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Just Rose by marinahill

Format: Novel
Chapters: 36
Word Count: 124,052
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance
Characters: Ron, Arthur, Albus, Hugo, James (II), Lily (II), Rose, Scorpius, Teddy, Victoire
Pairings: Rose/Scorpius, Teddy/Victoire, Other Pairing

First Published: 01/05/2011
Last Chapter: 08/27/2012
Last Updated: 09/02/2012

Summary:



Rose is in pursuit of happiness, but looking for it in the bottom of tea cups just won't cut it. Avoiding her stalker Scorpius and ignoring the life advice of her cousin has led her to a dead-end, and she still hasn’t won Teddy Lupin’s heart. But with the help of her friends and family, she might just realise there's more to life than moping around and eating biscuits.

Sequel: Taking the Biscuit | banner by justonemorefic @tda | Dobby Winner: Best Plot Twist


Chapter 1: Let Them Eat Cake
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AN: I would like to dedicate this to all my friends at TGS - without their support and encouragement, I wouldn't have the guts to post something so out of my comfort zone. Chapter title is a reference to the famous quote often misattributed to Marie Antoinette.





Let Them Eat Cake

The whole situation was rather dire, really. Family meetings are similar to that one bacon sandwich too many; the concept was excellent but in the long run the effect was pretty disappointing. We were well past the initial stage of maybe this wasn’t such a great idea and into the Merlin, help me now! phase. The only way was up from here, surely.

Oh no; Auntie Audrey had just brought out the trivia quiz.

Sighing, I turned to my cousin Molly, desperation creasing my forehead. “You have to help me,” I whispered, both of us warily watching her mother designate teams.

“It can’t be any worse than last year,” she muttered grimly as we were herded towards a dozing Uncle George. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget Dad’s face when Hugo decided to answer every one of Mum’s questions with explicit jokes. He’s been washing his ears every day ever since, I swear.”

“I didn’t mean that,” I hissed, returning the frown she wore on her face framed with auburn hair. “I was talking about this thing with Scorpius.” I lowered my voice to barely a whisper, causing her to lean closer to me, eyes widening.

“Oh, that,” she said darkly.

We both turned to look behind us, where a smartly-dressed Scorpius was perching on the arm of one of Grandma’s armchairs. I shuddered, turning back to Molly. “He won’t leave me alone, you know. I had no idea he was going to be here today; I think Mum invited him.”

“Come off it, Rosie,” Molly scoffed as Audrey handed her a blank page of parchment. “Your Mum hates the Malfoys.”

“I’ve told you,” I said through gritted teeth, the irritation tainting my voice. “She’s doing it to piss off Dad. She knows that Scorpius has no chance, she just likes winding him up.”

Molly rolled her dark eyes. “You’re being ridiculous. Knowing him, he probably just invited himself. It’s not as though he’d be noticed among this lot.”

She was right, of course; an elephant could have been joining Team Dungbomb (Hugo’s idea for a team name, naturally) for all we knew and we wouldn’t have noticed it amongst the rabble. When all together, or almost all together as we were today, we were quite a number and Weasleys had a tendency to be a little rowdy. Scorpius in his pale denim jeans and beige shirt practically faded into the wallpaper.

“I don’t understand why he just won’t get the hint,” I groaned as I heard him approach us. No doubt he had seen us sneak a glance and had decided that was enough to warrant starting up conversation.

“Need an extra team member, ladies?” He said in what he probably presumed was a smooth voice, but he just sounded like a strangled dog. Although I was being a little cruel, perhaps; I had long since reached the stage where every single thing he did made me want to slap his smug smile off his face. I didn’t know where he learned his moves from, but I sincerely doubted they had ever got married and would die lonely and unloved by many. I predicted he would meet the same end. Justice.

“Sure,” I muttered, trying to ignore the fact that he had just called Uncle George a lady and holding back a snort. Apart from the fact that snorting derisively was not very ladylike and usually ended in being shunned, I wasn’t so rude as to openly laugh in Scorpius’ face (yet).

We budged up so that he could huddle close to our group, though he was starting to huddle far too close to me. At that moment, I decided not to wash for about three weeks the next time something like this came up; poor hygiene might actually scare him off. A girl could dream… As it was, he was as keen as ever to sniff my neck and try and get some sort of body contact. Molly and I had affectionately nicknamed him Rat Boy, because his pointed features strongly reminded me of an unwanted rodent. Well, not necessarily just unwanted rodents, but this one certainly wasn’t wanted by us.

The word “stalking” was a little too strong. He never had that many friends when we were in school together and I shouldn’t think anything has changed since he went into whatever job it was that he found. Private detective? Bodyguard? Guide dog? Whatever it was, it definitely involved a lot of following me around. Anyway, I felt kind of sorry for him and I also felt sorry enough for myself to accept his stalking as a half-compliment. I could just casually slip into any conversation “and this is my Scorpius, he follows me around” and I was suddenly interesting.

Seeming interesting was actually quite high on my priority list, sadly. I always got the feeling that I was the disappointment in the family, merely because when relatives updated their circles about the latest news, my name never came up. It was always Lucy got 500 NEWTs, all full marks! or did you hear about Louis’ girlfriend, she’s doing so well! I was so forgettable that it was preferable to make things up than to admit that I was ashamed at how little I had to tell people. What did I do with my time that meant that I had nothing whatsoever to contribute to the family figurative trophy case? Intelligence alone no longer sufficed now that I was in the “real world”, as Mum called it. Molly regularly told me that I shouldn’t care what people think of me, but I often wondered what people see when they look at me. Did they see Rose Weasley, the daughter of the brilliant Hermione Weasley, and then await a performance of some kind? With so much to live up to I must have decided at a very early age not to bother attempting to outweigh her achievements.

Besides, I was too busy not growing up to fully reach my potential.

Blinking a few times, I realised I’d missed the first question due to the talking to myself in my head thing. I did that quite a lot, which often led to me zoning in and out of conversations accidentally. It had always made me wonder whether other people talked to themselves in their heads or if it was just me being weird. Clearly there was plenty wrong with me, which in a way made me interesting. Excellent progress.
 
“Correct!” Audrey beamed and Scorpius afforded me a slap on the back. Merlin, what had I just said?
 
Audrey continued to read out the next question and I shot Molly a bewildered look. “Did I say something out-loud?”
 
“‘Progress’,” she whispered, a half-smile adorning her lips. “Which happened to be the answer to the last question, luckily for us. Now shut up and let me pay attention.”
 
I sighed, recognising that Molly had gone into competitive mode. It was the same with everything in my family; we all had to be winners, which naturally led to plenty of disagreements, what with there being so many of us. I observed them all, sat in a circle like hungry vultures, only they were more like angry vultures, glaring at Auntie Audrey as they failed to answer a question correctly. This would end in tears, most likely Audrey’s. She was prone to crying. My Dad suggested we buy her a box of tissues for her birthday next month; Mum stomped on that idea pretty quick.
 
It was best I stayed out of this quiz thing as much as possible and focused on not giving Scorpius the wrong idea. Last time we met I accidentally handed him a pair of my knickers, aiming to play a joke on my friend which, in the end, seriously backfired.

No, it was best I avoided any contact at all with him. I couldn’t be trusted.
 
It was a few moments later that Audrey’s Quiz of Doom was interrupted by my grandmother bringing out Lucy’s seventeenth birthday cake, mini-fireworks shooting from the candles spectacularly. I was distracted from the singing momentarily as I leaned away from the candles that were steadily making their way towards me. Last year I’d had a rather nasty incident with my Mum’s birthday candles. Let me put it this way: my eyebrows have never been the same since.
 
Hang on. I was leaning against something squishy.
 
“Ooh, hello!” Scorpius grinned smugly as I sat bolt upright. How did I keep on getting into these situations? “Making the most of the romantic mood, are we?”

“No,” I spluttered disgustedly, shifting over to Molly. What romantic mood? I was sat in a giant circle of nosy relatives; there was nothing romantic about it at all! If he meant that I was making the most of the momentary darkness he was sadly mistaken. I leaned towards Molly’s ear and whispered, “help me!”
 
I really hoped I was imagining that smirk on her face. She was not allowed to enjoy my discomfort, especially when it concerned Rat-Face.
 
Eventually, after much scoffing of cake, Molly and I escaped the madness and hid in the larder, finally finding a bit of peace and quiet.

“Do you think Scorpius followed us?” I asked worriedly, squinting through the keyhole into the kitchen. As far as I could see, no one had noticed our absence, but there was always the chance that he was just lurking out of sight, waiting to pounce. At that thought, I groaned miserably. “What did I do to encourage this ridiculousness?”
 
Again, Molly smirked. “I wonder if it has something to do with how you’re terminally single,” she mused, poking a finger into a pot of honey and licking her finger.
 
“Don’t start,” I warned. “I’ve already had Aunt Fleur on at me about how important it is to settle down, blah blah blah.”
 
Molly grinned delightfully. “She has a point, you know. You’re in your mid-twenties now. You can’t avoid reality altogether.”

"I can try,” I muttered grumpily. “And it’s all right for you, you have a significant other. The fact of the matter is, no one is ever going to fancy a boring old troll like me. I’ve long since accepted it. I shall spend my retired days in solitude.”
 
Molly set the honey back on the shelf and continued to inspect the contents of the larder. “You’re not going to end up alone,” she said scathingly.
 
“You’re right,” I agreed. “I’ll have lots of owls… and a cat.”
 
I could see her eyes twitching from where she was trying not to roll her eyes. “Shut up. The truth is none of this would be happening if you hadn’t gone and fallen for bloody Teddy.”

I moaned. “We agreed not to talk about it.”

Molly drew her wand from her pocket and twirled it menacingly. I gulped; Molly was definitely the best at spells in the family. “Well, we’re going to talk about it. I told you you should have told him how you feel. But you didn’t listen to me, as usual.”
 
“He’s eloping to France with Victoire in a month. What’s the point?”
 
What’s the point?” Molly said indignantly. “My dear Rose, since when have things had to have a point?” I nodded in false agreement. “Anyway,” she added triumphantly. “Victoire is ugly.”
 
I snorted. She was lying, of course, but I appreciated the moral support. She was right, she always is, but there was no way I was saying anything to Teddy. I had barely spoken to him in the last two years as it was and he had clearly made it known that he was in love with Victoire, my cousin. It couldn’t end well and so I had decided years ago that my feelings for him were best sat on and squashed until they were so miniscule that I couldn’t possible feel anything. That plan hadn’t worked and so I had resorted to Plan: pretend I was not ready for love or relationships and then I would seem normal. Naturally it was my normality that Scorpius found so attractive…

I wasn’t really sure why Scorpius liked me so much. Maybe his father had told him specifically to avoid all Weasleys and so he made it his aim to irritate his father as much as possible. I hoped that was the case because otherwise I’d feel really guilty about being so mean to him. It was nice to have some attention from somebody; it wasn’t as though I was Miss Popular or anything. I also wasn’t desperate, so I wasn’t going to stop avoiding him even if it meant he’d stop annoying me.

“I’m happy to wait for Mr Right Version 2 to appear. Why can’t we forget I ever mentioned my feelings? Besides, I’ve definitely changed my mind, don’t love him at all.” My cheeks turning red had nothing to do with the conversation, of course. It was getting rather hot in here.

Rose Weasley,” Molly growled menacingly. “Just bloody admit that you love Teddy.”

We both winced at the same time as light suddenly spilled into the larder. Shit! Who had the nerve to open the door on our secret hiding place? Had they heard all of that?
I squinted into the light and identified my brother with a waterfall of dread. His face looked gleeful.
 
“Rose loves Teddy?” he repeated with a grin.
 
“No, stupid,” I scowled. “It was just a joke; a private joke, between me and Molly. You wouldn’t get it.”
 
He raised an eyebrow and it was all I could muster not to slap him. Damn, why did he have to walk in of all people? Fair enough, most siblings hated each other to a certain degree, but Hugo genuinely hated me. He didn’t care for my feelings or even acknowledge them, which meant he would do anything to cause me discomfort. Mum and I had always hoped he’d grow out of it, but at nineteen, we had lost hope. I glanced at Molly, quickly deciding that neither begging nor bribery would work. There was only one thing I could do.
 
“Hugo,” I began sweetly, “If you tell anyone about our little joke, I’ll tell Dad that you were the one who stole his thousand-galleon firewhiskey and mixed it with cheap butterbeer and shared it amongst your friends.”
 
Hugo smirked, his flame-coloured hair flopping onto his face. Looking like a mushed carrot was apparently in fashion at the moment. “He already knows about that.”
 
Bugger. I didn’t know what else to do; if I made an issue out of it he’d realise how much I didn’t want him to tell anyone about this, which would only make him want to spread the beans more. He’d see through any attempt at being casual about the whole thing.

Maybe I could obliviate him? Was that even legal? I’d have to ask Mum. But for now, a menacing glare and a door slammed in his face would have to suffice.
 
“See what my life is like?” I grumbled as Molly sat on an upturned bucket. “I don’t need any more embarrassment in it, thanks very much. Hugo will tell the whole world about this and I shall be shamed and shunned and cast out of the family.”
 
Molly rolled her eyes yet again. She was going to do her eyeballs an injury if she kept that up. There was clearly just something about me that she found ridiculous.

“Nonsense,” she soothed. “Hugo won’t tell anyone.”
 
“Yes he bloody will! He enjoys my pain,” I cried.
 
“He won’t,” she said smugly. “Because he knows that I know that he broke Grandma’s clock yesterday. If he wants to see his next birthday, he’ll keep his mouth shut.”
 
My jaw dropped like a stone. “That was him?”
 
“Yep.”
 
Wow. He would definitely be dead within the week if anyone found out about that. This morning we had woken up to our grandmother sobbing as she tried to piece together the family clock, the one with all our names on each hand. No magic had worked so far, so I had to wonder what Hugo had done to the poor thing.
 
“Don’t worry about it,” Molly said in a satisfied voice, picking a biscuit from a shelf as she stood up. She turned to look at me through the gloom with an eyebrow cocked.

“Shall we?”
 
“Fine,” I sighed, brushing a cobweb from my elbow and stealing a biscuit for myself.
 
We slipped back into the living room, where our grandfather was snoring away as Audrey continued in vain to continue her quiz. Only Scorpius noticed that we had been gone for about twenty minutes. Situation normal, then.
 
It was as Auntie Audrey was finishing up her quiz that Teddy and Victoire joined us. I felt heat building in my face and neck and tried to remember how to act normal.

Seeing them together made me nauseous and I could feel Hugo’s eyes on me as I settled on staring at my sleeping grandfather. Ignoring him was just as conspicuous, I reasoned with myself. Maybe if I glanced and then turned away?
 
I snuck a look at him and found myself unable to look away. He was just so gorgeous it was impossible to understand why anyone who ever came into contact with him didn’t just melt from the sheer heat that brought pink to my own cheeks. I blushed easily, I realised as I watched him find a comfy spot on the floor next to my cousin Dominique. He and Victoire made a beautiful couple, which only made me want to stab her more. It was unreasonable to wish harm upon your own family, but love made me a little bit irrational. Come on, I was a twenty-something year old woman, I couldn’t not notice him. The irritating thing was, he was the darling of the whole family. He was so nice, my aunts reminded me on a regular basis and everything he did was so fabulous. I couldn’t get away from him, even if I wanted to.

“Rose,” Molly hissed. “You’re staring.”
 
“No I’m not,” I mumbled as I continued to stare at the back of his head.
 
“You’ll burn holes in his neck if you don’t stop it. Or worse, someone will notice that you’re drooling.”

I dragged my eyes from Teddy and threw an indignant glare in her direction; I was not drooling! Well, maybe not physically…

Enough; Molly was right, of course. I couldn’t continue to gaze at him lustfully if I wasn’t willing to do anything about it. For someone younger than me, she was far wiser. Life was so unfair.


Chapter 2: They'd Overdone It A Bit
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A/N: Thank you so much to everyone for their support and the lovely reviews. I really appreciate it. Also, massive thanks to Gina (justonemorefic) for the banner; isn't it STUNNING?




  They'd Overdone It A Bit

I put my quill away hastily, denying myself the chance to customise my calendar with the countdown to Teddy’s departure. I was beginning to think my obsession was verging on the Scorpius side. I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do, I thought about him far more than was healthy.

Molly lay dozing on my bed, a tattered copy of Witch Weekly spread open across her face. She groaned miserably. “I’ve got a family hangover,” she grumbled groggily. “We need to stop seeing so much of them at one time, it isn’t good for our health.”

“I’ll say,” I agreed without really listening, banishing a romantic farewell scene in which Teddy magically decided to abandon Victoire in favour of me.

“Did you even hear what I said?” Sitting up, the magazine fell from Molly’s face. Strange lines appeared on her freckled cheek from the glossy pages. “Or were you too busy daydreaming again?”

I blushed, knowing that there was no use denying it. “So what if I was?”

Molly huffed, swinging her legs to the floor and standing up in an elegant flourish. Sometimes she was too pompous for her own good. “I wish you’d give up with that already. It’s not constructive.”

“Nothing I do is constructive in your eyes,” I retorted grumpily.

My cousin crossed the room and for a moment I wondered if she was going to threaten me with her wand; it wouldn’t be the first time. Instead, she grabbed the quill from my desk and circled the date Teddy was due to leave on my calendar (13th February) and glared at me.

“You have about a month to sort your life out, Rose Weasley,” she announced grimly. “And if you won’t help yourself then I’ll have to do it for you.”

“I don’t need your help, thanks,” I said patiently. “I’m quite happy with my life.”

“Rubbish,” Molly said sweetly. “Of course you’re not. Yesterday you were telling me you envisaged a future with owls and cats. That’s not what I call being happy with your life.”
 
I recognised that Molly was on one of her missions and decided that it was probably best just to go along with it. When she got like this, there was usually little I could do to dissuade her. She’d calm down eventually and find some other poor sod to irritate, but whilst we could spend a quiet Sunday afternoon together with little to do, she’d find something to improve.

“What’s your plan, then?” I asked resignedly.
 
She observed me, looking me up and down. If she suggested a make-over, it might just be me doing the hexing, not her. If she was going to meddle, it needed to be with as little effort on my part as possible.
 
“Your problem,” she began decisively, “is that you are a waiter. You’re waiting around for Teddy to fall in love with you and you’re not doing anything to push him along the way.”
 
I narrowed my eyes. “I am not going to fling myself at him. I’m not that desperate.” Yet.
 
“I wasn’t suggesting that,” Molly said, rolling her eyes. I might be a waiter, but she was definitely a roller. I was going to pop an eyeball out soon if she didn’t stop being so bloody patronising. “I just think you should circulate.”

Circulate?” I laughed. “I’m not a slag either, Molly.”

“Do you want my help or not?”
 
I considered her face scrunched up in concentration and couldn’t quite decide what the right answer was. The truthful answer was “no”, but I valued my friendship with her more than I did my dignity. I had a feeling even if I did say no, she’d meddle anyway.
 
“Of course I do, I’m sorry,” I placated her with a few hasty words, plopping myself down on my bed. “Go on.”
 
“Well,” she said thoughtfully, munching on a shortbread finger. “You’re not going to impress him by hiding here and making yourself invisible.”

“I’m not hiding,” I said indignantly. “I’m not the type of girl who happily throws herself at men for fun. Stop criticising me.”

“No need to get so defensive,” Molly muttered. “I’m only trying to help.”
 
I tried not to glare at her as she stuffed the rest of her biscuit into her mouth and made herself comfortable on my bed. She always looked at ease, it wasn’t fair. I didn’t know why I had to be such an Awkward Annie; I made everything into a big deal when it was just unnecessary stress.
 
“I know,” I mumbled, sitting down next to her. “But I don’t think even you can sort out my issues. There are far too many.”
 
“Don’t be such a negative ninny,” she admonished boldly, whacking me with the magazine. “This is your problem, you’re so pessimistic all the time. Life isn’t as hard as you make it seem. Go with the flow.”

Now I was rolling my eyes. “This 'help' thing isn’t an excuse for you to insult me. I am aware I have problems, I never claimed to be a simple case.”
 
“I like a challenge,” she said happily, ignoring my rant.
 
She wandered over to my mirror and threw her hair back into a pony-tail. She had the enviable knack of getting her hair looking nice the first time she tried; it took me at least half an hour to achieve anything nearly as good, and I usually ended up starting again anyway. I cut off most of my hair a few years ago to tackle that problem. Molly was irritatingly natural.
 
“You still haven’t given me a realistic plan,” I said, envying her beautiful auburn locks from the bed.

“The whole point of a challenge, Rosie, is that it doesn’t have a simple solution,” Molly said patronisingly as she stole another shortbread finger from my biscuit tin. I made a mental note to steal some biscuits from her room later when she went out.
 
The biscuits were the worst thing about having my cousin for a flatmate; she never stopped eating them. No biscuits were safe from her greedy fingers and she was rarely found without one. Don’t get me wrong, she was excellent to live with in other ways (she was obsessively tidy and could cook), but I was seriously considering buying a padlock for my biscuit tin.
 
“Can’t I just move to France?” I whined.
 
“No,” Molly retorted curtly.
 
“Is killing Victoire an option?” I asked, biting my lip.
 
Molly stared at me as though I’d grown a pair of horns. “You would seriously consider killing your own cousin just so that you could have a pass at Teddy?”
 
I scowled. “Of course I bloody wouldn’t. It would be so much easier to hate her if she wasn’t actually related to me.”
 
Molly rolled her kohl-framed eyes yet again. “Have you also considered that you already have a perfectly willing man waiting for you to say I do?”
 
I frowned. “Who?”
 
Another roll of the eyes and a smack from Witch Weekly. “Scorpius, of course. He’s dead keen on you, Rose.”

Rat Boy? Are you seriously suggesting that I hook up with him just because he’s followed me around since Sixth Year?” I couldn’t believe she was actually offering that as a plausible course of action. “I already told you, I’m not desperate.”
 
Molly laughed, her eyes lighting up wickedly. “Okay, fair point. You’re right, this is Scorpius we’re talking about.”

The laughter died in her eyes as she saw who was standing outside my window, looking in. Bloody ground floor flats, bloody open windows and bloody flaming cheeks.

Why does this happen to me? I didn’t ask for Scorpius to turn up unasked all the time, I never told him that standing outside of my window and earwigging was sexy. I was mortified and angry at him, even though deep down I knew it was because we’d been caught bad-mouthing him.
 
I held my hand over my eyes to reduce the glare from the sunlight, but it was too late to make out his reaction; he had already turned and walked away.

I groaned. “I have to stop this. It’s horrendous and I feel terrible that he’s getting hurt by it. What do I do?”
 
My cousin looked thoughtful, an ink-stained finger scratching a freckled nose.

“Perhaps you could ask Teddy for help? As a guy, he’d probably give you advice on how to tell Scorpius tactfully.”
 
I stared blankly at her for a moment whilst I registered what she had said. Then, I threw my arms around her and squished her in my grip. “Molly Weasley, you are a genius!”
 
“So they tell me,” Molly gasped in my embrace. As I drew away, she smoothed down her hair and beamed. “Now go and put some make-up on; I’m buying you lunch.”
 
*
 
Half an hour later, after many reattempts at applying mascara, we found ourselves ready to leave. Except, of course, for the fact that I could never find anything and I was currently coatless.
 
“Where did you last see it?” Molly barked impatiently as I stuck my head under my bed.
 
“On me!” I grumbled. “I don’t understand how things disappear like this. Can’t I borrow one of your coats?”
 
“Things have a habit of going pear-shaped around you,” Molly observed as I threw a pile of clothes off a chair and onto the floor. “I wish you’d just let me tidy your room, you’d be able to find it easily then.”
 
I let out a cry of frustration, drawing my wand from my pocket. “Accio coat!”
 
Nothing happened for a minute and Molly looked at me slyly. Couldn’t I even cast a summoning spell properly? Then, the light in the room dimmed as something obscured the sun; my coat flew in the open window and fell into my outstretched arms.
 
“Where the bloody hell did that just come from?” I gaped. “What utter madness do I live in?”
 
I pulled it over my jumper and we left the flat, me still in complete confusion. Molly did not seem affected by this strange occurrence; I supposed she had come to accept that the weird and wacky were normal in my life.
 
We crossed the road and rounded a corner when I heard footsteps behind me.
 
“Rose?” I didn’t need to turn around to know who that was.
 
“Good afternoon, Scorpius,” I said sheepishly, turning on my boots to face him. His light blonde hair shone in the low winter sun, his blue eyes squinting against the light.

How much had he heard of our conversation earlier?

“I came by earlier to drop your coat off,” he said, gesturing at my attire. His voice was scratchy and I got the impression he hadn’t slept much. “But I got the impression it wasn’t a good time.”

The heat went straight to my cheeks at his words as I blushed. I decided ignoring this awkward declaration was the way forward. “Why on Earth did you have my coat?” I questioned. Had he snuck into my house whilst I was out or, worse, when I was sleeping? He was so unbelievably creepy!

“You left it at your grandmother’s yesterday,” he said shortly. “I promised your Mum that I’d drop it off.”

“Oh,” I said meekly, my cheeks turning redder by the minute. Damn my complexion.

I felt truly awful now. I was sure that, underneath it all, he was a nice guy, but I found his unnerving ability to be in the right place at the right time where I was concerned to be extraordinarily weird.

Silence hung between us and the more I thought about it the more awkward it became. I blushed deeper as he enjoyed my discomfort. Luckily, my cousin came to my rescue and stepped forward.

“We’re off for some lunch,” Molly said, nodding in my direction. Thank Merlin for her knack of using her brain. Now here was our chance to slip away without me stooping to shouting insults at him to hide my guilt. “Why don’t you join us?”

What? Oh no, this couldn’t be more awkward. He and I both knew that I’d been bitching about him earlier; there was no escape from this uncomfortable nightmare. I was going to kill her!

“Yeah,” Scorpius said after considering her offer. He was pointedly avoiding eye contact with me. “I’d like that.”

Molly smiled smugly and set off up the street, leaving Scorpius and me in her shadow.

I inwardly groaned; the small talk was about to commence, I could just feel the awkwardness climbing up my short frame, higher and higher until it would surely settle in my voice, ready to embarrass me.

“So,” Scorpius said slowly as we followed Molly, my eyes determinedly fixed on her mustard-coloured jumper.

“So,” I agreed, searching my surroundings for a topic of conversation. I found none; the weather was bland, the houses were non-descript and Scorpius most certainly was nothing to shout about.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Scorpius nod, satisfied with the conversation. I wanted to slap the tiny frown off his ratty features. Everything about him frustrated me; I was certain that his continual strange behaviour was my punishment for something I had done in a past life, or something terrible I was going to do. I could probably blame my parents, thinking about it, for their terse relationship with the Malfoys. Maybe this was Mr Malfoy’s idea of a sick joke.

The silence between us grew until I couldn’t bare it. His silence was judgemental, as my own had so often been in the past, and every word he didn’t speak became a declaration of disgust in my mind until I snapped.

“I’m sorry, okay!” I blurted. “I didn’t know my Mum had sent you, I really didn’t mean to be rude.” My cheeks reddened as I felt him turn his head towards me. His glare made me feel clammy and irrationally angry at him. “Stop looking at me like that,” I snapped. “I said I was sorry.”

“I’m not looking at you like anything,” he said gruffly, looking straight ahead again. “I was just staggered to hear you apologise for something.”

I scoffed at that. “What are you talking about? I apologise all the time!”

It was true, I was forever doing things wrong, making mistakes, generally mucking up my life. ‘Sorry’ was the first word in my vocabulary.

“Well, you seem to blame me at every opportunity you get,” he said quietly, clearly irritated.

I stopped, staring at his slicked back hair he stopped a few paces ahead of me. “That is not true! I don’t know where you got that idea. But maybe if you didn’t turn up everywhere I went I wouldn’t even have grounds for involving you in my defense.”

He turned to face me, his frown deepening. My fingers twitched with desire to poke him in the eye, that would sort that scowl out. “I don’t turn up everywhere. Have you considered that it might be coincidental? The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know.”

“I know that,” I seethed. “But sometimes it’s one coincidence too many. You’re just –argh!” I cried in frustration, storming off up the street past him.

I didn’t look back, focusing on catching up with Molly, finally matching her stride around a corner.

“The tactful approach is going well, then,” Molly jested as I gritted my teeth.

“I’m not going to forgive you for this,” I grumbled as we neared our favourite Muggle bar and café. “I’ve never met anyone more annoying in my life.”

Molly laughed as she held the door open for me. “That’s probably because he scares them all away.”

I smiled in response and ducked under her arm, heading for our usual table in a dark alcove, the furthest from the window (a necessary precaution). It was not the most glamourous place either of us had ever been to, but the shabby décor and peeling wallpaper had charmed us from the beginning of our tenancy in our flat. It was owned by an old Spanish man who had taken a shine to Molly and me, often slipping us cocktails on the house.

Scorpius finally reached the café, sitting primly in the seat next to Molly. I caught the owner’s eye and he nodded. Jesús approached us, enrobed in an apron dotted with burn holes and whistling a tune through his teeth, a cheerful smile lighting up his eyes as he spotted Scorpius.

“Hello ladies and gentleman,” he said with a wink in my direction. I blushed yet again, wondering whether I should just charm my cheeks permanently red and have done. It took literally nothing to set me off. “What can I get you today?”

We ordered sausage rolls, Molly’s favourite. I couldn’t really fathom the reasoning behind Jesús’s menu; you would have thought he’d serve Spanish food or something, but he served more traditional English dishes, like pies and anything with chips. Still, it was a great place for comfort food, as Molly often reminded me whilst I poked my wobbly stomach. Skinny cow.

Jesús was really like the weird uncle Molly and I had never had; we had plenty of relatives, but none as delightfully crazy as our Spanish friend. He’d open the café early on a Sunday for us so he could make us much needed bacon sandwiches, always ready with a large grin to cheer us up. Yes, I know what you’re thinking; all the men in my life are creepy. You may have a point. I wasn’t necessarily including Jesús as a possible eligible bachelor, seeing as he preferred cooking casserole whilst dancing to Spanish folk songs to doing anything remotely normal.

It was whilst I was observing Jesús do the Conga solo that I realised that Molly and Scorpius had not yet spoken. Scorpius looked dangerously closed to sulking and Molly was nibbling her sausage roll as slowly as she could to avoid speaking to him, which was bloody unfair seeing as she invited him along in the first place. Well, I wasn’t going to be the weak one, I wasn’t going to give in. Instead, I took great joy in staring at both of them as they wriggled uncomfortably.

“Cut it out, Rose,” Molly said eventually as she finished her sausage roll. “Can’t you think of anything to say?”

I glared at her, knowing that now she’d said that I wouldn’t be able to think of anything. Under pressure, I was definitely outrageously crap. She and Scorpius stared back at me until a snapped and muttered, “it’s going to snow on Thursday.”

Molly shook her head, as though I was a severe disappointment to her. I supposed I was a disappointment to everyone, really. The problem with being a boring person was that I tended to bore other people as well. Nobody really cares about the weather as long as it doesn’t affect their plans. I never had plans other than going to work, returning from work, eating biscuits and sleeping. The weather didn’t affect my Apparition skills and so I didn’t honestly care about it.

Sighing, Molly handed me a handful of Muggle coins. “Come on, let’s go.”

I grimaced at her tone and wandered over to the counter where Jesús was now tuning a ukulele. Handing over the change, he gave me a wink, leaning over the till conspiringly. He gave me a significant look, his eyes flicking over to Scorpius then back again. “Dare I ask?”

I glared at him, threw the change onto the counter and stormed out of the café. That was the last bloody straw. I despised being viewed as the youngest spinster on the planet, everyone was so damned rude about it. It was as though they deliberately wanted me to feel bad about being unloved and alone.

Scorpius stopped me outside the café and leaned towards me. “Aren’t you going to invite me back for coffee?” He winked happily.

Happy people made me grumpy; gross people sent me into a deep, dark pit of despair, more commonly known as Rose-Land. I’d said it before and I’d say it again: help me.


Chapter 3: The Tea Thief
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The Tea Thief

Heart racing, adrenaline pumping, I recognised an emergency. Some terrifyingly loud noise had roused me from my sleep, sending me into a fit of panic. I wrestled with the duvet, tumbling out of bed as fast as I could, trying to kick-start my brain. Eventually, I came to my senses and located the source of the disturbance; my alarm clock. Fumbling on my bedside table, I located my wand. The alarm clock was no more.

Bloody thing, I cursed inwardly as I massaged my throbbing head, staring into the darkness. Getting up early in winter was the most depressing experience; not even the sun had woken up yet. I gave myself another minute to wake up before finding the light and padding across the hall to the bathroom. I made sure to bang on Molly’s door as loud as I could as I passed.

“Piss off,” came the mumbled response. Charming.

I decided the hall light was enough to light the bathroom, leaving the door ajar to give myself enough illumination to locate the necessary facilities without the possibility of my own reflection scaring me. It was just too much in the morning.

Flushing the loo and approaching the sink, I grimaced at the monster in the mirror, who looked equally appalled at my presence. Frizzy hair and freckles never looked attractive, but at this time of day I tended to look like a llama. I frowned and my reflection frowned back at me. I frowned more and received a death stare in return. I’d had enough of this; I dried my hands and stormed out of the bathroom.

“Molly,” I whined, barging into her room without knocking, light spilling from the hallway and illuminating a lumpy bed.

“Bugger off, Rose,” grunted the lump under the duvet. “I’m not going into work today.”

I glared at where I thought her head was. We went through this palaver regularly: Molly dreaded Wednesdays because she had to face her dreadful boyfriend for their weekly lunch date.

Sighing, I made to sit down on her legs in order to get her moving. “Ow! Rose, you’re so heavy!”

“Tough,” I said, starting to get a bit miffed. I was doing her a favour, really. If she didn’t go in, she’d likely get fired and then she wouldn’t have an income and then she would no longer be superior to me. That just couldn’t happen. “I still think you should just dump Jake. You shouldn’t hate seeing him.”

“You don’t understand,” she grumbled from the other end of the bed. “You’ve never had to dump someone. I just can’t. He’s such a nice person!”

I pulled the covers off her face, revealing a ball of scruffy red hair (I presumed her face was somewhere under it). “Then he deserves better.”

The face emerged from within the hair carrying a scowl. “That’s not a very nice thing to say. Now get stuffed so I can get ready. You might think that looking like a scarecrow is attractive, but I prefer a more polished look.” She kicked me off her bed and I grinned. My Molly was back. “Pass me a biscuit.”

I chucked a chocolate bourbon at her and left the room, leaving her to her very important morning routine. I had my own important schedule to tend to: another day needed crossing off the countdown to Teddy’s departure.

*

“If things get bad at lunchtime, you’re rescuing me,” Molly stated as we traipsed through the Leaky Cauldron, nodding at the barmaid as we did so.

“Fine,” I said, knowing that she wouldn’t need me to rescue her at all; she never did. Perhaps she liked the knowledge that she had a way out if she needed one, but I knew things were never as bad as she made out. Fair enough, Jake was an arse, but he was still her boyfriend so that put her in a better position than me. I checked my watch, thoughtful for a moment. “When do you reckon Scorpius will visit me today?”

We went through this routine every morning. Scorpius managed to turn up at least once every day, either in Flourish and Blotts itself or just strolling past the window with a ‘casual’ glance into the shop. We used to bet a biscuit on the time back when I first started my job there two years ago, but seeing as Molly ate all my biscuits anyway there didn’t seem much point.

“What time was it yesterday?” Molly asked, tapping the bricks on the wall that hid Diagon Alley.

“Three o’clock,” I said. “I reckon he’d offered to pop out on a coffee run – he was carrying three cups and sandwich.”

“Right.” We both winced at the same time as the wall became an arch and the sunlight hit us. “And it was lunchtime the day before – for the newspapers, do you remember? I think it’s either going to be a super early one or one after work. What do you reckon?”

I shrugged, stopping outside Gringotts. “Early, probably. Anyway, have a good day. I’ll see you at five.”

Molly smiled and kissed my cheek, turning on her heel and walking up to the grand building that contained probably all the wizarding gold in the country. It amused me to think that my parents had actually robbed Gringotts but hadn’t taken a single knut for themselves. They’d only gone in for some dark magical object. I suppose it was worth it, You-Know-Who copped it in the end.

I continued up the street until I reached the book shop where I worked. My job wasn’t nearly as glamourous as what Molly did, but it suited me just fine. She could do confusing calculations all she wanted on exchange rates and currencies and complicated crap like that; I was happy alphabetising books and hiding behind the till from Scorpius. Dealing with the odd looks customers gave me was also very rewarding.

Reaching into my pocket, I withdrew the shop key and let myself in. I twirled my wand around lazily as blinds opened, lights illuminated and the dust swept itself off the shelves. It often fell to me to open up the shop, seeing as my boss was partial to a lie-in and knew I’d always turn up on time. Knowing my luck, the one day I was late was the day he actually came into work and spotted my absence. I wasn’t willing to risk that and he knew it very well. Another example of my boring predictability; I was easily manipulated. It was probably easier than taking the initiative.

I still had a good fifteen minutes before the shop technically opened so I shuffled off to the back room to make myself a cup of tea. It would be the first of many for the day – Molly told me it was an addiction I had to sort out. She could hardly talk, what with the fact that she practically needed biscuits drip-fed into her system. I took a biscuit from the tin whilst I waited for my tea to brew, inhaling the scent of ginger. Ginger biscuits were the best for dunking in tea; I didn’t care how much Auntie Audrey told me it was bad form, I would dunk my biscuits as much as I pleased. She was so uptight, anyway – she’d probably never had a good dunk in her life. It was her loss.

I shoved the biscuit into my mouth and threw the teabag away. I glanced at the orange biscuit tin guiltily; did I really need another? Boris (my boss) had already warned me once already about scoffing too many biscuits… I shrugged, opening the tin once again. That’ll teach him to have an extra hour in bed whilst I toiled away behind the counter. Besides, I had to have a biscuit on Molly’s behalf. I stuffed that biscuit into my mouth as well and picked up the mug of tea.

It was as I was carefully carrying through the cup of tea into the shop that I heard the banging on the window. I rolled my eyes; it seemed Molly had been right after all. Scorpius was all I needed to put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. I set my mug down on the counter as I passed and made my way over to the door. The early morning sunlight was low and so I could not make out his features. I unlocked the door and let him in.

“Hello Rose.”

Oh shit. As I stood back to let him through, I realised that this most definitely wasn’t Scorpius. His voice was far too deep and melodic, his mop of dark hair coming into view as he stepped out of the sunlight.

“Teddy,” I spluttered through two ginger biscuits. He was probably recoiling, but I was too repulsed by myself to look at him. I swallowed audibly, my ears turning red. “Hi.”

I wondered what I’d have to do to get him to say my name again; the way he said it made my skin tingle. Hello Rose. Hello Rose. Hello Rose. His voice was so magnificent, like liquid chocolate. Deep and rich and I could just lie in it all day… Blinking, I realised I’d been staring at his lips. Oh heck. Pay attention!

“I just made tea,” I mumbled eventually, praying I didn’t have crumbs all over my face or something. “Do you want some?”

“Oh.” He had such a wonderful smile… “No, that’s okay. I’m only popping in briefly before I head to work. I wondered if you could help me.”

“Sure,” I said, trying not to sound too keen. “Anything.” Anything? What was the matter with me? For once, try not to sound too desperate. “What do you need?”

“I’m after a book,” he said with an apologetic smile. I wish he’d stop looking right into my eyes; I felt as though he’d see right through me and discover my embarrassing secret. Though I didn’t really want him to look away because I was actually quite enjoying the fact that I could almost see myself reflected in his blue eyes that were so close…

“A book?” I repeated softly.

“Yeah,” he said with a soft grin. “You do sell those here, right?”

I mentally shook myself. “Oh, a book.” Of course, why else would he be here, in the bookshop where I worked? He was not here just for the… stimulating conversation. “What sort of book?”

“A travel guide,” he called over his shoulder as he began to peruse the shelves. I followed in his footsteps, ducking to avoid a floating book.

“Where are you going?” I asked, guiding him to the travel section.

“France.”

Should I act like the obsessive freak I really am? I didn’t need to admit I knew exactly where he was going, because I doubted anyone else remembered everything he had ever said to them. Play it cool, Rosie. “Where in France?”

“Bordeaux,” he said decisively, running a finger along the spines of the books. “That’s where Victoire is setting up her business, anyway.”

I nodded, pretending that I hadn’t just ripped the cover of the book I’d been toying with at the mention of my cousin’s name. I scanned the titles of a few books until I found one wrapped in a burgundy cover. “What about this one?”

The Magic of Bordeaux,” Teddy read aloud, nodding in approval. He scanned the contents page and flicked through a few pages, stopping to show me a photograph of a woman crushing grapes with her feet. “I bet Victoire won’t be doing any of that,” he said with a laugh.

I grit my teeth and forced a smile. I bet she bloody wouldn’t, the prissy madam. She’d probably never been caught with one too many biscuits shoved in her gob. Victoire might be getting involved in the wine industry, but I doubted she’d be getting involved in the messier side of wine-making. It would be all tasting and schmoozing for her.

“Was there anything else?” I made my way over to the till.

“Nope, that’s it,” Teddy said easily, following me to the counter. He paid and we were left staring at each other for a moment before he cleared his throat. “You should come and visit us when we’ve settled in. I’ll show you some of the stuff in this book.” He waved the travel guide in his hand with a genuine smile.

Oh, Teddy. I really wished he wouldn’t be so lovely. It made my heart ache with unimaginable sadness to know that he really never would be mine. “I don’t know if I can get the time off work,” I said awkwardly, hoping he’d take the hint.

It would be dream-worthy to spend some time with him in sunny France, with him showing me his new haunts and the local sights. But deep down, I knew it would be a terrible idea. The more time I spent with him the more chance I felt I had. Hope was super dangerous and I really didn’t think I could cope with it. Besides, every time I was exposed to the sun I ended up looking like Larry the Lobster (whoever that was).

“Wow, they do work you hard,” he said with a shrug.

The bell tinkled above the shop door. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the voluminous outline of my boss as he wandered in. Why did he have to be early this morning of all mornings?

With a brief tilt of his head in the direction of Boris, Teddy gave me a final smile. “I suppose I’ll see you around then, Rose.”

I smiled in what I hoped was a casual and pretty manner. I probably looked like a child who had just seen their pet murdered. “Yeah, bye.”

I watched him leave the shop forlornly. The bloody git, as if he was leaving my life in a few weeks. I wondered fleetingly if tying him to my bed was an acceptable form of behaviour; after imagining what my relatives might make of it, I decided that it wasn’t. Still, I was almost willing to try anything to stop him from leaving.

“Stop looking like you just sucked an acid pop,” Boris said gruffly, pinching my fresh mug of tea. “We both know he’s way out of your league.” I glared at him. “Get on with stacking the new books.”

I sighed, returning to the back room to fetch the box of new books. I sorely hoped my obsession with Teddy wasn’t as obvious as everyone made it seem. Clearly Scorpius had no idea; otherwise he’d leave me alone. I settled for venting my feelings through shooting the odd glare towards Boris as he sat behind the counter reading a Quidditch magazine.

Maybe I could visit Teddy in France? A bit of sun was exactly what I needed to cheer me up; everyone knew that January was the most depressing month of the year. You’d just been subjected to far too much turkey, family and cracker jokes, it was no wonder you began the New Year feeling drained. I certainly was exhausted by it all. Or, perhaps, I was exhausted because I couldn’t sleep, frustration and longing for Teddy making me restless. I replayed moments together in my head, regretting my choice of words or shouting at myself to make a move. I knew my conversation with him just now would be one I’d replay in my head over and over again until the memory broke.

The bell above the shop door tinkled again. Behind me, I heard Boris grumble loudly. “This isn’t a bloody gathering place for your boyfriends.”

I huffed as I got to my feet, poking my head around the bookshelf to hiss, “neither of them is my boyfriend!”

Boris smiled sweetly, baring yellow teeth. “Could you please take care of our favourite customer, Rose?”

I stepped out from behind the bookshelf with a sense of dread nestling in my gut; I knew who had just come in, just by the way Boris was enjoying my discomfort. Stalking past him, I joined our blonde-haired customer by the window.

“What do you want, Scorpius?” I demanded exasperatedly.

Scorpius looked slightly abashed at my tone. He nervously patted down a stray lock of hair, removing all trace of any texture to his head. I didn’t really know why he didn’t just shave the lot off and paint his hair on; it would give the same effect.

“I was just passing and thought I’d pop in to see you,” he mumbled nervously.

He was really trying my patience. “You work in Hogsmeade. You weren’t really passing by, were you?” I began to tap my foot impatiently.

“I’ve just been to Gringotts,” he countered triumphantly. “So yeah, I was in the area.”

“Right,” I conceded, defeated. “You’ve seen me now. Is that all?”

I could feel Boris’s eyes on us as I hastily tried to edge Scorpius towards the door. Why wouldn’t he just leave? Couldn’t he see I was really busy? Okay, not busy, but important? Fair enough, not important, but I did need to make a cup of tea…

“No,” he said sheepishly. “I was wondering if you were free for lunch?”

I groaned inwardly, but then I remembered what Molly had said. I tap-danced in my head. “I’m really sorry, Scorpius,” I said sincerely (hopefully). “But it’s Wednesday – I eat lunch with my cousin Molly on Wednesdays. And I’m not sure I can leave work for long.”

“But,” Scorpius leered, digging his hands in his pockets. “I brought you something.”

I frowned, not really sure what to expect. What he did draw out of his pockets was the last thing I ever expected anyone to give me. I accepted his gift, dumbstruck. What. The. Hell.

“Scorpius,” I said evenly, although inside I was horrified. “These are childrens’ toys.”

“Yep,” he beamed.

I waved them in his face. “They’re figurines of my parents.”

“Well,” he reasoned with a sickly smile on his face. “You do kind of look like your mum.”

I stared at him, disgusted. “You have to leave. I have lots to do.”

Maybe if I bribed Boris he would overwork me? He might take pity on me, seeing as we were both awkward souls with awful hair and buck teeth. He was approaching us now to no doubt assure Scorpius that I was indeed too busy. “Actually, Rose,” he began with a cheeky wink. “We’re not that busy today. I’m sure I could spare you for an hour or so.”

I froze, my apologetic smile falling off my face. I turned to Boris, hiding my face from Scorpius. “What?” I hissed. He winked in reply, returning to the counter with my cup of tea.

“Great!” Scorpius said happily.

“No,” I interrupted peevishly. “I’m not going to lunch with you.”

He frowned, pasty skin dimpling. He looked like Nearly Headless Nick on a bad day. “What? But-”

I stuck my hand on my hip angrily, a finger pointing at him. “Look, this has to stop. I don’t like you all that much, I don’t get why you insist on following me around, but I’ve had enough. Please leave me alone.”

Wow, I had done it; I’d actually found my backbone. Scorpius did now look like a dead boggart, but what did I care? I had finally told him what was what! I, Rose Weasley, had told Scorpius to bugger off. I was free from his ridiculous stories about our ‘accidental’ meetings. Okay, he did look hurt, but I refused to feel bad about it. I had asserted myself and I felt like a real person, like a grown-up.

Scorpius stood there with his mouth open for a moment, before angrily snapping it shut and leaving the shop, the slammed door leaving the bell jangling noisily. He was actually gone.

I smiled at Boris, who was looking at me particularly sourly over my cup of tea.

“Nice one, Romeo,” he called as I returned to my box of new books. Would I lose my job if I sent the books flying in his direction? Probably. It really wasn’t worth the risk.

I settled for sticking my tongue out at him. It was only just gone half-past nine and I had already sent two men packing (although I’d prefer it if the first man never packed at all). If Boris wasn’t careful, I would send him packing too.

I settled down on the floor next to the box of books, ready for a boring morning of alphabetising. To keep myself amused, I set the two plastic figures on top of a pile of books and watched as my toy parents fought with each other. I shook my head in disbelief. I really never could escape the craziness.


Chapter 4: Lobster in a Wig
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Lobster in a Wig

“Stop going on about it, Rose,” Molly snapped, getting up from our cosy table in the corner of our local pub and walking towards the bar.

I scowled as I watched her flirt half-heartedly with the barman as she ordered us all another round of drinks. When I was sure she was out of earshot, I turned to my companions with a frown.

“Has she told you why she’s been acting so weirdly?” I demanded, glaring at my cousin Albus as if daring him to reveal the secret she’d been keeping from me.

He nervously fiddled with his glasses and shook his head. “You know I haven’t talked to her since Lucy’s birthday last weekend,” he muttered. “If she was going to tell anyone, it would be you.”

I huffed, not even bothering to ask Lorcan; we hadn’t seen him since before Christmas due to some family expedition he had been dragged on by his parents. He was decidedly out of the loop.

We lapsed into silence, each of us staring at Molly’s back as we tried to make sense of the situation. Molly had hardly spoken to anyone since Wednesday, when I had come to her rescue and whisked her away from a nightmare lunch with Jake with a convenient family issue that had just arisen. She didn’t even thank me; she just clammed up and refused to talk to me about the whole thing. What was the point in best friends if they didn’t even tell you their gossip?

Molly returned with our drinks and the steely glint in her eye softened as she looked from my post-work frizz to Lorcan’s trendy shirt (though I didn’t really call lime green trendy; maybe his insisting that it was made it fashionable).

“Where is everyone?” she asked curiously, noticing the obvious lack of cousins from our usual Friday get-together.

“Roxanne’s,” Lorcan said darkly, leaning forwards across the table. I couldn’t help but notice that the garishness of his shirt looked a little fluorescent in the dimly lit pub. I grimaced a bit; it was a shame that he had to ruin a reasonable face with a green glow. “She’s having a party of some sort.”

“We weren’t invited?” I asked indignantly.

Molly shook her head angrily, strands of red hair flying. “Of course we weren’t, that bitch. Roxanne’s never liked us. This is exactly the sort of thing she’d do.”

Albus coughed, brushing a stray lock of Molly’s hair out of his face. “Maybe the invitations got lost in the post?”

We all looked at him as though he’d announced he was offering to help Auntie Audrey with her family photo album.

Lost in the post?” I let my jaw drop dramatically.

“Lost in the post?” Lorcan repeated, staring wide-eyed at Albus.

Lost in the post?” Molly gasped.

“Yes,” Albus said with a pout. “It’s been known to happen.”

We ignored this declaration, giving each other sideways glances.

“I can’t believe you’re even trying to defend her,” Molly cried eventually, breaking the silence with an appalled look on her face. “Don’t you remember that time she cursed your Head Boy badge so that whenever you tried to pick it up you sprouted warts?”

“I’m sure that wasn’t intentional,” Albus mumbled with a frown. He looked over at me for support.

I shrugged. “What about when she sold your owl to pay for that dress she wanted?” The case seemed pretty closed to me. None of us had ever really understood how she’d turned out as such a spoiled brat, but nobody in the family really liked her (except for perhaps Uncle George, but then he was her father so he didn’t really have a choice).

“I can’t believe they all went to her party,” Lorcan fumed, ignoring Albus’ disapproving looks. He didn’t approve of bitching, which I guess was nice if you needed him to defend you; it just didn’t make him great in interesting conversations.

“It’ll be rubbish,” I declared, sipping my drink. “A part without us isn’t a party at all.”

I decided that ignoring their scathing expressions was the best way to go about the situation. Fine, so we weren’t exactly the heart and soul of every party we went to, but our relatives liked us. Surely someone would notice we weren’t there.

“Right,” Molly said, choosing to brush over the awkward pause that I had created. “There’s only one obvious thing to do.”

Lorcan nodded; Albus frowned yet again. I looked between them bewilderedly. “What’s that? Give Roxanne the Silent Treatment for the rest of the month?”

“No,” Lorcan said patronisingly. “We’re going to the party.”

I stared at him dumbly. “But we weren’t invited.”

“Yes, Rose,” Molly said with an eye-roll. I resisted the urge to hit her; she was so infuriatingly annoying! “That’s the idea.”

I narrowed my eyes and exchanged a glance with Albus. Lorcan grinned happily at us. “We’re going gate-crashing,” he whispered excitedly.

Groaning silently, I gave Molly a pleading glance. “No way.” I shook my head defiantly. “We can’t just turn up. It’ll be so embarrassing! She’ll throw us out in front of everyone!”

I literally didn’t have time to list all the reasons why this was a terrible idea. I could picture the scene in my head; we turned up uninvited, allowing Roxanne to humiliate us all by revealing that we weren’t cool enough for her parties and we would be shunned and outcast and left outside on the wrong side of the door. There wouldn’t even be time to help ourselves to nibbles. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

“Do you think she’s told people that we weren’t invited?” Molly said shrewdly. “She won’t want people to know she’s a bitch. They probably just think we didn’t want to go.”

I gritted my teeth and tried to keep my cool. “I’m not going.”

Albus sighed, cleaning the lens of his glasses on his shirt. “I’m with Rose on this. It’d be rude to barge in.”

“That’s the idea, Al!” Lorcan repeated.

“Don’t call me Al,” Albus growled. He looked a bit like a bedraggled panther trying to scare us. Needless to say, Lorcan took no notice of him.

He was clearly getting frustrated with how boring Albus and I were, but I didn’t really care. I liked being boring; it was safe and easy and much less embarrassing than being crazy and outgoing. Lorcan and Molly could go off and have a jolly time intruding on Roxanne’s lame party and they could bear the humiliation and the laughing faces and the shame. “We don’t even like Roxanne,” Lorcan muttered. “Why do you care if it’s rude or not?”

In the corner of my eye I saw Molly smile smugly and turn towards me. “It’d be nice to see everyone, don’t you think, Rose?” she said sweetly. “I’m sure James and Lysander will be there - Dominique and Louis too. Oh,” she added as a (clearly fake) afterthought. “I should think Teddy and Victoire will be there too.”

Damn; she had me and she knew it. I was another step closer to hitting her. How could she stoop so low? I glared at her as she happily munched on a custard cream. Neither Lorcan nor Albus had registered this ‘subtle’ emotional blackmail, but I eventually I had to admit defeat. Sighing, I held up a hand in surrender.

“Fine,” I grumbled. “I’ll come with you. But only on the condition that Molly takes the blame if this goes sour.”

“Great,” said Lorcan as he downed his ale. “What about you, Al? Are in or out?”

Albus returned his glasses to his scowling face. “It’s not as though I have a choice, is it? I’m not going to sit here like a loner all evening.”

“Let’s go then,” Lorcan announced, waiting for us all to drain our glasses.

We left the pub and with every step we took a deeper feeling of dread washed over me. Luckily, we had a fairly long walk ahead of us; all of us were over the limit and so couldn’t Disapparate. I doubted that even when we’d sobered up I’d be able to act normally. We were going to crash a party! When had we become such rebellious young men and women? Part of me felt extremely cool for doing something so socially incorrect, but the rest of me felt an overwhelming sense of doom. This really couldn’t end well for any of us; especially not me. We hadn’t yet had dinner and I was so hungry I couldn’t see straight. I just wanted to bash my head repeatedly against a wall whilst scoffing chips. Then I’d be happy.

It was a little too chilly outside for me and I shivered as we strolled down the street. I’d definitely chosen the wrong shoes for such an occasion; I had spent hours deliberating over which pair of heels to wear and as usual I’d gone for the wrong ones. They were rather beautiful to look at, though, but damn painful to walk on an uneven pavement. Molly called me a shoe whore, though I’d tried to discourage her from using that term in public; imagine if Scorpius overheard that nickname. I shuddered at that thought, self-consciously looking over my shoulder in case he was standing nearby. That probably made me a bit paranoid, but it wasn’t completely irrational.

Albus and I hung back from Molly and Lorcan as I hobbled up the street. Albus was a good bloke, a very excellent cousin indeed, unlike stupid Molly and green Lorcan. They might want to have some fun but I was completely against it; all fun ended in tears (usually mine) or broken limbs (again, usually mine). Tonight I was going to end up with a broken heart or something equally poetically pathetic. I’d get the same teary effect after reading the Agony Aunt section of Witch Weekly.

“Stop slacking,” Molly called over her shoulder as Albus and I began to walk slower.

Albus glared at Molly’s back and sighed. “Do you reckon they’d notice if we hid somewhere?”

I considered this option seriously as we trotted along the street. Hiding down an alleyway or behind a skip would mean that any future embarrassment was averted; however, then I’d not get to show Teddy how cool I was when I gate-crashed a party. It was a very tricky dilemma.

“It’ll be fine,” I lied. “We’ll just let them do the talking.”

He didn’t see me shaking, so maybe he believed me. He just pushed his glasses back up his nose nervously as we picked up the pace.

My feet were aching by the time we reached Roxanne’s flat. Next time we went out, I’d remain sober just so that we could Apparate instead of trekking across half of London to visit someone none of us liked (okay, ‘half of London’ was a little bit of an exaggeration; it was probably only a mile).

From the other side of the road I could see people standing near the window, no doubt having a lovely time without us. Did we really want to ruin their evening with our presence? I wasn’t particularly selfless, but I thought in this situation it would be rude to interrupt what was clearly a good party. Music wafted on the breeze and I shivered from the cold. Okay, they might be having a wonderful time, but I was bloody freezing and my feet hurt. Sod being selfless.

“Go on, then,” I encouraged, giving Lorcan a poke in the back. He stumbled forward into the road, us following closely behind.

I had the sudden concern that the people near the kitchen window would spot us approaching and warn Roxanne; our whole plan would be destroyed and she’d probably see us off before I’d even manage to sneak a lustful glance at Teddy. “Maybe we should get down a bit,” I whispered dramatically. Albus nodded his approval. Molly shook her head in disbelief, giving me the usual eye-roll. I haughtily ignored her and crouched low, hiding behind a parked car. “Get down!”

I liked to think that they all thought it was a wonderful idea rather than they were just humouring me. With (imagined) enthusiasm, they all crouched down beside me behind the old Ford Fiesta.

“What now?” Molly asked scathingly.

“Um,” I pondered. “We wait?”

We didn’t have to wait long, however. There was a growly sound followed by a flood of light and the Fiesta slowly drifted away from us. I watched it in slow-motion as one by one we were revealed to the people by the window, crouching in the road. Why did cars have to be so bloody noisy? Muggles were useless! That stupid vehicle driving off had drawn even more attention to us and we looked like the worst stalkers imaginable. Bloody hell, all we needed was for Scorpius to join us and they’d take out a restraining order.

I closed my eyes in the hope that shutting out the world would make this all better. I also shiftily pulled my skirt down a bit; crouching wasn’t really that good for modesty. We froze in our positions for a few more moments until the front door opened, causing us to flinch from the light.

I still had my eyes closed, but I could hear footsteps coming closer as they approached us. Maybe I could safely Apparate now? I mean, if I splinched myself I could potentially leave a really embarrassing part of my body behind (like a breast) but at least most of me would be away from this horrific nightmare of an evening.

The footsteps stopped near where I imagined the edge of the pavement was. I squinted into the light, making out their silhouette.

“What the hell!” I cried indignantly. “She invited you?”

I got to my feet so that I could glare at my brother eye to eye. He was the most irritating git and Roxanne invited him over me? That was so unfair. I offered my hand to Lorcan, who took it and pulled himself up. The others followed suit.

“Yeah, she did,” Hugo said smugly. “Why do you sound so surprised?”

“No reason,” I growled, storming past him in a huff and climbing the steps to the front door. He didn’t need to know we were gate-crashing. We could do it sneakily, gradually becoming part of the party until even Roxanne thought we’d been invited.

“Stop glowering,” Molly muttered as we opened the front door. “It makes you look like a pug.”

I tried to relax my features whilst gritting my teeth. Molly was so good for my self-esteem. Lorcan had clearly had enough of my tantrum, slipping past me and opening the door himself. Once again, I admired his terrible taste in shirts (though I supposed this one was better than that one he had with the dirigible plum pattern on it).

As we wandered through the gaggles of relatives and friends, it occurred to me that no one had noticed our entrance. It was clear that Roxanne hadn’t told them we weren’t invited. It was a joke; here I was, doing the craziest thing in my whole life and nobody even noticed. Whose idea was this?

I spotted Teddy standing in the doorway to the living room, so I made my excuses to Molly and changed direction. She was probably only going to go have a bitch at Roxanne about not being invited – I didn’t need to be there for that. I quickly checked in a nearby mirror that my hair hadn’t re-frizzed and squeezed my way down the corridor. I ignored the cries of pain of people whose feet I stepped on (they probably needed sobering up a bit anyway).

“Hi,” I said as I reached him, happily admiring him up close. His cheeks were on the pink side from the body heat in the room, his hair a slightly dishevelled.

He looked down (I hated being short) and smiled. “Hey Rose! I didn’t know you were going to be here.”

“It was a last minute decision,” I muttered. It wasn’t exactly a lie. I looked around for Victoire; if anyone could sniff out obsessive love it was the other half. I needed to be extra careful when she was around. Obviously I wasn’t a threat, but people didn’t like other people perving on their boyfriends. “Where’s Victoire?”

“Dom’s ill, so she’s stayed at home to look after her,” Teddy explained, turning his back on whoever he was talking to before.

“Oh.” I tried not to sound sour at the fact that Victoire was more selfless than I was. “That’s a shame.” Yeah, right.

“Yeah,” he agreed, running a hand through his hair as he leant against the doorframe. “Listen, I was reading through that guide I bought the other day. There’s some great stuff near to where we’ll be living – you need to come and visit one day.”

Oh, Teddy. You could ask anything of me and I’d say yes. Well, I’d perhaps had a bit too much to drink already, but I was tipsy enough not to be my usual awkward self. There was also the hope that he’d had enough to drink to let any craziness on my part slide.

“Yeah,” I said breathily. “I’d love that. I want to learn a bit of French, actually.”

He nodded and I felt encouraged. “Why don’t you ask Fleur for some help? Or I’m sure Victoire would teach you some.”

Well, didn’t that just piss on my bonfire. “Oh, I wouldn’t want to be a nuisance.”

“I suppose the best place to learn is in the actual country,” he added thoughtfully. “We’ll sort something out.”

“Great,” I said, offering him what I hoped was a beautiful smile. It was probably a bit too much, no doubt verging on the creepy. I toned it down a bit.

I briefly recalled the conversation I’d had with Molly last weekend about asking Teddy for advice. Was now the time to breach the subject of Scorpius? He surely must have noticed my pet creeper. It was true what they said about pets; they definitely weren’t just for Christmas.

I looked over my shoulder briefly to check who was nearby and caught Hugo’s eye. He looked between Teddy and me and gave me a significant look. He even waggled his eyebrows a bit. I gave him my best evils and ignored the flush that was rising up my cheeks. If he came over to us I would hex him before he could even say a word. He was not allowed to ruin such a perfect moment.

“I need to ask your advice,” I said after a weighty pause.

“Shoot.”

I took a deep breath, gathering my courage. This was mortifying. “It’s about-”

“Rose?”

Oh come on, as if! I groaned inwardly, turning on my heels. “What the bloody hell are you doing here?” I asked waspishly.

I supposed Scorpius had tried to make an effort for the party; he was wearing his grey dress robes and his hair was almost indistinguishable from his scalp. He’d also combed his eyebrows.

“I was invited,” he responded sardonically, “which is more than I can say for you.”

I blushed a deeply; I now resembled a lobster in a wig. I really couldn’t figure him out – he spent half of his time trying to impress me and the rest trying to mock me. Did he think it was attractive?

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Teddy watching us with interest, so I turned away from him and hissed, “how could you possibly know that? Have you been reading my post again?”

“No," he said indignantly. "Molly and Roxanne are having a bit of a discussion about it. I was just passing by.”

I sighed. “Look, what do you want? I’m a bit busy.” In other words, please go away because I’m talking to the love of my life and you’re killing the romantic mood in my head.

“I came by to say ‘hi’,” he said defensively. “I haven’t seen you in ages.”

I tried not to clench my fists. “You saw me yesterday.”

“Today’s another day, Rose,” he said with a smile. I stuck my hand in my skirt pocket and held the handle of my wand. It gave me comfort to think that I was just a flick of my wand away from normality. I’d get him one day.

The chatter from the crowd died down gradually. I turned around to see why everyone had stopped talking and saw a circle of people around two women in the kitchen. Molly and Roxanne’s voices were slowly rising in volume as they shouted at each other.

“We didn’t want to be invited to your stupid party anyway,” Molly crowed. “We don’t even like you!”

Roxanne, her dark hair falling out of what was presumably once a rather elegant plait, laughed darkly. “Why did you turn up, then?”

There was a deep cough from the crowd and a voice called, “gate-crashers are cool!” That was undoubtedly Lorcan. I hid my face in my hands at the shame of it all. This was beyond desperate.

It seemed Molly couldn’t think up an adequate response to Roxanne’s comment. She threw her a filthy look and reached behind her onto the kitchen counter. She held a biscuit tin in her hands and for a terrifying moment I thought she was actually going to chuck it at our own cousin. Instead, she just called “come on, Rose, we’re going!” and barged past the circle of onlookers to the door, slamming it behind her.

There was an awkward silence, in which everyone turned to have a good look at me, the biscuit-stealer’s friend. I was quite aware that my face was hideously red but I presumed it was too late to try and act cool. Without really thinking what I was doing, I bade Teddy a goodbye with a quick kiss on the cheek and left the flat as fast as I could.

Bloody Molly. Her biscuits were going to be the death of me.





A/N: thank you so much to Rachel for her extremely wonderful help with this chapter. She’s the genius behind the car driving off and the post-checking. She’s also excellent with eliminating the typos!
 

 


Chapter 5: Goodbye Kisses
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Goodbye Kisses

When my parents invited me round for Sunday lunch there was no chance I was going to refuse. My diet mostly involved fried food and biscuits (seeing as neither Molly or I could be bothered to cook fancy stuff) and I recognised a good thing when it stood in front of me smelling of roast chicken.

