Rose stuffed some quills and rolls of parchment into her brown leather bag and then slung it over her shoulder. She ruffled through the stack of papers atop her trunk at the end of her bed until she found the Hogsmeade permission slip, tucking it inside the purse as well. She had to keep things like that secure—a startling number of teenagers were willing to steal a mere permission slip bearing her mother or father’s signature, evidently.
Rose grabbed her broom and snuck onto the the end of the line for Hogsmeade, digging around in her bag for that permission slip. It was about an hour after everyone else had gone so she wasn't waiting for long; she always planned it that way, so as to not get distracted by any friends. Professor Longbottom cast a suspicious glance at her broom but let her go anyways.
When she was certain there were no eyes on her, she climbed on her broom and took off. She traveled for a while towards the coast, reveling in the feeling of the wind blowing through her hair and prickling her face. She didn't do this too often, but every once in a while she loved skipping the Hogsmeade outings just to go flying and be by the sea. Rose wasn't much of a shopper, anyway.
Once she made it to the coast, she flew down to this great bay James discovered for her. Back in his Hogwarts days, he used to love exploring around Scotland and Northern England during school breaks. A good Muggle friend of his worked at these docks, and Rose was still sneaking to them years later.
She picked a spot on the rightmost side of the docks, nearest to the Atlantic, and landed smoothly, salty seaspray splashing on her. Rose took out her parchment but didn't start working yet; instead, she spent a while just watching. Perhaps the reason she loved the ocean so much was the peacefulness—with her large family and friends, she didn't usually get much of that.
Feeling spiritually satisfied, Rose began working on her article. She was the assistant editor of Hogwart’s news magazine and she had yet to start on any of her articles. Her best work came from these excursions, and she wanted to build up an impressive portfolio to send to the Daily Prophet or wherever she decided to start her career in journalism.
Rose switched her cumbersome quills for a mechanical pencil—one of the advantages of being the daughter of a Muggle-born. She wrote and wrote, trying her best not to look back and edit. Whenever she got stuck, she would stare at the ocean for a few minutes until the words started forming in her head again.
She had just come up with the perfect ending for her column (a series about the culture mix of being raised by a Muggle-born and a pureblood) and was about to leave when she heard voices coming around the corner. At first she paid it no mind and went back to looking over her compositions one final time. Workers and sailors were always milling around various parts of the dock. A few of the employees knew her by name and and checked in on her whenever she visited.
“A little bit further…” she heard a guy named Waylon say, pulling a long cardboard box through the dark alley between the big storage shed and the bait shop. He always offered her soda and American sweets he bought when he traveled to see his family. His older sister was a songwriter for some popular American artists.
Rose waved over to him. “Hi Waylon!”
He turned his head and shouted back, “Rose, hey! Ditching school to work on schoolwork again?”
“Of course. Got the rough drafts of three articles done.”
“That’s great!” Having set the box down, he jogged over to her. “Holidays nice?”
“Yeah,” she grinned. “Almost got expelled for vandalism when my friends and I got trashed for my cousin Al’s best friend’s birthday. I put together a New Years yacht party for the whole extended family, and you know how much I love sailing, so it was wonderful. But it’s also great being back at school.”
Rose noticed a streak of black in her periphery. Emerging from the alleyway was a boy in his late teens with dark hair and wide eyes.
“James,” she whispered, all air leaving her lungs.
“Do you know him?” Waylon asked.
“Er, I’ve got to go. I’ll see you some other time, okay?” Rose rolled up her parchments and shoved all her things back into her bag.
“Alright. Here, before you fly off, take a Reese's.” He tossed a small orange package her way. Being a keeper and all, Rose caught it without needing to look, but the second the sweets landed in her hand, she hesitated. She was anxious to be so close to James after excluding him from her life for so long, but she had to understand.
“How do you know?” Waylon was a Muggle and had no relation to any wizard or witch, she was sure of it. Unless he was the childhood friend of James’ that introduced him to the docks…
“I assumed. You always have a broomstick, Rose, and you write on fucking scrolls of parchment. To the trained eye, it’s obvious you’re a witch.”
“No, I mean...Did James tell you about the Wizarding World?”
“When we were eleven.” Waylon laughed. “He had just received his acceptance letter to Hogwarts and couldn’t keep his mouth shut.” He started to leave, not wanting to get in the middle of whatever was going on with Rose and James.
