Rose turned away from him so he couldn’t see her roll her eyes. He was so incredibly dramatic sometimes it physically hurt. She patiently waited for him to finish his tirade before saying, “I haven’t a doubt in my mind that you can make friends. I know you can, you’re charming as shite. That’s not what this is about. I’m not so sure that you want to make friends, honestly. You cannot keep wallowing forever. You sit here in your flat and you mope and that’s going to do absolutely nothing for you. You can’t let yourself live like this, waiting for me to visit so you can live properly. It’s not fair to me or to yourself. I worry that if I don’t visit you you’ll go into a dark place that even I can’t pull you out of.”
His words were like a physical slap in the face. She stood angrily, wanting to put as much space between them as she could. Fuck counting to ten she was going to rip him the fuck apart. “You don’t get to do that.” Her voice was deadly quiet, it was the one she reserved for him when she was upset. “You do not get to fucking do that. Don’t pretend like you haven’t thought about it.” She was so incredibly incensed that she almost went for her wand but thought better of it. She didn’t want to hex him quite yet. “How dare you even say that? Have I not fucking proven to you how much I love you? Bloody hell, you want me to write it in the fucking sky? Declare it from the rooftops? Send out ‘save the dates’ for our future unknown wedding? You and I agreed that it would be a bad idea to tell my parents. Now is so not the time to be bitter about this! You don’t even have any friends to tell! YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT KEEPING A SECRET!” The last part came out in a shrill screech that was oddly satisfying.
“If you really believe I’m in this for the thrill of it you don’t know me as well as I thought. For my entire life I have never, ever kept anything from my father. Or Al for that matter! Al and I have told each other everything for as long as I can remember! And I haven’t told him about THIS!” She waved her left hand towards him. “You know what the first thing people who get engaged tend to do? They tell their mother. I haven’t been able to do the one thing that people actually do, one normal thing. But I wasn’t upset about it because I love you. I love you even though sometimes I hate you. Like now. Right now I hate you.” It was rich, that he could throw that at her and just lay down like nothing happened. It pissed her off more than she could possibly say.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I have every fucking right to have second thoughts. I’m not even seventeen yet. My family…” It frustrated her how he could never understand what she had with her family. “I know you don’t understand. I know how you love playing that martyr role.” She had thought that one day she would be able to show him. They would have a family and he would understand that unweilding dedication. “I’m so sick of trying to pull you out of your dark place, Jake. You know I’m here yet you continue to act like you have no one and nothing. Forget the past for both of our sakes.”
Jake sat up, glaring at her. “Do you honestly have that little fucking ability to understand other people? I’m not wallowing, I just don’t need seventeen thousand people around me to be happy! I’m content with me and a book and a fire, and I know that that is impossible for you to write your loved, happy, extroverted brain around but could you at least fucking try? I’m not sitting here, waiting around for you to pop up and give my life meaning because I’m so effing miserable every other second of the day, as much as I’m sure it would make you happy to know that I depended on you that much. You’re right, I don’t particularly want to make friends. Not because I’m a self-pitying ass, but because I like my life. I enjoy being alone. I have been that way my entire fucking life and just because you can’t understand that doesn’t make it wrong.” His chest was heaving at this point. He got to his feet, pacing the opposite side of the bed from her.
"My God Rose, you don’t get to blame this all on me! You do this over and over! You say something that there are absolutely no good responses to and then blow up when I say one of them. You back me into a corner and then get mad at me for trying to escape from it! You don’t get to just do that,” he was yelling now, despite his efforts to keep his voice down. “If I say yes, I’m the ass who is pressuring you. If I say no, I’m the ass who is stringing you along. And if I don’t say anything, I’m the ass who can’t even be bothered to have an opinion. And I’m not resigning myself to that, not for a long time. I got mad, yes, but you put me there.”
"Oh come off it, you don’t even like your mother,” he sneered, though he knew it wasn’t true. “Don’t act like you would have run home to mummy and showed her your pretty ring and sat down and started wedding plans that night.” He paused, catching his breath. “So tell Al! Don’t act like I’m forbidding you from saying anything, this was as much your idea as it was mine…” he rubbed the back of his neck, chewing on the inside of his cheek for focus. “And don’t act like this is about you having second thoughts, don’t even pretend for one second that that’s what this is about. This isn’t about second thoughts. I don’t give two shits if you have second thoughts as long as you come back at the end of the day. This is about your superiority complex.”
Her next words hit him like a train. “Playing a fucking martyr, Rose? That’s what you really think?” His voice was quiet, the kind of husky breathiness you got when you couldn’t quite breathe. “Maybe,” he said, gathering steam, “if you stopped pulling for once you’d see that I’m not actually in a dark place. Because I have been doing this since before you were born, Rose, and I am perfectly cognizant of when I am in one and when I am not. And maybe if you stopped thinking of me as a kicked puppy you’d realize that I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”
"And I refuse to forget my past. Because that man you say you love so much? That’s who he is. That’s who I am. I’m learning how to be more than it, but I will never be able to forget it and I will never want to," his voice was quiet but firm. "And I’m not going to forgive you anytime soon for telling me to forget Lily."
