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Chapter 18: Elektra and Felix
It was nine in the morning when the train rolled into the station, belching steam up towards a leaden grey sky that had the all-too-familiar look of an impending thunderstorm. I decided I couldn’t watch anymore and seized Scorpius by the hand, burying my face in his shoulder.
‘Lucy?’ he cautioned.
‘Please don’t let there be sequins,’ I said. ‘Please, no sequins!’
The train drew to a definite stop, an electronic beeping rang through the station, followed by a low hiss as the doors slid open. And there he was. Pushing six feet tall in his crepe shoes, his dress sense new romantic, his face the kind that only a mother could love, and his smile as creepy as a mysterious shadow in the corner of your eye. Felix Felicis, aka Lettuce Spebbington, dressed up to the nines, with his head somewhere in cloud cuckoo land.
I let out an involuntary squeal and lifted my head from Scorpius’ shoulder; he gave my hand a reassuring squeeze as if to say don’t worry. You can use me as a human shield.
Lettuce pranced towards us like a baby giraffe on rollerskates and set his suitcase down on the concrete platform.
‘Scorpius,’ he said. ‘Lucy. How delightful to see you so happy.’
He plunged his hands into his coat pockets, thrust them into the air, and then two handfuls of silvery glitter drizzled down on our heads like snow.
‘Hello, Lettuce,’ Scorpius said wearily.
‘Such a marvellous place,’ Lettuce said. ‘I saw it from the train. Such marvellous…allotments.’
‘Cool,’ Scorpius said. ‘How…how are…how’s the band?’
'I’m solo now,’ Lettuce said, with an action that can probably best be described as a mullet toss.
‘We booked you a room at the bed and breakfast in town,’ I blurted out. ‘Expect you’ll want to check in soon!’
‘Magnificent!’ Lettuce cried, clapping his hands together. A small mushroom cloud of glitter erupted into the air. ‘What is there to see, to do, to be?’
Scorpius lifted the suitcase and we started to walk back towards the town. I kept a firm grip on his free hand just in case.
‘There’s the rehearsal,’ Scorpius said. ‘And, well, the pub.’
I’m pretty sure both of us had the simultaneous sensation of our hearts missing a panicky beat.
‘Uh…Tarquin and Gwen didn’t tell you?’
‘Nope!’ Lettuce said cheerfully.
Scorpius looked like he wanted to cry. ‘We…well, we’re in a band, and we’re, uh, doing this talent show thing…’
‘A band!’ Lettuce said, his maniacal grin increasing twofold in mania levels. ‘When are you performing? Oh, I knew you wouldn’t be able to stay out of the game for long?’
‘The game,’ Scorpius mouthed.
Lettuce flung his hands out either side of him as if to embrace Scorpius, who took a nonchalant step backwards and inadvertently crushed my toes.
‘You are a born music-maker,’ Lettuce purred, arms outstretched.
‘Uh-huh,’ Scorpius looked mortified. ‘Actually, I think my true calling is teaching art, you know?’
‘We’re performing at the weekend,’ I chipped in. ‘Saturday night.’
‘Marvellous,’ Lettuce clapped his hands together again, and another little glitter explosion went skywards. ‘I’m here until Monday.’
Scorpius had only just choked out the letter F when I cut in. ‘We’ll take you to the rehearsal if you want. And the show. Otherwise…plenty of sightseeing to do!’
‘Oh?’ Lettuce perked up.
‘You could…go to Loch Ness!’
‘Don’t fall in!’ Scorpius said cheerily.
‘There’s Urquhart castle…’
‘There’s a fantastic graphic design collective in Inverness you could visit. They love artists.’
‘Nah, I don’t deal with designers,’ Lettuce said dismissively. ‘I deal with free spirits.’
‘Oh,’ Scorpius looked slightly crestfallen.
The ten minutes it took us to walk Lettuce to the Thistle Inn were unsurprisingly uncomfortable. I got the feeling that Scorpius would have dearly liked to kick Lettuce in the eye and, had there been a canal in the vicinity, he might have also chucked Lettuce into it. I was recalling, with some embarrassment, the brief moment when, at the age of nineteen, I’d entertained the notion of shacking up with Lettuce and a bunch of cats. Which may have been the most dangerous and interesting flatshare in the history of the universe.