Sitting at the kitchen table watching my Dad cook was only making me hungry. Once my parents had got over their difficulties with gender stereotypes they realised that making my Mum cook inedible food was pointless when my Dad was actually pretty good. He was too busy chopping vegetables to notice Mum ‘tasting’ the wine he’d set aside earlier.

“Where’s Hugo?” I inquired as Mum reached for the wine bottle to refill her glass. “I thought he’d already be here.”

“He’s doing me a favour first,” she replied smoothly, though I didn’t miss the nervous glance she sent towards Dad. I raised an eyebrow; what had she done now?

“What favour?” I asked suspiciously. My Dad was completely oblivious to our conversation (he really couldn’t multitask) so I didn’t think he’d notice me being nosy. I was dead curious.

“Oh, nothing important,” she said as her cheeks slowly turned pink (I presumed this was from lying, not wine). “He’s just picking something up for me.”

“Right,” I conceded with a frown, letting the issue drop. My mother was a weird one, that was for sure. She probably had her reasons for not telling Dad what she was up to; one reason was undoubtedly that he had a temper like a mouse-trap.

There was a lengthy pause in which we exchanged narrowed eyes and knitted eyebrows. Eventually, Mum gave in to my superior expressions of disdain. “So,” she said lightly, “what’s new with you?”

“Um,” I stalled, wildly trying to remember anything interesting that had happened to me recently. Upon failing, I sighed. “Nothing much.”

“Any boys?” I grimaced at the slight hopeful edge to her question.

“No,” I said with a glare. When was she going to drop this mad scheme to get me wedded before I reached twenty-five? I presumed it was because she was getting broody for grandchildren. Maybe she had a bet with Auntie Ginny on who would be the first to become a grandparent. I shuddered at the prospect. In my mind, my cousins were all still under twenty years old and nowhere near ready to start settling down.

She seemed to take the hint, holding her hands up in a gesture of surrender. “Sorry, Rosie. I didn’t mean to pry. I just worry about you sometimes. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” I said with a roll of my eyes. I was spending far too much time with Molly; the eye-rolling was clearly contagious. “I’m perfectly happy.”

The doorbell rang. Mum drained her glass before getting up to answer the front door. I buried my head in my hands and stifled a groan. It was probably worth finding some poor guy to pose as my boyfriend just to get everyone off my back about tying the knot. I had plenty of my life left, thank you very much, and I was in no rush to do anything of that sort. Just because my parents married young didn’t mean that I had the same shelf-life.

“Just ignore Mum, Rosie,” Dad said over his chopped carrots. I looked up and gave him a weak smile. “There’s no one out there good enough for you anyway.”

“Thanks Dad.” My smile was genuine this time. Underneath the thinning red hair and gangly frame, he really was a sweetie.

Mum avoided my eyes when she re-joined us, sitting down and pouring herself another glass of wine. I frowned and turned my head towards the doorway to see what she was looking so guilty about.

“Rose!” Hugo looked as though the Chudley Cannons had just won the Quidditch season. “Hi.”

“Hello.”

“Set another place at the table, will you?” He stepped further into the room. “We’ve got a surprise guest.”

I looked between my brother and mother in disbelief. I should have guessed who was about to step out from behind Hugo so I was ready to stick my neutral expression on my face. Inside, however, I was seething. My dad didn’t look very pleased either. He had that look he got when he didn’t get fed on time.

“I’ll do it in a minute,” I muttered grumpily. “I need to use the loo.”

I stood up abruptly, squeezing past Mum and Hugo as I left the room.

“Afternoon, Rose,” the very unwelcome visitor said loudly as I passed him.

“Hi,” I said quickly. I ignored his orange tie and green socks and made a break for the bathroom, locking the door behind me.

I sat down on the closed lid of the loo, burying my head in my hands once again. My bloody mother was responsible for all of this. She’d probably offered Scorpius some kind of reward for following me around everywhere. I pressed my fingers into my cheeks, prodding myself for no reason in particular. Maybe if I just stayed in here forever no one would notice and they’d eventually give up on me, though that would probably be after I’d died of starvation. It wasn’t a practical plan, but it was better than me going out there and facing a whole day of Smarmy Scorpius and my insufferable family.

I wasn’t sure how long I sat there prodding my face with trembling fingers, but eventually I heard a tap on the door.

“Rose? Are you okay?”

I glared at the bathroom sink. “Bugger off, Scorpius.” I suspected he had been waiting outside the door the whole time, the weirdo.

“What’s the matter?” He couldn’t even act like he was concerned; his voice had this horrible eager tone to it. He was probably hoping I’d go sob on his beige shirt or something and tell him all my problems. “Are you ill?”

“No,” I grumbled.

How was I going to get out of this without being any ruder? I’d have to say something, or else I’d just sat in the bathroom for half an hour for no reason. That was not normal behaviour. I needed an excuse. I looked around me for inspiration.

“Why don’t you come out?”

“Because,” I started hesitantly, casting my eyes around the room. “I like the smell of this soap.”

As soon as the words left my mouth I stuck my head in my hands again, trying desperately not to bash my head on the wall in embarrassment. What was wrong with me?

“Right,” Scorpius said slowly. “Well, why don’t you take the soap out with you?”

I grimaced, admitting defeat. If I stayed in here any longer I’d start saying even more stupid things like I enjoyed the feel of loo roll on my face. Picking up a bar of soap, I cradled it in my hands and reluctantly unlocked the door. Scorpius beamed at me as I pushed past him.

That was how I ended up eating my Sunday lunch with a bar of soap nestling in my napkin. My brother had given me such a weird look when I sat down at the table with it, but for once he chose not to comment. I ate in silence, listening to the peripheral conversation without interest.

Scorpius was being extraordinarily irritating. He was completely pretending he wasn’t a stalker or a creep and acting like a normal person. No wonder my Mum was getting ideas about him, she had probably never seen his freaky side.

“Are you enjoying your job, then?” Mum was asking interestedly. I inwardly groaned; if there was one thing she loved to yak about, it was work. Knowing my luck she’d end up offering him a permanent position in her department at the Ministry and I would never be rid of him.

“Oh, yes,” Scorpius said with a keen grin. I could see bits of potato stuck in his teeth and I shuddered. “It’s actually really handy because I often pass Flourish and Blotts during my coffee breaks.” He winked in my direction.

I gritted my teeth as my mother looked between Scorpius and me curiously. “Really? Rose, you never said you worked near Scorpius.”

“I don’t,” I growled. “He works in Hogsmeade.”

Mum shook her head as though completely disappointed in me and turned back to further her interesting conversation with him. I looked at my Dad indignantly; he shrugged, giving me a look that said “don’t argue with your mother”. I scowled and prodded a roast potato unhappily. I was so awkward I wasn’t even hungry.

“Ron,” Mum said after a lull in the conversation. “What did I do with that letter from Fleur?”

I continued to mess with my food but I started listening properly now. What had Fleur said to Mum that was important enough to bring up at dinner?

“It’s in that pile of parchment by the kettle.”

“Right, good,” Mum said, getting up to find the letter amongst a huge tower of parchment. Once she’d retrieved it, she handed it around the table for us to read. “Fleur’s throwing a party a couple of nights before Teddy and Victoire leave for France.”

“That’s nice,” I said with false casual interest. “I’ll try to be there.”

I avoided Hugo’s stare and shovelled some chicken into my mouth. I pretended I wasn’t going red.

“I’ll be there,” Hugo said smugly. He then pointed looked at me and raised his voice. “And I’m sure Rose will definitely make the effort to go.”

Shit, this wasn’t happening. My ears grew hot under his stare. I hoped no one would make a big deal out of his comment. Maybe we could sweep this all under the rug.

“I hope you will both go. You may not see your cousin for a while,” Mum said with an air of concern.

I decided it would be unwise to reveal that Teddy had invited me to go and visit them. I didn’t want to draw any unnecessary attention to myself.

“Rose will want to give Teddy a kiss goodbye, I’m sure,” Hugo added cruelly.

“Shut up,” I said through a mouthful of chicken.

“Sorry, Rose,” he replied in a voice that suggested he wasn’t really sorry at all. “Got something to hide?”

My face was unbelievably hot; maybe I should go open a window.

“Hugo, stop antagonising your sister,” Dad chided with a frown. “Just ignore him, Rosie. He’s trying to get a rise out of you.”

Too bloody right he was; he wanted to humiliate me in the most painful way possible. I went over to the kitchen window and opened it, breathing in the cool air for a moment and letting the wind cool my cheeks. If I hadn’t left my wand in my bag in the hall, I would have been very tempted to obliviate my irritating little brother.

When I re-joined the table, my father had engaged Hugo in a conversation about Quidditch and Mum had started to clear the table. I wearily turned to face Scorpius.

“So,” I managed, trying not to wince when he nearly wacked me with his hair gel as he spun around. I felt like telling him he really didn’t need to be applying any more. He stared at me whilst I searched for something to contribute. It was all so off-putting. I gave up, shrugging and looking away.

“What did Hugo mean?”

Oh bollocks. I really did not want to discuss this with anyone except perhaps my therapist in thirty years’ time. “Nothing,” I said uneasily. Why did I always sound guilty? “It was a joke.”

“Why do you want to kiss Teddy goodbye?”

I gave the table the evils. “I don’t,” I grouched. “It was a joke. Will you just drop it?”

He was still staring at me intently. I looked over to Mum for some help, but she just raised her eyebrows and turned away. Was nobody going to help dig me out of this hole?

I boycotted the rest of the conversation on principle. I was surrounded by children who were causing me a lot of grief and two adults who refused to even entertain the idea of helping me. They were all useless. The only person I could really trust was Molly, but she wasn’t there with me. We had run out of biscuits earlier and she had decided that a supermarket shop was in order. Not very helpful of her, but I’d be thanking her later when we tucked ourselves under the rug with a copy of Witch Weekly and two or three double chocolate chip cookies and steaming cups of tea.

As early darkness fell on the winter scenery outside the window, I checked my watch. I figured that now was the perfect time to make my excuses and escape this terrible experience. I stood up, brushing shortbread crumbs off my chest and kissed my parents goodbye.

I pulled my coat on and went to fetch my bag from the hall, only to find myself followed by the very person I was trying to run away from.

“What do you want?” I said exasperatedly. Checking my coat pockets for my wand before remembering it was tucked in my bag.

“Your mum said that I had to walk you home,” Scorpius said with a shrug.

“Did she really?” I said scathingly. “Or are you just using this as an excuse to follow me home?”

“No,” he denied, his hands on his hips. “She didn’t want you walking home in the dark.”

I frowned with irritation. He really couldn’t take a hint. If persistency was what I looked for in a man, I’d be so flattered by his attention. I clearly didn’t look for persistency, as proved by affections for Teddy who most certainly wasn’t persistent with regards to me.

“Oh,” I said in embarrassment. “Well, I’m apparating anyway. So thanks, but I’m okay.”

There was a very awkward pause between us, in which he continued to stare at me. Eventually, I pushed passed him and reached for the doorknob.

“Rose!” I heard my mother call from the living room.

“What?” I called back exasperatedly. She was never going to let me leave in a collected and dignified manner. She was going to drag it out to cause the most discomfort.

“Don’t you dare leave this house without Scorpius!”

I let out a very audible groan of frustration. With an enormous scowl on my face, I conceded. “Fine.”

As I had expected, Scorpius followed me outside. It was bloody cold, but I was careful not to let him see that for fear of an unwanted embrace or something else completely unnecessary to stop me from getting cold.

“So, where are we going?”

I stared at him incredulously. “I’m going home. You know where, you barely leave my street.”

He coughed awkwardly. “Right, yes. Okay. Lead on then.”

I rolled my eyes, fishing my wand out of my bag and turning on the spot. He arrived moments after I did, both of us facing the door to my flat. I could see the light was on in the kitchen and Molly’s silhouette was clearly visible from where I stood. Maybe I could signal subtly to her to try and get her to come out and rescue me; the only thing I could think of was jumping around with flailing arms, which didn’t really seem all that subtle.

Mum was clearly trying to set us up. There was no need for him to walk me home when I had to take about three steps from her front door to mine. She was so old-fashioned.

“Well,” I said after Scorpius made no move to leave. “Thank you for, um, walking me home.”

“It was my pleasure,” he said with a bow. I shuddered, observing his ruler-straight parting as he bent very low. “Any time.”

“Right,” I mumbled. If I didn’t make any positive remarks he might not be encouraged to repeat this afternoon. I just needed to stay quiet and avoid him for the rest of my life and maybe he would forget me.

“Rose?” I stopped in my tracks as I started to turn away from him. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I huffed.

“What did Hugo mean earlier? About you and Teddy?”

“Look,” I started warily. “I really don’t want to talk about it.”

He frowned. “Is there something going on between you?”

“Definitely not,” I conceded sadly. I might as well give up now and just tell him everything. Maybe he would then realise how strange I was and decided he had too much strange for the both of us and clear off.

“I didn’t know you liked someone else,” Scorpius muttered, looking away from me. I felt really awful, though I wasn’t sure why; I never asked him to stalk me.

“I’m sorry,” I offered. “But it’s not like anything will happen, so it doesn’t really matter.”

He frowned again and peered at me. “Why won’t anything happen?”

I laughed hollowly. “Have you seen Victoire? Have you seen me? I’ve got no chance. And I’m not about to break them up, either.”

Scorpius tutted, grabbing a shoulder and shaking me a bit. I stepped back, alarmed.

“I don’t think Victoire is as beautiful as you are, Rose,” he said sincerely. I raised my eyebrows, my cheeks reddening again. “And there’s more to beauty than what you look like.”

“Um,” I stammered uncertainly. “Thanks Scorpius.”

“That’s all right,” he smiled. “I think you’re fantastic. I’m sure Teddy thinks the same.”

This was getting extraordinarily awkward. What was I supposed to say? How was I supposed to remove his hand from my shoulder? Why was he leaning closer?

Now he had both arms wrapped around me, his slimy face drawing closer. His lips touched mine and I tasted blueberry chapstick. It was beyond strange. I was too stunned to do anything, so I stood there dumbstruck as he kissed me. I sincerely hoped I wasn’t about to vomit on him.

He drew back, smiling in what he presumed was an attractive manner. My expression of horror was probably frozen in place, but I had forgotten how to move my facial muscles. He waved goodbye coyly before turning on his heel and disapparating.

I numbly heard the front door of my flat being thrown open. Molly dashed to my side and looked at me in disgust.

“Did you just - ?” she started in disbelief. When I didn’t respond or move, she wrapped an arm around me. “Here, dear, have a biscuit. You poor thing!”

I wasn’t really sure which had disgusted me more: the fact that he had just kissed me or the fact that I had just been given relationship advice by Scorpius Malfoy.
 


Chapter 6: Roses are Red
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Roses are Red

I prised apart my Jammie Dodger with disinterest, not even feeling slightly peckish. Munching on the biscuit (to save the jam for later), I checked the clock by the door. There was only twenty minutes left until my lunch break, twenty long minutes most likely filled with boredom and a niggling feeling of guilt.

My lunch break would no doubt stretch on as long as the morning had done, seeing as today was Wednesday, which meant that Molly would be having lunch with her beau, leaving me alone with the ugly Boris. I didn’t even have the occasional Scorpius visit to look forward to; I hadn’t seen him since The Kiss of Doom on Sunday and I was beginning to wonder whether he’d finally given up hope. To be honest, a very small part of me (my common sense) was missing his constant presence, his head poking through an open window, his leering from the other side of the room. I had nothing at all to amuse me.

Boris strolled into the shop from the back room with a cheery smile on his face (which actually made him look a bit like an old pervert, but I wasn’t about to tell him that). He had two cups of tea in his hands, one of which he set down on the counter in front of me.

“Thanks,” I offered after a pause; I was genuinely surprised by this nice gesture.

Boris grinned. “I thought you could do with some cheering up now that your fella’s dumped you.”

I sighed. “No one has dumped me, Boris. How many times do I have to tell you: I’m not going out with Scorpius.”

“Well, you’re certainly not anymore,” he chuckled through a slurp of tea. I squashed the desire to throw my hot mug at him.

“Shut up,” I scowled, resisting the temptation to accidentally-on-purpose throw my biscuit at him. “You know it’s not like that.”

“Whatever,” he quipped, dunking a ginger biscuit tauntingly in front of me. I rolled my eyes and stalked off to the bookshelves to start my favourite job: alphabetising. It was perhaps the most embarrassing hobby of mine, but at work I could do it all day long without anyone raising an eyebrow. I got paid to do it, too.

I’d only got to Bagshot when the shop door was flung open by what appeared to be a panting lion.

“Molly?” I cried incredulously as I turned to peer at the mess that had burst into the shop. Her hair was about fifty inches wide and her nose was shining; she had really let herself go since she’d set off for Gringotts this morning.

She stopped in the middle of the shop, her wild eyes scanning the room until she found me. Pointing a finger at my dropped jaw, she hissed. “Don’t you judge me, Rose Weasley. We can’t all make zero effort to look nice and get away with it. I’ve had a traumatic day.”

I dropped the pile of books in my arms and rushed to her side. “What’s going on? You’re in a right state.”

She offered me a sad smile before sagging onto a neat pile of books which had been the product of my busy morning. “I just tried to dump Jake.”

I gasped and dropped to my knees beside her. “How did it go?”

“Terribly,” she groaned, burying her hands in her hair. “We fought right in the middle of that really posh restaurant next to Quality Quidditch Supplies and everyone was staring. I didn’t even get to finish my main course.”

“You must be really hungry,” I sympathised, rubbing her back in what I hoped was a soothing manner. “Come on. Go fix your hair and I’ll take you out for lunch.”

“Okay,” Molly sniffled, leaning on me so that she could stand up. She disappeared into the back room for a few moments before returning, fresh and sleek. “I’m ready,” she announced, the tearstains miraculously wiped from her face. I tried not to wonder if they’d just been for dramatic effect or to nudge me into buying her lunch.

“I’m off for lunch!” I called to Boris and hastily dashed out the door before he could remind me that my lunch break hadn’t even started yet.

I looped my arm through Molly’s and Disapparated. As we meandered up the street towards Jesús’ café, I noted that she had a very strange look on her face. She didn’t seem at all as determined or in control as usual and I was itching to find out just what had gone on between her and Jake to demolish her spirit so much. I was practically dragging her.

She drooped into a chair by the window, looking forlornly out of the window like a sad puppy (but with more hair). I grimaced, sliding into the chair beside her and sending a significant look towards the counter where Jesús was fixing his maracas. He brushed his long hair from his face and set the maracas down, giving me an exaggerated nod and disappearing into the kitchen.

“Molly,” I said with a sigh, handing her my napkin in case she started crying. “Don’t look so sad. We could have seen this coming.”

Molly waved away my napkin and took out her own neatly folded handkerchief, waving it around a bit before blowing her nose loudly. “I know, but I feel so awful about it. I think he was shocked, that was the worst bit about it. It was like I was the evil one, when he’s the one who snores and has an obsession with salamanders.”

I nodded understandingly, patting her hand awkwardly. I had no idea what to say to her; I had never broken up with anyone (I didn’t have the backbone for it). After all, I’d failed to get rid of a fairly nice stalker for five years. She shouldn’t take any advice from me.

“I know,” I soothed lamely.

Luckily for me, Jesús arrived with ice-cream sundaes, followed by a generous shot of vodka for Molly. My expression of thanks turned quickly to stern disapproval as he whipped out his ukulele from behind his back and opened his mouth to sing. With a glare, he retreated to behind the counter, where he stuck pins into England on his map of Europe.

“He was so nice,” she said sadly.

“I know,” I said again, poking my spoon into my ice-cream. “There will be other guys. Plenty more fish in the sea and all that.”

“Yeah,” she agreed cautiously. “Maybe.” We ate in silence, food having taken our full concentration once again. Molly munched on her wafer thoughtfully. “I could really do with one of your embarrassing but funny stories right now.”

“What, so making fun of me makes you feel better?” I scowled.

“Something like that,” Molly agreed with a small smile. I sighed.

“Fine,” I huffed. “I needed to have a rant with you anyway.” I paused to try and wave away my ice-cream headache. “Basically, Aunt Fleur thinks I’m a nun.”

Molly nearly choked on her ice-cream. “A nun? Rosie, I know you’re a little bit conservative but even I can see that’s a bit harsh!”

“Yeah, well, she didn’t see it that way,” I grumbled. “She wrote to Mum yesterday, saying she was concerned about me because I haven’t had a proper boyfriend in a few years. And I have, so she can get stuffed. Just because Teddy and Victoire are living happily ever after doesn’t mean I have to.”

“Right,” Molly agreed. “Happily ever after is off the cards for you.”

“Exactly,” I concurred. “Wait, no,” I backtracked hastily. “Happily ever after isn’t necessarily off the cards, it’s just there’s no rush. We’re still young and I’m not an old hag like stupid Victoire.”

“Yeah.”

“I bet Victoire’s behind it. She loves winding me up; she’s probably been telling everyone that I like being asked why I’m still single and unloved.”

Molly shook her head. “You are not unloved; I love you.”

“Thanks,” I said with a dramatic sigh.

“And I should think Scorpius loves you,” she added with a dramatic wink.

In attempting to cheer her up I had successfully made myself depressed. “Yeah, I don’t think he does anymore. I haven’t seen him since Sunday.”

“Since Sunday? But that’s… four days!” If her eyebrows were raised any higher they would get lost in her hair (quite an easy feat, when I thought about it; Molly often lost pencils and biscuits in there).

“Yeah, I know. Who would have thought it? All I had to do to get rid of him was let him kiss me.” I stabbed my ice-cream a little harder than I had intended. “So basically, even my stalker has gone off me. I’m such a loser.”

Molly rolled her eyes; she seemed to have perked up considerably. She was almost back to her old self. “You’re not a loser. You’re just a bit… different.”

“Thanks,” I said indignantly. “You’re such a supportive cousin.”

“My pleasure.”

I finished off the rest of my ice-cream (Molly had polished hers off whilst I had been moaning) and stood up. “We should head back to work.” I pulled Molly up and left a tenner on the table for Jesús, telling him to keep the change as we left.

“Don’t wait for me after work today,” Molly said, turning slowly on her heel as she prepared to Disapparate. “There’re a couple of things I need to sort out first. I’ll see you later.”

Then she Disapparated, leaving me standing all alone even after I’d gone to the trouble of buying her an ice-cream lunch. Grumpily, I returned to work to enjoy an afternoon filled with ignoring my boss’ warbling to the wireless and trying to sneakily read up more about the town Teddy was moving to. All I discovered was that it was famous for its wine, so I was already mentally beginning to make plans to visit. I didn’t really need an excuse, but I was beginning to hope that Teddy leaving would do me good. With Scorpius now out of the picture and Teddy shortly departing, I could clear my head of thoughts of men and get on with being a hermit in peace. With that happy thought in mind, I continued to stare wistfully out of the shop as the rain beat against the windowpanes.

*

When five o’clock finally arrived, I headed home without Molly. I secretly liked having the flat to myself because it meant she couldn’t nag me for leaving biscuit crumbs on the floor, sofa or my jumper. I knew she only liked the flat to be tidy in case she had guests (I never did) but sometimes I wondered if she was just concerned I was wasting valuable morsels of biscuits. Quite frankly, I enjoyed not hanging around a psycho, as much as I loved her.

Whilst looking for some comfy socks in the bottom of my wardrobe, I managed to dislodge a stack of shoe boxes and ended up sat on my bedroom floor surrounded by debris. Amongst the mess I found a worn old shoebox with the word “shrine” scrawled across it.

I smiled ruefully as I threw the lid aside and examined the contents of a box filled with things collected by my fourteen-year-old self. In all honesty, I thought (hoped) that I’d thrown it out years ago, but seeing as I didn’t know I still had it I doubted that anyone else would have found it either. Scorpius wasn’t the only one a little bit in obsessive love – I would admit that as a teenager I had been a little overly keen on Teddy, and in this box I had placed a few items that I’d managed to sort of kind of maybe steal from him. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t valuable objects; I removed a name label sewn into his old school robes that Hugo had inherited, kept the birthday cards he had sent me over the years and pinched the school leaving ceremony photo duplicate his grandmother had sent my aunt and uncle. Admittedly this was Scorpius-worthy stuff, but the main point I should stress was that this was all nearly ten years ago. I had grown out of being a stalker and I was quite certain Scorpius would too at some point.

I was watching the eighteen-year-old Teddy grin at me through the photo frame when the doorbell rang, causing me to both jump and drop the photograph at the same time. I hastily shoved everything back into the box and stuffed it into the wardrobe.

“Just coming!” I called as I dashed to the mirror to check I didn’t look my usual self or ugly. The coast was clear, so I flung the front door open and shoved a smile on my face when I saw who it was. “Hi Victoire.”

“Hello Rose,” she responded warmly, removing her sunglasses as she stepped into the hall. I nodded, appearing calm whilst inside I was shouting “who wears sunglasses in January? It’s RAINING!”.

“What can I do for you?” I said edgily as I moved towards the kitchen and thus the kettle. In the back of my mind I was wondering if I’d actually put that lock of Teddy’s hair back in the box. As long as Victoire didn’t ask to see my room I’d be okay.

Her sparkling, bright blue eyes that reminded me of polluted water (a bit, if I concentrated really hard) scanned the room as she tossed her fair hair over her shoulders. “I’m actually after Molly,” she said slowly, as if talking like a moron would allow time for Molly to turn up. “Is she in?”

“No, she had something to see to after work,” I replied, trying to keep the smugness out of my voice. Now she’d actually have to bother with me, except that I didn’t particularly want to talk to her either and now I’d be locked in a stalemate of small talk. “I’ll pass on a message for you if you’d like.”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” Victoire trilled. “It’s just Molly has great taste in clothes and I was hoping she’d help me pick out a dress for my leaving party. I’ll swing by tomorrow to see her.”

What a bitch. Why couldn’t she ask my opinion on clothes? She could have at least tried to hide that insult directed at me; she was so bloody rude sometimes. I didn’t see why Teddy was so fond of her, which was a pretty harsh thing to say about my own cousin. Well, you know what they say about family: you love them but you don’t have to like them.

“Oh, okay then,” I said, turning the kettle on for want of something to do. “Tea?”

“Yes please,” she called as she plopped herself down on the sofa in what Molly and I liked to call the living room, except it wasn’t much more than an extension on the kitchen. She smoothed her skirt out to remove the creases and started powdering her nose.

“How do you like your tea?” I checked the clock behind me whilst she wasn’t looking to see how long I would definitely have to put up with her; I reasoned that Molly would be gone another hour or so.

“It doesn’t matter, however it comes,” she answered distractedly; she was engrossing herself in the brand new copy of Witch Weekly I had picked up on the way home.

I was sorely tempted for about three seconds to put in about six teaspoons of sugar because I hated it when people let me choose how they took their tea. It didn’t take much to say “milk, one sugar”. Maybe Victoire needed lots of sugar in her tea to keep her sickly sweet. Luckily I banished that thought; I doubted she would find it funny as she didn’t seem to have any sort of sense of humour whatsoever.

When I joined her on the sofa with the tea, she neatly replaced the magazine on the coffee table and turned to me.

“So, did Molly finally dump Jake?” She looked hungry for gossip, I noted warily.

I raised an eyebrow. “How do you know about that? She only dumped him a few hours ago. That’s why she’s gone out.”

“I just put two and two together,” she said amiably. “Molly told me about her dilemma the other day and I suggested she should dump him.”

“Oh,” I mumbled.

So Victoire and Molly were bosom buddies now? Since when did Molly need to ask Victoire for relationship advice? What was wrong with me? Bloody Victoire, she just arrived and stomped on me like a beetle under her foot, all in the space of twenty minutes. She wasn’t even qualified to give advice, anyway; she probably had never dumped anyone in her life because they’d all got in there and dumped her first (and rightly so).

“So tell me about you and Scorpius.” I did not like the way she leaned towards me, eyes widened and eyebrows raised. She looked like a hyena.

“There is no me and Scorpius,” I grumbled. “Where did you hear that?”

“I didn’t hear it anywhere,” she said happily. “There’s a bouquet of roses sticking out of your wheelie bin. I happened to glimpse the name on the card as I passed. Are things not going well?”

“Roses?” I repeated dumbly.

“Well yes, I did think it was a poor choice too; terribly cliché, if you don’t mind me saying.”

“No,” I said slowly, standing and approaching the door. “I didn’t see any roses when I got home earlier. Are you sure they were for me?”

“Yes!” She clearly thought I was being an idiot, so she flounced past me, throwing the door open and fetching the roses from the bin. She placed the flowers in the sink and handed me the small card. “See? They’re for you.”

I read the familiar handwriting with a heavy feeling of guilt nestling in my stomach. Why had Scorpius thrown these away before even giving them to me? I had I offended him that much? I was so bloody confused and bewildered. Victoire returned to her cup of tea with a satisfied smile on her face (she probably thought she was cupid or something else equally laughable). All I could do was stare at Scorpius’ note with a quivering brow and a heavy heart, rereading it even though there was nothing more to see.

Dear Rose,

I’m sorry.

Love,

Scorpius.



Chapter 7: Worst Case Scenario
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 Worst Case Scenario

Stepping through the front door, I shrugged my coat off and stuffed my umbrella into the umbrella stand. It was bloody freezing outside, the late January winds messing up my, er, immaculate presentation and icy raindrops soaking my socks. I hated winter and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

“Rose, is that you?” Molly called from the kitchen. I considered throwing back a sarcastic ‘no’ but decided against it.

“Yeah, it’s me,” I said as I joined her. I passed her the milk from my shopping bag and hopped onto the worktop. “Put the kettle on, would you? I’m perishing.”

Molly raised an eyebrow as she eyed the state of my clothes and hair. “You know you could have just apparated, right?”

I huffed, using my wand to boil the kettle out of impatience. “I only went round the corner to get some milk. If I apparated everywhere I’d end up looking like a right porker. I needed the exercise.”

“Right,” Molly conceded with an eye-roll. She got two mugs from the cupboard; hers decorated with the Ministry of Magic logo and mine the hideous gift I’d got for my birthday from Scorpius two years ago.

“Didn’t I throw that out?” I asked irritably, watching the picture of Scorpius wink at me cheekily from the shiny surface of the mug.

“I salvaged it,” Molly chirped happily, handing me my hot mug of tea. “Never look a gift horse in the mouth and all that.”

I almost went to tug a clump of her copper-coloured hair, but remembered at the last minute that I was supposed to be a mature adult; or, at least, an adult of some sort. “What does that even mean?”

Molly looked from her mug of tea to me and back again a couple of times before sighing. “I don’t really know. It just sounded good. Mum says it sometimes.”

I smiled despite my attempts at being grumpy. “Well, we both know your mum is a bit of a nutter.”

Laughing, Molly started to rummage in the cupboard for a fresh packet of biscuits. She shared a few between the two of us, nibbling thoughtfully. “Do you fancy coming with me to Victoire’s in a bit? She wants me to go over and help me look at some clothes with her.”

I grimaced at the thought of that. Victoire had made it quite clear that she didn’t want my opinion where fashion was concerned and I wasn’t about to go and put myself through an afternoon of torture just because Molly couldn’t handle her on her own.

“Why would I want to do that?” I dunked my ginger biscuit in my tea, eyeing Molly amicably. I was waiting to see what amazing argument she would come up with to convince me. I could almost see the cogs turning in her brain as she looked for persuasive words.

Eventually, she grinned, pointing her biscuit triumphantly at me. “Teddy will definitely be there. I’ll keep Victoire occupied with clothes and you can have him all to yourself, all afternoon.”

I sighed forcefully. “I hate you.”

“No you don’t.” Molly grinned, taking a step towards me. “You love me for securing a date with the love of your life, the man of your dreams, the one who takes your biscuit–”

“Oh shut up,” I mumbled, biting my lip to stop me grinning. “The only thing you’ve secured me is the need for therapy in the not too distant future.”

“You’re such a worry wart,” she said, poking me in the ribs. “Ignore the future, the time is now. How do you expect to steal him off Victoire if you won’t even see him?”

I spluttered as I took a sip of tea. “I am not doing any stealing, thank you very much. He needs to realise he hates her and loves me without unnecessary thieving.”

“Whatever you say,” she said, backing away from me. “But you really shouldn’t let him slip away from you.”

“If you love someone you’re supposed to let them go,” I countered, sticking my tongue at her.

“No, you’re bloody not, Rose!” Molly said exasperatedly. “What is the matter with you? Just tell him how you feel. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Lots of things,” I muttered evasively. “Like rejection and humiliation.”

“And then what?” Molly pestered, handing me another biscuit even though I’d lost my appetite.

“And then,” I continued petulantly, crushing the biscuit in my hand. “My family would find out. And they would disown me. And Victoire would never forgive me.”

“And then?”

I frowned. “Then I’ll die an unloved and lonely old spinster.”

“Exactly,” Molly beamed. “So it won’t make the slightest bit of difference.”

I scowled. “You’re making fun of me.”

“Of course I am, Rosie,” she said lightly. “Now stop being so precious and go and tart yourself up a bit.”

I drained my mug and did as she said; there was really no point in arguing with my cousin. She was too clever and too witty to beat in an argument and I’d accepted long ago that my part in our relationship was to provide amusement and entertainment, not wisdom. I shrugged on a silk shirt and found a clean pair of jeans. Dragging a hairbrush through my hair, I began to wonder why I was even bothering to make myself look presentable; I really doubted my own motivations. Keeping Molly happy would just have to be enough for now.

Molly beamed as I plonked myself down beside her on the sofa. “There,” she cooed. “That’s loads better. Are you ready to go?”

I nodded half-heartedly, grabbing my handbag from underneath a pile of magazines. Molly chose to ignore the mess I’d made and we left, heading towards my inescapable doom.

I wasn’t really one for house envy, but standing at Teddy and Victoire’s door made me automatically wish I could kill them both and steal their house. It was, admittedly, in the middle of nowhere, but I figured that would be a selling point – no ‘accidental’ stalking incidents.

They were moving soon, I remembered, thinking about potentially bribing my rich and famous family to buy me this house. Then again, would I really want anything that belonged to Victoire? This house was tainted. I shook my head. Why on Earth was I standing here acting like an estate agent? I wasn’t here to buy the damned house.

Molly rang the doorbell, holding an umbrella above my head so my hair didn’t frizz up. I appreciated this gesture, but unfortunately it was too late to save my silk shirt, which had gone rather see-through. No matter, I’d use a drying spell once inside to save any embarrassing flab incidents.

The door was flung open to reveal a beaming Victoire, her hair neatly pulled away from her face, the fancy old cow. “Molly!” she exclaimed in delight, standing back to let us in. “And Rose, too. Hi.”

Yep, that was me – the afterthought. I wasn’t all that bothered, seeing as I hadn’t come here to see my overbearing cousin and the less time spent in her company the better.

She whisked Molly upstairs after pointing me in the direction of the kitchen. I took a deep breath and sucked my tummy in, readying myself for a very awkward but secretly enjoyable afternoon. I stepped through the door, calling in my most beautiful voice, “hello!”

Unfortunately, my lovely vocals were wasted; the kitchen was empty. I sighed heavily, realising I had actually been put on tea duty, not sent to see the man of my dreams (not that Victoire was allowed to know that, of course). I made us more tea and trotted upstairs to hand over the offending drinks.

“Thanks, Rose,” Victoire said as Molly pulled various outfits out of the wardrobe. I pretended to be interested for all of five seconds before returning downstairs and finding myself somewhere comfy to sit.

Stupid Molly, convincing me to go with her – what was I supposed to do now? I put down the cup of tea I hadn’t really wanted (and I couldn’t recall why I’d made myself one, anyway) and rummaged around the sitting room for something to do. As I stuck my hand down the back of a cream sofa, I wondered if Victoire would feel it necessary to clean after we’d left. Eventually, I found an old copy of the Daily Prophet and settled down to read the three-week-old articles.

By the time I’d got to page three (The Miraculous Recovery of Gilderoy Lockhart), I heard the front door swing open and a set of feet pad through the hall. I had a ten-second long discussion with myself about how I should react when Teddy walked in; should I pretend I hadn’t heard him and continue reading the paper? Should I put the paper down ready for his entrance? Should I compose a song and welcome him in with singing? By the time I had decided to pretend I hadn’t heard him, he had already walked in and caught me off guard.

“Rose,” he said warmly, crossing the room to greet me. He kissed me on the cheek before I could put the newspaper down, leaving my arm and the newspaper squashed between us. I was about ready to die. “Hi.”

“Hello,” I said, my voice a bit throaty after scalding it with hot tea. “The kettle’s on – er, I mean, I just boiled the kettle if you want a cup of tea?”

Thankfully, he declined my offer. I really couldn’t handle working out how to make his tea drinkable, it was too much pressure. He reached into his bag, drawing out three books and handing them to me.

I examined the covers; they were all in gobbledegook or something and I struggled to make out what they said.

“I just went to Fleur’s to pick these up for you,” he explained, brushing damp hair from his face. “I thought you could have a look at them before you come and visit us in France.”

Ah, they were French! I blushed from the gesture, smiling at my feet to save me from looking into his eyes and getting trapped there. “Thanks, Teddy. That’s really sweet of you.”

“It’s no problem.” He plopped himself down on the sofa and I resumed my seat beside him. I sincerely hoped he couldn’t hear my heart drumming against my chest with nervous energy. After so many years of knowing him, how was it this hard to act normal around him?

“Did you enjoy Roxanne’s party?” I asked, trying to fill any potential silence. My ears grew hot just at the memory of our exit. I really needed to owl Albus and give him that voucher for therapy I got free in Witch Weekly last week.

“Yeah, it was okay,” he said, clearing his throat. “I’m sorry that you had to leave early.” I hoped I imagined that mocking tone in his voice.

“Yeah, so am I. But you know what Molly’s like, she’s like a dog with a bone.” I smiled edgily, glancing at him out of the corner of my eyes as he smiled along with me. We were doing too much polite smiling, it was far too awkward. I looked away again.

“I wouldn’t worry if I were you; there’ll be other parties for you to gate-crash,” he joked, biting his lip to stop himself smiling more.

I grimaced. “Thanks, Teddy. I’ll look forward to that.”

“Well, you got an invite to my – our- leaving party, right? So that’s one that you definitely can’t gate-crash.”

I sighed inwardly, wondering if I really wanted to go and bid the happy couple farewell as they embarked on their happily ever after. I’d much rather spend the night at home drawing moustaches on pictures of Victoire.

“Yeah, I got the invite.” I fiddled with the hem of my shirt (which was still damp, I realised). “It’s the week after next, isn’t it? I should be free.” Obviously, I’d need to consult my very full diary. I was just so popular that I was sure to be invited to at least four other parties that night. Pulling out my diary from my handbag, I hid the pages from Teddy as I skipped forward a couple of pages, pretending to read through a long list of appointment. In all honesty, the diary was just a prop; I never used it and every page was empty save for the occasional doodling. “Well, there’s this other party that day, but it’s not important. I’ll definitely come to yours.”

“Good,” he said with a grin. I snapped my diary shut and hastily stuffed it back in my bag before he could call my bluff.

We sat in thoughtful silence for a bit. It was going to be weird without him around; all the excitement in my life was about to leave and I’d be left with nothing but my eccentric cousin and my ex-stalker to keep me company.

“It’s going to be weird moving,” Teddy said sadly, pulling his knees under him and turning to face me. It would be rude if I continued to stare at my sodden shoes, so I huddled my knees to my chest and swivelled.

“It will be much more quiet, I’m sure, without us lot hanging around all the time,” I offered, unsure of why I consoling him. I didn’t want him to leave, after all.

Teddy laughed, allowing me to glimpse a moment of his unguarded emotions. His eyes crinkled as he chuckled, cheeks glowing. I smiled, too, hoping that I looked anywhere near as gorgeous as he did. “That’s true, Rose. I’m looking forward to the peace and quiet.”

How was I supposed to express how much I would miss him? I didn’t want to reveal too much, but Molly’s advice was still ringing in my ears. I had to tell him how I felt, even if it wasn’t the whole truth. I should just tell him that I’ll miss him; that would be enough.

“I’ll…” I began, my heartbeat picking up again. Miss you. Just say it, woman! “Er, I’ll… put the kettle on.”

Dammit, I was such a failure. This made me look like even more of a freak than “I’ll miss you” would have done. Teddy’s eyes flicked towards my untouched cup of tea. I blushed, deciding that I still had to commit to my freakishness. I stood, leaving him to ponder how weird I was, and scuttled off to the kitchen.

“Rose?” he called after me.

“What?” I said, trying to keep the embarrassment out of my voice.

“You forgot your mug.”

I cringed, grateful that he couldn’t see my face. “Right,” I conceded, deliberately looking away from him as I retrieved my mug and went to hide in the kitchen.

It was about time I disapparated and did everyone a favour. Why had I let Molly convince me that coming here was a good idea? This was bloody torture. Teddy was going to leave no matter what I did and I was still here, making an absolute idiot of myself. How low could I get.

I sniffled, trying to ignore the fact that quite a bit of time had elapsed since I went to “make tea”. It was as though with every passing minute I was becoming more like Scorpius (a loner with no friends and a slight propensity to act like the village idiot). I wanted to go home and hide under my duvet with a custard cream.

“Rose?” Now was not a good time for Teddy to wander in; my eyes were watering and I was probably drooling at the thought of food. I coughed awkwardly. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” I squeaked. What the hell had happened to my voice? Panicking, I looked around me for an alibi and spotted my mug. “I, um, I just got tea in my eye.”

“You got tea in your eye,” Teddy repeated evenly. Fortunately, he decided to just humour me. He reached round behind me to get me a tissue and pressed it into my hand. “There, that should help.”

This was humiliating. I was now pretending to wipe tea from my eye, which really made the whole situation seem more dismal. To my dismay, the eye-watering only got worse. Teddy watched me curiously as I tried to deal with my problem. I blinked hard, hoping to dispel the pesky tears. I really didn’t need to be feeling sorry for myself right now.

He passed me another tissue, scooting round to lean against the counter beside me. “Thanks,” I mumbled awkwardly.

“Why don’t you stop poking yourself in the eye for a moment and tell me what’s wrong?” Teddy probed.

“It’s nothing,” I said, flustered. He raised an eyebrow, and I sighed dramatically. “It’s stupid.”

“So?”

My shoulders sagged. “It’s just,” I said into my tissue. “I’m weird.”

Teddy frowned. “No you’re not, just tell me what’s bothering you.”

I glared at him. “That’s what’s bothering me! I wish I was normal and I didn’t act like a freak all the time and I didn’t keep embarrassing myself.” I drew a breath. “And I don’t want to keep being humiliated because I can’t act like a normal person. And I don’t want any more tea!”

Teddy raised his eyebrows, taking the cup of tea further away from me. “There, no more tea. That’s one problem solved.”

What I had just said was finally catching up with me and I felt my cheeks go hot. If I hadn’t left my wand in my bag I would have just disapparated there and then. I looked away from him.

“Listen, Rose,” he said gently. “Being normal is overrated. And you’re not weird. You’re just a bit quirky.”

“Quirky,” I repeated limply. “Right. Well, thanks.” I stuffed the tissues in my pocket. “I suppose I ought to go,” I added awkwardly. “Bye.”

I turned to leave, but Teddy grabbed my wrist. “You’re not weird, Rose. Stop putting yourself down.”

I stared at where his hand joined my wrist, trying to kick my brain into gear. “Thanks, but I really need to go now. I’ve humiliated myself enough already. Tell Molly I’ll see her at home.”

I felt really queasy as I went to fetch my bag, leaving the premises with a sinking feeling in my heart. This afternoon had been a complete disaster. Normally, it was an effort to act normally and hide myself, but I had gone above and beyond the cause and basically revealed myself. No wonder Scorpius used to be so keen on me.

As I let myself into the flat, I spotted the wilting roses still stuffed in our wheelie bin. He was the only person who had looked past my weird self and I had even chased him away. I had serious issues. I shook my head, resolutely deciding to ignore all my woes for the evening. I was going to enjoy a fresh pack of biscuits with Molly when she returned from cow-face’s house and she would help me laugh at myself and call me affectionate terms like Negative Ninny and Miserable Minnie and things would pick up. I only had two weeks until Teddy left, anyway, and then life could go back to normal, whatever that was. It wasn’t like I was an expert in normal.




A/N: Thanks so much to everyone for reading this far and thank you for the faves/reviews/reads etc. If you have a moment, please review! I appreciate all feedback. -Marina


Chapter 8: Pretty as a Picture
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Pretty as a Picture

I set another round of drinks down on our table. It was an actual miracle that I’d managed to carry them all the way from the bar to where we were sat cosily in the corner of the pub without spilling it either down myself or on someone else (I had spilled half of Molly’s drink on some woman’s bag, but seeing as the bag was offensively ugly, I felt it was no big loss). I crawled over Lorcan so that I could squish into my seat in the corner of the bench, noting the unpleasant potency of his after-shave. If you didn’t recoil in shock from anything Lorcan wore, it wasn’t worth wearing in his opinion. I sucked in my breath as I passed the drinks around.

“So tell me again, who did you see Hugo with last night?” Lorcan had been dishing the dirt on my brother as I had gone to get us some more drinks. I was hoping it was someone particularly ugly or gross so that I’d not be upstaged by him again. It always surprised me how he managed to get reasonable dates whilst I struggled on as a lonely singleton. Having no partner was better than an embarrassing one.

“Jane Finnegan,” Lorcan told me with a grimace. “She was in the year below you at Hogwarts.”

Her?” I raised my eyebrows. “But she’s pretty.”

“Wasn’t she a prefect?” Albus mused.

“Wasn’t she blind?” I interjected scathingly. I couldn’t believe my brother had managed to pull someone attractive. Life was not fair at all.

“She’d need to be,” Molly said with a grin. “He’s not exactly a catch, is he?”

I gulped some of my drink. “Not exactly,” I agreed.

Lorcan brushed his highlighted hair from his face. “They were both pretty drunk, if I recall rightly,” he shrugged. “That cheap redcurrant rum in the Hog’s Head can knock even Freddie out after a couple of glasses.”

Albus frowned. “What were you doing in the Hog’s Head? I thought you were banned after that time with the goblin and the nun-”

“I do have friends outside of the Weasley family, you know,” Lorcan interrupted swiftly. He smoothed down his hair once again. “I was working, if you must know. Then I stopped working to spy on Hugo and his friend.

Molly snorted into her butterbeer. “Right,” she said in a voice laced heavily with sarcasm. “Because you’re the obvious ‘Employee of the Month’.”

Lorcan held his hands up defensively. “I take my job very seriously!”

Albus laughed. “You’re a milkman.”

Crossing his arms and pouting, Lorcan glared in response. “Yeah, and I was delivering milk. Got a problem with that, Al?”

Albus scowled and took the hint to shut up.

“Didn’t you even try and ruin his evening?” I asked disappointedly.

“We’re not all antisocial like you, Rose,” Lorcan jested. “I didn’t want to be rude.”

“To his face,” Molly added wickedly.

I huffed. “Didn’t he see you at all?”

Lorcan shook his head smugly. “Of course not. I don’t exactly stand out from the crowd, do I? I just blend in with the scenery.” Molly, Albus and I sniggered as we looked him up and down, from his over-bleached hair to his stripy patent shoes. Lorcan had never blended in. “Okay,” he conceded. “Maybe I’m not completely inconspicuous. I just didn’t make a scene. You should try it sometime, Rose – it’s quite fun.”

“Oi,” I said, miffed. “I take offence at that. I don’t do it deliberately. Scenes just seem to find me at the most awkward times.”

“Whatever,” Lorcan said with a cheeky smirk. He drained his glass and rose from his seat. “Now, who wants another drink?”

Murmurs of “only if you’re paying” were heard before Lorcan trotted off to order us another round. Sometimes I wondered why I hung around with these people I referred to as my friends. They picked on me, the easy target. I suspected they were merely jealous of my superb social skills and evident beauty, or something like that, anyway.

We watched in amused silence as Lorcan attempted to chat up the barmaid and failed miserably. She probably wasn’t impressed with the fake tan and glow in the dark teeth.

“I don’t know why he bothers,” I mused as Lorcan pressed the flower on his shirt so that it squirted water at the barmaid’s face. She didn’t look impressed. “His chat-up lines could turn off a rabbit.”

“It keeps him busy, I guess,” Albus chipped in, swirling the dregs of his butterbeer around his glass. “It’s a bit like you and Scorpius; stalking is merely a pastime.”

“It’s nothing like me and Scorpius,” I scowled, glaring at his bespectacled face. “He has plenty of other things he could be doing but he chooses to bother me. And Lorcan doesn’t upset anyone or affect their daily life. Scorpius is an imposer.”

“You love the attention, Rose,” Molly quipped, winking at me. “He makes you feel loved.”

I arranged my face in what I hoped was a believably shocked face. “That’s ridiculous! I don’t need him to give me love – I have family and… family for that. Even if you do show it in peculiar ways.”

Albus seemed to buy my over the top horror, but I knew Molly was rolling her eyes without even looking at her.

“So it doesn’t bother you that he’s stopped following you around?” Molly’s tone was far too accusatory for my liking.

“He hasn’t stopped,” I denied. “He’s probably just busy… with important things.”

“Ha!” Molly cried, flipping all her carrot-coloured hair to one side and whipping Albus and me in the face. I spluttered. “I knew it. You can’t bear the thought that he’s not interested in you anymore. You hypocrite.” She grinned gleefully at me and I gritted my teeth in an attempt to stop myself from hexing her.

“That’s not true at all,” I said calmly after swallowing a gulp. “I was defending the effectiveness of his efforts. It’s not fair of you to slight him.”

Lorcan then chose this rather awkward moment to return to his seat. Thankfully, he ignored the colour of my cheeks and passed me another drink. I sipped it thoughtfully.

“Molly has a point though, Rose,” Albus said apprehensively. “Nobody’s seen hide nor hair of him for a couple of weeks. Do you think he’s finally got the message?”

I shrugged. “Maybe.” I felt really uncomfortable with the idea that he’d given up. He’d been there for years, a part of my everyday life that I’d come to take for granted. He was the interesting part of my life, a part of my “quirky” side. Now I had one less thing to moan about and I didn’t like it at all.

“I think it’s a good thing that he’s taken the hint, Rosie,” Molly said, squeezing my hand gently. “You don’t need that sort of bloke hanging around you all the time. He scares off the good ones, I reckon. The offers will start flooding in now.”

I sighed wistfully at the prospect. Visions of dapper young men offering me drinks and flowers (and biscuits) floated in front of my eyes. I must have gone glassy eyed or started drooling because I jumped when Molly snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Sorry,” I said with a hasty cough to cover up my drifting off. “I was meditating.”

“Right,” Molly muttered with a disturbed frown. “Sure you were. Were you dreaming, by any chance, because I think your dream is about to become nightmarish.” She looked pointedly over my shoulder and I turned to follow her gaze.

Rat Boy stood in the doorway, leaning in what he presumed was a seductive manner but in my opinion he just looked winded. I rolled my eyes and faced my cousins again. “Not him again. I’m really over this stalking thing, no matter what you say.”

Albus shook his head bemusedly. “Just a minute ago you were suggesting that you missed him.”

“You need to kiss and make up,” Molly added sweetly. “There’s clearly some tension between you.”

Sexual tension,” Lorcan said through a fake cough.

Molly raised her eyebrows suggestively. “You ought to clear the air with him.”

I gritted my teeth. “Shut up. He hasn’t seen me yet and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”

To my dismay, I saw Molly and Lorcan exchange a half glance and before I could say “not on your biscuits”, they had both shouted “Scorpius!”.

My heart sank as I heard him approach our table. I looked down at my feet and saw his purple suede man-heels and closed my eyes out of the cringe factor. Nobody said anything for a good minute, whilst Molly and Lorcan tittered to themselves and Albus patted my knee sympathetically (not for a full minute, just briefly - that would have been odd). Eventually I raised my eyes and manage to choke out a “hello”.

There were no spare chairs for him, the pub being popular and especially busy on a Friday night, so he just stood there awkwardly, running a hand through his over-gelled hair as though he had nits.

I needed some air. I could feel Molly and Lorcan smirking at me out of the corners of their eyes and Albus looked like he wanted to melt into his seat. The pressure was on my to provide entertainment in the form of making a fool out of myself; I could do that just fine without an audience and I didn’t particularly appreciate being forced into this situation. With a heavy sigh, I climbed over Lorcan and stood up beside Scorpius.

“Do you want a drink?” I asked heavily, hoping that he’d take the hint and come with me away from the table.

“No thanks,” he responded with a grin. “I’m teetotal.”

I grimaced. “Well I definitely need a drink so you can accompany me to the bar.”

Grabbing him by the wrist, I marched him over to the bar where I ordered a double shot of firewhiskey. His company required copious amounts of alcohol to make him anywhere near tolerable.

He didn’t say anything until after I’d downed my shot. “How are you?”

I winced at the burning sensation in my throat. “Fine,” I spluttered. I could feel curious gazes on us and I looked around for somewhere with a bit more privacy. “Look, we really need to talk. In private,” I added as I turned my back on my friends.

Scorpius nodded. “Okay. Where?”

“Well, we can’t stay here,” I conceded, glancing around the room at the packed pub. There were no spare chairs, let alone any spare tables. “If we go back to mine, they’ll be sure to follow.” I tilted my head in the direction of our table. Scorpius nodded, catching my drift.

“We can go to my house,” he offered. I caught his eye and there was this understanding between us that we were to ignore all connotations of leaving together and to just pretend like nothing out of the ordinary was happening. This suited me down to the ground; I was all for ignoring problems and putting on a brave face.

“Let’s go, then.” I strolled back to our table, grabbed my coat and bag and bid them goodbye. “Don’t wait up for me, Molly. I need to sort out a couple of things with Scorpius.”

Molly’s eyebrows disappeared into her fringe. “Are you going home with him?”

I glowered. “It’s not like that,” I hissed as she lowered her left eyebrow slightly. “Shut up.”

I flounced off, heading for the exit with Scorpius in tow. As we left, I heard Lorcan call “have a safe time!”

I blushed furiously, but luckily it was dark outside and my red cheeks could easily be attributed with the cold wind. Scorpius took my hand, squeezed it, then we Disapparated.

I almost whistled when I saw his house; he (or rather, his parents) had completely renovated the Shrieking Shack in Hogsmeade and it was almost completely unrecognisable from the pictures of it my parents had shown me from when they were at school. He let us in, flicking his wand to give us some light.

I wrinkled my nose at the décor; he clearly had lots of money, but money couldn’t buy you good taste. This was evident in his choice of wallpaper (orange polkadot on lime green) and furniture. As he led me into his lounge, I wanted to close my eyes to block out all the clashing colours.

“Why do you have a statue of a drowning monkey?” I asked disgustedly as I looked around the dark room.

“Do you like it?” Scorpius responded proudly. “It was a present for my twenty-third birthday from my aunt. I’d been hankering after it for ages.”

“Right,” I said, backing off quickly before he revealed he was after any other strange or terrifying gifts.

We stood awkwardly side-by-side in the middle of the room whilst I tried to look anywhere but at the weird things adorning the walls. I could have sworn that there was a glittery pig’s head in the cabinet at the other side of the room.

I shuffled from one foot to the other. “Do you want a biscuit?” Scorpius poked me, causing me to jump out of my uncomfortable reverie.

“Um, no thanks,” I said despite very much craving a good ginger biscuit. In the back of my mind I had a nagging feeling that he’d have some very odd biscuits on offer that I’d have to oblige him by eating just because they were biscuits.

“I have some soap if you’d rather have that?”

I didn’t know if he was trying to be funny or just being extremely rude. “No thank you. I had some earlier.” I barely managed to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. He shrugged.

“So,” Scorpius said as he plopped himself down on the leopard print sofa, realising that we were just standing there in silence. “What do you want to talk about?” He patted the space beside him but I chose to ignore his gesture. Instead, I sat in the tartan armchair by the fireplace.

“I found the roses you sent me,” I said with some hesitancy. “I don’t understand why you threw them away.”

Scorpius patted down a flyaway strand of hair and looked away nervously. “I changed my mind. I thought you’d get the wrong idea if I started sending you flowers. I don’t want to upset you.”

I frowned. “You didn’t upset me. It was mildly sweet,” I conceded. “I thought I’d upset you. I was a bit tactless the last time I saw you.”

Scorpius shrugged, worrying the edge of the glow in the dark rug with his toes. “I understand. I’ve been a bit forward.”

“A bit,” I teased, smiling slightly. “I’m a tad curious why you never tried to win me over using normal methods. Does the obsessive stalker act usually work for you?”

Scorpius blushed. “I’ve never tried it before. I just didn’t know how else to let you know I liked you. And it’s kind of working now, isn’t it? At least, we’re sort of talking.”

I laughed at the irony of it all. It was true; we were sort of talking, much against my better judgment.

“You’re not all that bad,” I admitted, with a little push from the firewhiskey. “Just lay off the creepy and we’ll get along much better.”

He nodded, resting his hands on his knees. “I can do that.”

“Good,” I said, casting my eyes around. “Can I use your loo?”

Scorpius pointed to somewhere through the coffee-stain effect wall. “Third on your left.”

I crossed the room, feeling his eyes on me and pretended that I didn’t feel like the biggest loser ever. What was I doing here, pretending like we were friends? Sure, he was being nice now, but I couldn’t exactly forget his past weirdness, like that time in Seventh Year when I caught him levitating outside my window as I got dressed and when he followed me all the way to my new flat after I’d moved out of my parents’ house. But he was being so friendly; I didn’t know what to think.

I approached the next door on my left, pushing it open without much thought. When I turned the lights on, I almost screamed in horror.

“Scorpius!” I cried. “What the hell is this?”

He rushed to my side and followed my gaze. I was staring at an altogether more horrific wallpaper; this room was covered from floor to ceiling in pictures of me. Rose petals hung on string from the ceiling and there were all sorts of things I recognised on small tables all around the room. On one, there was a pile of t-shirts that I’d assumed had blown off the washing line. On another, there was a load of handwritten shopping lists that I’d discarded. As I walked around, looking on in more horror at each item, I wondered how long he’d been collecting all of my junk.

“This isn’t the loo,” he muttered obtusely, his cheeks a very noticeable red.

“What was I just saying?” I grumbled exasperatedly. “This is creepy, Scorpius. You can’t go around stealing and – and worshipping my stuff. Is this some sort of shrine?”

He slowly started backing away from me – I must have looked quite a sight, hair flying, cheeks red and surrounded by thousands of equally disturbed Roses in their frames. “I didn’t think you wanted any of this stuff…”

“That doesn’t give you the right to keep it,” I said, shaking my head. I leant against the table, before leaping up from where I’d sat on my old braces. “That is so gross,” I mumbled to myself.

“I haven’t taken anything recently,” Scorpius mumbled embarrassedly. “Not for about six months, I promise.”

I shook as I tried to control my temper. I was very close to grabbing my empty bottles of perfume and throwing them at something. “I don’t understand why you would do this. This is a… a violation of my human rights or something.”

He had almost backed into the door now. “I’m really sorry. I just wanted to be close to you. I wanted to know more about you.”

I buried my hands into my hair frustratedely. “There is more to me than this crap.” I looked around at years’ worth of stuff, trying to salvage the situation. “Throw it out.”

“What?” He reached behind him for the doorknob.

“Stay where you are,” I ordered, inching closer to him. “You’re going to throw all of this out right now and then we’ll pretend this never happened. Then, you’re going to find me a bottle of firewhiskey and escort me home.”

He had the good grace to nod meekly. His hair had started to lose its stiffness as his sweat dissolved the gel. At least I was making him fear me a bit more; perhaps I should have let rip a long time ago. Fumbling with his wand, flick by flick he destroyed all the evidence. I sagged against the wall as he vanished the last of my odd socks.

Leaving briefly to fetch me that bottle of firewhiskey, he finally approached me, head down. I took the bottle from him gratefully. “I’m sorry, Rose,” he said softly as I drank straight from the bottle.

“Just promise me,” I said with a gasp as the liquid burned my throat, “that you’ll never ever do something like this again. I’ll never talk to you again if you do.”

“I promise,” he said quietly as I held the cool bottle against my burning cheeks. “This is the most embarrassed I have ever been in my whole life.”

I scowled at him. “Me too.”

He looked guilty. “I really am sorry.”

“I know.”

“Can I make it up to you?” he asked hesitantly. I eyed him suspiciously. “Let me take you out to dinner. I’ll prove to you that I can be normal.”

I took another swig. “How do I know that it won’t end in disaster?”

He frowned. “You don’t. Anything can end in disaster. But I’ll do my best to show you a good time.”

I rolled my eyes. There was no such thing as a free lunch, so my mother always told me, but a free dinner was never worth passing up. “Fine. But let’s go somewhere where we’re not going to meet someone we know. And keep it a secret.”

He finally grinned. “Okay, it’s a date.”

I glared at him. “No it bloody isn’t.”






Author's Note: I just want to thank PenguinsWillReignSupreme for giving me the idea for the shrine - if she wasn't so fabulous I'd never have built my own shrine in order to worship her amazingness. As always, thank you dear.

Also, I would like to dedicate this chapter to the acquaintance of nextgenoration/NGSeries/Ash who apparently told her one day that she was reading this story and they were able to have a moment of Real Life HPFF bonding. I don't know if you've read this yet, but I hope you're enjoying the story! By the way, I've named you Doris as I don't know your real name :) - Marina


Chapter 9: Book Borrowing
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Book Borrowing

I curled a lock of hair around my finger, sighing as another minute went by. I had been at work for one hundred and forty three minutes exactly, and bloody Boris hadn’t bothered to show up yet. I understood that it was his shop and he had no boss to answer to, but he could have had the decency to alert me that he wasn’t coming in today so that I could have shut the shop and bunked off myself. No, instead I was trapped, manning the shop by myself until he deigned to grace me with his presence.

Eventually he strolled in, bringing half a raincloud in with him. The weather hadn’t cheered up yet, clearly. He shook his limp hair from his face and smiled smarmily at me.

“What time is it?” he asked innocently, looking around for the clock which usually hung on the wall, but I had taken down so that I could watch each second go by as close to my face as possible (no room for error).

I scowled. “Time you got a watch.” I chucked the clock at him, which he inspected briefly, then arranged his features into a shocked expression.

“Blimey! I had no idea I was running so late.” He levitated the clock back onto the wall and removed his mac. “Sorry, old chum.”

I sincerely wanted to inform him that I wasn’t old and I wasn’t his chum, but it seemed as though he was in one of his peculiar moods where he’d dodge all criticism in favour of denial.

“You’re lucky we’ve had a quiet morning,” I muttered darkly as he went to boil the kettle in the back room. I noted that he didn’t offer me a drink before he went to make himself one.

Luckily for him, a customer had entered the shop and so I was forced to give her my full attention. I greeted the little old lady with as much grace and good humour as I could muster.

“It’s raining bats and frogs out there, son” she gabbled as I took her umbrella from her (I didn’t want any of that rainwater near our lovely books, otherwise they’d go as wrinkly as she was), forcing myself not to stab her with it; had she just mistaken me for a bloke?

I blamed Scorpius for this; he hadn’t spoken to me since the Shrine Incident, and as a consequence I was compensating for his absence by becoming more manly. I’d be growing a beard soon.

“How can I help you today?” I said instead of committing grievous bodily harm.

The old lady tucked her wand up her sleeve and looked at me pensively. “Yes Boris, that’s what I said: Wednesday.”

I grimaced; not only was she batty, she was deaf and blind too. She seemed to have mistaken me for my oaf of a boss when we really looked nothing alike. He had very little hair and a squashed face whereas I… I had lots of hair. I really wasn’t in the mood for this – I just wanted my lunch, not be mistaken for my ogre boss.

“My name isn’t Boris,” I informed her. “But he’s just in the back room if you want me to fetch him for you.”

“No – no no,” she spluttered, shaking her head wildly. “I don’t want him. It’s to do with his father.”

I wondered how I was going to escape from this crazy lady; she had a weird glint in her eye that looked thoroughly menacing in this light. She leaned towards me slightly.

“Right,” I said, knowing I would get nowhere by questioning her. “Lovely.”

Instead of looking satisfied with our exchange, she scrunched her wrinkles into a deep frown. “It most certainly is not lovely, laddie,” she snapped at me. I was more than a little taken aback and nearly dropped her umbrella. She was still mistaking me for a man; what did I have to do, take my top off? “It has been a horrific day. Wouldn’t you know, he even wrote me out of his bill, the jammy dodger. He’s leaving his wheel of fortune to our son.”

“I’m sorry,” I amended hastily, presuming that her husband had died or something. “I must have misheard you.”

“Yes, Horatio, you’re right.” She relaxed, clasping her hands to her heart briefly before looking around the shop. We stared at each other for a few minutes, playing an unspoken game of ‘chicken’. Who would speak first? “Well,” she barked. “Aren’t you going to offer to help me?”

“How can I help you, madam?” I said with a forced smile.

She started wandering between the bookshelves, squinting at book titles she presumably couldn’t read. I wasn’t sure if she’d heard my question or not, or was just choosing to ignore me.

“I need to know how to break magical contracts,” she said.

I led her over to the law section. “What sort of contracts?” I asked, even though I knew exactly what she was planning on doing. She was extremely sketchy, if you asked me. The black and white stripy robes didn’t help.

“A bill,” she said impatiently, pulling books off the shelves willy nilly.

I briefly considered calling the Magical Law Enforcement Squad; she looked bloody sinister and I got the feeling that she’d either force me to help her carry out some evil plan or stab me with her umbrella, stealing my heart to wear as a new hat. I plucked “The Wizarding Will: An Introduction in Will-Making for the Wealthy Witch or Wizard” from the shelf behind her and showed her.

“This one has won lots of awards,” I lied, hoping for a quick sell so that she’d leave and I’d still be alive in time for the pub on Friday. “It’s highly recommended by all those in the business.”

She inspected the front cover. “Oh no,” she said, shaking her head so vigourously that all her wrinkles jiggled. “This is not what I’m looking for. It’s blue.”