Merlin he was so tired of her lording everything over him. Just because she was smarter, and more ambitious, and had a better family, and better adjusted, and whatever else she would add to that list didn’t mean he wasn’t important. Maybe not in the world outside his flat, but in this relationship they had to be equals. She had to stop treating him like a charity case, a hopeless cause she was being the bigger person by deigning to help. And she had used his family against him in a fight. That was a low blow, even for them. She had actually used the fact that he’d had abusive parents against him. Like it was a con, a character flaw to be worked on.
He knew her family was everything. How many times had he told her that, if it came down to it, that she should choose them? And every time he thought he understood, she would throw something else at him. He wanted to understand. He hoped that someday he would, that enough of her family would accept him, that their kids and grandkids would be enough. That he would finally understand. And that was what chafed, about the waiting and the hiding. That it periodically felt so real he could reach out and touch, before the reality—that she was sixteen and they had a long time to wait before then—came back to him.
"No, no. It’s okay. It was my fault." She rubbed his back gently. "I was stupid. And I thought I was protecting you from me. I thought… I was afraid to love you. You loved me so much…" Honestly, it still scared her to love him. But the ring on her finger was enough to keep her grounded. To make her sure that he truly loved her and he wasn’t afraid to make a commitment. "It’s no use worrying about it now." It was over. That dark time in both of their lives was just a memory.
“Ah, figures. We will just have to make some new friends then. How about Gendry? He’s my absolute favorite bloke in the Auror department. Last summer when I spent the whole time shadowing dad, he would always eat lunch with me. He would bring chocolate frogs to dad’s office when he was out on the more high profile missions that I couldn’t go on. He knew I loved the dark chocolate ones. And he would bring me butterbeer too. He’s a really great bloke. Never mind that he’s an ex-Hufflepuff. You can’t judge people by that.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll protect you from all of the big bad Weasley - Potter boys. I’m quite sure that they will drop in every once and a while just to remind you that they have control of half the Ministry and can kill you with one word. They are brilliant like that.” She felt a rush of affection for her family. No matter how much they fought, they were forever.
The feel of his hands on her was almost therapeutic. It relaxed her in a way that no drink or even broom flight could. She shuddered slightly at the sudden cold but relaxed once they were touching once more. It felt incredible to just forget the rest of the world in his bed. To pretend that NEWTs didn’t exist, that her Head Girl duties didn’t exist, that the world didn’t exist. Yet there was still a nagging at the back of her mind that she couldn’t shake.
“D’you reckon I’m too young to be engaged?” She blurted out. Internally she winced, that was probably not what he expected to hear from her. “I just mean… I’m so young. Not that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with you - I do - it’s just…. I dunno. Do you understand? And I making any sense? I love you. I love you more than anything yet I can’t help feeling that… that I’m doing something wrong. Like a kid caught with their hand in the candy jar.”
Jake’s mouth quirked unconsciously. No use worrying about it now. It was all he worried about. That someday she’d get scared again. Or that, eventually, she’d get tired or bored or- just- done. Out of nowhere, done. It was all he worried about.
"Ro, I’m perfectly capable of making friends on my own. You don’t have to set me up on blind dates with blokes I’ve been working with for more than a year. Gendry’s well enough but we’re never going to be best friends, sorry, Ro," he said, propping himself up on an elbow to see her better. "I don’t- people don’t get me. They find me off-putting and sarcastic and all dark and twisty inside. Even in the Aurors, home to the darkest and twistiest, I have them beat by a long shot. What with the abusive mum and suicidal dad and murdered twin sister, not to mention the illicit engagement with my bosses’ young female relative. I’m just hard to like and harder to get to know, neither of which is changing anytime soon.”
"But," he said, butting in before she could say something, "that’s okay. Because if I care enough about someone to want to be friends with them, I can make them get me. I’m quite good at it. I believe you may have some experience with my Zabini patented method of simply dumping all my problems on someone in one gulp and forcing them to understand an navigate my dark and twisty. It’s a test of character." Jake slumped down again, resuming playing with her hair as silence settled around them again.
"Fuck, Ro, what do you want me to say here? Yeah, you are, let’s call the whole thing off. Probably better this way, no one even had to find out. Sweep it under the carpet, let you have your little rebellion without Daddy ever having to know and, Merlin forbid, there being consequences to your actions. Did you enjoy playing at bad girl? Please complete the feedback form you’ll find on the coffee table so I can improve my services as ‘boy girls date to piss authority figures off’ in the future. Just because I’ve had lots of experience doesn’t mean it’s okay to plateau," he said, flopping onto his back in exasperation.