We unleashed Lettuce upon the unsuspecting mistress of the B&B, gave him directions to our flat in case he was chucked out of his room for being too sparkly, and then traipsed back home. I felt a lot more tired than I was when we left. Scorpius just looked as tired and browbeaten as ever.
‘I should be off to work,’ he shrugged off his ridiculous anorak and threw it over the back of the chair, swapping it for a crumpled suit jacket. ‘I’ll be back before, er, the madness.’
‘I don’t even want to think about tonight…’
‘Well, don’t,’ he said, swooped down and kissed me on the cheek, and then was out the door and off to one of his many means of employment.
I was at a loss for things to do. I didn’t want to write – I’d come to the realisation that I was by no means a writer, and was starting to question Euphemia Flitter’s already questionable sanity – nor did I want to do the chores, fix the spellotaped hinges, or even leave the flat. Really, I just wanted to flop down onto the sofa and have someone feed me hot, comforting things, but the only other being in the flat was Mr Andrew Socks and I doubt he could have cooked anything, lacking opposable thumbs as he does.
So I decided to be proactive: zombie smut it was.
The back catalogue of Amortentia Publications took trashy to a whole new level. I was actually starting to come around to the idea that they were ironic satirical parodies, and the whole thing was a hilarious practical joke arranged by Euphemia Flitter, who was actually a second-wave feminist whose true passion was social realism or even detective novels. Generally, though, they were sold as legitimate tales of legitimate romances – To Tame a Dragon-Tamer had a ‘real stories for real women’ sticker on the front, as if every other book on the planet was aimed at false women – and they all contained a certain brand of romance I could barely identify.
It was passionate, to put it mildly. Angry. Charged. If two people argued, it was a helpful sign that they’d be shagging by the end of the book. They fought, they had implausibly miserable backstories, and, nine times out of ten, they transcended some unbelievable social barriers to be in troo wub with each other. In the case of Accio Love, punches were thrown and I had to put the book down; the idea of any girl or guy going for someone who thinks violence is romantic made me queasy.
Euphemia Flitter might have ordered me to write about romance, but she’d also ordered me to write about real life. Write what you know. Something for the readers to identify with. But I looked at the four books she’d sent me, all those toe-curlingly tense push-me-pull-me romances and I didn’t see a scrap or shred of my own life in them. My boyfriends had generally been pretty nice. Sure, I’d argued with each and every one of them, but we’d never had the dramatic sort of Quidditch pitch showdown seen at the climax of Quidditch Confessions. Nor the ensuing scenes in the changing rooms, if you catch my drift.
But, then again…
I burrowed down into the sofa, wedging my bum inbetween the cushions and crossing my arms over my chest. No, I couldn’t say they were all wholly nice – and this was when I had to pinch the bridge of my nose and squeeze my eyes shut with the embarrassment of the memories – there had been Rory Rothbart, maybe the nicest, but he’d been deaf to the word no. And what about Lee MacBride – what about him, I thought with a sneer – who’d plied me with cigarettes and drink; he was the original bad influence. Then there’d been Charles with the surname I’d forgotten, who’d made endless hilarious jokes about the kitchen, and how it was where I belonged – even after I’d made him a sandwich with jinxed tomatoes that left him spitting out seeds for three days. There were other boys, boys at parties, boys I’d kissed and never even found out the name of, but it did me no good to think of them, because they were nothing more than shadows with the odd memory of stubble or clammy hands.
Thinking about Scorpius made me feel a little better, but I’d already been soured by the ones that’d come before. Passive, I thought, insecure, and you could never be right – any disagreement would wind up with the puppy-dog expression, the tip-toeing about, the reassurances in a small, cracked voice that yes, of course he was fine. Being right meant being guilty. There were flaws…but I shook my head, thinking that it wouldn’t do me any good to sit and stew in annoyance. Besides, you had to take the good with the bad. He had the loyalty of a dog sorted into Hufflepuff. If anything, he was pleasant company almost all the time.
It didn’t stop my mind wondering, though, onto how legitimate my take on the romantic genre might look to any casual observer. We were far from passionate, far from trysts in broom cupboards and – ahem - DIY-related shenanigans. I loved him, no doubt about it, but we were hardly novel material. How were we supposed to stand the test of time if our finesse as a couple was knowing precisely how the other took their tea?
