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Chapter 28: Advice
I was having difficulty sleeping. Tossing and turning, I would wake regularly through the night and find myself unable to drift off again. A feeling of dread never left me and I worried constantly about stupid things. Mostly, I was concerned that I was an unlovable human being with nothing to offer anyone. I had suddenly realised that I felt guilty about being so horrid to Scorpius, or at least that I should be feeling guilty.
I couldn't explain the change of heart, but meeting his parents had shifted some part of our, albeit strange, relationship. Thinking back to encounters with him, I had always failed to treat him with any form of respect. He was just this bloke I needed to get rid of. Now, four days after being unspeakably rude to him, I remembered he had feelings, and I had trampled all over them.
Perhaps it was all the reflection on that lunch with his parents, or it was the five page letter expressing his indignation he'd posted through my letterbox the previous day.
"Let me read it," Molly whined, trying to peer over my shoulder as I read it through yet again, trying to commit it to memory so I could burn the evidence. I turned away so she couldn't get a glimpse and she tried to snatch the parchment out of my hands instead.
"No," I snarled for the tenth time that morning. I backed away from her until my legs hit the sofa and I couldn't move anywhere else. Effectively, I was trapped but I wasn't going to give in. If Molly read this I'd never live it down. He'd managed to point out many of my flaws very accurately and there was no way I was giving Molly that ammunition.
She advanced on me, a menacing glint in her eye. "A problem shared is a problem halved," she insisted devishly. "Show me."
There was nowhere in could go. My only option was to eat the damned thing, which I had no intention of doing. I was going to keep it and prove to Scorpius why everything he'd accused me of wasn't true. Molly reached me, her eyes looking satanic and her hair wafting around her head like flames from hell. I quivered slightly.
"Don't make me tickle you," she threatened.
"Don't you dare," I growled, stuffing the letter down my bra hastily.
"I'll go down there," she said smugly. "I'm not squeamish."
Sighing, I realised the game was up. I retrieved the letter and admitted defeat. Once Molly wanted something, she wouldn't stop until she got it. I would have to sleep with the letter down my pyjamas in order to hide it from her, and even then there was no guarantee that it was safe.
She snatched the letter out of my hands with glee.
I sank down on the sofa and hid my head in my hands, waiting for the snide and mocking remarks Molly was surely preparing as I tried to think of ways to redeem my pride and dignity.
“He’s a bit bitter, isn’t he?” Molly asked pointedly. I looked up, scowling at the smirk on her lips. She really did take an enormous amount of pleasure from my discomfort and pain. I was going to be emotionally traumatised by this letter for years to come. In fact, it might even tip me further over the edge of spinsterhood. I was going to be a hermit from now on.
“I was a rather rude to him,” I said with a heavy heart. “He’d invited me to dinner and I threw it back in his face.”
“That’s unlike you,” Molly said, surprised. “You never waste food.”
I huffed. “I didn’t throw the food in his face,” I clarified. “I insulted him after he’d actually been nice to me.”
“I thought you hated him,” Molly said with a raised eyebrow. Her eyes left mine and she returned to reading the letter.
“Hate is a strong word. I don’t particularly like him, no.”
“Then don’t get so worked up over his opinion. You don’t care what he thinks.”
The problem was I did care what he thought just as I cared what everyone else thought about me. I didn’t have to like someone to take to heart their opinion, surely Molly understood that? It was all very well her harping on about how the only people I should listen to were those that matter (by which she meant her and only her), but I couldn’t just pretend like no one else mattered either. I wanted to be loved by everyone and admired for being a beautiful example of a human being. No wonder I was constantly disappointed in myself.
“Well how can I ignore that horrible letter?” I asked defensively. “Anyone would be hurt by that.”
“Hmm,” she said distractedly as she continued to read the letter. “I like this bit, it’s very perceptive: ‘Stop waiting around for some Mr Fancy-Pants Prince Charming because he doesn’t exist’. He should write a column in a women’s magazine – I’d read it.”
“Very funny,” I retorted sarcastically. “We all know I have high standards. I’m just a bit pickier than you are.”
