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Chapter 10: Ten
Finding Scorpius, however, proved to be a bit trickier than anticipated. For a boy who had the ability to pop up at every moment I didn’t want him around, he could hide better than my cousin Fred after a nasty prank, when he really wanted to.
And if you must know, Fred once went missing for twelve hours after he put itching powder in our cousin Louis’s underwear. Uncle George found him strapped to the underside of his bed with belts, taking a nap. Not just under the bed. Strapped to the bed.
I’ve got to say, Fred’s sort of a genius.
Albus, Pippa, and Hugo all point-blank refused to help me look for him, because they kept saying it was my job. Which really wasn’t fair, considering Hugo’s part in all this, but he’s always been a bit twitchy. It wasn’t like I particularly wanted to see him at the moment, either, but I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. I’d sort of potentially wrecked his Quidditch career.
I poked my nose into the Great Hall, on the off chance he’d be studying there, but the Slytherin table was fully deserted. My cousin Lucy was sitting at the Hufflepuff table, though, poking her wand at a goblet, her fringe forever too long and dangling into her eyes.
There are too many Weasleys at this school.
“Hey, Luce,” I said brightly, sliding onto the bench opposite her. She shushed me and waved her wand at me, and a couple of electric blue sparks rocketed out of the end of it. “Erm,” I said patiently, “what are you doing?”
She looked up and blinked at me from behind her large, round glasses. “I’m trying to change the molecular structure of this pumpkin juice to turn it into essence of acorn squash. So far it’s a mix between the two, given its faint burnt scent and goldenrod hue…”
I sort of tuned her out after that point. It’s really not a secret which parent Lucy takes after - my uncle Percy’s even duller than she is, if you can believe that about a girl who spends her free time turning normal juice into squash juice.
“Fascinating,” I said, once I’d realized she’d stopped running her mouth. I hoped it was the appropriate response, but she gave me a sort of frown. “Listen,” I forged on hastily, less I should be detained by more talk of squash, “have you seen Scorpius Malfoy anywhere?”
Lucy pushed her glasses up a bit further on the bridge of her nose. “I think he’s in the library. But I don’t see as how he’ll want to talk to you,” she added, and aimed her wand at the goblet again. I reached across and grabbed her forearm a bit harder than I meant to.
“Is he still there? I sort of need to…” I lowered my voice. It was an embarrassing thing to admit. “I need to tell him I’m sorry.”
Lucy blinked. She looked sort of like a bug in those glasses; I felt a bit bad for her. “You’re sorry? I didn’t think you were ever sorry for anything.”
“If I am forced to torture his current whereabouts out of you,” I said as pleasantly as possible, “I do believe I would be sorry for that as well.” I sort of regretted saying that as soon as I did, though. Because unlike my family, I don’t think Uncle Percy taught his family how to make jokes.
Or how to have fun.
Or how to smile at all.
I do feel rather bad for Lucy and Molly. There was no hope from the start.
“He’s probably still in the library, Rose. I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Just go and check.” She turned back to her goblet, probably already back to thinking about molecules or whatever word she’d used that I’d already forgotten.
On my way up to the library, I had a lot of time to think, mostly because I was dragging my feet from lack of wanting to go in the first place. Scorpius’s response to my attempt to apologize could go one of two ways, even more so because he was a Malfoy. He could either accept graciously and we could return to our tentatively amicable relationship of earlier. Or he could hex my nose and make it fall off.
Now that I knew that he hadn’t, in fact, tried to sabotage Rose’s Happily Ever After With Julian Murdock, I didn’t know if were supposed to review those lesson things again. I mean, I’d sort of gone back on my part of the deal, not to mention gotten him pretty much a lifetime’s worth of detention. I shouldn’t ask him to keep his part of the deal, because after it was all said and done, I didn’t really want to -
I stopped and squinted out the window, trying to conjure up an image of Julian in all his brooding glory, but for some reason the only thing that popped into my head was Scorp’s muscles underneath his Quidditch jumper, and the way his eyes sometimes looked just like the sky above him, which was surreal in a kind of nice way.
A sort of clenched and panicked feeling sort of hammered on my spleen just then because that was a first, those thoughts. And I didn’t know what to make of them.
This could be a problem.
Madam Pince gave me a glare to end all glares when I entered the library, clutching the book she was holding convulsively to her chest. “Can I help you?” she hissed in an exaggerated whisper. Behind her, some fourth year laughed obnoxiously loud, but of course she went selectively deaf at the moment, still glaring at me.
I’ve made such a great impression on this school’s faculty. I don’t think any of them believe for a second that I am my mother’s daughter.
