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Chapter 8: The Letter
Thanks to rock&roll! @ TDA for the lovely CI!
Rose read through the letter, but when she reached Narcissa Malfoy's signature, she found that she had neither retained nor properly processed any of it.
She groaned and fell backward onto her bed. “I hate my life,” she muttered, tossing the letter aside. “I hate my life.”
She hadn't often had occasion to wish she hadn't made the decision in her fifth year to start going out with a pureblood from a family of questionable origins, but she was beginning to regret it now. Her happy little bubble had been popped by the introduction of Narcissa Malfoy and her cool stares and her composure, and she did not appreciate it.
She picked up the letter again.
Rose immediately threw it aside again. The bile was beginning to rise in her throat. This would be it. Narcissa Malfoy would insult her, or tell her to stay away from Scorpius, or just be so perfectly polite that it would be abundantly clear that she really hated Rose. And once that happened, her relationship with Scorpius would be poisoned. They'd never be able to forget this. She'd be unwilling to give his family another chance and he would end it. They would be over. She -
She couldn't deal with this right now.
She brushed the letter onto the floor, threw a pillow on top of it for good measure, and stared up at the ceiling trying to think about anything but what she was sure was her impending break up.
She didn't know how long it was until there was a knock at her door. After a moment, Lucy stuck her head in. “Rosie, I'm going to start – Rose, what's wrong?”
Rose grunted and rolled over to face the wall. Part of her wanted Lucy to just go away and leave her to her misery. Another part – a bigger part – wanted Lucy to comfort her, but she certainly wasn't going to ask.
She felt Lucy sink onto her bed. “Rosie, what happened?”
“It was from his grandmother.” Rose pulled her knees up to her chest. She wondered whether it was possible to convince your heart to beat slower. “The letter, I mean.”
“I thought it might be. What did it say?”
Rose sniffled. She thought she might be about to cry, but given how awful she was feeling already, she felt very sure that she ought to avoid crying if at all possible. Crying had a tendency to make her too nauseous to eat, and since she'd been too nervous to do more than pick at her lunch, she was already hungry. “I don't know.”
“You don't know?”
She shook her head. “I didn't read it.” She waved her hand in the vague direction of the letter. “It's down there.”
Her cousin reached over her to retrieve it. “Would you like me to read it first?”
Rose nodded, and she heard Lucy unfold the parchment. Her heart was hammering, and she was beginning to feel quite ill despite her successful attempts to hold back tears.
“Rosie, I think you should read this.”
Lucy sighed. “Why not?”
“Because she hates me and she probably told me to stay away from Scorpius and I don't wa – want to stay away from Sc – Scorpius, and once I read it everything is going to fall apart and – “
She hiccuped and glanced up at her cousin. Lucy was holding out the letter with a look of long-suffering patience across her face. “What?”
“Read the letter.” Rose started to shake her head, but the look in Lucy's eyes made her reconsider, and she took the letter without further complaint. She struggled into a sitting position and steeled herself before looking down at the elegant, sloping script.
I had a lovely time at lunch. It was very nice to finally meet you. I hope we can meet again soon.
Thank you for coming.
Rose blinked down at it a few times after she'd finished it, and then turned the piece of parchment over, half-expecting to see something written on the other side. It was blank.
She glanced up at Lucy, who looked like she was struggling to contain her amusement. “Think you might have overreacted a bit?”
“I – why on earth would she send this? What was the point? She scared me half to death!”
Lucy shrugged. “She's old wizarding blood, she was probably raised to have good manners. Yes, I know it's a difficult concept for you to understand.” Rose reached out to shove her lightly, and Lucy got to her feet. “Come on. I'm starting dinner.”
“I'll be there in a second.” Rose let herself fall backward onto the bed again, buried her face in a pillow, and screamed. Sometimes, she really, really hated her boyfriend's family. 'Manners' were no excuse to give a person a heart attack.
Rose was just glad that she was back at work the next day. It saved her from having to think about whether she ought to write Narcissa Malfoy back and whether she had anything to apologise to Scorpius for. She had come to see the D.C.B. as a safe little bubble – when she was there, she didn't have to worry about people judging her or liking her boyfriend too much or not liking him at all. She could just be herself and say what she pleased, rather than worry about all the ramifications.
“Morning,” Victoire said as soon as she walked in.
“Morning,” she replied, hanging up her coat and collapsing into her chair. “How was your weekend?”
Victoire grinned. “Not bad. You know how these romantic weekends go.”
Rose didn't, but she smiled anyway.