Rose nodded, anticipating her shitty luck. Before she could mount on her broom, one word pierced the salty air.
She turned to face her cousin. He hadn’t aged graciously, but Rose suspected that was more from his lifestyle than anything else. The memory of Uncle Harry telling the story of the first time he was introduced to Sirius Black, a filthy, mad, innocent vagrant who did nothing to deserve the life he was dealt. Bile clawed at her throat.
“Where do I begin?” he muttered to himself. “Why didn’t you invite me to the New Years party?”
“A party is hardly the right occasion.” Rose clenched and unclenched her fists. “What do you think would have happened? Your parents wouldn’t have had questions? Al and Lily would’ve instantly forgive you?”
“You have to give me a chance, Rosie Red.”
“Only Al can call me that,” she snapped. “We gave you a chance. You were gone nearly a year and we forgave you. And then you left again. For France, from the sound of your accent. What the fuck is in France for you?”
A dark shadow of melancholy washed over his face, but he quickly pushed it away in irritation. “Er, Lysander Scamander.”
“Unbelievable. Let me guess: you’re the reason he and Louis broke up? Showed up at Ly’s door, said you had nowhere else to go. He took you in and because of proximity you two fucked. You and Al better keep your relationship advice away from Lily because I don’t want all the Potter kids to become cheaters and homewreckers.”
“Yeah, on the girl he loved, with my best friend. Malfoy and I are currently trying to figure out how to handle the situation. But you don’t get to pretend to care when you’ve been hiding in Paris with Lysander.”
“I do care, he’s my fucking brother!”
“Then act like it! Come home. I promise you that’s what we want. Fix things with Al and Lily and start being a brother to them again.”
“After everything that happened, I was scared of the judgement.... I stole money from my parents. I was horrible. I can’t got back there.” With every crack in his voice, Rose’s throat closed up more.
“Children are supposed to disappoint their parents. But James, you broke Al and Lily’s hearts. You’re nineteen—how about you grow up.”
Rose mounted her broom and was about to take off when James started talking again. “Do you even know the whole story? It wasn’t just about the attention and the money.”
“Does it matter?” Rose called as she ran over to Waylon. She didn’t want to leave him like that, not after having a fight with James.
“Yes it does!” he insisted, following her. She smiled to Waylon and helped him carry that long box into his office.
They set the package down on the desk. It was covered in clear packing tape, so Waylon and Rose attacked it with scissors.
They were nearly done when Rose shifted her position. She was cutting towards her, and when James ran into the room and knocked into the package, the scissor blades went straight into her palm.
“Shit!” She screamed and nursed her hand, bringing it in close.
Waylon’s immediate reaction was to comfort her, but that did not address the pair of scissors protruding from her left hand.
“Can you magic it out?” he asked James, who was removing the first aid kit from the wall.
“Theoretically I could, but I don’t know how. I haven’t been properly trained on how to do that without exacerbating the wound.”
James slowly pulled the blade out and examined the wound. “When was the last time you took the tetanus potion?”
“Two years ago, I think.” Rose watched as James put on gloves and soaked a cotton ball with hydrogen peroxide. She winced when he started cleaning the wound.
“I’m almost done, Rose. It’s a fairly shallow wound so you don’t need to seek further medical attention, but if it starts hurting a lot go to Madame Pomfrey. I’m going to recommend you go to her tomorrow morning to change the dressings and follow her medical advice from then on.”
James went back to the first aid kit and pulled out some gauze. He taped it on her hand and gave her some painkiller potion he had stored in his bag. “How does it feel?”
“Not too bad, as long as I don’t put pressure on it.” She looked up at her cousin, animosity replaced by fear. “But I don’t think I’ll be able to fly back to Hogwarts.”
He smiled softly, testing the grounds. It was the perfect opportunity to try to start fixing things with Rose. Her anger never knew any bounds, and James knew that it would probably be more difficult to sway her opinion than either of his siblings. “I’ll fly you back as close as I can get."
Not really wanting to spend an hour next to James with no escape but not seeing any other solution, Rose nodded. With her right hand, she slung her bag over her shoulder and climbed onto her broom behind James. “Bye, Waylon. I’m sorry you had to see all that.”
“It’s alright, just feel better, Rose. And James, I’ll get back to you. We’ll talk tomorrow?”