God he’d forgotten how mean he could be.
"I wouldn’t have asked if I’d thought it was a bad idea," he whispered, eyes boring into the ceiling instead of meeting her gaze.
“Oh, I dunno. Getting drunk on a beach somewhere.” She ran full force into his arms, breathing in his scent. “I’ve missed you so much.” Her voice was muffled by his shirt but the message was clear. She hated the space that normally separated them. The distance felt like a curse, like they had done something in their lives to deserve such torture. The worst part was they still had a year left, or most of a year, before she could come and go as she pleased. And even then they wouldn’t have much time together at all. Auror training was extremely rigorous as to weed out the people who didn’t really want to be there. Her free time would be spent sleeping or eating, and she wasn’t even sure they would be ready to tell her parents at that point. Would she still be staying in her childhood bedroom pretending that she wasn’t seeing anyone? That might just kill her.
“Have you just been sitting here drinking… What are you drinking anyways?” She pulled back to give him a critical gaze. “You need a life. Have you gone out with Ashton lately? You need a bloke’s night out. Or a hobby. Preferably both.” With him it was like her obsessive need to take care of everyone around her was heightened. She constantly worried about everyone – but him especially. It wasn’t healthy to be alone so much and have nothing but his work to keep him company, which was hypocritical of course. Her schoolwork had been keeping her company for years, but he was an adult. It was her job now to worry about him. They were…. Engaged. The word still felt unnatural to her. Like it wasn’t quite real.
Fortunately, they had better things to do than to worry about everything. She was there so he could keep her mind off of everything that had been weighing her down. “D’you reckon we could lie down or something? Not sleep, just lay there. Do you remember our first night together on the boat? How we laid and talked? You know I fell in love with you completely on accident. You were a stranger in a bar and I was a sad teenage girl who had been cheated on far too many times.” She still remembered the smirk he gave her over his glass. The look in his eyes when she started flirting back. He had been so dead back then, but hidden it so well. His mask had started to come off piece by piece. She knew that he wasn’t fully exposed yet, and probably wouldn’t ever be, but they had made such progress.
The first time they had kissed she had known. He had kissed her with such passion and vigor and she hadn’t ever been kissed like that before. Scorpius had kissed her sloppily, like he didn’t know how to kiss her. Her miscellaneous shags had kissed her like she was a piece of meat. That was probably the worst, the way they kissed her so aggressively. Jake had kissed her like it meant something to him. A smile wiggled its way onto her face at the memory; he had always treated her like something delicate and precious.
"Well it’s not like I can go back to Monaco," Jake said wryly. As the words left his lips he realized just how casually cruel they were, a verbal slap he hadn’t meant to say. "Oh, fuck, Ro, I didn’t mean to-" He didn’t care, not really. He had her and that was what mattered. They’d make thousands of new memories, have a place to escape that was theirs and not just his. He’d heard Greece was beautiful. But all of it—their first night on the boat, their subsequent trysts, the effing north star speech of all things—it would always be tainted for him in a way it would never be for her. There would always be a bitter undertone to each of those memories, of practically drinking himself to death in the days after she left.
"Scotch, and just the one," he said, raising one eyebrow in response to her criticism. "Ashton got himself transferred to the diplomatic unit last week, met some International Magical Cooperation bird that he couldn’t bear to part with. It’s technically a demotion—it’s not Auror work—but she makes him happy. I suppose I understand," he smiled, wrinkling his nose. "It won’t be so sad after you move in," he murmured, "and you can eat lunch in my cubicle. This all assuming your male relatives haven’t maimed, mutilated, and murdered me at that point."
Maybe Greece wasn’t so bad an idea…
Jake nodded gently, crossing the room to his bed. He undressed her, then himself, taking away just one more layer of separation between them. He drank her in quietly, slowly, his eyes drifting over her skin with a calm acceptance that she was his. Not in the creepy patriarchal sense that he owed her father a goat or anything, but that she was never going to leave his arms without the promise of her return. That, after they had both been lost for so long, they had somehow found each other.
"Come here," he said, lying down and tucking her under his chin. He ran his fingers through her hair gently then kissed the back of her neck. He pulled the quilt over them—it was getting far to chilly at night to not. He continued to play with her hair, waiting for her to start talking. She seemed a bit on edge, he wasn’t going to push her. He was just going to lie there and give her a little scalp massage and be what she needed. Because she was what he needed just by being there.
The first time Albus suggested they become animagi Rose had laughed in her face. That was something not even Uncle Harry had tried to do, and he was the most powerful wizard she knew (don’t tell Ron!). Of course she had researched animagi and could even tell you the basic theory of how to become one. It was a horribly difficult process and she wasn’t completely convinced that Albus would have the patience to actually go through with it. Yet they did, after he told her she would need an edge sharper than her name to get into the Auror Department.
