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Chapter 3: Three
Unfortunately for me, Professor McGonagall was not as pleased as I was about the comment on Scorpius’s dandruff. She cornered me the next morning at breakfast, while I was trying to eat my porridge in peace.
Breakfast is the best meal of the day. There is no arguing that fact. You are fully allowed to dump marmalade over everything, and any meal where I can coat whatever I’m eating in something sweet is totally okay with me.
Albus says I’ll break out if I do that, but he’s just jealous.
Our lovely Head of House was about nine million years old – she’d been head of Gryffindor when Nana Weasley was still at Hogwarts, and that was forever ago – but for an old broad, she could move with impressive speed. I admired how flared her nostrils were and how thin her mouth got as she came to stand above me, and from across the table, Hugo smiled broadly.
That boy. Always sucking up to authority figures.
“Miss Weasley,” McGonagall said, tapping her right foot a couple of times against the floor. “A word, if you please.” I shoveled in another mouthful of marmalade-soaked porridge to show her who was boss, and she wrinkled her nose almost imperceptibly.
“Shoot,” I mumbled through my breakfast. She grimaced again and shook her head slightly, visibly pulling herself together.
“Do I need to remind you that reading the school announcements is a privilege and not a right? Or perhaps that it is not a time in which you can make not only untrue but unsuitable remarks about your classmates? Or –“
“Nope. I think we’ve covered it all.” I had finally swallowed the porridge, it having quite a time getting down my throat due to its stickiness.
“Then I think we’ll not need to have this talk again,” she finished – a bit lamely, if you ask me – and stalked back in a rather birdlike fashion towards the staff table. As soon as she was out of earshot, I gave a massive snort and gulped a mouthful of pumpkin juice. Counting myself, I knew exactly how many people were willing to miss the first five minutes of breakfast to haul themselves to McGonagall’s office and speak into a microphone.
That number is one.
“To be fair, you might have gone a bit overboard when you accused his mother of being a hairless Chihuahua,” Pippa pointed out from my right side. Glancing at her, I caught a quick glimpse of her fingers interlaced with my cousin’s and the porridge nearly came back up.
“Rubbish,” I said, waving my hand. “He only got so mad because it’s true.”
Hugo, who had wiped the sycophantic smile off his face at this point, coughed as a way to intrude into the conversation. “Hey, Al, I’ve got another Quidditch idea –“
“No one wants your advice on Quidditch, you shrimp of a little brother,” I interrupted, swiping the last of his bacon off his plate and pinching his cheek before standing up. “Considering that it is Dad’s greatest disappointment in life that both of us are unequivocally awful at it. And speaking of that, I’ve got to head down to the pitch now or I’ll miss commentating the Slytherin practice,” I added, checking the upside-down watch on Hugo’s wrist. “And Hooch really might make good on her promise to have my head someday.”
Al rolled his eyes so hard I thought they might pop out of his head, and I watched interestedly in case such a thing happened – you never knew. “Try not to completely decimate anybody’s self-esteem,” he said, and I patted his head.
“No promises,” I said cheerfully, and began walking toward the doors into the entrance hall. There was a loud sort of thunk behind me, and Pippa’s voice was the last I heard.
“Albus, you’re getting your hair in the jam.”
It is one of the greatest tragedies of my life that Julian Murdock is not a member of the Slytherin Quidditch team.
I mean, if I got to stare at Julian’s muscles and his amazing athletic ability for a solid two or three hours, I swear, I wouldn’t mind that splintery seat in the commentator’s box half so much.
Not that I mind it that much in the first place, though, because all great Quidditch commentators have to start somewhere. I am grateful for my lot in life.
And, I suppose if I was being really nice – and I’m really not a horrible person – then Scorpius does fill out his Quidditch uniform quite nicely. In fact, if he’s not running his mouth or snogging girls behind his girlfriend’s back, then he’s not too terribly bad to look at, I suppose. He does fill out the green and silver sweater rather nicely – Beaters have lovely triceps, they’re quite toned – and he is definitely one of the team’s better players.