“Yes. Just think it over, sleep on it. If you can’t, it’s not a problem.” James took off, taking a sharp turn to the right to be on track to Hogwarts.
“What’s Waylon getting back to you about?”
James’ voice was slightly distracted. “I asked if I could stay with him for a little while. Looks like Ly and Louis are getting back together and it’s really not my place to be hanging around there anymore.” He scanned the sky and Rose had a flashback of playing Quidditch alongside him in the final game his seventh year. She wondered what fear, what anger fueled the events that happened after graduation.
“James?” She wasn’t used to being serious with him; it was always either raging anger or playful pranks. The two of them never had many personal conversations—it just wasn’t how their relationship worked. Now, none of that mattered anymore. She wanted to know.
“Earlier...you said I didn’t know the whole reason you ran away.”
“When I was in Muggle primary school—think I was maybe nine at this point—I had a crush on this boy in my class. His family was super conservative, and when his mom found out, she made a big deal of it. Waylon, who has a transgender mom, defended me in front of her, and, well, that’s how we became friends. I was too young to understand what any of it meant, but I vowed to myself that I would never like a boy like that again. Didn’t last too long, though, because I dated Michael Crawford for most of fourth year. It’s stupid, but that experience set in me this deep shame. For years, I wanted so badly to only like girls.”
“You always seemed so confident about your sexuality. Malfoy said you were part of the reason he chose to come out as bisexual to Al and I when he did.”
Rose couldn’t see James’ face, but she knew from his tone of voice that he was grimacing. “Fake it til you make it, Rosie.” She kicked his shin when he used Al’s nickname, but rubbed his shoulder to show that she was listening and that she cared. All those months of hatred and all he needed to win her over again was to bear his soul to her. He continued, “That’s part of the reason I stayed with Lysander. I feel horrible about fucking up his relationship, but I learned a lot in Paris. It was the best medicine, really, to be around someone so unapologetically himself. Guess we have Luna’s eccentricity to thank for that.”
“Tell me one thing: if you’ve been insecure about your sexuality for years, why did it matter when you ran away? You’ve been out to the family for since Michael Crawford and to the public for half as long.”
“Stuff like that...it sticks with you, Rosie. Bubbling under the surface, repressed, waiting for something to provoke it out.”
“Did that happen? Did someone say something to you?”
“I was anxious and paranoid from the press. I expected everyone I came in contact with to be bigoted and hateful and judgemental. And sometimes they were. I was just getting readjusted to life after coming back home and met up with some school buddies. Rumours had started while I was gone and they were...less than friendly. It wasn’t that I was unprepared to deal with that kind of thing; it was the timing of the whole ordeal, and the betrayal from them, that set me off.”
Rose hesitantly stuck out her hand and gripped James’ shoulder. She took a deep breath.“I’m so sorry, James. I had no idea.”
“It means a lot, Rosie.”
“Why do you keep calling me that?”
“Because you’re letting me.” He smiled back at her. “Anyway, now I’m working to get my life back on track. I’ve enrolled at St. Mungo’s academy. Parents don’t know yet, so don’t tell them.”
“Healing?” It made sense, Rose figured, thinking back on all the electives he took in his later years at Hogwarts. And there was that whole puncture wound thing from, like, twenty minutes before.
“Yeah! Lysander works, so when I stayed with him I starting taking classes at a local uni. It was mostly out of boredom since I neither wanted nor needed a job, but I learned a lot!”
“I’m trying to picture you in healer’s robes.”
“Well, I’m thinking of going into sports healing. It’s a lot bigger in the Muggle world, but then they have a lot more sports.”
“I suppose it’ll allow you to continue being around Quidditch without actually playing,” Rose summarized.
“That’s the appeal. How’s the season going so far?”
“Hufflepuff is in the lead right now. We’re third, behind Slytherin. I wouldn’t be too heartbroken if we don’t win the cup this year as long as we get it next year.”
“Send me an owl when your next game gets close. I’ll come see you play.”
“Is that allowed?”
“Do Potters ever listen to the rules? I might not be a student anymore, but I’m probably related to a third of all the Quidditch players in the school. Might as well go.”
Just for kicks, James dove unexpectedly. Rose screamed in exhilaration. Now that they were closer to the ground, Rose could see the sprawl of the shops and restaurants that made up Hogsmeade. She noticed the Shrieking Shack hidden away to the side and recalled the stories her parents told her of Teddy’s father and her grandparents and her great-Godfather Sirius. She would never get to meet Grandpa James, but based on the collection of stories shared with her, she thought her James was quite like him. Maybe he was a little more melodramatic and sensitive than the original James Potter, but different times, right?
