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Chapter 4: Town
For PotterMistress. Thanks for making me smile :)
It was late when Scorpius walked me back to the house. We stashed the basket under the deck so he didn’t have to carry it back, said an awkward good-bye, and I crawled through my window.
Unfortunately, someone was already on my bed.
“There is a town, you know,” Hugo said, arms crossed.
I damn near jumped out of my skin. “Is there?”
“Where were you anyway? Did you go looking for it?”
“Just went for a walk.”
“All day? What did you eat?”
“Berries.” I grabbed my pajamas and tossed them on the bed after kicking off the rubber boots. “How long have you been waiting in here?” I tried to keep my voice down, but my heart was racing.
“It’s eleven,” Hugo replied. “Where are you walking to?”
“Trying to find that town,” I lied.
“I could have given you a map.” Hugo sighed like I was dumb. “It’s not that far away. Probably have to walk for an hour though. Maybe two.”
I nodded. “That’s why I didn’t find it then,” I said, fighting the urge to roll my eyes. Go away, Hugo. Annoying.
He tossed an atlas onto my bed. “I circled it in there. I’m going to check it out.” Then he stood. “Night, sis.”
“Check it out now?” I said, gaping at him.
“No, tosspot. It’s late.” Hugo seriously thought I was stupid. He left, closing the door softly since Mum and Dad were probably long asleep by now.
I flopped onto the bed and turned on a lamp. Hugo was right. It was about an hour or two away, nestled in a valley away from any major establishments. One road went through the center, which went on for a while before it hit any major highways.
I rolled onto my side, considering it. We could have an adventure. I was on vacation after all. What was the point of staying cooped up with my family if I could be out exploring the wilderness with someone my own age.
Who happened to look ideal without a shirt.
I realized something when I woke up, ate, and packed a bag.
I realized Scorpius had been finding me every day. Well, except when I discovered him at the creek, he knew where to find me. He found our rental, found me at the creek, and even found my bedroom. I stared into the trees and realized I had no idea where he was staying. Or even what direction it was in.
I got to the creek, but he wasn’t there. Not that I expected him to be. It was still early, after all. And if he wanted to fish, he would have to go all the way past my house to the lake. Surely he would have stopped by.
I moved upstream, glancing around for any sign of a blond boy. I found a few chipmunks and strange plants. It was hot, too. The fog was low today and my hair was frizzing, even after I tied it back. I made a mental note to scold Mum for her hair.
Fifteen minutes in, I removed my shoes and walked in the creek. At least that cooled my body temperature, though my clothes were still sticking.
Just when I was about to give up and head back to the rental, I spotted a small gravel drive heading up to a house. It wasn’t large, about the size of my family’s, and had a silver car parked out front. I wished I’d asked what sort of car his family had. Did they even have a car? Or did they apparate? They’d have to check in somewhere.
My family had a car, but Mum was a muggleborn. Bugger.
I crept up toward the house, the sun finally finding its way through the fog and onto the back of my neck. It was sweltering. I had no idea if this place was being rented by the Malfoys. For all I knew some crazies lived here and I was walking into their drug nest.
Was that what it was even called?
Scorpius was right. I lived under a sodding rock.
The house had yellow siding and a large, oak door. There were flowers everywhere and it looked well maintained. Huge trees surrounded it, unlike where our back deck overlooked part of the mountains. I didn’t see anyone.
Scorpius and I agreed to keep this a secret. We didn’t have a particularly good reason. My parents didn’t hate his family and as far as he had told me, his parents didn’t hate mine. They weren’t going to get together for tea anytime soon, but they were all right. It just seemed easier not to tell them we were running off in the woods together. Maybe they’d think we were getting up to more than fishing and talking and practicing hosting abilities.
We were seventeen, after all. I couldn’t blame them, though I was pretty sure Mum knew I wasn’t getting into anything. I always had a guilty look after I did anything with a boy. Even snogged.
I crept low along the bushes, feeling like an idiot. For all I knew, Scorpius had a reason for not sharing it with his parents. Maybe they were overprotective. Or mean. Perhaps yes, they were mean.
At least these flowers were pretty.
The side of the house had fewer windows, but I wondered what I would do if Scorpius was in the kitchen with his family eating breakfast. I moved along the siding, rounding a corner, and let out a relieved breath. Scorpius was on the covered back deck, feet propped up on another chair, reading and drinking iced tea.
“Wherefore art thou, Scorpius?” I called in a mock whisper, grin exploding on my face.