I’m not entirely sure why I was so paranoid. We had what was pretty much my own personal philosophy for a healthy relationship. Love is tea and toast and sofa hurdling and not caring when your significant other develops a spontaneous taste for nicotine because you love them enough not to care. Love is taking the piss out of their flaws instead of trying to ignore them. Love is a duck and love is picking them to be on your zombie apocalypse team even though you know they’d bring nowt but misfortune upon you.
Besides, those books weren’t, as the stickers on the front suggested, written by real women for other real women about real things. These were books written by singletons pining after that one lustful encounter and that one lost love they’d never been able to forget the taste of. So, after a while, it was easy to remind myself that I had what I wanted, that I had someone whose company I felt entirely comfortable in, someone with a sense of stoic happiness and a mutual love of tea and jangly guitar music. Not some dashing hunk with Quidditch-toned muscles and a radar for vacant broom cupboards. I mean, has anybody actually tried getting off with someone in a broom cupboard? I imagine the brooms would be a bit of a nuisance. Not to mention the Doxys.
Scorpius was by no means my textbook knight in shining armour, but he was certainly my Sir Luckless in tinfoil.
In a truly spontaneous fit of philosophy, I abandoned the writing notebook and the chores and instead found myself a scrap of parchment Scorpius had been doodling on. And with the parchment on the coffee table and me hunched over it with a cheap biro in my hand, I printed the words Lucy Weasley’s Manifesto for True Love. Then I decided that was a bit formal and replaced true love with troo wub.
I found myself lost for words.
What was my philosophy? What was my manifesto for troo wub? I didn’t believe in Quidditch-toned muscles. I didn’t believe in rose petals and candlelit dinners and ambient music. I believed in bacon sandwiches and dandelions plucked from between paving slabs and lying in on Sundays. Companionship over passion, a friend over a lover; well, that was positively archaic.
I made a note on the paper. One: fall in love with your best friend.
And then it really hit me. On the sliding scale of relationships, there’s a particular stage between friend and lover that has always made me squirm. Friends with benefits, the well-worn excuse I’d heard from boys at school countless times over as a bargaining chip for a snog. I’d never bought into it.
I added another few words, the minute anxiety that had been brewing in my mind for the past year or so fully taking form and becoming legible.
And hope he loves you just as much.
And that was my brain exhausted for the day.
I replaced the cap on the pen, set the pen down on the table, and stared at the wall opposite. It was only quarter to ten. Blast. I considered my options: write, clean, fix. But hadn’t I already gone through it all and decided not to do a bit of it?
I twiddled my thumbs. The clock didn’t get any closer to ten. Then the doorbell rang.
I actually jumped a bit out of my seat – it wasn’t like I was expecting anyone. I hurriedly shoved my manifesto for troo wub into the back of my notebook, tossed the notebook under the sofa where it usually lived, then let myself out of the flat and down to the building’s front door, where it was considerably chillier.
Disappointingly, Lettuce was on the doorstep.
‘Lucy!’ he said, doing his flinging-arms-asunder-as-if-going-in-for-a-hug thing again. Luckily, there was a handy doorframe in the way so, instead, his hands ended up smacking the brick walls either side of the door. He didn’t seem to notice. ‘Thought I’d pop round and see your flat!’
Why did he always have to sound so excited when he spoke? Grudgingly, I stepped back to let him in – I mean, I may have been doing naff all, but doing naff all was a favoured hobby and talent of mine and I had plans to continue it well into the afternoon. Lettuce had popped that little lazy bubble with his exclamation marks and general razzmatazz.
He seemed to find a lot to comment on, from the umbrella stand in the hallway to the colour of our front door (duck-egg blue). When he was finally inside the flat proper, he craned his neck to inspect every nook and cranny of it from the doorway before – as he had done earlier – clapping his hands together with glee.
‘So much character!’
I glanced over at the spellotaped hinges on the cupboard. ‘Yeah…character.’
‘Is Scorpius not home?’
‘He went to work.’
‘What a shame.’
‘I’m kind of working too…’
‘I work from home,’ I said, gesticulating to the sofa. ‘I, er, write things.’
‘Ah-ha!’ another clap of the hands; the boy was like a portable rhythm section. ‘What do you write?’
I decided that it was best to tell the truth: Lettuce was the sort of person who wouldn’t blink twice at weirdness. ‘It’s…well. I suppose, in a nutshell, it’s zombie apocalypse smut. Well, you know, people trying to shag when they’re on the run from the flesh-eating undead.’