“No, you cannot,” I said bluntly, peering over her shoulder, craning my neck for a view of Scorpius. There was a glimpse of banana-covered hair in the back corner, and I set off in that direction, only to be halted by a claw-like hand.
“Do not disturb students who are studying,” she said fiercely. “They would like to pass their classes -“
“I would like to pass life,” I said, extricating myself from her grip and wiggling away in Scorpius’s direction. From behind me, she made a sort of huffing noise, but I had larger things on my mind than whether I’d disrupted the crotchety old librarian’s literary universe.
I know Scorpius heard me approaching - quite frankly, I sounded sort of like a rampaging hippogriff - but he kept looking at his book, tapping his quill on the edge of it and making little ink blots on the pages. Which was proof enough, really, because Madam Pince would probably take one of his kidneys for that sort of thing later. He was still covered in small scratches from pretty much busting down the commentator’s box - but, then again, so was I.
I cleared my throat as politely as possible.
Tap. Tap tap.
“Look, you can try and ignore me,” I said heatedly, “but I’m going to talk anyway.” And I don’t really know why I got suddenly so angry, because it wasn’t even him I was angry at. And it wasn’t Albus, and it wasn’t Hugo. I was just frustrated and tired and there was a sort of nauseating thing mixed in that might have been guilt.
He glanced my way, and something must have caught his attention, because he stopped tapping his quill, at the very least. And that was enough to get me going.
“Hugo was the one who told Julian about” - I cleared my throat and it did absolutely squat to relieve the awkwardness - “my, erm. Well, my attraction to him, if you will.” It wasn’t even news to Scorpius, and my face still felt like someone had dumped a vat of lava over it. “But I kind of assumed you’d done it, you know, and that’s why I did what I did. Ratting you out to the Quidditch scouts, and all that.”
He continued to stare at me, without saying anything. Which was a bit unnerving, really, because he always had had some sort of rebuttal or snarky comment to throw at me before, and now he’d taken up the old adage of silence being golden.
“Oh.” I’d suddenly remembered the other point I needed to make, and cleared my throat again. “And then, with the whole Pippa thing… Well, apparently my cousin Roxanne convinced Hugo that it would be a good laugh to, erm, apparently sabotage your relationship. I don’t think those were the exact words she used, but that was sort of the gist.”
Scorpius blinked once. It was the biggest reaction I’d garnered from him since cornering him here. Now I was distinctly feeling self-conscious, like I’d gotten a wad of spinach stuck in my front teeth and didn’t know it, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away.
I ran my tongue over them, just to check.
“So, really, it’s kind of Hugo’s fault.” I paused, tilting my head, considering. “And Roxanne’s. But… it’s also sort of mine, and so I just kind of wanted to say that I was sorry.”
And the weirdest bit is… I’d fought Pippa and Albus about it, but I was.
There was a sort of clunk, and I realized, with a bit of a jolt, that Scorpius had just sort of keeled over and was lying face down on top of his library book. For a long moment, he didn’t move - I wasn’t even sure if he was breathing anymore. I poked the side of his head to check.
And then I saw his shoulders shaking. Was he… he was laughing?
“Well, that’s not quite the reaction I’d expected,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest. There wasn’t a lot for me to do at this point besides just sort of let it all happen and wait for his brain to click back into gear.
Scorpius finally looked up from the book - oh, Merlin, he was laughing so hard he was crying - although when he tried to speak at last, there were still traces of him having to smother his stupid giggling. He sounded like he was wheezing - but no, he was actually saying my name.
“Weasleys,” he choked, tears streaming down his face. I pouted. “You’re mad! You’re all mad, the whole lot of you!”
“Well… that seems a bit rude.” I didn’t have to stand here and listen to him blaspheme my family tree, despite that fact that - well, yes, we were a bit bonkers. But not lock-me-up-in-Azkaban-where-the-sun-doesn’t-shine bonkers. More the type that would cause a cat to keep running headlong into a wall for no apparent reason.
And damn him, he was still laughing.
“Right, well, that’s what I came to say,” I said, a bit frostily, and turned on my heel to go. And quite frankly, I was hoping he’d stop me - grab my hand or poke my elbow or call my name, at least. But all I got treated to was another burst of hysterical laughter as I shuffled out of the library.
He’s the one who’s stark raving nuts, if you ask me.
I stopped just outside the library, though. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next - find Hugo and punch him in the nose? Find Pippa and drink our Scorpius troubles away in more iced tea? What I should have wanted to do, I realized, was find Julian and fix this thing - but I didn’t want to find Julian. I didn’t want to get anywhere near the sod ever again.
