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Chapter 5: Berries
For michacat. For your kind words.
Things I found out about Scorpius Malfoy when he slept on my leg:
He could sleep through a volcano eruption.
He has a tight grip.
He sniffles in his sleep.
He could sleep through two eruptions and a tornado.
It’s cute when he bites his lip.
He could also sleep through me slapping him on the back of the head.
Eventually, though, when he jerked backward after a bug flew up his nose, I got the pleasure of watching his face darken to a color that would make a Gryffindor proud.
“Have a good nap, Romeo?” I said, arms crossed.
He stammered a few words I didn’t quite catch. Then took a breath, swallowed hard, and said, “I am the biggest git.”
I attempted to hold my composure. “Get a good grope in there?”
“My hand was on your leg, wasn’t it?” Scorpius said, groaning.
“And your face.” The view was now nothing more than a purple haze on the horizon. He noticed this too, standing. “How long do you think it’ll take to get back?”
“Took us a couple hours to get here.” He stretched his back, face still red. “Look, Rose. I’m... I didn’t mean to … I know you’re not a pillow.”
I rolled my eyes. “You slept on me, Scorpius, you didn’t try to snog me.”
He paused for a moment and I had no idea what that meant. Then Scorpius laughed a little and started for the ladder. “Let’s get going, shall we?”
I nodded. “Yeah.” Leaving. Going. Needed to leave because my leg was still tingly.
By the time we got to the bikes, it was very dark. Scorpius had a hard time unlocking them by the lone street lamp, but was okay once we were a little further down the road. He propped his wand against the handlebars like a headlight, instructed me on how to do the same, and then led the way.
When we turned back onto the gravel, it was pitch black around me and suddenly the noises were louder, scarier, and more mysterious. I didn’t want to be heard, but the tires crunching against twigs were amplified more than I cared to admit.
Scorpius kept looking over his shoulder at me. I didn’t know why. There weren’t any bloody giant squids to be afraid of.
“Hey,” I called to him, though softly because I was afraid of being mauled by a bear at any moment.
“You okay?” Scorpius slowed to ride beside me.
“How many wild animals do you think are out here?” I asked nervously.
“Are we counting bugs or no?”
“You know what I mean.” I narrowed my eyes, but I was sure he couldn’t tell. “I’m not scared or anything, I just don’t want to be dinner.”
To my surprise, he laughed. “You’re terrified.”
“I’m not!” I countered stubbornly.
“You are.” He chuckled. “Do you want to stop? Camp out? Do you want me to do my wolf whistle?”
“There are wolves?!” I cried and hurried to cover my mouth.
Scorpius roared with laughter.
“Stop teasing me!” I said, reaching over to slap his arm. “Are we almost back?”
“I haven’t been named king of the wilderness yet, though,” he said, grinning and now rubbing his arm. “Yes, we’re almost back. Just keep going. We’ve got a ways to go.”
“Then we’re not almost back,” I said dryly.
“Can I not just try to make you feel better?”
“By lying?” I asked.
Scorpius let out a sigh. “Come on. You’re cranky. You’ve had too much sun today and not enough mauling bears.”
I resisted the urge to chuck the atlas at his smarmy face.
Stupid bloody leg-sleeping Scorpius Malfoy.
I stored my bike just inside the woods by the rental, since I wasn’t about to ride it all the way back to his place. He waved and disappeared into the semi-darkness, wand light leading the way down the tiny gravel road. I climbed up the drive and onto the back deck, then inside my room.
It was two-thirty in the morning.
“It’s GAME day!”
I rolled over. “No,” I grumbled. “Go away.”
“How far?” Dad took two steps back. “Now get up.”
“Further,” I said, pulling the blanket up over my head. “I’m dying. Can’t you tell?”
“We’re doing game day today.” Dad poked at me, but hadn’t moved his feet. Clever. “It’s almost eight! Get up!”
Dad pulled the blanket right off of me.
Then he grabbed the mattress, tilted it, and I toppled onto the floor. I resisted the urge to swear. Loudly.
“That’s better,” Dad said cheerfully, smacking his hands together because of the accomplishment. “Be downstairs in fifteen minutes looking alive. You’re on my team this year and we are absolutely not losing.”
I groaned, hearing the door shut, and pulled myself up by the bedside stand. I was exhausted and the room was fuzzy with light. I hated not getting enough sleep and my body ached from riding a bike for hours yesterday. Everything hurt and all I wanted to do was crawl back under the covers and fall asleep.