James dropped down to the ground. “Now arriving at Hogsmeade station. This is the end of the line. All passengers must exit the train,” he said in a faux-mechanized voice.
Rose laughed. “I’ll see you.” She started to walk away, but there was unfinished business to attend to. “And James? I’m sorry.”
He nodded wordlessly. Rose figured there was nothing more to say, so she began walking up the sloping path from the little town to Hogwarts.
She walked back into the castle about fifteen minutes before dinner was to start, which was good. Rose didn’t usually get back so late when out on her excursions, but she also didn’t usually run into estranged cousins or injure herself, either. It was a fantastic day, though, once she let her guard down and listened.
“Oi! Weasley!” Malfoy came up to her as she exited the Gryffindor Tower, and the Fat Lady gave him a sidelong glare from her portrait.
Rose walked beside him. “I haven’t seen you all day. Did you not go to up to Hogsmeade?" he asked.
“I—er...Technically, no.” Call Rose a goody-two-shoes, but she didn’t like to lie. Lies tended to get one into a lot of trouble and generally caused more problems than they were worth, as evidenced by recent lies of each of the Potter boys.
“Are you going to tell me where you were, then? Because if you had stayed in today, you would still be in pajamas, sans makeup. Or is it a secret only the Minister knows?”
Rose flushed and wondered when Malfoy noticed that her lashes and brows were done up, a little peach sheen on her lips and cheeks. Nevertheless, he was a clever boy, and he knew she had spent her childhood with the best rule-benders in this generation of Hogwarts students.
“I. ah, I went to these docks. That James used to bring me to. And I wrote a lot, for the Bulletin.”
Malfoy raised a blond eyebrow. “If that’s all, how did you do that?” He gestured with said eyebrow to her left hand.
Rose flushed again, out of embarrassment. “Funny story,” she began, as they neared the entrance to the Great Hall. She was about to spill everything, from her own clumsiness to seeing James, but experienced a rather rude interruption.
“Oh, finally!” Emilie shouted in exasperation from the doorway to the Hall. “I’ve been looking for you two all day!”
Rose was no good at deduction skills, but the look on Scorpius’ face did not seem promising. “Is everything alright, Em?” she asked.
Emilie chose not to reply in words, but instead delivered to Scorpius a swift knee to the groin. At once he withered in pain and became very familiar with the cold stone floor. Before Rose could ask what the fuck was wrong with Emilie, a hand came across her right cheek. Rose staggered against the wall, using her injured hand, unfortunately, to steady herself.
“That’s for knowing about Al and Violet and not telling me,” she spat, eyes bloodshot and voice like venom. She turned on her heel towards the stairs leading down to the dungeons.
As it turned out, a bitchslap was a much less severe trauma than getting kicked in the nuts, so once Rose recovered, she helped Malfoy. Rose fed him the last few drops of the painkiller potion James gave her earlier.
“Thanks,” he told her quite vulnerably. She didn’t imagine this was very fun for him, so she withheld any cheeky comments for the sake of being nice.
They walked into the Great Hall together, parting to go to their respective tables. Not many people were dining at the moment, as was usual with Hogsmeade days. Many students spent the better part of the day in the town and ate during the later dinner hours. Others had eaten in town and simply weren’t hungry when they returned. Dismayed, Rose noticed that no one from her usual meal group was there, but she loaded up her plate with mashed potatoes and roast chicken anyway.
Noticing Rose sitting alone like in those awkward Muggle movies, Scorpius took his plate and moved to sit across from her. He reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle of Fishy Green Ale. Rose sipped her pumpkin juice.
“Is this allowed?”
“Don’t be a killjoy,” he snapped and rolled his eyes. “Inter-house unity,” he offered, and she nodded. Neither of them knew what to make of Emilie’s outburst, so they sat in slightly tense silence, turning it all over in their heads.
“How do you reckon she found out we knew?” Rose asked finally, even though she knew the answer.
“I suspect she heard our argument the other day during patrols.”
Rose frowned. “We really should report her for being out past curfew.”
“We’d have no proof she was. Besides, do you really want to make her even angrier than she already is?”
