AN1: Yes, this is a Rose/Scorpius WIP being posted simultaneously with another, different headcanon Rose/Scorpius story. Sorry. I know that's incredibly rude and mean of me, but reveals went up at swrm_ficafest, so I thought I should post this here. Also, this is what took up a decent amount of that six month hiatus in Tending Roses. Fair warning, though, if you read this piece at the fest first - I ran the clock out on the deadline, and I wasn't entirely pleased with the LJ version, so I'll be making some edits to certain chapters as this is posted over here. Section one should be more or less the same, though.
AN2: This was written for the 2012 smrw_ficafest over on LiveJournal, and for the second year in a row, my submission was voted one of the most popular submissions. I'm incredibly flattered by this, as I am by all the praise and support I get from all my lovely readers. You all are amazing, and I love every single one of you. Thanks for reading, as always.
AN3: Huge thanks as always to Maggie, without whom I'd be a much poorer writer.
AN4: Hope y'all like Pride and Prejudice, because that's the basis for this one! :) Enjoy!
Prompt: "May I ask to what these questions tend?"
"Merely to the illustration of your character," said she, endeavouring to shake off her gravity. "I am trying to make it out."
"And what is your success?"
She shook her head. "I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly." - Pride and Prejudice
Universally Acknowledged or
Five Times Rose Weasley and Scorpius Malfoy Crossed Paths
(and one time their paths converged)
The field of Magical Anthropology was relatively new when Rose Weasley got to it. As a child, her Muggle grandparents had taken her to museum after museum, and whether she was fighting crowds to glimpse the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum or standing on tiptoe to peek high enough over the glass-covered counter to see Jane Austen's hand-written first draft of Pride and Prejudice in the British Library, she came to love the feeling of being surrounded by the sheer weight of history.
Rose had loved those trips with her grandparents more than anything, and she had been dismayed to discover that the Wizarding world had no equivalent, no central place open to the public to hold all their history. To her eight-year-old mind, it had seemed like a tremendous oversight, and by the time she'd finished at Hogwarts, that had hardly changed. So she'd done some research and discovered a little-known division of the Ministry that had formed out of the end of the Last Great War, dedicated to recovering and uncovering magical heritage all over the world. The brand new department was responsible for research expeditions to all parts of the earth. Rose had signed on in an instant.
And four years later, at the age of twenty-two, she gleefully received a crate of scrolls that had been uncovered at a dig near Stonehenge, and her excitement was like nothing so much as a child on Christmas morning.
"Grabby much?" her co-worker and good friend Shanti asked with a laugh as she handed over the box.
"This is us, Shanti," Rose said, her excitement barely contained. "This isn't Aztec relics from North American or evidence of shamans in tribal Africa, this is us, our roots, right here in England, older than the Founding, older than anything we've ever seen, and it's English!"
"Well, Celtic, most likely," Rose's supervisor Anabel said as she passed through the lab. "How's your Runic translation?"
"Top of my class," Rose assured her. "Can I please break the seals?"
"Make sure you perform all the –"
"– proper disarming and evaluation charms for presence of malicious intent, yes, yes. I will follow all protocol to the letter, as always."
"Go on, then," Anabel said with a laugh, and Rose skipped off to a private workstation. Grinning with anticipation, she broke the seal on the first scroll and began to read.
Almost an hour and a half later, Anabel and Shanti realized that Rose had been sitting without moving for the better part of all that time, frozen as she stared at the first scroll she had opened. Nothing that they said or did had any effect to pull her out of the trance – she was lost to them.
Rose was aware of nothing but the strange Runes in an ancient hand. She couldn't look away, couldn't move, couldn't do anything but sit and stare and read.
After an endless length of time which seemed like no time at all, Rose slowly became aware of speech, but as if through a long tunnel, the way conversation sounds to the almost-asleep. Slowly, so slowly, she became aware of the words themselves.