To my surprise, he didn’t so much as flinch. “Has my fish come back from the dead for my hand in marriage?” he replied, turning the next page in the book he held. “If so, I must inform the Capulet of my intentions. They are not at all honorable and may end in a vial of poison and a knife.” He closed the book, twisting around, smirking.
I chuckled, staying close to the house. “Then maybe I can take the place of Juliet and interest you in an adventure?”
“You’re rescuing me from Lady Montague today?” Scorpius asked, brows raising. “What kind of adventure? Can I sword-fight? How about kill Tybalt?”
“Maybe we can save the killing for tomorrow.” I chuckled and pulled out the atlas. “Guess who discovered the town?”
“Shut it. I’ve got the map.”
Scorpius tossed his book onto the table. “Then what I discovered last night will come in handy.”
“Don’t say more fish wives.”
He stifled his laughter after checking behind him. His eyes were on the window for a moment before he looked back at me. “Follow me,” Scorpius whispered and abandoned his chair, moving down the deck stairs and back toward the side of the house. He moved swiftly behind shrubs and to a shed out of view of the windows.
“Tybalt isn’t in here,” I noted, but watched as he opened the doors and pulled out an old bicycle. Then another.
He grinned like an idiot. “Beats the hell out of walking, doesn’t it?”
I examined the bikes. A little rusty. Basket on the front of each. Looked like they were made at least twenty years ago, but the chains were okay and the seats didn’t look painful.
“Let’s do it,” I said, meeting his gray eyes. “Do you have to tell your parents you’re leaving?”
“I’m sure they’ll think I got distracted by something shiny.” Scorpius shrugged and pulled the bikes the rest of the way out of the shed. He shrugged, but wasn’t looking at me. “Okay, navigator, which direction are we going?”
I balanced my weight on the bike and checked the atlas, staring before I realized where we were. Then I positioned it in relation to my own vacation rental. “West,” I told him. “We have to ride around that other mountain next to the lake. That road will take us to this one here.” I pointed. “Which will take us into the town.”
“I hope it’s not abandoned.” Scorpius shot me a look. “Can we blame your brother if it is?”
“I intend on it.” I smiled at him and began to pedal, quickening my pace as we passed by the front of the house and slowing once we entered the thickening trees. He was following closely, both bikes crunching the gravel and twigs below us.
I had to admit, the breeze felt a lot nicer than the slow, muggy walk.
And when Scorpius started talking about the book he was reading, which was a murder mystery with some guy who loved tophats, it was even nicer. I let him talk for a while, going on about his book, the book he’d finished yesterday before he decided on fishing, and what was on the shelf at the rental when he got there. He liked to read about as much as I did. His face even got animated when talking about a few of the villains.
When he slowed, a half hour into our ride, I glanced back, concerned. Scorpius looked distracted and a little worried.
“What?” I said, stopping and hopping to the ground.
“Shh!” He put down the kickstand and climbed off the bike, glancing into the brush. “Do you hear that?”
I listened hard. Leaves. Lots of birds. Water. I raised a brow. Water?
“You do.” Scorpius abandoned his bike and moved into the trees, pushing past thick bushes and shrubs. “Where’s that coming from?”
“Pretty sure we have water back toward our houses,” I said impatiently. I was getting hungry and cranky from being in the sun and had been secretly hoping any of the businesses in town would have air conditioning. Still, I followed, successfully slashing open my shin on a branch.
“Shit.” Scorpius stopped a few meters ahead of me, grabbing onto a branch.
When I approached, I figured out why.
We had come out on the side of a river that was rushing quickly. It wasn’t huge, maybe a hundred feet across, but much bigger than the creek we had been walking into. And maybe twenty meters to our left it fell off into nothing, hence the noise. Scorpius moved quickly and we both stared down into an enormous waterfall. There was mist at the bottom and then the water calmed in a large pool before tapering off into a smaller, rapid-free creek.
“This is wild.” Scorpius moved to the edge and continued to gape at the waterfall.
I nodded. It really was unlike anything I’d seen before. The English countryside had a serious lacking of beautiful forest waterfalls. The mist coming up from the bottom was cooling my body.
“We should jump it,” Scorpius said, looking back at me. His eyes were lit up like Christmas morning. Like he’d just gotten every book in his fantasy library.
“Jump...what?” I looked across the river. Not jump-able.
“The waterfall.” Scorpius pointed down, grinning.
I leaned over the edge. “Hell no.” It was a long drop. A very long drop.
“Come on.” He judged my arm. “It’ll be fun.”