Rose nodded in understanding and finished off her mashed potatoes. Malfoy played with his apple crumble and asked, “Care to tell me the story about how you hurt your hand, and why it’s not been cured by magic?”
“I, er, ran into James at the docks.”
Malfoy’s eyes widened. “But isn’t he public enemy number one? How are you not shaking with fury?”
“I do not shake with fury!”
“Yes, you do,” Malfoy said pointedly.
Rose sighed. “The story is more complicated than I was aware of. He didn’t run away for selfish reasons, but because he was hurt and lost.” Rose was hesitant to tell him the details, but she figured that Malfoy was practically part of the family already with the amount of time he spent with Albus, so he’d find out eventually. She told him the whole story, awkwardly stumbling over her words. She knew sexuality was potentially just as touchy a subject for Scorpius as for James, so she apologized. “I hope this didn’t bring up...anything.”
Malfoy shrugged. “I’m progeny from the part of the Wizarding World still too obsessed with tradition. I came out to my parents, and it was fine.That conversation ended with my father confirming the rumours about that secret affair he had with your Uncle Harry back in '01. Trust me, I won’t ever forget that conversation, try as I might. I came out to my maternal aunt and uncle, and then the whole extended family knew. Some of them don’t even believe that bisexuality exists, and the ones who do don’t hide the fact that they blatantly hope I marry a woman so that I have an heir and pass on the Malfoy name.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.” Rose certainly couldn’t relate to the feeling, but she was sure it sucked.
“I’m used to it.” Another shrug. It angered Rose, because he surely couldn’t take this kind of abuse as a normal occurrence. But what could she do to help?
“If I were you, I’d just go and snog some bloke out in the open at, like, a family reunion. Be a big ‘fuck you’ to the bigots in your family,” Rose said confidently.
“I’m not sure if I should be flattered that you think I’m bold enough to do that.”
“I would characterize you more as arrogant, but same difference, right? I bet your dad would appreciate your total and complete disregard for any sort of social rules.”
Rose must have hit a chord, because Scorpius was blushing up a storm, an odd look for such a pale guy. “I don’t know where I could get a guy to snog. You know the only one I’ve ever liked is Lysander, who isn’t a viable option right now.”
“I’ll run an advert in the Bulletin. It’s decided.”
Rose and Scorpius weren’t ones for deep conversations with each other, so maybe it was the absurdity of the situation, but they both cracked up. Scorpius pushed aside his apple crumble and grabbed a serving of string beans; Rose took his plate and finished his dessert off. “What does Fishy Green Ale taste like anyway?”
“I assure you it doesn’t taste as repulsive as it sounds. It’s actually quite sweet.”
“I know that you like sweet,” Rose commented, a mischievous grin on her face. “That’s why you crushed on Lysander instead of, say, my cousin.”
“Which one? Al? Not a chance.” Malfoy shook his head. “He’s my best mate. Besides, Ly is sweet, but he’s also got this cigarettes-and-leather kind of edge to him.”
Rose shrugged and laughed. Neither said anything for a few minutes, and it was one of the few times they could have a silence without it turning awkward.
“Wait!” Malfoy looked a bit troubled. “You never told me how you hurt your hand.”
“James and I have a mutual friend, Waylon, down at the docks. I was helping him open a box that was absolutely caked in packing tape. Well, you know grace has never been a virtue of James’, and he bumped into the box. Let’s just say using scissors to slice the tape was not the smartest idea.”
Malfoy laughed. “Of course.”
“Hey!” Rose didn’t know whether to be offended or if his teasing was good-natured. “Mind you, I was blindingly furious at James at the time! I wasn’t exactly concerned about the possibility of plunging a blade into my palm.”
“I still don’t understand why James didn’t just use the episkey spell to fix you hand up.”
Rose shrugged. “Something about his nerves being too bad to have the necessary concentration. You know, James is training to be a sports healer at St. Mungo’s…but you’re not supposed to know that.” Rose blushed at her slip-up. “He gave me some of that healing and numbing potion, so it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
Malfoy nodded. “Do Al and Lily know that you’re on good terms with James again?”
“No.” Rose shook her head. “I don’t even think either of them are back from Hogsmeade yet.”
“Well you should. Tell them, I mean. Soon.”
Rose hesitated but nodded anyway. “I will.” She was sheepish under Malfoy’s pointed glare.