He could still remember her face from the first time they'd met. Freckles dotted her flushed cheeks, overly round from baby fat that had yet to fade. Her blue eyes were shinning under disheveled red hair.
"What did you get?" she insisted as she finally reached him. Class had just ended, and she sounded a little out of breath from pushing her way through the groups of first-year Gyffindors and Slytherins. Her smile was wide, like they were discussing what they had received for Christmas.
"Sorry?" he said. Half of him was unsure her question was directed at him. He was surrounded by Slytherins after all, and he had never before spoken with this girl.
"What did you get?" she asked again. He noticed she was clutching her potions essay to her chest. It was the first of the year and their professor had just handed them back with their scores.
"Er…" He had to think about it. "An 'E.'"
Her smile grew even wider, displaying all her front teeth. She proudly held out her essay so he could see the "O" written in red ink. "I beat you!" she squeaked and, apparently satisfied, ran back to her friends.
And so it was from that day on in every class they had together. Rose Weasley would run toward him clutching their newly returned assignment in her hand.
Her face had changed over the years, he noted. The baby fat had faded away to reveal the long slender structure of her face, her freckles thus falling closer to her nose instead of over her cheeks. Her long hair was pulled back in a ponytail, revealing the full shine of excitement in her eyes.
He turned from her, feigning a desire to hurry from the room. He had grown accustomed to their meetings, and this one he knew for sure he'd enjoy. His friends, however, had quickly grown annoyed with "that Weasley girl" and had no intention of sticking around. He had tried escaping with them a handful times in their first year, but Rose would find him later, perhaps in the dining hall, and insist on knowing his grade. He didn't mind, to be honest. There was some fun to this contest of theirs.
"Oh, no, you don't," she said, grabbing his arm as he lagged behind his group of friends. She turned him to face her. "Show me what you got."
His friends hurried along down the hall, but Scorpius didn't think about them as he unrolled his scroll, grinning as he did so, to show an "O."
The excitement faded from her eyes slightly, but her smile remained unchanged as she displayed a similar grade on her paper.
Scorpius rolled his scroll back up. "You're slacking, Weasley."
She laughed. "Come on, Malfoy. I can't go higher than the top of the grade scale!"
"You never know," he said. "Smartest witch in the school, they might make a new scale just for you."
She put her essay into her shoulder bag. "You're just jealous that in five years you have yet to beat me."
"I can't go higher than the top of the grade scale," he parroted.
She scoffed, "You think you actually did better than me?"
He shrugged. He liked giving her a hard time. Her face shifted through so many expressions, her mouth and eyebrows twisting one direction and then the other. "Who's to say?"
"We could ask Professor Flittwick."
He grabbed her arm as she started to leave. "You're that insecure about your grade that you have to go to Flittwick to verify?"
She fixed him with a confident look. "Anything you can do, Malfoy, I can do better."
"No you can't." It was an automatic answer.
"I think I've done pretty well so far."
She had him there. "You can't beat me at being Slytherin." It was, quite honestly, the only thing he could think of that she wasn't better at him at.
She blinked. "Are you serious?"
"That's not relevant."
"Of course it is. You can't beat me at being Slytherin."
She crossed her arms. "Well you can't beat me at being Gryffindor."
"Doesn't matter." He relished the soft distress on her face. "I still beat you at something."
She leaned closer to him, cool confidence returned. "I could be Slytherin if I tried." She smiled. "Could you be Gryffindor?"
"Of course," he said. He didn't have a choice to say otherwise.
"You first," he insisted. "It makes sense. You arguing that you're a better Gyffindor than me doesn't change anything because, as you say, you are always better than me. But me saying I'm a better Slytherin, that changes things."
"Fine." It was the first time he'd ever seen her look unsure. "What do I have to do?"
"Break into the Slytherin Common Room." It was the first thing that popped into his head.
"Slytherins are sly and cunning," he explained. "Get into the Slytherin Common Room without anyone realizing who you are, and I'll concede that you could be a Slytherin. I will be in the common room every evening from dinner until curfew."
"How long do I have?"
As she turned and walked away from him, he found himself every bit as confused about the nature of their relationship as ever. Were they enemies? Rivals? Friends?
Their playful manner at the beginning of the conversation would have had a stranger imagining them as close. Yet the conversation had downgraded from there. For the millionth time since coming to Hogwarts, he asked himself what she wanted from him. Was this just a childish contest? Or something else?
It was awkward, as always, to face his friends when he rejoined them. He wondered if Rose had to face a similar awkwardness; her friends were never with her when she came up to him. He wondered if she was also repeatedly asked why they "hung around" each other.
"I don't hang around her," he'd often replied. "She accosts me after class."
He could give them no better answer.