“Oh,” I mumbled, placing the book back on the shelf. “I’m sorry.” I scanned the other books for something in a better colour. I plucked a green book from the shelf this time. “How about this one? It’s by Mona E. Grabber.”

“No, no.” She pulled a blue book from the other side of the shelf she was staring at. “This is the one I want.”

She handed it to me and then marched over to the till. I looked at the title: “How to Charm your Garden Gnomes.” I raised my eyebrows, shaking my head slightly.

“That one’s blue,” I commented lightly, trying to discover if the lady had a sense of humour. She scowled up at me, her little black eyes disappearing into her wrinkles.

“It’s navy,” she snapped. “Boris doesn’t like navy. I’ll take it.”

I sighed inwardly, taking the book from her and escorting her to the till. As I always reminded Boris, the customer is always right.

After the little old witch was gone, I marched into the kitchenette, where Boris was sticking stickers on his earlobes. I ignored this peculiar activity and tapped him on the shoulder.

He jumped, spinning round. “Has my mother gone yet?”

I growled frustratedely, biting back any remarks involving curses or swearwords. I swallowed. “Can I go for my lunch break now?”

“Not yet,” he commanded as I started to turn away. “I need to give you something.”

I waited for him to finish his ear decorations. He led me to the counter and pulled an envelope out of the drawer.

“These are for you,” he said, thrusting the envelope into my hands before I could decline. “Don’t you dare return them; I know what you’re like and there’s no need to be awkward about it. I want you to have them.”

I felt along the seams of the envelope, trying to work out what was inside. I predicted it was a letter. “What is it?”

“The lads and I often indulge in a bit of racing,” Boris said proudly, puffing out his chest. “There’s two tickets in there to one of the races this month. Take your boyfriend, make a day of it.”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” I denied automatically, tearing the seal on the back of the envelope and pulling out two yellow slips of paper.

“Pish posh,” Boris said, flapping his hands. “It’s your birthday soon. Consider this an early birthday present.”

“My birthday isn’t until June.” He continued to grin at me, so I decided to drop any resistance. I looked down at the tickets: Camden Crazy Carpeting! “Boris – you don’t happen to race flying carpets, do you? I thought that was illegal…”

Bloody brilliant; not only was he content to leave me to run his shop by myself, he was going to make me serve his prison sentence too. I paled; I couldn’t go to prison! They didn’t have lots of mirrors and enough biscuits to keep me warm. I’d die. I hastily stuffed the tickets back into the envelope.

“It’s not illegal,” Boris soothed, watching my frenzied stuffing. “More like frowned upon.”

What the heck was he getting me into? I tried to push the envelope towards him, but he pranced away, avoiding my outstretched arms.

“I can’t be seen at an event like this,” I said shrilly. “I’m a Weasley! It’ll be all over the papers and then they’ll start rumours that I’m shagging Scorpius and stealing his fortune!”

Boris arched an eyebrow. “Are you?”

“No!” I spat indignantly. “I’m not. He’s my stalker and that’s as far as it goes. I was just making a point.” I put the envelope down on the counter. “I’m really sorry, it was a kind gesture but I can’t accept this.”

Boris twiddled with his newly decorated earlobes. Sighing, he picked up the envelope. “You’re so boring.”

I ignored him and started walking towards the door.

“You need to learn to be a little more spontaneous,” he grumbled from behind me.

I spun on my heels, pointing at him accusatorily. “I am spontaneous! Look, just watch!” He watched me as charged towards the door. “How’s this for spontaneous?” I yelled, flouncing out of the shop, the door clattering behind me.

In my anger, I had forgotten to grab my umbrella before leaving and my pride wouldn’t allow me to go back into the shop to protect me from the rain. Instead, I marched up the high street, water clogging up my clothes and plastering my hair to my face. I clenched my wand in my hand once I reached the Leaky Cauldron, turning on the spot and disapparating.

Mercifully, it was only mildly overcast in Hogsmeade. I shook my hair off my face and dried myself with my wand. Then, I marched towards the Shrieking Shack at the top of the village and banged as hard as I could on the door, irritation pulsing through my veins.

A rather abashed-looking Scorpius answered the door. Before he could say a word, I grabbed him by his shoulders and pulled him towards me, kissing him roughly on the lips before standing back and contemplating my handiwork.

“What are you doing?” he spluttered, staring at me with wide eyes.

“Being spontaneous,” I growled.

We considered each other for a moment, Scorpius looking wary as he waited for me to calm down a little.

“I didn’t like that,” I said after a while.

“I did,” Scorpius muttered.

I ignored him pointedly. “What does bloody Boris bloody know?”

He chose not to comment. I seemed to come to my senses, eyeing his choice of attire. He was dressed in a beige dressing gown and maroon slippers. I checked my watch and raised my eyebrows. “Are you not dressed yet?”

He frowned indignantly. “It’s my lunch break.”

“Right,” I mumbled, deciding not to question him further. We stood uncomfortably in the doorway until I looked at him pointedly.

“Oh,” he said, stepping back. “Come in, then.”

“Thanks.” I squeezed past him into the dark hallway; the grey sky outside was not enough to light the large hall.

Scorpius continued to stare at me, running a hand through his freshly re-gelled hair. “What’s the matter?”

That’s when I realised I was glaring at him. “Nothing’s the matter,” I said starchily. “Why do people always assume there’s something wrong with me?”

He stifled a smile. “You just kissed me.” He laid a hand on my shoulder in what he presumed to be a comforting manner. I shrugged him off.

“I’m fine,” I said, trying to relax the muscles in my face but I was too tense. “My boss is just a git. He thinks I need to be less boring.”

Scorpius simpered. “I like boring.”

Okay, so it might not have been the most flattering of compliments, but at least he was trying to be nice. Unless, of course, this was his backwards way of telling me my breath tasted of spoiled milk and wanted nothing more to do with me ever again. I was more inclined to believe the former.

“Thanks, Scorp,” I said heavily. I wandered into his living room, sagging onto his sofa. Even after our conversation the previous Friday, he had not changed the décor. I didn’t even want to check if the shrine was still there.

He joined me on the sofa a couple of minutes later, carrying a plate of biscuits in his hands. “Ignore your boss,” he said as I nibbled on a ginger nut. “They’re all the same. Mine thinks I’d make a better owl than a person.”

I choked on my biscuit whilst stifling a laugh; I’d just had a mental image of Scorpius as an owl, feathers slicked back with gel and following me around town. “I’m sure that’s not true,” I lied. There was no doubt about it; he’d make a great owl.

I titled my head in the direction of the shrine-room. “Did you –?”

“Yes,” he said abruptly, taking my empty plate and disappearing into the kitchen. I followed him in there, wincing slightly as bright purple kitchen units came into view. Honestly, I didn’t think it was possible that anyone had worse fashion sense than Lorcan, but he clearly took the biscuit.

“You’re not angry, are you?” I heaved myself onto the kitchen counter and observed him (it took me two tries, and elegant wouldn’t be the first word I’d use to describe that manoeuvre). “I didn’t mean to be harsh. It was a bit of a shock.”

He shrugged, his back towards me. I couldn’t see what he was doing, but I could just imagine his pursed lips. “It’s fine.”

So, he was definitely a bit miffed; that was probably why he hadn’t been to see me all week. I’d heard not a peep out of him and he hadn’t come into shop since last week. I sighed. “Please don’t be mad at me. I didn’t mean to offend you or anything. I was just hoping that we could maybe be friends?”

His shoulder twitched. “Friends?”

“Well,” I said hastily, stumbling over my words. “It’s just that you’re nice and I’m boring and I quite like your company as long as no one knows.”

He turned to face me, his lips all scrunched up in what was supposedly a pout but really just made him look like a cat’s bottom. “I thought that the whole shrine thing had put you off. You’ve avoided me all week.”

“I haven’t been avoiding you!” I spluttered. “I was waiting for you to visit like you usually do but you never did.” I glared at him accusatorily. “I waited,” I repeated for extra emphasis.

It was starting to rain outside. I should have stolen that old lady’s umbrella…

“It wouldn’t have taken much effort to come and see me,” Scorpius muttered. “But you’re here now. So we’re fine.”

This was becoming an extremely bizarre conversation. He kept saying we were fine, but why did he look so unhappy about it? He was so confusing.

“Good,” I said unsurely.

He observed me through those watery eyes, looking like he was about to cry. “What about Teddy?”

I frowned. “What about him?”

He leaned in slightly, giving me a view of his slight monobrow. “Do you want to be friends with him?”

I hesitated. Did he mean friends as in friends, or friends as in FRIENDS with a huge amount of sexual tension and innuendo? I coughed awkwardly. “Erm,” I managed. “Not really.”

“Oh,” he said, much more cheerful. He even let a crooked smile escape. “That’s good.”

Oh, I got it, now we were fine; he thought I was still pining after Teddy. Obviously he didn’t need to know the truth; that I was planning on crawling into his suitcase and going with him to France. I’d live in his wardrobe for the whole time, peeking through the gap to watch him at my leisure. Or, you know, I could be normal and let him go and be happy. Whatever worked.

Our deep and meaningful conversation was then thankfully interrupted by someone ringing the doorbell. We traipsed back into the hall, Scorpius opening the door onto a bedraggled looking woman.

I wondered if there was somewhere I could hide; I briefly considered ducking behind Scorpius and using him as a shield, but that would probably make the whole situation a million times worse.

“Rose?”

I tried not to look her in the eyes. “Hi, Mum,” I squeaked. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mum and Scorpius exchange glances. “What are you doing here?”

To her credit, she looked just as embarrassed to be there as I did; her hair was still damp from the rain and her coat was sodden. Her cheeks were red, probably from the cold but most likely because I’d caught her visiting Scorpius’ house when she probably didn’t have a good reason to be there.

“I’m returning a book,” she flapped. “What are you doing here?”

I could have told her that I’d decided to like Scorpius, or that we actually got on okay, but I knew I would never hear the end of it if she let it slip to another member of the family. I either had to admit that I had been mistaken or think of something else. It was such a hard choice…

“I’m returning an owl,” I said boldly, trying to keep the bewildered look from my face. I came up with the stupidest things under pressure.

“An owl?” she quizzed, stepping out of the rain and scooting into the hall. The door slammed shut behind her. Mum turned to Scorpius. “Are you still working in the Post Office, then? I’ll have to pop in and see you next time I need to send an owl.”

I chanced a glance at Scorpius. He couldn’t read his expression, but I liked to imagine that he looked as relieved as I did. For such a clever witch, my mum had a particularly large blind spot as far as I was concerned.

“You’re welcome to,” Scorpius said after I finished scrutinising him. “I give out free soap to all my favourite customers.”

I clamped my lips together like a fish to try and stop myself laughing, but I accidentally made an unpleasant sucking noise. Mum looked at me oddly. I was actually getting quite fed up of being looked at like I had the giant squid crawling out of my nose, though maybe if I did it might actually be an improvement on my current facial features.

Mum smiled at Scorpius, her new favourite young man, apparently. “That’s very kind of you, Scorpius,” she said genially. She reached into her bag and handed Scorpius a large, worn book. “Thank you so much for lending me that, it was most enlightening. I must dash, but I’ll pop in and see you sometime next week.”

Scorpius saw her out, rain pouring into the hall where he didn’t shut the door quick enough. “Bye, Mrs Weasley.”

I raised my eyebrows when he returned his attention to me. He merely shrugged. “What?” he queried innocently.

I shook my head exasperatedly and checked my watch. “Look,” I began. “I have to go soon. But I wanted to organise something for this weekend.”

“Are we still going on that date?” He looked so hopeful, like a puppy.

I didn’t really have the heart to kick such an innocent looking face, so flying carpet race it would have to be. "Do you want to come along with me?”

The intensity of his beam made me feel so guilty for continually bursting his bubble, but not for long. I needed to avoid guilt, as it tended to make me do stupid things like steal biscuits for Molly and give Albus haircuts.

“Sure,” he agreed, without even batting an eyelid at the choice of activity. I was grateful that he didn’t accuse me of trying too hard to be interesting or anything. “And then I’m going to buy you dinner.”

And it was on that promise that I returned to work, feeling a little more cheerful than I had before. I mulled over what Scorpius had asked. What did I really want with Teddy? He seemed so out of reach that I’d never really acknowledge that there could ever be something between us. He was more of a hobby, and one that left me feeling insecure and lonely. I never felt like that when Scorpius was around. I supposed I couldn’t complain; I was finally getting an interesting love life. It wasn’t exactly all it was cracked up to be.
 


Chapter 10: Camden Crazy Carpeting
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Camden Crazy Carpeting

It was raining, yet again. I threw myself through the front door and slammed it shut. My hands tore through my hair, separating bedraggled lock after bedraggled lock. If you wanted to personify "wet dog", I was pretty much it; hopefully I smelled a bit better, though. I chucked the new bottle of milk at Molly, who was waiting at the kettle to make us our morning cup of tea.

"If I put an extra spoonful of sugar into your tea, will you be more reasonable?" Molly asked cheekily as I collapsed in a dripping heap onto the sofa. I was having difficulty rearranging my features into a happy expression, or at least one that didn't suggest I'd just walked out of one of Auntie Audrey's dinner parties.

"Aren't I sweet enough already?" I retorted sourly.

Molly looked at me, raising one eyebrow. "No."

"Charming," I muttered, struggling with my boots momentarily before I sent them flying halfway across the room. I picked up the Saturday edition of the Daily Prophet and began to read the headline: Minister for Magic Candidate Gilderoy Lockhart's Lost Memories. "They're not still going on about this, are they?" I had been most surprised when Mum told me that her old professor was running for Minister for Magic after miraculously regaining his memory. She'd been a bit cagey about the circumstances in which he'd injured himself, which I attributed to the fact that she was secretly planning on voting for him. I couldn't really blame her; his smile was captivating.

Molly thrust a cup of tea into my hands, which I nearly dropped from the heat. "Yeah," she mused, taking the paper off me and beginning to read for herself. "He's calling himself a hero."

I snorted. "A hero, right. Dad says he's making it all up, all that stuff about his youthful adventures. If you ask me, I think he went a bit potty in the loony bin."

"I suppose," Molly conceded, admiring the photo on the front page; Lockhart grinned smarmily back at her. "But you have to admit, it would be nice to have a good looking Minister for once. The last one was a right toad."

I nodded in agreement. “Yeah.” The last Minister, Edwin Duckford, had looked like he had crawled out from under a bridge somewhere. "I'd certainly go and see him give speeches. Maybe I could take up politics?"

It was Molly's turn to snigger. "You? Public speaking?" She was now full-on laughing her head off, bearing all her teeth in a llama-ish fashion. "You'd never make it to the end of a speech without food. You’d have to pause to stuff your face, and I'm pretty sure people don't vote for pigs, you know."

I thought this was unnecessarily harsh, considering that we'd both just agreed the wizarding nation had voted a toad into office last time.

"Speaking of food," I said distractedly, "do we have any biscuits left? I noticed you went on a midnight binge last night."

Molly's cheeks coloured, matching her unbrushed hair. "I'll pop to the shops later. But I need to get dressed first."

I shrugged, looking down at my own attire. "I wouldn't bother. The people in the newsagents round the corner never comment on mine."

Molly scrutinised my blue sheep-print pyjamas. "It's not about the people in the shop, Rose," she said snootily. "It's about having some self-respect."

I rolled my eyes. "Do they sell that there too? Maybe you could pick me some up when you go to get the biscuits."

“Yes, I’d noticed you’d run out,” she said smugly, scrunching her face up into a deranged grin that was presumably a declaration of her winning the battle of the wit. She may have won the wit battle, but I won the looks war.

She was so childish. I stuck my tongue out at her and she threw the newspaper at me, which wasn’t actually so bad because the picture of Lockhart landed on top of my face and I got to gaze into his eyes for a moment, before realising I was perving on a man three times my age. I flapped at the newspaper until it fluttered to the floor.

“I don’t know why you’re gloating,” I said waspishly. “I’m not the one who revealed their bum to a whole pub full of people.”

Molly gasped indignantly, turning away from the cupboard where she presumably kept her emergency stash of biscuits to glare at me. “That was an accident! I was just pulling my skirt down, and it just went a bit too far. You know that!”

I grinned, pulling a fresh pack of biscuits from under the sofa. “I know,” I conceded. Molly continued to rummage in the cupboard. “Looking for these?” I chucked the pack of biscuits at her, which she caught.

“Thanks, Rosie.” She took five biscuits out of the packet and stuck them on a plate. Sticking an extra one in her mouth, she wandered over and sat down opposite me. “So, what are you doing this afternoon?”

I tried not to look to shifty “I’m going to visit my parents.” So, it was only a bit of a lie. I might bump into them on the way to my meeting with Scorpius, but I was really hoping that I didn’t. It felt really strange lying to Molly; I was sure she was going to see straight through my attempt to cover up my thing, whatever it was, with Scorpius. I just knew she’d get the wrong impression if I told her what was going on. As far as she was concerned, I had no intention of spending any extra time with him.

“That’s nice,” she said, mercifully missing the blatant lie. “Say hi to them from me.”

I nodded. “I will.”

“Except that you’re won’t get the chance to,” she added as an afterthought.

I stole a biscuit off her, hoping it would distract her.

“What do you mean?”

Molly grinned. “Your parents are celebrating their wedding anniversary in the Lake District. Try again, Rose.”

Crap! “It’s my parents’ wedding anniversary this weekend?” Double crap.

“I already sent them a present from you, don’t worry,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Now, why don’t you tell me what you’re actually doing this afternoon that you don’t want me to know about?”

I groaned. I knew the game was up; Molly was way too persistent for me, and I hated keeping secrets. There was no point trying to hide it from her now. “Do you promise you won’t get the wrong impression?” I asked cautiously.

“No.”

I glowered at her. “Fine. I’m meeting Scorpius this afternoon. For a thing.”

“A thing?” She looked way too happy about this news. “Like a date thing?”

“It’s not a date,” I growled. “And don’t you dare tell anyone. I’m actually really nervous.”

“Whatever,” Molly said, waving my comments aside with a hand gesture. “Stop being a Worrying Wendy, you’ll be fine. He likes you; what could go wrong?”

I shuddered as I thought of all the things that could go wrong; my clothes could blow off, I could accidentally get cosy with Scorpius, I could get kidnapped by an illegal immigrant on an illegal magic carpet. Really, I couldn’t think of anything that could go right about the whole situation. In the end, I just shook my head. I changed the subject. “What about you? Do you have a full biscuit-eating day planned ahead or are you going to do something useful?”

Molly grimaced. “I’m taking Lucy to look at some universities. Granddad has managed to convince her to further her Muggle Studies by immersing herself in their community. She wants to start in September.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Doesn’t she need some sort of qualification for that? She can hardly waltz in with a N.E.W.T. in Charms, can she?”

“Well, no, but I’m sure Dad can swing something. A quick Imperio should sort it.”

I doubted Uncle Percy would resort to an Unforgivable Curse to get his daughter into university, but I supposed anything was possible. Dad said he was almost a Death Eater at one point, though that was probably just a bit exaggeration caused by brotherly love. Uncle Percy was much too square to break the law.

“Right,” I muttered. “Well, get yourself dressed. I can’t be bothered to cook breakfast or lunch, so why don’t we head to Jesús’?”

“Sounds good,” Molly called over her shoulder. She walked off down the hall, grabbing the rest of the biscuit packet as she left.

I followed her shortly afterwards, launching myself onto my bed face down. It was extremely comfortable, I had to admit, but it did nothing for the mane of frizzy hair I’d been hiding under a top hat all morning (don’t ask… I’d sort of got it for my birthday from Hugo a couple of years ago, except that he got it free with a fast-food meal so it didn’t really count). What I wouldn’t give for a duvet day… would have to be my stuffed toy owl that sat primly on my dressing table. I wasn’t about to give that away.

I started to rifle through my wardrobe in search of something suitable to wear; no low necklines or short skirts, otherwise I’d give Scorpius the wrong impression, but I couldn’t afford to look ugly. My safest option was probably my favourite old black jumper.

“Rose?” Molly called from her room next door. “Take off that hideous jumper right now. You need to look pretty!”

I scowled, having barely taken the jumper off the hanger. I put it back. “I wasn’t going to wear it!” I lied indignantly.

The thing was, looking pretty took such an effort and I wasn’t sure Scorpius was worthy of such attention. I reserved looking pretty for people I was trying to impress or people I hadn’t seen in a while and wanted to show that I’d turned into a successful young lady. People I actually liked clearly didn’t care whether my hair looked like a hay bale because they enjoyed my company and sparkling wit… or something. Was I trying to impress Scorpius? I mused as I searched for something else to wear. I had never bothered looking nice before and it hadn’t put him off. More to the point, did I want to impress him? I shuddered at the thought of that. I needed to be careful, otherwise I’d find myself swooning and blushing and all sorts of other hideously pathetic girly things.

“Ready?” Molly poked her head around my door, having taken next to no time to make herself look presentable and I was still standing around in my underwear. “Oh come on, Rosie. You can’t go out like that. He’ll get the complete wrong impression.”

I glared at her. “I wasn’t going to.”

“Good,” Molly said, looking relieved. “I can see all your wobbly bits.”

I looked down at my near-naked body; it wasn’t that bad, certainly not bad enough for my cousin/best friend to make rude comments. “I have not got any wobbly bits!”

Molly rolled her eyes, a grin forming on her lips. She poked one of my boobs solemnly. “That’s wobbly.”

“Shut up,” I said wittily (or not…). I found one of my favourite old blouses at the back in between my orange ski suit (Mum’s idea) and my leather leggings (Lorcan’s idea). Throwing it on over a skirt and grabbing my coat, I declared myself ready and marched Molly out of the flat.

I really hated February, actually. Jesús’ café was not far from where we lived, yet I was already blue by the time we arrived. It was impossible to go anywhere in a composed manner because you were too busy shivering to notice that your skirt was askew or something had got stuck in your hair (like a bird… which actually had happened to me once).

As we approached the shop front, we noticed that Jesús was standing at the door, wrapped in what looked to be artic furs. He wore a massive furry hat over his pony-tailed hair, and in his furry gloved hands he held a large sign. I almost mistook him for a huge Spanish bear.

Molly nudged me in the ribs with her elbow, nodding towards the large sign in his hands. “Free main courses for all customers this week”. I knew exactly what she was thinking and I grinned.

Jesús finally seemed to notice us, turned his ski-goggle covered eyes towards us briefly before hastily tucking the sign behind his back.

“Free main courses, eh?” Molly leered, standing rather a bit closer to Jesús than I would have advised was healthy.

“No,” Jesús barked, backing up to the front window so the sign was squished between him and the glass. I didn’t think he realised the sign was twice as wide as he was and he barely covered up the sign. Instead, it now read: “Free customers this week”, which was probably not a deal he could legally fulfil. “I don’t know where you heard that. It says that nowhere.”

I glanced at Molly sideways. “What’s that behind your back, eh?” she said accusatorily. “Hiding something, eh?”

“Think it’s cool to say eh, eh?” I muttered sarcastically. Molly glared at me.

Jesús gave us the Spanish evils (which looked like normal evils, except that I expected him to start flamenco dancing at any second). “There is nothing for you.”

“Oh,” Molly said pointedly. “In that case, we’ll take our custom elsewhere.”

What the hell was Molly doing? I was bloody hungry; she needed to stop faffing around and feed me.

She made a big deal of turning around and slowly lifting her foot as though to step away. She turned her head to me mid-step, glaring and hinting that I should follow suit. I couldn’t be bothered to join in in her lame slow-mo walking, so I’d just wait until she reached the corner and catch her up at normal walking pace.

“Don’t go,” Jesús said after a minute of Molly’s slow-mo walking. She’s only managed a few metres. “I just cannot afford to give you free meals. You are my only regular customers.”

Both Jesús and I, standing side by side, waited for Molly to turn around and slow-mo walk back. When she reached us again, she nodded approvingly. “We’ll pay for meals,” she bargained. “as long as we get a couple of glasses of sangria on the house.”

“I don’t like sangria,” I whispered to her.

“Nor do I,” Molly muttered. “But it’s one of the most expensive things on the menu.”

Jesús seemed to consider her offer, and after realising that it would take longer to get rid of her (because of the weird walking) than to earn the money back he’d lose on our drinks, he nodded his head. “Come inside.”

I let Molly do the talking for most of lunch, my own thoughts preoccupied with Scorpius. I wasn’t sure why I was getting so worried, or where all this sudden pressure had come from, but I didn’t like it and I was almost getting sweaty with nerves.

“If only this sticky toffee pudding was free,” Molly said over-loudly and overdramatically, waving the dessert menu wide as Jesús walked past. “Then I’d come here again. But I’m only poor and can’t afford that luxury.”

I tried not to raise my eyebrows, I really did. But anyone who thought any Weasley or Potter was poor probably hadn’t ever read the papers and definitely was born yesterday. We were one of the richest wizarding families in the country. Then again, Jesús was a muggle and had probably never heard of either of us before we moved in up the road.

As we left, I left an extra tenner as a tip for the trouble Molly had put him through. Standing outside the café, Molly and I bid goodbye to each other. We both walked off in different directions.

I didn’t stop walking for a while, not quite ready to apparate to Scorpius’ house. I checked my appearance in almost every window I walked past, as if I’d suddenly grown a second head in the time it took me to walk from one shop to the next. I stopped in front of a house for a good minute before realising there was a family sitting in their front room, all looking at me curiously as I prodded my tummy and readjusted my skirt. I flushed red and hastily disapparated in a blind panic; maybe they’d think I was just a figment of their imagination or something and agree to never speak of it again.

I walked up to Scorpius’ front door, glad that I’d managed to miss the obviously recent rain shower and rang the bell. A loud MOO sounded on the other side of the door. I raised an eyebrow.

The door was flung open, and there stood Scorpius, wearing stripy jeans and a beige shirt. It actually wasn’t that offensive, and I was glad. I could be seen in public with him (admittedly only with strangers; I still didn’t want anyone I know to see me with him).

“Afternoon, Rose,” he said deeply. I swear he was altering his voice so it sounded lower and more manly.

“Hi,” I said awkwardly, stepping out of the doorway so he could lock up.

“It’s nice to see you,” he said quickly, squeezing my hand briefly before shoving his hands in his coat pocket. I smiled at this gesture; I think he knew that I was a little nervous, either because he was psychic or had noticed my massively shiny forehead. Either way, I actually relaxed a bit. I reminded myself that I didn’t have to worry about how I behaved around him. Breathing out, I started to wander with him down to the high street in Hogsmeade.

“I’m looking forward to this,” I admitted, breaking the silence.

Scorpius grinned, bearing all his teeth. “I am too,” he sang. “It’s a bit crazy, isn’t it?”

I nodded, quickly checking my pockets to confirm I had remembered the tickets for the race. Luckily, I’d thought about it in advance and put them in there two days ago.

“I don’t normally do this sort of thing,” I reassured him. “Breaking the law, I mean.”

Scorpius winked. “It runs in my family.”

I laughed, though I couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty. Back when we were in Hogwarts together, he hadn’t exactly been all that popular. Apart from the fact he was a little strange, he didn’t seem to be able to relate to anyone else. He had very few friends and people seemed to like to keep it that way. I myself had always avoided him; it wasn’t that I thought him evil or anything, it was just that it was always going to be awkward between us due to family history. What was I going to say? “Oh, hi Scorpius Malfoy, how’s the family? Still in Azkaban thanks to my Uncle? Say hi to them for me!” No, I was bound to say something really inappropriate. All the other students were probably expecting a massive rivalry between us and him, but we never bothered. Everyone left him be and that was that.

“Well, my family didn’t always do things by the book,” I reminded him. “My Uncle used to be Enemy Number 1.”

He knew I was kidding, luckily. We didn’t really have much else to say on the subject, so we lapsed into silence again.

We eventually reached the edge of the village, where I took Scorpius’ hand and Disapparated to where the carpet racing was taking place; Camden, London. I’d taken us to a back street near to the canal. A handful of people had already climbed on top of the rooftops above us; some spectators, some clutching their carpets in anticipation of the race.

“How do we get up there?” I asked, looking around for a way up.

“We climb,” Scorpius said calmly, taking a pot of hair gel out of his pocket and applying it to his hair. He pointed to a ladder propped up on the side of one of the houses in a narrow alley.

Oh bloody hell. Why did I wear a skirt again? This was not going to be elegant in the slightest. I gallantly let him go first, following shortly afterwards. He was actually pretty agile, pulling himself up onto the roof with little difficulty. When I reached the top, however, I discovered I didn’t have enough upper arm strength to get myself up. Instead, I just hung from the gutter, looking pathetic. And then he pulled me up with him, without even making a snarky comment about my weight. What a gentleman. I didn’t even pull a Molly and flash my bum to everyone below.

We settled ourselves at the back of a group of about six people, with one magic carpet-er. From our pew, I could see across the whole of the Camden markets, past the canal and out into Greater London. The buildings looked almost like something out of a fairy-tale; old and crooked, leaning in all directions with chimneys as tall as two people. It was a shame I was scared of heights, really.

A young fat man with a spotty face stood up on the roof across the street from us, a green flag in his hand. He pointed his wand at his throat, muttered a spell and then began to speak. “Welcome ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the special Valentine’s Day race at Camden Crazy Carpeting!”

Everyone around us cheered, whilst a knot of panic was twisting in my stomach. Boris had bloody gone and set me up; he never mentioned this was in honour of Valentine’s Day, which was actually two weeks from now.

The carpet racer leaned down to receive a kiss from a woman who was presumably his other half as the commentator started to read out a list of rules. I cringed. What the hell was this, some sort of snogging marathon? He was enjoying this kiss so much that he didn’t realise he’d stepped on a loose roof tile; he lost his balance, sliding down the roof until he hit the gutter. In his panic, he’d thrown his carpet into the air, which managed to land in my lap.

“Oof!” I said as it knocked the wind out of me. Scorpius watch on in horror as the carpeter wobbled on the edge; I looked up in time just to see him wince in pain.

“I’ve only gone and fucking sprained me fucking ankle!” He called to his partner, outraged. He moaned, going a very odd shade of white.

The commentator looked our way, where the idiotic carpeter was making a real fuss. He shook his head, probably lamenting the fools who sat too close to the edge. “All right, all carpeters this way! The race is about to begin.”

There were some real weirdos getting up to move to the starting line; most of them had numerous piercings and seemed to be fond of black and leather. I looked sideways at Scorpius, who hadn’t seemed to notice that there was anything odd about the whole setup.

The commentator pointed at me as all the other carpeters waited. “Come on, madam, we can’t wait all day!”

I looked behind me; there was no one there. Then, I looked down at the flying carpet in my lap and looked at Scorpius in a panic. “I can’t go up there,” I hissed to him. “What if someone recognises me?”

Scorpius made a big drama about looking around. “We don’t know anyone here.” When I looked at him scathingly, he shrugged and dug his hands in his pockets. Pulling out his hair gel, he thrust it at me. “Here, use this. A new hairstyle is a really good disguise.”

Was he bloody insane? I was not going to gel any of my hair; it looked bad enough already without any help from him. When I didn’t seem to be cooperating, he pinned me to the ground.

“What the hell are you doing?” I growled.

He was way too close. He trapped me against the roof using his knees and used his free hands to apply a load of gel to my hair.

“Stop it!” I cried, feeling the gel smear against my forehead. “I already look like a freak, don’t make it worse!”

Once he’d finished destroying my hair, he sat up and admired his handiwork. “You look beautiful.” At least I didn’t have a mirror; I didn’t think I could face my own reflection. He gave me a push. “Go on.”

I stood up, hoisting him up with me as I did so. “Not so fast.” I pointed to the other racers. “They’re all couples. If I’m doing this, you’re going with me.”

He looked a little terrified at the determined look on my face and chose not to argue. We clambered on the carpet and soared over to the starting line.

“You can fly magic carpets?” I asked incredulously; did he actually have a talent?

“Well,” he said coyly. “I guess that’s another thing that runs in the family.”

I looked of the edge of the carpet and almost threw up; how bloody far away was the ground? I shut my eyes immediately, clutching at the pile on the carpet. Scorpius placed a comforting arm around my shoulders.

“Rose?”

Oh god, who was calling my name? It couldn’t be Scorpius because he was right beside me and I would have heard him. Now I was fighting a battle between curiosity and fear; did I really want to know who it was enough to face how high up we were?

“Rose!” A different voice this time; when did I suddenly become this popular? “Over here!”

“It’s the press,” Scorpius whispered in my ear. “Don’t look.”

Oh crap! The press! They couldn’t see me like this. Oh no, I was doing something illegal. Damn it, I was going to be seen with Scorpius! I couldn’t decide what was the biggest problem out of all of the awful things that were going on right at the moment. I decided to take a small peek.

To my left, I saw a young man clutching a large camera. I squinted; crap, it was my cousin James. I stuck my hand up to shield my face from him (unfortunately my hand wasn’t big enough to cover my disaster hairstyle). To my right stood a slender young woman; squinting again, I saw it was my cousin Dominique.

I shrieked in horror. “What the bloody hell are you two doing here?” I yelled at them. “Are you trying to turn this into a press conference?”

I could only assume that Molly had ratted on me and gone and told someone in the family. Naturally, Dominique and James would have got wind of the story; they were reporters for rival newspapers. Bloody hell, my own family were selling me out.

“Hide me!” I shouted at Scorpius, who seemed to think that hijacking this man’s flying carpet was a brilliant idea for a getaway. We soared over the rooftops of London as Camden grew smaller and smaller behind us.

Once my heart had stopped attacking my ribcage, I breathed slowly and deeply. “We’ll go back to yours then, shall we?” Scorpius asked lightly.

“What a good idea.”  





AN: Just a quick note to say thank you so much to everyone who has read and reviewed so far; I love you all! I post this a couple of days before my 4 year HPFF anniversary! I can't believe I'm still here and posting and that I still have readers. So, thank you everyone. I'm extremely grateful! -Marina


Chapter 11: Natural Disaster
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Natural Disaster

I woke up early on Sunday morning with a heavy sense of dread in my heart. Apart from the fact that I'd managed to leave my bedroom window open and ice was forming on the tip of my nose, I was remarkably uncomfortable. Tossing and turning for about ten minutes, I finally decided to crawl out of bed. I was confronted with my calendar and the giant red circle surrounding today's date.

Today was Teddy and Victoire's leaving party. This was it, they were finally going. I should have expected it would creep up on me eventually, but for some reason I couldn't take my eyes off the calendar; I felt more shocked than I should have.

Should I have been relieved that Teddy was leaving for a place where my humiliation couldn't follow, or weeping and sobbing into my pygmy puff pillow and bemoaning my future life as a nun? Once he left, the only potential man in my life was Scorpius and I was not ready to accept that. And then there was the fact that I still hadn't told Teddy that I loved him more than my own brother (though that didn't really say much, thinking about it). If there was ever a time to tell him, now was it. I could unload all of my issues onto him and he'd stick them in his pocket and take them with him to France where they wouldn't bother me anymore. It seemed like the perfect solution, except I really couldn't see any way in hell that I'd ever tell him. I'd rather cut off my own arm than admit such a weakness. It was too cringe.

Molly interrupted my thoughts, wandering into my room with a plate of toast and a cup of tea.

"Good morning, grumpy," she sang, plopping herself down on my bed. I dragged my eyes off the calendar and turned to scowl at her.

"You're so charming," I huffed, sitting down next to her and helping myself to a slice of toast. "Did you sleep well?"

"Not really," she said with a shrug. "I had that dream again that Jake is chasing after me with a giant marshmallow."

"I'm sure that symbolises a deep fear of obesity, you know," I mused.

"Something like that." We both munched on our respective slices of toast, then found ourselves staring at my calendar. "So, today's the big day," she announced unnecessarily.

"You make it sound like I'm getting married." I pinched the cup of tea from her and sipped, not really caring that it was too hot to drink comfortably. If I burnt my lips, maybe I would save money on lipstick.

"Well, it is a bit like that," Molly conceded. "You've got to say "I love you" at least once and then resign yourself to never having sex with anyone else."

"I haven't had sex with Teddy."

Molly handed me another slice of toast. "But it's not like you're sleeping with anyone else at the moment, is it? You're fighting them off for no reason at all, really."

"I'm not fighting them off!" I denied. "It's not like men throw themselves at me, is it?"

I gulped down more hot tea, trying to mask my blushing face. Molly eyed me as I failed in being subtle, though I couldn't really tell if she was staring at the mug (which had a close-up of Scorpius' face on it) or not.

"Well, maybe they would if you didn't have "not interested" stamped all over your face." I glared at her. "I'm not being critical; I just want to help you."

"Right," I said, trying not to sound hurt. "Well, I obviously didn't put Scorpius off."

Molly raised her eyebrows but wisely chose to keep quiet. We finished the toast and she went off to get dressed. I found myself staring at the calendar again, trying desperately to work out what I was supposed to do. I didn't think for one moment that telling Teddy that I was a little obsessed with him would do any good; I wasn't expecting him to leave Victoire and shack up with me. I felt like this was my last chance to admit that I liked him; if I never told him, I would never know what he felt about me, even if it was nothing. Then I could let him go off to France without expecting things to suddenly change.

Sighing, I wearily looked through my wardrobe for something inoffensive. It was hard to make an effort for a party without looking like you'd tried a tiny bit to look nice. It wasn't as if I could just roll out of bed and rock up in my sheep-pattern pyjamas, as much as I really wanted to.


By the time Molly and I were ready to leave at lunchtime, I was a bit of a nervous wreck. I fiddled with my clothes so much that eventually Molly threw a biscuit at me and told me to stop it. As we apparated to Aunt Fleur's house, I resolved to keep my mouth shut for the rest of the day; it was the only way I'd leave with my dignity intact.

Molly rang the doorbell whilst I hung back behind her. She was humming a tune under her breath and it was really starting to irritate me. I crossed my arms over my chest and tried not to look like a grumpy goblin.

The door flew open and Victoire smiled down at us, a smarmy grin on her face. "Hi Molly! Come on in!" I tried not to scowl at her over the top smiling face; there was something so offensive about a happy person when you yourself weren't extremely joyous. Her eyes scanned my dress and eventually found my goblin-face. "Hello Rose."

I mustered a smile and nodded, trying to escape her painful presence as soon as possible. I have no idea why she'd taken against me; admittedly we'd never really got on, but that was mostly because she was an annoying, insufferable, future husband-stealing cow. It wasn't my fault at all.

Inside, lanterns had been strung from the ceiling, casting flickering shadows around the living room and dining room. Plates of iced buns floated slowly between all of my family members, who were already enjoying their refilling glasses. Pink "Good luck" confetti crunched beneath my heels as Molly and I bravely waded through a ridiculous number of cousins, aunts and uncles. We found Albus, who was sitting at the edge of the fireplace (which was hidden by pale pink satin) looking revolted by the whole thing.

"This is disgusting," Molly said cheerfully as we rescued him.

"I'm bloody glad they're leaving," he muttered, poking some stray confetti with his finger. "I can't bear any more of Fleur's sickly parties."

I saw Lily carrying a tray of pink champagne over and deftly pinched two from her, one of which I handed to Molly. "Yeah," I agreed, sipping at my glass. "But free drinks."

Molly tutted, eyeing me warily as I continued to drink. "Behave, Miss Weasley," she warned.

I rolled my eyes. "YOU behave, Miss Weasley. They want us to drink; family is unbearable without it."

"Speaking of unbearable," Albus interjected. "Is it true you're going out with Scorpius?"

I spluttered into my drink. "Who told you that? I mean, no, of course I'm not."

Albus raised his eyebrows, glancing at Molly. "James said you two went to a Valentine's Day thing."

I tried not to brandish my now-empty glass at him. "I didn't know it was for Valentine's Day," I grumbled through gritted teeth. "My boss gave me free tickets."

"Right," Albus said, lengthening the word so much that I thought he might just burst into song. "So these pictures are completely innocent, then?" He held up a polaroid just out of my reach.

I paled, watching as Scorpius' photographic-self wrestled me to the ground. I made to snatch the photograph out of Albus' hand, but he just held his hand higher. "Give me that," I snapped.

Molly laughed as I attempted to take back my dignity. "Not as innocent as we appear, are we Rosie?"

"I am innocent," I snapped. "He was just doing my hair." I whipped my wand out and pointed it at the photo. "Now give me that before I destroy it."

Albus grinned. "I'd like to see you try." He adjusted his glasses, which had slipped down his nose. I did try, and discovered that no matter what spell I used, the photograph remained intact.

"What did you bloody to do it?" I harrumphed. "Turn it into a horcrux?"

"Not exactly," Albus said slyly. I decided not to question him further, seeing as he held my (indestructible) reputation in his hands. I was busy plotting how to get it off him when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I threw a brief warning glare at Albus and turned around.

"Rosie, can I borrow you a moment?" Mum looked irritated.

I followed her into the kitchen, where I was pleased to discover that my glass had refilled. "What?"

"There's a bit of a situation," she began, wringing her hands together. "Angelina promised me she'd bake a cake for today, but she forgot and now we don't have a cake."

"Cake," I repeated, slightly incredulous. Since when was it traditional to give a cake to a leaving couple?

"Yes, we need a cake. You couldn't just whip one up now, could you? I'd do it myself, only..." She drifted off, looking at her wine glass apologetically. Great, so my mother was too intoxicated to bake a cake, and she expected me, the infamous chef of the family (not), to whip one out of thin air. Fan-fucking-tastic.

For whatever reason, I found myself agreeing to do as she asked. She disappeared off with an apologetic smile and a full glass.

I looked around the tidy kitchen and my eyes fell on a tray of baking ingredients. Sighing I set to work, hoping I could do most of the work with my wand and thus prevent any major damage.

"Rose?"

I turned to the kitchen door to see Teddy walk in with an empty plate. My hands shook, making my wand point at the cake mixture, which decided to leap out of the bowl and onto my neck.

"Crap," I muttered, my cheeks red as I rushed to the sink to wash off the mess.

I could have cried quite easily then. I was stupidly nervous around him, probably not helped by the drink and the fact that I'd been dreading today for days/years. I bit my lip as I dabbed at my neck with a cloth, hoping that he wouldn't notice my unfortunate wet t-shirt situation.

"Here," he said gently, taking his own wand out and forcing me to turn and face him. I resolutely fixed my gaze on anything but him as he charmed my shirt clean and dry.

"Thanks," I mumbled, feeling my ears eat up. I wondered if wrapping my head in ice cubes would help the situation at all. He only smiled, and I felt like I needed to fill the silence with anything that would prevent me from saying something I would later regret. "I'm making a cake."

"So I see," he said, smiling more as he looked at my pathetic effort.

Oh, Teddy. I'd gobble him up over cake any day. I wished he wasn't so sweet or so kind or so nice to me. He probably didn't even realise what a great guy he was, and let's face it, there weren't that many of them around.

"Um," I managed. "Are you all packed and ready to go?"

"I think so," he said after considering it. "I still can't believe we're leaving in two days," he added thoughtfully. "I sort of want to pack up my life here and take it with me, but that's not going to happen."

I was probably just imagining it, but in my head he almost sounded sad. It was probably tough to leave all your friends behind and waltz off to another country with your psycho girlfriend.

"You'll come back though, won't you?" I asked, trying to keep the desperation out of my voice. The truth was, I couldn't imagine my life without him in it, whether it was just because he was the only reason I had ever looked forward to family gatherings. I had grown up looking up to him, spending time with him. For him not to be there really made me realised how grown up we all were.

"Of course I'll come back! We'll definitely be here for Christmas," he said contentedly, looking quite fine whilst inside my heart was banging away in a panicky manner. Christmas? That was ten months away. My eyes almost went teary at the thought.

"Christmas," I repeated somewhat sadly.

"You can come and visit, you know," he added. "Get some time off work and I'll teach you what French I've learned."

I stared at him hopefully, forcing myself to laugh nonchalantly. "I'd like that." He'd remembered that I wanted to learn French, meaning that he thought about me all the time and loved me forever and ever, naturally. I almost shook my head as I started imagining a white wedding, topped off with a speech about our shared love of languages.

Teddy flicked his dark hair from his face and turned to my cake. "How about I help you with this?"

I nodded. "Thanks. I'm really rubbish at baking."

As he helped me salvage the mess I'd made of the cake, I wondered if at that moment my face was covered in "Not Interested" stamps. What Molly had said that morning worried me more than I'd first let on; yes, I didn't want him to know that I was interested, but maybe that meant he wouldn't be interested. What I really needed was a stamp that said "I am interested, but only if you're interested because I fear rejection but actually have loved you for years". It's a shame those sort of stamps weren't readily available.

The kitchen door banged open and I looked up to see Hugo barging in. I stepped away from Teddy hastily, not wanting to give my brother the wrong idea.

"What are you doing?" he asked in a sing-song voice, looking bloody menacing. He knew he'd caught me, and he knew he had all the blackmail material. I gave him a look, but he didn't seem to care that I was threatening him with life-long hatred, loathing and detestation.

"Making a cake," I said as innocently as I could. Hugo smiled knowingly, looking pointedly between Teddy and me. I glared at him. "Shut up," I hissed.

Teddy looked at me curiously, then looked at Hugo.

"Do you make cakes with all the boys?" He raised his eyebrows suggestively.

"No," I said through gritted teeth.

My cheeks were growing more and more red by the second.

"Have you made cakes with Scorpius?"

He was going to get a slap in a minute. "Hugo, shut up. No, I haven't."

"That's not what I've heard," Hugo said smugly, chucking another polaroid at me. I snatched it from the air before Teddy could see it. I bloody hated having journalists in my family; nothing remained private for long.

Happy that he'd ruined my life, Hugo stalked off, leaving me clutching the picture to my chest with a head the colour of tomatoes.

"What's that?" Teddy asked, look at my clasped hands. "What's Hugo talking about?"

"Nothing," I squeaked, pressing my hands closer to my body.

"Rose," he warned. "Show me."

I was another step closer to bursting into ugly and childish tears. "No."

"Are you... 'making cakes' with Scorpius?" He looked me in the eye, but I couldn't face him for fear of him laughing at me.

"No," I said quietly. "It's not that sort of picture."

He sighed. "Then why won't you show me?"

I narrowed my eyes, finally looking at him. "Because you'll just get the wrong impression, like everyone else did," I huffed. "Nothing's going on between Scorpius and me, we're just friends. Not that it's anybody else's business."

He seemed shocked by my outburst and I mentally berated myself. He probably thought I was a complete nutcase.

"Sorry," he said after a pause. "I didn't mean to pry. It's just... you know. It's Scorpius."

I sighed, pocketing the photograph and turning back to the cake. "Well, it's not as if I have many other options, is it? And he's not as bad as everyone thinks."

Teddy helped me pour the mixture into a cake tin and we stuck it in the oven. "You should never settle for second best, Rosie."

I closed my eyes briefly, hanging onto the oven door longer than I should have. He made it so bloody difficult to remain normal, as etiquette required, when I wanted to leap into his arms and demand that he love me.

"What if the best is already taken?" I muttered bitterly.

I didn't really mean for him to hear me, but at the same time, I didn't know why I didn't just keep my big fat mouth shut. He looked at me oddly for a moment, a confused look on his face.

"Rose-" I really didn't need any more questions, so I ducked under his arm and left.

I wondered where I could hide; I didn't know Aunt Fleur's house nearly as well as I needed to for hide and (no) seek. Molly would probably have offered to help me hide for the rest of the day, but then she'd expect me to tell her everything and I couldn't do that without admitting I was a hopeless case with no future but in a convent with fifty cats and ten owls. I wasn't ready to accept that, not yet.

I settled for sitting outside on the freezing cold doorstep and drinking as much champagne as I could. Sometimes I wondered if my own company was better than other people anyway; I didn't need them, I had champagne!

Albus found me about an hour later, bringing my coat out and wrapping it around my shoulders. "It's not that bad, Rose."

"It is," I said, draining my glass. "I'm going to be alone forever, or worse, do what everyone expects and end up with Scorpius. I can't decide which is worse."

Albus shook his head, wrapping his arm around me and hugging me. "You're not going to end up alone. Don't be ridiculous." I sniffled pathetically. "We're going to have some cake now, if you want to come inside?"

"Okay," I said with a sigh. I wasn't feeling very chirpy, but cake was cake.

Back inside, nobody seemed to have noticed my absence except for Molly, who looked from my glass back to my face, and Teddy, who glanced at me and looked away hurriedly. Albus fetched me some cake, which someone had laced with pink icing (presumably not Teddy), and we sat in a corner and scoffed away.

I knew it was inevitable that I would have to say goodbye at some point, but as everyone started to leave, I began to get edgy again. I would have slipped away long before now if Albus wasn't keeping such a close watch on me (who did he think he was - Scorpius?).

Victoire and Teddy waited by the door as everyone queued up to say their goodbyes. The waiting just made it even worse, as I tried to think of something romantically neutral to say. I didn't want him to leave, but I couldn't tell him that. I wanted to have his babies, but I definitely couldn't tell him that... How could I tell him how much he meant to me in a few words?

Molly nudged me in the back as I reached them. I kissed Victoire on the cheek, wished her a half-hearted good luck and moved on. I looked up at Teddy sheepishly, who looked equally unsure of himself.

"Good luck," I said eventually. "It's going to be quiet around here without you."

It seemed right to hug him then, so I walked into his arms and hoped to Merlin that he'd never let me go. He was so warm and for a moment I forgot that I'd made a massive idiot of myself and his girlfriend hated me and that he was about to leave for a strange country. If I clung to him now, maybe he wouldn't have to go.

"Goodbye, Rosie," he said into my hair. "You're the best."

As soon as we stepped back, Molly whisked me out of the house, holding my hand firmly.

"Come on," she said softly, squeezing me. She was taking on her big sister role again, and I let her. "Let's go and have a cup of tea and biscuit."


Chapter 12: Splinched
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Splinched

I woke to the sound of birds chirping loudly somewhere nearby, a rather lovely melodious sound to wake up to on a Sunday morning. I kept my eyes shut a little longer, ignoring the fact that I'd have to get up at some point, knowing that as long as I didn't check the time I'd remain in that half-asleep morning limbo, blissfully unaware of the outside world.

The chirping stopped, followed by heavy footsteps crossing my room. "Get up, sleepy head," Molly barked, tearing the covers off me and exposing me to a horrifically chilly March breeze.

I squealed. "What did you do that for, you big muppet?" I grumbled into my pillow.

"You have to leave soon," she said, sitting down at the foot of my bed. She started reaching for my feet, and I knew she was about to tickle me. I quickly sat up, tucking my feet under my legs so that she couldn't reach them.

"Oh no you don't," I said huffily.

Molly grinned at me, her hair skewwhiff and her pyjama top buttoned up wrong. "You're in such a bad mood this morning! I thought birdsong would cheer you up a bit."

I scowled, realising that I'd been duped. "I don't need cheering up, I'm fine."

"Right, whatever," Molly said, rising from my bed and leaving, pausing at the door to call over her shoulder, "it's nearly noon, you better make yourself presentable."

I checked my watch; shit! I had to be at my parents' in half an hour. It was my Dad's birthday today - shit, I'd even forgotten to get him a present. Buggeration. I hopped out of bed and threw on the first things I grabbed out of my wardrobe (a pair of rainbow striped tights and a green dress) and sprinted to Molly's room. Incredibly, she had gone back to bed, the lazy woman.

"Molly," I yelled at her, marching up to her bed and shaking her. "I have an emergency! I forgot to get Dad a present."

Molly flung her arm in the direction of the dresser and I saw a small parcel wrapped in navy paper. I grinned, grabbing the present and dashing off. "I love you!" I called behind me.

Right, so that was one crisis averted; Dad would never forgive me if I didn't get him a present. One year, I forgot to give him a Christmas card and he sulked for days, insisting that it meant I didn't love him and other crap, which wasn't true, I just didn't see the point in buying over-priced bad quality greetings cards when we didn't even celebrate the occasion on religious grounds. Though, thinking about it, Hugo did once insist that he was going to become the Pope... he hadn't quite understood what he was talking about, so we just laughed at him as spent three weeks dressed in a long purple dress and big hat.

I dragged a hairbrush through my hair, wincing as it detangled, then threw on some make-up, before dashing to the bathroom to clean my teeth. Remembering my shoes at the very last minute, I bid Molly goodbye before Disapparating.

Taking a moment to compose myself, I counted to ten before ringing my parents' doorbell. It echoed loudly in the hall, followed by the sound of the lock being scraped back. Mum answered the door, beaming as her eyes fell on me.

"Rosie!" she cried, pulling me inside and hugging me. "It's so good to see you, stranger. How are you doing?" She was searching my face worriedly.

I tried not to get anymore grumpy, but I was a bit fed up that people thought I was a nutcase just because I'd not really gone out in the past three weeks and I'd spent that time wailing and sniffling in bed about the injustice of life, the universe and everything. I was fine.

"I'm fine, Mum," I said patiently. "I've just been busy." Busy, ha, what a good joke. "Busy" for me meant going to work, coming home from work, eating a tub of ice-cream and then reading tragically ending novels, followed by feeling sorry for myself and daydreaming about Teddy suddenly bursting into the flat and declaring that Victoire was actually ugly and boring and he loved me instead. Yep, I'd been very busy. "What about you?"

"Yes yes, I'm good," she said cheerfully, running a hand through frazzled hair. "Come on through." She led me towards the kitchen, where my grandparents were already tucking into a bottle of wine. My eyes found my Dad, who looked thorough contented.

"Happy birthday, Dad." I gave him a kiss on the cheek and handed him 'my' present. He squeezed my hand.

"What's this, then?" he asked rather unnecessarily, shaking the gift as though he'd be able to tell just from that. Thinking about it, I actually didn't know what was inside... Oh dear. I hoped that Molly hadn't bought something completely weird or inappropriate, like a box of cigarettes; that wouldn't go down very well.

I forced a laugh. "You'll have to wait and see," I said lamely.

At that point, Hugo sauntered in, looking a little worse for wear. His eyes were very bloodshot, enveloped in dark blue circles. He sat down gingerly at the kitchen table next to my Granddad and closed his eyes.

"Rough night last night, eh?" I said jokingly.

"You could say that," he said hoarsely, sipping at a glass of water.

"Poor lamb," I mocked, smiling slightly at the look on my Gran's face, framed by hair just as red as the flash in her eyes.

"What's that?" she barked. Hugo had the good grace to look a bit sheepish. "You don't drink, do you?"

I coughed awkwardly as Hugo tried to talk his way out of this one. Of course he drank, everyone in our family did apart from Lily (she was such a daddy's girl). "I don't mind a drink on occasion," he said guardedly.

Gran raised her eyebrows sceptically but chose to drop it. It was rare that anything ever got past our grandmother, probably because she'd raised seven children and had seen pretty much everything before; Hugo would have been an idiot to lie to her. Hugo and I shared a rare smile, an in-joke between siblings, a comforting gesture. It wasn't often that Hugo and I had anything in common or had much to say to each other, but in moments like this we were thinking exactly the same thing.

A heavy pause in conversation followed after that, broken only by Mum announcing that lunch was ready and we all needed to sit down, which we did quickly.

“I received a letter from Victoire yesterday,” Gran was saying conversationally as I helped myself to potatoes. I tried not to make a big deal of this fact, but in trying to concentrate on looking indifferent I hadn’t noticed that I was still shovelling potatoes onto my plate. Hugo looked at me, looked at the pile of potatoes on my plate and then looked down at my stomach. What a dick. I glared at him, stuffing a potato in my mouth and pulling at face at him.

“Oh yes?” Mum passed me the wine, which I accepted gratefully. “How’s she getting on?”

“Very well, it seems,” Gran said cheerfully. “Their new apartment is nice, she’s getting on well in her new job and she says that Teddy’s job hunting is going well too.”

Poor Teddy; he’d had to leave his previous job at the Ministry of Magic to move to France with no guarantee of a transfer to their Ministry. It seemed that people will do anything for love, even do something completely barmy like head to a country with less than below par sanitation and facilities with no job prospects. It was lucky they were both rich, really; it was a very nice side-effect to having famous family.

“I worry a bit for him,” Mum said slowly. “It can’t be easy going to a foreign country when you don’t speak the language.”

My Dad shrugged. “They all speak English these days, Hermione. He’ll be fine; Victoire’s bilingual anyway.”

Mum rolled her eyes. “They’re not going to be together all the time. What will he do when she’s not around? It’s a big culture shock.”

“He’ll have to man up,” Hugo interjected. I didn’t feel it necessary to add at that point that I thought he was manly enough already.

“At least the weather’s nicer there than it is here,” I mused, looking at the grey skies outside the window critically. “England is bloody depressing sometimes.”

Granddad chuckled at my pessimism. “It’s not all that bad, Rosie. It gets very hot and dry in other parts of the world, and with a complexion like yours that’s not the best thing.”

I sighed, prodding my pale cheeks sadly. It was true; I was very much an English rose, and one that tended to go bright red whenever the sun came out. At best I got marring freckles. By the end of the summer, Victoire was sure to be a lovely brown colour, the bitch.

Mum seemed to sense my discontent and smiled at me from across the table. Bless her, she was really quite sweet when she wanted to be. I almost felt guilty that I’d been avoiding everyone for the past month or whatever. It was hard to drag up any enthusiasm for spending time with family, especially when all they wanted to talk about were things that made me more grumpy.

“How’s work, Rose?” Granddad asked, sensing a change of subject was needed.

“Not too bad,” I conceded. “Boris is looking at getting some more shop assistants in, so I’m hoping none of them will be too vile. We’re looking at getting Gilderoy Lockhart in to do a book signing in a couple of weeks, too. He has an autobiography coming out next week.”

“Well, that’s not convenient timing or anything, is it?” Dad said archly.

Both Gran and Mum glared at him. “What are you talking about?” Mum said waspishly.

“He’s running for Minister in a couple of months – he’s just trying to butter up the public with that smarmy smile of his.” Dad seemed to scowl at the very thought.

“What does it matter if his policies are good?” Gran said. “I think he’ll be good for the Ministry.”

Hugo shook his head. “How is “free teeth whitening for all” a good policy? He’s going to fritter away all his time and money on making the nation good-looking.”

"You're just jealous," I said irritably.

Hugo raised his eyebrows and gave me a pointed look, but chose to keep quiet. I wished they'd all just keep quiet most of the time, actually, so that I was left with my own misery in peace.

Later, when I'd retreated to the living room to lie on the sofa with in a drowsy post-wine lethargy, Gran came to talk to me with a concerned look on her face. She sat on the armchair next to the sofa and patted my head fondly. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong, Rosie? We're all a bit worried about you."

I sighed, not opening my eyes. "There's nothing wrong, Gran," I said sluggishly. I was getting pretty tired of all these worried relatives. I was a grown-up now, I didn't need their help or their meddling.

"Rose, stop being stubborn. I can tell when things aren't quite right." Sighing again, I sat up. Gran was frowning neatly, her forehead creased questioningly.

"I just feel like a bit of a failure at the moment," I admitted eventually, looking down at my feet. "Everyone else in the family seems to be getting on with things, or being successful and I don't really have anything to be proud of."

"Nonsense," Gran said immediately. "You have plenty going for you, dear. You might not realise it, but you're a very special young lady. I'm proud of you, we all are."

I sighed, trying not to tear up; the wine was a bad idea. "I don't have a career, Gran. I haven't kept in touch with most of my school friends and everyone is expecting me to settle down and get married in the next few years. I'm twenty-four next year and I still feel eighteen most of the time."

"Your problem," Gran began earnestly, "is that you don't appreciate how much you do have. You enjoy your job, you have a family that loves you and we all want you to be happy. Don't compare yourself to your cousins, Rosie. Just be successful in your own way."

My bottom lip quivered. "Thanks, Gran," I said tearfully. She pulled me into a hug and held me tightly. I breathed an inward sigh of relief; I couldn't believe how much better I felt for voicing my fears, and she made it seem like everything was going to be okay in the end anyway. Admittedly I couldn't exactly tell her that the reason for all my woes was Victoire, because that didn't exactly come across as very friendly (in fact, it made me a bit of a super-bitch).

She released me from her embrace and left me to my thoughts. She was right, I did have a lot more than I thought I did. It was difficult having so many relatives to compare myself to, I really had to stop myself feeling crap about it.

"You seem more cheerful," Mum said when I sauntered back into the kitchen a bit later.

"Yeah, I talked to Gran," I said, feeling almost ashamed that I'd been pushing everyone away for so long. My thoughts went guiltily to Scorpius, who I'd also been avoiding, even though he'd tried to get me to go do something with him almost every day, despite my continued rejections. The poor lad didn't deserve it, especially not as we were sort of friends now. Even Molly was probably fed up with me being a Moping Mary.  

"Good," Mum said, distracted with gathering up Dad's presents. She set them all on the table and beckoned for us all to sit down.

Whilst my Dad unwrapped his presents, I started to wonder how I'd managed to become sort-of friends with Scorpius. To all external eyes, he was the creepy guy from school who'd once sent me a singing house elf. The thing was, I pretty much thought he was misunderstood; might actually be okay, underneath all the hair gel and beige shirts. He needed work, yes, but I couldn't really judge on that aspect. Next to him, I looked decidedly normal.

"Rose, thank you!" my Dad said happily holding up what he had just unwrapped from me. I squinted at a box, recognising the designer label; it was a box of nice soaps. I made a mental note to withhold biscuits from Molly, the cheeky girl. I bet she thought this was funny.

"No problem," I said before everyone noticed I hadn't been paying attention. "I thought you could use some..." Well, that wasn't quite what I meant, but whatever. I'd said and done weirder things before and no one took any notice of me.

I managed to make my excuses and leave after another hour once the effect of the wine had started to wear off. Finally able to Apparate, I bid my family goodbye and escaped. Turning on my heel, I Disapparated.

"Fucking ow!" I yelled as soon as I could breathe again. "Ow!" I bent over, clutching my knee in agony. I'd managed to splinch myself, having not been really concentrating on where I was going. "Owwie!" I lifted the hem of my dress up so I could examine the damage, seeing a dark patch of blood mottling my tights. "Oh bugger."

I looked up, trying to work out where I'd ended up. I peered into the darkness towards some streetlights, identifying the village nearby as Hogsmeade. Fucking great, I'd managed to splinch myself at the other side of the country to my flat. Grudgingly, I had to admit I had not thought about my destination with any deliberation or determination, having been feeling slightly guilty about being a bitch to Scorpius. Now the only choice I had left was to hobble up the street to his house and hope he was in.

I groaned a bit in self-pity before limping up the road towards Hogsmeade. Wincing every time I took a step forward, I was struggling not to cry. I was crap with coping with pain, and right at that moment I was convinced I was going to die. I was such an idiot, how the hell had I managed this? I hadn't splinched myself since before I took my Apparition test, which was years and years ago.

There was no one out on the high street I could ask to carry me to Scorpius' house. I grumbled quietly to myself about my stupidity for a good fifteen minutes until I finally reached his gate. I pushed it open with my shoulder and dragged myself up the short slope to his front door. I hammered against the door with my fists for a minute or two, making them go red with friction before I realised that he had a doorbell. After I pressed it once, he finally came to the door.

"Rose," he said, looking confused. "What are you doing here?"

I lifted my dress up (not in a dodgy way) and showed him my blood-soaked tights. "Splinched," I mumbled, wincing as he prodded it with his finger.

"Yes," he agreed, wiping the blood on his shirt. "You better come in." He offered me his arm, which I clung to for support as I hopped across the threshold. He deposited me on his sofa, disappearing into the kitchen. "You better take those tights off. I'll fix your leg."

I gingerly peeled my tights off whilst he rummaged around in the kitchen cupboards for something to sort me out. It was lucky I'd shaved my legs last night, really, or that could have been bloody embarrassing; they were only slightly prickly. He returned with a small green bottle clasped in his fist. He kneeled before me and started rubbing the liquid from the bottle onto the hole in my knee. I tried to look at what he was doing, but I felt sick from the sight of the flesh showing on my knee. I was trying really hard not to faint.

"I didn't know you were good at this sort of thing," I said weakly as he put the stopped back in the bottle and stood up.

"I'm not," he said sheepishly. "I picked a bottle at random because I didn't want you to know I didn't have a clue what I was doing."

I stared at him open-mouthed. "You just rubbed a random liquid into my leg," I stated in disbelief.

"It wasn't random," he denied defensively. "It was in the medicine box."

I hid my head in my hands, exhausted from the sudden turn of events. "Merlin."

Scorpius sloped off to put the bottle back in the kitchen. I heard the kettle start to boil and the clink of plates as he took stuff from the cupboards. My eyes felt so heavy, I could have slept for days if I wasn't in Scorpius' house; that would have crossed too many boundaries for one night.

He returned after a few minutes carrying a cup of tea and a plate of ginger biscuits. I smiled gratefully, accepting the tea and biscuits as he fetched his own tea and sat down beside me.

"How on Earth did you manage to splinch yourself?" Scorpius asked after a long silence.

I swallowed the biscuit I was munching on. "I wasn't really paying attention."

He nodded, sipping at his tea. “I’m glad you came here.”

I smiled, nodding along with him like we were a pair of nodding dogs. “I’m glad you answered the door.” Eventually. More silence, in which I managed to remember that I’d been horrible to him over the past few weeks. “Listen, Scorpius, I’m sorry I’ve been sort of avoiding you recently.”

“You were avoiding me?” he asked, frowning. Oops.

“Well, I was avoiding everyone a bit. I didn’t want you to think that it was personal or anything,” I added hastily, trying to salvage an awkward situation.

“Oh,” he mumbled. “Well, I wasn’t worried. You do that sometimes.”

I frowned. “Do what?” I asked indignantly.

“Avoid everyone,” he conceded. “But it’s okay, sometimes people just need to be alone.”

He looked almost sad as he said that, and I felt guilty all over again. He had probably spent so much time by himself as a teenager, I really hadn’t even thought about how rubbish that must have been for him. He had no friends, no cousins, no siblings… My Gran was right; I didn’t appreciate how much I had. I was a terrible terrible person.