‘It’s a smutty romance novel,’ I said clearly. ‘Set in a zombie apocalypse. For Amortentia Publications. It’s complete crap.’
Lettuce took a while to process it, but then his face lit up. ‘Salacious!’ he said.
I felt my face go red. ‘Yeah, it’s hard to develop characters when they’re undead…’
Thankfully, Mr Andrew Socks chose to interrupt at that moment, strutting in from the bedroom and winding himself around Lettuce’s ankles. Lettuce let out a high-pitched sound like a boiling kettle, then swooped down, scooped Mr Andrew Socks up into his arms, and buried his nose in his fur.
‘Aaaaaaaa-’ Lettuce squealed. ‘He’s so cute!’
Prrrr, Mr Andrew Socks said.
‘Yeah, we inherited him,’ I said, as Lettuce whirled on the spot, giving Mr Andrew Socks what looked like a thoroughly good cuddle. ‘He’s good fun.’
I couldn’t quite make out what Lettuce said next, but it sounded something like ‘Eeeeee I love cats.’
Fifteen minutes of cat adoration later, I’d made tea for us both and settled back down on the sofa. Lettuce took the armchair, still cuddling a purring Mr Andrew Socks.
‘So,’ I said, then realised that I didn’t actually have anything to say and trailed off into silence.
Meow? Mr Andrew Socks said.
‘Your book. When will it be published?’ Lettuce asked.
I shrugged. ‘I don’t even think it will be published.’
'Do you have a draft?’
‘You must have something!’
‘Yeah, but…you don’t want to see it.’
‘But of course I do!’ he squealed.
Just to make him shut up, I hoiked the notebook out from under the sofa and passed it to him.
‘It’s mostly handwritten drafts but there are a few printed sheets,’ I said, but he’d already flipped past the first couple of pages and settled on a glued-in piece of parchment fresh from the typewriter.
‘Salacious!’ he repeated, eyes roving the page.
‘Don’t read too much,’ I said, already regretting giving it to him.
There was a pause of five minutes or so – I chewed my nails, fiddled with a hole in the sleeve of my shirt, tapped my toes – before Lettuce looked up. He was grinning like a shark.
‘Naughty!’ he exclaimed.
‘Are you at the…bit?’ I said, making a hand gesture I’d never in a million years want my mum to see me doing.
His eyes widened. ‘Like I said, salacious!’
Lettuce snapped the notebook shut and stared at me with that same grin.
‘It’s entertaining!’ he said. ‘What’s your problem?’
‘Uh…where do I start?’ I said.
‘Well, you could-’
But my mind, thinking fast, had pulled a fault out of thin air. ‘The pseudonym,’ I blurted out. ‘I mean, I’m not letting this out under my own name. My dad would have kittens! But I don’t know what to pick!’
‘Yes!’ I felt strangely irritable. ‘Lucy Weasley isn’t exactly a racy name, is it?’
‘So…come up with anything?’
I mashed two protagonists of Amortentia Publications together, and came up with this: ‘Maybe…Elektra Lovelance.’
Lettuce’s eyes brightened. Which was some feat considering that he was basically a human sequin already. ‘I like it! Whimsical…but with a touch of bite.’
‘Yeah, shame the only biting in the book is done by zombies. And, er, that bit in chapter four.’
‘Oh?’ he raised an eyebrow.
‘You don’t want to know.’
There was a brief, poignant pause.
‘You know,’ he said, in a considerably quieter voice. ‘It could do with a bit of…’
He then mimed something else I wouldn’t want my mother to see.
‘Is that so?’ I said.
‘I think that might make it appeal to a wider audience,’ he shrugged.
‘Right,’ I said, taking my notebook from him. ‘We’re going to be proactive. You’re going to read more of this thing, and you’re going to help me make it trashier.’
I’m amazed by how deceptively stoic Scorpius can really be. That evening, when he came home from work, he barely batted an eyelid at the sight of me and Lettuce taking on an imaginary zombie apocalypse in the kitchen.
It had been a day of amateur dramatics with bells on. Quite literally – most of our imagined zombie-fighting was soundtracked by an elusive tinkling that turned out to be an elaborate anklet of Lettuce’s festooned with miniature jingle bells. In his words, there was no point writing about a character unless you really understand what they’re going through, hence the resulting play-pretend kitchen apocalypse.