But he must feel remorse for what he did to Pippa, and I am here to enforce that remorse. After all, you don’t shoot the messenger. So what if it was a year ago, either?
Rationality isn’t my strongest suit, but I have a fine eye for vengeance.
Madam Hooch entered the commentator’s box just then, pulling on her Quidditch gloves. She gave me a narrow-eyed stare when she was done, fingering the referee’s whistle hanging around her neck. “Now remember, Miss Weasley,” she said, and it suddenly occurred to me just how many ‘Miss Weasleys’ I would probably receive today. “There’s to be no funny business, no mindless insults, none of it. You stick to the hard facts of the practice and only the hard facts. Agreed?”
I clasped my hands together and bowed slightly, trying to show her that I did in fact agree, but she just stared at me for a moment before turning on her heel and walking right out of the box, giving three sharp blasts on her whistle. I plunked back down into the seat, trying to avoid the worst of the splinters, and dropped my chin into my hands.
Honestly. It’s like they can’t trust me at all.
The seven Slytherin players walked onto the field at that moment, having emerged from an apparent Scorpius-issued pep talk, and mounted their brooms. Hooch had taken a seat high in the pitch at that point, carefully observing them. Scorpius opened the trunk with the Quidditch balls in it (and oh, I was so glad that it was still cold outside – those sweaters really did look fabulous), and play began.
I tapped the microphone with my wand, cleared my throat, and opened my mouth, ignoring all the brilliant remarks that were bursting to be said and instead opening with, “Good morning, Hogwarts, and welcome to today’s Quidditch match. Today it’s Slytherin versus Ravenclaw…”
Commentating practices are dead boring. All the fun is taken out of a sport when the game doesn’t count for anything; instead of lively competition and lots of great and potentially painful fouls, it’s just some people zipping about on a broomstick. And there is nothing interesting about flying brooms when near-death isn’t a factor.
Of course, the Weasley-Potter pickup games in Granddad and Nana Weasley’s orchard are different. Even when I commentate for them, there’s always the very real possibility I might get dive-bombed. The family rivalry comes to a head at these games, and many bruises from poorly-lobbed apples have been sustained. Lots of great fun, really.
I don’t think Hooch expected me to take her seriously that morning, either, because her beady eyes kept flashing my way every five minutes, just waiting for me to talk about how Scorpius looked like he’d been dunked in a vat of banana pudding (and really, his hair is exactly that color), but I knew when to hold my tongue. Let it never be said that Rose Weasley couldn’t be an upstanding citizen now and again.
Certain people might disagree, Snake Boy primary among them, but he was right there along with me, so it didn’t count. Besides, there were only a handful of people I truly antagonized. It just so happened I interacted with them a lot.
Somehow, though, I managed to sit there on that seat for two and a half long and somewhat tedious hours, fretting about the amount of wood I’d have to remove from my backside afterwards – and with these temperatures, they’d probably be frozen in there to boot – and not so much as a hint of an insult passed through my pure and honest lips.
I think it threw Scorpius off, actually, not to have to block out my prodigious humor.
But anyway, Hooch seemed a bit more pleased than normal when she came back up to the commentator’s box after the Slytherins had gone off to shower. Her mouth wasn’t set into any sort of disapproving lines or frowns, and her eyes weren’t squinted in anger. I shut the microphone off with another tap from my wand and prepared to receive lavish praise on my reservation.
“See, now, was that so hard?” she said crisply, removing her gloves and stuffing one into each pocket. I merely raised my eyebrows, not wanting to exactly tell her about that one moment when I’d had to get up and do a few jumping jacks to distract myself from a very perfect opportunity to bring back that dandruff comment.
“No, not at all,” I said instead. And I don’t think she caught the sarcasm, luckily. So, instead of waiting around on the off chance that she might pick it up, I scooped up my wand from the desk, pocketed it, and left the box with a bit of a wave.