Slowly, I sort of sank to the floor outside the library. A first-year Slytherin tripped over my legs and glared ferociously at me, but I didn’t even have the energy to take the mickey out of her. My brain hurt from all the thinking it had been doing since that morning’s match, something it was definitely not used to doing. Because the truth of the matter was that I was much, much sorrier over the fact that Scorpius thought I was crazy than I was over the prospect of not getting that date with Julian Murdock.
What had I seen in him? He was still good-looking, but we had nothing in common. Which Scorpius had seen from the first - and he’d still tried to help me out, hadn’t he? He was the better person in that exchange. He’d always been the better person, really, because he’d never done anything before I’d done something to him first.
I groaned and slammed my head into the stone wall behind me, which turned out to be a really bad idea. Because now, on top of my massive guilt trip, it felt like someone had beaten me around the head with a Beater’s club.
But quite suddenly, there was a shout - someone shouting my name - and Scorpius was there, like a dream, speckled by stars from my smashing my head into the wall. He was jogging up the corridor towards me, still holding his quill.
“Rose, there you are.” He stopped, panting slightly - you’d think he wouldn’t, being a Quidditch athlete, but maybe brooms weren’t good for stamina - and I scrambled to my feet. “I didn’t mean to run you off -“
“You laughed in my face!” I said sulkily, my lower lip protruding again without me quite meaning for it to.
“I know. You just caught me off guard.” Scorpius grinned infectiously, but almost as soon as he did, it slid off his face. “Look - I accept your apology. It probably took a lot of guts for you to do that, since I’ve never seen you apologize before.”
I scowled. “You’re ruining the moment, Snake Charmer.”
“I just wanted to - oh, hell.” He clenched his hair in his fists. “I cannot sodding believe I’m doing this. But I’m willing to keep our deal.”
I blinked at him, feeling suddenly rather stupid. “Pardon?”
Scorpius rolled his eyes. “Our deal, Rose. That one you broke?”
“Oh, that one,” I said pleasantly, rocking back and forth on the balls of my feet. He was too easy to antagonize, really. Although I probably shouldn’t be antagonizing him after what I did, but let’s let bygones be bygones, I say.
Except… I didn’t want to keep that deal.
“Actually, can we just sort of forget about it?” I said, becoming momentarily fascinated with the laces of his shoes. “I mean, when it comes down to it… I’m sort of getting the shoddy end of it. It’s hard not to bug you over the announcement system.”
It was Scorpius’s turn to look flabbergasted. “So… you don’t want that date with Julian, then?”
I wrinkled my nose. Might as well milk this for all it was worth. “Gross. No way, Scorp-o. What gave you that idea?” I glanced up from his shoelaces; he looked like he’d swallowed a Flobberworm whole, and it was putting up a massively good fight.
I was still trying to come up with a good comment to follow this when he kissed me.
Merlin, his lips were soft.
He pulled away after several seconds, looking quite as shocked as I felt, but there was something like a smile playing around the corner of his lips. I grinned at him, and he grinned back.
“So. There’s that,” I said finally, after a rather prolonged silence, and he laughed aloud.
“I’ve been wanting to do that for the longest time,” he said, and something inside me sort of melted a bit. “It’s a bit hard to work up the nerve, though, when you’re commenting on how much troll blood I’ve got in me.”
I smiled sheepishly. “Well, you know. That’s my way of attracting men, Scorpius Malfoy. I suppose I didn’t need lessons from you after all.”
Scorpius slung his arms around my waist, the sunlight from the window behind him lighting up his hair to a brilliant color. Less banana pudding, more pie crust, I think.
“So, Squeezeley,” he said, leaning down and pressing his forehead against mine. “I think I’m about to make you a new deal. An offer you can’t refuse, if you will.”
“Bring it on,” I replied, and stood on my tiptoes for a second kiss.
A/N: And cut! I must admit, while I don't generally (or ever) write romantic comedies, this story was a heck of a lot of fun to work on. Especially this last scene, if you catch my drift. And now it's finally finished! Wow! I'm really pleased, and, yes, a bit sad, as I always am upon posting the last chapter of something. But mostly pleased, because this was one little experiment gone right, and that's so awesome!
There are a lot of people to thank in conjunction with this story. Firstly -- because they did come first in the little biography that makes up this story -- Annie and Gubby and Gina, for plot-hashing. And of course to Lily, and to Erica, and to Sarah, for being the best support team I could have ever, ever asked for. I love you guys!
And to anyone who's ever reviewed, or favorited, or even just read a chapter: Thank you, too! This couldn't have happened without you, and that's the plain and simple truth. Thank you for reading -- thank you for everything -- and I really hope you've enjoyed And Now A Word From Our Sponsors!