Of course today was game day. Why would it not be?
My family was around the kitchen table when I finally emerged, twenty-five minutes later. My hair was tied up in a damp knot and I had replaced my pajamas with gym shorts and an old Harpies shirt from Aunt Ginny.
“Team Ron!” Dad cried, throwing his fist into the air.
“We talked about this,” I grumbled. “That is not the team name.”
“Team Wicked Awesome?” he tried.
“Not even close.” I sank down at the table. “Why did we pick today again?”
“It’s beautiful outside,” Mum said. She had her hair pulled back in a similar fashion and was in a plain black shirt and shorts. “And because Hugo is getting cabin fever from being stuck in the house.”
“He can leave,” I muttered bitterly.
“Then I might run into you,” Hugo spat.
I really didn’t like him sometimes.
“Anyway, get excited.” Mum grinned. “Hugo and I have decided to be Team Hughmione. Isn’t that sweet?”
I raised a skeptical brow. She shot me a look, so I just nodded along. Sweet. Sure.
Dad explained we were going to take part in three games. One was a strange bean-bag toss, the other was a sack race, and the third was an obstacle course.
Great. Physical games. Just what I wanted.
Wow, I was an internal bitch when I was tired.
I wondered what Scorpius was doing. Probably fishing, relaxing with a book, or practicing his wolf whistle. All of which sounded more appealing than this.
There were two boards on the deck, one painted red and the other gold. My parents, the eternal Gryffindors. I walked with Hugo over to the red board, both of us flanking it.
“You’re going down,” he said.
“Are you really trash-talking during a bean-bag toss?” I raised a brow.
Hugo smirked at me. “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
How did these girls even talk to him?
I managed to roll my eyes instead of responding and watched Mum and Dad take their turns. Hugo kept his trash-talking going and started doing strange twirling moves before tossing a beanbag. One landed off the side of the deck. Dad roared with laughter and got elbowed.
We had been doing game day every year since our first summer family vacation in Ireland. It wasn’t much of a vacation – we just stayed at a small cottage next to some rolling hills, which reminded me of home. But it wasn’t. I was really young and Hugo didn’t remember it.
It was raining the third day and we were getting restless, so Dad came up with the idea of game day. He gave us two puzzles (Hugo’s was twenty-four pieces, mine was one hundred) and told us to put them together. Hugo was whining, so Dad said he’d be on his team. After the puzzles were complete (Dad helped Hugo a little more than he said he would), we had a race around the kitchen table, followed by a scavenger hunt. Every year after that, my parents came up with three games and mixed up teams.
I liked to complain about it and Hugo liked to be a twat, but every time I looked over at my parents grinning like idiots, I had to smile. They enjoyed it. And hell, Dad and I were winning the beanbag toss, so I didn’t exactly hate it either.
After we won (take that, Hughmione!), we moved down the deck stairs to the small patch of grass on the side of the house. There were four burlap sacks. My nose wrinkled.
“We’re going to win this one too.” Dad slapped me on the back.
“Just try your best, Hugo,” Mum said with a smile.
I grinned at my brother. He flipped me off behind his back.
Mum and I waited in the center of the grass, my fingers around the top of the bag. Dad and Hugo hopped toward us, Dad cracking up. I scolded him, accusing him of helping Hugo. Then Hugo fell on his face.
And Dad helped him up.
“Oy!” I cried. “You’re throwing the game!”
“He looked pathetic,” Dad said, hopping toward me and slapping my hand. “Can’t have my own son looking pathetic.”
I laughed, rolling my eyes, and hopped toward the deckline, Mum fast at my heels. Hugo was cheering for her. The most positive action I’d heard from him the entire trip.
“Go, Plumcake!” cried Dad. “Your mum’s gaining!”
“Bugger!” I was quickly losing my balance, moving forward with every hop, but my legs weren’t quite even.
Hugo laughed when I ate dirt.
Mum threw her arms in the air at the finish and pulled Hugo into her arms. Then she cleaned something off his nose because he didn’t shower that morning.
Dad hoisted me up by my elbow. “I think I saw her trip you,” he said with a nod. “Want me to take her out during the obstacle course? I’ll do that, you know.”
I nudged him, laughing. Everything tasted like dirt. “I’d appreciate that. Just don’t make it obvious or Hugo will cry or something.”
“Deal.” Dad smirked and put his arm around my shoulders, leading me back toward the deck. We passed the stairs and moved into the trees at the same place Scorpius and I disappeared to the lake a few nights ago.
