NOTE: Special thanks to my beta readers Katieay and Jenadamson, and to queenb23, lina_granger, and Lady_G for encouraging me to explore this pairing. I would also like to thank any readers out there who are willing to give this a chance; I know next-gen is a gray area for many fans, so I appreciate all of you who give it a try. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it!
He’d scarcely had a chance to pull out of the car park at King’s Cross before the tirade began, and it didn’t end even when he’d pulled up to the back entrance to 93 Diagon Alley and switched off the ignition. He’d never imagined one person could be plagued with so many faults and still manage to put his underpants on correctly—although, he mused, he could be jumping to conclusions. Whoever had Rosie in such a state was obviously someone she knew quite well, and Ron didn’t care to entertain the notion that she knew her antagonist well enough to judge how he (or she, though Ron reckoned the former more likely, given the general nature of the diatribe) put on his underpants. There were some things a father just shouldn’t contemplate about his teenage daughter if he wanted to stay sane.
“Rosie?” he said, pocketing the car key and opening his door.
“What?” she snapped.
Taken aback, he was about to reprimand her, but then thought better of it. A raving Rosie was a fearsome thing to behold, and he’d rather she didn’t turn her fury on him, at least not until they got home. “We’re here,” was what he settled for.
She looked through the windshield. “Oh.” Slamming the door with such vehemence the whole car rocked, she stomped inside Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, the joke shop Ron had managed with his brother for the past twenty-five years, still fuming.
George stuck his head out of the back office as Ron came inside, his eyes wide. “What the bloody hell was that? It had Rose’s voice, but looked like a rabid banshee.”
“Yup, that was Rosie, all right. Dunno what she’s so worked up about.”
“Boy troubles would be my first guess.”
Ron sighed. “Mine too.” He hung his jacket on the coat tree inside the office and put on the magenta robes he wore while at work. “I reckon it had to happen sooner or later.”
“That’s what you get for having a daughter.” He looked around, then went into the corridor, then came back in. “Where’s Hugo? Did he sneak past while that Rose-shaped tornado was blowing through?”
“No, he’s gone home with Al and Lily. I think he took one look at his sister and decided he’d rather stay well shot of harm’s way until she’d calmed down.”
“Smart lad.” Grinning, George rubbed his palms together. “So, who d’you think the lucky bloke is?”
“No idea; she’s not named any names yet. I’m guessing Spencer Finnigan, since she mentioned him once or twice in her letters home.” They’d entered the back room where surplus stock was stored for when display items were selling out; a curtain hung over the doorway that led into the main part of the shop, and Ron could hear Rosie hadn’t let up. “Blimey. She keeps on like that, she’s going to drive away all our customers.”
George dismissed his concern with an airy wave. “Let ‘er get it off her chest. Verthandi is as unflappable as they come, and maybe she can calm Rose down before it’s time for you to go home. Besides,” he added, turning his remaining ear towards the gap in the curtain, “I’m dying to find out who’s got her so worked up.”
* * * * *
“Scorpius Malfoy?” Verthandi Barbary’s brow crinkled in thought. “I don’t think I’ve heard that name before.”
“You haven’t? Are you sure? I know I must have mentioned him before. Same year as me and Al, Ravenclaw prefect, president of the dueling club?” At Verthandi’s continued lack of recognition Rose added, scowling, “He’s the one who stole the Dumbledore Bursary from me last year.”
“Ah, I see.” Verthandi nodded slowly. “That was based on your O.W.L. marks, right?”
“Yes. That prat scored two points higher than me on the Charms practical!”
“So he didn’t really steal it, he just did better than you.”
Rose glared at her. “Whose side are you on?”
“I’m not on anyone’s side, Rose.” She took a box of WonderWitch products from behind the counter to continue work on the window display she’d started before Rose arrived. “I don’t quite understand what you’re so upset about, though. The way you’ve been carrying on, it sounds as though he used an Unforgivable on someone.”
“Malfoy? Use an Unforgivable? Ha!” She yanked a piece of Spellotape from the dispenser and handed it to Verthandi. “He hasn’t got the nerve.”
“Then what did he do to make you so angry?”
She folded her arms across her midsection and stuck out her lower lip. “He ignored me.”
Still holding up the décor she was trying to attach to the glass, Verthandi looked over her shoulder at Rose with an expression of utter disbelief. “I’m sorry, what? He ignored you?”
“Yes,” Rose snapped.
“Since when is that an offense punishable by... what was it you said you wanted to do to him? Ah, yes: Death by Bat-Bogey.”