It was an advantage to sneaking out, having four furry legs. There was a knot in her stomach that she knew only Jake could untie. The weight of the engagement, her NEWTs, and the threatening letters she had been getting from her mother (Rosie you must keep yourself in check! I cannot be hearing about you being distracted during lessons. Neville told me you fell asleep! Unacceptable!) was too much for her. It had been a few weeks since she had seen them, and their letters had been unfortunately short, as was necessary. No one could find out about them. It would be devastating if the cat got out of the bag before was precisely planned.
Her heightened sense of smell helped her navigate her way through the castle to one of the restored passages to Hogsmeade. It was so incredibly musty inside she was forced to change back to human form, not wanting to suffer the enhanced smell of stagnant water. She took out her wand and risked lighting up the corridor so she wouldn’t trip over one of the leftover rubble pieces.
Thankfully, the shop was empty. This particular passage led to her uncle’s joke shop. Sometimes George would work on new inventions late into the night. She made sure to lock up behind her, grateful that it was blood magic-any Weasley or Potter could come and go as they pleased. As soon as she was in the street she apparated to Jake’s doorstep. The door opened for her immediately, and she strode in purposefully. “Jake, you here?” Suddenly she felt silly. She hadn’t sent a note or a patronus before she left.
Jake was bored. This was the problem with your only friend being your seventeen-year-old girlfriend—fiancee. As great as Rose was, he really needed to get out more. Because seeing her once every few weeks most definitely didn’t qualify as socialization. And most of the time, the being alone really wasn’t lonely. He was an introvert. A hell of one, in fact. But that didn’t mean that he didn’t get bored or that he didn’t, occasionally, get lonely.
Mostly he just missed her. She was, and always would be, enough for him. He could be the happiest man on earth with her and nothing else. A shack on a beach somewhere, a couple dogs, a couple kids, and Rose. That was the dream. His dream. She’d hate it, of course, without the work and the rest, but he’d be happy that way.
So he poured himself a scotch and sat by the fire and put on a record and read. And thought about Rose. But that was incredibly pathetic so he didn’t own up to that one as much.
He needed a dog. Or at least a cat. He really didn’t like cats.
When he heard her voice, he thought he’d finally lost it, too many weeks as an antisocial hermit for his mind to take. He had finally started hallucinating. And then she walked in and he saw her and she wasn’t an illusion and Merlin he loved her. “Where else would I be?” he asked, voice wry. He got to his feet languidly, cracking his neck and setting his drink on the mantle.
"Hey, hey. I love it. It’s really perfect.” It was true, as she looked down at her finger she saw something more. It was his promise to her, no matter what it cost. “I wouldn’t have cared if it was a string. It’s what’s behind it that matters. It’s the fact that you picked it ages ago, the fact you know what the bloody symbolism of a pearl is. Hell, I didn’t even know that and I know a lot. That means… That means the whole entire world to me.” It sounded cheesy and maybe it was, but the words were true and that was truly all that mattered.
"You’re blinded by love, but that’s a conversation for another day." She poked him gently in the ribs. "Okay, we don’t even have to practice. I’ll tell dad about us and I’ll be locked up in a tower until you deem it fit for us to do the do.” A smirk played on her lips because she lived to torture him. “I would love to watch you squirm. You’d wank yourself raw in no time. That wouldn’t be any fun, would it?” She wiggled her bum to make a point before rolling off of his lap and pulling him down so they were laying face to face, better able to read each other’s expressions. Almost immediately she regretted her decision. His expression was something that turned her stomach.
A moment later she found out why. She was silent through his speech, holding back her disapproval. The first thing she did was shake her head very slowly, trying to clear her head a bit. “No, we aren’t going to do that.” She took a deep breath before launching into her rebuttal. “We’re not going to do that because we are going to show everyone that the Zabini name isn’t one to be spit on or feared anymore. Our children and our children’s children will all be Zabinis who change the world. Who make it a better place. One where Weasleys and Zabinis can coexist and even be married to each other without wanting to hide from who they are. Even if your dad’s name isn’t Blaise, you’re still a Zabini. I love you, and you need to learn to love yourself. You are not your name. You are Jake and sometimes I hate you but I’ve never disliked you because of what comes after Jacob. Never have I ever wanted — even considered not being a Zabini when we get married because that’s how we will change things. I’m going to hyphenate because despite belonging to you in a million ways I will still need to show my connection to the group that raised me.”
"Please don’t change yourself ever. I love you. I really, really do. Please understand that. Please understand that being a Weasley won’t make me love you more, nor will anyone else love you more.” She kissed his nose gently. “Do you get where I’m coming from?”