“I don’t want to be alone anymore,” I admitted quietly.

I looked up at Scorpius, and he nodded, understanding. I nodded along with him, a silent agreement between us, until we both realised we were nodding for far too long. He reached for my hand, squeezing it, and I felt a bit better about everything.




Author's note: So, in my head, this chapter begins part two. Thank you so much to everyone who has read and reviewed so far, and if you have a minute I'd appreciate any comments you have. I hope you're still enjoying it!


Chapter 13: Moo-ving On Up
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Moo-ving On Up

I might have broken my back. Collapsing into the closest chair I could find, I rested my aching shoulders.

"Remind me why we're not using magic," I huffed wearily as Boris glided easily past me carrying a good fifteen volumes of Lockhart's books. He set them down in the growing pile in the window and turned to look at me. He was beaming.

"We need a homely touch. Hand-made things always look better," he said happily. "Now, what do you think?" He held up two different books for me to inspect. One was a sickening lilac, the other a baby pink. "'Wandering with Werewolves' or 'Prancing with Pixies?'"

I sighed, trying not to pull a face. "Those books are so old, I doubt anyone is going to want to buy them. Why can't you decorate the window display with big posters of his face and have done?"

Boris looked down at the books in his hand, seemingly favouring 'Prancing with Pixies'. "Come now, Rose, you and I both know that people don't want half the stuff they buy. It's all about persuading them that they need to buy it. Lockhart's a popular man these days, we might as well cash in on it."

I shook my head scathingly as he rearranged the display so that 'Prancing with Pixies' was more towards the centre. Rubbing my back, I returned to the store room at the back of the shop to start carrying Lockhart's new autobiography through. His smiling face grinned up at me, causing me to get lost in his dreamy eyes for a moment before I remembered myself. Grudgingly, I stacked the books up and loaded them into my arms.

"When are you interviewing the prospective shop assistants?" I asked as I dumped the stack of books at Boris' feet. It was almost noon, and I was pretty sure that Boris wanted to finish up early today in time for his weekend away with his wife. They were doing some circus themed weekend in the Lake District, as far as I could tell. I shuddered at the thought of Boris dressed as a clown, combining two of the worst concepts known to mankind.

"They'll be here in an hour," Boris wheezed as he stopped lifting books to catch his breath. "Speaking of which, I meant to ask you a favour." He battered his eyelashes at me hopefully.

I rolled my eyes. "What is it?"

"Will you interview them for me? I wouldn't ask, only I want to make the finishing touches to my costume for tonight." I remained impassive. "It's our anniversary you know."

I sighed heavily, refusing to allow disgustingly inappropriate and creepy mental images to distract me. I really didn't want to know what he and his wife were planning for their romantic evening. "I deserve a pay rise for the number of times I've bailed you out," I conceded, nodding.

"The pay rise is yours!" Boris said gleefully, grabbing my hands and twirling my around the shop. "And have a promotion too."

At that point, I tripped over a pile of books, tearing the skin on my shin. "What?" I spluttered from my heap on the floor. Boris bent down and grinned at me.

"Have a promotion," he sang. "You can be the new manager of the shop. Which means you have to finish off this display whilst I go and do my make-up. Ta-ta."

He then skipped into the storeroom, singing something tuneless loudly. I lay on the floor, slightly stunned. I couldn't quite work out if he was even serious about the promotion, or whether that was even a good thing. I wasn't even sure I wanted to be the manager of the shop, not if it sent me as barmy as Boris. I rubbed my shin thoughtfully. This was a good thing, right?

Boris emerged from the storeroom about fifteen minutes later, bearing his teeth at me briefly before twirling out of the shop. "Have a good weekend!" he called to me before slamming the door shut. I was left to myself, with only the ringing of the bell above the door for company. Bugger. I'd never conducted an interview before, what was I supposed to do?

I decided at that point that the best thing I could do was make a cup of tea and enchant the window display to arrange itself, which it did obligingly. Sipping at my tea, in the back room, I scanned the room for clues as if the walls were about to offer me career advice. If anything, they just shook their wallpapered heads sadly at me, just as clueless as I was. My eyes fell on the door to the office upstairs and I came to the conclusion that I needed to have a poke about up there, as a very important manager-y type person. Maybe I needed my own office... and a name badge that read "Rose Weasley, Very Important Manager". Yes, that would do nicely.

Boris's office was incredibly tidy, so much so that I felt like I'd messed up the room just by standing in the doorway. I wondered if Boris was into that Feng Shoe thing my cousin Lily was always banging on about. Luckily, the tidiness merely meant that I didn't have to rifle through his drawers in order to find something instructive but only coming out with a pack of chewing gum (finders’ keepers...). In a neat pile on his desk were four pieces of parchment, each detailing the information about the applicant. I pinched those and headed back downstairs again.

I finished my tea and continued to make finishing touches to the display. Would a life-size cardboard cut-out of Gilderoy (yes, we were on first name terms) be too much for the shop floor? I wasn't sure about anyone else, but I quite fancied being welcomed by a handsome man every morning when I arrived for work. As Very Important Manager, I definitely could make an executive decision to organise that. Wonderful.

I spent the remainder of the time waiting around for the applicants. Bored, I picked up their details and started to read. The first applicant was a guy a couple of years younger than me, who'd just come back from travelling; the next was an older lady. As I turned over the page, I almost knocked my mug of tea over; the third applicant was Roxanne. I stared at her application later in disgust, horrible swearwords fighting each other to leave my mouth. "That cow," I muttered angrily, throwing the parchment down on the counter by the till. There was only room for one R. Weasley in this shop, and that was me. Why was she even applying for the job? I was pretty certain she was busy studying Law down south. The thought that she'd returned to London was awful. I grimaced. Not only was she back, but I was going to have to talk to her and pretend like I didn't hate her so that I could give her a fair interview. Fuck!

I buried my face in my hands and tried to work out what I was going to do. Maybe I wouldn't even have to interview her; she'd either not turn up or arrive and be so intimidated by my very important-ness and flee. Groaning, I made myself some more tea and waited for the first applicant to arrive.

The young man arrived first, two minutes late, but nicely presented (apart from a wonky nose, but I could hardly criticise him for that).

"Hello Mr Derwent," I said as officially and professionally as I could, shaking his hand. "I'm Rose Weasley, the shop manager. Please come this way." I'd turned into the Queen; for some reason I'd put on a really posh accent. Bugger. I led him upstairs to Boris's office and we sat down.

In an attempt to sound less posh, I changed my accent again. "Why do ya want this job?" Okay, this wasn't going well, I'd turned Scottish. Matthew, the applicant, looked at me blankly for a minute and wisely decided not to comment on my changing nationality. I tried not to turn bright red, but that never worked and my cheeks started to heat up.

Eventually, he left, leaving me to rest my head on Boris's desk, mortified. Not giving the bloke the job just because I'd embarrassed myself was a terrible reason, but at that moment I was considering it quite seriously. Why had I agreed to this again? I always ended up doing the most stupid of things, just because I lacked a backbone. It was one disaster after the next.

I heard the bell tinkle downstairs and dragged myself down to the shop. Standing in the doorway was my favourite cousin, dressed in a designer suit and her hair done for the occasion. Note to self: resist throw tea over her. She looked over at me as I approached her, notable surprise on her face.

"Rose," she stated blankly. "What are you doing here?"

I frowned. Surely she didn't take that little notice of me. "I work here," I said evenly. "I'm the manager and I'll be conducting your interview today."

She looked at me as though I was joking, then saw her application in my hand and wiped the disbelief off her face. I was honestly trying not to find this completely gratifying, but as we climbed the stairs I couldn't conceal a smirk. I couldn't wait until Molly heard about this, she would be gleeful.

As we sat down, I was pleased to see Roxanne looked slightly nervous. I'd never felt so empowered in all my life; Roxanne had always had one up on me all my life, being older, more beautiful and far more popular. And she had never let me forget it. I was going to make her squirm during this interview; I would make sure of it. It was payback time.

“So,” I said (in my normal voice this time). “Why do you want to work for Flourish and Blotts?”

I let her waffle on about how much she loves books and reading for a good two minutes before I interrupted her. Narrowing my eyes and leaning closer, I asked pointedly, “what was the last book you read?”

Oh, I had her all right. I didn’t know how much she’d rehearsed beforehand, but I knew she’d never been that keen on reading; she’d spent all her teenage years playing Quidditch and the earlier part of her twenties playing for a professional team. She couldn’t fool me, I’d grown up with that bitch.

She did indeed squirm in her seat as she tried to think of the last non-magazine related publication she’d read. Eventually, she admitted defeat, tucking a loose strand of black hair behind her ear. “Look, Rose,” she said darkly. “You and I both know I don’t read and I don’t really like books either. I need the money.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Has Daddy stopped paying your rent?” I asked patronisingly.

Roxanne bit her red-painted lips. “It’s not that.” She seemed to lean closer, as though there was someone hiding behind Boris’s drinks cabinet. “I got kicked out of Law School. I’ve got no prospects.”

I sighed inwardly in order to calm myself. I couldn’t believe she was sat in front of me in my pretend office telling me that she applied for the same job I’d been doing for the past few years because she no longer had any prospects. This was a last resort, a sign that she’d given up on having a proper job. I was so pissed off that she was lucky I didn’t slap her.

The look in her eyes indicated she was basically begging me… hang on. I mentally shook myself; of course. Roxanne wasn’t necessarily here because she thought my job was the lowest of the low; she was here because she was related to me. She was using me.

“What do you expect me to do about it, Roxanne?” My fingers were drumming into the table. “You can’t just turn up at my work and expect to be given a job.”

“I’m not expecting you to give me the job,” she denied quickly, tucking more hair behind her ear. “I didn’t know you worked here. I thought I was a bit overqualified, so I applied.”

Right, so she definitely was insulting my job now. I frowned at her. “I think it’s time for you to leave,” I announced quietly.

She bit her lip again. “Don’t be like that, Rosie,” she whimpered. “Won’t you help me?”

I rolled my eyes, sighing heavily. “Why should I help you? We’ve never got on, you ignore me most of the time and you look down on me all the time. If I came to you for help, would you even bother?”

She began nodding earnestly. “Yes, I would!”

My resolve started to weaken, my frown deepening in thought. I didn’t believe for one second that she’d have helped me if I’d asked her, but at the same time we were family and here she was, practically licking my feet for my help. I’d be a terrible person if I said no.

That was before she decided I’d taken too long with my response; she reached into her crocodile-skin handbag and withdrew her purse. She took a fistful of galleons out and pushed them across the desk towards me. “Now will you help me?”

I stared at the gold coins, struck dumb. “You did not just try to bribe me,” I stated in disbelief.

“Please?”

I shook my head, feeling a bit nauseous. “You want to pay me to help you.”

Roxanne frowned, adding a few more coins to the pile. “Stop being such a goody two shoes,” she snapped. “Don’t pretend you’re above bribes, everyone has their price.”

I shook my head again. “Get out,” I said evenly, still staring at the pile of money.

“Come on-”

Meeting her pathetic gaze, I pushed the coins back at her and pointed to the other side of the room. “That’s the door, I suggest you use it.”

Roxanne scooped up the coins and shoved them in her bag, scuttling quickly from the room without even saying goodbye. I sat staring at the bare table for a good ten minutes before shaking myself and moving again. I was going to need a very stiff drink after work if this afternoon got any worse.

-

At half past eight that evening, I found myself sat completely alone at our table in the pub, nursing a pint of cider. I’d arrived well before any of the group were due to arrive, mostly because I was a bit shell-shocked from my eventfully horrendous day, if truth be told, and hadn’t really fancied hanging around at home without any company.

“Rose?” I looked over my shoulder and saw Lorcan at the bar, getting himself a measure of redcurrant rum. “You look dreadful.”

I rolled my eyes as he paid and joined me at the table. “Thanks,” I said sarcastically. “You’ve made me feel so much better.”

“What’s the matter?” he probed, twirling the medallion around his neck.

I drained my glass. “I’ll tell you when the others get here. How was your week?”

Lorcan grinned, twirling the medallion again so that it caught the light from the lamp behind me. I got the hint, leaning forward to inspect this new addition to his outfit. It was circular and gold, with the imprint of a milk bottle. Around the edge the words “Milkman of the Year” were engraved in curly writing. I looked blankly at it, then smiled warmly. “Congratulations, Lorcan! I knew you’d get it.”

“Thanks Rosie,” he beamed, stroking the medal fondly. “I have a trophy too, but that was too big to hang around my neck.”

“Of course,” I murmured. I was a bit jealous of his award, actually. No one had given me a medal of any kind, ever, not even for “Weirdest Fringe”, which I definitely deserved back in Third Year. That had gone to Millie Thomas, a Second Year with bushy eyebrows. I’d always hated her for that.

Albus was next to arrive, almost blue from the cold wind and rain outside. He bought himself a cup of coffee and then joined us in the corner. “It’s perishing out there,” he muttered bitterly, sipping at the dark liquid with a scowl on his face.

“It is,” Lorcan agreed. “I made the mistake of not wearing a scarf today,” he said pointedly, jabbing himself in the chest where his medal hung. I gave Albus a look, who started to make all the right noises.

“Look at you, Milkman of the Year,” he said animatedly. “You’re really moo-ving on up, aren’t you?”

I groaned inwardly at the terribly pun. I checked my watch to see how much longer Albus had to make awful jokes before Molly was here. She was already forty-five minutes late. “I wonder where Molly is,” I mused, fiddling with my empty glass.

“I’ll go and see if she’s at home,” Lorcan offered, draining his own glass and standing up. “I won’t be gone long.”

Albus and I watched him leave, silence following in his wake. “This hasn’t exactly gone to plan,” Albus said eventually, pushing his glasses up his nose.

I shook my head in agreement. I sighed, deciding that I might as well tell someone. “I got promoted today.”

Albus grinned clapping me on the back. “You did? Congratulations, Rose. I’m really pleased for you.”

“Really?” I grinned back. “I never thought I’d be a manager, and definitely not a Very Important one at that.”

“It’s good to see you smiling again,” he admitted. “Molly was saying she was very worried about you.”

I rolled my eyes. Everyone clearly thought I was going loopy. I was fine, I kept telling everyone that. “Yes,” I said with a sigh. “It seems everyone’s been worried. Sorry about that.”

“That’s quite all right.”

I looked over my shoulder quickly to check no one we knew was nearby, then lowered my voice. “I have some gossip. I was waiting for Molly, but as she’s stood us up I’ll tell you anyway.” Albus leaned in closer. “Roxanne’s been chucked out of Law School.”

“What?!” Albus’s eyes couldn’t get any wider. “Why?”

I blinked. “Oh, I don’t know. I didn’t even ask that.” I frowned. “She applied for a job in the shop, and as I’m now the manager, I was interviewing her. She begged for the job, then tried to bribe me.”

“Outrageous!” Albus exclaimed.

“I know,” I agreed dramatically.

“Hmm,” my cousin mused, pushing his glasses back up his nose, as they’d slipped in his excitement. “I wonder what she did to get thrown out. And why did she come to you for help, of all people?”

I scowled. “She didn’t remember that I worked there. But I threw her out after she tried to pay me to give her a job. It was quite disgusting, really; I’ve never felt so cheap.”

Albus raised his eyebrows. “Not even when-?”

“That was only the once,” I snapped haughtily, turning pink. “And I’ve chosen to erase that from my memory, so I’d ask that you do the same.”

“Right,” he said sheepishly. When my continued glare got too much for him, he offered to buy the next round of drinks, which I accepted. He got up from the table, heading straight for the blonde woman behind the bar. Rolling my eyes, I accepted that I was going to have a lonely night. Checking my watch, I saw that it was nearly ten. I couldn’t believe I was getting to the point where I thought ten was late. Thoughts of my warm bed were rather attractive at that moment, but I was determined to wait until Lorcan returned. I was beginning to worry quite a lot; he should have returned by now, with or without Molly.

I chewed on my lip, waiting for Albus to return. When he sat down, I quickly drained my drink.

“Wow, slow down, Rose,” Albus said, a little startled.

“Come on,” I barked pointing to his glass. “I think we should go and find Molly. Lorcan should be back by now.”

He sipped at his drink, looking quite intimidated. “Lorcan told us to wait here. What if he comes back and we’ve disappeared too?”

“We can’t just sit around here like dummies. I’m leaving.” I stood up, shrugging my coat on, looking pointedly at Albus until he nervously drained his glass and joined me. I grabbed his hand, Apparating us to my flat.

As I unlocked the front door, I felt an overwhelming sense of foreboding, and I started to get a bit jittery. We snuck inside, wandering through the dark hall.

“Shit!” I screamed, battering away something soft and heavy.

“What?” Albus hissed, walking into me.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. “It was just a coat.”

Albus coughed, casting a quick lumos. The light cast eerie shapes around the flat. He opened the door to the bathroom, and found nothing. Next, we checked my room: again, nothing except a massively untidy carpet of clothes.

As he opened the door to Molly’s room, he swore loudly.

“What?” I cried, pushing him away and sticking my head around the door, my heart beating very fast. I screamed louder than before, this time. “Oh my God!”

This was not happening. This couldn’t be happening. I shut my eyes, trying to hide from the scene before me, but it was no use. It was definitely happening.







AN: Just a quick thank you to everyone who read and reviewed the last chapter, you're all lovely! 


Chapter 14: Unwanted Criminal
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Unwanted Criminal

I hid in my bed for as long as I could, refusing to leave my room. That was my whole weekend, nay, my whole life ruined. Maybe if I never saw anyone ever again I could erase what I’d just seen from my memory and the whole thing would never have happened. I managed to stay hidden until about midday, when I heard a tap on my door.

“Rose?” It was Molly. I didn’t want to talk to her ever again; she was officially removed from my life. “Can I come in?”

“No,” I mumbled. She ignored me anyway, her footsteps causing the floor to creak. Sitting at the foot of my bed, she poked my thigh. “Go away.”

She didn’t move, continuing to prod me through the duvet. “Please can we talk, Rosie. I miss you. I hate it when we fight.”

While we hadn’t actually spoken since the incident, me hiding from her definitely counted as an argument. The last time we’d stopped speaking to her it was because she’d spilled marmite on my favourite dress when I was eighteen.

“I don’t want to talk to you.”

Sighing, Molly retreated, closing the door behind her. I heard muffled voices outside of the door. “I knew she’d be like this,” Molly was saying in a hushed tone. “Maybe I should get her a biscuit.”

I growled, throwing the covers back and marching out of my room. Molly looked abashed as I glared angrily at her, a mad woman with bed hair and sheep pyjamas. “You knew I’d be like what?” I demanded furiously. “And – and you can’t make everything okay with biscuits.”

Molly and Lorcan shared a look, and he got the hint and wandered off to leave us alone. “I’m so sorry, Rose,” Molly offered.

“How could you?” I said sadly.

Molly sighed, running her hands through her hair. “It’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be.”

“It is!” I cried, jabbing a finger at her. “I was so worried about you, I thought you’d died. But instead you were here, shagging Lorcan, who happens to be one of our best friends. It’s so selfish!”

Molly raised her eyebrows. “You know what?” she began. “I’m not the one who should be sorry. You’re so against anyone else being happy that you’re going off at me because you’re jealous. That’s not my fault, Rose!”

Jealous?” I spluttered. “I’m not jealous of you. I just think you should have thought how this would have affected everyone else when you jumped into bed with him.”

“This is typical Rose,” she said with a shake of her head, her hand on her hips. “The world is not all about you. I didn’t plan this to make you feel bad; I just did something on a whim. You should try it sometime.”

“Actually, this is typical Molly,” I shot back. “You’re always telling me what to do. I’m upset about this, deal with it.”

“Just accept that you’re overreacting and I’ll stop telling you what to do.” I didn’t really feel the need to point out that that was exactly what she had just done.

“Say sorry,” I said evenly.

“I’m not sorry,” she said with a pout, turning around and stomping back to her room. I was seething, but chose not to follow her. Instead, I stormed back into my room and slammed the door behind me.

I couldn’t believe she’d just said that this was my fault! I wasn’t the one who’d just ruined all the dynamics within the few friends I had, and not only that but she didn’t even feel bad for making me worry. She could be so insensitive at times, it was really unbelievable.

Reaching under my bed, I took out the secret biscuit stash I had munched on three hobnobs. Even that didn’t seem to placate me. What was I going to do? I definitely wasn’t going to take responsibility for our argument, no way, but sitting in my room fuming about it wasn’t going to get Molly to say sorry. Maybe I should fake my own death, that would show her. She’d realise she’d been a complete cow and regret her mistake for the rest of her life, turning into a withered old spinster. Shaking my head, I swallowed the biscuits I’d been eating. Fake death wouldn’t work, that would make all my family upset too (and unlike some I did actually think about other people).

The worst thing about all of this was that I hadn’t even managed to tell Molly that I’d been promoted, or that Roxanne was back. Well, I thought grumpily, she didn’t deserve to know anyway. I couldn’t even go and moan to Lorcan, who was my usual go-to person to mouth off about Molly. What did she even see in him? He was a great friend, he was funny, but attractive? That wouldn’t have been the first thing I thought about when I saw him. I doubted she even liked him like that. She was on the rebound after Jake, that must have been it.

I needed to get out of the flat, otherwise we’d drive each other mental. She needed some time to cool off before she realised she’d been a bitch. Throwing some random items of clothing in a bag, I Apparated to the only person I could think of who’d be neutral in this situation (or at least, would support me).

Banging on the door to the Shrieking Shack dressed only in my sheep pyjamas, I must have looked a bit mental. At that point, I really didn’t care who saw me as long as I could have a nice long rant to anyone who’d listen. She was so out of order!

After five minutes, I realised no one was going to answer the door; bugger. Looking behind me down the hill, Hogsmeade high street looked busy, as it tended to be on a Saturday lunch time. Shit, shit, shit. I tried to think where Scorpius could have gone; he wasn’t at work, I knew that for sure. There could have been any number of other places he could be, I wasn’t about to start traversing the country to find him. In the end I just sat down on a bench down the side of the house away from the wind and huddled myself in whatever clothes I’d bought. Then, I cried.

I refused to believe this was my fault, but Molly was so bloody stubborn that she’d never admit she had made a mistake. We were going to end up in a horrible biscuit-free stalemate, neither of us forgiving the other. But I couldn’t just give in; I was determined to turn over a new leaf and stop being such a doormat. I’d managed to stand up to Roxanne the day before, why couldn’t I stand up to Molly? I sniffed miserably, wiping ugly tears from my cheeks. It was bloody cold out here; I hated March.

There was no way I could stay out here; I’d forgotten my coat. Ten minutes of noisy sobbing and self-pitying, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. I had no other choice but to break into Scorpius’s house (or so I kept telling myself. Going home and admitting defeat was not an option). Gathering my clothes up and sticking them back in my bag, I wandered around to the front door. Looking over my shoulder, I checked no one else was around, then whispered alohamora.

Nothing happened. Scowling, I kicked his door for good measure. I should have known that wouldn’t have worked, no witch or wizard would leave their house that unguarded. I returned to the bench, looking for a way in. There was a window just above the bench, which seemed extremely convenient for any breaking-in efforts. I couldn’t quite believe I’d been reduced to this, but it was either break in or freeze. Sighing, I climbed up on the bench and pointed my wand at the window.

Diffindo,” I muttered hopefully. The glass cracked, clinking onto the floor inside. I poked the remaining glass through with my finger and chucked my bag inside. Again, nothing happened, but that meant that Scorpius didn’t have an alarm set inside that would detect my sneaking. I examined the window thoughtfully, trying to determine which was the best way of getting inside. If I put my legs through first, there was a very good chance that I’d pull a muscle doing the splits; if I went in head first, I’d probably hit my head on the way in and give myself concussion.

In the end, I decided to go in leg first, managing to avoid snagging my clothes on any broken glass. I hopped onto the floor of the kitchen, quickly cleaning up the mess I’d made with a flick of my wand. I was in.

I grabbed my bag, walking through to the living room, where I nestled myself amongst the cushions and tucked myself under the blanket. Then, I started to cry a bit more, feeling sorry for myself being all alone, not in my own house and now an unwanted criminal.

I heard the door creak open about half an hour later, after I’d dozed for a bit.

“Rose?”

I opened my eyes, seeing Scorpius standing in the doorway looking bloody confused. “Hello,” I mumbled embarrassedly. I hadn’t meant to almost fall asleep on his sofa. I was lucky he hadn’t mistaken me for a burglar or a squatter and cursed me.

“What are you doing here?” he asked. “And how did you get in?”

“I sort of broke in,” I admitted, pointing to the kitchen window. I sat up, throwing the blanket off me. “I need a place to stay.” I looked up at him hopefully.

He shook his head, sitting across from me in an armchair. “You’re welcome to stay. Just, you know, try to use the front door next time.”

I sighed, smiling wearily. It was a completely bizarre situation, and if I’d known six months ago that I was the creeper breaking into people’s houses, I definitely would have moved to another country and changed my identity. I wasn’t as bad as Scorpius, definitely not. Though, watching Scorpius as he took my bag through to the spare room, I had to admit he wasn’t all that bad.

“So, why are you suddenly homeless?” Scorpius asked curiously, sitting back down.

My bottom lip quivered. “I’ve sort of fallen out with Molly.” Suddenly, the reality of what had happened hit me, and I found myself sobbing hysterically, crawling across the floor to sit at Scorpius’s feet. I hugged his knees miserably, clinging to him for support. “She’s never going to speak to me again,” I wailed. “She won’t accept that she’s wrong and I’m right and we’ll never be friends again.” I started to rock back and forth, shivering.

Scorpius looked almost disgusted, shifting his feet from under my weight. “What’s happened?”

“She slept with Lorcan,” I said sorrowfully. “And now everything’s changed and it’s weird and I thought she’d died but she was just with him and I can never trust her again.” I took a breath. “And she said I was jealous but I’m not, and I called her selfish and she is and she won’t admit she was wrong!”

Scorpius raised an eyebrow. “That’s pathetic.”

“I know,” I said, looking up at him from the floor tearfully. “She is. How can I make her apologise?”

“I didn’t mean Molly,” he said running his hands through heavily gelled hair. “I meant this whole argument. Have you seriously moved out over one small tiff?”

“I haven’t moved out,” I said indignantly. “I’ve just escaped for a bit until she calms down.”

Scorpius looked at my sceptically. “It’s not that I don’t want you staying over,” he began slowly. “Because I do love having you around. But you really need to sort this out or it’ll just get worse.”

I sighed; he’d really missed the point. “I’m not talking to her, that’s the reason I came here. I can’t force her to apologise, she has to want to do it herself.”

“Right,” he said, frowning down at me. “Whatever. Do you want to play Scrabble?”

He’d done well to listen to me moan for as long as he did; I nodded, shuffling away so he could set up the board game. We played in silence for a good half an hour, with only the sound of Scorpius’s score thrashing mine for conversation.

Scorpius cleared his throat loudly. “Rose - we’re friends, aren’t we?”

I smiled. “Yes, we’re friends.”

“Good,” he said cheerfully. He watched me add a word to the Scrabble board. “‘Krap’ isn’t a real word.”

I scowled. “Fine,” I conceded grudgingly.

I made a different word, Scorpius never taking his eyes from my hands. “Do you ever think we could be more than just friends?”

I deliberately chose not to look up from the board. “Erm,” I stalled, trying to find a way not to insult his entire personality. “Maybe?”

He seemed satisfied with this answers, placing a new word on the board with a jaunty flourish. Love. I cringed at the sight of it. Okay, so maybe he was being nice for now, but what about the rest of the time? He was still a weirdo, just a nice one.

“Good,” he said happily. “I’ll look forward to that, then.”

I wanted to hide, though I seemed to be doing a lot of that at the moment. Why did he have to make things so awkward? Sighing, I fiddled with my letter tiles. “Scorpius,” I began, then faltered. I really didn’t want to tell him that I wasn’t interested in him like that, but he would be so hurt, and admittedly I did need somewhere to stay. I sighed again. “Why - can I ask you something?”

“Yep,” he said, not looking up from my twiddling hands. I hoped he wasn’t developing a fetish.

I chewed on my lip hesitantly. “Why do you like me so much? I don’t mind, but it used to be quite weird…”

I trailed off, hoping that he would catch my meaning; I couldn’t come out and ask him outright why he was a stalker, or why he was a bit of a weirdo. I really did need to keep him keen so that I could stay at his for as long as it took.

He finally looked up at me, light blue eyes framed with gelled hair. “I don’t really know. It is a bit weird, isn’t it?”

I frowned. He’d missed the point completely, managing to insult me in the process. “No,” I interjected. “I mean, why did you follow me around and stuff?”

“Oh,” he said slowly, appearing to consider it. “I thought you were cool. I wanted to be your friend. But we’re friends now, so I don’t need to do things to get you to notice me.”

I raised my eyebrows, staring at him. He looked embarrassed, but held my gaze. “You wanted to be my friend? That’s what all that was about?” He nodded. “I wish you’d told me that years ago,” I admitted. “I started to worry about my personal safety for a bit.”

“I’d never hurt you,” he said earnestly. “I just didn’t know how to talk to you. I’ve never really had any friends before.”

The sad reality of that statement hit me, and I felt the need to hug him; I didn’t, because I didn’t want hair gel on my pyjamas, but the thought was what counted. I couldn’t imagine not having friends, or at least not having family who I poached as friends. My eyes began to tear up at the thought of my best friend, who probably felt as miserable as I did. I was an idiot; I shouldn’t have shouted at her. Guilt started to overwhelm me.

“I have to go,” I said suddenly, standing up and sending the Scrabble tiles flying.

Scorpius frowned. “Was it something I said?”

“Yes,” I said. “But in a good way.” I gathered up my things. I turned around, gave Scorpius a quick peck on the cheek in thanks and then Disapparated.

Faced with my front door, I took a deep breath before sticking my key in the lock. I should have planned this a bit better; I had no idea what I was going to say to make this better, but I’d say anything to patch it up. Unlocking the door, I found the courage to go inside.

I found Molly curled up on the sofa nibbling on a chocolate hobnob. She looked incredibly grumpy, but I nevertheless soldiered on.

“Molly,” I called to her from the door. She looked up, seemingly relieved to see me.

“Rose!” she said angrily. “Where have you been all day? I’ve been worried sick! I almost called your parents.”

I blanched. “Please tell me you didn’t.”

“No, of course I didn’t,” she said calmly. “I’m not stupid.”

We looked at each other, waiting for one or other of us to break the awkward silence. When it seemed very clear that Molly wasn’t going to say anything more, I coughed. “Molly, I’m really sorry about earlier. I didn’t mean to get so angry, or upset. I’m sorry.”

Molly nodded. Then, she offered me a biscuit. I took it, understanding that this mean that we were okay. She pulled me into a hug and I made a promise to myself right there and then that I’d never fall out with her again.

“Come sit down,” Molly said, plopping herself back down on the sofa. “We have lots to discuss.”

I joined her, smiling genuinely for what felt like the first time in years. I had Molly back! Life would be back to normal, we’d share happy biscuits over cups of perfect tea and everything would be smiles and rainbows, just like I wanted.

“Where did you go?” Molly asked as I made myself comfortable.

“Scorpius’s,” I admitted grudgingly. “We played Scrabble.”

“Is that a euphemism?” Molly waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

I looked at her in horror. “No!”

“Good,” she said with a small smile. “That would be too much drama for one day, if you ask me.”

The untouched subject of Lorcan came unbidden into my mind, and I let out a deep sigh. “So,” I said nervously. “What’s going on between you and Lorcan?”

Molly frowned. “Not a lot, I don’t think. He left soon after you and we haven’t spoken since.”

“Sorry,” I said again. “Do you want there to be something going on?”

“I think so,” she admitted carefully. “I’ve been thinking that I like him for quite a while. I just wasn’t sure.”

“And you’re sure now?” I stabbed the mental images away.

“Yeah, I am.” She allowed herself to grin. “I mean, aside from our spat, I don’t think I’ve felt this happy in a long time.”

I flung my arm around her shoulder. “I’m glad. I want you to be happy.” I squished her to me. “I want us all to be happy.”




Author's Note: Okay, I need to thank Jenny/Erised for being so ridiculously encouraging, even though it means I'm updating more often than I'd like to. Thaaaanks Jenny, for being such a bad influence. Thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter - I love you! Have a mince pie on me. 


Chapter 15: Smarmy Smiles
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Smarmy Smiles

I let myself into the shop an hour early, well aware that this was going to be a very busy Tuesday. Chucking my coat over a chair in the storeroom, I looked around in order to assess the damage. Pink, floral patterned boxes covered almost every inch of the shop floor, stacked higher than I could reach (not that that was saying much; I wasn’t particularly tall). How many bloody books did Lockhart expect to sell? He wasn’t exactly Shakespeare, was he? As he beamed up at me from an open box, I stuck my tongue out at him. My love for him was waning with every passing day.

I took out the invoice from the publishers and began the daunting task of counting the boxes. I managed to count thirty-six boxes before the doorbell tinkled behind me, distracting my counting. Sighing, I turned to see who had interrupted me. It was Matthew, who stood nervously in the doorway, wrapped up in a heavy grey coat and dark green scarf.

“Hello,” I said, trying to sound as normal as possible this time. I’d been worrying about meeting him again after the disastrous interview last Friday. “I’ll show you around, shall I?”

He nodded, a stray lock of hair falling over his eyes, which he brushed aside hastily. “That would be good, thanks.”

I threw a stern look at the boxes, as if they were about to sprout legs and run around in order to confuse my counting even more. Nothing moved. I showed Matthew the backroom (for tea and biscuits) and the storeroom (for actually doing something productive), then gestured to mountain of boxes.

“Do you mind helping me count and unpack these?” I asked, running a hand through my hair, which was already frazzled from the thought. “I have no idea where we’re going to put them yet, but the main thing is that they’re all there.”

Together, we set up an efficient chain of me counting and him unpacking. I couldn’t tell you how sick I was of Gilderoy Lockhart’s smarmy face by midmorning, his overly white teeth now bright and offensive.

“How does he get his teeth so white?” I grumbled, chucking another box in Matthew’s direction. “I reckon it must be dark magic, there’s no other explanation.”

“I’m sure he’ll tell us all about it in the book,” Matthew mused. “‘Chapter Five: Whitening with Wizards’. It’ll be a revolutionary piece of writing that will change the lives of millions. Just you wait and see; magical folk will be knocking down your hideous window display to see his sparkly gnashers.”

My eyes fell on Boris’s precious display. “It is hideous, isn’t it?” I agreed. “I sort of hope they do trash it so we don’t have to look at that every day for the next month. Having him in the shop once is going to be unbearable, but we’ll have to put up with his face for as long as he pays us to.”

I was so pleased that Matthew hadn’t turned into some horrendously pompous lad who aspired to be as ‘handsome’ as Lockhart. Although there hadn’t really been much of a choice (Roxanne didn’t count as a candidate and the other candidate, the older lady, turned up with some false teeth for me as a present, which I found completely offensive), we weren’t doing too badly. Boris would be pleased, if he actually bothered to turn up to the shop at any point this week. I was starting to worry he’d actually run away with the circus, or that he’d decided that as I was now the manager, he didn’t need to show his face at all. I hoped it was the former.

After we’d checked all the boxes were there and emptied them, Matthew and I turned to the sea of books at our feet with heavy hearts. “What are supposed to do with all of these?” he asked doubtfully.

“I have a plan, don’t worry,” I said, eyeing the books with a smile.

-

Boris didn’t arrive until after noon, looking exhausted and bearing the marks of post-clown make-up. “Good afternoon,” he said wearily, heading straight for the back room to make himself some coffee.

Matthew looked at me, and I shook my head; I’d introduce them later, when Boris had perked up a bit. For now, I gave him the task of re-alphabetising the joke section. I watched him disappear between the shelves with something like pride, unable to believe I’d actually made a good decision for once. We’d been extremely productive all morning, and he seemed to be a charmer with the customers. I was feeling rather charmed myself.

Boris started grumbling inaudibly as he made his way upstairs to the office, cup of coffee in his hand. I braced myself, wincing before I heard him start yelling.

“Rose Weasley!” he thundered, followed by the sound of china smashing. Matthew stuck his head out from behind a bookshelf, looking alarmed.

“I think it’s time for lunch,” I said hastily, grabbing our coats from the back room and scarpering for the door. Matthew caught up with me outside, looking thoroughly bewildered.

“Is he always like that?” he asked concernedly.

“Nah,” I placated, strolling up the street in the direction of the Leaky Cauldron. “He’s just had a weekend with the wife, it doesn’t happen very often.”

“I see,” he muttered grimly. “What’s he like as a boss?”

I scrunched my face, trying to find the best way to describe Boris; nothing I could think of summed him up well enough. “Strange, I suppose. He says the weirdest things. I wouldn’t take anything he says to heart if I were you; he means well, but doesn’t really express it in the best of ways.”

Matthew didn’t say anything in response to that, he merely nodded. When we reached the pub, he held the door open for me and I ducked inside. I never really understood why the Leaky Cauldron had to be so gloomy. Sometimes, I suspected it was because they didn’t want Muggles to see what was inside if they ever got in by accident. We found a table in the least gloomy corner we could find and ordered lunch.

“I’ll be glad when next week’s over,” I said over a pumpkin pasty. “The novelty’s worn off a bit, I have to admit.”

Matthew grinned. “Are you a Lockhart fan?”

I took a sip of my drink. “I’m not anymore, that’s for bloody sure. I’m sick of seeing his face on every wall or door everywhere I go. Fame really brings out the worst in some people.”

“It does,” Matthew agreed, looking at me curiously. “But you didn’t seem to do too badly, considering your family and stuff.”

I shrugged. “My Mum bought out the Daily Prophet before I was born, and on top of that she’s a pretty powerful and, quite frankly, scary woman. It could have been so much worse if she hadn’t been vetting everything printed about my family.”

Mum had basically saved my life, actually, now I thought about it. Without her, I’d have snoopy reporters going through my rubbish, looking for discarded tissues. I’d already had enough problems with Scorpius, let alone people who were paid to do things like that.

“That’s fortunate,” he said, nodding.

“To be quite honest,” I added thoughtfully. “I don’t think the public are that interested in us, and definitely not me. We hardly do anything front page news-worthy.”

“I don’t know about that.” Matthew poured some more juice into his glass. “I think it’s good to remember how much your family did to help the wizarding world. People are interested in all of your stories.”

I really couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in things like what washing powder my Mum used, but I chose not to quibble. He was being complementary after all; there was no need for me to discourage that.

“I suppose,” I said quietly, finishing my lunch. “I never really thought about it like that.”

Our conversation reminded me of a story my Mum had told me years ago, about some journalist that had caused her a load of problems by publishing false stories and being a general shit-stirrer. As far as I could gather, Mum had turned her into a beetle and then eventually bought the newspaper company she used to work for. I definitely would never want to piss my Mum off, that was for sure. The idea of people writing about her daily life for all to see disturbed me, mostly because I had enough problems with having to share her with Hugo, let alone the rest of the nation. It was tough enough that I got recognised everywhere I went; if people were hounding me for gossip, I think I'd have moved to another country years before now.

After we paid for our lunch, we meandered back up the high street to the shop. I hoped Boris's coffee had taken effect and he'd forgive me for hiding hundreds of copies of Gilderoy Lockhart's face in his office. The bell tinkled above the door as we entered the shop, causing a customer to start and look up as we approached the till.

I rolled my eyes. "How can I help, Scorpius?"

He looked between Matthew and me with a hurt look. His hair was almost curly today, his silvery locks gelled into a wavy helmet. "I was going to surprise you," he said thickly. "But I see you've already had lunch."

I tried not to look guilty, because I really didn't have anything to be sorry for. "Yes," I said gently. "I took Matthew to the Leaky Cauldron - he's our new shop assistant." Matthew shot a smile at Scorpius, who looked cynical. I dearly hoped he wasn’t about to draw a pistol and challenge Matthew to a duel. That would be so embarrassing. "Matthew, this is my - err - Scorpius."

Sensing the tension between Scorpius and me, Matthew went and hid in the back room. I heard him boil the kettle, humming loudly to himself. "I'm sorry," I said after a pause. "I didn't realise you were going to stop by. We could go for lunch another time?" I wasn't averse to having two lunches in one day, but no one else needed to know that.

"I still owe you dinner," Scorpius said more cheerfully. "Are you free on Friday?"

I pretended to rifle through my diary, because I was just that popular that I might have had something else on. "I'm free."

"Good." He seemed much happier now. "I'll come to yours for eight, then."

He walked out without even saying goodbye, which I thought was a bit rude but it saved on any awkward 'hug/no hug' or 'kiss/no kiss' scenarios. I wished he wouldn’t be so vague sometimes, it was extremely infuriating. I’d end up spending at least three hours deciding what I should wear, made difficult by the fact that he hadn’t told me where we were going. He clearly didn’t understand half the troubles I had with daily life.

I looked over my shoulder, where Matthew was standing with two cups of tea in the doorway. Seeing that I'd caught him eavesdropping, he scuttled over and handed me a mug. I thanked him, reaching under the counter for my biscuit tin.

"Biscuit?" I asked, offering him the tin.

He shook his head apologetically. "No thanks," he said. "I don't really like them."

Did he actually just say what I thought he just said? Maybe I’d gone deaf sometime this morning, or he’d actually meant to say “I don’t really like them, I love them”. He was still staring at me sadly, as though he was a little lost puppy. Dear me, I'd made a colossal error in hiring this man. Who didn't like biscuits? That was that, it was settled; we could never be friends.

He probably noticed my disgust, avoiding eye contact until we'd both finished our tea (and I'd stopped munching sadly on a bourbon) and he'd washed up. Luckily, Boris chose that moment to trundle down the stairs, looking slightly grey in colour.

"Do you know how hard it is to concentrate on anything with that buffoon leering at you?" he announced irritably, jabbing a finger into the chest of the cardboard Lockhart I'd made yesterday (yes, I went there). Cardboard Lockhart grinned back at us, winking at me as Boris turned his back. "I suggest you find somewhere else to keep the stock, Weasley."

I huffed, gesturing vaguely around the room. "Where else can we keep it?"

"You're a witch, think of something!" With that, Boris stormed out of the shop, leaving the bell tinkling and the glass rattling.

Sighing, I checked my watch. “I have to be somewhere,” I told Matthew apologetically. “I won’t be gone long.” I marched towards the door, leaving a terrified young man in my wake.

“But what about-” he spluttered.

“Try an Undetectable Extension Charm on one of the boxes,” I called over my shoulder, closing the door behind me.

I’d chosen this particular time because it was the one time of the day I’d be able to catch Lorcan at work. He rarely stuck around in one place for very long, what with him being a milkman, so it was important I was at the right place at the right time. I walked up the high street for a bit before ducking down one of the winding alleys that splintered off Diagon Alley. Following the winding street, I ended up in a small cul-de-sac. As I stood on the street corner, the archway I’d just walked through closed up behind me, squashed by the two houses either side of it. Then, I waited.

Four minutes later, I heard the drone of the milk float approach. As he parked up two houses away from me, I watched him place two pints of milk on someone’s doorstep and wander towards me.

“Lorcan?” I called, careful not to startle him when he was carrying a load of glass bottles.

“Rose?” He turned towards me, his white apron flapping in the wind. “What are you doing here?”

Considering the situation, I doubted he thought I was stalking him, but it was always a possibility. I didn’t know whether to assure him I hadn’t been following him all morning, hiding in bushes or stowing away on his van. No, of course he didn’t think that; no one else thought as idiotically as I did. I needed to pull myself together.

“I thought I’d catch you if I waited here,” I said cautiously. “Have you got time to talk?”

He set the crate of bottle down on the pavement, stepping closer. “Yeah.”

I tried not to look at him. He’d slept with Molly. It cheapened him somewhat in my eyes, or at least made him seem a little dirty and unclean. I frowned at him.

“Why did you do it?” I asked without thinking.

Lorcan looked abashed. “Why does anyone do it?”

I frowned deeper. What the hell was that supposed to mean? “Don’t try and put me off with stupid questions,” I barked. “You’ve probably ruined everything, and she won’t forgive you and you’ve made everything as awkward as hell. I hate awkward!”

This wasn’t exactly going the way I’d imagined it would. In my head, I was a rational and reasonable young woman who was completely comfortable with the idea of her friends shacking up. I was just supposed to be trying to get him to talk to her.

“I don’t really see how it’s any of your business what I do and who I do it with,” he said calmly. “But if you’re worried that I’m going to pretend like nothing happened, you’re mistaken. I really like Molly.”

I shut my mouth, which had somehow fallen open. “You like her?”

Lorcan nodded. “Yes, I do.”

“Oh,” I said. I looked down at my feet. “I see.”

“Good,” he said pointedly, daring me to say something else. I didn’t.

The most awkward silence I could remember for a long time hung heavily in the hair between us. What did this mean? Was he going to marry Molly and live happily ever after and a bag of chips? Or did he just mean that he liked her like we all liked her, as the crazy, bossy family member. I was so confused, but I didn’t want to admit that in case he realised how uncomfortable with this whole concept I was. He’d seen her naked! What was worse, Molly had seen him naked. It was too weird to imagine.

“If you hurt her, I’ll hurt you,” I threatened lamely, turning on my heel and walking towards where I thought the archway was.

I walked straight into the side of a house, my face smushed up against the bricks. I dearly hoped he hadn’t seen. I couldn’t exactly look round and check if he’d seen me walk into a wall, so I had to either pretend that I’d intended to do that or look like an idiot; I chose the former. I spread my arms out, caressing the cool brick. I patted the wall fondly, or at least what I hoped appeared to be fondly, and then set off down the street, prodding the bricks occasionally until the archway prised itself from between two houses and allowed me to escape.

Fucking wonderful; what had even been the point of me near-stalking Lorcan? Molly was not going to be happy with me sticking my nose into her business, especially not when I’d come across as a complete freak. Oh bugger, she was going to kill me. Unless, of course, she didn’t know that Lorcan was that serious about her; in fact, I’d done her a massive favour! She’d shower me with biscuits in gratitude and beat off Scorpius with a big stick and things could go back to how they’d always been, just me and her.

Except things couldn’t ever go back to the way they’d been; Teddy was gone, Lorcan was about to become a permanent piece of furniture in our flat and I was finding Scorpius tolerable. Things definitely were not going to be the same again, and that was actually quite a frightening prospect. Mind you, I only found Scorpius tolerable; he wasn’t quite attractive just yet.




AN: Once again, a massive thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter, I really do love you all! 

 


Chapter 16: That's Amore
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That's Amore

I nibbled on a biscuit thoughtfully, considering my reflection in the mirror. I had two hours until Scorpius was going to drop by to take me out to dinner, and I faced a dilemma; to make an effort or not to make an effort. Obviously it wasn’t my aim to go out looking like a troll, but at the same time I couldn’t afford to give Scorpius the wrong impression; too much lipstick now could mean a clingy guy later down the line.

My options were limited; I didn’t have so little self-respect that I’d forgo wearing nice clothes or at least some make-up in favour of making myself look as bad as possible. Au natural wasn’t a particularly good look for me and it wasn’t polite to scare off someone who was paying for your dinner. It had to be appropriate.

“It won’t improve if you just stare at it,” Molly said scathingly as she watched me prod at my cheek fat. “Why are you so bothered, anyway?”

I sighed, turning to face her. “I don’t know what impression I want to give him,” I explained heavily. “He reads far too much into everything as it is.”

Molly rolled her eyes. “I think you’re the one who’s reading too much into it. Have you considered he might like your company more than what you look like?”

I could easily have taken that as an insult on my appearance, but I knew what Molly was getting at. “Even if he does, that doesn’t mean I have to let people see what you see. They’re not as tough as you are.”

She rolled her eyes again, and I rolled my eyes in response. We looked like a pair of washing machines. “You know, I think he might actually like you for who you are,” she said slowly, making each word clear and obvious. “Just relax, would you?”

She was right, of course; I was putting too much pressure on myself for absolutely no reason. Scorpius wasn’t nearly as judgmental as I was, he probably wasn’t going to ditch me because I’d forgone the lipstick. I mentally slapped myself, trying to start thinking a bit more sensibly. It was just dinner, it wasn’t marriage.

“I got a letter from Roxanne earlier,” I said as a means of distraction. “She was trying to apologise.”

Molly squinted at me, looking curious. “Ooh,” she said. “Let’s have a read, then.”

I gestured to a rumpled piece of parchment on my dresser, which she retrieved and examined, poking her ‘morning’ glasses further up her nose so she could read. Her eyes scanned the letter quickly, her eyebrows rising higher as she read on.

“No hard feelings?” Molly read aloud indignantly. “She’s always been a bitch, why should we believe anything’s changed now?”

“I suppose she hasn’t got anything to lord over us now,” I said thoughtfully, joining Molly on my bed. We tucked our feet under the covers. “She probably wants me to keep her news to myself. I doubt she wants the whole family to hear she got chucked out of Law School. I bet she’s embarrassed.”

Molly grinned evilly. “Of course she’s embarrassed, she’s a complete numpty. But we could work this to our advantage.”

I shook my head, turning to look at her sly expression. “You’re plotting something illegal, I can just tell.” I shifted away from her to the other side of the bed. “I don’t want anything to do with it, Molly. I’m a law-abiding citizen and that’s how I want it to stay.”

Another eye roll. “What are you talking about? I’m not perfect, I can’t help it if I forget that it’s a secret she’s failed her course. I’m only human.” Oh, my cousin was a wicked, wicked woman, but I loved her for it.

“As much as I’d like to cause trouble for Roxanne, she’ll know it’s me who told her secret. No, I think we need to keep it quiet; but for a price.”

Molly laughed. “Now we’re talking; what did you have in mind?”

“I’m not sure,” I conceded hesitantly. “Maybe I’ll just ask her to be nice to me for once and that’ll be enough. I might not dread family stuff so much if I knew she was going to be civil.”

Molly snorted. “Come on, it’s not that big a secret.”

I shrugged. “You never know. She thought it was worth working in a bookshop in order to stop everyone from finding out. I think she’s really ashamed.”

“I think she’s realised she hasn’t got a shiny career lined up and she needs some money until she decides what to do next,” Molly said shrewdly. “Just you wait – as soon as things start to look up she’ll return to her old self.”

Part of me did actually feel sorry for Roxanne; I’m sure she felt the pressures of having a large family as keenly as I did. She probably felt she had to maintain a successful stature in order to get everyone’s approval. It was no wonder, really; every time I saw any of my family they always wanted to know how things were going. I usually ended up telling some wild story about my road to success, never ready to admit that nothing at all had changed in the last year that I could be proud of. Maybe Roxanne had never actually applied to Law School and this was just her way of tying up the loose ends of the lie. It was all a bit ridiculous.

“Do you ever wish we didn’t have so many relatives?” I mused, picking a piece of stray cotton from my duvet.

Molly looked pensive. “I don’t think so,” she said eventually. “I mean, they can be bloody annoying at times, but it means more Christmas presents, doesn’t it?”

I knew she was only joking, but I sort of saw what she was getting at. No matter how much Hugo irked me, I couldn’t deny that I’d never choose to be an only child over having him in my life. There seemed something so sad and lonely about not having any relatives, especially none your own age. I thought of Scorpius, friendless and lacking in family; even if I didn’t have many school friends left, at least I’d always have family and I’d never truly be a loner. “Yeah,” I agreed. “They’re sort of permanent distant friends. It’s quite nice.”

Molly nodded vigourously, some of her red hair flying in my face; I brushed it away impatiently. Molly was my best friend; I wondered if we’d ever have become friends if we weren’t thrown together from such a young age. Though, thinking about it, we could have met over the biscuits at Hogwarts and found kindred spirits in each other.

I sighed, throwing the covers back. “Right,” I said decisively. “Let’s do this.”

When Scorpius rang the doorbell, I was actually ready, something unheard of for me. As Molly always reminded me, I was definitely a late person. I left Molly to tidy up the clothes I’d discarded and dashed to the front door.

“Good evening,” he said pompously, offering me a bouquet of daffodils. I grinned, taking the flowers from him and giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. After dunking the flowers in a vase, we left.

“Where are we going?” I asked curiously as we strolled up the street. I shivered, sticking my hands inside my coat pocket to keep myself warm. Scorpius’s orange face caught my eye and I turned to see if he’d suddenly fake-tanned himself, but it was only the glow from the street lights. I forced myself to remember that I was exaggerating his weirdness far too much.

“Just somewhere small,” he said mysteriously, waving his hands in a strange pattern. He was probably trying to imitate a Muggle magician, but he merely gave the impression he was trying to dry nail varnish by waggling his fingers. I smiled, trying to suppress a laugh. “Are you mocking me?” he asked indignantly.

“Oh no,” I said, watching as he continued to dance up the street in a rather camp fashion. “I could never mock you.”

I couldn’t contain my laughter when he started to twirl himself around in circles, holding up an imaginary skirt. He was such a weirdo, but it was bloody entertaining. “Would you care to dance?” he asked, waiting for me to catch up and offering me his hand.

I snorted, shaking my head. “Not like that, I wouldn’t,” I scoffed. “But don’t let me stop you.”

He brushed off my scorn, taking my hand and attempting to twirl me up the street. I didn’t really appreciate the gesture, stumbling over my feet as he practically dragged me towards our destination.

“Hey,” I said suddenly, looking up the street. “I know where you’re taking me.”

Scorpius stopped dancing, glaring at me. “No you don’t!” he insisted, taking my hand again. “It’s has to be a surprise.”

“Right,” I said, rolling my eyes but deciding to play along. “A surprise.”

I wasn’t exactly sure what game he was trying to play; he was lucky there was no one around, or else I’d have put a stop to his dancing straightaway. It felt a little strange to be dancing around, completely sober, in the middle of March and pretending I didn’t know where he was taking me. It would almost be romantic, except that I was me and he was Scorpius and together we looked like the most unromantic couple ever to grace the Earth.

When we finally arrived, Scorpius pranced in front of the door, proffering me jazz hands. I looked as shocked as I could, given the situation, and tried as hard as possible not to look like a goldfish.

“What a lovely surprise,” I said lamely, eyeing the large sign that read “Jesús’s” doubtfully.

Scorpius bowed, and the door swung open on its own. I raised an eyebrow, walking nervously into the bar.

Admittedly I had graced this bar many a time with Molly, but I almost didn’t recognise it. It was fairly dark, with fairy lights strung from the ceiling to offer minimal light (probably a good thing, given the customers). It reminded me of a stage production, where everything was over-exaggerated in order to be more obvious for the audience. As I caught sight of Jesús, I noticed he’d even gone over the top with make-up, going too orange for the occasion. I wouldn’t be surprised if when he smiled, his teeth glowed in the dark.

“Scorpius…” I mumbled, not really quite sure what was happening.

“Happy birthday, Rose,” he said happily, leading me to a lone table in the middle of the bar, where two candles were flickering.

I sat, slightly dazed by the whole thing. “It’s not my birthday,” I informed him slowly, looking around at the twinkling lights.

“I know that,” Scorpius said, flattening his hair to his scalp as he joined me at our table. “But he doesn’t.” He jabbed his thumb in the direction of Jesús. “It was the only thing I could say to convince him to shut the bar for us.”

My eyebrows were almost falling off my face from too much emotion. This was genuinely sweet; I really didn’t know how to react.

“Thank you,” I said quietly, snapping my eyes back to him. “This is really nice.”

He beamed, grinning from ear to ear. I grinned along with him, his good mood completely infectious. I was starting to feel genuinely cheerful, which I didn’t feel that often; there was far too much to moan about usually.

Jesús was being abnormally quiet; I dearly hoped Scorpius hadn’t asked him to do a private dance for us later, as that would probably spoil the mood forever. He brought over a menu, which I deliberated over hiding behind, just so that I could compose myself before talking to Scorpius. It wouldn’t do to start blubbing at this point in the evening. He’d probably write me off as a complete nutter and refuse to pay for my food and then I’d have to wash up for Jesús for a week as payment.

When I lowered my menu, Scorpius looked up; he was still grinning, somewhat maniacally, but at least he hadn’t run out of the restaurant yet.

“Stop leering at me,” I scolded softly. He dropped his grin. “It looks odd.”

“Sorry,” he said quickly, trying to arrange his face so that he stopped grinning. He twisted his mouth into a crooked frown and squished his eyes closed. “Is that better?”

“A bit,” I conceded half-heartedly. I supposed I was actually quite grateful there was no one else in the bar with us; it meant there were far fewer witnesses to my cringing.

We scanned our menus in silence, until Scorpius coughed pointedly. “So,” he said. “Have you and Molly patched things up?”

I nodded, smiling. “Yeah. She and Lorcan really like each other, as it happens.”

“That’s good,” he said happily. He coughed again. “And what about the new bloke in your shop – do you really like him?”

“Matthew?” I asked, frowning slightly. I hoped he wasn’t going to get jealous over him; he was too young for me. “He seems very nice so far.”

“Nice,” Scorpius repeated, sounding relieved. I neglected to tell him that I was the one who’d interviewed him; the small details were unimportant. I could imagine him as someone prone to clinginess anyway, and I wanted to avoid getting to a point where he had to follow me around again, hiding in bushes just so that he could check up on me. Shaking my head, I tried to push such thoughts away; I was way overthinking things. This was technically only our first ‘date’, it wasn’t marriage or anything. I needed to snap out of it.

When Jesús wandered over to take our order, he was whistling ‘That’s Amore’ under his breath, which I found irritating for two reasons: firstly, it was not ‘amore’ and secondly he was not Italian but Spanish. He should have picked something more appropriate to sing to lull me into a false sense of actually being in Spain. I was not ready for a night in Italy just yet, thank you very much. When in Rome… oh, well, you got the drift.

Jesús tangoed away, kicking his legs about in a silly fashion. Sometimes, in comparison to some people, Scorpius seemed positively normal. At least he hadn’t decided to wear a flamenco dress or anything, that would have been too much for one girl to handle.

“I spoke to my father today,” Scorpius blurted out as I started to admire the flowers on the table. “He likes you.”

I raised my eyebrows at this. Although I’d never properly met Mr Malfoy, I’d heard some pretty disparaging things about him from my Dad. The idea that he was okay with his only son cavorting about with someone from my family wasn’t entirely believable. “Oh yes? What did you tell him?” I asked sceptically.

“That I really like you,” he admitted, blushing a bit. “He said he was glad I’d found a good friend.”

My eyebrows rose higher. Could it be that the cold-hearted wormy git my Dad had described actually didn’t have a heart made of stone? I should have known not to take anything my Dad said too seriously; he was always trying to put me off things with tall tales. “Your Dad sounds all right,” I conceded. “He and my parents weren’t exactly close at school.”

“Oh, I know,” Scorpius said, leaning forward conspiratorially. “He was a bit of a loser, from what I’ve heard. But don’t tell him I said that…”

“I won’t,” I said immediately, though the likelihood of me ever even talking to Mr Malfoy about that was extremely small. “But I’m glad he likes me.”

“I’ll take you to visit my parents soon,” he said eagerly. “If you’d like that?”

Oh dear, this was all getting too intense for me. First it was dinner, next it was meeting the parents and then it’d be wedding bells, stretch marks and growing old together. My stomach turned; this was far too fast. “Scorpius-” I began, trying to stop him before he went overboard. He seemed to sense my concern.

“It might just stop him worrying so much about me,” he said quickly, looking apologetic. My frown softened and I nodded. “And I’m sure you’d like him.”

Yeah, I could really see us being pals, Mr Malfoy and me; in fact, Scorpius needed to be careful I didn’t ditch him for his father and elope. It could happen…

Suddenly, all the lights went out, giving me time to remove the disgusted face I was pulling at my own mental images. Then, a song reverberated throughout the dark room.

Cumpleaños feliz…”

I looked around to where Jesús was inevitably hiding, coming face to face with a flaming octopus. Shrieking, I fell out of my chair in an attempt to get away from the hideous thing, watching in horror as the flames licked at its slimy head. It seemingly floated down onto my plate where it squished into a heap. Jesús was continuing to sing Happy Birthday to me in Spanish, only he’d reached the end of the song and had started to chant in English, “what’s your boyfriend’s first name?”

I almost cried. “What is it?”

“It’s my main course,” Scorpius said sagely, watching the dancing flames with interest. It seemed that Jesús had managed to mix up our order, the great bloody idiot, and had decided that Scorpius’ octopus was the perfect dish to act as a birthday cake.

When the lights flicked back on, Jesús had gone. Scorpius looked down at where I crouched on the floor with amusement. “Aren’t you hungry?” he asked cheerfully.

“Not anymore,” I said, almost gagging at the sight of the bulging purple octopus on my plate. I pushed it towards Scorpius grimly.

I eventually got my main course and picked at it with slightly less fervour than usual. The octopus didn’t seem to have been affected by its fiery journey, if Scorpius’ clean plate was anything to go by. Gross.

"So," Scorpius said conversationally as we got the bill. "Does this make you my girlfriend now?"

I spluttered into my drink. "Erm," I said slowly. I knew this was going to fast, I should have guessed he'd ask soon enough. I hadn't had time to properly decide what I wanted to do; I was unprepared, and I hated that - I couldn't bear being out of control. He looked at me with large eyes and I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. I was being such a bitch, but I still couldn't work out if I was stringing him along or not. "I suppose so."

I felt myself blush as he grinned yet again. "Can I invite my girlfriend back for coffee after dinner?"

I laughed, shaking my head slightly. He was being far too sweet about it, and I seem to have genuinely made him happy; I never set out to make people happy, but I couldn't deny this felt good. Perhaps I was a good person after all, somewhere deep down? "She prefers tea, I think," I retorted gently.

"Tea it is," he said with a wink.

I looked at my watch; if I didn’t come home soon, Molly would assume I’d been kidnapped or something ghastly. "Why don't you come back to mine instead?" I asked with a sudden boldness. "It's only round the corner, after all. It makes more sense."

He took my hand and helped me up from my seat. "Okay," he said chirpily, leading me outside.

As we tottered off up the street, I started to panic. What on Earth was I doing, taking him back to my flat? I hadn’t tidied my room in years; I hadn’t even got much milk left. Apart from the impending issues, I’d actually just agreed to be his girlfriend, and I hadn’t been a girlfriend in years either. I wasn’t a spinster anymore, which had horrible consequences on everything that I wasn’t really sure I was ready for; what about my ambition of becoming a cat lady? Did Scorpius even like cats? Merlin, I was making a massive mistake. I was not emotionally equipped for a relationship.

Maybe Scorpius felt my hand sweating or something, but he squeezed it and tried to comfort me. “Stop worrying. Everything’s going to be fine.”

Yeah, sure, maybe everything would be fine for him, but for me it was all over. When my family heard about this they were going to have a field day.




AN: "Cumpleaños feliz" is Spanish for Happy Birthday. "That's Amore" is a song by Dean Martin. Thank you so much once again to everyone who's left a review, you all make my day :)


Chapter 17: Just a Tea Girl
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Just a Tea Girl

“Rooosie!”

I refused to wake up, not yet. I shut my eyes tight and pretended I couldn’t hear Molly singing outside my door. She obviously cared not for my privacy or personal space, flinging the door open.

“Rooosie – bloody hell!” She interrupted her own singing, thank God.

“What?” I said into my elbow.

“Rose, do not be alarmed - there’s a man in your bed.”

I was too tired to deal with her hysterics, choosing to grunt disinterestedly instead. “So?”

“Rose – he’s naked.” She whispered the last word dramatically; now, this got my attention.

“What?” I sat up slowly, groaning from my stiff back; I’d slept on the floor. I looked over at my bed and saw Scorpius starting to wake up from all the noise we were making. As he sat up, the duvet fell away, leaving very little to the imagination. I shielded my eyes with my hands. “For fuck’s sake, Scorpius, put some clothes on!”

I fumbled my way towards Molly, trying not to look over my shoulder as I left. She guided me outside and shut the door. “What the hell is going on here?” she demanded.

“It isn’t what it looks like,” I said groggily, rubbing my eyes. “Nothing happened.”

“Then why is he in your bed?” Molly asked through gritted teeth.

“He needed somewhere to sleep!” I said indignantly.

“Then give him the sofa!” she exclaimed, holding her head in her hands, as though my stupidity gave her a headache (it probably did, actually). “You’re such a Naïve Nadia. You can’t go letting any old bloke sleep in your bed, he’ll get the wrong idea!”

“I spilled wine on the sofa,” I muttered.

Molly glared, her eyes flashing. “My parents are arriving in half an hour,” she growled. “If he isn’t gone and that sofa isn’t clean by then, you are going to be one very dead cousin. And don’t think we’ve finished talking about this, either,” she added as I reached for the doorknob. Sheesh, she was bloody stressy today.

Scurrying back into my room, I tore the duvet from Scorpius, instantly regretting my decision and throwing it back over him immediately. “Get dressed,” I said, chucking him his clothes. “Molly’s parents are coming over and they think I’m a nun.”

I saw Scorpius roll his eyes as he dressed himself. “Do you have any hair gel?”

“No,” I said testily.

He started buttoning up his shirt. “They don’t actually think you’re a nun, do they?”

I shook my head, searching around for my hairbrush so I could start making myself presentable. I hadn’t remembered to take off last night’s make-up, but after a quick look in the mirror I decided Scorpius probably wouldn’t notice so I’d sort it out after he’d gone. He probably thought I looked this attractive all the time… “No,” I said again. “But they’ve never ruled it out as a possibility. I don’t think the world is quite ready yet for Relationship Rose.” I wasn’t even ready for that version of me.

Scorpius frowned, flattening his hair down with his hands. “You’ll have to tell them one day.”

I sighed. “Can we not think about it too much? Let’s just go with the flow.”

“That sounds good to me.” Scorpius blew a kiss to himself in my mirror, winking at me before showing himself out. I shook my head in disbelief, sagging onto my bed. I was going to end up in right pickle with him if I wasn’t careful and no, that wasn’t a euphemism.