“But how about you?” Victoire asked as Dedworth appeared in the doorway of their little cubicle. “Weren't you meeting Scorpius's grandmother this weekend?”
Rose grimaced. “Oh. That. Yeah, I did. She was...” She had no idea what to say, so she trailed off. Victoire gave her a sympathetic look.
“You met Narcissa Malfoy?” Dedworth asked as he sat down. Rose nodded. “Did you get a 'thank you' note?” Her surprise must have been apparent on her face, because he let out a loud snort. “That's what she does. Jo's got a stack of them from every one of her cousin's family birthday parties that she went to when he was a kid.”
A small bit of the tension she'd been feeling lifted from her shoulders. “Yeah, I did. She does that to everyone?”
“I don't know about everyone, but she did it for Jo a lot.”
Victoire reached over and patted her arm. “See? It must have gone better than you thought.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Rose saw Dedworth wince. “What?” She was starting to feel a little more comfortable talking to him about non-work related things.
“Well, a note doesn't necessarily mean she likes you,” Dedworth said. “I mean, maybe she does, but she really doesn't like Johanna.”
Victoire rolled her eyes. “Oh, Rose, don't listen to him. Jo's always exaggerating and saying people hate her when they don't.”
“Well, yeah, but this time she's serious. Narcissa Malfoy really doesn't like her.”
Dedworth shrugged. “I don't know. Probably a combination of Johanna's bad manners and her lack of proper Slytherin concepts of self-preservation. Maybe she thought Jo was be a bad role model for her grandson or something.”
Objectively, what he was saying probably should have made Rose feel worse, but it was actually having the opposite effect. She wasn't necessarily wrong; Mrs. Malfoy really might not like her. She didn't have anything to apologise for.
Victoire was watching her closely, and Rose smiled. “Good to know. So what are we doing today? How'd the woman from Hogsmeade make out?”
“Onto business, eh?” Dedworth's eyes twinkled, and Rose felt her stomach lurch. “I'm starting to see the family resemblance, Vic. I think we'll all get on just fine.” He turned back to Rose, who forced herself to maintain both her attention and her composure. “She's still being monitored, but she should be okay.”
Rose heard footsteps behind her, and Dedworth and Victoire both peered around her. “Morning,” Victoire called out.
“Morning,” Lavender Brown's cheerful voice responded. The door to her office opened and shut.
After a few heartbeats, Dedworth got to his feet. “I have to talk to her about something. I'll be right back.”
“Talk?” Victoire asked as he stepped past Rose. “Is that what they're calling it these days?”
He shot her a glare. “Yeah, that's it, V. Because I'm just that unprofessional.”
She did not look remotely abashed. “Isn't it unprofessional to be fraternising in the first place?”
“You know, I am your boss.” She shrugged, and he threw one of the gloves sitting on the ledge next to the doorway at her. “Get to work. Or something.”
“Yes, fearless leader.” He rolled his eyes at her, but stepped across the hall without further retort.
Rose glanced over at her cousin, who had a broad grin on her face. “Doesn't he – well, mind when you do that?”
Victoire shrugged again. “Maybe a little, but not really. It's all in good fun. He's been on good behavior since you joined us, he usually hits back with something about Teddy. He must be waiting until you actually respect him enough to listen to him to start being himself again.”
“Nah, don't be. It's fun to poke fun at him when he can't retaliate.” Victoire cocked her head to the side as she studied Rose. “So, what do you think of Van so far?”
Rose shifted uncomfortably in her seat. In all honesty, she wasn't sure what she thought of Dedworth so far; whatever Victoire said about good behavior, he was certainly a little crass sometimes, and she was still confused about what exactly his relationship with Lavender was, and it seemed to be coming up often enough that her curiosity was just getting worse and worse.
She also wasn't really sure how to interpret the way her stomach had turned over just a few minutes earlier, though she suspected that understanding it wouldn't actually help matters.
Victoire snorted. “Don't worry. That's the way a lot of people react to him.” Rose shook herself and refocused on her cousin, who had a small smile on her lips. Rose wasn't sure whether Victoire was actually reading all of her discomfort or just the confusion; she hoped it was the latter.
Victoire's smile faded a little as she thought about it. “No, I guess not,” she said after a moment. “But I knew him before I started here, which probably helped.”
“His brother, Gallagher, was one of my friends at Hogwarts. Not that I ever see him anymore, but that was how I first met Van. I think I was about thirteen when I met him, and I thought that his job sounded like the coolest thing ever. I was a bit of a pain after that.”
“Yeah, you were,” Dedworth agreed from the doorway. “But then, you're still a pain, so it was good practice.” She threw the glove back at him, and he threw his head back and laughed. Thankfully, this time Rose's stomach did not react.