Molly rolled her eyes, that irritating habit that I’d still not managed to interrupt. “Don’t you think he does make good points?” she asked. “What about: ‘I don’t have time to wait for you to grow up.’ He’s an unexpected wordsmith, isn’t he?”
“‘You can’t expect me to change without also compromising too.’ He’s right you know,” Molly added. “You’ve been very demanding on the poor boy.”
I groaned in frustration. “Why are you taking his side on this? He’s such a nutter - he’s clearly sat down for hours writing this stupid letter just to make me feel bad. Why would I want to go out with someone as odd as that?”
“He’s probably scared of you,” Molly said wisely. “He can’t say this to your face because you’ll be horrible to him again. You’re basically a bully. Actually, I think he’s already said that in the letter…”
“He has not,” I denied. “Where does he say I’m a bully?”
Molly turned the page over and scanned it. “It’s here,” she said, jabbing her finger at the top of the page. “It’s right after my favourite bit.”
It was my turn to roll my eyes. “Which bit is that?”
“‘Roses are red, violets are blue, your cousin’s good-looking – what happened to you?’”
I glared at her. “It doesn’t say that, stop making things up.”
“Well, he was probably thinking it,” she said with a shrug. “Anyway, my point is that he has some good advice for you. I think you should go and apologise and thank him for his letter.”
“Thank him?” I repeated incredulously. “Why would I do that? He made me cry.”
“You’re just a wimp,” Molly said with a dismissal wave of her hand. “He’s only looking out for you, like a good friend.”
“I’m not sure what one of those is,” I muttered as I went to go make a cup of tea. Molly pretended like she hadn’t heard me.
I boiled the kettle and proceeded to make a cup of tea as slowly as possible. Inside my head, my thoughts were jumbled. I was a bit ashamed that he’d even needed to send me a letter like that. Maybe Molly was right and I was a bully, but I’d tried to be nice to him and he hadn’t got the message then. After years of obsession, I really needed him to get out of my life. We were pretty terrible for each other, or at least I was bad for him. I’d obviously upset him and he still felt the need to meddle in my life. What was I supposed to do with him?
“Go and talk to him,” Molly said as I joined her on the sofa. “He wants to help you.”
“I don’t need help,” I denied. “Why is it any of his business what I do with my life? If he was that offended, he should stay away from me.”
Molly sighed exasperatedly. “He cares about you, can’t you see it? It’s like I love you, despite you being an absolute cow sometimes.”
“I’m not a cow,” I said indignantly.
“You are, but that’s not the point,” she said forcefully. “How long has Scorpius stuck around you even though you kept fighting him off? What does that tell you?”
I frowned. I could see where she was going with this. “It tells me that he’s an irritating little stalker.”
“No. I think it’s pretty clear he loves you, and we know how rare a gem that is.”
I sipped at my tea even though it was too hot to drink. I could feel it burning my lips as I tried to follow Molly’s train of thought. What was she saying - that just because he loved me I should fall at his feet in gratitude? That didn’t exactly send my heart fluttering.
“I don’t love him,” I said flatly. “I don’t see why I should indulge his desires just because he loves me. It’s a two-way thing.”
“How do you know you couldn’t love him?” Molly argued. She was brandishing the letter like a sword, gesturing like mad. “You never even gave him a proper chance. You’ve been determined to find his flaws while he’s been doing his best to ignore yours. Can’t you at least be his friend? People like that are worth keeping around.”
“Why don’t you go out with him if you think he’s so wonderful?” I snapped.
“I’m already spoken for,” Molly said tersely.
“Well, I can’t just force myself to like him,” I continued. “Stop being so bossy.”
“He really isn’t that bad,” my cousin replied heatedly. “I have bothered to get to know him a bit, unlike you, and he deserves to be treated better than this.”
“When have you got to know him?” I replied. Molly narrowed her eyes dangerously. “If I’m so awful, it’s probably better for him if I leave him alone.”