Jake nodded. He let out a shaky breath, one he hadn’t even realized he was holding. Meeting Rose had been like that. Nine years of forgetting how good oxygen felt and then he was breathing again. In, out. In, out. Always good to remind himself. Here he was, lying face to face with the most perfect woman he’d ever met. For all her protestations, she really was. All her flaws—her temper, her bullheadedness, all of them (and there were several, he wasn’t going to lie)—he loved them as much as the virtues. His gaze flicked across her face, taking in eyes, lips, hair, freckles; the parts that made the whole that was his Rose.
“I love you,” he murmured, voice soft and more than a little shaky. He closed his eyes, resting his forehead against hers for support. In, out. In, out. He gently held his palms to the side of her face, drawing her closer to him. It was unreal, how much he needed her. Unreal, unhealthy, unheard of. Step one is admitting you have a problem, right? He was addicted to Rose Weasley. “And I don’t deserve you. I’m not nearly as lovable as you think,” he said, keeping his voice to a whisper to avoid cracking. His throat was tight and there was a pressure behind his cheekbones that he refused to give way to. This was supposed to be happy. They were engaged, they were supposed to celebrate and scream from the rooftops and shag.
But everything was wrong. Well not everything. This, the two of them, was perfect. The rest of it was kind of shit. His work and her school. The secrets. Maybe the sneaking about was just wearing on him. It used to not bother him so much, but lately it had been grating on him. He resented it, necessary evil though it was. He wanted to tell everyone that he was in love with Rose Weasley and somehow she did the same. Enough to marry him. Even though it was probably going to make the list of the top five stupidest things she’d ever done. Even though he was going to be a shit husband and an even shitter dad.
Oh fuck, what had he done? His eyes flew open, panic evident in them. “I- I can’t, Ro-“ he broke off, distressed. “I can’t do it, I can’t.” How the fuck was he supposed to marry her? He didn’t know what a marriage even was, not really. He’d never seen anyone happy in one, that was for sure. He knew he loved her more than life itself, but marriage? Children? What had he been thinking, deluding himself into believing he could be that guy? The guy she thought he was. She saw him at his best, his most whole, but it felt like an act. Like it would never be true, no matter how hard either of them wanted it, how hard he tried to be a real person. He wasn’t real, people like him simply didn’t exist. The bastard son of a noble house who killed the matriarch after the father committed suicide, betraying what his family had stood for throught the centuries in the process? It was so tawdry. “I don’t think, not a good idea, I just-“
Her breath hitched when he kissed her, abruptly losing all sense of reality. It was like being thrown into cold water, the rush sending chills down her spine. When he pulled back she whimpered softly making to protest when he silenced her with another kiss. The loss of his presence was slightly disheartening. Why was he running off? Did he mean to scare the living shite out of her? He had kissed her, that meant he wanted this too, right? And he was the one who was more attached, that she was sure of. His heart burned a thousand times brighter than hers did but she finally understood the feeling of completeness her parents had. She understood what he felt when he looked at her like she was the chiaroscuro in his life.
Her eyes lit up when he returned, not noticing the box until he had put it in front of her. That was the… He was… She couldn’t believe he had kept - bought a ring for her. He knew that she was the one, just like she knew he was the one. But he had known so much longer than she had. That made her slightly guilty. She knew in that moment that she had always known deep down they had a connection stronger than anything she had ever felt before. Who was lucky enough to find their soul mate so early on in life? What qualified her to be the person who got to anyway?
A small sob escaped her lips before she could stop it. They fit together so perfectly it was like they were meant to be from day one. “I wouldn’t want you to get on one knee, but could you put it on for me?” She glanced down at the pearl ring as another sob shook her small frame. “Why- why are you so perfect?” They would heal each other, put the pieces back together one by one. Together she knew she would learn to go a whole day without a glass of alcohol. She imagined how wonderful it would be to have children running around the house. To see Jake holding a baby in his arms, pushing a child on a swing, and making dinner with her. They had infinity yet she felt like they had no time at all, felt like every second was their last.
So she kissed him like it was their last second, her lips moving against his in an eager dance. “Forever.” She whispered. “I will love you forever. We will have grandkids and great-grandkids and.. I will love you until oblivion and beyond.”
Jake slid it onto her finger, his own hands shaking slightly. “Pearls, they represent overcoming adversity, did you know that? I’d always figured there would be rubies. Because you’re, well, you are rubies. You’re red in ways I’ll never be. You’re passion and fire and war. And I always thought it’d be expensive. Because you deserve the best, you really do. But I saw this in a second-hand shop and it’s not all that nice but it was perfect.” He was talking quickly, brain moving at a pace his mouth couldn’t keep up with.