“So what are we doing today?” she asked as he sat down.
“Well, Seamus has taken over the Erklings – which is what I was asking Lavender about,” he said pointedly to Victoire, who grinned back at him. “They want us to investigate some suspicious injuries and disappearances up by Ullswater. They think it might be a kelpie.”
Victoire slumped back in her seat. “Merlin, again?”
He grimaced. “Yeah, I know.” He looked over at Rose, who was feeling very confused by her cousin's reaction. “We've had a lot of trouble with magical creatures up there, especially kelpies. It feels like we're cleaning it out every couple years, but they just keep coming back. It's a huge pain, since now it's happened enough that we have to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb to prove to the Ministry that there aren't any eggs.”
He sighed. “Well, we'd best get to work.” He gave his wand a flick, and a well-worn map extracted itself from one of the bookcases and settled on the wall. “Here are where the disappearances have been...”
Rose had been planning to stop by Scorpius's on her way home. It wasn't so much that she wanted to see him as that she felt like she should, even though she had no idea what to say to him or whether she should be apologising for anything. Thankfully, James saved her from having to make the decision by inviting her back to his flat for dinner, which she gratefully accepted.
“Al will be home a bit later,” he said as they entered the flat. “He had to stay late today for a progress report or something. If you're not hungry, I thought I'd wait to make food until he gets back.”
“I don't mind.” Rose shed her coat, scarf, and gloves, and then collapsed onto the couch.
“So.” James sat down next to her. “How'd yesterday go?”
She had momentarily forgotten that James hadn't been around to hear any of the details about how the lunch had gone. “Well, it went.” He raised his eyebrows, and she sighed. “Hell, James, what do you want me to say? I don't know. I don't think she liked me very much, but she sent me a note thanking me for coming.”
“I know! But apparently a note might not mean that she likes me, anyway, and...” She groaned. “It's just kind of a nightmare. And things with Scorpius were a bit weird after, and I haven't talked to him since I calmed down a bit because I don't know what to say.” She hesitated – she wasn't sure she really wanted to say it out loud, but if she couldn't confide in James, who could she confide in. “And I think I might think that Dedworth is – um – ”
She couldn't finish, but James seemed to understand the sentiment, and responded to this monologue in the way that only James could: he reached over to the table sitting next to his end of the couch, rummaged through the drawer for a moment, and then tossed her a few chocolate frogs. She giggled despite herself, and he grinned back as he unwrapped one of his own.
“Better?” he asked once she'd finished one. She nodded, and he gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “You'll be fine, Rosie. Don't worry about it.”
“But – ”
“Look, if Scorpius was expecting everything to go perfectly and for there to be no awkwardness after this lunch at all, he's an idiot. I'm pretty sure he's not an idiot, so I'm sure he'll be fine next time you talk to him, and you can sort this whole thing out.”
Rose felt a warmth begin to spread through her which had nothing to do with chocolate. “You think?”
James grinned. “Yeah, I do, and you know I'm never wrong. And as far as Van goes... Rosie, I'm not sure if it's escaped your attention, but he's a really good-looking guy.” Rose felt her face flush a little, but either James didn't notice or tactfully chose not to mention it. “So you noticed it. Congratulations, it's only taken you four months. Do you want to kiss him?”
“Well, then. Calm down. I bet most people have that reaction to Van at some point.”
“Really?” It had been hard to get out, but at this point she was very happy she'd managed it; James was making her feel significantly better.
“Really.” He reached over and ruffled her hair. “You get too worked up over things. Calm down.”
“It's just hard. Especially with everything with Scorpius. I didn't want to see him yesterday, you know, after the lunch. I was happy to leave.”
“And that worries you?” She nodded, and James looked up at the ceiling. “Rose. You spent half the weekend with him, and then braved an awkward lunch with his grandmother. Are you really surprised that you needed a little distance?”
“I... I guess not.”
“Right, then.” James put his hands on his shoulders and shook her gently. “So calm the hell down.”
A smile began to creep across her face. “I'll try.” She hugged him. “Thanks. You're the best cousin ever.”
“I'm telling Albus.” She smacked his head lightly. “Hey!”
A/N: So I didn't make you guys wait forever to find out what was in the letter, and I didn't leave you with a terrible cliffhanger at the end of this chapter. Does that earn me a little forgiveness? :P
Thank you so much for reading, and I would really love to hear your thoughts on the chapter! I'm sorry I'm behind in my review responses, but I'll be getting to them asap and please know how much I appreciate them.