" . . . Miss Weasley, if you are able to hear and understand me, I'm going to ask you to try and let me know. Now if you can't, that's all right, no need to panic. I know you may not be in control of your body, but let's just try something, okay?" The voice was male and soothing and reassuring, and it calmed her panic before it had a chance to do more than form halfway. She didn't know who was speaking, but she trusted him.
"Miss Weasley, if you can hear and understand me, I'd like you to try and look up from that paper." Rose tried, she did, but she couldn't, and as she felt the grip tighten around her, the panic swelled up again, but before it could overwhelm her, the voice was back. "If you can't," it said, as if anticipating the panic, "it's all right. It's not a problem. That was a big step to ask at first; there are plenty of other things we can try."
Another voice spoke, asking a question, but Rose couldn't detach enough from the scroll to discern what the question was. She only heard her voice's response.
"I don't, no, but either she can't hear me at all, or she can, and she just can't respond. If it's the first, I lose nothing by being reassuring. But if it's the second, she's probably frightened, as I know I would be, so being reassuring is the least I can do. Now, excuse me, please, but I do need to give her my full attention. Now, Miss Weasley," he said, he voice becoming more distinct as he presumably turned back to her, "I don't want you to think me forward, but calling you by a name you hear more often will likely yield better results, so I'm going to start calling you Rose. I hope that's all right, but if not, you can tell me off just as soon as we get you free. So, Rose, here's what I'd like us to try next. If you can move your head at all, please do so. A shake, a nod, anything."
Rose tried, she really did, but nothing happened. However, again, just when she was on the verge of panic, the man's voice came back in. "That's all right, don't worry. We'll focus down a little more, and we'll get there, Rose. It's okay. How about an arm? Any part of an arm, a shoulder, an elbow? Can you move anything like that?" She could not. "That's all right, an arm wouldn't have been my first choice, anyway, so let's try your hand. Even just a finger."
Rose concentrated as hard as she could and managed to twitch one finger, just a little bit. She was immediately elated, but then worried that he hadn't seen it.
"Okay, Rose, I saw a little bit of movement from your left pointer finger. Now, if that was you, consciously moving it, I'd like you to do it again." She concentrated with all her might, and this time, the movement came easier, and she was able to actually lift and tap her finger. "Brilliant," the young man said, and he sounded like he meant it. "But one more time, just to be sure, if you are in control of that finger, and are using it to communicate with me, please tap it twice." She did, though it took a ridiculous amount of effort to do so. "Excellent, Rose, really excellent," he said then, and she felt a surge of relief. "Okay, now that we can communicate, I have some simple questions to ask that will help me know how to proceed. The first, and most important – what's holding you, does it feel malicious in any way? Do you feel threatened by it? Tap once for yes, and twice for no."
Rose considered the question, probing carefully at the lock around her mind, then tapped her finger twice. "Okay, Rose, I saw two taps. So you are telling me that you do not feel threatened by the spell that holds you, is that correct?"
"Well, that is marvelously good news," he said, and Rose thought she could hear a smile in his voice. "That makes our next step much easier. Rose, I think if we can show the spell that you're not interested in stealing the secrets of the scroll, we'll be able to get it to let you go."
And how exactly are we going to do that? Rose wanted to ask, but that was a bit difficult to communicate through finger taps. Luckily, whoever this mystery man was, he seemed to have a fairly good understanding of her, because he launched into an explanation almost immediately.
"I'm going to ask you a series of questions. They'll start out simple, and they'll get more and more complicated and specific. I want you to have to really think about the answers and how to communicate them. The more you're focusing on the answers to my questions, the less you're focusing on the scroll. If we can detach your focus from the scroll, piece by piece, we can also pull it away from you, like . . . peeling away a sticker, there's a good Muggle metaphor. And if we're careful, we'll be able to do it without leaving any of that annoying residue behind. So, tap once if you understand, twice if you don't, and . . . oh, three times if you understood a while ago and have just been waiting for me to shut up."