I snatched the letter from Molly’s hands and stalked out of the house, not bothering to put my coat on. Luckily, the spring sunshine was streaming through the clouds and the temperature was quite mild. I barely noticed the weather as it was, because angry thoughts were flying around my mind like trapped bees.
How dare she stick her stupid nose in my life? She’d crossed the line of giving advice as my cousin to being damn interfering. I didn’t want her to tell me I’d treated Scorpius badly, because I already knew I had. I didn’t need a stupid letter from him or a lecture from her to realise I was a terrible friend. I’d never forced Scorpius into my life, it wasn’t like he didn’t have the opportunity to walk away, but he refused to leave me alone and I didn’t know how to deal with it. They were heaping on the guilt faster than I could shift it and I felt bloody miserable.
My feet had found their way to Jesús’s café before I could decide where to go. The place was empty as usual, with the lone Spaniard slumped over a table in the middle of the room. I pushed the door open and walked towards him.
“You too, huh?” I asked, sitting down next to him and patting his back. He didn’t move. “What’s wrong?”
“I have a hangover,” he wailed into his elbows. “There was a party, I think.”
I rolled my eyes. “Right,” I said unsympathetically. I really didn’t have time to worry about a hungover Spaniard at that precise moment in time. “Have you had a glass of water?”
“No,” he groaned. “I don’t like water. Not strong enough.”
I sighed in exasperation. “Are you open today?” I asked pointedly. “I could do with a drink.”
“No drinks,” he whined. “I will vomit if I see alcohol again.”
I grimaced. What use was he? He might as well have closed the café if he wasn’t going to serve any customers. Who knew what they thought when they looked inside after a nice meal and saw the wreck of a man close to dying on the table.
“I’ll help myself, don’t worry.” I ducked behind the bar and considered my choice of alcohol. I decided on a measure of tequila for both Jesús and me in order to hitch our spirits up a bit; there was nothing like the hare of the dog to cure a hangover. I sagged into my chair again and pushed the shot glass towards Jesús.
“Drink,” I instructed as I prodded his arm. “You’ll feel better.”
He grunted in response, scrabbling for the glass and sitting up, sipping at the tequila gently. “Why are you here?”
I shrugged, unoffended at his rudeness. “Life troubles.”
“It’s that boy again, isn’t it? The handsome one?” He peered at me through bloodshot eyes. “You should not let a man go if he has good hair.” I tried not to scream in frustration; there were so many things wrong with what he’d just said to me that I didn’t even know where to begin. “He has passion, my young flower. You need a passionate man.”
I shook my head. “No, I don’t.” I tried to level with this strange man from apparently not just another country but another planet. “He insulted my honour.”
Jesús tutted. “He is trying to womb you.”
I spluttered. “He’s trying to what?”
“He wants to womb you! He wants to show his love and he wants your love in return.” He slammed a fist on the table, knocking over my still full shot glass.
“You mean ‘woo’?” I corrected. “Well, he can keep on trying because I’m not impressed.”
My companion shook his head forcefully. “You are scared you will actually like the well-groomed boy,” he said accusingly. “You don’t want to show your love because the intensity scares you.”
“What a load of rubbish,” I exclaimed in derision. I ran my hands through my hair and pressed my fingers into my temples. “I know how I feel and I don’t feel any of those things. He’s just an irritation.”
I was getting rather fed up with people trying to tell me how I felt about Scorpius today. Jesús was as bad as Molly; I half-wondered if she’d put him up to it to try and sway my decision. She had tried similar underhand measures before when she was trying to make me agree with her. There was that time when she magically altered my dress for her twenty-first birthday party so that it was too short on me and I had to wear something else. She then wore it to the party instead. It wasn’t until later when my brother Hugo told me what she’d done that I’d found out.
“You’ll see,” Jesús grumbled and I took that as my cue to leave. Before leaving, I grabbed a bottle of cider from behind the bar and stashed it in my bag. It wasn’t really stealing if Jesús didn’t prosecute me, right?