“Stop slacking!” Molly called from the hall. I scowled, throwing on some clean-ish clothes and grabbing my wand. I was going to have to use some of my rarely-practiced domestic spells.

By the time the doorbell rang, I’d actually managed to make myself look presentable and remove the wine stain from the sofa, meaning Molly (nor her family) would neither kill me or be repulsed by me.

I avoided more glaring when she went to answer the door by helpfully going to put the kettle on. I had this theory that whenever the kettle started boiling, Molly secretly and subconsciously started feeling happier, just because it usually meant an excellent cup of tea and numerous biscuits were to follow.

Aunt Audrey’s heavy heels clicked across the kitchen tiles purposefully as she made a beeline for me. “Rose!” she exclaimed delightedly. “Congratulations, petal. Your mother told me about the promotion, good job!”

I blushed, but luckily she couldn’t see my embarrassment because she chose that moment to crush me in a bony embrace (bony on her part, not mine, obviously). “Thank you,” I wheezed.

It was slightly weird to feel good about myself in the vicinity of family members, I had to admit, though I waited warily for the feeling to subside, which it would surely do very soon. “We always knew you were a career bitch deep down! Brains over boys, isn’t that right, Lucy?”

Lucy popped her head around her mother’s side. “Right,” she squeaked, before ducking behind Audrey again. I tried not to laugh; Molly and I always had a good giggle at Lucy’s timidity, which seemed so oddly out of place in our family. We blamed the milkman.

I wasn’t exactly sure when I’d suddenly turned into a “career bitch”, as Audrey put it, but I resented the fact that she thought this meant I’d chosen my job over any potential men. Though, thinking about it, that could mean I was fighting them off with a too busy schedule and intimidating skirt suits instead of the reality (that I had given in to dating my stalker in order to spare his feelings).

“Actually,” Molly said smugly, plopping herself down on the sofa next to Uncle Percy (who was looking affronted at Audrey’s language). “Rose has got herself a fella.”

I glowered at her. There was no way in hell that I was ready to talk about Scorpius yet; it was still far too weird in my own head to be permitted to be said aloud. No, that was my secret.

“Oh really?” Audrey said, sensing a juicy nugget of gossip was about to cross her path. She looked almost greedy, drooling slightly at the corners of her mouth. I wouldn’t be surprised if she started frothing like a rabid dog in her mad desire for hearsay and spreadable rumour. “Anyone we know?”

I said “no” at the same time as Molly said “yes”. Audrey’s head snapped between us. “What I mean,” I interjected quickly before Molly could do more damage. “is that you don’t know him-” I gestured at her and Lucy. “- but Molly and I do. He’s – he’s a work colleague.”

“A work colleague?” Audrey looked very interested in this.

Molly appeared to be put out that I’d started to twist her plan. “His name’s Boris,” she added gleefully.

“No it bloody well isn’t,” I huffed. “It’s – it’s Matthew.”

As if she’d tried to tell everyone I was going out with Boris. She was definitely going to regret this, I would make sure of it. Audrey didn’t appear to notice the silent catfight going on between us; she picked up a couple of mugs and joined the others around the coffee table.

“Molly has a fella too,” I added conversationally as I made my own cup of tea. “He’s a –”

“Randomer,” Molly finished snappily. “You wouldn’t know him. There’s nothing to tell.”

I smirked into my tea, scalding my lips on the freshly boiled water. Aunt Audrey looked bemused by our probably rather childish behaviour, but at least I’d managed to delay the Coming Out, so to speak.

“Well, you’re not the only ones who’ve got gentlemen,” Audrey said conspiratorially, leaning closer to us so that she could lower her voice. I didn’t really see the point in that, considering that we were the only ones in the flat (unless Scorpius was hanging around outside of my window again). “Dominique’s just announced she’s pregnant.”

Now, this was what I was happy to call juicy gossip. Molly and I exchanged a look. “I didn’t know she had a boyfriend,” Molly said cautiously.

“Oh, she doesn’t,” Audrey said, drawing out the syllables in the last word. “We don’t know who the father is; I’m not even sure that she does either.”

I couldn’t wait to talk to Molly about this; this was a scandal! It would definitely be the sort of thing Dom stuck in her own column, with a catchy headline like “War Heroes’ Daughter Up the Duff!” or something equally inappropriate yet hilarious. Of course, nothing like that would be in any of the newspapers, which was a shame really because a good old family scandal might liven the place up a bit. It did, however, mean that I would have to withhold all scandalous information on Roxanne; it wouldn’t do to give my Granddad a heart attack.

“How are Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur taking it?” I asked curiously.

“Not very well, as you can imagine,” Percy said sagely before Audrey could open her mouth. It was rare that he ever got a word in edgeways. “They’re insisting Dominique moves in with them towards the end of her pregnancy so they can keep an eye on her.”

I shuddered at the thought; I couldn’t imagine having to live with my parents again. They were always unbearable when I was growing up; I’d always been more fond of them when I didn’t see them very often, as awful as that sounded. It just meant that my Dad had less time to try and lock me away from the horrible things in the world and my Mum couldn’t try and convince me I wanted to work at the Ministry. I made a mental note to bet Molly fifty galleons that Dominique would go insane before the baby was born.

“I’m sure Victoire’s miffed that she won’t get to pop the first grandchild,” Lucy said in a whiney voice. “She likes to play the favourite.”

I nearly gagged at the idea of Victoire having children; that would mean she and Teddy would have a family, something a bit more permanent than just a house. At least at this point there was still a very small possibility that I could break them up and ride off into the sunset on a pony with him. Babies were pretty gross, anyway, I’d long ago decided. I didn’t envy Dominique one bit, especially if she had to do that whole thing herself. She was only twenty-eight… well, that actually sounded quite old, now I thought about it, especially for a surprise pregnancy. But these days, everyone started doing things late, there was plenty of time left for everyone to settle down.

Damn, I was starting to worry now. I was nearing the end of my life, I could feel it; I barely had any time left at all to settle down and do the family thing before my biological clock stopped ticking. I needed to get Scorpius to commit straight away before it was too late.

“Rose, are you all right? You’ve gone awfully pale.” Percy pushed his glasses up his nose as he peered at me from across the coffee table.

I swallowed audibly. “I’m fine,” I said in a high-pitched voice. I cleared my throat, hoping to sound less like a chipmunk. “I’m fine,” I repeated, this time in a very low voice. Molly sniggered into her mug of tea. “I was just thinking.” It was a very dangerous activity, I really need to stop doing so much of it. Uncle Percy seemed satisfied that I wasn’t about to pass out or anything, so decided to change the subject.

When they finally left, Molly turned to me with a packet of biscuits and pointed them sternly at me. “What is the matter with you today?”

“I feel old,” I moaned, accepting her biscuit. “Everyone’s old in our family. Dominique’s having a baby, Molly. A baby! She’s going to be the first parent out of us all and it’s bloody scary.”

Molly nodded, helping herself to a biscuit as well. “I know, it is,” she agreed sympathetically. “We all have to grow up at some point, though. It’s inevitable.”

“Mm,” I said through a mouthful of biscuits.

“And there’s something else that’s inevitable,” she added forcefully. “You’re going to tell me why there was a Scorpius in your bed this morning.”

I blushed crimson. “He took me to dinner at Jesús’,” I informed her. When she looked unimpressed, I hastened to add, “but he got the restaurant closed to everyone else and decorated it and stuff. It was sweet. Anyway, after we finished eating, I invited him back for coffee.”

“Except that you had wine,” Molly pointed out shrewdly, pointing to the now invisible patch of wine on the sofa.

“I didn’t,” I corrected her. “But he did. And then he sort of passed out on the sofa, spilling the wine, so I moved him to my bed.”

“Where you took off his clothes?” she questioned, her head cocked to one side.

“No!” I denied. “He must have taken them off himself during the night - I had nothing to do with that.”

She wiggled her eyebrows. “So you two didn’t –?”

No,” I growled.

“Not even a bit?”

I scowled at her. “What do you mean, not even a bit? Either we did or we didn’t, and we definitely didn’t.”

“Oh,” she said disappointedly. “Are you going to?”

“I suppose so,” I said, not completely repulsed by the idea. “He is my boyfriend after all.”

Molly raised her eyebrows at that last bit. “You don’t sound very enthusiastic.”

“It’s just…” I began, then stopped. I looked down at my biscuit for help, but it didn’t offer me the words I was looking for. “I don’t know. It’s Scorpius, isn’t it? I don’t find him that attractive. At all.”

“I did wonder,” Molly admitted, pulling a face. “I thought you might see something I didn’t. How did you get yourself into this, muppet-face?”

I winced. “I felt really sorry for him.”

“Oh, Rosie.” Molly shook her head sadly. “You silly sausage.”

I whimpered. “I know. I don’t know what to do; he’s so nice to me and I think we could be friends. But I don’t look at him and want to rip his trousers off, if you see what I mean.”

“I do,” Molly nodded wisely. “Maybe you’ll want to one day?”

“I suppose I can try,” I conceded doubtfully. “It just feels wrong to make him think I like him like that, that’s all.”

“Giving him a chance is good, though,” Molly argued, finishing the packet of biscuits. “And you never know how you might feel later.”

Nodding, I accepted that Molly was probably right; there was no point fighting him off just yet when I wasn’t even sure that I didn’t feel anything for him. He was nice to hang around with, and if I told him the truth he probably wouldn’t want to see me anymore. So, for selfish reasons, I might as well attempt to make this thing work.

“Have you spoken to Lorcan recently?” I asked innocently, hoping that Lorcan hadn’t mentioned that I’d sort of stalked him the other day.

“I saw him yesterday,” Molly said with a coy smile. “We’ll see how things go. He’s off to the coast with Lysander on a trip, but when he gets back he said he’d cook me dinner.”

“That’s sweet,” I said, happy for her. The little tiff between us was definitely in the past, she seemed to have forgiven me for going psycho on her. “Can he cook?”

Molly laughed. “I don’t think so. He’s never mentioned cooking ever before now, so I can’t imagine him being a closet culinary genius or anything.”

“Me neither,” I agreed. I checked my watch, sighing. “I suppose I should go – I have some stuff to do at the shop.” Molly rolled her eyes as I fetched my coat and scarf. “I’ll see you later.”

Arriving at work, I was surprised to see Boris slumped over the till, hair mussed, in what could only be described as a state of utter misery.

“Boris?” I inquired, poking his flabby shoulders with a book. He groaned, removing his face from the till slightly to look at me. “What’s the matter?”

Looking over my shoulder, I saw two old ladies in matching lilac robes pointing at Boris with curious looks on their faces. Typical, he would have a bloody mental breakdown in front of customers. Sometimes I wondered if he was even fit to own this place; he could be so unprofessional.

“I’ll be with you in just a minute,” I said to the ladies pointedly, resisting glaring at them.

I grabbed a chair from the storeroom and forced Boris onto it. “Talk to me,” I commanded impatiently.

“My wife,” he stuttered hoarsely. “My wife is leaving me.”

Oh, fuck; this wasn’t good at all. There was no way anything I said was going to make things better; he was a goner. Now he was going to crush the till with his misery and leave me to piece the damn thing back together when I didn’t know how to work it anyway. Then, the business would go under from lack of sales and I’d be out of a job.

“I’m sorry,” I offered by way of support, checking to see if the old ladies were minding their own business. Naturally, they were peering over the counter, their elbows propping them up for support, the Nosy Nigels.

“She didn’t enjoy last weekend at all,” he wailed miserably. I had to admit, this did explain the absolutely foul temper he’d been in all week. I bet his wife was a right pain.

“Have you - err - tried talking to her about it?” I asked lamely. I was getting back-ache from leaning down to him, so I got down and knelt on the floor.

“Oh!” cried one of the old ladies. “Look, Betty! She’s proposing!”

“Oooh!” the other one catcalled.

“No I’m not!” I snapped at them.

“I don’t like these modern women, Betty,” the first lady said. “It’s all very forward.”

“What a slapper,” Betty agreed, banging her walking stick on the floor for extra effect. “He’s not even divorced yet.”

I gritted my teeth, standing up and facing them. “Can I help you?” I demanded, looking between them with a hard glint in my eye. “Or are you going to stand there and insult me?”

“Didn’t I tell you, Edith?” Betty wheezed. “Got no manners, this one.”

“Very forward,” Edith agreed, bearing her false teeth.

“Is that all?” I asked dangerously. “Because we’re closing now.”

The old ladies frowned at each other. “It’s only two o’clock,” Betty said pointedly. “You don’t close until five.”

I smiled tetchily at them. “You must need to get your prescription changed,” I said sweetly. “My watch says five past five. Goodbye!”

The old ladies, grudgingly saw themselves out, though I was pretty certain I heard one grumble slapper as she left.

“Now,” I said, turning back to Boris. “Let me get us a cup of tea and we’ll see if we can sort this out.”

Never mind my recent promotion, I was definitely just a tea girl at heart; I was probably the best job for me. Tea was basically my life anyway.






AN: Happy 1st Birthday, Just Rose! Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter and also thank you to everyone who's reviewed this story over the last year. I'm very grateful indeed :)


Chapter 18: It's Complicated
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It's Complicated

The doorbell rang five minutes before my alarm was due to go off. I waited for Molly to get up and answer the door, but she clearly had other intentions. Grumpily, I dragged myself out of bed and shuffled off to open the door.

“Mum,” I mumbled, opening the door wider. “What’s wrong, why are you here?”

I’d assume that seeing as she was here before six in the morning, someone must be dying or something. She let herself into the hall, looking disgustingly fresh faced. “Rose, I want to ask you a favour.” She withdrew four books from her bag and handed them too me. I looked down at the titles and rolled my eyes. “Can you get Gilderoy to sign these for me? I’m a big fan.”

Had she really woken me up this early for this? I sighed, nodding. “If you come to the shop after closing time, you can meet him too.”

She looked alarmed at this suggestion. “No, no, that won’t be necessary. We’ve met before, you see. I don’t think he’d want to see me again. And your father – well, never mind. Please?”

I wasn’t really sure what she was on about, but frankly I didn’t really care; I wanted my extra five minutes of sleep. “Whatever, Mum,” I muttered, ushering her towards the door. “Goodbye.”

After she’d gone, I snuck back into bed, only for my alarm to go off as soon as my head touched my pillow. Bloody marvellous, I thought. I was going to be in a bad mood all day because of this. I didn’t even understand why she wanted his autograph so much if she wouldn’t even see him? Perhaps she just wanted to sell his signed books on the black market or something; the woman was baffling.

Grudgingly, I got myself up again and readied myself for work. Today was the day of Lockhart’s book signing, something I’d been dreading for weeks because of the sheer amount of preparation it had taken. On top of that, there were going to be rowdy women clambering over each other to get to Lockhart, probably ruining my nicely ordered shop. Hours of work would be undone by his fans. Oh, the things we did for money.

As I approached the shop half an hour later to prepare ahead of the shop opening, there were already people queuing up outside. I shoved a middle aged witch out of my way and squeezed myself inside the door before any of them could get in too. Shuddering, I went to make myself a cup of tea before assessing the situation.

At the back of the shop, I’d set up a desk for Lockhart to sit at. Lining the path to the desk were towers of his new book, in the hope that they’d all buy additional copies for their friends. There was the occasional tower of his old books, not that I actually thought anyone would buy those old things, but you never knew. Maybe there was a witch who liked to use his books as a duvet or something.

I waited for Matthew to arrive, watching with amusement as he avoided the wandering hands of the witches outside. Slamming the door shop with relief, he joined me where I sat amongst the book towers.

“Stressed?” he asked consolingly. I nodded. “I’ve got something to cheer us up.”

He reached into his bag and handed me a piece of cardboard. Turning it over, I saw a copy of Lockhart’s face on it. “You expect me to wear this?”

Matthew put on a mask of his own and gave me a thumbs up. He looked like someone had stretched his head to twice its usual size. “It’s going to be a long day - we might as well have a laugh.”

I made a non-committal grunt and stuck the mask on. Thinking about it, the mask would probably come in handy when hiding from the general public; I would lay galleons on the fact that we weren’t the only one with Gilderoy Lockhart masks. “Fancy making us a cup of tea?” I asked, handing him my empty mug and turning back to the stock list in my lap.

Matthew returned with tea just as the rabble of women suddenly quietened. We both looked outside to see that some of them had fainted at the sight of a large carriage, drawn by four unicorns. I rolled my eyes. “That’ll be Lockhart.”

Mass hysteria exploded outside the shop window as he stepped out, his golden (most certainly dyed) locks bouncing in the breeze. I could have sworn his teeth sparkled as he walked towards the shop door, the woman swooning as he passed.

“Good morning!” he sang as he drifted inside. The door shut with a clatter and tinkle of the bell.

I tried not to be rude as I got up from my perch and strode towards him. “Good morning, Mr Lockhart,” I offered, extending my hand.

He took my fingers in his and lifted them to his mouth. “Call me Gilderoy,” he said sultrily, winking.

It was all I could do to stop my eyebrows shooting off my forehead. “Right,” I said with a small cough. “I’m Rose Weasley, the shop manager. If there’s anything I can do for you today, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Weasley, you say?” He peered at me curiously. “Yes, why I daresay I knew your parents. I was a professor at Hogwarts – taught them everything they know, I should think!” He looked confused for a moment, as though a dark thought had crossed his mind and he couldn’t understand why it was ruining his features. “But that’s all in the book, of course!” He tapped one of his books on top of a pile fondly, causing the tower to quiver dangerously.

“Yes, well,” I said once I’d steadied the pile. “My mum did ask if you’d sign some of her old books. I think she’s quite a big fan of yours.”

“Is she?” Again, he looked confused. “It’s to be expected, of course…”

At that moment, the women outside were starting to bang on the windows, chanting something unintelligible at us. I nodded to Matthew, who went to stand by the door. I guided Lockhart towards his desk at the back of the shop and signalled for Matthew to open the door. Quickly. I jumped out of the way of the screaming witches as they made a beeline for Lockhart, who just smiled the whole time. Joining Matthew at the till, I sagged against the wall.

“Never again,” I muttered into my tea, shaking my head. “Never again.” Matthew nodded in agreement.

A couple of hours later, when Matthew and I had started to strip off our jumpers from the amount of heat generated by all the excitable ladies, I spotted some red hair amongst the crowd. I wandered over to try and work out which of my relatives it was.

“Lily?” I called, elbowing an old biddy in the ribs so I could get to her. She turned, spotting me and grinning.

“Hullo Rose,” she said, clutching a brand new copy of Lockhart’s book to her chest. She saw my eyes flicker towards the book and she hastily explained. “It’s not for me,” she said quickly. “It’s for James, actually. He wants to do a review of it for work. Or so he says.”

I rolled my eyes. “He can have it for free if he puts in his article that he bought it from here,” I said glumly.

“Ooh, great, thanks Rose!”

I ushered her over to the till so I could get her a receipt. Meanwhile, she made very obvious eyes at Matthew. “This is my cousin Lily,” I explained to him, sticking her book in a bag.

“Nice to meet you,” he said politely, shaking her hand. I coughed loudly when Lily appeared to be lost in thought.

“Did you hear the news?” I asked her, trying to get her attention.

“No,” she mumbled, not looking at me.

“Dom’s pregnant,” I said pointedly. If the counter wasn’t solid, I’d have tried to kick her. Poor Matthew didn’t know quite what to do with himself.

Pregnant?” she repeated, dumbstruck. “How on Earth did this happen?”

“Well,” I mocked. “When a man and a woman have too much to drink-”

“Oh shut up,” she said tetchily. “I was merely wondering how she could be so stupid. I take it nobody knows who the father is?”

I shook my head. “Nope. She never ties a bloke down for more than two weeks. She probably doesn’t even know herself.”

“What a shame,” Lily said sadly. At Matthew’s confused look, Lily offered, “Dominique is a cousin of ours. She’s a bit irresponsible.”

“A bit…” I said scathingly.

“Yes, well, we can ask her all about it on Sunday,” Lily said decisively, retrieving her bag from the counter.

“What’s happening on Sunday?”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Do you keep up at all? It’s my parents’ turn to host Easter Sunday lunch.”

I tried not to sigh, I really did, but I was really hoping I’d have a Sunday to myself for once, not one that I’d have to sacrifice for the greater good of my family. That was the trouble with there being so many of them; there was always something I had to go to. Victoire had the right idea about getting out of the country, I had to admit.

“Oh,” I said. “Well, I’ll see you then, I suppose.”

After she managed to fight her way out of the shop, Matthew turned to me with raised eyebrows. “You have a fair number of cousins, don’t you?”

“Ten,” I said, agreeing with him. I had more than my fair share. “I’m lucky my Mum’s an only child. Otherwise I’d drown in family.”

“I don’t have any cousins,” Matthew said pensively. “There’s just me and my brother. I’d quite like to have a big family, I think. It gets quite lonely at Christmas.”

“You’re welcome to my family any time you like,” I said dryly. “I get sick of them sometimes. Far too many people sticking their noses into your business, that’s all it is.”

Matthew chuckled, only to be interrupted by a crash as someone knocked into a pile of books and sent them all flying. “I’ll sort it,” I said with a sigh, grabbing my wand (to tidy up, not to attack the one responsible, as much as I wanted to).

As I waded into the crowd, I spotted another familiar face somewhere in the mass of robes. “Scorpius?” I called, trying to poke him in the shoulder, but my arms were pinned to my sides by some very wobbly-looking witches. I managed to squeeze between a couple of people until I was stood right behind him, my face squished into his back. “Scorpius,” I said, my voice muffled by his jumper.

He turned to face me, causing me to fall forward into him. “Rose!” he cried dramatically, causing everyone around us to turn and stare. He caught me as I stumbled, making a huge deal over my welfare. “Are you hurt? These crowds are beastly – beastly, I say!”

I stood up straight so I wasn’t leaning on him so much, just forcefully shoved against his side. “Your concern is beastly,” I said impatiently. “I’m fine. What are you doing here?”

He prised his arms from the crush of the crowd and held up three copies of Lockhart’s books. “I’ve been queuing since two o’clock this morning,” he said excitably. “I’m going to get these signed and get a picture with him too, if I’m lucky!”

Of course Scorpius was a fan-girl, what did I honestly expect? It was tacky and tasteless, so naturally he’d be in with fervour. I’d noticed he’d even put extra gel on his hair today, as if that would impress Lockhart in the slightest.

“You should have said something,” I said, cursing as someone barged into me. “You could have met him later after everyone else has left.”

“I’ll come later anyway,” he exclaimed, hugging me too him. The books were pressing against my chest uncomfortably. I couldn’t move away because the ladies were continuing to press into me. I really should have thought about crowd control more carefully. “Thanks Rose, you’re the best girlfriend ever.”

I somehow seriously doubted that. I could barely even call myself his girlfriend, we were barely even friends. We were in some kind of sham relationship that didn’t serve any purpose other than to make Scorpius feel good. I felt my cheeks reddening as heads turned to watch as Scorpius leaned down towards me.

As his lips grew closer, all I could think about were the books pressing into me; they were really starting to hurt me. “I love you,” he murmured, his lips touching mine.

I had to get out of here; this was so many kinds of wrong. He couldn’t just say that, it wasn’t fair! I wasn’t prepared at all for it and I hadn’t even worked out if I liked him as anything more than my stalker, I couldn’t cope. Pulling back, I made a grimace and pointed to his books. “Sorry, I have to get back to work,” I said lamely, peeling myself off him and slipping through the crowd, cheeks as red as my shoes.

Reaching the till, I clung to the counter for support.

“The crowd’s rather bolshy, isn’t it?” Matthew said sympathetically. “I can sort the books out, if you’d like?”

“Yes please,” I said quietly, slumping to the floor. Maybe if I just hid behind the counter all day no one else would tell me they loved me and expect me to be something I wasn’t. I could be as unloved as I pleased and alone and unbothered. That had always been the plan and I didn’t see why I had to change my life plan now, especially not for Scorpius.

Matthew toddled off to sort out the mess and quivered behind the desk.

“Rose?” Scorpius peered at me round the side of the counter. “Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m fine,” I snapped, pressing my head against my knees and blocking him out of my vision. “It’s just a bit crowded in here. I need some space.”

I heard him step back a bit. “Why don’t you shut the shop for a bit until things calm down?”

“I can’t shut the shop. We’re doing a book signing, for goodness’ sake,” I said exasperatedly.

“Well, don’t let any more people in for a while, then when the shop is less chaotic let more inside,” he argued rationally.

“Fine,” I said. “Go and tell Matthew to do that.” Then maybe I’d be rid of them both and I could have some silence.

When Scorpius went to instruct Matthew on shop management, I decided to creep off upstairs to the office, where I’d be free of interruptions for ten minutes and I could hear myself think.

Opening the office door, it jammed on something heavy on the other side. I heaved against it, managing to budge the obstruction and I tumbled into the room. Looking down, there were three bulging suitcases lined up on the floor. Crouched on the floor beside them was Boris.

“Boris?” I barked, kneeling down beside him. He looked completely dazed, his eyes buffy and his jaw unshaven. I looked from the broken man on the office floor to the suitcases and shook my head sadly. “She kicked you out, didn’t she?” I asked softly. He nodded, tears spilling from his eyes. He tried to mumble something but failed. “It’s all right,” I soothed, putting my arm around his shoulder. “We’ll sort it. But you can’t stay here, it’s not healthy.” The office was a complete tip, and I suspected he’d been drunk when he’d come back here last night.

“Nowhere,” he mumbled slowly. “Nowhere to go.”

“You’re coming home with me,” I announced decisively. “You can stay as long as you need to.”

He started stammering his gratitude, but in all honestly I didn’t really feel like I had any other choice; he would likely die of starvation or something if he was left unattended. I didn’t really know how I was supposed to get him out of the shop without anyone noticing; I couldn’t even Apparate to my flat because of the anti-Apparition charms on the building.

“Fuck,” I muttered softly to myself.

We could, of course, escape through the windows, but I was pretty certain any passers-by would think I was kidnapping him and stealing his stuff as well. I wasn’t in the mood for Azkaban at the current time, so I had to rule out that plan of action.

I strode over to a pitcher of water and transfigured a paperweight into a large glass. I poured the first glass of water over his head, much to his discontent, and then handed him a glass to drink.

“Drink up,” I commanded, watching him with a steely glare. “It’ll make you feel better.”

He did as I told him, not without a filthy glance up at me. Draining his glass, he reached for his wand and dried himself. “Are you quite finished yet?” he grumbled.

“Come with me,” I said, striding over towards the door. “I’ll bring your bags home later.”

Now that he looked refreshed and presentable, I could afford to take him out of the shop. Hopefully things were beginning to calm down after Matthew had tidied up and herded a few of the straggling witches out of the shop. I managed to get him outside without incident; when Matthew saw who I was with, he just nodded, meaning I didn’t have to fight my way through the crowd to tell him where I was going. Best person I’d ever hired (I mean, he was the only one, but he probably would have been the best anyway).

Letting myself into the flat, I showed Boris around. I told him to help himself to food (though I didn’t tell him where we kept the nice biscuits) and drinks and make himself at home. I decided I’d deal with the sleeping situation when I got home. Scribbling a hasty note to Molly explaining that he wasn’t a squatter or a creepy man and that he needed somewhere to stay, I dashed off back to work.

“He’s having a mental breakdown, isn’t he?” Matthew asked upon my return.

I hid my head in my hands, watching as Lockhart posted for some photographs. “I think so,” I conceded sadly. “Has, erm, has Scorpius gone?”

“Your blonde friend? Yes, he left shortly after you did.” Matthew paused to serve a customer. Turning back to me, he frowned. “Is that your boyfriend, then?”

“Sort of,” I admitted glumly. I didn’t really have a word for him that described the whole situation. ‘Stalker’ wasn’t technically correct anymore, but ‘boyfriend’ was way too strong for how I felt. They needed to invent a word for all the Scorpiuses of the world and their poor female friends who were guilt-tripped into going out with them. “It’s complicated.”

Matthew shrugged, apparently not wanting to pry. I half wanted him to ask me more, so that I could moan about it to someone. That was basically the story of my life; I was always needing to moan to somebody.




AN: Thank you so much to everyone who's been reviewing! You all make my day. I have the next chapter written up, but I'm half tempted to add a new chapter inbetween that one and this one so I can't promise the next update will be as fast, but we'll see how it goes. Thanks once again, please keep reviewing :)


Chapter 19: Misguided
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Misguided

“There goes another Sunday,” I said ruefully as Molly and I rang the doorbell.

“You would have wasted it anyway,” Molly scoffed. “A day in bed doesn’t count as productive.”

“It does if it’s a duvet day, which Sunday is,” I argued, scuffing my boot on the stone step as we waited.

Aunt Ginny eventually let us in, and once again I was forced to marvel at how modest their house was; I would have thought with Uncle Harry never really having had his own home and Aunt Ginny never being rich, they would have used their fortunes to build a massive house. Instead, they had a perfectly normal four-bedroom house in a nice area and that was that. Then again, Uncle Harry had never struck me as the flashy type.

Molly and I were late, and as we reached the living room we could hear the whole family nattering away.

“So,” Ginny said, pouring us a couple of glasses of wine. “Audrey tells me you’ve got yourself a boyfriend, Rose?”

Bloody Audrey; she was such a Gossiping Gretel. “Yeah, I have,” I admitted grudgingly. I hoped she wasn’t going to ask me any prying questions; I was quite prepared to forget about Scorpius altogether for at least a day, but it looked like that wasn’t going to happen.

“Matthew, isn’t it?” Ginny pressed.

“What?” I faltered. Molly stifled a snigger beside me. “Oh, right. Yes.”

How long was I going to be able to keep up with this lie? The whole family probably knew by now and were arranging our wedding and it was all going to end up in a complete disaster. Poor Scorpius, he really had no idea what he was taking on as far as I was concerned.

“Well, I hope he makes you happy,” Ginny added, handing me my glass and trotting off to join the rest.

I looked at Molly guiltily. “I need to stop lying, don’t I?” I said sadly.

“It might be a good idea,” she agreed, sipping at her wine. “Scorpius might get a bit annoyed if he found out.”

I sighed. “I don’t think that would be a bad thing.”

Molly narrowed her eyes at me warningly, then grabbed my elbow and steered me towards where all the family were chatting. I didn’t have any feelings towards the whole thing at all; without Teddy here, I had nothing to focus my energies on. Instead, I could foresee an afternoon of drifting from relative to relative, telling them that my boyfriend was Matthew.

I spotted Dominique hovering uncomfortably in the doorway, and I nudged Molly. “We should go and say hello,” I said, pitying her a bit.

She forced a smile when we joined her, eyeing our glasses of wine enviably; in her own hands, she clutched an orange juice. “Happy Easter,” she said glumly.

“We came to say congratulations,” Molly said evenly as Dominique brushed a curtain of fair hair from her face.

“Thanks,” she said emotionlessly. “It’s all a bit scary, really.”

I resisted the temptation to ask her if she knew who the father was; after all, it really wasn’t any of my business who she slept with. I was just trying to imagine what the baby would look like. Naturally, Dominique was beautiful, but that would all go to waste if she’d slept with some minger and the poor baby would never know what it could have had looks-wise.

Molly seemed more knowledgeable about baby things, so I let her hold that conversation without interfering. Instead, I sipped at my wine absently and wondered how Victoire was taking the news. Part of me was secretly glad of this turn of events; I would bet more than anything that Victoire was jealous and more than a bit miffed that Dominique had stolen her ‘happily ever after’ thunder.

Suddenly, Dominique burst into tears. I glared at Molly, wondering what she’d said because I’d tuned out. She glared back at me, looping her arm around Dominique’s waist and leading her out of the room. Great, so that was how it was, was it? I saw what was going on here, they needed some cousin bonding time without me. So be it.

I wandered over to my other cousins, who were littered across various sofas and chairs. James was looking decidedly hungover, with a damp cloth pressed to his forehead and eyes tight shut.

“Rough night, James?” I asked as I joined them.

He groaned, nodding slightly. “I was working,” he managed. “There was this awards do I’m writing an article on. Lots of firewhiskey.”

Somehow, I sincerely doubted much work actually went on; not if the love bites on his neck were anything to go by, in any case.

Roxanne caught my eye, nodding and offering me a small smile. I would have to check that none of these people claiming to be my cousins were actually some randomers under polyjuice potion because they were all acting very strangely. I would have thought that Roxanne would return to her usual self after I refused to give her the job; then again, I did know her secret so it was in her best interests to keep me sweet.

There was a lull in our conversation as we all took a moment to consider our thoughts. Our parents chatted loudly amongst themselves, no doubt spreading the gossip faster than any of us could.

“I’m going to Australia,” were the words that interrupted our musings.

We all looked between each other blankly. “Australia?” Lily repeated. “That’s on the other side of the world, Fred.”

“I know,” Fred said impatiently, shifting uncomfortably in his armchair. “I want a fresh start somewhere new.”

I raised my eyebrows but didn’t comment. If truth be told, I didn’t really care where he went, as long as it wasn’t near me. He’d always been a whinge bag, so maybe him going to the other side of the world would cheer him up a bit and make his presence more tolerable when he returned.

Roxanne looked horrified. “What about Mum and Dad?”

“What about them?” He shrugged. “They’ll cope.”

I could see the cogs turning inside Roxanne’s head as she struggled to decide if this was a good thing or not; probably she was weighing up the consequences of Fred leaving against the consequences of her having dropped out of law school.

“We’ll miss you, Fred,” Louis offered, though I suspected no one else would actually miss Fred at all. He was a complete stick in the mud.

“When do you leave?” James asked weakly, not bothering to open his eyes.

“In two weeks.”

Bloody hell, my cousins were dropping like flies. If anyone else wanted to move to a warmer clime, I hoped it would be Roxanne; I liked pretty much everyone else who was left after that.

We lapsed into silence, again, everyone looking to the others for something to say. I caught Albus’ eye and jerked my head towards the door. He didn’t get the hint, looking at me through squinted eyes.

I sighed. “Don’t you think that looks like an interesting bird?” I asked him pointedly.

“What bird?” he said thickly.

Sighing again, I grabbed his arm and hauled him outside. “I was trying to be subtle. You’re hopeless.”

“Sorry,” he said, sitting down on the wooden bench against the wall of the house. “It’s a bit cold out here.”

“Man up,” I grumbled, joining him on the bench. “I have a problem.”

“Well, we all know that,” Albus said rudely.

“Shut up,” I huffed, poking him in the thigh. “As a man, you can help me with certain issues,” I began. “I need your help with Scorpius stuff.”

Albus raised his eyebrows. “You want my help?”

“Yes,” I said slowly. “I just said that, didn’t I?” He nodded and I worked out how to best phrase my problem. “Well, I don’t really understand Scorpius,” I said apprehensively. “He’s quite… full-on.”

“He likes you, that’s why,” Albus said blandly. “I would have thought that much would be obvious.”

“But it’s not just that,” I added. “I don’t … I don’t really want to … I only like him as a friend. I thought maybe I needed more time, but I can’t even stomach kissing him. I don’t know what to do.”

Albus nodded wisely, looking like a giant nodding owl. “You’re going to have to tell him.”

“I know,” I agreed sadly. “But I don’t want to hurt his feelings.”

I could imagine the scene now; I’d break it to him that any romantic efforts on his part made me want to throw up and then he’d start crying, exclaim “you’ll regret this, Rose Weasley” and then murder me with a bar of soap whilst I slept. Then, he’d smother my body in hair gel and mummify me and keep me in his shrine of me. Hey, it could happen.

“There’s no way around it,” Albus said. He pushed his glasses back up his nose. “It’s either tell him now or go along with it and tell him later and hurt him more.”

I groaned. This conversation with Scorpius was going to be the most embarrassing of my life, there was no doubt about it. “How do I tell him?”

“Just be honest, for once,” Albus said archly. “That’s all you can do. He’ll probably respect you more if you do tell him the truth. Then he’ll be free to go and terrorise some other poor girl.”

I moved some gravel around with my toe. “You’re right, of course,” I sighed. “I’ll tell him this week. Thanks, cuz.”

“You’re welcome. Have you talked to Molly about this?”

“She said I should give him a chance,” I admitted. “But I just can’t. I’d be lying to myself and to him. It’s not fair.”

Albus nodded, patting my hand sympathetically. We sat in silence, watching the wind rustle through the trees of the garden.

I did trust Molly, but this once I couldn’t take her advice. This thing with Scorpius was causing me way too much stress, it wasn’t worth it. I’d rather be single than have to deal with him and my issues every day. She probably just wanted me to be happy, but being happy wasn’t working out so far so I’d stick with what I knew and be alone.

“Rose? Albus?” Molly was calling from the door. “Come inside, we’re about to eat.”

We dutifully followed her inside, where a large table had been stretched and spanned the length of the hallway. Ginny had cooked us an amazing roast lunch, which we all tucked into hungrily.

“I’ve decided I’m going to call it a day with Scorpius,” I informed Molly in a low voice.

“What?” She looked surprised. “I thought we agreed you’d give him a chance?”

“I have, I tried to,” I said quietly, for fear of being overheard. “But there’s no point in denying it any longer. I’ll tell him tomorrow, I think. He’s sweet, but… I don’t fancy him.”

“You’re so picky,” Molly said sniffily, nibbling on a roast potato. “Not long ago you were moaning that no men liked you; now you’re moaning that someone does like you.”

“I shouldn’t just throw myself at the first man that comes along,” I said grumpily. “Scorpius and I are better as friends. He’ll make someone else very happy, I’m sure.”

“You’re never happy,” she grumbled.

“I am!” I denied. “I’m happy right now, actually. I feel better for having decided that.”

Molly rolled her eyes. “Well, you did say he was a big Lockhart fan. You’re probably better off without him.”

She grinned and I laughed, knowing that at the end of the day this fact held far more importance than it should have done. It was the little things with Scorpius that made him completely ridiculous and the bigger things that quite frankly made him creepy. I felt like a massive weight had lifted off my shoulders now that I knew I didn’t have to pretend to like him anymore.

“Who are you better off without?” Lucy leaned around Molly and peered at me.

“None of your business,” Molly snapped. “Bugger off.”

Lucy looked highly affronted at this display of sisterly aggression. “Mum!” she cried. “Molly swore at me!”

I rolled my eyes, considering burying my head in the gravy. What was it about siblings that made everyone act like they were seven years old again?

“Molly,” Aunt Audrey scolded from across the table. “What have I told you about that filthy habit?”

“She was being nosey,” Molly said with an exasperated shrug. “She shouldn’t earwig.”

“I wasn’t,” Lucy said, bashing her shoulder into Molly’s. “I’m worried about Rose.”

The conversation was starting to lull and I really wished they’d all keep their voices down.

“What’s the matter with Rose?” Aunt Angelina asked, peering round Lucy to look at me.

“Nothing,” I said tetchily at the same time as Hugo yelled, “lots!”

Uncle Bill cleared his throat loudly and pitched in. “I’m sure this isn’t helping whatever the matter is,” he said heavily. “Rose will speak to us when she’s ready.”

“There’s nothing the matter!” I insisted, but nobody looked like they believed me.

Louis, who was sat next to me, patted my back sympathetically. “There, there,” he offered lamely.

“I’m fine,” I snapped.

“There’s no need to get worked up, Rosie,” Mum soothed from the other end of the table.

The conversation had completely ceased at this point and everyone was watching me with pitiful looks on their faces.

“I’m not getting worked up!” I yelled, glaring at anyone who dared to look at me (which was everyone). Molly patted my thigh under the table, presumably to calm me down but it didn’t work. “You’re all putting words in my mouth. Stop interfering!”

Silence; I looked down at my plate, realising that none of them had ever seen me lose my temper. I was normally so quiet and placid, they expected nothing else. Fred’s mouth was hanging open, his roast potatoes on show for everyone to see.

“We’re only concerned, Rose, dear,” Gran said softly into the silence.

“Yeah,” Lucy said indignantly. “So tell us who you’re better off without.”

“My boyfriend, okay?” I roared. “Now leave me alone.”

“What boyfriend?” I heard my Dad growl from next to my Mum.

“Matthew?” Auntie Audrey inquired, looking sympathetic.

“Scorpius,” Molly corrected.

“Teddy?” Hugo asked loudly.

“How many boyfriends as she got?” James yelled irritably.

“What a slag,” Louis added.

“Shut up, all of you,” I thundered, getting up from the table and marching off. “It’s none of your business!”

And, with that, I flounced out of the house, marching along the street in the cold as fast as I could. The bloody nerve of my relatives, it was unbelievable! They thought everything was their business, whether or not it was embarrassing for me or not. My cheeks were burning up as it was, and it took me a long time to calm down enough to Disapparate.

When I got home, I saw that Boris had just made a pot of tea. I poured myself a cup and sagged into an armchair. My boss looked up from the newspaper he was reading and raised an eyebrow.

“You look like you’ve had a bad day,” he said shrewdly.

“You could say that,” I grumped, draining my tea in one and going off to raid the kitchen for biscuits. “I bloody hate my family.”

“At least you have a family,” he said forlornly, his eyes brimming with tears. Oh bloody fantastic; was I the most tactless person ever to walk the planet? Probably not, but I was having a good go at it. “Nobody loves me.”

“Err,” I said awkwardly. “I love you, Boris.” Well, at least I got to say it to someone, I supposed; it was better than nobody.

He sniffled, blowing his nose on a giant floral hankie. “You’re just saying that,” he mumbled.

“I’m not,” I replied. “You’re a great boss, when you’re not having a mid-life crisis.” What the hell was I doing? I couldn’t just announce an engineered love for my boss; if I’d learned anything over the last few months it was that I gave everybody the wrong impression of me without even trying.

“Thanks, Rose,” he said thickly. “You’re a good employee. You saved the shop, you know,” he said in a mock whisper. “I thought we were going to have to shut down. But you saved us.”

I blushed, deciding to top up the pot of tea in order to break the awkward love-fest that was going on between us. I really needed some more female friends before my life spiralled out of control and I was left surrounded by weird men who were surprisingly needy. Boris smiled widely at me as I poured us both another cup of tea. At least my presence had cheered him up a bit, which was more than could be said usually.

When Molly returned a couple of hours later, she looked frazzled. “I can’t believe you just abandoned me like that,” she said haughtily. “They grilled me for ages about Scorpius – I’ve only just escaped.”

“What did you tell them?”

“Not a lot,” she said, helping herself to my cup of tea. “Just that he’d been stalking you for years and you misguidedly found it attractive but you’ve wised up now.”

I shook my head in disbelief, but decided that I’d had enough of arguing for one day. “Thanks,” I said sarcastically. “You’re a great friend.”

“Well, it’s sort of true, isn’t it?” she said with a shrug.

Well, she did have a point, but I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it. I’d go and see Scorpius in the next few days, explain everything and life could go back to how it was before.

“Oh,” I started, suddenly remembering. “What did you do to make Dominique cry?”

Molly raised her eyebrows. “That wasn’t my fault,” she said indignantly. “She’s scared for the future, as you can understand. I took her outside for a chat.” I grunted, deciding that the matter wasn’t that interesting after all. Of course she was scared, but as far as I was concerned she should have kept her legs together if she didn’t want a baby. Molly poked me. “I know that face,” she accused. “Don’t be so insensitive. Everyone makes mistakes.”

“Yeah, I know,” I conceded, looking over at Boris. I still hadn’t discovered what had happened between him and his wife for him to be chucked out over it. Then again, I didn’t see what business it was of mine (except that I was sharing Molly’s bed whilst he had mine).

Perhaps I was being a bit harsh on Dominique; it wasn’t like I was perfect. My mind went to Scorpius, who would surely be spending the week crying because of the mistakes I’d made. Bloody brilliant, I was the bad guy again. How did I end up in these situations so often?




AN: Thanks once again for the reviews and reads! I love you all :)
 


Chapter 20: It's Not Me, It's You
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It's Not Me, It's You

Molly glared at me as I stood in front of her mirror, repeating sentences over and over to myself. She probably didn’t really appreciate me chanting rubbish at myself at seven in the morning, but I needed to rehearse what I was going to tell Scorpius later. We already had plans to meet for lunch, but I’d also planned to dump him then too. I was going to be a nervous wreck all morning.

“It’s not you, it’s me,” I repeated. I tried to look apologetic, but ended up looking pained. I rearranged my face. “It’s not me, it’s you – no, wait, that’s not right…”

Sighing, I gave up. At the end of the day, there was no way around saying “I think you’re too weird for me to fancy” or “your romancing techniques nauseate me”. Hopefully he wouldn’t decide to murder me after the day was out.

When I was dressed, I knocked on my bedroom door to see if Boris was ready for work. He actually was, for once; he sat fully dressed on the end of my bed, clearly waiting for me. He even seemed more cheerful.

We got to work reasonably early and set to work on preparing the shop for the day. I’d missed having Boris around, even for doing menial tasks like cleaning the kitchenette.

“Boris,” I began hesitantly.

“Yes?” He boiled the kettle and started pouring the tea.

“Why did your wife ask you to leave?” It wasn’t that I was being nosey (except I was), but I really wanted to know why he had to leave and if she’d ever take him back. He couldn’t live with me for the rest of his life.

“She thinks I’m having an affair,” he wailed miserably.

“Oh,” I said, drawing out the vowel. “And are you?”

Boris looked at me blankly. “She thinks I’m having an affair with you.”

What?” I spluttered indignantly. Oh, well this was a whole new level of shit. Boris’ wife probably hated me and I’d gone and made everything a million times worse because he was now staying at my house. “What did you say to her to make her think that?” This was entirely his fault; there was no way I could have done anything to give her that impression; I’d never even met her for goodness’ sake.

“I talk about you quite a lot outside of work,” he admitted bashfully. “I think I gave her the wrong impression.”

“Have you denied it?” I demanded, getting quite panicky. I didn’t want to be that “other woman”. Everyone always hated the other woman and I didn’t want anyone to hate me.

“Of course I have!” he cried. “She doesn’t believe me. She thought I gave you the promotion because I’m sleeping with you.” He looked as embarrassed as I felt.

“This is a disaster,” I said hysterically. “She’s going to press charges for something or other and I’ll have to go to Azkaban and no one will visit me because they’ll think I was the other woman. I’m not the other woman, Boris!”

“I know, I know,” he said apologetically. “I’ll sort it.”

“How are you going to sort it?” I ranted. “You haven’t even spoken to her since last week!” I tried to breathe properly in order to calm myself down. “You can’t stay at mine, you’ll have to leave.”

Boris looked horrified. “Leave? Where will I go?”

I groaned. “I don’t care. It was completely irresponsible of you to stay at mine, given the situation. You could have at least told me what was going on.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, tears swimming in his eyes. “Please forgive me.”

“Just-” I began disbelievingly. “Just sort it.”

We lapsed into silence for the rest of the morning, leaving me with my nagging thoughts and worries. As if I didn’t already have enough on my plate; now Boris had just gone and added an extra-large bag of chips to it. How could his wife even think that? I was at least thirty years younger than Boris; it didn’t even bear thinking about. What should I do? I was considering going to speak to Boris’ wife myself, but then I would have to admit that I let Boris stay at my flat for the last week and she’d probably get even more mad.

By the time lunchtime arrived, I was a mess. Boris’ news had sent me into a nervous panic and the fact that I had to inform Scorpius of my problems today didn’t help at all. When he skipped through the shop door to collect me, I was shaking.

“You look terrible,” Scorpius stated, eyeing my trembling hands.

“I’m fine,” I lied, sticking my hands in my pockets so he couldn’t see them. “Shall we go?” My voice had become alarmingly high-pitched.

He looped his arm through mine and we skipped off up the street to grab something to eat.

“Today is a good day,” he declared, tucking into a pie. He did look particularly happy today, which wasn’t helping with my nerves. I waited until he’d finished his lunch (so that he wouldn’t choke) before I broke the news.

“Scorpius,” I started, and then stopped awkwardly. Even after all my practice this morning, I didn’t know how best to phrase it.

“Mm?” he inquired curiously.

“We need to talk,” I blurted out, cringing at the cliché phrase. My words wiped the smile off his hair-gelled face immediately.

“Oh,” he mumbled. “Do we?” There was an almost hopeful note in his voice. I felt like such an evil person; I tried not to cry.

“Yes,” I said firmly, though my voice was still two octaves too high. “We do.” We lapsed into silence as Scorpius waited for me to speak. I was having difficulty making words, unfortunately, which left me looking like a goldfish. “This isn’t working.” I gestured between us.

“It isn’t?” Oh, poor Scorpius. What was I doing to him? He looked so forlorn and hurt.

“No,” I mumbled. “I… It’s not me, it’s you. I mean-” Oh bugger. “I mean, I don’t – I can’t…” This was not going well. I needed help, of the mental kind. “I don’t love you.” There, that would do it.

“You don’t love me?” Please don’t cry, Scorpius. I couldn’t handle it if you cried… He was crying. This was so embarrassing; we were right in the middle of a pub. People would start to stare and then point at me and accuse me of sleeping with their wives and then they’d throw me into a cell in Azkaban and I’d die there, lonely and ashamed.

“I’m sorry,” I said, offering him a tissue. He blew his nose loudly. “I’ve tried, I promise. I just think we’re better as friends.”

“Friends,” he repeated, blubbering all over the tissue. “Only friends.”

“Yes,” I said sadly. “I’m really sorry. You’re a great guy, just not for me.”

I needed to shut my mouth; I was making everything worse. He was now sobbing hysterically.

“What did I do wrong?” he moaned loudly.

“It was the hair gel,” I said honestly, trying to make a joke. He just looked at me darkly and clutched his hair. Then, he sobbed some more.

“Nobody loves me,” he cried dramatically. “I’ll be alone forever.”

He probably would be if he didn’t stop this ridiculous behaviour. I felt the eyes of everyone else in the pub on us and I blushed. This was so bloody mortifying; I had to get out. Throwing a bunch of sickles on the table, I apologised and left as quickly as I could.

It could have gone worse, I supposed. At least he hadn’t clung to me as I left, or proposed to me in a wild bid to stop me leaving. Saying no to the only marriage proposal I was ever likely to get would have been very hard.

I heard footsteps clattering behind me as I made my way back to work. Turning, I saw Scorpius running towards me as if in slow motion (whether he was just running weirdly or my mind slowed everything down I was unsure) and when he reached me he fell to his knees and grabbed my legs.

“Don’t do this, Rose,” he sobbed into my shins. “I love you, I can’t be alone.”

Bloody hell, this was embarrassing. I looked around and glared at anyone who dared to look at us. If I was honest, him not wanting to be alone was not a good enough reason to love me. I was beginning to wonder if that’s all I had ever been to him – his best chance at finding a companion.

“Scorpius, stop it,” I said awkwardly, trying to pull my legs free. I ended up tumbling backwards and ending up on the ground with him. “Look what you’ve done!”

“Now we can be together,” he said with a grin, climbing towards me.

I pushed him away. “You’re mental,” I shrieked. “Look at yourself! This is why I can’t be with you, ever. You’re just too weird and intense.”

He pulled the tissue out of his sleeve and started sobbing again. “At least I’m not cruel, Rose Weasley.”

That was a bit harsh! I shuffled backwards away from him and stood up. “I’m sorry,” I said again. “Goodbye, Scorpius.”

Did leaving him sobbing alone in the middle of Diagon Alley make me cruel? Probably, I admitted, but I had to get away from him before he kidnapped me or something. Shuddering at the thought, I ran into the shop and locked the door.

Matthew, who had been serving a customer, glanced over at me, looking alarmed. He tilted his head towards the customer, raising his eyebrows at my hand on the lock. Nodding, I unlocked the door and retreated to behind the counter. Locking customers in the shop wasn’t a particularly clever idea.

I managed to keep myself composed with a fake smile on my face until after the customers had gone. Then, I started crying miserably. I was a horrible person; I’d handled that in the worst way possible.

“What’s wrong?” Matthew asked, bringing me a cup of tea and a biscuit. I appreciated the gesture, seeing as he didn’t even like biscuits.

“I am so embarrassed,” I managed to choke out, brushing ugly tears away. “I shouldn’t be allowed out in public.”

Matthew frowned. “What happened?”

“I dumped Scorpius,” I mumbled through my tears. “He didn’t take it very well.”

My cheeks turned red at the thought. I’d go and see if he was still there on the cobbles when I left work later, but for now I didn’t want to see him ever again. How could I have even thought we could be friends after all of that? I should have known he was going to kick off. He was completely incapable of acting like a normal person, even in public. I’d let the situation escalate this much myself, I was a nincompoop.

“Poor guy,” Matthew said sympathetically, looking sorry for Scorpius a bit until I glared at him pointedly. “I mean, I’m sure he’ll get over it. You were too good for him.”

“Thanks,” I said, eyeing up the next lot of customers that had walked into the shop. “Is Boris around?”

“He’s crying in his office, I think,” Matthew said sagely. “Is everything okay?”

I groaned, burying my face in my hands. “Not really,” I muttered. “His wife thinks he’s been having an affair. With me.”

I looked up to see Matthew’s eyebrows almost shoot off his face. “Ah,” he managed eventually. “I’m assuming that’s not true?”

“Of course it’s not bloody true,” I said bitterly. “But no matter what I do, I’m only going to make the situation worse. In the meantime, Boris is crying his eyes out instead of fixing this damn mess.”

“Oh dear,” Matthew offered unhelpfully.

I sighed, putting on a smile briefly to serve the customers who had approached the till. When they’d gone, I lay a hand on Matthew’s arm, an attempt to console him. “We’re not this mental usually, I promise. Boris is a bit of a nutcase at the moment, unfortunately.”

“I got that impression,” Matthew agreed.

I excused myself and headed upstairs to see if I could help Boris. I knocked on his door, hearing him stifle a few sobs before spluttering, “come in.”

The office was an absolute mess; the blinds were shut, casting a gloomy dusty light over the surfaces, which were covered in used tissues. In the middle of some ruffled paperwork sat Boris, sobbing into his sleeve.

“Boris,” I barked, causing him to look up, startled. His eyes were watery and bloodshot and I suspected he’d actually been there for hours. “Get up. You can’t spend your life in here – you need to sort this out.”

“I don’t know how,” he moaned.

I waved my wand and the blinds flew open; Boris winced at the sudden sunshine. Then, I quickly tidied the room until I could reach him without treading on anything. “You can start by telling your wife the truth.” He made to interrupt me but I held my hand up. “I don’t care what it takes, make her believe you, because until you do you’re going to be homeless.”

“Homeless?” he repeated with a sniffle. He was honestly even worse than Scorpius sometimes. I’d completely had enough of pathetic men for one day.

“Yes,” I said forcefully. “I want you gone by the time I get home this evening. Sort your marriage out.”

“You can’t do that,” he panicked. “I haven’t got anywhere to go!”

“Go home,” I said through gritted teeth. “If this “affair” is the only problem your wife has then this can be explained away. Grow a backbone.”

Oh, the irony of the situation. I was being an adult, giving responsible advice and the one in control. Usually it was me moaning or avoiding doing something difficult and unpleasant, but no, I was telling someone thirty years my senior how to live his life. What a strange turn of events; my mother would be so proud.

Boris continued to sniffle but I had to leave him to it; I had a job to do, something which Boris often forgot. I calmed myself briefly before heading downstairs again, deciding that I’d need to treat myself somehow this weekend in order to make up for having such a stressful week. It was a shame it was only Monday.

Matthew had started re-alphabetising the textbook section ready for when the students went back to Hogwarts after the Easter holidays and I joined him as we sat surrounded by piles of books.

“You look like you could do with some time off,” he said as I tried to calm my heartbeat. I had to admit, I was exhausted.

“I can’t,” I said evenly. “Not with Boris in his current state. After firing that last assistant we had, that leaves me with only you and Boris to look after the shop when I’m gone. It’s not fair to burden you with it as a result of my problems.”

Matthew frowned. “When was the last time you took time off?”

I laughed. “I’ve never taken time off.”

He looked horrified, and I hoped he didn’t assume that meant he couldn’t have his paid holiday either. “What - never? How long have you worked here?”

“Oh, years,” I said with a dismissive wave of my hand. “I don’t want to take time off, I love working here. I’ve never really had a reason to take any time off, anyway.”

Matthew shook his head, passing me a stack of new editions of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to stick back on the shelf. “You’re crazy.”

“The place would fall apart if I wasn’t here,” I reasoned, stacking the books neatly. “Boris isn’t exactly the most reliable boss.”

Matthew said nothing in response to that, though I shouldn’t have expected him too. He’d barely been working with us two weeks; he was probably waiting for Boris to return to his normal self before he judged him. Or, at least, I hoped that was the case.

When five o’clock eventually arrived, I headed home in the hope that Boris had moved his stuff out of my room. The flat was empty when I got there, and Boris’ stuff was nowhere to be seen. Relieved, I sagged onto the sofa, waiting for Molly to get home. Putting my feet up on the coffee table, I knocked a bundle of letters onto the floor. Sighing, I picked them up, flicking through them to see if there was anything for me. There was one, my name written neatly on the envelope in unfamiliar handwriting. I opened it curiously.

Dear Rose,

I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to write to you – moving to a foreign country proved to be more time-consuming than I’d anticipated. I’m currently job-hunting, without much luck seeing as most people here expect me to speak French. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m starting to miss England a bit – only a bit, mind.

Fleur’s parents told us you got promoted at work – congratulations! I hope things are continuing to look up for you and luck is on your side. If you need a break from all this hard work you’re doing, the offer for you to visit us still stands. It’d be great to see you.

Love,

Teddy


I stared at the letter for a good ten minutes, rereading every word with a silly grin on my face. He hadn’t forgotten me at all, he’d just been busy! I clutched the letter to my chest, stood up on the sofa and danced happily.

“Rose, what are you doing?” Molly said from the doorway.

Jumping down, I thrust the letter at her, smiling broadly. “He wrote to me!” I sang.

Molly scanned the parchment, her eyebrows raised. “Well, that’s a bit out of the blue,” she muttered, handing it back to me. “You’re not going to go, are you?” She looked doubtfully at me as I skipped around the room joyously.

“I don’t know,” I said, stopping by the kettle. I stuck it on to boil and leant against the kitchen counter. “Do you think I should go?”

At that moment, there was a thump against the living room window. Molly and I turned to look at where the noise had come from and came face to face with Scorpius, who had his face squished up against the windowpane.

“He didn’t take it well, then,” Molly observed shrewdly.

I shooed him away crossly, pointing my wand at him until he got the message and left, leaving a Scorpius-shaped smear against the glass. “No,” I said irritably. “I shall never speak of what happened so that I can erase it from my memory. And Boris has moved out because he failed to tell me that his wife thinks we’re having an affair.”

“Are you?” she asked.

I frowned. “No,” I said through gritted teeth. “Why does everyone always assume the worst?”

“You always look guilty,” Molly said with a shrug. I made us both a cup of tea and joined her on the sofa. “It’s your expression.”

“Thanks,” I muttered sarcastically. “What do you think I should do?”

“About what?”

“Teddy,” I reminded her, brandishing the letter. “I need a break from all the drama; why don’t I go and visit?”

“That would be avoiding drama how?” she asked sceptically. “I think that’s a recipe for rejection and embarrassment. Nothing good could possibly come of it.”

“That would be no different from staying here,” I argued, rereading Teddy’s letter yet again. “Except that he’s invited me to go. It would be rude not to accept.”

Molly rolled her eyes. “I think it’s a bad idea, Rose. I’m normally right about these things, listen to me.”

“Well, I think it’s a good idea,” I said decisively. “I’ll go in a couple of weeks. That’ll give Boris time to sort his marriage out and cover my shifts.”

“Rose…” Molly warned. “Don’t go.”

I sighed. “Why not?”

“You can’t just run away from everything. It will all catch up with you eventually,” she said grimly.

“I need a holiday,” I said. “You’re not going to change my mind.”

Molly shook her head sadly. “Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

I grinned, taking this as her approval and started to rummage around the kitchen for some fresh parchment. She was always so negative; I was going to be fine. I could take care of myself, if that was what she was worried about. Never mind all the pessimism - I was going to France!  




AN: Thank you once again for the reviews! You guys all make my day ♥ If you're enjoying this, keep an eye out for my new Next Gen fic 'Saturdays', which is now up! Hopefully you'll like that too :D


Chapter 21: Seductive Scorpius
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Seductive Scorpius

I sat, exhausted, amongst piles of clothes, hoping that somehow they’d arrange themselves and all fit into the small suitcase that I’d borrowed off Molly. Apart from the fact that my suitcase was too small, I was so bloody indecisive that I had no idea what to pack. Under any other circumstance, I’d just pack the most comfortable things I owned and take them with me, but that wouldn’t do this time. I couldn’t let Teddy see me in my old and tattered clothes that I barely even let Molly see; I had to look presentable for every occasion he was going to throw my way so I’d return home leaving him impressed and longing to see me again. That was a lot of pressure to put me under.

“Are you not done yet?” Molly asked, popping her head around my door.

I shook my head. “Does it look like I’m done yet?” I retorted tiredly. “Can’t you pack for me?”

“This was your idea,” Molly said, slowly backing away from me. “Don’t you get me involved.”

Sighing, I decided I could afford a tea break and followed her into the kitchen. She’d already made me a cup of tea, as if already sensing that I’d given up with my packing efforts. Bringing the plate of biscuits with her, we dropped onto the sofa and dug in.

“Are you going to cope without me?” I asked her, hoping that she’d say she couldn’t live without me and beg me to stay with her.

“Of course,” she said confidently. “It’s not like you do much around here anyway.” She was so bloody rude.

“Thanks,” I said, pretending to be hurt by her comment. “But you know you’re going to miss me. I’m like a piece of furniture – you take it for granted that I’ll be there to sit on, but once I’m gone you discover that I was your favourite chair and your life will never be the same again.”

“Whatever,” Molly said with a laugh. “I think what will actually happen is I’ll be able to hear myself think in the peaceful silence of the flat. It’s going to be great.”

Sometimes she could at least pretend she loved me; I’d feel very unloved soon if she wasn’t careful. “I won’t send you a postcard then,” I responded smugly. She glared at me.

“Don’t be so childish,” she muttered, reaching for a biscuit. “I expect a souvenir as well, Rosie. There’s no point you going away if I don’t get anything out of it.”

“Of course,” I said with a roll of my eyes. “It’ll be the first thing I do when I get there.”

“It better not be cheese,” she warned. “Actually, a bottle of wine would do nicely.”

“Yes ma’am,” I said, saluting.

“Good,” she said with a nod. “Now go and finish your packing – you’re leaving tomorrow.” She whisked me away, shutting my bedroom door behind me. I wouldn’t be surprised if she locked me in there until I was done; she was awfully controlling when she wanted to be.

I couldn’t deny that my supposed ‘good’ idea was now giving me a few worries. I was undeniably nervous, mostly because I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do for a whole week with Teddy and Victoire. This was how I’d ended up with a packing nightmare; I just couldn’t decide what I’d need. I figured that my coat would cover most sins, unless France turned out to be surprisingly warm for the end of March and I’d have to strip off (not all the way, obviously). Thus, I had to make sure I had nice enough clothes underneath. I groaned, my face buried in a clean sweater; I hated being female sometimes. There was far too much pressure on appearance.

In the end, I closed my eyes and picked stuff at random, which got me further than when I’d been trying to decide between jumpers. Teddy probably didn’t care whether I wore my snowman jumper or my stripy one.

Zipping up the suitcase, I declared my packing finished and marched out of the house. “I’ll be back later,” I called to Molly as I shrugged my coat on.

I trudged up the street, clasping a piece of parchment with Boris’ address on it in my palm. I was surprised he lived so close to me, which actually probably didn’t help with his wife’s suspicions all that much. I arrived after twenty minutes of walking and stood facing his blue front door with butterflies in my stomach. It would be terrible luck if his wife was in this afternoon; I intended never to meet her.

I rang the doorbell, my breathing uneven. As the door swung open, I half expected a glamourous model-type to answer; instead, it was just Boris in his dressing gown and hair curlers. “Come in,” he said with a smile. “We’ve just put the kettle on.”

He could have at least got dressed; he knew I was coming round this afternoon to discuss some work things before I left. It wasn’t like this was a massive surprise or anything; I would have appreciated the effort.

His house was actually tastefully decorated, which I had not been expecting. There were no tacky furnishings and the wallpaper was decidedly bland. Boris led me through into his living room, where a tray of tea was laid out. His wife, a dumpy-looking lady, sat primly in her armchair waiting for me. She took one look at me, let out a massive sigh of relief and smiled.

“You’re not what I expected at all,” she offered by way of explanation. It wasn’t much of a greeting. I tried not to get offended; I didn’t know what she’d been expecting, but it was clearly better than what I’d turned out to be. I sort of felt like I should apologise for being a disappointment even though I knew this was in no way my fault. It was hers for having high expectations.

“It’s nice to meet you, Mrs-” What was Boris’ surname again? I started to stammer as I tried and failed to remember his second name. “Mrs- Boris.” Well, that would have to do. I blushed, looking down at my feet.

“I’ve heard so much about you,” she said, nodding appreciatively at my effort. “It’s great to put a face to the name at last.”

The fact that she’d accused me of stealing her husband was left unsaid between us. Hopefully that meant she’d changed her mind and didn’t want to have it out with me. Even if she did, I had a means of escaping tomorrow anyway.

Boris poured the tea and I retrieved a list from my pocket. “Here,” I said, passing him the piece of parchment. “These are all the extra jobs I thought of that need to be done this week. You can split them between you and Matthew, I don’t mind who does what. The one thing that you can leave off if you don’t have time is polishing the books in Aisle G – nobody goes back there anyway.”

He nodded, making a note on the bottom of the list. “I hope you enjoy your week off,” he said. “Where is it you’re going again?”

“Bordeaux,” I replied. “My cousin works in the wine industry so she and her boyfriend moved out there earlier this year,” I explained to Mrs Boris.

“You’ll have a lovely time,” Mrs Boris said warmly. I smiled in response, feeling much more at ease. She didn’t seem like the dragon I’d imagined her to be. “From what Boris says, you’ve earned a break. He works you too hard.”