“That’s if I was feeling generous.”
Verthandi turned back to the window with a chuckle. “Oh, Rosie.”
“You’re laughing at me, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“Well, it’s not funny!” Rose said, stamping her foot. “He had no good reason to ignore me like that! It was very rude of him.”
The décor securely in place, Verthandi came down from the stepladder. “Are you close friends with him? Did he have any reason to think he was expected to acknowledge you?”
Rose shrugged. “We studied together a bit this year. He’s really brilliant at Astronomy and Arithmancy—you know I’m pants at anything involving numbers—and was a big help during exams. And, of course, we had all those prefects meetings that we both had to go to.”
“It all sounds perfectly normal.”
“I suppose. Plus, well...” She developed a sudden fascination with her thumbnails. “Well, last Hogsmeade weekend, we sat together in the Three Broomsticks.”
“You sat together.”
“Uh-huh.” She glanced up at Verthandi, then back down. “See, he was there by himself, and I was by myself too, because all my friends were busy doing other things, and Hugo had detention again, and when I saw Scorpius sitting in the corner all alone I thought, ‘Why not join him, it’s not like he’s that manky Spencer Finnigan,’ so I went over and asked if it was okay to sit there, and he said, ‘Sure,’ so I did, and he bought me a Butterbeer.” She took a deep breath.
“And then what? He bought you a Butterbeer, and then what?”
“And... that was pretty much it.”
“The two of you sat there drinking your Butterbeers and didn’t even talk to each other?”
She made a “tuh” sound just like her mother’s. “Yeah, we talked. Mostly about school stuff. He asked me if I had any plans for the summer hols and I said I’d be working here, and he said maybe he’d stop in and buy something if his dad let him.”
“That sounds promising.”
Rose gave her a strange look. “It’s not like I want him to come here. I don’t care one way or the other. I don’t fancy him.”
“You certainly sound like you do.”
“Well, I don’t.”
“Okay, fine, if you say so.” She Banished the stepladder to the supply closet and started arranging the contents of the WonderWitch box in the window. “So you had a Butterbeer together at the Three Broomsticks, you talked about school and your summer plans, he said he might come by the shop...”
“And then he completely ignored me on the train ride to London.”
“When were you last in Hogsmeade?”
“End of April.”
“So it’s been about six weeks since your—” She almost said “date,” but caught herself in time. “—tête-à-tête. What happened in the meantime?”
“What d’you mean?”
“Well, did you and Scorpius go out of your way to spend time together?”
“No. I mean, we saw a lot of each other, but it was all the usual stuff.”
“Did you make any extra effort to speak to him about things that weren’t ‘the usual stuff’?”
Rose wrinkled her face at Verthandi. “What are you on about?”
Verthandi sighed, grabbed the now-empty box, and took it behind the counter, where a woman stood waiting with two small children and a basket full of Whiz-Bangs. While she rang up the sale, Rose wrapped each item in Self-Extinguishing Tissue Paper, then arranged them in a box, which she tied shut with a ribbon that whistled “Pop Goes the Weasel.”
“Thanks for stopping in,” Verthandi said as they left. “Come back and see us soon.” She rolled her eyes as soon as the door had completely shut. “She comes in here at least once every two weeks to buy nothing but Whiz-Bangs.”
“Who knows. I’m sure it has something to do with keeping those two little monsters amused. If she’s not careful, they’ll be permanently bored before they’re old enough to go to Hogwarts.” Verthandi stowed the box under the counter and then turned to face Rose. “All right, honey, you and me need to have a little chat about boys.”
Rose’s cheeks turned scarlet. “Thandi!” She looked around furtively and lowered her voice. “My dad and uncle are right. Back. There.” She pointed in the direction of the curtain. “They might hear you.”
“So what? What are they going to do?”
“For starters, Uncle George’ll never let me hear the end of it. And Dad? He’ll go absolutely spare.”
“Why, because we’re talking about boys?” Rose nodded frantically. Verthandi shook her head. “Fine. Mr. Weasley, Mr. Weasley? You can come out now.”
Rose let out a squeak of horror as George stepped through the curtain first, a broad grin on his face. Ron was right behind him, looking somewhat abashed and very unamused. “How long have you known?” George asked.
“You two are about as subtle as a pair of nesting Diricawls.” She took off her work robes and Banished them to hang in the back office. “I’m going to take my break now, since I skipped lunch, and I’m taking Rose with me so we can talk in private.”
“Spoilsport.” George’s eyes glittered with amusement. “How do you know one of us won’t try to plant a Cordless Ear on you?”