"You’re perfect," he replied, lips meeting hers halfway. He would never tire of the taste of her. Cigarettes and whiskey, a fiery mix that stayed on her lips long after she’d last smoked. Her body melted into his, the border between them blurring as they kissed. They were of one mind, the two of them, their identities so intrinsically linked that they couldn’t be definitively separate. There was a desperation to Rose’s kiss that he couldn’t place. He poured himself into the kiss, reassuring her that he was solid. Dependable. Even though he felt like he might float out of his body at any second.
He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling back to eye her. “Slow down, Ro, we haven’t even gotten to the kids part yet.” He smiled, eyeing her playfully. “We have plenty of practicing to do before then.” His words trailed off as he got caught up in staring at her. As much as he joked, he was with her. He could see them at eighty, surrounded by their children and children’s children, red hair still running rampant, even so far removed from the Weasleys.
The realization hit him like a truck—he didn’t want them to be related to the Weasleys, he wanted them to be Weasleys. To Jake, they were the family that represented everything right in the world. They weren’t perfect, as Rose so often reminded, but they loved each other to the ends of the earth. They’d been a force of good in the wizarding world for centuries. “I-” he started, unsure of how to put his jumbled thoughts into words. “I’m not a Zabini, not really. Not what the name stands for. I don’t want anything to do with it. I want,” he paused, glancing away, “I want you and me and our kids to be Weasleys. And maybe that’s presuming a bit much, seeing as we have to get through the male-relative killing-spree before we get there, but- But I don’t want to be a Zabini anymore.”
It was as close as he could get to the truth at the moment. He knew she knew and she knew he knew she knew and that would have to be enough.
The idea of a future together was intoxicating. Knowing that he would be there to argue with her and love her forever was something she couldn’t get out of her head. She knew that true love came once in a lifetime if you were lucky, and she also knew that somehow she had found it in one of the most unlikely places. Some people say when the time is right, you can feel it. Sitting there with him, tangled up in his limbs and talking to him about life… The time felt right. Even if it wasn’t the right time for him to tell her everything about his past, she knew the time was right for action.
With a truly lovestruck and dazed expression on her face she hardly gave a second thought to the words that came tumbling from her mouth. “Marry me,” she pressed her forehead against his intimately, wanting to always remember this moment - the only time Rose Weasley may ever do something spontaneous in her life. “I’m sorry - I don’t have a ring or anything. This wasn’t exactly planned. But I know it’s right. I can feel you in every part of me. This just makes it - makes it real.”
She fell silent, patiently waiting for him to respond because there was no way in hell she was taking anything back. They belonged together and of course he knew it. It was obvious to anyone who saw them together they were already one heart. Rose had picked up all of Jakes mannerisms unknowingly. The way he held his cigarette, the way he rubbed his neck when things were tense or he was anxious, the way he always blew on his tea before taking a sip - what’s his was hers. And Merlin she had never been so sure of anything in her life. Even certainties tended to be uncertain when Rose thought about them for too long, yet here she was, making a leap that would change her life and she just closed her eyes and made it without second guessing herself.
“I’ve imagined this so many different ways. At the top of the Eiffel Tower, in my gran’s garden, in Italy… None of them involved me asking. But I am the bossy one, right? And we can do things un conventionally because it’s the 21st century, right? And I know you would do it eventually I just can’t wait any longer to say I’m the future Mrs. Rose Weasley-Zabini. You expected me to hyphenate, yeah? I always thought I would hyphenate. If not that’s fine I mean it’s not a deciding factor - am I talking too much? You should kiss me or something right?”
Jake waited for her to finish speaking before kissing her. It was fiery and hot and his hands were everywhere, trying to cover the maximum surface area of her skin before either of them had to breathe. All too soon, he pulled back. “Wait right here.” He was breathless and excited, eyes too-bright with the thrill. He kissed her once more, a peck that lasted only a blink’s worth of time, before turning on his heel and running into the living room. He tore open the drawers of his desk in his hurry, tossing papers aside. He’d have to clean them up later, but in this moment, he couldn’t bring himself to care.
"Aha!" he said under his breath, hand closing on the crushed velvet box that had been wedged at the back of his drawer for over a year. He returned to his bedroom, still out of breath. "I’ve had this for- I’m not even sure how long. I bought it before we broke up the first time. Still not sure how I didn’t throw it in the harbor, to be honest. I must have known, somewhere deep down. I’ve always known. Always," he paused, stroking her cheek gently. "This has always been yours." He handed it to her, watching her carefully as she opened it.
"I’m not going to get on a knee, I’m not going to treat you as anything less than what you are. You’re more than my equal, you’re my better. You’re my everything. You’re my north star," he said, small smile quirking his lips. "You keep me on course more than any compass ever could. You’re everything I want in life. I want you as my partner, by my side every day, in every thing." He kissed her, gentle and sweet and with the full force of his love behind it. "I love you, so much. So much that someday, someday you’ll heal me enough to learn everything. Someday you’ll have made me so whole that I’ll have a few pieces to spare."