If Rose could have smiled, she would have. She tapped three times, and the man chuckled. "Yeah, sorry," he said. "I have a tendency to go on a bit." Rose tapped once then, and won a full out laugh. "All right, then, Miss Snarky, let's get started. Is your full name Rose Eleanor Weasley? Tap once for yes, twice for no."
"Are your parents Ron Weasley and Angelina Johnson-Weasley?"
"Are you the fifth eldest Weasley grandchild?"
Here Rose hesitated slightly, then slowly tapped twice.
"Please tap your finger once for each of your male cousins."
James. Tap. Al. Tap. Fred. Tap. Louis. Tap. Hu– no, Rose. Not Hugo. She curled away the finger she had prematurely lifted to tap.
"Almost count your brother as a cousin there, Rose?" She knew she heard a smirk in the voice this time. Mentally making a face she usually reserved for her cousin James, Rose tapped her finger three times. The man laughed. "I don't know what three taps means in this instance, but I think I can guess." Rose flicked her fingers at him then for further emphasis. "All right, all right," he said, still laughing. "Moving on. In what month were you born?"
She hesitated, not sure how best to communicate the information. He jumped right on her hesitation. "Come on, Rose," he said. "It's not a difficult question, even if you are limited to finger taps. But I'm not telling you what to do anymore. Time to think for yourself."
All right then! she thought, exasperated, and carefully began counting as she tapped slowly. One, two, three, four, five, six . . . seven, or no, was that eight? She froze, her finger stalled in the air, mid-tap. She felt a stirring of something in the back of her mind, and she couldn't remember what month she was on, and she could feel the something in her mind starting to frown at her, and reach for her, and she was becoming less aware of the question she was answering, and more aware of those symbols on the parchment —
"Rose?" His voice cut through the fog. "You've stopped at seven. Unless July is your birth month, you need to keep going. Pick up where you left off."
More determined than ever, she wrenched her mind away from the parchment. November, she though firmly. I was born in November. It was cold, and it was rainy, and Dad was in such a hurry to get inside that he slipped on the walk and fell and broke his wrist. And Aunt Ginny still teases him about trying to steal focus away from his daughter. And feeling further away from the ancient scroll than she had since she started reading it, she lifted her finger and tapped four more times.
"There you go. Now, what day?"
That was too much. "I am not tapping my finger 26 times!" she said fiercely, and then realized she'd spoken aloud.
"Well, then, as a reward for finding your voice, you don't have to," the man said, and the smile was clear in his voice this time. "Can you move at all, Rose? Can you lower the parchment and look away?"
"I –" She tried, she really did. "No," she said, and her voice wavered infuriatingly as panic reared up again. She had to get free! "No, I can't, I–!"
"It's all right," he said immediately, his voice soothing and calm as ever. "It's all right, Rose. We're making fantastic progress. The fact that you can speak at all, this soon, shows me that. So don't worry. I got you this far, I'm going to get you the rest of the way. I promise. But I need you to trust me."
"I do," she said in a shaky but far calmer voice.
"Good girl," he said. "Now, am I right in thinking you can't close your eyes?"
She tried, and couldn't. "Yes," she told him.
"Okay," he said. "Then let me explain what I want to do. I want to get the scroll away from you, physically. But I don't want to try and take it from you while you're looking at it. I don't know what would happen, and I don't want to risk it. So I'm going to physically close your eyes first, okay? I'm going to come behind you and use my hand to shut them. Is that all right?"
"Yes," Rose said, and then a moment later, a warm hand gently shut her eyes.
"Okay, now tell me a story."
"What?" Rose asked, confused.
"Tell me a story," he repeated. "A story from your childhood. Tell me . . . oh, I don't know, the first time you read your favorite book. In as much detail as you can."