Peace seemed to have been made, which dissolved most of the worries that had been plaguing me recently. I couldn’t believe this woman had actually turfed her husband out over me. Actually, I really couldn’t imagine any woman turfing their husband out over little old me, but perhaps my influence was greater than I imagined. I should give myself more credit; maybe I had very strong feminine wiles or something.

After visiting Boris, I had other duties – next on the list were my parents. Honestly, the number of visits I had to do today made me feel like the Pope (or at least, I liked to think everyone cherished my visits in a similar way). People were worrying about me, that was the problem. Stoic Rose was leaving the nest for a week and it was a massive deal. For an entire week I wasn’t going to be around to be the dependable one. I liked to think everyone was a bit impressed with my sudden independence. Or, you know, they all thought I was completely incapable of looking after myself.

Dad answered the door pretty much as soon as I rang the doorbell. “Rosie! My little grown up girl! Come on in.”

I rolled my eyes. I’d been putting up with this ever since I told them I was going on holiday. Dad was either being really overprotective or just very patronising.

“Are you all packed?” he asked as we walked through the house.

“Yes, Dad,” I said dryly.

“Have you got your passport ready?” he nagged.

Yes.” He didn’t look as though he believed me.

“You’ve got your euros?” Mum called from the kitchen

“Yes!” What was this, the Spanish Inquisition? I was only going to France, not the other side of the world. Bloody parents.

Dad asked me a bunch of other questions but I decided to tune out and just keep saying yes. It seemed to do the trick and he appeared satisfied that I was ready for such a momentous journey. I expected he would be visiting me in the morning to check again that I’d packed everything I needed.

“You’ll send us an owl when you arrive, won’t you?” Mum asked worriedly. “We’d like to know you got there safely.”

“Yes, I will,” I muttered, accepting another cup of tea. “I’m going to be fine, stop worrying.”

They shared a sceptical look between them, but I decided to drop it. I hoped that after I returned (safely) they’d accept that I was a proper adult and could look after myself. I didn’t know why they were making such a big deal about it; I was going to stay with family and would probably be on my own for about an hour maximum. I couldn’t wait to get away; they were driving me mental with their nagging and worrying.

I left as soon as I could, with Mum crying “have you packed enough clean underwear? I can send you some in the post if there’s an emergency!”

I didn’t dare ask what kind of emergency she was imagining was going to happen; but there was no way I’d stoop to asking Mum to send me knickers in the post. I bet the guys at customs would have a right laugh at that. They’d probably be confiscated in all likelihood.

Hugo popped his head around the living room door to wave at me. “Don’t do anything stupid,” he advised. “France might seem a long way from home, but your actions have a way of catching up with you.”

I felt this was unnecessarily wise coming from my brother, especially when he was normally so rude to me. I should go on holiday more often; it was giving all of my relatives personality transplants, and I rather liked it. After that, Hugo disappeared again, leaving me standing awkwardly with my parents as they rested their beady eyes on me.

When I got up to leave, Mum clung to me tightly, giving me a kiss on the forehead and whispering in my ear, “good luck”. I wondered how much she actually knew; I always thought I’d hidden my feelings well, but the way she was giving me a knowing look forced me to think otherwise. I smiled weakly, nodding but not managing to find any suitable words. Sometimes, I felt like the worst person in the world, lusting after my cousin’s boyfriend, but I couldn’t help that I loved him. That fact absolved me of all blame, I reasoned. But I knew, if anything were to happen, that it would only be me who felt the disgust in the family. I couldn’t betray them.

It was with a heavy heart that I left my parents’ house, my Mum’s words ringing in my ears. What was I expecting to come out of this trip? Had I really conned myself into believing that Teddy liked me as more than a family friend? I didn’t know what to think anymore, and that was part of the reason I had to go to France; I had to know.

Finally getting home, I suddenly felt exhausted. Part of it was probably nerves, and then the stress of organising everything had worn me down day by day. I sort of wished I could take Molly with me for moral support, but from her earlier reaction I knew there would be no way she’d come with me. I’d have to hold her at wand point the entire time or else she’d break free and scarper back to safety like a little lost lamb (only she was more like mutton these days).

Dark fell far too early at this time of year, and as I made my way to bed I had to grope around in the dark to find my light switch. I nearly had a heart attack when I turned my bedroom light on.

“Fucking hell!” I yelled, pointing at the figure lying on my bed in disbelief. “What – why – how the hell did you get into my flat?”

Scorpius, lying across my bed in what he presumed was a seductive fashion, looked indignant. “Molly let me in,” he said crossly. “I said I had to talk to you.”

“I wasn’t in,” I growled.

“So I saw,” he muttered, pulling his legs together and sitting upright. “But I was happy to wait.”

My heart thudded painfully against my chest. “You nearly killed me,” I stuttered.

“I want to talk to you,” he said eagerly, patting the space on my bed beside him. I didn’t move from the doorway.

I held my hands up to my forehead. “You can’t wait for people in dark rooms,” I said miserably. “It’s not normal. Just tell me why you’re here and get out.”

Scorpius kicked my suitcase with his foot. “Where are you going?”

“It’s none of your business,” I said heavily. He looked at me with suspicious eyes. “I’m going to France,” I admitted grudgingly.

“Why don’t you stay here?” he offered. “I’ll forgive you for that thing the other day and we can go out again.”

I breathed deeply. “This is too weird. I don’t want to go out with you again – I don’t think we can even be friends anymore. Please just go.”

He looked affronted, as if I’d completely robbed him of what would have otherwise been a jolly nice Sunday evening. I didn’t really care; I was fed up with the sight of him and the sooner he left the better. If insulting him meant he left sooner then that was fine by me.

Eventually he sulked off without even saying goodbye. Sighing irritably, I was glad to see the back of him. This, more than anything else, proved that he was unhinged. Only Creeping Colins did stunts like that, not normal people. Bloody Molly; I bet this was her idea of a laugh to send me off with a bang. I couldn’t wait to get away from everything, to have a week free of normal stress and instead just have a different kind of stress.

As I tucked myself into bed, I heard footsteps pad along the hall as Molly crept into my room.

“Rosie?” she asked sheepishly.

I recognised that tone of voice from when we were teenagers sharing rooms at our grandmother’s, when she’d had a nightmare or been too cold. Wordlessly, I shuffled over in my bed and drew back the covers. She hopped in beside me, trying to get warm.

“I’m really sorry about Scorpius,” she whispered. “He seemed genuinely normal.”

I couldn’t find the energy to feel angry towards her. If anything, she’d done me a favour; my meeting with Scorpius just reaffirmed my unfavourable feelings towards him. “It’s okay,” I whispered back, brushing some of her hair from my face.

“I’m going to miss you,” she mumbled sleepily, yawning and curling up in a ball.

“It’s only a week,” I reassured her (and myself a bit too). “I’ll be back before you know it.”

“Mm,” she mumbled, drifting off to sleep.

I lay awake for a long time after she fell asleep, worrying about the week ahead. I’d jumped into it with no second thoughts, but now I couldn’t help but think that I’d made a mistake. A week was a long time when you had to spend that time trying to impress someone else. At least at home I could be me and not have to worry about everyone judging me.

Things had certainly picked up since Teddy left, but I couldn’t deny that I missed him. Family gatherings lacked a certain sparkle, life seemed a tiny bit more gloomy without him. The problem was, he’d never been mine in the first place and this week with him and Victoire was only going to reaffirm that. I was probably walking right into a depression trap.

I tossed and turned a bit more, debating whether to cancel the whole thing. In the end, I decided that this trip would be good for me; I could finally close the chapter of uncertainty in my life that had Teddy’s name stamped all over it. By the end of the week, I was going to force myself to tell him how I felt, sod the consequences. Then I could tie up the loose ends and finally get on with life, with or without him.



AN: I know I keep on saying it, and you must be bored of it by now, but thank you so much for the reviews :) I love each and every one and I'm so grateful for the support. So thank you and if you have time, I appreciate any more thoughts you have. 

 


Chapter 22: Realisations
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Realisations

It was raining as I stood outside the French Ministry of Magic. I’d been waiting there for a good ten minutes and I was starting to get cold from the damp and the wind. Whenever anyone mentioned France, or anywhere other than England, I immediately imagined sunny weather and warmer temperatures, not rain. I got plenty of that at home, thank you very much.

I hoped Teddy wasn’t going to be much longer; he promised he’d meet me at the French Ministry after my international portkey was scheduled to arrive so he could take me back to where he lived. I didn’t really want to be grumpy when he got here, but I was slowly inching towards scowling.

There was a tap on my shoulder, and I looked behind me to see if it was him. It was; he was holding a large umbrella over our heads and was grinning, his soppy fringe plastered to his face.

“It’s a bit wet, isn’t it?” he said happily, kissing me on the cheek by way of greeting. My face tingled where he’d touched it. “Did you have a safe journey?”

“Yeah,” I said, grabbing my suitcase and following him away from the main doors of the Ministry.

“It’s good to see you,” Teddy said, looking me up and down with a satisfied smile. I nodded, my tongue tied. “Here, grab my arm.” He offered me his arm, which I took and we turned on the spot and vanished into the air.

When we were on solid ground again, I was loathe to let go of him; I felt so safe, clutching him for support. In all honesty, I’d never have let him go if I’d had any choice. Victoire probably wouldn’t appreciate me clinging to her boyfriend all week, unfortunately. I was going to struggle to keep my hands to myself for such a long time with very few other people around.

Ahead of us through the curtain of rain I could see up a small side-street; I presumed this was Bordeaux. His house wasn’t far away and he let us in quickly after we dashed through the rain.

“You brought the weather with you, I see,” he said as he stuck his umbrella in the stand by the door. “Here, let me carry your bags.”

I handed him my suitcase and followed him through the house. It was small, only one floor, with minimal clutter. Victoire was probably a bit of a neat freak, as I should have expected. Teddy took my bags into the spare room, where someone had laid out some towels and some soap. I decided not to take that as a slur on my soap-loving tendencies but instead as a kind gesture.

“Thanks,” I said, looking around. “It’s a lovely place.”

Teddy nodded. Pointing to his left, he gave me directions to the bathroom. “Victoire’s still at work,” he explained. “I thought I’d show you some of the sights, seeing as we have the whole afternoon to ourselves.”

My heart leapt at the thought; was I going to get him all to myself for a whole afternoon? It seemed too good to be true. We rarely had time alone, and if we did it was usually a few metres away from the rest of my family. In fact, I couldn’t remember when we’d ever had uninterrupted time together. Heart rattling inside my chest, I tried to calm myself. He would soon tire of me if I was too jittery to say anything coherent.

The rain still hadn’t lightened up, so we huddled together under his large red umbrella. I tried to ignore the fact that we were so close, his shoulder touching against mine gently as we walked through the alleys towards the town centre. In the alternate universe inside of my head, he had his arm draped around my waist to hold me close beneath the umbrella, his body warming mine in the foul weather. If I closed my eyes slightly, I could almost smell his after-shave on his neck. Forcing myself to focus, I snapped out of my reverie. My cheeks were glowing despite the cold; he was going to notice something was up if I didn’t control myself.

We ducked into a café, settling at a table in the corner of the room. I sat opposite him, leaving me with little choice but to gaze into his eyes dreamily. Again, I had to remember myself, brushing my fingers through my damp hair as a distraction.

“I come here a couple of times a week,” Teddy explained, watching me fiddle with my hair. “They speak pretty good English, though they’re trying to teach me some French. I’m not really much of a linguist, unfortunately.”

I blushed at the thought of him speaking French; I bet he wasn’t as bad as he was claiming to be. He had always been bright, picking up most things with apparent ease. His exam results at Hogwarts had been better than mine, and if I did say so myself I did pretty well.

“I took Ancient Runes,” I said pensively. “But I don’t suppose it’s anything like learning a modern language.”

A waiter approached our table; I was disappointed that none of the stereotypes my Dad had told me about were true. This man was not wearing a beret, nor was he carrying an accordion. I made a mental note to inform Dad of his mistakes when I got home.

Teddy saw my panicked look when I tried to read the menu, and ordered for me. He probably ordered me something disgusting like snails, but I wasn’t going to make a fuss. I wanted to seem like a cool traveller, not a pathetic girl who was scared of her own shadow. I needed to be worldly-wise, mature and wise. At the moment I was just acting like someone completely out of my depth, which I supposed I was.

Maybe this whole experience would be good for me; I’d prove myself to be an independent woman, capable of handling herself in new and different situations and suddenly everyone I knew would see me in a completely new light, adoring me and worshipping me. Okay, so it was unlikely to happen but it wasn’t necessarily impossible. I could make it work.

I tossed my hair back in what I presumed was a seductive and confident manner, but in reality definitely wasn’t.

“I hear you’re going out with Scorpius Malfoy,” Teddy said conversationally after I was done with hair flicking. “How’s that going?”

I narrowed my eyes. “Who told you that?”

He smiled wickedly. “Just because we’re in another country doesn’t mean we don’t hear things, you know.”

I blushed. “We weren’t really going out, not properly. We’re no longer on speaking times, suffice to say.”

“Oh dear,” Teddy sympathised. He raised his eyebrows curiously. “What happened?”

I sighed, resisting the urge to bury my face in my hands out of embarrassment. “He was just a bit too intense.” There was no way I was going to tell him all the details; they revealed far too much about my personal feelings. “I was needing a bit of a break, actually. It’s nice to have a change of scenery.” I gestured around me.

He nodded. “I felt like that when we first moved out here. It’s a completely different way of life – not too sure if I’m used to it just yet, but it definitely has its perks.”

“I’m quite jealous of all this,” I admitted, pushing my napkin around the table with my finger. “Sometimes I wish I could get away from everything, cut ties with all the family. They’re suffocating.”

“Don’t take them for granted,” he admonished. “You’re so lucky to have a large family. All I have is my grandmother – I’d be lonely if it weren’t for Victoire.”

There was almost a sad glint in his eye, which I caught because I was staring so deeply at him. He probably didn’t have any idea how beautiful he was, and would always be, to me. Perhaps I’d over-romanticised the idea of him to the point where he was more real in my imagination than he was when directly in front of me, but that made me happy. And hey, the Teddy sitting in front of me seemed perfect enough for me right now.

“Well,” I said boldly. “You’ve got me to entertain you for a week. It’ll be fun.”

“Yes,” he said with a smile. “It will.”

The waiter sauntered over with a basket of bread and a couple of plates of salad. I wolfed both down in the hope that this was just a starter, and not a comment on whether I should be on a diet or not.

“Victoire’s said I have to watch my weight,” Teddy said by explanation as I eyed the empty bread basket hungrily. “So if I have to suffer, so must you.” He gave me what he probably thought was an evil grin, but all I saw was handsome.

“There’s nothing wrong with your weight,” I cried indignantly, eyeing him up and down. He was the same as he had always been to me; just right. “Please don’t change.”

Teddy smiled ruefully. “I’m not going to change,” he consoled me. “I’m just securing myself an easy life. It’s better just to go with what Victoire says than fight her.”

I rolled my eyes impatiently. “Do you always do what she tells you to do?”

“Pretty much,” he said with a boyish grin.

“I see,” I muttered. W-H-I-P-P-E-D.

“It’s a compromise,” he explained as I looked confused. “I’ll happily compromise to make her happy because that makes me happy.”

He was disgustingly in love, I realised. No sane person would agree to half of the stuff he seemed to have agreed to without a wand to their head. He’d left his life and sole family member behind to move to a foreign country and Victoire still expected him to go on a diet; if anyone asked me (and they rarely did), it was Victoire that needed to compromise a bit.

“How’s work?” he asked in order to change the subject. I smiled genuinely this time.

“It’s really good,” I enthused. “That promotion’s given me a much needed boost, I think. I feel like I’m useful, for once. We’ve got this new shop assistant and he’s fun to work with.”

Teddy eyed me knowingly. “What’s he like?”

I narrowed my eyes. “Don’t get the wrong idea. He’s just a friend; he’s too young for me.”

He shrugged, his eyes sparkling mischievously. “I don’t see that age is all that important, Rose. There’s eight years between us, and we seem to get on just fine.”

“That’s different,” I argued. “I’ve known you all my life. Matthew’s only a couple of years out of Hogwarts. It’s… it’s not the same.”

I knew I was a hypocrite; what was a few years difference between Matthew and I compared to the near decade between Teddy and I? I meant what I said, though – knowing Teddy all my life made the age gap seem insignificant. Besides, I definitely didn’t think of Matthew as anything other than my employee and sort of friend. We couldn’t be anything more; he didn’t like biscuits.

“I suppose,” Teddy said, sounding as if he didn’t really agree. “But I wouldn’t let age stop me if I liked someone. Victoire’s two years younger than I am but that doesn’t bother me.”

I wasn’t going to drag my point out so I dropped it, realising I wasn’t going to win this one. “Fine,” I said humorously. “You win. But either way, Matthew isn’t my type. I’ve sworn off men for the moment, anyway. Scorpius has scarred me somewhat.”

“I’d say he’s an anomaly,” Teddy mused. “Don’t tar all men with that same brush.”

“Whatever,” I said with a shrug. “It’s all too stressful. I want to focus on work.”

Teddy nodded. “It sounds like you’re happy, though,” he said positively. “Which I don’t think you have been for quite a while.”

I considered this observation pensively. When was the last time I could say I was actually happy? Yes, I’d had moments of joy or fun or amusement, but happiness ran a bit deeper than that. I was more content than I had been in months, and I put this down to finally giving Scorpius the boot. I felt empowered. “I am happy,” I agreed easily. “Are you happy?”

What did I actually want him to say in response to this question? Did I want him to start sobbing over his salad and beg me to save him from some dire situation? Deep down, as much as I wanted Victoire to not be right for him, I didn’t want him to be miserable. I would have to accept that if Victoire did make him happy, that was all I could hope for.

“I’ll get there,” Teddy said after a pause. “I’ll feel more secure when I get a job and I’m not relying on Victoire to feed me. I hate being dependent on her; it’s unfair.”

I hesitated in replying; I couldn’t be harsh about Victoire when he was so bloody fond of her. “Why did you agree to move out here?” I asked cautiously. “Surely you anticipated that work would be sparse.”

He nodded, his dark hair flopping in front of his eyes. “I love her, Rose. She had her heart set on moving to France – it was her dream. I couldn’t stop her from following her dream.”

“What about your dreams?”

He bit his lip. “I suppose what’s most important to me is having a family. Victoire is my family now, and I’ll support her, whatever she decides to do.”

For a moment, I no longer saw a thirty-year old man in front of me; he looked so small and young as he admitted this small truth to me. I saw the young boy who had once cried at Christmas, missing his dead parents and longing for a family he had never had.

I felt so sad for him as he looked straight at me. I placed my hand over his and squeezed it. “You’ll always have a family in us,” I informed him earnestly.

He looked touched but removed his hand from under mine. “Thanks, Rosie. I know.”

We split the bill, Teddy helping me count out euros properly, and left. It had stopped raining whilst we’d been having lunch, so we wandered into the town centre to do some window shopping. Teddy seemed unusually quiet and I wished I had the guts to pick his brains a bit more. Perhaps he was considering dumping Victoire and coming home with me? A girl could dream, I supposed.

When we started to head back, the sun was just beginning to set. I couldn’t wait for the summer, when the sun didn’t set until much later and we could just enjoy more daylight hours. As it was, we were at the tail end of winter and it still got dark reasonably early. I don’t think either of us realised how late it was getting by the time we made it through the door.

“Rose, welcome,” Victoire greeted me as we joined her in the kitchen. “I trust you had a good journey?”

“I did, thank you,” I responded, politely kissing her cheek. “You have a lovely home here. Teddy has been showing me around town.”

“Well, we like it,” she said warmly. “I’ve just boiled the kettle if you’d like some tea – I’m afraid the tea here isn’t the same as at home, but it does the job.”

“That’d be good, thanks,” I said awkwardly as she busied herself with making the tea. I could smell something fragrant cooking in the oven and I felt my stomach rumble. I wondered if Victoire was a good cook; she’d never cooked for me before. It struck me as nice that she was being so welcoming to me. It wasn’t like we’d ever been close, but I supposed she appreciated that I’d travelled so far to see her.

She chivvied us into the sitting room, where she handed both Teddy and me a cup of tea each. She returned to the kitchen to finish cooking dinner.

“She seems really happy,” I commented once she was out of earshot.

“She is,” Teddy beamed, looking proud.

I sighed inwardly, struggling to determine how I felt about the whole situation. Victoire had always been the “baddie” in my mind, but perhaps she’d just never been very happy back home. This Victoire I was seeing now was not the cousin I was familiar with. She seemed almost light-hearted, a startling contrast to the serious and prim woman she’d been at home. I was beginning to understand why she’d moved out here and why Teddy had so willingly gone with her.

Sipping at my tea, I wondered if I’d made a mistake in coming here. I was so sure that seeing Teddy again would reinforce my decision to dump Scorpius and chase after someone else. I didn’t know if I could even contemplate trying to destroy the happiness Victoire had found out here. I’d promised myself I had to close this particular part of my life, the part where I longed for Teddy, but I felt like telling him how I felt would betray Victoire in a way I hadn’t considered before. It wasn’t fair on either of them to intrude.

It was with a heavy heart and mixed feelings that I bade them goodnight after dinner, retiring to the small room they’d given me. Slipping my pyjamas on, I caught sight of myself in the mirror; admittedly, I wasn’t anywhere near as beautiful as Victoire was and that didn’t bother me so much anymore. What I couldn’t deal with was the fact that Victoire was the woman who could make Teddy happy. Searching my face, I wondered if I could make him as happy as she did.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I went home before my official holiday came to its end. I felt so out of sorts that I didn’t even know how I was going to survive another day, let alone a whole week. I was imposing on a happiness I hadn’t expected to find and could never hope of matching. Plans and strategies of winning Teddy over slipped from my mind as I tossed and turned that night. What was I doing here? Molly was right – I had been trying to avoid my problems, but I’d ended up running right into them here.



AN: Thank you for the reviews, my lovely readers! ♥ I cringe a bit when I think about what happens in the next few chapters, but I hope you'll enjoy them all the same :)


Chapter 23: Confession Time
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Confession Time

I slept fitfully, eventually falling into a deeper sleep in the early morning. I was woken by someone shaking my shoulders gently.

“Rosie?” It was Teddy, who’d brought me a cup of tea as well. “It’s almost ten.”

I rubbed my eyes sleepily, sitting up to accept the cup of tea. He perched himself on the end of the bed by my feet. “Thanks,” I said groggily.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked as I sipped at the hot liquid.

“Yeah,” I lied, smiling. I wasn’t really sure why anyone ever asked that; if I was a guest, I was unlikely to be rude and start moaning about the uncomfortable bed or something. It was always easier to say I slept well than explain I’d been too worried about what to do to actually sleep properly. “Have you been up long?”

“Victoire left at eight,” he explained. “I made her breakfast.”

“I see.” What a nice bloke, really. I wouldn’t get up that early to make breakfast for anyone, not when I didn’t have to. His devotion to Victoire was becoming rather sickly. “So what’s the plan for today?”

“Well,” he began. “There’s an afternoon market in town later, which I thought we could go to. I need to buy some vegetables as it is.”

She even had him doing the shopping for her; I needed to ask her how she made him such a good boyfriend pretty much effortlessly. I was bound to need to know that sometime in the future.

“Sounds good to me,” I agreed. “I promised Molly I’d get her something and I need to buy some postcards.”

“Great,” Teddy said, standing up and heading towards the door. “I’ll make us some lunch before we go. We’ll leave when you’re ready.”

He closed the door behind him, leaving me to finish the cup of tea he’d brought me. I rubbed my forehead, contemplating the day ahead. I loved spending time with him, I knew that much, but I felt like a fraud just being in their house, pretending I was just a friend. I felt almost guilty that I’d come here with the intention of telling Teddy the truth, but now it didn’t seem appropriate. But I couldn’t leave without saying anything… I would regret it in the future.

The same repetitive worries circled my head as I dressed myself and joined Teddy in the living room. He was reading an English paper that was two days old, muttering to himself. I raised an eyebrow.

“Talking to yourself is one of the first signs of madness, you know,” I informed him as I joined him on the sofa.

“Sorry,” he said with a blush. “I forgot you were here. I was just moaning about that Lockhart chap.”

“Oh yes,” I said sourly. “We had him in the shop to do a book signing. It was utter madness, and he wasn’t even pleasant to talk to. Sometimes I wonder if we’d have been better off if he’d never regained his memory.”

“Your parents knew him, didn’t they?” he asked, scouring the front page article. “It says here that he taught them at Hogwarts.”

“Oh yes,” I said indifferently. “I knew that. I don’t think my Dad liked him that much, from what I can gather. He always gets very cagey when I mention his name.”

“I bet he was a crap teacher,” Teddy offered. “Your Mum probably could have done a better job than him even at such a young age.”

I had to agree with him; my Mum could do a better job at anything than most people. My Dad told me she used to be insufferable with it, but in the end it clearly didn’t matter that she knew everything because he loved her anyway. Secretly, I think she won him over by doing all his homework for him.

“I think it’s inevitable that he’ll be picked as the new Minister,” I said sadly. “He’s immensely popular. It doesn’t seem to matter to everyone that he’s a wombat.”

Teddy laughed, folding the newspaper and setting it down on the coffee table. “It’ll make politics a lot more interesting with him in office, that’s for sure,” he said lightly. Standing, he wandered over to the kitchen. “Lunch time, I think,” he called and I followed him in.

After lunch, I grabbed my coat and bag and we headed out into town to visit the market. I was surprised at how large and how busy it was; in my head I’d pictured maybe a street’s worth of stalls, but this one seemed to encompass most of the town centre. I didn’t recognise the place from the day before, relying heavily on Teddy to lead the way. He chatted with the grocers who spoke some English, picking out some vegetables for dinner.

After Teddy had bought everything he wanted, we wandered amongst the crafty stalls as I looked for something to bring back home for Molly. Eventually, I settled on a couple of friendship bracelets and we picked up some postcards on the way out of town.

Surprisingly, after the awful weather the day before, the sun was shining. I stuck on my sunglasses, which I always carried with me in case I saw even a hint of sunshine. I was starting to relax a lot more; I even felt like I was on holiday. My thoughts flitted guiltily to Boris, who I hoped was coping without me.

We were almost back at Teddy and Victoire’s place when he grabbed my hand and tugged me down a small alleyway between houses. “Come this way, we’re going somewhere special.”

The alley, which was sheltered from the sun by the tall buildings, was a lot cooler than I’d expected. Shivering, I realised I hadn’t let go of Teddy’s hand, but I made no move to retrieve my hand from his grasp. He ducked through a small door, dragging me with him into what appeared to be a bar.

“This place is great,” he told me as he sat me down at the bar. “I’m buying you a drink as congratulations on your promotion,” he announced, signalling to the barman, who sauntered over.

I tried to slip the barman some euros in order to contribute towards my drink, but Teddy grabbed my hand and pushed it back towards me. “It’s my treat,” he insisted.

Two tall cocktail glasses were placed in front of us, and he toasted his to me. “Well done, Rosie,” he said, grinning at my embarrassment.

“It’s a bad habit to drink before six o’clock,” I said lamely, slipping at the liquid. “People might get the wrong impression.”

He chuckled. “There are worse sins than drinking in the afternoon, you know.”

“Such as?” I asked playfully. “What sins have you committed, Teddy?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he joked lightly. “Perhaps the sin of neglect - I should have written to you sooner.”

I rolled my eyes, placing my hand on his arm. “Don’t worry about that. You’ve been busy, and for once so have I.” This time, I was the one who toasted. “To new beginnings,” I said with a smile.

“Yes,” he agreed. “To new beginnings indeed.”

We lapsed into a comfortable silence, both of us drinking slowly. I felt his gaze on me and I blushed. “What?” I demanded.

“Nothing,” he said quickly, looking away. He coughed awkwardly, and then turned to look back at me. “I was just thinking how much you’ve changed since I left.”

“You haven’t changed at all,” I said sadly, aware that the drink was probably encouraging me to say more than I should. “I was sort of hoping you would have – then maybe I wouldn’t miss you so much.”

My cheeks reddened as I said it, and I dearly wished I could claw the words back into my mouth and unsay them. Teddy looked at me curiously. “You miss me?”

“Only a little bit,” I said, hastily backtracking. “Not at all, really.”

He grinned, pointing a finger at me. “You miss me,” he said accusingly.

“No I don’t,” I denied, my cheeks warming even more. I looked down at my glass, noticing that I’d drunk a lot more than I’d thought I had.

He didn’t look convinced. “Whatever,” he grouched. “If you don’t feel like you can tell me, that’s fine.”

I huffed; now he was trying to emotionally blackmail me into talking to him about it. “Okay, fine,” I said grudgingly. “I do miss you a bit, especially at family gatherings. There, are you happy now?”

“Very,” he said with a grin. “I didn’t know you cared.”

Oh, Teddy, did you know what you were saying? How could he not know that I cared? I didn’t really care about anything else; it had always been about him. “Of course I care,” I said despondently. “It’s you.” And it’s me, I added in my head.

He seemed satisfied with this answer, for he didn’t mention it again. As we finished our drinks in silence, I wondered what he was thinking and if he was thinking at all. It struck me as bizarre that he didn’t know how I felt about him, because it should have been written all over my face, considering how much I thought about him. He clearly didn’t understand how much it pained me that he’d left.

He was right, though; I had changed since he’d left. I had been determined not to mope, that I would take my mind off it and keep myself busy. I did feel different now, but I wasn’t sure if it was because he’d left or because good things had happened in my life since then. It had been nearly two months, and a lot had happened in that time. I had meant what I said; he really hadn’t changed at all, not in my eyes. That made it all the more hard to accept the reality that he wasn’t coming back and he was happy with Victoire.

Throwing his arm around my shoulder, we sauntered back home in silence. His closeness comforted me, but at the same time I wished my heart wouldn’t beat so fast. It didn’t feel natural to be affected by one person so much; I had fleeting moments where I wanted to run far away from him before it all got too much and I broke down in the middle of the street and sobbed.

Victoire still wasn’t home from work when we got in, which I was sort of glad about. I needed a moment to give myself a stern talking to before I saw my cousin, for fear of the betraying thoughts showing on my complexion. I was, no doubt, pink-cheeked from the various stages of my thoughts. She’d twig that something was up if she saw me like this.

Teddy and I stood awkwardly in the kitchen as the kettle boiled. The effects of the cocktails seemed to have worn off during our brisk walk back to the house and we were left with a large, noticeable silence between us. It hung in the air, thick and heavy and charged with electricity; I waited for the spark with baited breath.

“Rose,” Teddy said quietly, interrupting our silence. “I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel uncomfortable.” I looked away, counting the number of tiles on the kitchen floor. “It wasn’t my intention.”

I swallowed audibly. “It’s fine,” I mumbled, still refusing to look at him. I felt like if I looked at him, the reality of the truths I’d spilled would be waiting in his eyes. I wanted to pretend that I’d never admitted anything to him.

“I just…” He stopped mid-sentence, clearly struggling to find the words. “I miss you, as well.”

I could feel the heat creeping up my neck uncomfortably. I didn’t want to hear this, it was dangerous. I’d replay his words over and over at night and fool myself into thinking they meant something. It was slowly becoming clearer to me that I couldn’t stay here anymore.

“Please,” I said throatily. “Please don’t.” I was very close to crying and it took all my focus not to tear up in front of him. I waited for him to say something, but he seemed to sense that I wasn’t finished. Trembling, I headed in the direction of my room. “I think it’s best that I leave. I can’t stay here.”

“Rose!” he called after me as I disappeared behind the door. I leant up against it, listening as his footsteps stopped outside my room. When I didn’t answer or open the door, he coughed. “Please talk to me,” he said softly. “Have I done something to upset you?”

My legs were shaking so much that I had to lean even more forcefully against the door to stop myself falling. Inside my head, I was telling myself not to say anything, because it would only end badly if I did. This was the inevitable moment I knew I’d have to face one day; I should have known when I decided to come out here that I wasn’t prepared for it. How could I possibly tell him the truth? Putting it into words would make it all real, and I’d have to face the fact that he and Victoire were perfect for each other as it hit me slap bam in the face. I couldn’t and more importantly, I shouldn’t.

“Rosie?” he called again.

I knew I couldn’t tell him, but what was the alternative? Hiding from him for the rest of our lives, knowing that facing him would be to destroy the hopes I’d once had? I was only putting off the inevitable.

I opened the door, brushing tears of embarrassment away. He looked at me with such concern on his face that I had to look away.

“Tell me what’s wrong,” he coaxed, putting his hand on my arm comfortingly. I didn’t feel comforted by his embrace at all.

“I love you,” I muttered at my shoes.

I hadn’t intended to tell him, not yet. My words were ringing awkwardly in my ears as he stood there, stunned, in silence. Eventually he swallowed. “What – what did you say?”

I knew he had heard me, and he knew that I knew that. I shook my head, my cheeks hotter than I could ever remember them being. My ears burned, my throat was dry. “It doesn’t matter,” I said miserably, pulling myself out of his grasp and turning away so I had my back to him.

He breathed heavily for a few moments, then stepped forward to rest his hand on my shoulder. “You should have told me,” he managed eventually.

I shook my head, again stepping out of his reach. I sank down on my bed, still refusing to look at him. “I couldn’t.”

He stayed where he was, which I was grateful for, because I wasn’t sure I could stand him being any closer; it would have only added insult to injury.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. I didn’t need to ask what he was apologising for; I knew this was his way of him saying that he didn’t love me. I knew it already, deep down, so it didn’t surprise me in the slightest.

“I know,” I mumbled.

He nodded, lost for words. At that moment, we heard the door open and we snapped out of our thoughts. He smiled sadly and I watched him go out to greet Victoire with a heavy heart. I had no choice but to close the door quietly behind him and start packing. Now that I had confessed, there was no way I could stay here for the rest of the week, not now that Teddy knew. Gathering my belongings, I placed them in my bag.

I stayed alone in my room whilst I debated over what to do. I couldn’t just leave without explaining to Victoire, which meant I had to come up with a reason. I was drawing blanks on why else I would need to leave, unless I invented some sort of emergency. Knowing my luck, she’d eventually find out I’d lied anyway, so that would be tricky to pull off successfully.

There was a soft knock on my door and I wiped my eyes hastily with the back of my hand.

“I brought some tea,” Teddy said without looking at me. His eyes flicked over my packed bags and he shook his head forcefully. “You’re not leaving?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, finding the courage to look him in the eye. He met my gaze hesitantly. “I can’t stay here now… now that you know. It’s not fair.”

“Please don’t go,” he said strongly. He placed the mug of tea on the bedside table and then strode closer to me. “It doesn’t matter – we can pretend like it never happened.”

I shook my head sadly. “I can’t. You don’t understand,” I added softly. “It’s not just that I’m embarrassed, because I am. But this isn’t something I can just wish away – believe me, I’ve been trying for years. That’s why I have to leave, because nothing’s going to change.”

“What will you tell Victoire?” he asked numbly.

“I don’t know.” I looked away, aware that I hadn’t yet thought everything through. It didn’t matter what I told Victoire as long as I could get away from him.

“Rosie, please,” he said with a sigh. “Just – why don’t you sleep on it?”

“I shouldn’t have come here,” I muttered to myself.

He closed the space between us and took me in his arms, holding me so close to him that I could hear his heart beating. “I’m glad you did. I don’t want you to go.”

I pulled away from him, his closeness unbearable. Everywhere he touched me turned into hot flames, my body uncomfortably hot. “Please don’t,” I said forcefully. “It’s hard enough as it is.”

He nodded, looking stunned. I returned to my packing and he left the room without another word. How could I have been so stupid? I should have known this would be a bad idea, but I’d deluded myself into thinking that I’d be fine. Not saying anything would have been unbearable, I knew that, but I didn’t realise that saying those words to him would have ruined everything we’d had forever. We couldn’t be friends now, and when he returned for Christmas I would do my best to avoid him.

I dug out the postcards I’d bought earlier and chose one at random. I addressed it to Molly, stuck a stamp in the corner and then hastily wrote her a message.

You were right about everything.



AN: eeek! Poor Rose! Still, it had to happen at some point. I hope you're still enjoying! Thanks for the reviews on the last chapter, I appreciate it so much! 


Chapter 24: Can-Can You Dance?
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Can-Can You Dance?

I had another poor night’s sleep. Upon hearing Victoire leave for work, I got up and dressed myself, still unsure as to what I was going to do. Leaving now seemed like a rash decision, but I wasn’t sure if I could be in Teddy’s presence again. Being in the same house as him was proving to be difficult as it was.

What would I tell my parents when I came home early? I felt as if everyone was already expecting me to fail, and I wasn’t keen on proving them right. I now had to choose between my pride and my pride, which obviously meant that making a decision would be extremely difficult.

He knocked on my door about an hour after Victoire left for work, offering me breakfast. I joined him in the kitchen, neither of us saying anything. He looked almost nervous, his feet avoiding the metaphorical egg shells I’d dropped all over the floor whilst smothering a figurative elephant into the room.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked cautiously.

“Not really,” I admitted quietly. I munched on a piece of toast.

“Are you still intent on going home?”

I sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

He smiled a bit more warmly. “I’m glad,” he offered.

I just nodded, focusing on eating my breakfast rather than him. I supposed I ought to have apologised to him, because I’d put him in an incredibly awkward position. I sincerely hoped he had no intention of telling Victoire about my unfortunate slip, because I was certain she’d kick me out of the house faster than I could say “biscuit”.

We finished breakfast in silence, though inside my head thoughts were rattling around noisily. Mostly, I wanted to find a way to make the rest of the week less awkward – I couldn’t take another four days of loaded silences and wondering what on Earth he was thinking and trying to work out what I thought myself. I sort of wanted to just come right out and say, “I’ll do anything to stop this being awkward, let’s just be normal again”. However, it was becoming painfully clear that I wasn’t capable of normal, and suffering in silence would have to do for now.

“What are we doing today?” I asked as we started to clear up the dirty plates.

“I hadn’t planned anything,” he replied. “I wasn’t sure if you were still going to be here.”

I sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“Stop apologising,” he said with a smile. “I know Victoire said she’d take us along to a wine tasting festival tonight, but until then we have time to kill. Is there anything you’d like to do?”

I thought for a moment. “Well, I’ve actually always wanted to try dancing,” I said hesitantly. “You know, the Can-Can. That’s French, isn’t it?”

“I think so,” Teddy said, nodding. He was clearly thinking what I was – if we were learning to dance, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to feel awkward about not talking. “I’ll floo my friend and see if she knows of anything.”

He strode over to a tiny grate in the wall and chucked in some floo powder. I decided to get dressed while he sorted it out, not wanting to eavesdrop on his conversation – he could probably do with having the chance to moan to a friend about how annoying I was. It was best I wasn’t around to hear that.

A few minutes later, he knocked on my door as I was getting undressed and strode in without waiting for me to respond.

“Noo!” I yelled, ducking behind the bed as he stuck his head around the door. “I’m naked!”

He didn’t seem to find that prospect very appealing, so quickly scarpered from the room, with a hasty “sorry!”. I hurriedly threw on a jumper and a pair of jeans and went to see what he wanted.

“Sorry about that,” he said again, blushing slightly. We had clearly been a pair of tomatoes in a previous life. “I just wanted to tell you that there’s a town not far from here that offers lessons to beginners. Still interested?”

“Yeah,” I said, starting to wonder what I’d agreed to. I hadn’t exactly expected him to take my suggestion seriously, let alone know someone who could hook us up with a dance class. The only dancing I could do was the Macarena, which didn’t exactly qualify as a traditional dance.

“The class starts at two o’clock, so we could probably go for a walk near the town before then. Irène says the scenery is pretty out there.” I assumed Irène was his friend, and pictured a tall, skinny French beauty, dressed in a black beret and stripy top. Suddenly I didn’t like Irène very much.

“Sounds good,” I said, sticking imaginary pins in Irène’s slim torso. I probably needed to cut out thinking so much…

I found some sensible shoes and we left for this mystery town. It was pouring down with rain again, which sort of put a dampener on things (literally). Through the murkiness, I could make out a reasonable sized town, surrounded by fields. The buildings stood close together, old architecture looming over crooked narrow streets. We found a footpath and started making tracks in the mud.

“I suppose this is what you call “fun” these days,” I remarked as water dripped down the back of my neck. I ran my hands through my hair, which had started to frizz up.

Teddy handed me his umbrella, rolling his eyes. “I suppose this is what you call “prepared” these days,” he jested, gesturing at my lack of waterproof and umbrella.

“Very funny,” I said sourly, holding the umbrella a bit higher so he could duck under. He shook his head at my offer and stepped to the side; he clearly didn’t want to be any closer to me than he had to be. What, was he scared I’d suddenly lunge for him? “I didn’t really associate France with rain. I assumed it would be sunny.”

He laughed, catapulting raindrops from his face. “Silly woman.”

“Sometimes,” I conceded. “You could have warned me the weather was bad.”

“Next time, I will.”

Yeah, because I was so eager to return to this nightmare again – reliving the embarrassment would be enough of a deterrent in itself. I would be happy enough if I didn’t see him again until Christmas, when he’d hopefully have forgotten all about yesterday’s unfortunate incident and I could go on lusting after him from within the confines of my head. Oh, those were the good old days.

We trudged on through the field in silence, leaving me to admire the scenery, which was actually quite difficult when I couldn’t even see it. Honestly, this didn’t count as a holiday; it was almost like being back at home. The postcards I’d bought certainly didn’t show any rain, which I thought was quite appalling false advertising.

“Come on, then,” Teddy said eventually after checking his watch. “Let’s go and make fools of ourselves.”

“What, again?” I muttered. He poked me playfully and I rolled my eyes. “You know it’s true,” I said heavily.

“Don’t take yourself so seriously,” he said lightly. “There’s nothing wrong with embarrassing yourself every once in a while.” Every minute of your whole life, more like, I thought to myself.

“There’s plenty wrong with it,” I argued as we headed towards the town. “But I’ll give in to it every once in a while. Lucky for you, now is one of those times.”

The dance class was in what looked like a community building, a small place with freshly painted windows. Teddy held the door open for me and we went inside, walking along a dimly lit corridor until we reached the room Teddy had noted down. Inside, the windows revealed a scene of very wet, rolling hills beyond the town.

Bonjour,” Teddy said apprehensively, approaching a short woman at the front of the room. Her hair was set in strict curls, lips painted a drab coral, which looked like she’d had the lipstick for years and the colour had slowly faded away. I eyed her brightly coloured skirt warily; it had too many frills and layers for my liking.

She winced at his terrible accent and waved him aside. “We shall wait for ze others,” she instructed, pointing to where two people were waiting at the side of the room.

We approached them, glancing at each other but not saying anything. “Bonjour,” Teddy tried again. The couple looked up from their conversation and smiled.

“We’re not French,” the woman said. “We’re just here for our honeymoon. I’m Cheryl and this is my husband, Dave.” She looked at her new husband with a sickly loving look and he beamed at her in an equally sickly manner.

I tried not to barf. “I’m Rose,” I offered. They looked to Teddy, who obligingly gave his name.

“Are you on your honeymoon too?” Cheryl asked, peering at us in turn. “I’ve heard this is a hotspot for romantic getaways.”

“Um,” I said awkwardly, refusing to look at Teddy. “No.”

“I live here,” Teddy said quickly as I turned bright red. “My girlfriend’s in the wine industry. We moved here about a month or two ago.”

Dave looked interested in us, rather than Cheryl, for the first time. “You work in the wine industry?” he asked curiously. “Tell me, what’s the best wine in this area?”

I blushed even further. “I’m not his girlfriend,” I spluttered. “We’re just friends.”

“I see,” Cheryl said, eyeing my hot cheeks. Perhaps she really did see, but I didn’t really care what she thought. “Well, I’m sure we’ll all have fun anyway.”

When it looked like no one else was going to join the class, the short lady at the front of the room stepped closer to us, brandishing some brightly coloured fabric. “You must wear these,” she instructed, throwing us a piece each. I unfolded mine and realised she’d given us a Can-Can skirt.

I glanced at Teddy, who looked mortified. I stifled a snigger at the look on his face. “Come on, put it on,” I teased as we all stepped into the skirts. He glared at me.

“Whose idea was this?” he muttered, fiddling with the zip.

“Now you are ready to learn ze Can-Can,” the woman said, satisfied. “It cannot be mastered easily. You must feel ze dance, you must appreciate ze art. You and ze Can-Can are one.”

Cheryl and Dave were watching her with rapt awe. Teddy and I were trying to control our sniggering.

“I am Madame Bonhomme,” she said, eyeing Teddy and I sternly. We stopped laughing. “I shall instruct you in zis beautiful art. Now, watch me. Feel me.”

I raised my eyebrows. We all waited in silence as she closed her eyes, lifted her skirt and then commenced kicking her legs about.

I couldn’t contain it; I burst out laughing at the look on her face. She froze mid-kick, opening one eye and pinning it on me. Oops. She extended one finger in the direction of the door. We dropped our skirts to the floor and then quickly scurried out.

“Oh my goodness,” I chortled once we’d shut the door. “What even was that?”

Teddy laughed, rubbing his forehead with his hand. “I don’t know. But I thought she was going to pop; she’d stopped breathing, I think.” He managed to compose himself. “Shall we head home?”

He took my hand and turned on the spot. I breathed in subconsciously, as I always did when Apparating, and we arrived with a soft thud outside his front door. His hand left mine and I felt the cool breeze on my skin where his warmth had been. He unlocked the door and let me go in first.

“I’ll put the kettle on,” I offered, making my way over to the kitchen counter as he shrugged off his coat.

“Thanks,” he called as I disappeared into the kitchen.

Making tea was therapeutic, in a way. It was a set formula that I knew well and I had control over. I knew when to add the milk, how long to leave the tea in for and how much sugar I needed (one, heaped). In times of crisis, it was always good to make tea. The pattern stopped you thinking like a crazy, it soothed you.

“Sugar?” I asked as Teddy joined me.

“Just one,” he said. “Make it heaped. Thanks.”

I handed him his tea and we trotted into the living room to sit down. “I know today didn’t really go as planned,” I began. “But thanks for taking me to do that. It was fun.”

“No problem,” he said with a warm smile. “It turns out you’re a cheap date,” he teased.

“She probably would have charged a lot if we’d stayed,” I argued, trying to distract from the fact he’d used the word ‘date’.

“Probably,” he agreed, sipping his tea. “You make a good cup of tea, Rosie,” he praised.

“I was a tea girl for a good six months before Boris would let me near the shop floor,” I reminded him. “Which is a bit ironic really, considering how hopeless he is.”

“Well, it didn’t do you any harm, did it?” he responded thoughtfully. “Seeing as you’re now the manager of the most famous book store in the country.”

“No pressure,” I joked.

“You’ll do great,” he said cheerfully. “You can’t be any worse than that last woman he hired for a managerial position. What was her name?”

“Brenda,” I said, remembering the busty horror bitterly. “She was dire. I seemed to recall she thought her breasts were multipurpose tools. Moving stock around, giving directions, making tea…”

“I only met her once, but she wasn’t very pleasant to me,” Teddy recalled.

“She wasn’t very fond of young men,” I said wryly. “I always thought she had a crush on Boris, actually.”

Teddy looked pensive. “Why did she leave, again?”

I blushed at the memory. “I caught her waiting in Boris’s office. Topless.”

“Ah,” he said. “That would do it.”

We lapsed into thoughtful silence. I decided now would be a good time to start writing my postcards, so I fetched them from my room and curled up on the sofa with them.

Molly, I wrote.

Things are a bit better today. We went Can-Can dancing, which was hilarious because the woman was odd. We’re going wine tasting tonight, so hopefully I’ll be able to teach you a thing or two when I come home. I haven’t found any fit French men for you yet, but you can probably do without them now that you have Lorcan. Sorry! Anyway, I miss you. See you at the weekend.

Love and biscuits,

Rose

I would probably end up writing her a new postcard every day – I missed talking to her, so writing to her would have to do for now. I hoped she hadn’t gone and made some new friends in my absence; I wanted to return home and have things be exactly how I left them. My thoughts flicked to Scorpius, who was probably wondering where I’d disappeared off to. I shuddered at the thought, amazed that I’d let the situation get that out of hand. Stalkers had to be nipped in the bud before they got complacent, as Scorpius had done.

I wrote a postcard to Mum and Dad, then one to Albus and one to the shop, addressed to Boris and Matthew. Boris’s wife probably wouldn’t appreciate it if I started writing to him at home. I couldn’t mix business with pleasure, or whatever.

By the time Victoire got back, I’d written all my postcards and posted them, hopefully to be successfully delivered by the Muggle postman. I’d used the Muggle post system before and it had worked all right and as I was currently without an owl, that would have to do.

“We’re leaving in an hour,” Victoire informed me later as I cleared away the empty mugs of tea.

“Right,” I responded, trying to work out what I’d need for a wine tasting. Did they expect you to bring your own bucket so you could do the spitting thing after tasting? No offense to the wine tasting professionals, but there was no way I was going to waste any wine by spitting it out.

When we were ready to leave, Victoire took both Teddy and I by the hand and turned on the spot, taking us to where the wine tasting was to be held.

“This is a really good local winery,” Victoire informed us, knocking on the front door. A bent-over old man answered the door after some time, looking like his face was covered in wire because of his thick beard.

“Welcome,” he said thickly, stepping aside so we could walk inside. The hall was papered with wine bottle labels, with framed pictures of wine bottles hung up on the wall every so often. The little old man took us into a large reception room, where a good twenty other people were chatting away in French. He then disappeared through a door to our right, reappearing from another door carrying crates of wine.

Victoire fetched us a glass each and guided us over to wear the tasting was beginning. The old man poured us a sample in our glasses (which was a lot less than a full glass of wine, I noted disappointedly). She then started making a fuss about the wine, showing us the proper way to taste it.

“Swirl the glass,” she instructed. “Watch for the residue on the sides. Then, smell. Go on, take a big whiff.”

I did as she told us to do, feeling like a bit of a prat. I knew nothing about wine, other than you could get some acceptable plonk for a low price if you looked hard enough. After a song and dance that seemed to last ages, I finally got to drink the stuff, which actually was rather nice. It was free, so I couldn’t really complain.

We stayed for a couple of hours, tasting all the different wines the old man had (and I tasted most of them more than once), until I realised I’d actually drunk more than I’d realised. I held on to Teddy’s arm for support and I saw him and Victoire exchange a knowing glance. Well, I wasn’t exactly renowned for my sobriety anyway, so I didn’t care all that much. Victoire apparated us home and went to put the kettle on.

“Tea, anyone?” she called as I wondered off to bed.

“I’ll take her a glass of water, I think,” Teddy responded humorously as I wobbled into the door.

I had tucked myself into bed, fully clothed, when Teddy knocked on the door. He let himself in and placed the glass of water on my bedside table. As he made to stand up again, I wrapped my arms around him and dragged him onto the bed with me.

“What are you doing?” he asked amusedly.

“I’m cold,” I slurred, pulling him closer to me and revelling in his warm body.

“I’ll get you a hot water bottle,” he offered, trying to wiggle out of my embrace.

“No,” I snapped. “No, I want you. I want your body.”

This was going well, I (sort of) reasoned in my head. I’d got him nearly into my bed with my feminine wiles and charm.

“Who doesn’t?” he joked, trying to pull away again.

“Don’t go,” I commanded, rolling over and pinning him underneath me with my weight.

“Rose, I think you need to let me go,” he said quietly, sounding a lot less amused than before.

I closed my eyes and sighed heavily. “One last thing,” I said. Then, I made to kiss him, only I managed to miss his lips and kiss his eye.

“Thanks,” he said after I pulled away. He rolled me over back to where I’d been before and escaped.

Then, I had a well-deserved snooze.







AN: Bonjour = Hello. 

Thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed! I really hope you're still enjoying, no matter how cringeworthy it is. :)


Chapter 25: Closure
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Closure

I spent the next two days trying to suck up to Teddy. He found the whole thing hilarious; he said I made a very amusing and affectionate drunk. I, however, was completely mortified. In my eyes, I couldn’t apologise enough for my inappropriate behaviour the other night, and I hadn’t yet stopped saying sorry.

“I’m really sorry,” I said again as Teddy picked up a newspaper.

He pretended to thwack me with it; I ducked. “Shut up, I know you’re sorry. I’ve already told you, it’s fine.”

“It’s not though,” I muttered to myself, remembering my outrageous actions. I blushed at the mere memory, wondering how I’d even managed to keep my clothes on. “I feel really bad about it.”

“Don’t,” he stressed. “I’ve forgotten about it.”

That was an obvious lie, seeing as I’d rabbited on about how sorry I was for two days. Still, I appreciated the gesture. “Good,” I said. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, draining his cup of tea. “Now, go and dress yourself up. We’re going somewhere special for lunch when Victoire gets back.”

Grudgingly, I did as I was told. I’d already decided that this was a bad idea and I was going to have a horrible day. I had never been particularly fond of dressing myself up, as he so delicately put it, because when I made an effort it was quite obvious and then I was opening myself up for judging. At least if I said “I didn’t bother” it made it seem okay.

I dug through my bag to find something suitable out of what I’d brought with me. I found a screwed up dress, which I charmed neat and threw it on over some thick tights. I considered wearing two jumpers on top to fight the cold, but decided against it. I doubted either Teddy or Victoire wanted to take a snowman out for lunch.

We walked a short distance to a posh looking restaurant, which had waiters in suits offering to take our coats as we entered. Victoire was already waiting for us on the other side of the restaurant, wearing a pretty top and a smile.

Sitting down, Teddy signalled to the waiter who approached us. He then ordered a bottle of champagne. I wasn’t thick; there was definitely something going on here that I didn’t know about and I was starting to get very suspicious. Victoire had taken her lunch break to come here and we’d dressed up nicely to go to a fancy restaurant, followed by an order for champagne.

“What are we celebrating?” I asked as the waiter poured us a glass each. I stared at the bubbles.

“We were going to wait to tell everyone together,” Victoire said cheerfully. “But as you’re here in person, we thought we’d take the opportunity to celebrate with you.” I looked between them, knowing what was coming next. Teddy refused to look at me, which meant it could only be bad news. “Teddy and I are engaged.”

I supposed it was bound to happen eventually; it shouldn’t have been a surprise. I’d been expecting a similar announcement for years, sure that at every family party they’d finally reveal Teddy had popped the question. Thinking about it, I wasn’t even sure why it had taken him so long; they’d been together for almost ten years. Watching them together, I realised this didn’t just signal a beginning; this marked the end of my teenage fantasies. Now I really had to ditch all my subconscious hopes of them splitting up.

“Congratulations,” I managed, following suit as Victoire raised her glass. We clinked them together, Teddy still not having looked at me. I wondered if he thought I was too delicate to cope with such news. “That’s really great.”

I didn’t sound massively thrilled, but I sounded more pleased for them than I would have done six months ago, so I considered that progress. I stuck a grin on my face in the hope that it would do. Victoire hadn’t seemed to notice my conflicting emotions, but under the table Teddy patted my leg sympathetically (or at least, I was pretty sure he was being sympathetic).

Across the table from me, Victoire looked radiant; she was beaming, glowing, and I felt sick that I’d ever wished her harm. She was family, after all, and I needed to put a bit more effort into wishing her well. I was rather selfish, come to think of it. This wasn’t about me; this was about them and their future together. I had no place in it and so I had to accept that it wasn’t for me to comment on.

I ended up finishing my glass of champagne quicker than I’d intended, but it took the edge off my growing feelings. At some point, I’d be able to have a good cry and finally kiss goodbye to a future I’d once hoped I’d have. For now, I had to pretend like I was okay with celebrating my doom.

“What news do you have of the family, Rose?” Victoire asked as I tried to tune out of the conversation. I was trying to let them dominate the conversation and leave me to my thoughts, but she had other ideas. “It seems like so much has happened since we left.”

I thought for a moment. “Roxanne’s left Law School,” I said, offering the first piece of gossip that sprang to mind. “Fred’s going to Australia. Dominique’s pregnant, but I assume you already know that.”

Victoire nearly choked on her food. “What?”

I glanced at Teddy, who had paled slightly. Oops. That was slightly awkward… “You didn’t know?” I asked, turning red. “Shit, I’m sorry Victoire. I thought someone would have told you.”

The silence that followed my slip was tense indeed. Victoire’s hand trembled, causing her knife to rattle loudly against her plate. Teddy held her hand gently so that she calmed down. “How far gone is she?” Teddy asked as neither Victoire nor I said anything.

“Erm, a couple of months, I think,” I said quietly. “She hasn’t told us who the father is. Do you have any ideas?”

Victoire seemed to come out of her shock. “What about that Henry bloke? They were quite close for a while.”

“That was in her Fifth Year,” I said, trying not to laugh at the thought of podgy Henry Devon fathering anyone’s child. He was probably sat at home right now, ironing his slippers and putting a nightcap over his comb-over. “I don’t think it’s him, somehow.”

Victoire rolled her eyes. “I don’t know how she could be so stupid,” she said crossly. “She’ll be a completely incompetent mother.”

I frowned. “I think she’s quite upset about it,” I informed her. “Molly told me she’s in a bad way. She might appreciate a letter or something from you, I don’t know.”

“Dominique has made it quite clear she didn’t want me interfering in her life anymore,” she snapped. For a moment I thought I saw fire flash in her eyes.

I raised my eyebrows; there was clearly something going on between them that I had no idea about. Teddy grimaced at the expression on Victoire’s face.

“Maybe it’s best if you let Dom come to you for help, if she wants it,” he suggested. I looked at him doubtfully; he clearly didn’t know Dom very well.

They were being extremely naïve, in my opinion. Dominique wasn’t going to ask for their help; she had too much pride at stake (although probably not much dignity left). I didn’t understand how they couldn’t see that they needed to offer to support Dominique, no matter what differences she and Victoire had had in the past. It seemed as though they’d both completely washed their hands of her, but why I didn’t know. I’d need to ask Molly what the hell was going on; perhaps either Dom or Victoire had confided in her.

“Right,” I said, not wanting to argue with them in a public place. I didn’t really want to argue with them anywhere, but a restaurant would have been low on my list of ‘Best Places to Have an Argument’. “Well, you probably know her better than I do.”

At the end of the day, I really couldn’t tell them what to do about Dom when I barely even saw her these days anyway. Still, they were acting suspiciously and I’d find out what was going on eventually. Siblings didn’t usually fall out this badly unless something pretty awful had happened, and I’d always thought Dom and Victoire were quite close.

Victoire nodded at my last statement, but said nothing. I guessed that she’d sensed my reluctance to back down, but clearly she didn’t want to get into a fight either.

“So what do we think of Gilderoy Lockhart as the next Minister?” Teddy queried, changing the subject.

“Rubbish,” I said, glad of the diversion. “He’s completely hopeless. Someone needs to do us all a favour and obliviate him again.”

“I bet if you asked your Dad, he would,” Teddy said with a wink.

I frowned. Winking and mentions of my father should never go together. “Why do you say that?”

“Well, he did it the first time, didn’t he?” Teddy said slowly, as though I was thick.

“What?” I found the idea that Dad had removed Lockhart’s memory to be extremely unlikely. “I don’t understand.”

“Don’t you know the story?” Victoire asked, surprised. “Your uncle Harry used to tell us it when we were younger.”

“I think I’d remember if Harry had ever told me of that time my Dad obliviated a famous politician,” I said scathingly.

“He didn’t do it directly,” Teddy explained. “Lockhart was trying to obliviate him, but he was using your Dad’s broken wand and the spell backfired.”

I was still doubtful. My Dad was pretty inoffensive and I just couldn’t imagine him being annoying enough to warrant a duel with one of his professors. “Why would Lockhart want to obliviate my Dad? He was only a kid when he met him.”

“Maybe you should ask him yourself,” Victoire said doubtfully, looking guilty at spilling the beans. Secretly I began to imagine some horrible story about my Dad that would shatter my world and send me into a spiral of depression; it was unlikely, seeing as my Dad was pretty squeaky clean in all aspects of life. “He would tell the story better than we could.”

“Right,” I said, confused. I made a mental note to ask him why he was involved in criminal activity at such a young age. He’d told me some stories of his school days, but it seemed as though he’d left out the more juicy bits. “So,” I said, attempting to change the subject (again). “Have you got a date in mind for the wedding?”

Teddy and Victoire exchanged a glance and a smile. “Well, that’s actually why we’re coming back to England at Christmas,” Victoire said. “We’re going to get married on Christmas Eve.”

Lovely; that would mean at least three solid days of family parties. I would need to stock up on the wine, that was for sure. I was pretty certain that they’d picked that date to be romantic, but all I could think about was standing around in the cold whilst they sheltered each other from the frost with their bodies. It meant I would have to buy a nice dress and make an effort, which as I’d always said, never ended well.

Did this mean I could finally have closure? With a ring on her finger (which Victoire was making a habit of showing off now that they’d told me), she and Teddy were properly united and I had no hope. So if I knew all of that, why did I still find myself fantasising about whisking Teddy off his feet and carrying him off into the sunset? I was so used to thinking about him that I was going to struggle stopping, wedding or no wedding.

“It’ll be nice to have the family all together again,” I said half-heartedly, knowing that I couldn’t think of anything more unpleasant than a big family reunion. Hell, maybe even Uncle Charlie would visit us, which definitely would mark the occasion.

“Yes, like we used to be,” Victoire said, smiling at memories we clearly didn’t share. Most of my childhood memories involved Molly pulling my hair or James and Fred chasing me around the garden with toy wands.

I noticed that Teddy was looking around awkwardly, and I decided to change the subject (again) so that he didn’t feel left out. “Your grandmother came into the shop the other day,” I informed him. “She’s looking well.” As the only real family he had, I felt it important to update him on Andromeda’s progress.

“That’s good to hear,” Teddy said cheerfully. “She hasn’t written to me since her hip operation last month, so I was beginning to worry.”

Ah - a hip operation would certainly explain why she was boogying around the shop floor like a whippersnapper.

“She’s always so friendly to me whenever I see her; she’s a lovely lady,” I mused. “You’re very lucky.”

“Yes,” Teddy agreed. “I am.”

After lunch, Victoire kissed Teddy goodbye and headed back to work. I still wasn’t sure what she actually did (and in my head, I was always imagining her crushing grapes with her bare feet), but she seemed to enjoy it so that was the main thing. I felt like Victoire and I had come to an understanding; we both seemed to have grown up a bit since we last saw each other, and I thought that moving abroad had done her good.

Teddy and I strolled up into town to enjoy the good weather, stopping at the park to huddle up on a bench. We sat in silence for a while, watching the world go by, the trees skeletal. Here and there, signs of spring were desperately fighting to show themselves.

“It’s lovely here,” I conceded. “Do you think you’ll ever move back home?”

He sighed. “I’m not sure. Do you want me to?”

I winced at the question; it was almost as though he was being deliberately insensitive. “It doesn’t matter what I want,” I said, knowing that it was the truth. Did I really want him to come home? I wasn’t so sure anymore. He and Victoire could be and were happy here. If he moved back to England, I feared I would never get over him.

“You’re still my friend, Rosie,” he said lightly. “I care about what you want.”

“You shouldn’t,” I said heavily. “I’m a bad friend. I came here with the intention of telling you how I felt so that I could finally move on. But it was selfish and I’ve ruined whatever it was that we had before. You’re happy, you have a fiancée who loves you and a new life here. If that’s what you want, then you have my answer.”

He sat still for a moment, then wrapped his arm around me and hugged me to him. “You are a good friend, Rose. You want me to be happy. But don’t forget, I want you to be happy too.”

It was kind of him to say so, but deep down there was no hope that he’d help me be happy; if anything, he did the exact opposite. “I’m not doing too badly,” I argued lightly. “Things are on the up.”

“Good,” he said, nodding. “You’ll write to me won’t you, when you get back?”

I smiled, knowing that I couldn’t write to him even if I wanted to. I wanted to cast him out of my mind as much as possible. “Yeah, I’ll write,” I lied. What else could I have said?

“I’ll understand if you don’t,” Teddy said after a pause. “I’m sorry things are the way they are.”

When had the relationship between Teddy and me become so grown up? Something had shifted since I arrived, most likely since I confessed my feelings, and suddenly we were no longer the same people who had run around back gardens together as children, who had been awkward teenagers and insecure adults. We were equal for the first time, and our age difference seemed insignificant. I missed the simplicity of my childhood, where it was enough for me just to want to be Teddy’s friend without the complications of love. I knew that now he knew how I felt, things had changed forever. It felt good.

“I’m not,” I said honestly. “It was driving me insane to keep it all bottled up. I’m glad you know the truth - now I can find someone else to lust after,” I joked.

“Make sure it’s someone just as handsome,” he said with a grin. He squeezed me briefly before withdrawing his arm.

“I’m sure I’ll have no problem,” I said cheekily. He laughed.

“Come on, trouble,” he said, standing up and straightening his coat. “Let’s go home before it rains.”

He offered me his hand, but I stuck my hands in my coat pockets. Again, I felt like he was being rather insensitive. Just because I liked him doesn’t mean he had to pander to my whims. We were never going to be more than friends; him feeling sorry for me wasn’t going to change that.

That afternoon, I absorbed myself in a book, mostly so that I didn’t have to talk to Teddy. I’d done sort of okay without embarrassing myself unnecessarily today (the Dominique thing had been necessary, I’d decided) and I wanted to keep it that way. I was beginning to realise that I had no more to say to Teddy; beyond discussing the changes in our lives, we had very little in common. As a teenager, I’d stalked him a little bit to kid myself into thinking that we had lots of shared interests and it was love everlasting. All I’d found was that we both liked cheese and we tended to look like garden gnomes after too much time in the sun. I was done with trying to fool myself into thinking it could ever happen.

I’d been terrified of this very rejection for a long time, but in fact, it was all I’d needed to get over him. Finally.