He decided to subvert the norm: I was Buck and he was Eugene. This was a bit of a relief, as I could only imagine how awkward it would be if one of us was pretending to be Fauna and we reached one of the passages devoted to, ahem, shelf-related manoeuvres. Instead, I got to step into the expensive shoes of the vanguard of the revolution, the enigmatic, the burly, the elusive private detective with the Quidditch-toned abs and the orbs in place of eyes, and Lettuce took up the mantle of Eugene the baker with his floppy blonde hair and habit of clumsily lurching about and tripping over his own feet (blatantly not based on Scorpius).
Essentially, we role-played the vast majority of my typewritten trash. And it was probably the maddest thing I’d ever done since I’d decided I fancied Scorpius and tried to make a move on him through the medium of dance. Or since I’d been kidnapped by psychotic graphic designers or maybe even since I’d made the radical decision to dye my hair the colour of Drooble’s gum; take your pick.
Jealousy is a green-eyed monster, hence my decision to give Buck the most startling pair of emerald orbs that Fauna had ever seen – green as cucumbers, green as grass, green as toxic waste, green as algae and such – and I was a bad choice for the role with my blue eyes. But I’m pretty sure I pulled off Buck and Eugene’s showdown in chapter nine with aplomb, or as much aplomb as a blonde twenty-two year old with the figure of an ironing board can possess.
I didn’t even notice Scorpius had got in until he dumped his satchel on the table and several canisters of film clattered out onto the floor. I looked up from where I’d pinned Lettuce to the floor, my foot resting on his throat.
‘Oh, hello,’ I said. ‘I’m just taking revenge on him for kissing my girlfriend.’
‘It was an accident,’ Lettuce croaked. ‘She saved me from the zombies.’
‘Seems reasonable,’ Scorpius said, with admirable calmness. ‘Where are the zombies now?’
There was a faint meowing as Mr Andrew Socks came plodding through from the bedroom.
‘There,’ I said. ‘There’s your zombies.’
I released Lettuce, who sat up and massaged his throat; I noticed that his fingernails were painted a vivid, electric purple.
‘He was being Eugene,’ I explained. ‘I was Buck. But we didn’t have a Fauna. Fauna was imaginary.’
‘Maybe I can be Fauna later,’ Scorpius said, deadpan.
‘Undoubtedly, it is a story of magnificence,’ Lettuce said. ‘It just needs a bit of sexing up.’
‘Honestly, I think we’ve sexed it up enough already-’
‘Sex sells,’ Lettuce said, waggling a finger at me (I was entranced by how his nail varnish seemed to shimmer in the light). ‘Less is not more. More is more. More more is more. Nothing is ever too over the top. There is no such thing as hyperbole.’
I felt like that little snippet summed up his entire life philosophy perfectly.
‘Less is definitely more,’ Scorpius muttered, flicking the kettle on. ‘The rehearsal’s in half an hour, you know…’
‘I should retire,’ Lettuce said, with an elaborate mock-bow in Scorpius’ direction. ‘I must change and gather my items.’
‘Items…?’ Scorpius frowned.
‘Musical items,’ Lettuce said, winking. ‘Buenos noches…we meet at the clock tower at dawn.’
‘Actually, it’s the Town Hall at five-’
‘Adios!’ Lettuce cried, and a moment later the door banged open and he’d charged away down the stairs, giggling manically.
‘How odd,’ Scorpius sounded like he’d been hit by a mild stunning spell.
‘What did you expect, normal?’
Once the kettle had boiled and teabags had been allowed to steep, he came to sit beside me on the sofa with a mug in each hand. I took one sip of my tea and then grimaced at him.
‘Hey, you forgot the sugar…’
‘Sod,’ he said. ‘Hang on.’
And it was when he actually returned with the crumpled paper bag of sugar and a teaspoon that I realised he looked extraordinarily down in the dumps.
‘Something wrong?’ I said, spooning sugar into my tea.
‘No. Yeah. Nah. Nahh…yeah. Cameraderie’s closing down.’
‘They’re…letting me go’ he said, with a heartbreakingly miserable set of jazz hands accompanying the final word.
‘Oh, that’s terrible…’
‘Current economic climate,’ he said, parodying the tone of the snooty guy who read the news on the wireless every day. ‘Just can’t afford to run it anymore. Just…it’s going till the end of the month but they told me not to come back. And I have to return their tripod I keep borrowing.’
