no point, not with Scorpius. Because, in his own way, he does get it. He gets that sometimes, someone does something to you, and you don't say anything the first time because you feel sorry for the person who's done it, sorry though you don't know why. So you keep quiet and hope you can help them get through it. And then they do it again and you keep believing you can help them until you realise you can't – but by then it's too late and it's been going on for too long and besides who'd believe you anyway?
"The way he treated me isn't going to define me, Scorpius," Rose says firmly, rubbing her arm against her face because it's cold, not to get the tears off her cheeks, "He did it because he was scared and lonely and insecure."
"He did it because he's a bastard," Scorpius retorts, but he doesn't push it beyond that and instead stretches his arms up over his head, the vertebrae in his spine audibly crunching as he lets out a long-drawn sigh of contentment. Rose envies him, suddenly. He may have turned the whole school against himself by orchestrating Louis Weasley's expulsion but he has this air about him, like he has the moral high ground, like he—
Like he has a reason—
Like it wasn't just because Louis was more popular than him—
His eyes snap to hers, suddenly, and Rose is almost breathless as she blurts out, "It was for me, wasn't it? What you did. You got him expelled for me."
Scorpius says nothing. One of his brows lifts, almost imperceptibly, but he doesn't say anything. He just looks at her and he waits. Rose is torn with internal conflict, unsure what to say. There's one half of her that is screaming with outrage that he should presume to fight her battles for her, that he should think she of all people needed help. But the other part is calmer, more rational, and it feels just a little bit grateful.
So Rose says nothing. She clambers laboriously to her feet and, before her courage fails her, bends to drop a kiss to Scorpius' cheek. She whispers a "thank you" into his ear and breathes him in for a moment before she pulls herself together and walks away.
They might not really want to be anything, her and Scorpius Malfoy, but they kind of are regardless. They are friends who sit on rooftops and count the stars together. They are friends who do things for each other without wanting gratitude. They are friends who notice things about each other, things that nobody else thinks to look for. They are friends who should not be friends. They are friends who could be everything, but try to be nothing.
They are friends who will be so much more.
Just give them time.