AN: So, there we go! It's time for Rose to move on in her life and forget about Teddy. There's plenty more Molly, Scorpius and Boris to come, so I hope you're excited for that! Thanks for the lovely reviews, you're all fabulous ♥

 


Chapter 26: Life Sentence
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Life Sentence

I finished packing my bags, humming along tunelessly to one of my Mum’s favourite songs. I was due to get a portkey from the French Ministry in Paris in a couple of hours, and if truth be told I was really looking forward to getting home. Despite the disastrous week, it had been good in many ways. I’d felt exasperated by everything before I went on holiday and, somehow, I’d managed to release some stress this week. I was feeling decidedly cheerful.

“Lovely singing,” Victoire teased as she popped her head around my door to check I was okay.

I blushed. “Sorry.”

“Don’t apologise,” she said with a smile. She sat down on the end of my bed and watched as I gathered up the last few of my belongings. “I think we’re really going to miss having you staying with us. You’ve almost made me homesick.”

“Sorry,” I said again, zipping up my bag.

“Will you stop it?” She laughed. “You don’t have to apologise for everything.”

“I do,” I insisted. I joined her on the bed, leaning my head on her shoulder. “Thank you for looking after me so well. I really needed some time to relax.”

She wrapped an arm loosely around my waist. “Don’t thank me, thank Teddy. I wish I could have got some time off work, but things have been hectic this week.”

Once again, I found myself imagining her dancing about in a barrel of grapes. “It’s fine, I understand. Maybe next time?”

“Definitely,” she said, appreciating my meaning. I didn’t know how I’d had her all wrong. I was too quick to judge people, that was my problem. I could see now that Victoire was a lot better off when she was happy, as with most people. Stress and unhappiness had made her more irritable than perhaps she liked to be. There was no doubt about it; we were a lot closer after spending more time together, away from the stress of home. “You’re welcome to visit us any time you want or need to.”

I felt something stir inside of me, and I realised I was actually going to miss her. We’d never been very cousin-y, not in the way that I was with my other, younger cousins. Out of all the things I thought would happen this week, growing to like Victoire was one of them.

When the time came for me to leave, Teddy held out his hands for Victoire and I to take and together we Disapparated. We walked up to a very grand looking building in the middle of a deserted street and paused on the stone steps outside. I felt so small on the threshold of the impressive building, its elegant exterior swamping me.

“Thank you,” I said to each of them, first hugging Victoire and then Teddy. “I’ve had a lovely time.”

“Look after yourself, Rosie,” Teddy said, smiling less enthusiastically than normal. I waved goodbye to them both, climbing the steps to the door.

Once inside, I leant against a cool stone wall and shut my eyes, trying to compose myself. I had almost cried outside, but luckily I’d managed to hold it in until they could no longer see me. I wasn’t sure why I was so emotional; it wasn’t like it was the last time I would ever see them. Aware that something, somewhere, had ended, I dabbed a tear from the corner of my eye before it could escape and declare war on my emotions. “Silly Rosie,” I scolded.

I walked up the corridor until I found the office for international portkeys, where I showed my passport and ticket and awaited my turn. It wasn’t long until they called “London” and I was sent spinning home.

A few minutes later, I was standing in the atrium in the Ministry of Magic back in London, waiting for Molly to appear amongst the crowd. Eventually she showed herself, her head looking as if on fire with her hair streaming behind her as she ducked between groups of aurors and ran up towards me.

“Rose!” she exclaimed, hugging me enthusiastically. “You are not allowed to leave me again, do you understand?”

“Good to see you too,” I teased, linking my arm through hers. “Have you missed me, then?”

“Not at all,” she said, grinning ear to ear. She offered to take my bags, which I gave to her gladly. “I’ve been keeping myself busy by looking in the mirror and telling myself to cheer up, pretending that it’s you. I’ve had a very productive week.”

“Well, I have cheered up,” I told her. “I have so much to tell you, but we’ll save that for the biscuits when we get home.”

We queued up by the fireplaces, waiting to floo home. “It is so good to have you home, lovely,” she said, beaming.

“It’s good to be home,” I said, grabbing some floo powder and throwing it into the fireplace. I muttered our address (so that no creepers would hear it and follow us home) and shot up the chimney.

I’d obviously not said our address clearly enough, because when I tumbled out of the fireplace I didn’t find myself in my flat. Brushing the soot off me, I looked around. I was in someone’s living room, which seemed too clean to be real. Looking down at my feet, I saw black soot marks on the cream carpet. Oops.

“Hello?” I called, hoping that I sounded innocent enough not to be accused of breaking and entering (though I had done that before). “Is there anyone there?”

Nobody responded. I looked behind me and saw that there was no jar of floo powder by the fireplace; how the hell had I flooed to a Muggle house? It was possible that someone had accidentally connected the network to a Muggle house, but I thought it unlikely. Maybe they’d forgotten to take it off the register? I tried to console myself; at least I wouldn’t have to try very hard to get out. Muggles didn’t know about anti-alohamora charms.

I took a step towards where I thought the front door might be and was greeted with a wailing; their burglar alarm had gone off.

Bugger,” I cursed, looking around frantically for the alarm so I could turn it off. I couldn’t see it in the living room so I was forced to start dashing around in search of the source of the noise. The door on the left hand end of the living room led to the kitchen, which didn’t seem to have the burglar alarm in it. Further doors led only to a utility room and a garage. I was running out of time. “Fuck, where is it?”

I ran to the other end of the house, leaping over the sofa in an Olympic effort and landing face down on the floor. “Ow,” I said into the carpet, no longer caring that I was leaving black marks anywhere.

The burglar alarm went up a pitch, causing my heart to beat faster. I ran to the other end of the house, finally finding a small white box by the front door. I reached into my jeans pocket and was met only with cloth rather than my wand. “Fuck!” I exclaimed again; I’d left my wand in the top of my bag, which I had given to Molly. “Oh shit.”

I tried the front door in the in the vain hope that the owner of the house had left the door unlocked; no such luck. It wasn’t going to be long until I cried for the second time that day, I could feel it. Knowing that there was nothing left to be done, I returned to the living room and sat myself down on the cream sofa.

About half an hour later, there was a heavy knock on the door, followed by the sound of someone forcing the door open.

“Police!” someone called. I hid my head in my hands, trying not to cry, scream or wet myself in fear. The door to the living room was already open, and the policeman must have spotted me, for he dashed over, grabbing me by the arm. “You are under arrest for breaking and entering,” he informed me roughly, escorting me out of the house.

“You don’t understand,” I pleaded as he forced me into the police car outside. It was raining heavily and I was already sopping wet from that short time outside. “This is a misunderstanding. I got there by accident. I'm - er, I'm a chimney sweep.”

“Yeah, you accidentally broke into the wrong house to clean their chimneys,” the policeman chortled, shutting the car door. The lock clicked. He strode around to the other side and got into the driver’s seat after securing the house. A neighbour popped out from behind a bush and waved as the car pulled away from the house.

How had I even got into this mess? I was going to have very stern words with the Ministry if I ever got out of Muggle prison; how could they hook a Muggle house up to the floo network?! I blamed them entirely for my predicament. If only I’d had my wand, none of this would have happened. I could have either blown up the alarm, silenced it or obliviated the policeman. I’d have escaped easily and no one would have needed to know. Instead, I was sat in handcuffs in the back of a police car, awaiting charges. Bloody hell.

I trembled all the way to the police station, trying to work out what to do. How was I supposed to contact someone when I had no wand? It wasn’t as if I could send a quick patronus and all would be well again. What were they going to ask me? How was I going to explain my way out of this? Oh bugger bugger bugger.

When we got there, the policeman escorted me inside and took some paperwork out.

“Name?”

I wondered briefly what the charges were for lying to a police officer; maybe I could give them Roxanne’s name. “Rose Weasley,” I said, aware that in the end it wouldn’t matter because when I got my wand back I was going to obliviate them all anyway and delete my criminal record. Oh no, I was going to have a criminal record… My Dad was going to be so angry.

After that, he asked me my date of birth, my address and my next of kin. “You are allowed to make a phone call,” he said as we finished up the paperwork. He signed it, asked me to sign it and then tucked it inside of a drawer in a cabinet. “Would you like to use the phone?”

I had a sudden flashback of my N.E.W.T.s, when one of the examiners had asked me to perform a rather tricky charm and I’d had a complete blank. My hands had been sweating, my heart pumping and I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I had to do. I felt like that now as I tried to think of someone I could call. My Mum had a telephone in her office, but I didn’t know the number. It had been so long since she had taught me how to use a telephone that I wasn’t even sure I’d remember. I would have to think of something.

I nodded and the policeman took me over to where a telephone was mounted on the wall. He gave me a token and told me where to insert it on the machine. When he’d walked a bit further away, I clutched the token in my hand and grudgingly brought it up to the slot in the machine. Who was I supposed to call? I wished I’d taken my Granddad’s advice and done Muggle Studies, because it would have been bloody useful right now. They never warn you that these things could happen.

Eventually, I decided to just wing it and jab the phone randomly. I popped the token in the slot and waited for the dialling tone, just as Mum had taught me. Before I could press the numbers, I heard a click and a single ring.

“Nature of crime?” a cool female voice cooed from the handset.

“Um,” I stuttered, surprised that I needed to answer more questions before I could make my call. “Burglary.”

“Thank you,” said the voice. “Please hold.”

A cheerful tune played for a minute, during which time I started to get very grumpy. They could at least play a funeral march to match my mood.

“Hello? Is this working?” A different, more lively female voice came on the line. “You’re through to the Magical Law Enforcement department, Domestic Crime section. How can I help?”

The Magical Law Enforcement department? How had I somehow managed to call the Ministry? I was a genius!

“Hi,” I said quickly. “It’s working. I’m Rose Weasley and I’ve been wrongfully arrested by the police,” I said, putting the stress on the last word. I couldn’t say “Muggles” in case the policeman was listening in on my conversation; I wouldn’t put it past him. “They think I broke into someone’s house, but I was just in the fireplace.

“I understand,” the lady said immediately. “I shall contact the Floo Regulation Department and get them to fix the issue straight away. In the meantime, I shall send a representative to help you with your predicament. Is there a family member or friend I can contact on your behalf?”

This lady was being remarkably helpful; she didn’t even question whether I’d actually committed the crime or not. “Thank you. Try Molly Weasley,” I said, deciding that Molly would keep my secret better than anyone else would. I gave the helpful lady my address and hung up.

Five minutes later, a young man (probably a few years older than me) walked into the police station, carrying a large briefcase. He adjusted his glasses briefly as he surveyed the room, until he saw me waiting by the telephone with the policeman and approached us. “Are you Rose Weasley?”

“Yes,” I said before the policeman could say anything. “Thank you for coming.”

“It’s my pleasure,” he said, fiddling with his briefcase. He turned to the policeman. “I believe there has been a misunderstanding. Can we step somewhere more private?”

The policeman frowned, but gestured to a room off the hallway. We went inside and the man from the Ministry shut the door behind him.

“Obliviate,” he said clearly, pointing his wand at the policeman, whose expression went blank. Next, the man dealt with the paperwork in the desk drawer, burning the one I had filled out earlier. When the policeman seemed to focus on us again, the young man continued. “Thank you, officer. I’m glad that everything is now in order.”

“You’re welcome,” he said dazedly. “Have a good day.”

The young man nodded, signalling that we should leave. Once outside the police station, I let out a huge sigh of relief.

“Thank you so much,” I gushed. “That was terrifying.”

“I can imagine,” he said sympathetically. “Now, I don’t normally work on Sundays, so you’ll have to drop by my office tomorrow in order to sort out some paperwork. We might be able to get you some compensation from the Floo Regulation Department. You can find me in the Domestic Crime section of the Law Enforcement department.”

“Right,” I said, making a mental note. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then. What did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t,” he said, reaching inside his coat pocket. He handed me a smart business card with his name and office number on it. “See you tomorrow, unless you decide to sweep chimneys again. Goodbye for now.”

I looked down at the piece of paper, surprised to recognise the name “Henry Devon”. Well, perhaps I had been a bit harsh on yesterday’s comb-over prediction; he wasn’t that old, yet.

Henry walked off down the street, swinging his briefcase at his side. What a nice man, I thought. He didn’t even work on Sundays.

I sat on the steps outside the police station as I waited for Molly to arrive. I heard a crack somewhere in the distance, and sure enough she appeared from a side street and marched up towards me.

“What the hell did you do?” she demanded. “You’ve only been back in the country five minutes and you managed to get arrested! Honestly, sometimes I wonder if we’re actually related.”

“Sorry,” I said as she handed me my wand and marched me up the street until we found somewhere safe to Apparate.

She sighed. “You’d prick your thumb on a thimble, you would.”

She was right, of course, as she always was. “Let’s just go home and forget this ever happened, please.”

Molly unlocked the front door and sat me down on the sofa. She’d already set some biscuits out and was now making tea. “When you’ve calmed down, you can tell me all the gossip.”

I sat quietly on the sofa until I could sort my thoughts out. “I just got arrested,” I said eventually. “My parents are going to kill me.”

“They don’t need to know,” Molly said, bringing over the tea. “I won’t tell them if you don’t. And anyway, it was all a misunderstanding. It’s the Ministry’s fault… and yours a bit for being a Mumbling Martha.”

I nodded numbly. “You’re right, they don’t need to know. It was so terrifying! I thought they were going to lock me up forever.”

Molly rolled her eyes. “They never lock you up forever. Life is the maximum sentence you can get.”

“I suppose,” I conceded. “But that still would have been awful.”

“But unlikely,” Molly argued. “You’re Ron and Hermione Weasley’s daughter. You weren’t going to be trapped in Muggle prison, were you?”

“No,” I admitted. “I might have overreacted a little bit.”

“A little bit,” Molly grumbled to herself. “Anyway, enough about your traumatic day, tell me about your week.”

I sipped at the hot tea, picking my words carefully. “It was okay,” I said slowly.

“Okay?” she said with a frown. “What about the mysterious postcard you sent me?” She waggled the first postcard I sent her in front of my face. “What was I right about?”

Everything,” I said obviously. I looked around the room. “Did you not get the second postcard?”

She shook her head. “I only got this one yesterday, so I’ll probably get it next week.”

“Bloody Muggles,” I muttered. It would have been quicker to deliver the damn thing myself.

“So, what went wrong?” Molly probed, sipping her own cup of tea.

“I told him everything,” I mumbled into my mug.

What?” Molly gasped. “What did you say? What did he say?”

“Well,” I said hesitantly. “I suppose I was a bit tipsy. I was sort of crying and then he thought I was really upset and I told him I loved him.”

Molly shook her head sadly as I looked shamefaced. “Oh Rosie,” she said softly, scooching over to sit next to me. “You silly thing.”

“I know,” I agreed, leaning my head on her shoulder. “And then he felt really sorry for me and it was so awkward for the rest of the week. I think he understood, though.”

“Oh dear,” she said quietly. “Pity is the worst thing. Are you okay?”

I shrugged. “I think so. There’s not much else I can do, is there? At least he doesn’t hate me or anything. I was prepared for him to throw me out of the house or something.”

“Well, at least that’s the worst bit over with,” she conceded, squeezing me before shifting over again.

“No, it’s not,” I said grumpily. “Because they’re getting married at Christmas.”

Molly almost dropped her mug, it slipping dangerously in her grasp. “They’re engaged?”

“Yep,” I said miserably, poking a biscuit with my index finger. “They told me on Friday. I suppose it’s about time, isn’t it? Neither of them are spring chickens.”

“You’re not so young yourself,” Molly teased. “I can’t believe they’re finally getting married. This is a big deal.”

I sighed. “I know. But I think I realised that they actually make a nice couple. They’re happy.”

Molly nodded; she appreciated how hard it was for me to admit that out loud, especially after years of throwing mental daggers at Victoire.

“So, is this it?” Molly asked cautiously. “Do you think you’re over Teddy? You seem different.”

I chewed on my lip as I searched for an answer. “I don’t know. I think I might be. I don’t want to be with him anymore, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still like him.”

“That’s progress in my eyes,” she said with a smile. “I’m strangely proud of you, you know. That was a brave thing you did.”

“Stupid, more like,” I said, blushing.

“Well, yes,” she agreed. “That too.”

I threw biscuit at her. Things were on the up, I could tell.

“By the way,” she added. “Scorpius has been sleeping outside the front door since you left.”

Oh. Maybe not, then.


Chapter 27: Meeting the Parents
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Meeting the Parents

It was with disgust that I rolled out of bed to switch off my alarm the next morning. After a week of lie-ins, the early start for work was a bit of a shock.

Arriving at work early, I checked the shop to make sure everything was in order and no disasters had happened in my absence. We hadn’t run out of tea or biscuits, so I helped myself to my early morning tea break as I waited for Matthew to join me. Boris was due in at lunchtime to go over some finance stuff, but other than that I was expecting a quiet day. We had another week left before any Hogwarts’ students that had left the castle for the break returned to school, so there was a chance they might pop in to get some books for their summer exams. I didn’t really expect many to, if I was honest; although I’d received good grades, I could never really claim I’d done more work than was expected of me. Buying extra books was the kind of thing my Mum did.

Surprisingly, we’d actually sold most of our stock Gilderoy Lockhart’s books. I wrote a quick note down on the parchment pinned to the back of the stock room door to restock them. What idiots had actually gone and bought his books? A lot of them had been copies of his old works; I had been dubious of their sale potential right from the start, but it seemed I had overestimated the good taste of the nation.

The bell rang above the shop door as Matthew arrived.

“Welcome back,” he said with a smile as he joined me in the stock room. Looking up, I saw that he looked tired and I wondered if he was working himself too hard. He’d certainly made a good impression on me in his first stretch working for us, but I hoped he wasn’t in a bad way.

“Thanks,” I said, putting down my quill. “Did you survive without me?”

“Oh, you know,” he teased. “It was a bit touch and go for a bit. But we pulled through.”

“Good,” I remarked. “I’ve just boiled the kettle if you want something.”

Matthew went off to make coffee and I sighed, already looking forward to my lunch break. If today was going to be a quiet day, I expected it to pass slowly.

I was right, of course; the morning ended up being spent with virtually no customers making any purchase. Some old dear bought a funeral guide for witches and left without even saying thank you, which then put me in a decidedly bad mood. Honestly, it cost nothing to acquire some manners.

I looked up as the doorbell rang for the fourth time that morning, rousing myself from a dull reverie. Scorpius stood in the door, hands on hips in the manner of a superhero, wearing a bowler hat. I rolled my eyes, looking over at Matthew. He looked embarrassed and made up some lame excuse about making tea, thus leaving me on my own with this maniac.

“Hullo,” I said heavily as he strode over to the till, a huge grin on his face.

“Rose,” he said happily. “It’s wonderful to have you back. I’ve missed you.”

Sighing, I gritted my teeth. “What are you doing here?”

He eyed me with a little less enthusiasm. “I missed you.”

“Yeah, you said,” I said awkwardly. He was clearly waiting for me to tell him I’d also missed him, which was a massive lie. I’d appreciated the time without the fear of weirdness.

“Did you have a nice holiday?”

I nodded. “It was nice,” I said slowly, deciding that he didn’t need to know the ins and outs of my entire week, especially as he’d likely get jealous and overreact.

He shifted from one foot to the other, twiddling with his bowler hat. “Are you hungry? I was going to ask you to lunch.”

“Scorpius,” I said hesitantly, aware that Matthew was just around the corner. I lowered my voice. “We broke up, remember?”

He blushed. “Well, yes,” he conceded. “But, see, the thing is, I need to ask you a small favour.”

I huffed. “What is it?” He was probably going to ask me to wear a matching bowler hat with his name sewn into it or something equally creepy. I’d already decided to deny him whatever it was he wanted.

“I sort of haven’t yet told my parents that we’re not together anymore,” he mumbled sheepishly. “And they’re expecting us for lunch in half an hour.”

I glared at him. “That’s your problem, not mine,” I said grouchily. “You’ll just have to tell them what’s happened.”

“But Rose,” he whined. “You promised you’d be there!”

“No I didn’t,” I denied. “You promised I’d be there without even consulting me.” His lower lip started to tremble. “Don’t even try turning on the waterworks. I’m not going to meet your parents and have to be the one to tell them I broke up with you.”

“You don’t have to!” he said quickly, the tears hastily averted. “Just don’t mention it and they’ll be happy.”

I raised my eyebrows. There was no way in hell I was going to go and meet the Malfoys and play happy families just to save Scorpius the dirty work. “No.”

He looked hurt, a greasy lock of hair sliding down his face from under the bowler hat. “Oh go on, Rosie. My mum’s really good at cooking. I’ll buy you a drink or something afterwards to make it up to you.”

“No,” I repeated, though my resolution was fading somewhat. You couldn’t say no to a free lunch, even if it made you morally ambiguous.

He sighed dramatically. “I’ll go without hair gel for a day,” he bargained, looking at me with puppy dog eyes, batting his eyelashes pleadingly.

“Well,” I said, weighing up my options. I was rather curious to see what Scorpius would look like without the wet-scalp look. “Fine. I can’t say no to that.”

I held out my hand, which he shook limply and grinned. “Thanks Rose. You won’t regret this.”

I rolled my eyes, watching him do a celebratory dance with his bowler hat and thinking of all the ways I could possibly regret what I was about to do. So far I had thought of twenty-five.

“My lunch break isn’t for another hour, so you’ll have to wait until then before we leave,” I informed him, not in the least surprised that this didn’t dampen his spirits. He parked himself in front of the bookcase opposite the till and waggled his eyebrows at me continuously. Or maybe he just had a muscle twitch…

It was hard to serve customers with Scorpius watching me the whole time. I was starting to get more irritated by work than normal and I had to remind myself to remain rational and cheery.

“Rose!” barked Boris from the door to the stairs. “Why didn’t you tell me you were back?”

I blushed as he stomped over to me and enveloped me in a bear hug. “Erm,” I said as I got my breath back. “I didn’t realise you were in today. Sorry.”

“Of course I’m in,” he said cheerfully. “Got to make the most of the day, right?” He grinned. “Carpe Diem and all that.”

Good lord. I didn’t really care what had happened in my absence, but I wanted mopey Boris back. There was no way in hell I was going to survive working for him if he was going to be all positive and optimistic; I hated people like that.

“Are you okay?” I asked curiously as he shook Matthew’s hand with glee. “It’s just you weren’t feeling so great last time you were here…”

“Oh, Rose,” he began, a tear in his eye. “I don’t think I can ever thank you enough. My wife loves me again, business is booming, we have Matthew… It’s a dream come true, isn’t it?”

I raised an eyebrow. When was my lunch break again? Fair enough, it was nice to be appreciated for once but he was going slightly over the top. By the sounds of it, I had a lot to live up to in his expectations.

“Ye-es,” I said slowly. I checked my watch and decided that even if I wasn’t due for my lunch yet I was going to get going anyway. I’d take Scorpius and his parents over this barmy man. “I’m going for lunch now. See you two later.”

I quickly grabbed my coat from the back room and dragged Scorpius out of the shop as quick as I could, but not quite quick enough. As I flung the door open, a bumped into a customer, sending the two of us and Scorpius sprawling to the ground.

“I’m so sorry,” I cried as I rubbed a sore spot on my hip. Looking up, I saw it was yesterday’s rescuer, Henry. He rearranged his glasses as I stood up and offered Scorpius my hand.

“It was my fault,” he said with a shrug. “I wasn’t looking where I was going, as usual.”

I peered at him as he set his briefcase down by the till and started to rummage around. His hair looked very tidy from the back, I had to admit, and his robes made him look very dapper.

Scorpius prodded my arm. “Do you know him?”

I blushed. Scorpius knew me well enough to recognise when I was off into my “dream wedding” imaginings. In fact, I was only just getting to the good part; my dress. I’d always fancied one with a long train, carried by low flying owls and cockatoos. Molly would follow behind me, throwing biscuit crumbs over my head like confetti. So romantic.

“Not really,” I said evasively. I had no intention of telling Scorpius about yesterday’s little incident.

Henry turned to face us with a handful of parchment. “I thought you’d probably forget to drop by my office today,” he said sheepishly. “You’re probably busy but I was hoping you could sign these forms for me at some point?”

I took the paperwork as quickly as I could so that Scorpius didn’t see them. He’d probably decide I couldn’t be trusted to be left alone and I’d never manage to get rid of him.

“Why don’t we use my office?” I stammered. Henry nodded, returning to his briefcase to lock it.

“Rose,” Scorpius interjected, grabbing my arm. I shook him off. “What about our lunch date?”

“It’s not a date!” I squealed, hoping that Henry didn’t think I was dating Scorpius or anything. That’s not something I particularly wanted to get back to the losers who regularly met up for the school reunions. Gossip travelled fast around that nosy lot. “Just wait here,” I told Scorpius before beckoning Henry to follow me.

“That’s not even a real office,” Scorpius grumbled as Matthew stifled a laugh. Boris just winked and smacked my bum as I walked past. Some things never changed.

Leading Henry upstairs (not in the desired circumstances, unfortunately), I decided they were all reading too much into it. He’d just got me out of jail, it’s not like we were about to jump into each other’s arms or anything. It was likely he now had the impression that I made a habit of getting into trouble with the police and was therefore far beneath him. No, he was just here for the paperwork and then he’d go back to his office.

“So,” I said as I let us into the broom cupboard that was doubling as my office. I’d demanded one with my promotion and this was the best Boris could offer. Underneath the sloping roof was a short bookcase for my filing and a rickety old desk salvaged from the storeroom full of the broken stuff we hadn’t got around to throwing away yet. Still, I had a plaque with my name engraved on it and it was better than using Boris’s office (you never knew what you’d find in there).

I conjured a chair for Henry and sat down in my own, peering at him in the dingy light. He sat down without even looking displeased at my less than satisfactory office and handed me a quill.

“I just need you to sign to say that you have read through the paperwork and agree to all the terms mentioned.”

My eyes flicked over the ten plus pages of parchment. “I haven’t read this,” I said with a frown.

“I know,” he replied. “Nobody reads it. Just sign it, please.”

I shrugged. “I’m just saying,” I argued. “I’m not sure my mother would be happy if I signed a contract or something without having read it before.”

Henry gave me a small smile. “It’s not a contract, I promise. It’s a declaration that you didn’t commit the crime and that I turned up to help you. That means I can get paid for the job.”

Ah, so that was why he was so eager to see me; he wanted his money. Rightly so, he’d been called out on a Sunday at his inconvenience. I sighed.

“Do you promise there’s no mumbo jumbo in there that signs away my right to a home or anything?”

“I promise,” he assured me. “What, don’t you believe me?”

“My mum says never to trust lawyers,” I said smugly.

“Well, I’d say in general that your mum is right.” He twiddled his glasses and offered me a lopsided grin. “But I’m not like most of the law profession. I’m decent.”

I grinned back. “Well I should hope so too,” I said cheekily. “I usually do business with my clothes on too.”

He looked at me blankly. Well, perhaps it was too soon for nudity jokes. In order to fill the growing silence, I picked up the quill and signed the parchment.

“Thanks,” I offered as I passed him back his quill and parchment. “For coming to my aid yesterday, I mean. I thought they were going to lock me away when I was innocent.”

“You’re welcome.” He brushed down his robes and stood up. “Glad I could be of help.”

I smiled, following him towards the door. Upon opening it, we were greeted with Scorpius’s face. He’d clearly been lingering outside the door for the duration of our conversation.

“I thought you were going to wait downstairs,” I muttered.

Scorpius frowned. “Well, I know what you’re like, Rose. I wanted to make sure you didn’t do anything weird.”

I scoffed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know. You’re not exactly great around men, are you?” He shook his head and shared a look with Henry, who smiled awkwardly.

I blushed. “That’s not true,” I denied, resisting the urge to shove Scorpius down the stairs and be rid of him for ever. “I’m really good around men, actually. They love me most of the time.” More silence, in which Henry coughed. “I mean,” I corrected hastily. “I just meant that I’m fine. I’m more than fine.” Nobody said anything. “I’m not weird, okay?”

Scorpius shook his head sadly. “See what I mean? You clearly fancy him, or else you wouldn’t be spluttering like a goldfish.”

I blushed a deeper shade of red. “Will you shut up? You’re no better with women. For goodness’ sake, you’re basically forcing me to pretend to be your girlfriend because you can’t face telling your parents I don’t like you. You’re the weird one. And,” I added. “Goldfish don’t splutter!”

“Whatever,” he snapped, scowling as he turned away from Henry and me and tramped angrily downstairs.

Henry coughed again as we heard the door at the bottom of the passage slam shut.

“Erm,” I mumbled. “Sorry about that. He’s not my boyfriend, by the way.”

Henry nodded. “I realised that.”

“I’m not that bad with men, am I?”

He grimaced. “You’re not great.”

I sighed heavily. “Oh well. I have lots of other skills to offer the world other than that.” Yeah, like owl grooming and biscuit eating; that was literally it.

“It doesn’t really matter,” Henry offered, fiddling with a lock of hair that had caught in his glasses. “I think it’s cute.”

I raised my eyebrows, my throat caught in my throat. Cute? What was that supposed to mean? Was that a good thing? Before I could ask him what he meant, he’d shoved a card in my hand.

“Here’s my card. Come and see me if you have any problems. Or, you know, if you need me at all.” He smiled, looking slightly embarrassed before descending the stairs and leaving the shop.

A few minutes later, when I’d stopped rereading his details on his card, I joined the others back on the shop floor. Scorpius was sat on top of a pile of Gilderoy Lockhart autobiographies looking somewhat bemused. Even after an argument he still wouldn’t leave me alone.

“Listen,” I grumbled as I approached him. “You have to stop sticking your massive nose into my business. Why do you have to embarrass me all the time?”

“You do that well enough by yourself,” he retorted. He stood up, glaring at me. “Now, are you coming to lunch or not? We’re running late.”

I looked at the pitiful man in front of me and wondered for the umpteenth time how I’d ever managed to attract such a specimen. I couldn’t get rid of him no matter how hard I tried, which meant he was either extremely devoted to me or just a maniac; I was more inclined towards the latter. Some of Molly’s ever wise words echoed in my mind: “you’re both insane – it’s a perfect match”. This was why everyone was so keen for me to give him a chance. Maybe they thought our strangeness would cancel each other out and then I’d be normal like everyone else. Well, I could tell them now that it was never going to happen. I was done with Scorpius and no man was going to stop me being the strange creature I was. Still, at least in Scorpius’s presence I didn’t feel quite so abnormal.

“Do I have to?” I said in a pained voice. I was really trying to think of ways to back out of this agreement.

“We made a deal, didn’t we? Don’t make me drag you.” He looked particularly menacing as he said the last sentence.

“You wouldn’t dare,” I muttered under my breath, but not particularly loudly as I didn’t really want to provoke him.

He stalked off outside without me. I mock saluted Matthew as I left, who waved me off with what I hoped was sympathy. I caught up with Scorpius as he walked into the wind. His hair was becoming un-gelled and large clumps of it were dancing about stupidly in the wind.

I caught up with him by Madam Malkin’s. I tapped him on the shoulder, quipping, “fancy waiting for me? I am your dinner date, after all.”

“Whatever,” he grumbled. He held out his hand, screwing up his face and squeezing his eyes shut in concentration.

“What are you doing?” I asked, feeling a bit disturbed. His hair was still flapping about in the wind.

“Thinking about my destination with deliberation and determination,” he responded, his face still screwed up like a withered prune.

“Right,” I said, frowning. Surely he should be good enough at Apparating by now that he didn’t need to go through the weird process they taught at Hogwarts?

We began to turn slowly on the spot for a few minutes as he failed to Apparate. I rolled my eyes in exasperation just as I felt the tug around my middle and we vanished.

I was a little bit taken aback once I’d managed to regain my balance. We were faced with a pair of tall austere gates, behind which had to be the biggest house I’d ever seen. It was flanked by blooming hedges and manicured gardens. Suddenly, everything about Scorpius made sense.

“This is your house,” I stated in awe. “This is where you live.”

“Well, I live in Hogsmeade now,” he corrected bashfully. “Don’t you like it?”

I nodded. “It’s enormous.”

Scorpius frowned and let go of my hand. I hadn’t even realised he was still holding it. “Try and be a bit more tactful and polite to my parents.”

“Right,” I said quietly, though to be quite honest I was starting to feel a bit panicky. Should I have worn my dress robes?

Scorpius held his hand out towards the gates, which must have recognised him because they opened immediately. He trotted down the stone path and approached the door. Ringing the bell, he gave me a comforting smile.

As the door opened, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A butler? House elves? I couldn’t really believe people still had them, but if they did anywhere it would be here. Waiting in a grand dining room would be his parents, dressed in their utmost finery. I felt more and more sick by the second.

I was surprised to see that none of the previously mentioned scenarios came true. Instead, a balding man wearing a woolly jumper and a pair of tracksuit bottoms answered the door.

“Scorpy!” he exclaimed delightedly. “Hello, son. And is this the charming Rose we’ve heard so much about?”

Probably not, I thought. I wasn’t exactly charming; they must be thinking of a different Rose.

“Yes,” said ‘Scorpy’. “Dad, this is Rose. Rose, meet my Dad, Draco.”

I offered my hand for a handshake, which Scorpius’s Dad took, kissing it with a flourish. “It’s nice to meet you,” I said awkwardly. Scorpius beamed.

“Come on in, both of you,” Mr Malfoy said happily. He flung the door wide open and beckoned us inside.

I followed them both inside with trepidation. I was undecided whether I wanted to play along with Scorpius’ little game or reveal that I actually couldn’t stand him; it would be apt punishment for his rudeness earlier that day. Maybe I could make a really loud and bitchy break-up scene; yes, that’s what I would do. He wouldn’t come near me after today, I would make sure of that.

Mr Malfoy took us through the house, though I trailed behind somewhat as I stared in awe at the décor. It was so… grand. Scorpius rarely talked about his childhood and so I’d never really thought much about where he had grown up. His parents had old money but they’d put it to good use. No doubt there was family history behind each item of furniture, stories written into the dark wallpaper and engraved into the polished wooden floors. It was big, this house, and not just in size; I felt very small and insignificant as I walked past portrait after portrait of Scorpius’s ancestors.

They epitomised everything my Dad had told me about purebloods, or at least, traditional purebloods. It wasn’t as though I wasn’t familiar with the concept; most of my relatives were purebloods themselves, and the Weasley family was a particularly old one. But they might as well be from another continent the difference between them and this one was so great.

“Are you okay?” Scorpius asked, dropping back to walk with me. “You’ve got a bit of a weird look on your face.”

“I’m fine,” I said slowly. “I was just… thinking.”

He nodded, smoothing his hair down. “Oh.” He looked around at the grandness of the long hall. “It’s a bit different to what you’re used to, I suppose.”

I bristled. “What’s that supposed to mean?” We might not have fancy wallpaper, but my family certainly did more than okay for themselves.

“Well, your family is a lot more laid back. You must think this is awfully stuffy.” He shrugged.

“They’re crazy,” I corrected him. “But I don’t think this is stuffy. I was just thinking about how many stories your family must have to tell.”

Scorpius frowned. “They weren’t all Death Eaters, you know. We were quite a well-respected family once upon a time.”

“You’re only as good as your last single,” I quipped.

“What?”

Blushing, I realised I’d made a Muggle reference. “Sorry. It’s something my Grandma always says. It’s a reference to music. It means... well, never mind.” On second thoughts, it was probably rude what I was trying to say; I wasn’t sure he’d appreciate me suggesting that his father and grandfather had tarnished his reputation.

Scorpius shrugged, dropping it. He’d never met my Mum’s parents, mostly because he wouldn’t understand a word they said. The Muggle world was a strange one for someone like Scorpius.

Mr Malfoy opened a door to our left, taking us into the sitting room. The hall had given me false expectations, much as the exterior of the manor had caused me to expect a man in a smoking jacket with a pipe, not a man dressed in casual clothes. The room itself was splendid, with high ceilings and an elegant fireplace, but the furniture was threadbare. There were piles of books littered around the room, interspersed with the odd Prophet. My surprise must have shown on my face because Mr Malfoy smiled.

“The problem with inheriting all your furniture is that most of it is so old it’s beyond repair. I don’t have the heart to throw it away now.” He gestured to a faded red armchair. “This was my mother’s favourite. It might not be particularly pretty, but it has sentimental value.” His eyes clouded over a second, before he shook his head. “Make yourselves comfortable,” he added. “I’ll just go and tell Astoria that you’re here.”

He was nice, I decided as Scorpius and I found somewhere to sit amongst the books. I nestled myself into a deflated sofa and watched as Scorpius took his grandmother’s chair.

“Does your Dad like to read?” I asked, picking up the nearest one and reading the title.

“Both my parents do,” Scorpius said with a nod. “I don’t think my Dad can unwind any other way. My Mum, well, she just likes to keep him company.”

We heard footsteps behind us, announcing that Draco’s parents had returned. I stood up, coming face to face with a short, dark-haired woman with a lopsided smile. She beamed at me and pulled me into a hug before I could offer a polite kiss on the cheek.

“We’re so glad you’re here, Rose,” Mrs Malfoy said. I could have sworn she was crying.

“It’s my pleasure,” I replied awkwardly. “Thank you for inviting me.”

Mrs Malfoy beamed. “Well, we’ve heard so much about you. Scorpius is very fond of you, you know.” She patted me on the back whilst throwing a sickly, loving glance in Scorpius’s direction. “We did think for a while that it might never happen,” she said in a stage whisper. “But,” she went on more loudly. “Here you are, his first real friend and first girlfriend. I’m so proud of him!”

I’m not sure my face could take more blushing today; this was mortifying. It was like I’d done them a massive favour. Now I was beginning to understand why Scorpius was so keen on getting me to meet his parents.

“Um,” I said. “Right.”

Scorpius gave me a sheepish smile as Mrs Malfoy bundled me up in another hug, whilst his father just patted him on the back and went to fetch the wine.

“So, Rose,” Mrs Malfoy said as we sat down. I had chosen a different sofa this time, one which was wobbling under my weight. I made a mental note not to eat too much. “How are your parents? It’s been years since I last saw them.”

“They’re fine,” I said, wondering what on Earth I could say about them that was remotely interesting. “My Mum… my Mum is well.” Mrs Malfoy nodded encouragingly. “My Dad… my Dad isn’t.” Oh God, what was I saying? “Isn’t unwell, I mean. He’s actually fine.”

“That’s good to hear,” Scorpius’s mother said, holding her hand to her chest. “We were at school together, but I never really got to know them all that well, unfortunately.” Mr Malfoy returned with a bottle of wine and sat with us. “We were just saying the other day how lovely it would be to meet up with the Potters and Weasleys, weren’t we Draco?” she said pointedly to her husband.

“We were?” Mr Malfoy responded unsurely. “Oh,” he corrected himself. “Yes. That… that would be nice.”

I wasn’t a fool; I knew exactly about my family’s long-running tiff with the Malfoys. I doubted they’d ever want to voluntarily be in the same room as each other for any length of time. My Dad would spend the whole time turning an ugly red whilst my Mum tried not to punch them; they weren’t particularly tolerant people.

“So,” Mrs Malfoy said later as we approached the end of the meal. “Let’s see the ring, then.”

“What?” I spluttered, looking down at my hands so as to assure myself Scorpius hadn’t slipped on onto my hand when I wasn’t looking.

“Scorpius told us he’d bought one and popped the question.”

“What question?” I asked, feeling horrified.

“Well,” Mr Malfoy interrupted before his wife could speak. “I’m going to make coffee. Would you like something Rose?”

“Um,” I said, still looking down at my ends as the heat built up in my cheeks. “No thank you. I actually should be leaving, I think.”

“You don’t have to leave so soon,” Mrs Malfoy said forlornly. “It’s been so nice talking with you.”

I didn’t dare look at Scorpius for fear of stabbing him in the eye with my cake fork. “I’ve had a lovely time, thank you,” I tried. “But I really must be returning to work.”

I shook both of their hands before grabbing Scorpius by the elbow and dragging him into the hall with me. I marched him to the door, where I finally turned to glare at him.

“You’re lucky I’m a nice person,” I growled. “Otherwise I would have told your parents everything. But don’t you dare ever pull something like that on me again. What were you thinking? Why did you tell them you’d bought a ring?” Scorpius smoothed his hair down yet again, biting his lip nervously. “Well?”

“I did buy a ring,” he said quietly. “I want to marry you.”

My mouth opened and closed like a hyperactive fish. “I don’t understand.”

He looked down at his highly polished shoes. “I know we’ve had our ups and downs,” he began as I watched him wide-eyed. “But I always thought we’d end up together, eventually. We make a great pair, Rosie.”

I shook my head forcefully. “No, we don’t,” I argued. “Every time I think I could possibly stand being your friend, which by the way I sort of had this afternoon, you go and pull a stunt like this.” He looked up, tears forming in his eyes. “If you feel that way you should keep it to yourself. I broke up with you but it doesn’t feel like you ever got the message.” The tears were threatening to spill. “And stop crying. Get rid of the hair gel and listen to me for once. I don’t want to go out with you, let alone marry you.”

“Give me a chance,” he said quietly.

I sighed heavily. “I’ve tried, I really have. Just leave me alone.”

As cruel as it was, I left him there standing by the door, crying, and headed back to work alone. Alone was always better than having to be with him. I’d had enough; why was he the only man ever interested in me? He made it impossible to hide from him no matter how hard I tried. I just wanted to be normal; was that too much to ask?




AN: Well, that was a rather mammoth chapter. Thanks so much to everyone who's been reviewing, and if you have a moment I'd love some feedback on this one :) 


Chapter 28: Advice
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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."

"No!"

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?”

“Shut up.”

“‘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!


Chapter 29: Secrets
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Secrets

I laid in bed in silence, listening to the noise of the flat. I couldn’t hear Molly at all, which most likely meant that she was still fast asleep. I hadn’t spoken to her since our argument the week before, and I had no intention of speaking to her until she apologised for both mocking me and bossing me around. I didn’t care that she was right about some things; it didn’t give her the right to be so rude to me and put me down. I definitely wasn’t going to back down this time. She had to apologise.

Being as quiet as I could, I crept out of the flat before Molly could catch me. She wouldn’t notice that I was gone for hours yet and by then I’d be long gone (except not really; I was only going to visit my parents and if she was that bothered she’d work it out. There weren’t that many places I could be). Maybe she would realise I was gone and weep for her mistakes and beg me for forgiveness when I finally returned. She’d spend the day regretting her life and suddenly rethink her personality and become lovable and kind towards me. Perhaps she’d even bake me a cake, made with her real tears.

The weather was starting to warm up, something that brought a smile to my face most days. Today, however, I was too grumpy to even think about smiling. I’d bumped into my Mum in the Leaky Cauldron last week, but other than that I hadn’t had the chance to see my parents since my trip to France. I had so much to tell them and nothing I particularly had any interest in reliving. It was embarrassing enough going through it the first time without a second visit. I would definitely be leaving out certain details that my parents really didn’t need to know.

Going home was something of a ritual for me. There was something extremely comforting knowing that the people on the other side of the door HAD to spend time with me, something which I uniquely attributed to my parents. Cousins clearly felt no such duty towards me.

My Dad answered the door when I rang the doorbell, running a scruffy hand through his hair.

“Come in, Rosie,” he said gruffly before disappearing down the hall into another part of the house. He didn’t even stop to give me a hug or ask how I was. Confused, my furrowed brow and I made our way past the untidy hallway and followed Dad into the living room. The hall was littered with items I hadn’t seen for years, like the Newton’s Cradle Hugo broke one Christmas and the other half of a pair of socks I had lost.

“The house looks like you’ve jinxed it,” I started as Dad rifled through a desk in the corner of the room. “What’s going on?”

“I’ve lost it,” my Dad said frustratedely. I watched as he removed a whole draw from the desk and proceeded to tip it and its contents onto the floor. He got down on his hands and knees and desperately flicked through the heap of parchment and quills.

“Lost what?” I asked, perching on the arm of the sofa to observe him.

“Your mother’s wedding anniversary present. I can’t find it anywhere.”

I rolled my eyes. This was so typical of my clumsy father; he was completely hopeless without my mother to organise him, and clearly he couldn’t have enlisted her help for this.

“What is it? I’ll help you search for it if you want,” I offered. “Have you tried accio?”

“Accio won’t work,” Dad said with a heavy sigh. “I charmed it so that Mum couldn’t try and summon it.”

“I see,” I said, mildly surprised he had thought of such a measure. This was remarkably proactive of him. “Well, is it small? Where did you last have it?”

“I hid it inside the piano,” he said sheepishly. “But it’s not in there now. No one ever uses that old thing so I thought it’d be safe. I thought maybe Hugo had moved it for a joke…”

It was quite likely that my brother had deliberately sabotaged my Dad’s plans for a surprise present, but he seemed to have forgotten the fact that the old piano in the dining room was actually enchanted; when it was hungry it would eat whatever it could grab, whether that be fingers tickling its ivories or gifts stuffed down near its strings.

“Dad,” I said sadly. “I think the piano ate your present.”

He scowled at me. “I can hardly tell that to Mum, can I? She’ll think I didn’t buy her anything!”

I shrugged. “Professor Binns believed me that time I told him the piano ate my holiday homework. Mum’s been meaning to get it fixed for ages, anyway, so maybe you can guilt-trip her into thinking it was her fault.”

My Dad frowned. “You’re a strange girl, you know.” Yeah, like that wasn’t painfully obvious already. How long had he known me for? If he didn’t know that already then I would seriously start to wonder if he was my real father.

“So I’ve been told,” I responded stiffly. “Shall I put the kettle on while you tidy up this mess?”

Dad nodded and returned to the fruits of his unsuccessful search. At least I could assume that Mum was out, so I didn’t need to be so defensive about my recent adventures. She was far too clever and knew me too well to believe many of the lies I’d already fabricated in my mind. She’d see through my insisting that I’d had a lovely holiday and there was nothing much to report. No doubt she already knew that Molly and I had fallen out; she could smell secrets on the wind, I was sure of it. It was very hard to hide things from mothers; they must learn how to sniff out lies during prenatal classes.

In the kitchen, I fumbled about with making tea. Dad joined me soon after, looking dejected.

“So,” he said after I didn’t say anything else. “Tell me about your holiday.”

I grimaced. “It was good,” I said over-enthusiastically. “Victoire is really happy out there. She’s very French now, I think.”

Dad nodded. “We got your postcard,” he told me, gesturing towards the fridge where he’d stuck the postcard up with a magnet. “It sounds like you had fun.” He grinned at me and pulled me into a hug. “We’re very proud of you, you know.”

Urgh, vomit. “I only went away for a week, it wasn’t like I went backpacking across South America or anything,” I said defensively. I slipped out of his arms and returned to making tea where I was safe.

“I know,” Dad said with a smile. “But we like to see that you’re happy.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m happy,” I said grumpily. He didn’t look particularly convinced,

I passed Dad a mug of tea and grabbing a packet of biscuits we sat down at the kitchen table. “Now,” Dad continued. “Your Auntie Audrey tells me that you and Molly have had a bit of a tiff.”

“Yes,” I said blankly.

“Are you going to tell me what that’s all about?”

“No,” I said equally blankly. There was no way I was going to tell Dad all about my Molly troubles, mostly because it involved telling him all about my Scorpius troubles. There was some things that Dads just didn’t need to know.

Dad frowned. “I might be able to help…”

I sighed heavily. “We’ve just had a difference of opinion concerning certain things,” I mumbled. That was hopefully vague enough.

“Can’t you agree to disagree?” Dad offered.

“That’s the problem,” I retorted. “She thinks she’s always right.”

Dad sighed. “You two really should just listen to each other. You’ve always been like this ever since you were little. Both of you are so pig-headed.”

“I am not!” I denied, feeling extremely indignant. What - was this attack Rose’s character week? Couldn’t anyone just leave my personality alone for like a day?

“You are,” he replied gently. “So why don’t you be the bigger person and compromise first?”

“It’s her turn to compromise,” I snapped. “She never apologises and this time she’s in the wrong.”

Dad shrugged. “You have to do what you think is best, Rosie. But don’t lose a good friend over this, especially not one who’s your cousin.”

I knew what point he was making; we didn’t really need more family drama. Family gatherings would be extremely uncomfortable if Molly and I declared war on each other. I didn’t put it past her to throw knives at my knees under the table.

“She started it,” I said childishly, after which Dad seemed to get the message and dropped it.

“Right,” he conceded. “Well, I have some news for you. Your cousin Roxanne has dropped out of her law degree.”

This was extremely old news, but I decided to go with the flabbergasted look. “What?” I exclaimed loudly. “What a shocker!”

Dad raised his eyebrows. “Yes, well we were all surprised too.”

“Is Angelina mad?” I asked. “I bet she’s furious.” It gave me a small amount of satisfaction that Roxanne was probably in a whole heap of trouble right now.

“She’s not best pleased,” Dad said. “But I think it’s for the best if Roxanne has changed her mind about what she wants to do with her life.”

Yeah, she’d changed her mind all right if she thought begging me for a job was a valid career path. I decided not to divulge my mine of secrets about Roxanne in the hope that I could use it as blackmail in the future. You never knew when you’d need to blackmail one of your cousins.

“I suppose so,” I agreed.

“I think she’s happier now anyway, from what George tells me,” Dad added.

To be honest, I didn’t think it was particularly fair that Roxanne of all people got to be happy. Victoire I could understand, because she’d made a real effort to go somewhere where she could be more herself away from the pressures of family here. But I never really had much sympathy for Roxanne, mostly because she’d bullied me a lot during our childhoods. I could hold a grudge for a long time.

Eventually I made my excuses and left, hurrying outside to Apparate to the pub where I was meeting Albus for lunch.

The sun was shining on the Hogsmeade high street and I leant my head back to warm my face.

“You look like a beached whale,” someone behind me commented.

I turned on my heel and came face to face with my dear cousin Molly. I glowered.

“What are you doing here?” I snapped. “Are you following me?”

Molly looked scathing. “Why on Earth would I do that? My world doesn’t revolve around you, you know. I’m visiting a friend. I actually have other friends, you see.”

“Good for you. As it happens, I’m meeting a friend for lunch,” I shot back.

Molly rolled her eyes. “Good. Fine. See you at home.”

And with those abrupt words she stormed off down the high street and disappeared down an alleyway. Furious, I stomped into the Three Broomsticks with a deep frown on my brow. Without looking around, I sat down at the first empty table I found and glared at the woodwork. I couldn’t believe the nerve of her; she’d had the opportunity to apologise and she’d been extremely rude to me. She was clearly in the wrong; I’d never asked for her opinion on my personal business, especially not where Scorpius was concerned. What did she know about it, anyway? I was certain she just wanted me to go out with him so she could have a good laugh. Well, I wasn’t prepared to be the butt of her jokes anymore.

“Now that’s a look that could curdle milk.” I looked up to see Lorcan beaming at me from across the table.

I sighed. “If you’ve come here to tell me to apologise to Molly you can think again,” I informed him. He shrugged off my comment and sat down.

“I’m not here to tell you what to do, I wouldn’t dare,” he said, fiddling with his ‘Milkman of the Year’ award that was still hanging around his neck months later. “I’m here with Albus – he’s at the bar.”

I followed Lorcan’s gaze and did indeed see Albus hovering at the bar trying to catch the barmaid’s attention. He wasn’t having much luck and had resorted to fiddling with his glasses in order to look less awkward. Needless to say, he wasn’t succeeding particularly well. In fact, he was still fiddling with his glasses ten minutes later when the barmaid finally acknowledged his existence.

“Hullo Rose,” Albus said as he plonked our drinks down on the table and joined us.

I reached for my drink and nodded in greeting. “Wassup, cuz?”

I wasn’t really sure why I felt the need to act cool, but I’d clearly pulled my effort off flawlessly. Albus looked at me like I was deranged. “I’m fine, thank you. I got your postcard last week.”

“I didn’t get a postcard,” Lorcan chipped in, looking wounded. I rolled my eyes.

“I presumed Molly would share hers with you,” I lied. I’d actually just forgotten to send him one.

“Oh,” Lorcan said. “Well, she did so you were right.”

Remembering what I’d put on Molly’s postcard, I suddenly felt very embarrassed. “Did she show you both of them?” I asked cautiously.

“Yep.”

Oh dear. He’d probably already worked out what the whole situation was already. I was so dead. I cleared my throat and searched for a new topic of conversation.

“Do you know how Fred’s getting on in Australia?” I asked quickly.

“It’s really hot, apparently,” Albus replied. He clearly didn’t notice my deliberate change in conversation. “He’s got a nice house overlooking the beach and a job interview on Monday. I might move out there myself, you know…”

I snorted in an unladylike manner. “I’m not sure you’d cope, Al. You’re not exactly the most adventurous bloke, are you?”

“Don’t call me Al,” he snapped out of habit. “What do you know, anyway, Rose? I’d definitely cope. I’m very adaptable.”

He fiddled with the same glasses he’d had for ten years and I raised my eyebrows. Albus was the least adaptable person I’d ever met. It was necessarily a bad thing; I liked him that way. He was dependable, but I definitely couldn’t see him changing his whole life and moving to another country.

“Rose,” Lorcan interrupted our conversation before I could tell Albus exactly why he wouldn’t be able to adapt to moving to Australia. “Drop it.”

I scowled. “Don’t you start telling me what to do as well. Everyone I talk to just ends up bossing me around and I’m so sick of it.”

Albus sipped at his drink during an incredibly long awkward silence. My words hung in the air like a bad smell. I glared at Albus until he looked away.

“I’m not trying to boss you around,” Lorcan said quietly. “But there’s no need to insult Albus.”

I hid my head in my hands; there it was again, the lecture on being rude. It wasn’t that I said anything with malice; he was my cousin, I was only teasing him. Perhaps Scorpius was right and I was overly honest.

“Did Molly put you up to this?” I probed.

Lorcan gave me a look that seemed to say “are you really asking me that?” I sighed, realising that Molly had probably already told him all about our argument and he’d naturally taken her side. This was exactly why people shouldn’t go out with someone in their friendship group; she’d destroyed our whole dynamic.

“You can’t expect her not to talk to me about it,” he said defensively.

I glared. “What else has she told you? As we’re sharing, why don’t I just tell you all my secrets? That saves her having to tell you later.”

Lorcan held up his hands in defence. “There’s not need to be like that,” he said. “If she can trust me then so should you. I don’t know why you’re getting so worked up.”

“It’s not about trusting you,” I countered angrily. “There are some things I don’t want you to know. They’re not her secrets to tell.”

Lorcan sighed in exasperation. “This is about Teddy, isn’t it? It’s hardly a secret, I already knew about that. Lysander told me before Molly did.”

“What?” I asked, horrified. “How does Lysander know?”

Lorcan shrugged. “James told him, I think.”

“Why is it any of his business?” I said through gritted teeth. My blood ran cold at the thought of them all gossiping about me behind my back. It was humiliating, thinking that they all knew about my most embarrassing secret and were talking about it freely like it was of no consequence. How long had they known?

“And I suppose Molly told James, did she?” I asked, furious. “How could she do that? James works for a newspaper, he could have told anyone.”

“No, she didn’t,” Lorcan argued. “Teddy told him.”

“Teddy told him?” My cheeks burst into brilliant heat at the thought of Teddy telling anyone what had gone on between us (or rather, what hadn’t) during my stay. I couldn’t believe how fast news travelled in my family and friends, it was sickening to think about. How could Teddy have told anyone? I thought we’d agreed to forget it had ever happened. I almost cried at the thought; how could he have told everyone? I was humiliated. I took deep breaths, trying to calm myself down. I felt so betrayed.

“Teddy asked him to be the godfather,” Albus interjected.

“He – what?” My heart rate slowly dropped. They weren’t talking about me, they were talking about Victoire (unless I was secretly pregnant and they all knew without me knowing). “Victoire’s pregnant?”

“No, Dominique is,” Lorcan explained. “Teddy’s the father.”

Oh my God.





AN: I KNOW, right?! I'm so glad that's all out in the open. So I'm pretty sure Rose is going to react terribly to this news. I finished writing this story last week and I'm so excited to post the next 7 chapters! I hope you enjoy. Please leave a review, they make me happy :) 


Chapter 30: Disillusioned
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Disillusioned

I paced up and down outside the door to Scorpius’s house for a good twenty minutes before I finally summoned the courage to ring the doorbell. I couldn’t think straight; I’d left the Three Broomsticks without saying another word, heading straight up the high street in the direction of the Shrieking Shack. Now I was waiting outside the door of the only person left I could possibly talk to.

Scorpius opened the door and beamed at my pale face.

“I need a friend to talk to,” I informed him abruptly and pushed past him into the hall. I went straight for the living room, climbing onto the sofa and lying face down onto the cushions.

Dominique was having Teddy’s baby. Dominique was having Teddy’s baby. Dominique was having Teddy’s baby. No matter how many times I said it, the thought still made me want to throw up, or at least bury my head so deep into Scorpius’s sofa that I’d suffocate myself. How the hell had this happened?

“What’s wrong?” Scorpius asked from above me. My only response was to groan into the material.

How could they have done this to Victoire? No wonder Teddy had looked so shocked when I’d told them. It explained so many things. I remembered Dominique crying at their leaving party; she had presumably told Molly everything that day when they had gone outside to talk. That was two months ago, and Molly had kept that from me all this time. She had let me go all the way to France to see Teddy… I groaned once again, feeling sick from the thought of how I had humiliated myself. How could she have let me go, knowing what they’d done? Teddy had cheated on Victoire with her own sister. For all my berating myself that fancying him was the ultimate betrayal of my cousin, at least I hadn’t actually slept with him… and then got myself pregnant.

I had really thought I stood a chance. I had gone to France to tell him, as if my feelings really mattered. And he had sat there and pretended to put it behind him like I was in the wrong. All the while, he was probably thinking about Dominique. He was prepared to cheat with Dominique whilst planning to get married to Victoire. It was so awful, I couldn’t think straight.

There was a clink of glass as Scorpius set a mug down on the coffee table. “I brought you a glass of firewhiskey,” he said. The sofa dipped as he perched on the edge and patted my back awkwardly. “Talk to me.”

I couldn’t move. My whole body was tingling with shock and shame and confusion. Did Victoire know? Was he ever planning on telling her? I kept asking the same question over and over in my head: how could he do it? The only way I could explain it was that both he and Dominique had been extremely drunk. If not… I couldn’t even bear the thought.

Scorpius continued to pat my back consolingly. Eventually, I shifted so I was on my side and facing him. “Something awful has happened,” I said, my throat hoarse with emotion.

“What?”

I gulped and closed my eyes. I didn’t know if I could say it out loud; doing so would make it real and I wasn’t ready for the consequences of that particular reality. Was I supposed to do something about it? Should I confront Dominique? Should I write to Teddy? Should I tell Victoire? I didn’t know what to do.

“Dominique’s pregnant,” I croaked. There, that wasn’t so hard. Scorpius nodded; he knew this already, of course. “It’s Teddy’s.”

He stopped patting my back and let his mouth drop open. “What did you say?”

“It’s Teddy’s baby,” I repeated. “He’s a disgusting, lying cheat.”

Scorpius didn’t say anything, instead reaching for my glass of firewhiskey and drinking straight from it.

“Blimey,” he offered. “That’s a bit of a shock.”

“I know,” I agreed miserably.

Everything I had ever admired about Teddy was destroyed. He wasn’t faithful, he wasn’t loyal, he wasn’t a good person. I couldn’t understand it; if he and Dominique loved each other or something, he should have left Victoire first, not asked her to marry him and then done one with her sister. I thought back to our lunch together in France, how Victoire had been so scathing of her sister. They’d fallen out about something and at the time I couldn’t understand why Victoire didn’t offer Dominique help but perhaps this was the reason why. Perhaps Dominique or Teddy had told Victoire about a one night stand and they’d fallen out as a result. Family politics was such hard work.

“What are you going to do?” Scorpius asked after a while.

I sighed, sitting up and using my wand to summon the bottle of firewhiskey. I poured myself a fresh glass and sipped at the fiery liquid, appreciating the kick in my gut as the alcohol entered my system. “I don’t know if I should do anything at all,” I mused. “I’ll only make more of a mess of things.”

Scorpius watched as I knocked back a second glass of firewhiskey. “Maybe sleep on it?” he suggested.

I nodded, gasping at the burning liquid. “I tell you what,” I started. “I am going to go and ask Molly why the hell she didn’t tell me. She’s known the baby's Teddy’s since February and she never told me. She let me go and make a fucking fool of myself in front of him even though she knew I never stood a chance.”

“You’re angry,” Scorpius observed. I poured myself another glass, waving it around as I gesticulated.

“You’re damn right I’m angry,” I said through gritted teeth. “She’s my cousin, my best friend. She’s supposed to look out for me. I never would have gone if I’d known the truth. But she let me go. She let me go.”

I drained another glass and stood up, determined in my mission of finding my cousin so I could ask her what the bloody hell she had been playing at.

“You can’t Apparate like that,” Scorpius told me firmly. He grabbed onto my arm and held me still. “You’re over the limit.”

I tried to shrug him off but his grip was too strong. I eventually stilled and he released me. “I can’t believe it,” I said sadly. “How will I trust her again?”

Scorpius rested a hand on my arm and tried to soothe me. “Maybe she can explain,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a reason she didn’t tell you.”

“It’s just so typical,” I muttered bitterly. “The one time I actually needed her to interfere, she didn’t.”

I returned to the sofa, where Scorpius joined me. I rested my head on his shoulder and groaned piteously. “I’m such an idiot,” I moaned.

Scorpius rested his head on top of mine and wrapped his arm around me. I was too distressed to complain. “You’re not an idiot. How could you have known?”

“I dunno,” I muttered. “All the signs were there, if I’d looked. I was too busy thinking it was me he was after to really think about anyone else.”

“You couldn’t have known,” he enforced.

We didn’t say anything else for a long time, and I eventually drifted off to sleep thanks to the heavy effects of the firewhiskey.

When I opened my eyes again, I could tell it was a few hours later due to the dark splodges scattering the sky out of the window. I sat up, feeling groggy, heavy and exhausted. Remembering why, I grimaced and looked around for Scorpius. I found him in the bathtub, soaking in a layer of scented bubbles. His hair was damp and ungelled, falling gently across his face.

“I’m going to go home,” I told him, trying not to look too closely at the bubbles or what might be concealed beneath them. “Thanks for the drink.”

“No problem,” he told me, smiling through the bubble beard. “I’ll see you soon. I hope you figure things out.”

“So do I,” I said with a sigh. I shut the bathroom door behind me and left his house, using the walk back down to the high street as an opportunity to decide what my next course of action should be.

I had to go home. I had to face Molly. The thought of seeing her made me feel simultaneously sick and angry. I didn’t know how to deal with the whole situation.

Eventually I found the courage to apparate home and let myself into the flat. Molly was waiting, perched on the sofa with Lorcan. Upon seeing my ashen face, he took the hint and disappeared out the door with only a small nod of acknowledgement. I tried to breathe deeply to control the wild assortment of emotions building inside of me.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I said from the doorway. My voice was shaking, my fingers trembling. She looked away from me.

“I tried to stop you going,” she said defensively.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I repeated louder.

She looked back at me, glaring. “How would that have helped you, Rose? You weren’t in a good place, you would have done something stupid. You were so fixated on him, I didn’t think it would help. You needed to get over him.”

I gritted my teeth. “And you don’t think the fact that he got his girlfriend’s sister pregnant was enough of a reason to get over him? It wasn’t your choice to make. You should have told me or at least stopped me going to see him.”

“I tried,” she retorted. “But you were determined to go. And you got over him in your own way; it was for the best.”

Blood rushed to my head and I stepped towards her. “You let me humiliate myself,” I growled. “You knew why I was going to see him and all that time you knew what he’d done.”

“It wasn’t my secret to tell,” Molly argued. “Dominique told me in confidence.”

“Right, so you felt it was more important to protect her after what she did to her own sister than to stop me galloping in with my size fives and making a complete fool of myself.” I started to pace the length of the room in a bid to release some of my tension. “You have no problem telling me what to do usually, why did you decide that that was the perfect time to finally shut up?”

“I don’t know why you’re blaming me,” Molly hissed. “These are your issues. You didn’t know, so why are you so embarrassed? It’s not my fault she’s having his baby, so stop blaming me for your insecurities. You’re just pissed he chose to cheat with her over you.”

“Piss off, Molly,” I replied furiously, deciding that this really was the last straw. “You’re trying to pin this one on me because you know you should have told me. Did it make you feel superior to know that I was about to disgrace myself? Did you think you knew what was best for me? Well, now you don’t have to worry about fucking up again where I’m concerned. I’m moving out, you don’t have to have anything to do with me from this point onwards. I’m out of your hair.”

I stormed past her into my bedroom and hauled my suitcase out from under my bed. I threw as much as I could fit into it, magically shrinking things as I went along. In my anger, I accidentally shrank my bed to the size of a thimble and packed it out of spite anyway. My room was soon bare, devoid of anything I had ever owned. I dragged my suitcase as loudly as I could down the hall back to the living room where she could see it.

I reached into my pocket and took out my keys, chucking them at her. Then I flounced out of the house, slamming the door behind me.

There weren’t many places I could go. Anywhere I went I’d have to explain why Molly and I had fallen out and none of my family could know that Teddy was the father of Dom’s baby or that I’d harboured a massive crush on him for years. I was supposed to be over him, he wasn’t supposed to be affecting my life anymore but now I was stuck with this stupid situation that had changed everything for ever.

With a heavy sigh, I returned to Scorpius’s house. He took my suitcase off me wordlessly and let me inside. I found my usual spot on the sofa and finally started sobbing. I cried for what felt like hours, letting out all my frustration and hurt and shame.

I hadn’t expected her to defend her actions. I thought she would admit she’d made a mistake and apologise. How had I lived with her for so long without realising just how pig-headed she was? My Dad was right. It was an impossible situation; if she didn’t back down and concede than we’d never talk to each other again. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I needed to go to work tomorrow, but I didn’t know if I could face it. There was no way I’d be able to put up with a whole day of answering Boris’s inane questions about my welfare, and Matthew’s polite silence would drive me up the wall. All I wanted to do was shout at Molly and Dominique and Teddy for the rest of my life for the stupid decisions they’d made.