‘Oh, that’s sad.’
‘Yeah…I liked having a tripod.’
‘So…’ I felt I had to ask a burning question. ‘Are you going to find a new job, or…?’
‘Nah,’ he shook his head. ‘Nothing going. And it was a bit too much anyway.’
Hallelujah! I thought, but said ‘Well, we can drown our sorrows in sequins and alcohol tonight. Cheer up, we can go for a pint in the duck and a duck in the pint.’
And so we did, but not until after the band rehearsal. And wow, gadzooks, crikey, blimey guv’nor and other such vernacular exclamations – what a band rehearsal it was. It wasn’t so much a rehearsal, more like a brilliant and terrifying piece of avant-garde performance art with a dose of audience participation and extra shortbread.
Good evenings, like all good salads, start with a foundation of Lettuce. That’s totally a lie, but it’s hard to think about Lettuce without thinking about salad. But you can’t just have a salad that’s pure Lettuce. You need to spice it up a bit, and so you chuck in tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, garden peas, celery, even beetroot if you’re so inclined. Then you might dress it and serve it in a pretty wooden bowl with salad servers or, if you’re degenerate faux-arteestes like me and Scorpius, serve it on a chipped plate with a tarnished fork.
The Town Hall was the pretty wooden bowl, the New New Elginers were the hardy carrots, the shortbread was the tasty garden peas and Lettuce’s musical items were the beetroots of questionable taste. Lettuce was, shockingly, the lettuce, although I think that, if he were a vegetable, he would probably be an artichoke. Not that I think of my friends as vegetables, mind. (Scorpius is a radish.)
And cowbell was on the menu.
I’d never really figured out what musical genre Lettuce belonged to, although Scorpius had once referred to it as psychedelic garage grunge rock. The boy generally fitted into his own genre, and that genre was probably called something like I have no idea what this is but it is sparkly and it makes me want to cry. And I’m not sure what the New New Elginers, who were quite attached to their jigs and reels and stripped willows, really made of Lettuce and his nebula-print sequinned catsuit. Especially when he was doing the prancing thing with the cowbells, because nobody should ever have to speak of the prancing thing with the cowbells.
Suffice to say that, as soon as Scorpius nudged me and announced he was off for a fag break ten minutes into the ordeal, I followed him outside and we carried on walking all the way to the Drookit Duck so we could fall about laughing and drink ourselves silly in peace.
I was mightily glad we’d booked the creature into a B&B so we didn’t have any nasty surprises waiting for us in the flat although, too be fair, there was a curious surprise waiting for us in Lettuce’s place.
A neat Eagle owl perched upon the windowsill, a tight scroll tied to its leg; I let it in and it hopped into the flat, chirping merrily atop the toaster, whilst Mr Andrew Socks crept around on the floor below and hissed at it.
It was a letter from Rose, and an odd one at that. In recent years she’d become somewhat laconic and only really wrote when it was absolutely necessary. This was a scroll that went on for feet and feet of writing and was mostly meaningless. She talked about the weather, about distant family, about the economy, about this new place in Diagon Alley that sold the most amazing macaroons.
But I knew Rose’s tactics. There was a lot of hidden meaning, a lot to be inferred, a lot of casual concealment – a rambling paragraph about recent austerity measures cushioned the blow of the phrase I’ve lost my job, by the way, looking for a new one! She’d hidden things all over the letter, to the point where I actually re-read it to try and figure out what was going on in her life and what she was actually writing to us about.
‘What’s she saying?’ Scorpius said, each word accompanied with a little puff of smoke. The letter had really sobered me up.
‘Well…she’s lost her job, she can’t afford to keep her flat, she’s still single, she’s worried about money, she’s got an interview at a place way up North and needs a place to stay for a couple of nights, and she’s fallen in love with the new macaroon shop in Diagon Alley.’
‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Oh. Bad luck. Not the macaroons, I mean…Rose, unemployed?’
‘Too bad to be true, right? And why does everyone want to stay with us all of a sudden?’
‘Because we’re chuffing marvellous.’