Two of the Slytherin Chasers – massive blokes called Wallace and Lobb, who quite frankly intimidated me – were coming out of the locker rooms as I reached the turf. Lobb was toweling off his hair with one of the completely grimy locker room towels.
I don’t mind not being a Quidditch prodigy, really. I’ve had to step into the locker room once, to give Albus a note from Pippa, and I am not even going to describe how awful they smell. You couldn’t get me to dry my hair with one of those towels if you paid me ten Galleons.
Well, maybe for ten Galleons.
Wallace looked up as I tried unsuccessfully to march past them without being spotted, and called out. “Hey, Weasley!” I looked around at him, quirking an eyebrow. I had nothing against him – he was actually quite a good Chaser – but the fact that he’d never talked to me before now was a bit suspicious.
“What happened, Weasley?” he continued, shooting a grin sideways at Lobb, who had momentarily become tangled in his towel. “Did you lose a bet? Did Malfoy save your life, or something?”
“Excuse me?” I said, now contracting both brows in confusion.
“You were a bit light on the insults,” Lobb pointed out, having finally reemerged into the fresh air. “Heart’s gone a bit soft, has it?”
I ground my teeth. “Not at all,” I said vehemently, sticking my nose up a bit higher in the air and trying not to register how cold it got when I did so. “Just you wait. Tomorrow morning he won’t be feeling so good about himself.”
Wallace rolled his eyes. “You do know he’s got no idea why you’ve got this vendetta against him?”
“Good,” I said, turning to go once more. Unfortunately, another shout stopped me.
“No, Weasley, but seriously,” Wallace said, “Malfoy’s got something to talk to you about.” He jerked his head in the direction of the locker room door, which he and Lobb were standing in front of. I froze.
This was probably some horrible, horrible trap. I would go missing and nobody would know where I was, and then they’d find my body years later buried under the Quidditch Pitch. And everybody would mourn for me, the next great voice of the Quidditch stadium, and how sad it was that I had fallen so soon at the hands of Scorpius Malfoy, who was currently serving in Azkaban for poaching Crumple-Horned Snorkacks.
“What does he want?” I shouted back suspiciously, and Lobb shrugged.
“He didn’t tell us. Just said to catch you as you came down. I don’t think it’s anything too bad,” he added, although he didn’t look entirely sure of this last statement. I wasn’t so sure, either. I’d never known him as a violent or particularly nasty sort – unless he was snogging girls he didn’t know – but personalities can change.
But to my dismay, my curiosity won.
“All right,” I finally said dubiously, crossing a few steps back towards them and crossing my arms as well. “But you just tell Pippa Teagues where I am in case I go mysteriously missing.” Pippa would be sure to organize a search party, at least. It’s one of her most redeeming qualities as my best friend.
Wallace looked at me a bit strangely. “Uh, right,” he said, glancing again at Lobb. “Well, you can just – wait here, I suppose.” He and Lobb hurried away rather quickly, and I was left standing alone, trying not to breathe too much in case I sucked in a mouthful of rank locker room air.
But thankfully, Scorpius came out of the locker room before too long, and I had to bite back a comment about his hair – it was still wet, and all the comments about rotten and slimy bananas would go to perfect waste. I frowned grumpily, and he reacted to this by grinning so widely I wondered if he might not be a bit sarcastic.
“Such a pleasure to see your freckled face,” he said, slinging a towel over his shoulder, and I got hit right in the face with a few of the water drops. I coughed and gagged at once, jumping about, trying to wipe them off me.
“Gross!” I shrieked, and his smile disappeared quickly.
“It’s shower water,” I said, sputtering. It didn’t actually get in my mouth, but it was good for the effect. Scorpius waited politely until I was done, his own arms crossed over his chest now (and really, it did look good in that sweater).
“Well, Breezeley,” he said, leaning one shoulder against the door, “I’ve got a proposition for you.” He waited for my reaction, but I didn’t deign to give him one; this situation smelled fishier by the second. Snake Boy cleared his throat a bit awkwardly and pushed on.