“I am not jumping off a bloody waterfall,” I said, wheeling around to look at him again. “It won’t be fun. It will be cold, terrifying, and I left my bag back there.”
He smirked. “Scared, Rose?”
“I’m not--” I groaned. “Shut up, okay? I just don’t want to jump into something I don’t know.”
“Story of your life, right?” Scorpius smirked again, this time in an arrogant way.
“You never want to.” He shrugged. “That’s fine. I understand you’re scared and you can’t handle it. Maybe one day. When you build up enough courage. I’ll let the Gryffindors know they should train you more.”
My jaw dropped angrily. “Fuck you, Scorpius Malfoy,” I snapped, brushing past him and diving off the end of the waterfall.
It wasn’t until about halfway down that I realized what he had been doing.
It was freezing. Way colder than the shallow creek or the lake. Damn cold. When I surfaced, I couldn’t see because of the mist. When I was just leaving it, spotting the calm waters beyond, I heard a splash behind me. I clung to a rock at the shoreline, catching my breath as my heart continued to hammer. It felt like I would never hit the surface of the water. Like I was falling forever.
And it was because of that blond git that I did it.
He emerged from the mist with his hair flipped back away from his face, grinning. His cheeks were flushed and I could tell by his shoulders that the shirt was sticking to him. “Cold!” he cried, laughing.
“Really cold!” I said, trying to be angry, but it was difficult. He looked genuinely happy about jumping off a waterfall.
And as much as I hated to admit it, I was laughing.
And soaked. And frustrated. And absolutely cracking up laughing.
“You had fun!” he cried, pointing at me once he got near enough. Scorpius leaned against a rock to catch his breath. “You loved it!”
I shook my head. “It was horrible,” I said, snickering.
He splashed me. “You’re a horrible liar.”
“I am not!” Yeah, I was a horrible liar about being a liar. My face flushed almost instantly.
“Shall we finish off the adventure, Juliet?” Scorpius asked, climbing out of the water.
The fabric of his button-down was soaked onto his chest and back, creating tiny crease lines down to his pants, which hung off him. I could see his boxers begin to poke up at the top where his shirt had been tugged up with his pants.
I swallowed hard. This was not an appropriate staring moment.
Scorpius glanced over his shoulder.
And winked at me.
“Let’s go, Juliet,” he teased, ruffling his hair and starting into the trees.
“Wait!” I called. “I thought Juliet was the fish!”’
He laughed, tugging down a branch before disappearing entirely. “I changed my mind,” he said.
I scrambled out of the water and after him, but fell back to grab my wand and dry myself since I didn’t want to blush anymore than I had.
Goddamn it, Scorpius Malfoy.
Luckily, he was dry before I reached the bikes (the uphill climb was not kind to me) and we continued on our way with me thinking as little as possible about him walking out of that water, dripping wet. With his shirt clinging to his muscles.
We were friends and I shouldn’t be looking at him (or thinking about him) like that when we had just chatted about our life goals and I whacked him with a catfish.
Maybe it was just because he was the only one around.
Well, we were going into town. So that was about to change.
Not that I needed a boy or anything. It would just be nice to not have to only see Hugo every morning with toothpaste dribbling down his chin. Less than attractive, brother.
“Is this our turn?” Scorpius shouted up to me. His hair was still damp at the ends.
“Yeah, to the right!”
We had made it to the bigger road, which wasn’t saying much. Just two lanes with dashes in the center. No cars in sight. Lined by more tall trees baking in the sun. I checked the atlas in the basket and all I could hope for was air conditioning.
“What if it’s haunted?” Scorpius said, laughing.
“Then you can get your dead fish girlfriend to come save us.” I draped my hand over my eyes as I pedaled, trying to make out what was up ahead. The lack of sunglasses was a poor life decision in itself.
“Car!” cried Scorpius. I almost swerved, but then he added, “I see one up there! Parked!”
“And this is how I die,” I muttered, but I saw it too. A red car was parked along the side of the road. A little further away others began to swim into view. Then buildings.
Air conditioning? Come to Rose.
This whole sweat running down my body thing was not at all attractive. I wish wishing for the waterfall again.
Maybe we could stop on the way back.
Yeah, just to see Scorpius climb out of that water again.
As we neared I spotted some kind of store, a diner, a few unlabeled buildings, another diner, a few houses, and two office buildings. One looked to have a doctor’s office in it.
Unfortunately, all of them also had fans in the windows. Damn.
The structures were worn down, fences rusted, and dogs were tied to poles outside. One man who walked the sidewalk was picking his teeth with what looked like a piece of wheat. I momentarily wondered where he got it.