I wasn’t sure what to write in return, so I put out some water and treats for the owl and retreated to the bedroom with Mr Andrew Socks and Scorpius, planning to reply in the morning. I mulled it over in my mind all the way through getting ready for bed and, by all accounts, I should have nodded off to sleep instantly: after all the drama of the day, I was knackered, and the room was nicely cosy, the bed and the boy I was using as a pillow pretty comfortable. But while my body felt tired, my mind was doing backflips, cartwheels, and then some. It kept leaping from one thing to another, revolving through an endless cycle of Lettuce and zombies and smut and Rose until my mind had fashioned a disturbing image of Lettuce and Rose taking the places of Buck and Fauna in the zombiepocalypse smut fiesta.
'I can't sleep,' I said to the general darkness, sometime around one in the morning. Surprisingly, Scorpius answered in an instant.
'Me neither,' he said. 'Every time I close my eyes I see sequins.'
I sighed and shifted around, trying to find an equally comfy position that it'd still be easy to talk to him from.
'I'm still not sure what they made of Lettuce,' I ventured.
'No, me neither.’
I was actually quite glad to be awake. It was nice, lying here with his arm around my shoulders, tucked up in bed with the February rain pattering against the curtained windows. With a jolt, I realised that, four years ago, my ideal night would have involved lots of alcohol, a bit of casual hedge-hopping and probably a killer hangover the morning after. But now - well, it was only eleven at night, and already I was cosied up in bed. I felt positively middle-aged. Then I remembered Burns Night, with the whole drinking game and ensuing carnage, and a giggle escaped my lips before I could help myself.
He seemed amused. 'What're you laughing about?'
'Oh, just,' I tried to block out the memory of the aforementioned drinking game/carnage before it got too, as Lettuce would put it, salacious. 'I just remembered Burns night...that's all.'
Clearing my mind of drunken, poetry-fuelled escapades proved somewhat difficult. My hand rested on the curve between his neck and his shoulder; instead, I ran my fingers along his collarbone, trying to come up with something else to think about - and then my fingers passed over a dent in the bone.
'You've gone quiet,' he said, as I backtracked my fingers. Nope, definitely a dent. Right in the bone.
'What's this?' I asked, prodding it, mystified.
'Oh...' he said. 'I...I fell off a swing when I was seven. Broke the bone.'
'Yeah...it was a bit daft, really,' he winced, as if it still hurt all these years later. 'It was only because all the other kids...they had magic, they'd swing and jump off and land really neatly, you know? Well, it looked really cool, but when I tried it...'
'Well...I fell foul of gravity.' he said. 'Did a headplant. Mum cried for ages, she thought I was a squib.'
'Lucky you weren't me,' I propped myself up on my elbow. 'My magic was mental. I kept blowing things up.’
'But breaking your bones...'
'There's nothing more scarring than seeing teddy blow up in your face,' I said. 'Especially when it happens seven times a week. They used to make a joke of it, like, oh, hide your ornaments, Percy’s bringing the kids. Molly was exactly the same.’
‘You’re still a bit like that.’
‘Oh, thanks a lot.’
‘When’s Rose wanting to come up?’ he said.
‘She didn’t say. As soon as possible, I guess.’
‘We can’t stick her in a bed and breakfast.’
‘Oh, of course. I think it’d actually be good to have her here…she might tidy for us.’
‘Poor girl,’ I said. ‘I mean…I used to be a bit jealous of her. She always had her life in order. But now it’s sort of…well, it’s gone pear-shaped.’
‘Stuff just happens though, doesn’t it? No idea how she’ll cope here. Probably a bit weird for her.’
‘Oh, she’ll cope,’ I said. ‘Rose…Rose was always very stressy, but, well, she bounces back. She can cope with things.’
‘I know,’ he said.
We pretty much fell into silence after that, probably both turning Rose’s letter over in our minds. And when I settled down to sleep again and my hand rested on his collarbone, it found that dent again and I couldn’t stop thinking about how he’d nearly been a squib and we possibly might never have met.
a/n: arghh I am a bad bad updater. (and I update with COLLARBONE FLUFF? wuut) it's definitely on the home stretch, though. plot to come includes: the talent show, Rose and her feelings, Lucy being an idiot, Lucy deconstructing the romantic genre a bit more, Lucy the spontaneous feminist, and the end of the world as we know it. except I lied about that last one.
anyway - thank you for sticking with this story! it's kind of typical of me to spend umpteen chapters on boring exposition and puns and fluff and then smash all the plot into the last few chapters (I did it with starving artists, I can do it again!). I hope you enjoyed it and thank you for reading ♥
and for reasons of tos...
buenos noches = goodnight
adios = farewell