"That we are. Please don’t mention Shakespeare. I cannot deal with Romeo and Juliet on a good day. Though it’s turning into a good day.” She nuzzled against his neck. “Sometimes I wonder what we’ve done to deserve such a profound love story. Some nights I wake up in a cold sweat and think for a moment I dreamed the whole thing. I never thought I would love somebody as much as my dad loves my mom and vice versa. My parents… The way they look at each other.. It’s the way you look at me.” She pulled back gently so she could see his face. The face she missed so much when they were apart. Her fingers reached out to trace the lines of his cheeks and jaw, savoring the peace they had created.
A single tear slid down her cheek. It wasn’t born of sadness or worry, it was the overwhelming happiness she felt in that moment. Her emotions were like a tidal wave, flooding all logical parts of her brain. All she could think about was her heart hammering in her chest as she realized that she could never, ever live without the man in front of her. He was her anchor, the one who stopped her ego from inflating when she did something remarkable. The one who would always be there to hold her when she cried. They were so tangled together it was like they were one soul, one heart beating a frantic rhythm. “Jake I-” She took a deep breath, waiting for her composure to return to her. “I love you so much.” And she meant it. More than she ever had before.
How was she supposed to hide this? A whole year would have to pass before she was legal. And her parents wouldn’t approve of her dating an older man- one that she was so serious with. She felt like she would burst if she wasn’t able to scream it from the rooftops. “Maybe you’ll be less bored when I’m there. I’m sure we can make things interesting.” They would be like bunnies if they were together ever day. Rose hoped to Merlin they didn’t have any accidents. That would make her father’s head spin. “He’ll have to get used to you.” She waved a dismissive hand.
“Do you want to talk about Blaise? And your mum? And Lily and all of it? I know you haven’t told me everything, and - well - you’re… Mine. And I don’t plan on giving you up anytime soon so we should be able to tell each other anything. Like say if I wasn’t a legitimate child I could tell you.” A raised eyebrow punctuated her statement. “We don’t have to have secrets from each other. Couples don’t keep things bottled up and tucked away. They share things and try to disperse the pain because what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. Your pain and suffering is mine because I love Lily too. I didn’t even know Lily and I love her. And I hate your mum.” She pulled his forehead to her lips, kissing him gently before peppering them all over his face. “Nothing you can say will make me think any less of you.” Her feelings were far too strong for that.
"Don’t you worry, Weasley, we are much, much smarter than them." He kissed her slowly and sweetly, savoring it. He flicked his eyes open as she pulled back, his gaze searching hers. The corners of his mouth ticked upwards at her speech, pulling apart to reveal a somewhat dazed grin. This was the side of Rose that was only his—the soft, sappy, defenseless part of her that no one else was privileged enough to get to see. “I’ll never stop looking at you like this. Even when we’re old and wrinkly and I’ve forgotten my name, I’ll remember that I love you,” he said, brushing the tear away with his thumb. He trailed his hand from her cheek to the nape of her neck, cradling the back of her head firmly.
Jake closed his eyes gently, letting her words wash over him. They were warm and gentle, more luxurious than the softest of furs. As sure as he was that she loved him, sure of his feelings and hers, sure that no matter what, they would have each other… as sure as he was of all of that, he never got tired of hearing it from her. He could replay each of their interactions a thousand times in his mind but it was a pale substitute for the real thing. “I love you too,” he managed, words catching in the back of his throat. There were a thousand things running through his head and he hoped they were all conveyed in those four syllables.
A small smile cleared his head enough for Jake to form coherent thoughts once more. “No, no, we would definitely not be bored. And if we were, we could just go somewhere else and get all interested again,” he said, smile slowly growing into a grin. The thought of them, together, for longer than a few days thrilled him. The fact that they hadn’t actually spent that much time together, that their time together could be measured in weeks and not in years, it pissed him off. They deserved to have months together, years without interruptions.
Jake sighed, releasing the back of her neck to scratch at the hairs on his. He ducked his gaze, avoiding the eyes he had craved only minutes before. “I-“ he tried to speak, voice coming out a choked whisper. “I can’t, Ro, I can’t go there because if I do, I won’t be able to come back. The wall between those memories and everything new is the only thing that keeps me sane. He faced her again, a smirk on his face. “And there is no way you’re not related to Ron Weasley with that hair,” he said, tugging on a chunk of hair that framed her face.
"Love just makes us sound like we’re from some sort of shitty muggle romance novel." A gentle sigh escaped her before she recovered herself, putting all thoughts of her exhaustion aside so she could focus on them- their moment. The little bubble around them filled with all of the energy and love they shared. The more she relaxed the more she was able to soak it all in and enjoy it. "You shush. I was not smiling." Even as she said it the cruel muscles in her face betrayed her. She shook herself and focused once again on him, memorizing his muscles against hers. What she needed was a fight, she needed him to yell at her and tell her she needed to work harder. She needed him to rouse the passion in her to get her to feel again. But she didn’t have the energy to provoke him.