“Hungry?” Scorpius slowed and stopped outside of the first diner, leaning the bike against a pole. He quickly locked it and ran his fingers through his hair. “I know we have a large array of choices, but I’m really feeling this might be the best.”
I glanced down to the other diner as Scorpius took my bike and locked it with his. “Pretty sure this one will be the best in town.” I smiled and he returned it. “My treat.”
He snorted. “I hope you know I’m not going to let you pay for lunch.”
I shot him a look. “I said my treat. That’s like calling dibs.”
Scorpius rolled his eyes and opened the door. “Good luck, then. Because it’ll never happen.”
We decided to sit at the counter. There were about ten people inside, all of whom looked up when we entered. One was wearing a cowboy hat. I wasn’t sure what a real cowboy looked like, so this guy could have parked his cattle out back and I’d have no idea.
Scorpius was trying hard not to smirk. He looked very aware he was wearing designer clothes and the most designer thing in that room was the logo on the menu.
I really liked it, though. The counter was shiny linoleum and the walls were painted a fresh teal. Even the lights above were in the true old diner style I’d seen in Muggle films, round and frosted. It was quiet, though.
A girl in the corner with black hair was staring, her long legs crossed in front of her. She had a cup of coffee and a scowl.
A pair a few stools down for us in frayed jeans and white cotton shirts had stiff posture as they ate. I wondered if these people were who regulars really were. I’d never been to a restaurant enough for the staff to know my order. Perhaps these people were it.
Scorpius cleared his throat and slid a menu toward me. His thumb slid nervously over his own.
“What can I get you kids?” The waitress was a woman of about forty. She had some laugh lines around her lips and her eyes were a pretty, pale blue. I wondered how long she had been working there, as she didn’t have a notepad to take our orders.
I was quick to scan the menu. “A grilled cheese would be brilliant.” I stuck out like a sore thumb with my British accent. Bugger. Now everyone who had looked away was staring again.
Scorpius ordered a burger and chips. The girl looked at him in a strange way and then he cleared his throat and corrected himself to fries, blushing like a fool. It was cute.
I traced my fingers along the grooves in the counter while the conversation began to pick back up in the diner. Scorpius leaned over. “Not awkward at all,” he said out of the corner of his mouth.
“Not one bit.” I smiled. I imagined Hugo walking in here with his big attitude and thick accent. Maybe he could pick up the dark-haired girl in the corner. Or at least share her booth.
I was already starting to sweat again. These fans were not helping.
“I’ve never been to a diner, you know,” he said, unfolding his napkin and placing his silverware on top of it.
I looked over. “Seriously?”
“Never.” Scorpius shook his head. “My parents either cooked or took us to other kinds of restaurants.”
“You mean nice restaurants.” I smirked in a teasing way.
His ears darkened. “That’s not what I meant.” Scorpius Malfoy, the terrible liar.
“With waiters in ties?” I prodded, snickering. “And appetizers? And more khaki pants?” I poked his thigh.
“That is absolutely not true. Just not diners.” He looked away after scowling.
I did everything in my power to contain my laughter, including turning it into a cough. “All right. All right. I hope this experience is enlightening for you.” I slid the ketchup and mustard toward him.
“What’s this for?”
I stared. “Don’t. Don’t tell me you don’t know.”
He returned my blank look. “Do I put this on the chips?”
I groaned. The boy who seemed to know everything about fishing, life, risk-taking, and being a television host was at a loss when it came to red and yellow bottles before him. The waitress delivered the food and I held up my hand before he could touch. I squirted the ketchup to the right of the chips, took one, dipped it, and tossed it into my mouth.
It was hot, but good. And salty. And greasy. And so tasty.
Then I grabbed the bun off his burger and squirted both ketchup and mustard on it. Scorpius looked scandalized. “Okay. Now eat!”
“I’m not eating that. You just ruined it.”
I pinched his thigh. “Trust me.”
Scorpius swatted my hand away, glaring angrily. “The last time I said that to you, I pushed you off a cliff.”
I ignored him, grabbing my own sandwich and starting to eat. It was great, the cheese oozing out the sides and back onto the plate.
Eventually his stomach got the better of him and Scorpius groaned, picked up the burger, and stuffed it in his mouth. He was silent, chewing for a moment. He wiped his mouth with the napkin and looked over. “This doesn’t mean I’m always trusting you,” he grumbled, taking another bite after helping himself to a chip.