Verthandi looked at him evenly. “If you were in the habit of spying on your employees even when they’re off-premises, no one would ever work here.”
“Vanquished by our own morals, dear brother,” he said to Ron. “We must be getting soft in our old age. Don’t be gone too long, okay? I expect the après-Hogwarts stampede any time now.”
Verthandi held the door open for Rose. “We’ll be at the ice-cream parlor. If things get hairy, you know how to get in touch with me.” She pulled a coin from her pocket to show she had it with her.
* * * * *
“Tell me again what we’re doing here?”
Scorpius tried to restrain his annoyance as he lengthened his stride. “I wanted to pick up a few things before we went home.”
“One of the house-elves would have got you anything you needed. What’s the point in having paid servants if they’re not going to earn their pay?”
He stopped suddenly and turned to face his father. “Maybe I wanted to do this for myself. Now if I may turn your question back on you: What are you doing here?”
Draco looked around him and scowled. “Do you honestly think I’m going to let my son, scion of the Malfoy family, wander unescorted through Diagon Alley? Merlin only knows who might be lying in wait, eager for the opportunity to do us harm.”
“I’m quite perfectly capable of looking after myself, Father,” Scorpius said as he resumed walking in the same direction he’d been headed before. “I am seventeen now, in case you’ve forgotten.”
“You’ve only been seventeen for a week. Having the legal right to use magic outside of school is not the same thing as being able to defend yourself should the need arise.”
“I suppose having been president of the dueling club this year means nothing, then.”
Draco scoffed. “Those duels are conducted under strict regulations to ensure the safety of the participants. If someone were to get it into their head to ambush you—and believe me, there are many who dream of just such an opportunity—I assure you they would not hesitate to exploit any unfair advantage to their benefit.”
“Father, please,” Scorpius groaned as his intended destination came in sight. He felt his stomach do a little flip at the name on the window and wiped his damp palms on his robes. “Surely there’s something, anything, you’d rather be doing than playing chaperon? You’ve got to let me grow up sooner or later.”
“Later suits me quite well.” He glanced at the sign advertising the shop Scorpius was about to enter and grabbed his arm, yanking him backwards into the street. “Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes?” he hissed. “Have you lost your mind?”
Although the late-afternoon sun was warm, Draco pulled the collar of his robes more closely about his throat. “Why not just walk unarmed into a tribe of drunken giants?”
“It’s a joke shop, Father. It’s been around for years. Everyone at Hogwarts is always going on about what a great place it is. I just want to see for myself if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.”
“I don’t doubt it’s a perfectly... legitimate establishment.” Draco glanced uneasily at the sign again and muttered under his breath, “It’s the proprietors that concern me.”
Scorpius, who had been peering through the glassed-in door, had to step back suddenly as it opened and a gang of boys he recognized from school exited, their arms laden with purchases. Several of them called out greetings to him before they burst into a gallop down the street, laughing boisterously. With a strange sense of longing Scorpius found himself leaning forward, trying to spot a certain wild-haired girl whom he had on good authority was supposed to be inside before the door swung shut, but was thwarted. He sighed with disappointment.
“Why the sudden fascination?” Draco asked as he examined the window display. “You’ve never shown any interest in this place before.”
“Idle curiosity, that’s all.”
“Mm-hm.” Draco didn’t believe his son for a minute; Scorpius never did anything “idly,” but was always purposeful almost to the point of obsessiveness. He resisted the temptation to try using Legilimency to find out just what his son was up to. “I believe they have a very lucrative mail-order business on the side. If you’re that interested, we can request a catalogue be sent to the house.”
“No, that’s not necessary, it’s not that im—”
Draco let out a “whoof” when Scorpius’ elbow slammed into his side as he spun around. Massaging his bruised ribs, Draco turned as well and saw two girls—one of them clearly a student, judging from the uniform she still wore, the other a few years out of Hogwarts—polishing off the last few bites of a pair of sundaes. The younger girl, who looked strangely familiar, had managed to dribble strawberry sauce down her front, and was staring at Scorpius as though she expected him to burst into flames. Given his unusually high color, it wasn’t an unreasonable expectation for her to have. Curious, Draco decided to take a step back and watch what was unfolding before he intervened.
“Scorpius, what are you doing here?”
Scorpius didn’t know what to do with his hands. First he stuffed them in his pockets, but then he thought that was rather too casual, so he clasped them behind his back, but that struck him as much too formal. He finally attempted to affect an air of diffidence by propping one hand on his hip and raking the fingers of the other through his hair. “Er, hullo, Rose,” he said, ignoring his father’s snort as he tried to make his voice sound deeper than usual. “Fancy meeting you here.”