Once outside again, I began power-walking up the street without any particular destination. The faster I walked the harder my brain worked to try and make sense of the muddle of my feelings. I didn’t like Scorpius, but if I was so sure then why was I so unsettled by Molly’s comments? How did I know I was so certain about him?
There really was only one way to know, if I was honest with myself. I needed to see him and I needed to reassure myself that I was right and they were wrong. Just because they thought I had feelings for him didn’t make it true and I would prove that.
When I found myself standing in minimal clothing outside his door in the pouring rain, I decided I hated him; nobody who chose to live in such a miserable part of the country as this was worth my thoughts. Hogsmeade was too far north for me; I’d always struggled with the winter weather in Scotland during school and I was no fonder of it now than I was then. Shivering and soaked through to my bones, I rang the doorbell.
The door creaked open not long after I heard the bell clang inside. Scorpius poked his head around the door and observed my curiously.
“You’re soaking wet,” he pointed out.
I glared at him. “Well spotted. Now would you please let me in?”
He seemed to take a great deal of time making his decision. No doubt he was weighing up the likelihood that I was going to run inside and maul him for his letter, or throw water over his hair to ruin his hair gel. Eventually, he pulled the door fully open and stood back to let me inside.
“I got your letter,” I commented as he shut the door behind me.
“I see,” he mumbled, looking away. “Do you want some tea?”
“What?” Why was it that all we ever did in situations of unease was make bloody tea? I liked the stuff as much, if not more, than the next person, but it was obsessive the way our whole lives revolved around the making and drinking of tea. We couldn’t function without it.
Scorpius looked up, his eyes meeting mine unflinchingly. “I asked you if you wanted tea.”
“Oh,” I said, a bit taken aback by the directness of his gaze. He was challenging me, I thought. What was I supposed to do, draw my wand and ask him to step outside? I’d only come over to talk to him and he was already getting defensive.
“I just thought…” he started and then swallowed. “I know you like it. You don’t have to have some if you don’t want.”
I was close to exasperation. “No, thank you,” I managed. “Can we talk?"
He nodded and followed me into the living room. I perched on the sofa, briefly reminded of a previous time when I’d almost found him good company.
“Why did you do it?” I asked, trying to keep myself from getting angry at him. If Molly was right, he was already scared of me.
He couldn’t quite meet my eye when he responded. “I had some things I wanted to tell you. You’re very frustrating.”
I sighed. “Scorpius, you’re frustrating too, but I don’t sit around writing mean letters to you, do I?”
“You don’t need to,” he countered. “You’re honest all the time. You always say what you think. I didn’t know how else to tell you all those things.”
“I’m not always honest,” I said slowly. “I’m only honest with you.”
He let that statement hang in the air. It was true enough; I was honest with him in a way that I never was with anyone else. I was never afraid to be myself with him, even if it was only in hope that he’d see my real personality and be put off. I hid a lot of myself from my family and friends because I didn’t think they’d accept me. Scorpius accepted me even when I was at my most weird.
“I’m sorry,” he said after a while. “I didn’t intend to be mean. I just thought you needed to hear those things.”
My fingers were trembling. “I have feelings, you know. I was really hurt.”
“I’m really sorry,” he said again, scooting closer to me on the sofa. “But sometimes the things you say hurt me too. I needed to tell you how I felt.”
I bit my lip. “Well, I’m sorry too,” I said, looking away from him. “I thought you’d be put off by it.”
“You’ll have to try harder than that,” he said with a shrug.
I was pretty sure the only way to get rid of him was to resort to bumping him off, but I didn’t fancy going to Azkaban for his murder. I had more important things to be doing, like working out what the hell was going on between me and Scorpius. I didn’t fancy him, I knew that for a fact, but he was becoming more likable. What he’d done was almost human, in a weird, psychotic sort of way.
“Friends?” I asked, looking back up at him.
“Friends,” he confirmed, pulling me into a hug that wasn’t all that unpleasant. For a moment, I felt relieved.
AN: Thank you so much for the reads and the reviews *hugs* You guys have made a pretty stressful exam period much more barable. I'm almost free for the summer, so updates will be coming quicker very soon!