After the diner, we headed down the street to the general store. The sign hung at an angle off the roof, which made me worry, but we made it inside without being fatally wounded. It was dark since the windows were a little dusty, but there was enough light to see the rows of products and small freezer section in the back.
“Want anything?” Scorpius asked. He was still grinning since he managed to wrestle the check from my grasp and pay for the meal. He even pinched me back in the process.
Yes, people stared.
My eyes scanned the rows. Green beans. Sticks of gum. Boxes of instant potatoes. Creamed corn. I shrugged.
He held up a magazine from a nearby rack. “All about the region,” he said. “Might be useful.”
“Pretty sure you just want to get us to live off the land,” I muttered darkly.
“That catfish could have fed us for a few days.” Scorpius smirked, tossing the magazine onto the counter and pulling out his wallet.
The old man behind the register surveyed us. “Caught some fish, didja?” he said. His accent was thicker and deeper than the waitress’.
“One,” Scorpius replied with a grin. “A big one though. Catfish.”
The man nodded. “Got a lot of them out there,” he said. “Just gotta know where to look.”
“Great. Now he’s going to be looking,” I said, sighing.
“You could have said no,” Scorpius replied, nudging me with his foot as the man bagged the magazine.
“You threw the boots at me,” I said.
He laughed. “You could have tried harder to say no.” He thanked the man, who threw in a few pieces of chocolate he told us to eat quickly since it was so warm.
I had no problem doing that.
“Where to now?” Scorpius swung the bag at his hip, staring up and down the street. “Pretty much the most exciting place I’ve been in a week. Want to get a checkup?” He laughed, pointing to the doctor’s office.
“I’ll let you know if I’m feeling ill.” I pressed my lips together hard, looking around. There was a small full service gas station and at the very end of the street a motel. The vacancy sign was lit, but it wasn’t the most inviting place I’d ever seen. Peach siding, a vending machine out front, and overgrown grass.
“Does this feel anticlimactic to you?” Scorpius said.
I looked back down the street. A whole lot of nothing. It was even starting to get dark.
“I have an idea.”
“We’re not getting a physical either,” I muttered, but he grabbed my hand and pulled me toward the back of one of the taller buildings. We hurried past a few trash bins and into the alley littered with cardboard boxes. “I was wrong before. This is how I die.”
Scorpius scanned the building for a moment, before grinning and tugging me further down the alley.
“I promise the restaurants back here are not as good as the ones on the street!” I said, but I was laughing. His hand was warm.
Finally, he stopped at the foot of a ladder, stretching up the side of a two story building. It was an old, wooden structure and was obviously being used as a storefront downstairs and a flat upstairs.
“No,” I said, but it didn’t stop him from letting go and starting up the ladder.
“C’mon, Juliet, or I’m going to steal your balcony.” He was having way too much fun with that.
I groaned. “Scorpius, you’re mad.” Still, I stepped onto the ladder, frustrated, and followed him up onto the shingled roof.
The view was unexpected. Though the roof didn’t quite reach the tops of the trees, there was a gap straight down the road.
“Wow.” I blinked, shielding my eyes a little as I spotted the bright sunset. The sky was fading into shades of yellow and orange.
“Dinner and a show,” Scorpius replied with a grin, sitting down and propping himself up on his elbows. He nodded to the spot beside him, which I took.
“You got lucky.” I smiled and squinted, still admiring the colors. So many of them would be impossible to mix with paint. It was something too difficult to replicate on a two dimensional surface.
“You couldn’t have known you’d get this view.” I was grinning at him. The yellows were reflecting off the whites of his eyes.
“Maybe I got a little lucky.” Scorpius chuckled.
We were quiet for a while, watching the sun sink further toward the treeline. I began to get concerned about getting back in the dark, but the view outweighed it. By a lot. It wasn’t until Scorpius made a noise that I looked over.
He was asleep.
He looked peaceful, hair falling over his forehead. The collar of his shirt was a little stained from sweat, but other than that his clothes were in pristine condition.
Before I could shake him awake, Scorpius rolled over to prop his head on his arm, draping his free arm over my thigh. My brows raised. His fingers moved around my leg, tugging it closer, and he moved his head to rest it on my thigh. Then he sniffed and was out cold.
What the hell.
Excuse me while Scorpius Malfoy sleeps on my bloody leg.
A/N: Thank you again for all of you who decided to test out my Rose/Scorpius experiment. For those of you who asked, the wedding was phenomenal and couldn't have gone better.
Anyone else getting a crush on Scorpius? I'm kind of a sucker.
Next Up: Game day, Hugo calls out Rose, and some berries