She crinkled her nose at him, an expression Scorpius was very familiar with—it was the look she usually gave people she thought were nutters—and found utterly adorable. “This is my dad and uncle’s shop. I told you I was working here this summer.”
“You did? Ah, I must have forgotten.”
“Your father and uncle own this place?” Draco interjected, coming forward. “You must be a Weasley, then.”
His cold, grey eyes narrowed as he looked her up and down. “That explains the hair.”
“Bloody hell, Verthandi, what’s keeping y—Oh,” came a familiar voice. “Ron, you better get out here.”
“Well, that answers my next question,” Draco said, his youthful drawl returning as though the past twenty-five years had never taken place. “Which one are you?”
“Great Merlin’s balls, Malfoy, what are you doing here?”
“Asking myself the same thing, Weasley. My son appears to have lured me here under false pretenses. Or perhaps I should say: your daughter lured my son here, and I, as a responsible father, came along to ensure he didn’t come to any harm.”
Scorpius looked as though he wanted to Transfigure himself into an insect and scuttle between the cracks in the pavement. The girl was on the verge of tears, no doubt a predisposition inherited from her mother. “Father!” Scorpius whispered, pulling at Draco’s sleeve. “Apologize!”
Draco yanked himself free. “I’ll do no such thing.”
“Verthandi, maybe you and I should go back inside. We’ve got customers coming out our ears—or ear, in my case—anyway.”
“Right behind you, Mr. Weasley.” She hastened after George.
Ron inhaled deeply, puffing out his chest, and fingered his wand. “What are you insinuating about my daughter?”
Draco made sure his wand was in easy reach, took a step closer, and sneered. “That she is your daughter should be insinuation enough.” He smirked at Weasley’s frown as he tried to interpret this. “I can tell where she learned her eating habits just from looking at her shirt. Let’s go,” he said to Scorpius. “Your mother must be wondering what’s kept us.” The stricken look on his son’s face stopped Draco from saying anything further. He glanced over his shoulder to see what Scorpius couldn’t tear his gaze away from, and found that the Weasley girl had turned away to face the wall and was furiously wiping at her front. He looked back at Scorpius with a sickening sense of realization.
“I’ll advise you to keep your son away from my daughter, Malfoy,” Ron finally said, kicking himself mentally for not having warned Rosie about the Malfoys earlier. Hopefully, whatever Scorpius had done to put her in such a state earlier, and now this, would teach her to leave well enough alone.
“Nothing would bring me greater pleasure, I assure you.”
“Randy bugger’d better keep his hands to himself, I mean it.”
“What?” The girl let out a sob and ran inside. In an instant, Draco found himself facing the business end of Weasley’s wand. “What did you just call my son?”
“I said: keep that scrawny pervert away from Rose.”
“You keep that tart away from Scorpius then!” Though he knew Weasley had the advantage, Draco took out his own wand. “What did I tell you about people wanting to ambush us?” he muttered to Scorpius, who seemed more interested in the shop and that silly girl than the fact that his father was being threatened in public by one of Britain’s most notorious thugs.
“I catch either of you lurking around here again, I’ll have Magical Law Enforcement pick you up.”
“I catch anyone in your family sniffing around mine, I’ll show you the same courtesy.”
With a grimace, Ron lowered his wand. Malfoy really wasn’t worth the hassle, though his wand hand itched to make the git pay for hurting Rosie’s feelings. “Get the hell out of here before I change my mind and contact them now.”
“With pleasure. All right, Scorpius, let’s go.” Draco walked the first few steps backward, not trusting Weasley not to hit him with a jinx when his back was turned, but at a frown from Scorpius Draco finally turned around to walk down the street.
They continued in sullen silence almost all the way to Gringotts. Finally, however, Draco couldn’t restrain himself any more. “In the name of Salazar Slytherin, you’re in love with her! My son is in love with a Weasley whelp! I don’t think I’ve ever been so revolted in my life.”
Scorpius’ face was ashen and he was slumped like a beaten puppy. He looked so miserable Draco might have been concerned, were it not for the cause. “She’s a Weasley-Granger, Father,” he mumbled.
“I don’t care! As if that’s even supposed to be an improvement! The whole lot of them are despicable.” He thought quickly. “Clearly, emergency measures are called for. Your grandmother will know what to do. Just pray your grandfather never gets wind of this, or there’ll be hell to pay.” Draco looked at his son with pity. “Come on, Scorpius, let’s go home.”