“Anyway. Look, next weekend’s the first big match – exactly a week from today, actually. You know that.”
I had, in fact, forgotten until that very moment, but I wasn’t about to let on.
“We’re playing Ravenclaw, and there are supposed to be a couple of Quidditch scouts there. Not a huge number, but you know, I’m trying to keep my options open. And it would be really, really great if they could get a good impression of me.” He leaned forward then, as though to impress a point.
I pretended to study my fingernails, having now completely recovered from the aftershock of being sprayed with Scorpius-water. “Go on,” I said in my best bored voice, although I knew exactly where this was going. He didn’t want me to go spewing out stuff about his tiny ears or his dandruff or whatever other genius things I could come up with, simply because it might hurt his chances of playing after school.
He knew that I knew this, too, because his mouth dropped open slightly in disbelief. “I just… do I have to spell it out for you?”
I gave him my very best I-have-no-idea-what-you’re-talking-about look, and he groaned.
“Look, Rose.” (And it did not escape me that he was using my first name. This boy meant business.) “All I’m asking is that you continue this nice streak you’ve been on this morning and just… not say anything at next week’s game.”
I patted his shoulder sympathetically. “Scorpius, my dear maggot-attractor, there is nothing that I would love to do more, but unfortunately I have a reputation to keep up.” He rolled his eyes.
“No, you don’t.”
“Au contraire – that’s French, you know – but I’ve got legions of fans waiting to hear the next attack against you. I’ve even signed autographs.”
Now Scorpius really rolled his eyes, a gesture worthy of even Albus himself. “But if you do this for me, I’m prepared to do something for you. I guarantee you that I can get Julian to ask you to the next Hogsmeade weekend by this time next week.”
I paused, my hand still frozen in the action of patting Scorpius’s well-defined triceps sympathetically. My eyes narrowed at him, trying to call him on a bluff. That was no joking matter.
“You sure?” I said, eyes locked firmly on his. He nodded.
“Positive. A few tips and tricks, a lesson or two –“
I choked on my own spit. “Forget it!” I said, now having the presence of mind to snatch my hand back and thrust it into the pocket of my robes. “I’m not taking bloody lessons from you!”
“You would give up the very real possibility – no, let’s call it a probability – that you could get a date with Julian Murdock, most handsome boy in school, love of your life, marmalade to your porridge –“
“Knock it off, Malfoy,” I growled.
“ – just because you’d have to spend two hours with me next week?” He smirked, crossing his arms again over his chest and looking like the Kneazle that had caught the canary.
Well, damn. He was good.
“Okay,” I said slowly, my eyes now so narrow it was a wonder I could see through them at all. “Let me just sum this up before I sign away my soul, or whatever. If I don’t say anything brilliantly witty but only slightly offensive at your game this week –“
“And at practice and on the announcements,” he interjected hurriedly, and I might have growled again.
“And at practice and on the announcements,” I repeated through gritted teeth, “then you guarantee me a date with Julian?”
He nodded and stuck out his hand. “Do we have a deal?”
I was loath to do it. On the one hand, I would have to be nice to Scorpius Malfoy, the boy who had apparently snogged a girl behind Pippa’s back the summer they broke up.
On the other hand, Julian Murdock.
I grabbed his hand and shook it. “We have a deal.”
A/N: Plot! It exists! And it's here! It only took three chapters -- although I've written a lot more about a lot less. But that's neither here nor there, I suppose. The important thing is, we're finally getting this story underway, and I am really excited to see everyone's reactions on how it goes from here!
For those who are curious -- this story's got exactly ten chapters planned out, and I'm putting the last touches on the eighth right now. So, as I've said before, updates really shouldn't be too far apart. No more than two weeks, anyway, simply because I've got three works in progress. A bad idea, granted, but bad ideas are often the best ones. No regrets!
Don't forget to feed the review box -- and thank you!