I wondered if he did anything like this with his family. Lucky for him, he didn’t have a git brother to compete against.
Just inside the treeline was a small obstacle course. Tires on the ground, branches to jump, vines, and so on. Flags marked the path.
I raised a brow at Dad.
“Sorry, I forgot to mention it’ll just be you and Hugo,” he said cheerfully. “Mum and I are getting too old for obstacle courses.”
“Bollocks!” called Hugo. “You just want to laugh at us.”
“I have a bad back.” Dad didn’t have a bad back.
“And I have finger issues,” Mum added. No finger issues. What finger issues were there?
“So you’re pinning us against each other?” I asked. “Brother against sister?”
They grinned like idiots. Jerks.
Hugo clapped me on the back. “I feel terrible for you, sis, I really do. Let’s get this on the road.” It was clear he was happy to not have to go against Dad.
“So much for bloody Team Awesome,” I muttered angrily and turned toward the course, surveying the parts of it I could see. Great. There was even a rope wall.
This was a slow form of torture.
“Ready?” Mum said, voice full of cheer. She placed the whistle in her mouth and nodded to Dad when he brought two lawn chairs for them to sit in. Really, shove it in my face.
I shot her a nasty look.
So she blew the whistle.
Hugo took off in front of me, moving through the tires with ease. Part of me wondered why he never attempted sports. Or much of anything other than woman-hunting. He didn’t even focus on his studies long enough to get good grades. Dad had tried to get him into Quidditch when James started playing, but Hugo hated brooms.
At least I’d trained on the ground for Quidditch, only to find out later I had zero balance on a broom and zero ability for the actual sport. Or any sport, really. I moved past the tires, leapt over four poles, swung on a rope over a mud pit, and caught Hugo at the rope wall. His shoes were slipping from catching the very edge of the mud pit.
I grabbed my rope, hands instantly wanting to reject it, and pulled myself up the wall. It was difficult, considering I had little upper-body strength, and everything was on fire. Bones I didn’t know I had were pulsing, but I managed to get a hand on the top before Hugo and hopped over.
Into a pool of water.
Good one, Mum, Dad. Good one.
When I surfaced, gasping for air, I forced stray hair off my forehead and swam for the shore. I had to beat Hugo. This wasn’t an option. In this course I had to beat him. In school I had to beat him. And in life I had to beat him.
Okay, maybe not that extreme. If he wasn’t such a whiny twat all the time, I wouldn’t need to. All the time, anyway.
“Boyfriend not going to save you?” Hugo surfaced just behind me, choking a little on the water.
“That’s who you’ve been leaving to see, isn’t it?”
My fingers closed on the shoreline and I hoisted myself out. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You’re seeing a bloke,” Hugo said, pulling himself out and running after me through a patch of dense trees with a lot of vines. “You weren’t just gone walking in the woods. That’s boring.”
“I love walking,” I said, out of breath, as my fingers fought to untangle the vines. They were whipping me in the face. “Just because I can have a calming walk and you can’t doesn’t mean anything.”
“You aren’t home for dinner.”
“What’re you eating?” Hugo grabbed a stick and stabbed the vines, shoving through.
I followed him. “Berries.”
“I will shove your head in that toilet so fast,” I snapped, grabbing his shirt collar and pulling him back to meet my eyes. We were at the end of the vines, far from the beginning of the course, and I held him still. “I’m not screwing around, Hugo.”
“It is a bloke then.” His sneer was unmistakable.
“Tell them and I’ll make sure you never get to that town,” I said softly, eyes narrowed angrily.
“Rosey’s got a summer fling,” Hugo said in a sing-song voice.
“I am dead serious, toerag.”
He shrugged. “I have demands, you know.”
“You can’t have demands. I just told you what I would do if you told.”
Hugo shrugged again. “I don’t need to go to that town. But you need to meet this boy.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Sod off.”
“Let me win the course.”
I raised a brow. “What other demands?” I said impatiently. Dad and Mum would be wondering what we got up to this long.
“I’ll think of them later.” Hugo pulled himself out of my grip. He was sweaty, so I was glad.
“Fine. Win the stupid course.” I looked at him like he was mad. He was. It was an obstacle course. On game day. I didn’t care.
Somehow, though, I wondered if this would come back to bite me in the arse.
Even if it didn’t, Hugo bragging about winning for the rest of the afternoon was unbearable. Every other word was about the course. How he pulled ahead after I stalled in the pool, clearly unable to continue due to fatigue and sheer lack of ability. He demanded seconds at lunch for being such a fierce competitor.