"Okay," Rose said, still a little confused, but she thought she understood what he was going to try and do. "Um . . . when I was seven, my grandmum, on Mum's side, took me to the British Library. We'd had a girls' day in Muggle London, just the two of us, and when she told me about the huge library, well, I had to see it. And they have a room there, a gallery, just full of old original manuscripts of, oh, everything, really. Shakespeare's Quartos and DaVinci's sketches and original sheet music written by Mozart, I think. But what I really remember is Jane Austen's writing desk. They had it in a glass case, her desk with a pen and ink and everything, and her original, handwritten manuscript of Pride and Prejudice open on it. I was barely tall enough to see it, but I stood on tiptoe and I read as much as I could, and there was just something about the language. I hardly understood it, but it captivated me. I went home and asked Mum if we could read it, and even though I was only seven, she said yes. And it's still one of my favorites."
She shifted in her seat, then frowned, eyes still closed. She realized first that she was no longer frozen, and then that she was no longer holding anything. "Can I open my eyes?" she asked.
"Hmmm?" the voice said from across the room. "Oh, yes. You should be able to." She opened them to see a tall blonde man about her age who looked vaguely familiar rolling up the cursed scroll very carefully. When he caught her eye, he smiled. "Sorry about that. Didn't want to interrupt." The scroll now rolled into a tight cylinder and resealed, he handed it to a partner she hadn't even known was in the room. "Take it straight to Davison, but tell him not to break the seal, whatever he does. Oh, and I suppose you can send the other two back in. They look about ready to burst through the door any moment."
The other man nodded, and exited, and before Rose could express her gratitude or ask the man's name, Shanti and Anabel were at her side, worrying over her and expressing their relief and concern in a rather exhausting way.
"Yes, I'm fine," she tried to tell them both. "Really."
"Is she?" Anabel asked the blonde young man.
"Oh, yes," he said with a smile and a nod. "Miss Weasley has a very resilient mind. She'll bounce right back from the encounter, though policy dictates she should go home for the rest of the day."
And before Rose could say that she was fine, that she didn't need the rest of the day off – which was a lie; she felt like crap, but she didn't want to admit it – Anabel broke in, saying, "Well, if that's what she needs, then that's what will happen."
"Rose, I've never seen anything so scary in all my life," Shanti said, hugging her from the side. "You sitting there without moving like that."
"Really, I'm fine," she said softly, still trying to listen in on the mystery man's conversation with Anabel.
". . . do have a few more questions I need to ask Miss Weasley," she managed to catch him say, "and I don't want to disrupt your work any longer."
"Of course," Anabel said, and ushered Shanti out despite her adamant protests.
"I really don't need the rest of the day off," Rose said when the door had clicked shut, even though it was blatantly untrue, given the pounding in her head and the weakness she couldn't shake.
"Yes, you do," the man said with kind authority. "Even if Ministry guidelines didn't demand it, you have a splitting headache and you're as exhausted as you would be if you'd stayed up all night and then run a 5k." Rose stared at him.
"How did you – ?" she asked, and he gave her a soft smile.
"Because I have some experience with this, Miss Weasley," he said kindly. "Besides, even if you don't need it, they do. If you don't go home, they'll just hover over you for the rest of the day, and you don't seem like someone who would particularly enjoy that." Rose grimaced, then sighed.
"They mean well," she said, trying to defend her friends.
"I know that they do," was his response.
"You said you had more questions for me?" she asked then, and he nodded.
"Yes. I need to know what happened before you broke the seals on the scrolls." Rose grimaced again.
"You mean you need to know if I skirted procedure," she said bluntly, and he smiled. "I assure you, I performed every precautionary enchantment we have. I performed them all twice. I don't know what was in that seal, but it wasn't anything — " He stopped her with a raised hand.
"Miss Weasley, I believe you," he said calmly. "I am well aware of your attention to detail, and I think I can safely say that there was nothing you could have done in the situation to avoid what happened. My questions are designed to help me further understand the nature of the spell itself and how to recognize and safeguard against it in the future. Now, are you able to recall what you read, any of it, even a little?"