"Mmm, how’s that going then? Everything alright? The baddies running away at your scent? Making everyone cower in fear?" She giggled at that, unsure of why it was so funny. Of course she could picture Jake doing his work, being a good Auror and all, the idea was still comical. The soft Jake that would whisper sweet nothings in her ear all night was in stark contrast to the trained and disciplined Auror he was sure to be on the field. Rose loved like she fought- boldly and bravely without any regret. Jake’s personality was more detached, less of the emotional being than Rose. It wasn’t a bad thing- truly it was what balanced them, made them compatible. He would make a great Hit Wizard, she thought dully.
"You are human, mon amor. That is why you need to keep yourself from running into the ground. Even I know when to stop. I take breaks, you seem like you’re on some sort of suicide mission.” His lips shut her up, which caused her to lose all coherent thought; which made her angry. “I love you, that’s why I want to see you alive. Don’t you understand? Cracking jokes aside- you worry me.” It was the sincerity in her voice that she hoped he picked up on. This wasn’t child’s play, this was his life. And sometimes she harbored the suspicion that he really didn’t give a damn about what he did with it.
"Exams are complete shite, but I’m doing fine I guess. There hasn’t been a question that really threw me into a panic attack. ‘cept of course Runes which is just the bloody shittiest subject to ever grace Wizardkind. What’s the point of Runes anyway? I don’t want to be a Curse Breaker. I don’t want to be the fucking professor of Runes. Magic is written in fucking Latin, what the bloody hell is the point of even knowing Runes? I digress. How’s my dad? Do you see him often? I do worry about him. He works too hard and never get’s enough sleep. It must be the profession. And Uncle Harry, have you seen him lately?" She took a breath and ran her hand down his back. "I’m sorry, we should be focusing on us-"
"Haven’t you noticed?" Jake mumbled, his lips clumsy against her cheek. "We sort of are in a shitty romance novel.” The words, however much Rose might dislike them, had a shred of truth hidden within. Their romance felt unreal at times, like it didn’t quite belong to them. The too-intense forbidden love, opposing families, the princess falling for the older rogue—it reeked of something that had been written about since the beginning of time. It was cliché in the best possible way, the way that was only cliché because it held such truth.
A grimace crossed his lips at the mention of work, a subconscious reaction to the stress it had been causing him recently. Jake didn’t want to let on to Rose—he wasn’t sure he could name all the emotions swirling in the pit of his stomach, much less explain them in a way that didn’t put her off. He didn’t love his work like she did; she wouldn’t understand his lack of passion. Work, making the world a better place, and all those other noble-minded thoughts, those were what drove Rose. They were what fed her, what lit her up, what kept her going when things were less than savory. She was such a Gryffindor it was almost funny. He wasn’t like that. He was driven by people. He was wired to protect himself and those he loved above all other considerations. He was selfish. Not that he was opposed to helping other people—after all, he chose the Aurors over a desk job (though, admittedly, partly for the adrenaline rush)—he just wasn’t motivated by that above all else. She was. She wouldn’t, couldn’t understand because of the very makeup of her being.
Jake enjoyed his work. He really did. But he couldn’t help but notice that it was just a distraction, a way to pass the hours, days, weeks until he could see Rose. It was unhealthy and obsessive but he didn’t have a life outside of it. He didn’t have old friends—he had Rose and he had his mates from work. Not to mention that every time he saw either of his bosses, he was reminded of his chat with Albus and the fact that his days were numbered. Perhaps not literally, but figuratively. That their happiness—though increasingly weighed down by the secrets involved—was soon to involve several more people. Several dozen more people. ”I’m just bored,” he murmured, though he knew it wouldn’t placate her. “Work’s not boring.”
He was fucking pathetic.
"Your dad seems fine. So does your uncle. They don’t bother much with me—I’m too low-ranked. I think your dad acknowledged my existence in the lift this week, though, so that’s something. He’s never been particularly fond of me, seeing as when I joined up I was a bit of an arrogant toerag with a penchant for mouthing off. I’ve improved oh so much since then,” he joked, the smile reaching his eyes. “Not to mention the fact that I’m— named Zabini.” He’d almost slipped and said “I’m a Zabini” but that wasn’t the truth, was it? He wasn’t, not really. He didn’t deserve the name, deserve any association with that family. He wasn’t sure if it was because he was better than it or worse. Or maybe it was both.
"Don’t worry about it, Ro, I love listening to you," he murmured, eyes fluttering shut. It was inane and boring, but it was heavenly.