Who couldn’t throw a beanbag, I reminded him.
Scorpius didn’t stop by all day. He didn’t knock on the window or show up just off the edge of the deck. Maybe he went to the lake or the creek, but I didn’t see him.
I straightened a towel on the deck and got some sun in a bathing suit. Well, until Hugo came out with a bucket of water and dumped it on me.
So I punched him in the arm and locked him in the bathroom closet for a half hour.
Still no sign of Scorpius by the evening. I hated that I was even thinking about it. He was casual company and fun to fish with. And eat with. I guessed it was because he was the only person my age around and was the only person sane to talk to.
Hugo was insane. My parents laughed at me more often than not. They thought I was “cute.” Parents were ridiculous.
I propped an easel on the end of the deck and painted as the sun faded down into the trees. It was a different sunset than the night before. It was less colorful and the shades of yellow were pale and streaked with whites and grey. It wasn’t grand or breathtaking and when I looked at the canvas, I was underwhelmed.
I frowned. I’d been thinking a lot about that sunset. About dinner in the strange diner and Scorpius falling asleep beside me.
I couldn’t figure him out. One minute he was calling me out for cowardice, making me jump a waterfall. The next minute he was sniffling, fingers curled around my thigh as he drifted further into sleep. And my heart was hammering out of control.
I didn’t understand him. He was shrouded in as much mystery as these mountains in thick fog. There was something about him I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
That night in bed I went through the things I knew about him. About his family, classes he favored, and his dream of being a television host. His satisfaction theory. The way he talked about life, happiness, and bravery. I wasn’t sure I bought any of that.
Why on earth did girls have to be braver than boys?
They didn’t. He was the one that would be squishing the next bug I saw.
Well, not the next. I was pretty sure there was one by the window. Ew.
If he even felt like talking to me again after I freaked out on the bike ride back. In retrospect, I didn’t think a bear would have wandered out of the trees and pulled me in with it. If there were even bears around. I really should have done better research on this place when Dad told me about the vacation. The most I looked at were pictures of the trees and the fog.
I wondered how much Scorpius prepared.
I needed to stop wondering about Scorpius.
I was at the creek when he found me, shoes abandoned at the shore as I waded around on the stones.
“Do you hate me?” he called with a bright smile.
“For not seeing you yesterday.” Scorpius slipped off his own shoes, rolled up his pants, and stepped into the water.
“You’re on vacation. You shouldn’t hang out with one person the entire time.” I shrugged.
“So you hate me.”
Scorpius nudged me with his net. “You hate my guts and want me to leave forever. All right. I understand.” He frowned. “I’ll see you, Rose.” He turned and moved toward the shore.
Then he rolled down his pants and grabbed his shoes.
“Oy,” I called. He turned. “Get back in the water.”
He grinned. “Brilliant.” Scorpius ruffled his hair. He hopped back in the water, leaving his shoes and net forgotten on the shore. “I saw some berries upstream.”
“They’re in my book.” He shrugged.
I was thankful it was a cloudy day. I wasn’t as sweaty (or gross) and I didn’t feel like I needed to take a break every ten minutes to get water and rest. So I smiled. “All right. If you insist they’re safe.”
“Trust me,” he said, moving against the current.
“Are there any cliffs nearby?”
His laugh was loud. “You don’t trust me at all, do you?” he asked.
“Not one bit.” I wasn’t sure if that was true or not.
He chuckled again. “I can’t blame you.” Scorpius moved in silence for a few minutes, not looking back. Eventually he stopped beside a large bush speckled in purple and burgundy berries. He picked one and tossed it up, catching it between his teeth.
“Good?” I picked a berry, waited for his nod, and ate it. It was juicy and had a sweet, sugary taste. “Very. Who needs lunch?”
“So how did you spend your day without me?” he asked, moving around the bush and selecting the deepest purple berries.
“Family stuff.” I was partial to the redder ones, eating several at a time. Skipping breakfast wasn’t my best life decision. “We had a game day.”
I explained how it came about in Ireland and what the games were. I left out the part about Hugo blackmailing me in order to win, especially considering I still didn’t have a good reason to keep this a secret other than it made my heart beat fast when I snuck out to see him.
Well, I told my parents I was going for a walk.
“I should tell my parents to do a game day,” Scorpius said. “They wanted me to spend time with them yesterday. Told me it’s the point of a family vacation. We cooked and watched a few movies and I didn’t let my father near the grill.” He grinned, but it was a little awkward. “Overall, it was successful.”