His questions were incredibly detailed and specific, and she answered them as best she could. He didn't seem let down at all when she couldn't give a definite response; on the contrary, he seemed thrilled with even the little that she could tell him. And through the whole interview, something about him continued to nag at her. He was incredibly familiar, but she couldn't place him, and it was driving her mad.
"Are you a curse breaker?" she asked as he started to pack up his bag. He glanced at her.
"No," he said with a shake of his head. She waited for him to elaborate, but he didn't.
"An Auror?" she tried again.
"No," he repeated with a slight smile this time.
"A Healer, then?"
"No, Miss Weasley," he said, and he sounded almost apologetic, but he didn't reveal any more information.
"Then who do you work for?" she asked, exasperated.
"The Ministry, same as you," was all he said. "Now, then, if in the next few days, you suffer any ill effects that you think are related to the incident, let your supervisor know immediately. And if you see these symbols on anything else that comes in from the dig. She'll know how to contact us. I'm glad I could be of service to you, Miss Weasley," he said, standing and extending his hand to her.
"Miss Weasley?" she repeated, taking his hand and shaking it. "You called me Rose before."
"Rose," he said with a smile and a nod.
"And you have me at a disadvantage," she said, throwing caution to the wind because she had to know who he was. "Because you know my name, but I don't know yours."
The look he gave her then was very strange. His eyes narrowed, though they never lost their gleam of amusement. She was struck with the sudden thought that he saw the who world as one cosmic joke no one but he had been let in on. "Really," he said, interest lining his voice. "You don't know who I am." It was not quite a question.
Rose grimaced and bit her lip in embarrassment. "I knew it," she said. "I should know. Right?"
"Yeah," he said with a nod, drawing the word out. "That you should, Rose Weasley." She wracked her brain, she really did, but it wasn't there.
"I'm so sorry," she said, "really, I feel like an idiot. You look so familiar, but I just can't place you, and - I'm digging myself deeper into this hole with every word, aren't I?"
The mystery man nodded, but it was clear he was enjoying himself. Rose took a deep breath and screwed up her face. "Give me a hint," she begged.
"Well, we went to school together for seven years," he said then. "We weren't in the same house, but we were in the same year, and we shared three N.E.W.T. classes, and those aren't exactly large."
It hit her all of a sudden, and now she really did feel like an idiot.
"Scorpius Malfoy," she said with a groan.
"There we are," he said with a grin.
"Oh, I'm absolutely mortified," she said, burying her face in her hands, but his amusement at it all enabled her to laugh through the embarrassment, too. "Can you ever forgive me?" she asked, and he laughed.
"Don't mention it," he said, all needling gone. "It's not like we ever really interacted."
"Still," she insisted. "You'd think I'd have the courtesy to remember the first boy my father ever warned me away from." His eyebrows shot up at that.
"No kidding," he said, and she nodded.
"Yep. Train to Hogwarts, first year."
"Didn't waste any time, did he?" he said with a grin.
"Where a Malfoy was involved? Certainly not," she said, and then they stood without speaking for a moment or two, just long enough for the situation to become awkward, which they both jumped to remedy at the same time.
"Anyway–" Rose said, just as Scorpius said, "I should probably—" and then they both laughed awkwardly, and Rose gestured for him to continue.
"I was saying I should probably get back to my office."
"Probably," Rose agreed. "And I should probably be heading home to get some rest and drink plenty of fluids, hmm?"
"Always good advice," Scorpius said, extending his hand to her again. "Until next time, Rose."
"Well, if I'm on top of my job, there shouldn't be a next time, right?" She'd meant it as a joke, but for some reason, it didn't quite come off that way. "Thank you again, Scorpius," she said, and with one last nod, he left. Rose watched him go with an incomprehensible pang of regret that she probably wouldn't cross paths with him again.
To be continued.