“Good.” I smiled warmly and ate some more just to have something to do with my hands. “I painted yesterday too.”
“When do I get to see it?”
I thought about the lackluster colors. “When I paint something halfway decent.”
“I bet you’re hard on yourself.” Scorpius peeked around the bush.
“I bet you’re brilliant.”
He tossed a berry, hitting me in the forehead. “I bet you’re secretly Monet.”
“Shut it.” I rubbed the spot he hit and realized there was now purple juice on my forehead. Wonderful. “I’m serious. I’m not very good. I just like colors.”
“Then let me see what you did last night.”
“Yes!” Scorpius laughed, throwing more berries at me. I tried to dodge them, but he got my face, shoulders, and chest. “Show me! Show me!”
“Shut up, okay? You’re not seeing them.” I pulled a dozen off a branch and started hurling them at him, irritated. It wasn’t his personal work I was trying to see. “Change the subject before I throw this tree at you.”
“Bush,” he corrected.
“Are there any cliffs around?” I snapped.
He laughed hard. “Relax, will you? You’re too uptight. Relax.”
I stared. “How am I supposed to relax? You’re throwing berries and pissing me off.” I folded my arms stubbornly. It reminded me of Hugo, so I stopped.
Scorpius took that opportunity to throw more berries at me.
“GO. AWAY.” I kicked water in his direction, but it didn’t make it. He shot me an arrogant grin, so I flipped him off and turned, marching back down stream. I was going to grab my shoes, go home, and paint. He was insufferable sometimes, teasing like that. And being annoying.
“Rose, come on. I’m kidding!”
“Eat your berries, twat.” I kicked at the water as I went, angry.
I heard some splashes behind me and before I could turn, Scorpius was in front of me. He bent down just as I opened my mouth, grabbed me around the middle, and threw me over his shoulder. Suddenly I was staring down at the creek as he carried me back to the bush.
“Put me down!” I cried when I finally realized what was happening, blood rushing to my head. I slapped him on the back.
“Dangerously close to my arse, love,” Scorpius said in a cocky way, splashing through the water.
“I’m serious! I’m damn serious!”
“Oh, the language is getting serious.” He chuckled, arm around my hips as he held me on his shoulder. “Remind me not to mess with you when you’re angry. Damn serious.” He chuckled again.
I punched his bum hard.
“Bloody – ow!”
Scorpius pinched my side. “Cut it out.” He stopped at the bush. “You know what? You’re being punished for being such a bully.” I heard the bush rustling and he popped a berry into his mouth. Then he started walking further upstream.
“Where are we going? I’m serious. Put me down. Now.” I groaned. Bouncing on his shoulder was not exactly the most comfortable place I’d ever been.
“You need to cool down.” Scorpius patted my leg with his free hand. “You excited for this year?”
“What do you mean? All the NEWT studying and career path talk?” I grimaced. “Not really.”
“Still don’t know what you want to do?” Scorpius asked.
He sighed. “You’ll figure it out. Maybe the career path talk will help. And besides, you’ll be able to do magic at Hogsmeade if you need to hex any little brutes for getting fresh with you.”
“You’re getting dangerously close,” I shot back.
He laughed, pinching me again. “I don’t know if I’m excited either, to be honest. It’s the last year. That’ll be it. After that, it’s real life. Trying to really pursue my dreams.” Scorpius paused for a while as he walked and the only sound I heard was the water and birds above us. At least it was cloudy so the back of my neck wouldn’t get so burnt.
“Are you going to put me down?” I asked.
“Are you done being mad?”
I groaned. “Okay, I’m not mad.”
I punched his back. “PUTMEDOWNNOW.”
Scorpius laughed and bent his knees, setting me on my feet in the creek. “Better?” he asked, brows raised over his grey eyes. He had small laugh lines outside his lips.
“Much.” I straightened my jean shorts and tank. “Your parents don’t come wandering in the woods, do they? We’re getting toward your rental.”
Scorpius looked around, eyes squinty. “You’re right.” He looked distracted for a moment, and then his eyes moved to the sky. “Hmm.”
“What?” That expression worried me. Among other things.
There was a deep rumble of thunder that echoed through the mountains three times over.
Uh, oh! Time to face your fears, Rosey!
I hope you enjoyed this chapter :) Let me know what you think! And what you thought of Game Day. Ron is such a turd.
NEXT UP: Rose confronts her fear. In a shed.