“Think about something else,” Scorpius suggested as I wiped away more angry tears. “Why don’t we play Scrabble?”

I sniffed. “Are you serious?” I asked incredulously. “You want to play Scrabble now?”

He shrugged. “Why not? It’ll take your mind off things.”

I seriously doubted that playing a board game was going to take my mind off everyone’s betrayal, but I supposed it was worth a go. I couldn’t see what else we were going to do.

“Fine,” I conceded.

Scorpius fetched the board and started setting up the pieces on the coffee table. I grabbed a blanket and curled up on the sofa, not feeling particularly competitive.

“It’s your go,” Scorpius prompted, rousing me from a daydream in which I decapitated Teddy and forced Molly to look after Dom’s baby as punishment.

I nodded, mutely placing the word ‘liar’ onto the Scrabble board, earning me four points.

Scorpius frowned at my choice of word and countered it by making the word ‘rainbow’. I sighed.

“Can we not do something else?” I asked after I placed my next word, ‘scum’. “I’m about to fall asleep here.”

“Shall I get the wine?” he offered.

I shook my head. “I have work tomorrow, I can’t.” I yawned and uncurled my legs from the sofa. “I think I might go to bed.”

Scorpius nodded, standing up too so he could show me the way. He showed me into the room that had once been my shrine; now, instead of holding all my pictures and memorabilia it held only a single bed and a desk. He disappeared whilst I found my pyjamas in the mass of my bag and changed into them.

I tucked myself into bed and sat upright, staring into the darkness, trying to organise my thoughts. I was exhausted from an extremely long day. I could barely believe it had been that morning when I’d gone to visit my Dad at home. Now I was staying the night at Scorpius’s after moving out of the flat I shared with Molly. I didn’t even dare think about Teddy on top of all that.

I felt so empty and drained, using all my energy to keep myself upright rather than think about it all. I didn’t dare sleep for fear of the dreadful day that awaited me tomorrow. Sitting in the dark was so much more preferable to facing the consequences of today.

There was a light knock on my door as Scorpius let himself in. Light from the hall flooded into the room and I could see he was carrying to mugs.

“I brought you some hot chocolate,” he said, placing one mug on the desk beside the bed. “I thought it might help you sleep.”

I was genuinely touched by this gesture. He must have known that I’d be unable to face sleeping. He had probably slipped a sleeping pill into the drink, but really it was the thought that counted. He sank down on the end of my bed, narrowly missing my feet as he did so. I cradled the warm mug in my hands and sighed deeply.

“Thank you,” I managed after remembering my manners. “I’m not sure sleep is on the agenda tonight.”

Scorpius sipped at his drink. “You should try at least. Nobody ever makes a good decision after a sleepless night.”

“I know,” I agreed with a sigh. “I just don’t want to think about it. I wish I’d never found out.”

“Or that you’d found out sooner,” Scorpius said with alarming insight.

“Yeah,” I muttered. I took a first sip of my drink and welcomed the sweet tasting liquid. The warmth slipped down into my stomach and warmed me from within. “They took me for a real fool. That’s not going to happen again.”

It was a real promise; I was determined to be more observant and perceptive in future. There was no way I was going to fall into a trap like this again; I deserved better.

“Do you regret going to France?” Scorpius asked after a while.

I thought about it; I didn’t really. I perhaps might not have gone if I’d known, but I didn’t at the time so I wouldn’t change it. “No,” I told him. “I needed to tell Teddy how I felt. I wouldn’t have been able to if I’d known what he’d done. At least I got the chance to let go on my own terms instead of having it done for me.” I sighed again. I was doing a lot of that at the moment. “I just feel like I’ve lost him all over again. He’s not the man I thought he was.”

Scorpius slurped at his drink. “I think that’s the problem with having a crush,” he mused. “They’re never as perfect in reality as you’d dreamed they’d be.”

I wondered if Scorpius was thinking of me. Perfection wasn’t that easy to attain, so if he was disappointed that I wasn’t perfect I wasn’t really bothered. He was right, though; I’d always thought of Teddy as something more than he was, or at least different. All my imaginings had fabricated a false Teddy that never existed. Perhaps that was why it was such a shock to find out he’d cheated; the man in my head who I called Teddy would never have done that. But unlike the man in my head, the real Teddy was human and he was able to make mistakes. And, unlike Scorpius’s imagined Rose, I made mistakes too. Perhaps he accepted that about me; in order to have the real me, he needed to welcome my flaws as well as my strengths.

Sadly, it appeared that Molly wasn’t able to find any of my better points. Well, as far as I was concerned, it was her loss. I was better off without her.

 


Chapter 31: Ridiculous Relatives
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Ridiculous Relatives

Three weeks later, I found myself opening up the shop in bright early morning sunshine. May was finally bringing some cheerful weather. It was good to have something to look forward to; in a couple of days, we’d be marking the anniversary of the end of the Second Wizarding War at my grandparents in what was hopefully beautiful weather. That day had always been a strange one for us; we both celebrated Victoire’s birthday and remembered the death of my uncle Fred. As Victoire was no longer around, we were only celebrating the end of the war. I was spending the day with my parents and brother this year rather than the whole family, which was a welcome relief considering the circumstances.

I hadn’t spoken to Molly since the day I moved out. I’d avoided all family gatherings and she had yet to come and see me so I had to assume things were exactly as they were that day. I certainly wasn’t going to be the first one to break our silence. I’d had time to think over what I was going to do about Dominique and Teddy and I’d decided that I was going to do nothing. I would pretend that I knew nothing about it and continue as if I didn’t know. There was no way I was going to talk to Molly before she’d apologised for keeping such a vital secret from me.

I was the first person into the shop that morning, so I went to check on the new deliveries. Peering into the box, I saw it was only another shipment of Divination Daily which oddly only got delivered every two months and they hadn’t seemed to realise that the name of the magazine really ought to be changed to reflect its real nature so that customers didn’t get confused. I started to set them out on their shelf whilst I waited for either Boris or Matthew to arrive.

Boris was the next one through the door, wearing a frilly mac and bonnet. His strange attire no longer caused me to raise an eyebrow, but I thought this one was rather over the top.

“It’s May Day!” he sang cheerfully. “I’m going to dance around a maypole later.”

“That’s nice,” I said blandly. “Well, before you go and do that why don’t you make me a cup of tea?”

Boris grumbled something about who his boss was and disappeared into the back room to do as he was told. I seemed to command some respect at work at least even if not at home. When he returned, he set our mugs down on the counter by the till and observed the shop.

“You’ve been busy this morning,” he pointed out. “More Divination Daily?”

“Yep,” I said, proud that he’d noticed. “Don’t forget we’ve got that meeting today with the publisher.”

Boris waved his hand in dismissal. “I won’t, I won’t. I’ve never missed a meeting with the publisher, have I?”

“No,” I conceded. “But there’s always a first for everything. I consider it my job to make sure you’re organised.”

Boris rolled his eyes and disappeared behind the bookshelves to search for something. I twiddled my thumbs, finally looking up when Matthew arrived.

“Good morning,” he said politely with a nod in my direction.

“Hullo,” I replied, taking gulp of tea. “Do you want me to make you some tea?”

Matthew shook his head. “No, thanks. Actually, I need to talk to you. Can we use your office?”

“Sure,” I said slowly. This sounded rather ominous. Matthew rarely used my office unless he brought me tea whilst I was doing the paperwork. I hoped he wasn’t going to quit his job; I didn’t want to have to interview a whole load more hopeless candidates like last time.

We went upstairs and squeezed into my tiny pigeonhole of an office. “What’s up?” I asked curiously.

“I don’t mean to pry,” he began, running his fingers through his sandy-coloured hair. I couldn’t help but notice that he was a lot closer than I was used to, his tall frame leaning towards me as he bent under the sloping roof. “And I know it’s none of my business, but I had a visit from your cousin last night. I wanted to check everything is okay.”

I grimaced, hoping that he couldn’t read the discomfort on my face. “Molly?”

“No, Lucy,” he replied, looking rather embarrassed himself. I supposed it wasn’t normal to have to offer counselling to your colleague. “She asked me to talk to you. She wants you to go and see Molly.”

I glared at him. “I’m not going to see her,” I stated forcefully. “I’m sorry that my meddling family have been interrupting your private life,” I added, considering the conversation over.

Matthew, however, didn’t seem to get the hint. He was far too nice for his own good, I supposed, not that it made the situation any less awkward. It felt odd to be discussing private matters with him. “What’s going on?”

I sighed, realising that he wasn’t going to drop it until I told him why I’d been so irritable lately. “She’s a back-stabbing, self-centred cow, that’s what’s going on,” I retorted. “I want nothing more to do with her.”

He seemed to understand what I was getting at and nodded in encouragement. “What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said with a heavy sigh. “But I’m not going to forgive her any time soon.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” he assured me. “Boris doesn’t need to know. Maybe I can help.”

“I don’t need to know what?” Boris said from the doorway.

I groaned and squished my face against my desk. “Just leave me alone,” I mumbled into the cool surface.

“What have you done?” Boris scolded Matthew indignantly. He shuffled past Boris and knelt down beside me, not before hitting his head on the sloping roof. “There, there,” he said lamely. “It’s going to be okay.”

I groaned again and tried to ignore his weird back patting technique. He was patting in circles, perhaps drawing a shape on my back that I couldn’t work out. “I hate her,” I grumbled eventually.

“I know,” Boris sympathised. “We all hate her.”

I looked up to see Boris exchanging a bewildered look with Matthew. I appreciated their moral support, but they weren’t exactly helping.

“I moved out,” I said by way of explanation. “We had an argument and I left.”

“What was the argument?” Boris asked.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I repeated sullenly. “Now, don’t you two have work you should be doing? Who’s manning the till?”

Boris and Matthew exchanged another glance, this time one of alarm, and they scampered off downstairs. Left alone in my dark office, I let out a growl of frustration. Had Molly put Lucy up to that little stunt? I couldn’t believe she’d been bothering Matthew about it; that was completely unacceptable. How was I supposed to keep my private and work lives separate if my cousins couldn’t mind their own business?

I decided that today was a day for paperwork. Not that I actually planned on being productive because I was already in too foul a mood to actually do anything useful. Instead, I found a stack of papers I’d been meaning to clear out and started practicing my origami. Mum had been a big fan of making these tiny objects out of folded paper and we’d spent hours when I was a child creating a whole new folded paper world. Focusing on folding the tiny petals of a rose took my mind off my greater troubles, and when I touched it with my wand it blossomed into life, blooming on my desk. Next I set to making a paper owl, which l fluttered around my office once finished.

Paper companions made much better ones than humans, I decided as the owl perched on top of an empty tea mug and blinked at me. They didn’t argue with you and call you rude and they certainly didn’t allow you to humiliate yourself. In fact, I didn’t know why I didn’t just leave all society and surround myself with origami. At least they couldn’t hurt me.

It was as I was thinking that when I lost my concentration and my finger slipped. I felt a sharp pain in my index finger and looked down to find myself bleeding from a paper cut. So much for origami not being able to hurt me. There probably wasn’t anything in the world that wasn’t harmful.

I heard footsteps on the stairs a few hours later and realised that the publishers had arrived. I smoothed down my skirt, which was probably creased from prolonged sitting, and poked my head around my door into the corridor.

“Ah, here’s the woman herself,” Boris said when he noticed me. He was huddled in the corridor with two tall women who looked alarmingly alike; I was going to go all out and assume they were sisters. “This is the manager, Rose Weasley,” he explained.

I was a bit taken aback by the two women. They seemed far too glamourous to be tied up in the publishing industry and I was willing to bet that they spent more time on their appearance than reading books. They both had dyed blonde hair, with immaculately styled robes. The woman on the left of Boris had a slightly crooked nose, but other than that they were strikingly flawless.

“Hello,” I said, extending my hand to both of them in turn. They both shook it firmly.

“It’s exciting to finally meet you after all we’ve heard,” the lady with the crooked nose said with a small smile. “I’m a big fan of your family.”

Oh no; please don’t let them have a crush on my Dad. I would be extremely mortified if they were Harry Potter fan girls too. They were less and less numerous as time went on and they aged, but occasionally we came across these fanatics who wouldn’t leave us alone.

“That’s nice,” I said warmly. “I’m not.”

They both giggled daintily while Boris looked at me darkly. He took that as his cue to let us into his office.

“Come in,” he said pointedly.

I joined Boris on his side of the desk and conjured a chair. We all sat down together and proceeded to stare at each other until I cleared my throat.

“So,” I started. “You’re here to tell us about the August shipment of the Hogwarts textbooks, I presume.”

“That’s right,” the lady with the non-crooked nose nodded. “We’ve brought all the relevant paperwork for you, with details of dates, titles, prices and quantities.”

“Perfect,” I said, taking a stack of parchment from her. I flicked through the pages as Boris discussed fees with the ladies. My eyes fell on the list of set textbooks and widened in horror.

“There must be some mistake,” I interrupted. All three of them turned to look at me. “All these books are by Gilderoy Lockhart. They were banned by the Department of Magical Education nearly thirty years ago - we can’t sell them as textbooks.”

The publishers frowned. “This list was set by the DME,” the crooked-nosed one said. “We don’t have a say in what they choose, we just publish as required.”

I could see what was going on here; Gilderoy Lockhart, like the slimy politician he was, had got his foot in the door of the DME and was setting his books as required reading. No doubt he’d make a killing in sales and it would build up his political profile at the same time.

“That can’t be legal,” I argued. “How can a politician provide educational books? It’s ridiculous.”

The ladies shrugged. “It’s not up to us,” one said. “You’ll have to take it up with the DME.”

“I bloody well will,” I countered, writing myself a post-it note and sticking it to the desk.

I was really quite angry about the whole thing. The potential future Minister for Magic was definitely not allowed to choose what books children did and didn’t read. He could have any number of hidden motives that weren’t immediately obvious. Maybe if you read the book backwards it said “Support Gilderoy Lockhart”, or every other word was “vote” and “lock” and “hart”. Hogwarts students should not be allowed to be brainwashed. My mother would be most disillusioned with Lockhart when she found out.

When the publishers finally left, I told Boris I was taking the afternoon off and dashed out of the shop. I didn’t really have a plan, but I was going to head towards the Ministry to see if I could sort out what I considered to be a grave educational mess.

It wasn’t far from Diagon Alley, luckily, so I took the opportunity to walk there and enjoy the May sunshine. I dug my hands in my pockets and I was surprised to feel something sharp jab my right hand. I fished around until I grabbed a small piece of card and brought it up so I could read: it was Henry Devon’s business card. I thought for a moment and decided to make him my first stop to see if he thought I had a case. He was involved in law, he would know what steps I should take.

I found the red phone box I was looking for and stepped inside. I picked up the receiver, and upon hearing the dialling tone pinned in the number that would get me inside. Nothing happened. I bashed the numbers in again, my fingers slipping slightly. The phone rang this time and I heard the click at the other end I was waiting for.

“Hullo?” I gruff male voice said on the other end.

“Hi?” I asked hesitantly. I’d visited the Ministry of Magic before and I didn’t remember this happening. “Is that the Ministry of Magic?”

There was a throaty cough on the other end of the line. “Do I sound like a flippin’ magician to you? Go an’ bother someone else with your silly little tricks.”

The dialling tone returned as he hung up and I was left utterly confused inside what was apparently the wrong telephone box. I stepped outside again and looked around. I was sure I was in the right place, but then again I thought most of London looked the same anyway. I walked around the corner and saw another telephone box, pretty much identical. I tried that one and typed the number in again.

“Is that you again? I don’t like magic tricks, sod off!”

Sighing, I realised I was going to have to try all the phone boxes in the area until I found the one I was looking for. On my fifth try I finally found the right one, feeling extremely relieved when I finally disappeared beneath the level of the pavement.

I felt like a little lost lamb when I finally stepped out of the telephone box and joined the crowds streaming to and from the atrium. I elbowed my way through dozens of wizards until I reached the reception.

“Wand, please,” the lady behind the desk said in a bored voice. I handed my wand over and waited for her to look at me.

“Hi,” I said when she caught my eye. “I’m looking for the Magical Law Enforcement department. Could you point me in the right direction?”

She flicked her wrist towards a large sign with a list of departments and their location and looked straight past me at the person behind me. Honestly, how rude did people have to be these days? It would have been just as quick for her to tell me where to go herself. I sulked off to inspect the list and discovered I needed to go up a few floors. Heading towards the lifts, I flicked the business card in my pocket. I hoped he didn’t think I was impertinent by turning up unannounced, but I felt weird about asking for a stranger’s opinion. Henry Devon wasn’t exactly a friend, but I’d met him before so he didn’t count as a stranger either.

When I strolled through the archway to the right department, I poked my head around a partition wall.

“Hello?” I called, looking around for signs of movement. The office was deathly quiet and still, except for the whirring of a strange-looking instrument coming from the empty reception. “Is there anyone there?”

I listened whilst I held my breath and heard the sound of laughter coming from the end of the long corridor. I trotted down to the other end and found a glass wall separating the corridor from what appeared to be a meeting room. About twenty witches and wizards were huddled into the room together. I cleared my throat and knocked on the glass door.

“Hi,” I said breathlessly as they all fell silent and peered at me. “I’m looking for Henry Devon.”

Henry poked his out from between two very portly-looking wizards and grinned. “Give me a second.”

I ducked out of the office and waited for him to extract himself from the fray. He slid out of the room and closed the door behind him.

“Miss Weasley,” he said, looking at me curiously. “How nice to see you again. What can I do for you?”

I smiled at his warm greeting. “I need your advice on something.”

He nodded. “Follow me.” He led me back down the corridor and into the main floor of the office. He ducked behind a partition wall and conjured a chair for me at his desk. “Take a seat,” he instructed.

I sat primly on the edge of the chair and began to explain the situation to him.

“You see,” I was saying. “I don’t think it’s right for any politician to influence the teaching of impressionable children.”

“Hmm,” Henry replied thoughtfully. “Well, I think you could have a case. The ban on those books being used in Hogwarts hasn’t yet been lifted.”

I frowned. “Yet?”

“We can assume that Lockhart has friends on the Wizengamot,” Henry explained. “He’s running for Minister, he must have connections. If you challenge the DME over this he’s likely to get involved. That’s not to say you wouldn’t win, of course.”

I sighed. “I don’t think so,” I said dejectedly. “They’re not going to listen to me over the future Minister. And if he did win the next election, he’d just change the law back anyway.”

“It’s worth pursuing. Couldn’t your Mum pull some strings? She’s pretty high up.”

I really loathed how I had to resort to using my parents to sort stuff out for me. Wasn’t there going to be anything I could do in my own right without depending on them?

“Yeah,” I said with a shrug. “I suppose.”

“Talk to her,” Henry advised. “She might have just the thing you need.”

I thanked him and scarpered out of there pretty sharpish; I could tell he was about to go all worship-y on my Mum, something which usually bored me. He had that look of reverence in his eyes when her name was mentioned.

I made my way back to work grudgingly and started when I saw a familiar face waiting for me in front of the till.

“Hi Lucy,” I said, feeling slightly suspicious. “What are you doing here?”

I knew exactly why she was here; she’d no doubt come to check if Matthew had passed on whatever message she’d given him.

“I’ve come to knock some sense into you,” Lucy informed me forcefully, glaring menacingly at me over the counter.

I sighed; I really didn’t have the energy for this. “Not literally, I hope.”

She huffed. “Stop being pedantic. I’ve come to tell you that you’re being pathetic and need to sort out your differences with Molly. Someone has to be the better person and I think you’re the most likely candidate.”

I narrowed my eyes. “You mean, I’m the one most likely to give in first? Well I’m not going to apologise first this time. Try talking to Molly instead, she’s the one with the problem.”

Lucy groaned in frustration. “You are both being idiots. Neither of you are happy like this - it doesn’t take a genius to work out what you have to do.”

“I don’t have to do anything,” I argued, trying to appear indifferent but failing massively. “You’re wasting your breath. Try convincing Molly she’s done something wrong; you might have better luck than I did.”

My young cousin didn’t look particular impressed with my tone and she narrowed her eyes dangerously. “I’m not going to let it go, Rose. Molly’s being a right pain without you around and I’m rather sick of it. Sort yourself out and go and talk to her.”

With that, she marched out of the shop and slammed the door behind her.

Matthew looked at me with an eyebrow raised. “You have lovely relatives.”

I shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said swiftly. “I’ve never seen her before in my life.”

Matthew laughed as I slid down the wall behind the till and groaned until I hit the floor. Bloody family.
 




AN: It's a bit of a roller coaster ride from here on out, but the end is creeping closer! Thank you so much for all the support, reads, reviews, and favourites - 10 reviews on the last chapter? You all made my week :) Thank you, I hope you're still enjoying. -Marina


Chapter 32: Walking Away
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Walking Away

Scorpius poked me awake with a pointy quill. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up and looked around blearily.

“What do you want? It’s my day off,” I muttered whilst trying not to snap the quill in half and chuck it at him.

“We’re going to your parents’ in a bit, don’t you want to get ready?” He sat down on the end of my bed and waited for me to stir.

“What time is it?” I asked, hugging my knees to my chest.

“It’s nearly half past ten,” he informed me. I groaned; that had been such a wonderful lie in before he’d rudely interrupted me.

“Right,” I said after a while, swinging my legs out of bed and shooing him away. “Let me get dressed without you perving on me,” I instructed with a cheeky wink. He took the hint and shut the door behind him on his way out. I rubbed my eyes again and tried to kick-start my brain.

I rifled through my suitcase, wishing that everything in it didn’t need the wrinkles charming out of them. I found a clean dress at the bottom beneath my box of foreign coins and pointed my wand at it. It hung a little straighter, thankfully, so when I put it on after my shower it would be presentable at least.

When Scorpius knocked on my door half an hour later, he was positively beaming.

"What's that face for?" I asked as I searched under the bed for my shoes.

"No reason," he said with a grin. "This just feels nice, doesn't it?"

"What does?" I wedged my feet into my heels, which hadn't been worn in a good while. I dearly hoped I wouldn't need to stand up too much today; I would soon be remembering why exactly I'd stopped wearing these shoes months ago. I tucked a couple of plasters into my handbag for safety. Who said I wasn't organised? That was forward planning at its best.

"This," he said, gesturing between us. "Us."

"There is no 'us'," I reminded him evenly as he stepped out of the way and followed me down the hallway.

"I know there's no 'us'," he corrected himself quickly. "I just meant it's nice that we're doing stuff together. I like spending time with your family."

"Right," I said.

I wasn't quite sure where he was going with this conversation but I wasn't keen to encourage it. I was only taking him with me to my parents' because my Mum had invited him. She wanted to repay him for letting me stay with him. She'd found out last week that I'd moved out of my flat after my argument with Molly. She'd tried to insist that I stay with them but I flatly refused. There was no way I'd ever go back to live with my parents again; my sanity couldn't take it.

We Apparated to my parents' hand in hand and Scorpius reached up to ring the doorbell for me.

Hugo answered the door. "Oh hi Rose," he said, looking like a chirpy bird as he did so.

I raised an eyebrow sceptically. "Why are you in such a good mood?"

He shrugged, running a hand through his unkempt ginger hair. "I dunno," he said. "Young love always cheers me up."

He simpered down at us from the doorstep. I resisted the urge to poke his eye out.

"Shut up," I snapped, pushing past him to go inside.

Both of my parents were standing not far behind Hugo, looking dressed up. Dad was bending down to do up his shoelace and Mum was rearranging her hair.

"Are you going somewhere?" I asked suspiciously.

They both looked up and Mum beamed when she saw Scorpius. "Scorpius!" she exclaimed. "It's so lovely to see you, we're so glad you came. Aren't we, Ron?" she added with a nudge to my father's ribs.

"Yes," he said in a somewhat pained voice. "Very glad."

"Why are you fetching your scarf?" I pushed, interrupting their small talk.

"Oh, didn't Scorpius tell you?" Mum said lightly. "There's been a change of plan. We're going to the Burrow."

Oh, bugger. I turned to glare at Scorpius, who looked away sheepishly. There was no way I was going to the Burrow, even though they'd all clearly set me up. They probably thought I'd play along like the naive little lamb I was and maybe seeing Molly again would make me realise I'd made a mistake and I couldn't live without her friendship. Well, that wasn't bloody likely.

"I'm not going to the Burrow," I growled.

Mum frowned. "Don't be childish, Rose," she said quietly. "No one is going to force you to talk to Molly if you're still insisting on being stubborn."

"I know what you're all up to," I hissed. "Just because I don't have as many NEWTs as you do it doesn't mean I'm stupid."

"Rose," Dad warned. "Don't talk to your mother like that."

I groaned in frustration. "Why does everyone assume I can't sort my own life out? If I wanted to talk to Molly, I would go and see her. I don't need you to organise some sort of surprise reunion."

“We’re not asking you to play happy families,” Dad interrupted. “It would mean a lot to your Gran if you came today. It’s a difficult day for her.”

My expression softened and I sighed. Dad always knew how to find my weak spot. “All right,” I conceded. “But I’m not talking to Molly.”

“That’s fine,” Dad said, placing a hand in the small of my back and pushing me towards the door. Mum frowned as though she was ashamed to have such a disobedient daughter.

We all arrived together in silence, which was surprising what with all the rackety thoughts inside my head. It was a miracle that they couldn’t hear me yelling profanities at an imaginary Molly.

Inside the Burrow, I could hear loud chatter which could only point to a large gathering of Weasleys. I wondered if it was too late to hide inside the chicken shed all day and pretend that I was ill. It would be more pleasant talking to chickens than seeing my nosy family members.

“Ron, hi!” Aunt Audrey called from the kitchen as we joined the family inside. She was putting the decorative touches on a plate of scones. She put down the jam and waltzed over to air kiss us all. “They’re all in the sitting room,” she informed us.

Scorpius gave me a significant look and I realised he wasn’t going to let me hide away all day instead of facing my relatives. We left Mum, Dad and Hugo behind to help Audrey with the food and made our way through the house. My heart was rattling around inside my ribs like nobody’s business and I was suddenly very nervous. I hadn’t seen Molly for weeks; how was I going to stay composed in the same room as her? I didn’t even know if I wanted to make a scene or not. None of our family knew why we’d fallen out and no doubt they were all hugely curious. I didn’t want to think about the impertinent questions they were just dying to ask us. Perhaps she’d already got in there first and told them all about how horrible a person I was and it was entirely my fault. Ugh.

Molly was sat between Louis and Roxanne, deep in conversation about something. I tried not to glare at them but I could already tell they’d take her side in any argument I decided to start. It was so typical of Roxanne to join whichever side I wasn’t on.

I looked for somewhere safer to sit, and was stuck with a choice between Lily and Lucy in one corner and Dominique. It really was a choice between a rock and a hard place. I really couldn’t stand Lucy and Lily’s irritating whining, so I left Scorpius standing awkwardly in the doorway whilst I went to talk to Dom.

She wasn’t necessarily glowing, but she had a touch of the pink cheek about her. She was clutching a champagne glass full of orange juice and was resting her hand on her now showing bump. She must be something like five months along now.

“Hi,” I said cautiously as I perched on an armchair beside her.

“Rose,” she said, looking slightly startled that I’d chosen to sit with her. “Hello.”

“You look well,” I offered, trying not to stare at her belly. I couldn’t believe there was a little person in there, soon to join our family in a few months. It was so weird.

“Look, I know why you’ve come over here,” she said gently. Her eyes flicked over to where Molly was throwing her head back in laughter.

“You do?”

“We all know you’ve had a fight with Molly.” She looked back at me with wide eyes. “I think I know why.”

I frowned slightly. “I don’t think you do.”

Dom shifted slightly closer to me. “I can trust you, can’t I?” she said in a very quiet voice. “You know who the father is, don’t you?”

I looked around to see if anyone was listening in. They were all absorbed in their own conversations except for Scorpius who was still standing alone in the doorway. “Yeah. Teddy. Does Victoire know?”

Dom shook her head. “Please don’t tell anyone, Rose. She’ll never forgive me.”

I bit my lip. I’d suddenly found myself in a very difficult position. Was it wrong to keep something like that from Victoire when it was so important? She was marrying him, she surely needed to know about it. She deserved the chance to leave him before it all became legally binding. I didn’t want to lie to anyone but it wasn’t my place to tell her. Either Teddy or Dom had to and there was nothing I could do about that.

“We fell out, me and Victoire,” Dom said when I’d been silent for a while. “I tried to get her to break up with him after we… you know. She wouldn’t listen to me, she said I was just jealous.”

Dominique’s bottom lip began to tremble and I was really worried she was going to start sobbing in the middle of the party.

I took her hand in mine and stroked it. “It’s going to be okay,” I lied, hoping to soothe her. Of all things, the one thing it certainly was not going to be was okay. Victoire would be devastated when she found out, which she inevitably would when she saw the baby and its hair changed colour.

“I’m such an idiot,” she whispered. “I didn’t even like him that much, I was just drunk. And now look what’s happened.”

I resisted the urge to tell her that yes, she was an idiot and that she’d ruined her sister’s happiness. She’d changed so many lives over a guy she wasn’t even that keen on. It just made it all the more clear to me how little chance I’d actually had with Teddy after all and I was so glad nothing serious ever happened. I could be thankful for that.

We sat in silence for a bit. “I’m not going to tell anyone,” I said after a while. “But I think you should tell her. She deserves to know.”

“I can’t tell her,” Dominique said in a panicked voice. “She’ll hate me.”

Then, she promptly burst into tears. Quickly, I flashed everyone in the room a smile and then took Dominique by the elbow and steered her out of the room. I took her into the larder and sat her down on an upturned bucket. I nipped out to fetch some tissues for her and ran straight into an orange fur ball.

“Making more people feel shit about themselves, I see,” Molly observed as I straightened myself out.

“Oh shut up,” I growled. “I’m not talking to you.”

Molly narrowed her eyes. “You’re not doing a very good job.” I ignored her and stalked off in search of tissues. “You can’t keep running away from your problems, Rose,” she yelled after me. “They’ll catch up with you eventually.”

I swung round and marched back up the hall towards her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’ll have to talk to me eventually,” she said with a shrug. “When you’re ready to stop being pathetic, you know where I live.”

“You know what,” I snapped. “You’re a terrible friend. You don’t even care that we’re not speaking and you clearly aren’t prepared to make the effort to fix the mess that you made. If you’re not going to try then neither should I.”

Molly raised an eyebrow. “I’m not the one who threw a tantrum and moved out. You can’t cope with the confrontation so you’d rather let other people run around trying to fix things for you. I know you’ve got Lucy on my case and quite frankly I don’t appreciate it.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked indignantly. “I haven’t had anything to do with Lucy other than the fact that she keeps nagging me to talk to you.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Molly retorted. “You’ve never been one to do your own dirty work.”

“That’s not true.” I glared at her with as much spite as possible. “That isn’t true at all,” I repeated lamely.

“Whatever, Rose,” she said. “It’s a wonder you’re coping in the real world without me.”

“What, do you think I need to rely on you?” I said heatedly. “You’ve made it quite obvious that I definitely shouldn’t and can’t rely on you, Molly. I trusted you to be honest with me and you let me down.”

“It was for your own good,” she hissed in response.

“Keep telling yourself that.”

Glaring at me one more time, she returned to the living room whilst I silently seethed in the hall. The bloody nerve of her! I didn’t need her, that was for sure. I had no intention of depending on anyone who could betray me like she did. If she expected me to come running back to her with my tail between my legs she could think again. I wanted her to realised that she’d really badly hurt me and she was in the wrong. Where did she even get the idea that she was right, anyway?

Eventually I remembered that I’d left Dominique crying in the larder and hastily fetched the tissues and returned to her.

“I’m a terrible sister,” she mumbled as she sniffled into a tissue. “I wish it had never happened.”

I sighed. Wishing that it hadn’t happened didn’t exactly help anyone. I wished Molly hadn’t been a horrible lying cow but that didn’t change anything. “Well, it did happen and now you have to deal with it.”

“I know,” she sniffed. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Talk to Victoire,” I advised gently. “She’ll find out sooner or later and it would be better if it came from you.”

“She’s not going to take it well either way.”

“No, she’s not,” I agreed. “The sooner you tell her the sooner you can start to redeem yourself. And your baby is going to want an auntie.”

I didn’t know where I was getting all this excellent advice from, but if I did say myself I wasn’t doing too bad a job of this whole thing. I looked around at the food on the shelves and found myself a packet of biscuits. I offered one to Dom but she declined, looking nauseous.

“You’re right,” she said numbly, scratching her arm with an absent mind. “I’ve got to tell her.”

I nodded. My eyes were fixated on the packet of biscuits, which seemed to be very unappealing all of a sudden. I hadn’t had much of an appetite for them recently. They reminded me too much of Molly and the good and bad times we’d had together. Biscuits without Molly just seemed too wrong.

We sat in pensive silence for a while, neither of us having anything new to say to each other. I liked to think she appreciated my company more than my talking. At least she didn’t have to feel alone for now.

“Rose, could you get me a glass of water?” she said thickly after a while. I was going to ask her why she couldn’t get her own glass when I realised she wanted to be alone. I took the hint and left her, shutting the door to the larder behind me as I went.

The kitchen was empty when I went to find a glass, everyone having moved into the sitting room to eat Audrey’s pastries. I filled the glass with water from the tap and sipped at it, giving Dominique a few more minutes to herself. She probably had a lot to think about.

I stared out of the window into the yard, trying to pinpoint when exactly all of our lives had changed. When we’d all finally left Hogwarts a few years ago it had felt like the start of a new era, but really we were all still the same, essentially. Nothing had dramatically changed, we just lived closer to home and spent more time in the pub. Now, though… now we were all growing up and growing out of ourselves faster than I could keep track of. Teddy, Victoire and Fred had all left for new countries, Molly was no longer the person I thought she was and Dominique was having a baby. When did we all get so old? I didn’t even want to think about how I’d changed. I’d thought I was in control but now I didn’t know. I had a better job, a better outlook but I was so much less in control of everything now than I ever was before.

Was it bad that I wanted things to go back to how they used to be? It was so much simpler when Molly and I were too busy locking ourselves away in broom cupboards to gossip rather than forming real connections with people. An unattainable, perfect Teddy was better than the real man who had got my cousin knocked up. What I thought I knew about my life was so irrevocably off-kilter that I couldn’t imagine how I’d ever coped before. What was it I wanted out of life? It had never mattered before but there was some ticking clock inside of me that was reminding me that things were moving on fast and I was soon going to get left behind.

The sound of the back door opening roused me from my thoughts and I looked up from the water glass to see an unexpected face at the door.

“Victoire,” I said, my throat suddenly dry despite the water. “What are you doing here?”

“Surprise!” she exclaimed, stepping inside the kitchen and revealing another unexpected face behind her.

Teddy smiled at me and gave a small wave. I was too shocked to anything but stare numbly back at them both.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Teddy joked.

“I…” I struggled to find something to say. What could I say to either of them, knowing what I knew?

Victoire looked at me curiously but didn’t question me further. She disappeared out of the kitchen to find the others, leaving me trembling in the kitchen with Teddy.

Teddy watched me, a frown slowly developing on his brow. “Say something, Rose,” he prompted.

I cleared my throat and carefully set the glass down on the table in front of me, scared that I might drop it any moment now.

“You’re back,” I managed.

Teddy nodded. “Just for the weekend. It’s Victoire’s birthday, you see.”

“Right,” I responded slowly. “Her birthday.”

Teddy’s frown deepened. “What’s the matter? You’re acting weird.”

“I’m acting weird,” I repeated. “I’m acting weird…”

“Rose, you’re scaring me a bit. What’s going on?” He took a step towards me to put a hand on my arm, but I flinched away from him.

“Don’t touch me,” I snapped. “Don’t come near me.”

He drew his hand back slowly, looking reproachfully at me. “What is the matter with you?” he said frustratedely. “I thought you’d be pleased to see me.”

“You thought I’d be pleased to see you,” I repeated derisively, grimacing.

“Will you stop repeating everything I say and just tell me what the hell is going on?” he retorted.

“Do you really want me to do that?” I asked angrily. “I tell you what, why don’t I tell the whole family what’s going on?”

“What are you talking about?” he said dangerously.

“I know, Teddy,” I said with as much venom as I could muster. His eyes widened as he realised what I was talking about. “I know about you and Dom and the baby. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t tell everyone what a lying, cheating scumbag you are.”

I couldn’t stop trembling. I felt weak. I clutched the table in front of me for support, hoping that he hadn’t noticed how close I was to crying.

“Rose…” he started quietly, then stopped to reconsider. He ran his hands through his hair and sank down into a chair at the table. He seemed unable to find any other words to say. I managed to regain my composure and I sat down on the edge of the chair opposite him across the table. I passed him the glass of water, which he gladly drank from.

“I couldn’t believe it at first,” I told him in a low voice. “I didn’t want to believe it. I thought I loved you,” I admitted, which caused him to look up at me. “I respected you, idolised you. We all grew up together, Teddy. You know everything about us. But I didn’t know enough about you, did I?” I smiled ruefully to myself. “I’d never have you pegged down as the one who would break Victoire’s heart.”

“Please,” he begged softly, his voice thick with desperation. “Please don’t tell Victoire.”

“I won’t,” I assured him darkly. “But Dominique will.”

“No,” he shook his head forcefully. “No she can’t. I won’t lose her, Rose. She’s all I have.”

I sighed. “You’re going to have a baby, Teddy. Dominique is going to need your support.”

“I know.”

“You can’t leave her alone on this. She won’t cope.” I watched as he squirmed in his seat. He was clearly weighing up the consequences of what he’d done.

“She has all the family,” he whispered. “She won’t be alone.”

I recoiled at the implications of his words “You disgust me,” I said in horror. “You’re going to let her do this by herself, aren’t you? She has to live with what you did but you expect to just walk away and continue playing happy families with Victoire? You’re worse than I thought.”

I stood up, pacing the kitchen in order to expel some of my adrenaline. I felt like I was going to throw up. How could he even think those things? He was prepared to bail on Dom now, after all they’d been through together? They’d grown up together, they’d been friends and lovers and now they had created a life and he was going to just walk away. I was struggling to breathe I felt so horrified.

“It’s not like that,” he said wearily from the table.

I stopped pacing and turned towards him, clenching my fists. “You have to tell Victoire,” I said decisively. “Before someone else does.”

Teddy looked up, startled. Victoire stood in the doorway, half a smile dying on her lips.

“Tell me what?”

*

I was on tea duty. Pretty much everyone had gone home or hidden in another room to leave Teddy, Victoire and Dominique alone in the sitting room. I clutched the tray tightly in my hands and knocked on the closed door with my forehead. There was a muffled “come in” from Dominique and I nudged the door open with my knee.

The room was eerily quiet after the humdrum of conversation from family members earlier. The room felt so much larger without them all perching on sofa arms or tables. All three of them were sitting on different pieces of furniture, keeping a safe distance. Victoire looked like she might throw up, her face coated in smudged make up and tears. Dominique was looking at the floor and Teddy had his head in his hands. I placed the tray on the coffee table in the middle of the room and retreated hastily.

The door clicked shut behind me and I returned to the stairs to join Scorpius, who was sitting on the bottom step with a bemused expression on his face.

“How’s it looking?” he asked.

I bit my lip briefly, considering. “I don’t know,” I said truthfully. “There’s lots of crying going on.”

“Do you think they’ll split up?”

“I think so. I would if it were me,” I answered.

I couldn’t see how Victoire would ever trust Teddy again after this. He’d not only cheated on her, but done so with her sister who was now pregnant. It was the worst of all possible scenarios. There was no hope for them now. I felt extremely sorry for Victoire; her whole life was now turned upside down. Perhaps Teddy was so keen to move to France with her because he thought he would be safe from any rumours. He should have known he’d get caught out eventually. Of all people to trust with a secret, James wouldn’t have been my first choice.

Scorpius and I sat in silence as we tried to listen through the wall. We couldn’t really hear anything, which meant that either they were all sat in silence or that the walls were too thick to hear through.

It wasn’t much longer after that when the sitting room door opened and Teddy emerged, eyes watery and face pale, and left without saying a word. I hesitated, wondering if I should go after him. I caught Scorpius’s eye and he seemed to understand. He nodded encouragingly, and I ducked out of the house and followed Teddy outside.

“Teddy,” I called, trotting to catch up with him. My heels were slowing me down, so I reached down to pull them hastily off my feet and chucked them on the ground. “Wait a minute.”

He stopped in his tracks and slowly turned to face me. He looked lost, like the whole world was weighing him down.

“Is this it, then?” I asked.

He sighed. “I knew it had to happen one day,” he admitted. “She deserves better than me. It’s only fair that I leave.”

I wasn’t going to argue with that; I didn’t think any of the family would forgive him any time soon. “What about Dominique?”

“I’ll do my bit for her and the baby,” he told me. “But Victoire and I need space. I can’t be a part of the family from now on.”

I hoped that one night stand had been worth it, I thought sadly. He and Dominique had thrown their lives away in the heat of the moment and now all that was left was a heck of a lot of awkward moments. How was he going to be around to support Dominique without being reminded of everything he’d had with Victoire?

“So this is goodbye,” I mused.

“It is,” he said sadly. “I’m sorry,” he added as an afterthought. I could see in his eyes that he sincerely meant it, but what use were words now? It was his actions that had changed my family forever. “You’re right, what I did was disgusting.”

I almost shook my head in disbelief that we were having this conversation. Six months ago I wouldn’t have been able to fathom the possibility of all this; I would have thought it absurd. I idolised Teddy, I thought he was the good guy, but the more I got to know him the more I realised that he wasn’t perfect.

I didn’t disagree with him. I no longer had to console him or tell him things would get better. I had a duty to Victoire and Dominique, even after what she did, and my family; Teddy was not my concern.

“Goodbye, then,” I said quietly. Teddy moved to kiss my cheek but I avoided him and turned away.

“Goodbye, Rose,” he called after me as I walked back into the house.

I didn’t look back, I didn’t respond, I just left him standing there as I walked away and ejected him from my life.



AN: Yay for quick updates! Only four more chapters to go, though, so every update is slightly bittersweet. Let me know what you think and thank you so much for all the reads/reviews/chatter that I get elsewhere. I'm going to miss your feedback more than anything else when this is over. -Marina. 


Chapter 33: St. Mungo's
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St. Mungo's

My morning alarm went off in the shape of Scorpius prodding me in the thigh with a pot of hair gel, over a week after the revelation. I kicked him away in retaliation and rolled over so I wasn’t facing him. He sat on my legs in response until I couldn’t bear the pain any longer and reproachfully got up.

Our routines were becoming worryingly habitual. I knew how Scorpius liked his coffee in a morning and how long he took in the shower. When he broke something, he almost always needed to reparo it twice because his spells weren’t the best. I was getting used to my new living arrangements in the house of a man I never would have thought I’d be friends with. If only Molly could see me now…

I knew what my family thought about my situation. They thought that Molly and I had fallen out because I wanted to live with Scorpius, who was my boyfriend but I was refusing to admit it. They could think whatever they wanted; it wasn’t like me denying it would sway their opinion anyway. Rumours about my life spread as fast and as inaccurately as Chinese whispers and I wasn’t going to be able to stop them.

My parents popped in to see me the other day, bringing with them news about Victoire, Dominique and Teddy. Teddy had gone back to France for an unspecified period of time, for which I was glad. None of us really needed him to be around at this particular moment in time. Victoire probably never wanted to see him again, which unfortunately wasn’t possible when he had to stick around to support Dom and the baby. Mum said that Victoire wasn’t talking to anyone and was just spending her time wandering around her parents’ house in tears, whilst Dominique was avoiding her as much as possible.

I wondered what my grandparents thought of all this. It was surprising my Gran hadn’t decapitated both Dominique and Teddy, to be honest. Family dinners were going to be very uncomfortable in future, I could tell. At least for once I wouldn’t be feeling under pressure to behave myself if all the attention was on them.

“We should go out for dinner or something tonight,” Scorpius said, walking into the bathroom while I was in the middle of a shower.

“Scorpius!” I shrieked, covering myself with my hands. “You can’t just walk in here! I thought I’d locked the door.”

“You had,” he informed me, sitting down on top of the toilet lid. “But I used my wand to open it.”

I sighed. He obligingly turned away whilst I wrapped myself in a towel. “I’m not going to go out with you again.”

“I don’t mean dinner like a date,” he clarified. “I just thought we should do something different.”

I grabbed my toothbrush and started to brush my teeth. “No,” I said through a mouthful of toothpaste.

“Pleeeasse?” he begged.

I shook my head and continued to brush my teeth. He looked dejected and flounced out of the bathroom, leaving me in peace. I struggled not to roll my eyes at his persistence, but he seemed to be losing determination now to keep asking me out.

When I left for work, I felt almost cheerful. Now that the Dominique and Teddy thing was out in the open I didn’t need to worry so much. I had no obligation to do anything, I didn’t have to keep it a secret and knowing that was a relief. Now the only thorn in my side was that Molly hadn’t apologised yet, and probably never would. She was so bloody frustrating.

Matthew was already making tea when I arrived at the shop, looking a bit off colour. He handed me my mug and ducked behind the till whilst I went up to my office. He was acting very oddly, but it was a Monday morning; perhaps he’d had a rough weekend.

I sagged into my desk chair and searched in the drawers for my emergency packet of biscuits. I’d stopped eating them since Molly and I argued out of protest but my resolve was breaking, what with all the drama. I munched on a ginger biscuit thoughtfully and dragged out my massive pile of invoices to sort through. This was the part of the management job I hated; all the paperwork, the number crunching, the organising. Still, at least I didn’t have to do as much admin as Boris, who spent most of his time trying to fix his abacus after he took his frustration out on it.

My eyes were just beginning to droop midway through the morning when there was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” I called, hastily hiding the empty biscuit packet in the nearest desk drawer.

Matthew poked his head round the door. “Rose, could you come down to the shop a second? There’s someone who wants to see you.”

I looked at him suspiciously. “If it’s Molly, I’m not coming downstairs.”

“It’s not,” he assured me. “It’s a healer.”

A healer? There was nothing wrong with me, I was pretty sure. I thought about my health quickly and double-checked that I was in good shape. I hadn’t been ill in ages, unless you counted mentally ill, in which case I was probably very close if not already there. Maybe someone had sent for the healers to sort out my issues; maybe Molly had sent them as some sort of revenge.

“Right.”

I picked up my empty mug and followed Matthew downstairs to the shop floor where a healer stood next to the counter in her work robes.

“Rose Weasley?” she asked as I approached her.

“Yes, that’s me,” I said curiously. I was getting a weird sense of foreboding. Since when did healers just turn up and ask to speak to me personally?

“I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.”

Oh God, please no.

*

I clutched Matthew’s hand for support as I trembled. How had everything been so normal this morning when this was about to happen? Shouldn’t there have been thunder and lightning and rain? Why weren’t the people on the street crying? How was life still continuing?

St. Mungo’s was a weird place, I decided as we perched in the waiting room. There were so many people facing the extremes of life under one roof and the air was charged with conflicting emotions. I couldn’t stop shaking despite Matthew’s efforts to comfort me.

“Miss Weasley? Mr Jones?” A healer had popped her head round the door of an office. “Come in.”

I couldn’t let go of Matthew’s hand even if I’d wanted to and I was grateful that he was still holding onto me. I felt faint and nauseous and my head was spinning.

We found ourselves in a small room with a desk and a few chairs. There wasn’t much to show that this was the place where so many people had had their hopes and dreams either revived or dashed. Sat on her own in front of the desk sat Boris’s wife, her hands clutching a handkerchief. She turned when she heard us come in and didn’t bother to wipe away her tears.

“Thank you,” she mumbled as Matthew and I sat down beside her and took her hands in our own. She burst into fresh tears and started sobbing weakly.

I couldn’t make sense of the moment in my head. I was half expecting Boris to walk into the office, smile and tell us it was his late April Fools joke. But he didn’t no matter how much I wanted him to. I was still having trouble processing the fact that this morning he was still my boss and now he was gone forever.

I was expecting more people to turn up to support Boris’s wife (whose name I discovered was Linda) but we were the only visitors. Did Boris not have any family or friends she could ask to see her?

After an hour had passed, I instructed Matthew to return to work and close the shop for the day and then go home. There was no point in either of us trying to act like normal when Boris… I didn’t know how we would ever go back to normal again.

“Will you be okay tonight?” I asked Linda after Matthew had left. “You shouldn’t stay at home on your own. Why don’t you come back with me?”

She nodded numbly, holding onto me tightly as I went to find a healer and explain where we were going. They’d need to contact her about paperwork but that could wait for another day when she wasn’t in complete shock. Once that was done, I found a fireplace and shakily flooed back to Scorpius’s.

He was on his lunch break and looked startled to see me arrive with a companion. He was about to ask a question but I gave him a look that told him not to even go there and he nodded. I settled Linda in the living room before handing her the bottle of firewhiskey. As I disappeared into the kitchen in search of a bar of chocolate Scorpius followed me.

“Who’s that?” he whispered, watching me as I fumbled with the catch on one of the cupboards. He reached around me and undid the lock for me.

“Linda, Boris’s wife,” I said, feeling the emotion build inside me before I had time to compose myself. “Boris… he died, Scorpius. He’s dead.”

I felt myself crying before I could wipe the tears away. Scorpius pulled me into a hug and I clung to him shakily. I was in shock, having finally said the words out loud made it ten times as real and so much worse. I felt dizzy with nausea, my heart pounding erratically inside my chest as I tried not to lose it completely. I had to be strong for Linda, who was surely going through the worst day of her life, but the thought of going to work tomorrow and Boris not being there terrified me.

“What happened?” Scorpius asked when I slipped from his embrace.

“He cracked his skull after falling from a magic carpet,” I told him sadly, realising that it could have been Scorpius or me that had killed ourselves that day when Boris gave us tickets to see the racing for our Valentine’s Day present. It was a bloody dangerous sport. I should have warned Boris not to continue racing; I had seen how risky it was that day in February and I hadn’t said anything. Perhaps if I’d said something Boris might still be alive.

I left Scorpius and went to give Linda the chocolate. She didn’t seem capable of saying much but she gave me a grateful but watery smile. After some firewhiskey, she simply lay down and curled herself into a ball.

I felt exhausted. I couldn’t face watching Linda all day. My heart ached with sadness for her loss and seeing her like this only made it more painful. I didn’t want to think what she was going through. How could she go on knowing that her best friend was gone? Who would she talk to at the end of the day? Who was going to look after her when she felt lonely or ill or down? She’d lost the one person who loved her more than anyone else in the world and she would never get him back.

I wiped my eyes and blew my nose as quietly as I could. “Can you take the afternoon off work?” I asked Scorpius. “There’s something I need to do. Will you stay with her?”

Scorpius smiled encouragingly. “Yes, of course. Will you be alright?”

“I will be,” I told him.

It was the first time I was ringing this doorbell, I thought strangely ten minutes later. Waiting on the front steps felt weird, but I couldn’t very well barge in when I technically didn’t live here anymore.

When she flung the door open, she gave me a strange look. “Finally come to apologise, have you?” she asked. I shook my head. She observed my tearstained cheeks and puffy eyes. “What’s the matter?”

“Boris died,” I told her weakly. Her face seemed to lose its hard expression and she stood back from the door.

“You better come in,” she said softly, letting me pass before she shut the door behind her.

I sat on the sofa quietly whilst she made a pot of tea and arranged some biscuits on a plate. It felt so odd to be sat in my own flat being looked after like a guest. Perhaps she would have looked after me like this even if I was still living here.

“Talk,” she instructed when she joined me.

I sighed deeply, wondering how to start without crying. “He was involved in a racing accident. He’s gone. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

I felt so much calmer in her presence; perhaps it was because she was ordering me about again, but I didn’t need to think about how to behave because she knew me so well. She knew when to let me be and she knew when I needed a bit of help.

“You don’t have to do anything right now,” she said. “Things will change tomorrow, but right now just take the time to let it sink in.”

My lower lips trembled. “I feel so sorry for his wife. She looked broken, Mol.”

Molly let me rest my head against her shoulder. I closed my eyes and relaxed for the first time all day. “That’s what happens when you lose someone you love. She feels lost without him, I’m sure. Just make sure you’re there for her so she can see that one day, things will get better. She won’t be alone forever.”

I let her words sink in. I opened my eyes, sitting up to face her. “I don’t want to lose you too,” I said quietly.

“You haven’t lost me, Rosie,” she responded softly, giving me a squeeze. “I’ve lost you because I was stupid and arrogant.”

“You haven’t lost me either,” I told her, smiling blearily. “I just wish you’d told me the truth.”

“I know,” she said. “I’m sorry.”

I rested my head back on her shoulder and let the weight lift off me. She’d said the words I never thought I would hear from her lips and for now it was exactly what I needed to hear. I didn’t have to go through this alone; Molly knew me like no one else and she wouldn’t let this get the better of me.

“I’m sorry too,” I told her.

*

Linda barely slept that night. I could hear her tossing and turning on the transfigured sofa from my room. I couldn’t blame her really; who would be able to sleep after the day she’d had? I was struggling to sleep and it wasn’t my husband who had fallen off a magic carpet.

When Scorpius woke me up he didn’t do it with his usual energy. He poked my thigh gently then crawled into bed beside me and stroked my face.

“Scorpius,” I groaned groggily. “Stop it. I feel violated.”

He snatched back his hand and huffed. “I thought you’d want comforting.”

“I do,” I said with a sigh. “But there other ways of cheering me up than crawling into my bed touching me.” I pushed him out of bed and clambered over him to go and get breakfast.

“So you’re going into work today?” he asked curiously as I shrugged on a dressing gown.

“Isn’t that why you woke me up?”

“I just thought you might be taking compassionate leave or something,” he suggested.

I walked through to the kitchen, Scorpius following close behind me. “Someone has to open the shop,” I informed him in a braver tone than I thought I could manage.

“Let Matthew do it,” he said. “You’re in shock. I’ll stay with you, we can just take it easy.”

I honestly could not think of anything worse than being holed up in his house with him and Boris’s wife. No, I needed to pretend like everything was as normal or otherwise I feared I would wallow so much in self-pity and sorrow that I never would resurface. I couldn’t leave Matthew to keep the shop going whilst I took time off. There was so much to do that I didn’t want to leave it for later. I needed to do it now while the pain was fresh so I could heal sooner.

“Moping around here all day isn’t going to help anything,” I retorted. “I need to keep my mind busy.”

I helped myself to a bowl of cereal but found that I couldn’t eat it without feeling sick. I pushed the soggy flakes around the pool of milk and realised there was no point in trying. The thought of eating didn’t really seem very high on my list of priorities right now; there was too much going on in my head for a new sensation on top of everything else.

Finally, I escaped his eternal questioning and left, instructing him to look after Linda whilst I was gone. I would come back to check on her at lunchtime, but I had a feeling she was going to finally doze off at some point this morning when she’d stopped staring straight ahead at the wallpaper.

Letting myself into the shop that morning was one of the hardest things I could ever remember doing. I stood outside, facing the “Closed” sign with an enormous sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. Perhaps I had come back too soon; I definitely wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with this just yet. Then again, would I ever be? I was the manager, I had certain responsibilities and one of them involved taking charge when things went pear-shaped. Boris trusted me with this job and I wasn’t going to let a little thing like his death get in the way of my duty… was I? It was all very well thinking about going in and being a strong adult and keeping a stiff upper lip, but inside I felt very small and afraid. Standing trembling in front of the door was about all I could manage.

I heard footsteps splashing behind me in puddles I hadn’t noticed. Matthew stood beside me, wrapping an arm around my shoulder and letting me rest my head on his chest. We stood there together for a long time, staring at the shop like we’d never before seen something so bewilderingly sad and difficult. Eventually, he dropped his arm and squeezed my hand.

“Ready?” he asked quietly, holding his keys out for me to take.

My hand trembling, I picked them up and slid the key into the lock.

“I don’t think I ever will be,” I mumbled, tears spilling from my eyes.




AN: PLEASE please don't hate me! 


Chapter 34: Courage
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Courage

When Scorpius prodded me awake, a heavy sense of dread filled the pit of my stomach. It was ten days after Boris had died and I would be attending the funeral later. I grimaced at the thought of it; I’d never been to a funeral before and I was sort of expecting the worst. Lots of people sobbing and wailing, Boris’s corpse smiling up at us from an open coffin… I was a bit jittery about the whole thing. Of course, when Linda, Boris’s wife, had invited me, I felt like I should go. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go and pay my respects and offer her some moral support, but I could do that without having to witness the emotional trauma that was supposedly attached to funerals.

“You must wear black,” Molly had instructed when I’d visited her the night before to sort out what I was going to wear. “But not too much black, you don’t want to look morbid. Trust me, I’m very good at dressing for funerals.”

I didn’t doubt that; most of her mum’s side of the family had popped their clogs quite regularly in the last ten years and she’d managed to attend all of their funerals.

“Black, but not too much black,” I had repeated. A bit bewildered, I’d returned to my upturned suitcase and rummaged through my clothes until I found my black robes and coupled them with some grey shoes. There: black, but not too black, even if it didn’t really go.

“I don’t want to go,” I mumbled now to Scorpius as he continued to poke my knee. “Don’t make me go.”

He jabbed my knee a bit harder. “Don’t be so pathetic,” he scolded. “Funerals aren’t that bad. It’s polite to go.”

“I hate being polite,” I muttered into my pillow. I was about to shut my eyes and go back to sleep, but Scorpius unceremoniously grabbed my ankles and hauled me out of bed. “Okay, I’m up, I’m up,” I protested, shaking him off. He grinned with satisfaction, stealing the duvet from the bed and marching out of the door.

I grumbled as I found the shower and started to wake up. He’d probably put me in a bad mood now for the rest of the day. As much as I appreciated his wake-up calls, he didn’t exactly always trigger a good frame of mind.

When I was ready to leave, Scorpius gave me an encouraging hug and sent me off with an overenthusiastic wave. If he was honest, this was probably the happiest time of his life so far. It was so obvious that he really enjoyed looking after me and playing host. He hadn’t even been too lecherous with me, thankfully, so it was a lot less awkward living with him than I thought it would be. It wasn’t a patch on living with Molly though, I had come to realise, and it was almost time for me to eat my humble pie and return to my flat.

I arrived at a church tucked away behind a street of houses near to where Linda lived. It had that eerie silence about it that always made me think of magic; there were clearly some enchantments on the place to keep any wandering Muggles out. The church itself was a small stone building with a tiny spire, surrounded by a patchwork of old and newer graves. I tried not to read any of the names on the headstones in case I recognised the family and made me feel even sadder than I already was. I hadn’t even noticed that I was trembling slightly.

Opening the oak door to the church, I poked my head inside and saw Linda hovering at the front of the aisle, polishing the coffin lid morosely. There was no one else in the church, so I assumed I was a bit early. As I approached her, I saw that she was crying freely, tears splashing on the newly polished wood to be wiped away by her cloth almost immediately.

“Linda?” I prompted gently as she squirted more polish onto the wood. She jumped as my words echoed around the arches of the old building.

“Rose,” she said as she turned around. “Thank you so much for coming.” She pulled me into a tight hug which lasted a lot longer than I was comfortable with. Eventually I prised myself free and took a seat at a pew whilst I waited for more people to arrive.

The silence was getting to be a bit oppressive after a while; only one other person had arrived to pay their respects and he had sat down at the very back of the church, pretty much as far away from me and Linda with the coffin as he possibly could. I was longing for Matthew to arrive so he could make the tension a little less noticeable.

He finally arrived, wrapped in a wool coat very well suited for the cool of the church, giving Linda a consoling kiss on the cheek before joining me near the front.

“Finally,” I said with a relieved smile.

He looped his arm around the crook of my elbow and held my hand in his. I was gripping his hand a little harder than was probably appropriate, but it was the only way to stop myself actually thinking about the day ahead. If I could stop my hands trembling, I could prevent myself from crying too.

“Do you need a bit of Dutch courage?” he asked, pulling a silver hip flask from his pocket. I took it from him with my free hand and sipped at the fiery liquid within. I instantly felt warmer. I sipped at the flask again before handing it back to him so he could drink. “Have you brought plenty of tissues?”

“Um.” I dug around in my pocket and found only an empty chocolate wrapper. It had been a while since I’d worn these robes and clearly the last thing I used them for was to hide evidence of a midnight feast. “No.”

Matthew handed me a clean handkerchief and smiled. “I know I’ll be crying like a baby soon so I came prepared.”

I smiled with him, appreciating the warmth of his hand on mine and the support he was offering me today when I was ready to feel very alone and scared for my future. I hadn’t talked to Matthew about it, but I didn’t know what was going to happen with the shop. Linda hadn’t said anything about change of ownership, so I imagined she was going to come out of retirement and take over Boris’s job. I hoped that meant that both mine and Matthew’s full time jobs were secure (I didn’t really care much for the part-time assistants, who spent more time reading magazines than they did selling books).

“We should do this properly, you know,” Matthew said quietly.

“What?” I asked, confused. “Cry at funerals?”

“No,” he said with a grin highly inappropriate for anyone’s funeral. He waggled the hip flask in front of us. “Have a drink.”

“Oh,” I responded. Was he asking me out at a funeral? “Really?”

“Really. I’ve been thinking that life is much too short and if I do fall off a magic carpet in the near future, I want to die knowing that I’ve taken you out for a drink.”

I raised my eyebrows. “That’s a bit morbid, isn’t it?”

“Is it?” he asked with an apologetic shrug. “It sounded a lot better in my head, I must admit.”

I found that I had to fight the urge to laugh, which probably wouldn’t have been that appropriate given the circumstances. I looked at Matthew, his sandy hair flopping over his eyes and a silly grin on his face and decided there was no harm in it. He was right; if Boris had taught us anything, it was that life was very short indeed. I nodded.

“I’d like that,” I told him as the organist struck up a chord and began a very grim choice of funeral march. “I’d like that a lot.”

I couldn’t help it; I was almost on the verge of both laughing and crying. Only at Boris’s funeral would there be something so depressing as this tune. I hoped Linda hadn’t noticed my weird screwed up face as I tried to control my conflicting emotions. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be sad, because I knew it was highly appropriate to feel very sad that we’d lost Boris, but at the same time the organist was playing as many wrong notes as she was correct ones. In many ways, it was strangely cathartic. Even though something completely unexpected and shocking had happened, we were all coping. Life went on.

After the service, we trooped outside to watch as Boris’s coffin was lowered into the ground, gone forever. I hadn’t let go of Matthew’s hand and it didn’t strike me as odd; it felt so natural to hold onto him and so comforting to know he was holding onto me too. We said our own goodbyes to Boris, walking away hand in hand from Linda as she said her own private words to her husband.

“Rose!” Linda called after me as we reached the graveyard gate. “Wait!”

I turned, finally letting go of Matthew’s hand and feeling a cool breeze on my palm where his hand had been.

“I need to talk to you about something,” Linda said quickly, as if she was worried that I wasn’t going to wait for her to finish talking. “Have you got a moment?”

“Sure,” I said. I looked behind me and saw Matthew was waiting for me, leaning on the wall and staring off into the distance.

Linda chewed on her lip, a technique I often used to hold back tears. “Well,” she said after she’d managed to evade tears. “We need to talk about the shop, now that Boris…” She paused, wiping her fingers across the bottom of her eyes. “Now that Boris… well, we need someone to run the shop. As you know, we have no family, at least none who would handle the responsibility.” She wiped her eyes again. “I was wondering if you would consider discussing the possibility of taking over the shop?”

I stared at her, this little dumpy lady about to burst into tears, and almost hugged her. “Are you serious?” I asked incredulously. “You want me to run the shop?”

Linda nodded. “We can do all the required paperwork; we can transfer it into your name and everything. There’s no way I’d be able to keep the shop profitable and you know it better than anyone else. Boris would have wanted you to have it.”

I couldn’t think of anything else to say other than “thank you”, wrapping Linda up in a massive hug. I turned to Matthew with a huge grin on my face, joining him by the wall and slipping my hand in his.

“You’re looking at your new boss,” I informed him as he held the gate open for me.

“You were already my boss,” he said mildly, not able to stop himself from smiling in return.

“I’m double your boss now,” I told him. “Linda’s given me the shop.”

His eyes widened, and then he pulled me into his arms and spun me around. “That’s wonderful, Rose!”

I grinned, blushing slightly when he set me down. “Well, don’t think I’m going to go easy on you,” I said sternly. “I’m going to insist every employee has a biscuit with their tea.”

He pulled a face. “I hate you already.”

There was so much to be done, I realised as we walked to a safe Apparition point. I had to clear Boris’s office out for a start, something that I had been putting off since he died. I didn’t want to face a room that was so obviously his, littered with both his possessions and joint memories. He’d tried to hide in there when he’d been having problems with Linda, where I had found him crying and sniffling in the dark. It was strange to think that Linda had thought I was involved with Boris then, especially now that I knew her a bit better. At least they had made up before it had been too late.

I realised that I was going to miss Boris incredibly. His mood swings had been intolerable and he had been a rather unpredictable boss, but I had liked that about him. It made working at Flourish and Blotts a very unique experience and compared to his slapdash way of life I always felt normal.

We needed new employees, new salaries, a new manager… “Matthew?” I asked as we prepared to Apparate. “Would you be interested in taking the manager job?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” he said with a grin. “We’ll sort it out on Monday. Don’t worry about it for now.”

And, just like that, I stopped worrying.

*

When I arrived back at Scorpius’s later, he greeted me with a beady eye.

“Where have you been?” he asked suspiciously. I grinned at him. “You look too happy to have been at the funeral all this time.”

“I went back to work to finish off some bits and pieces,” I said, defending myself.

“Hmm,” he said, eyes squinting at me and lips pouting. “Why are you so cheerful?”

I grinned, grabbing him by the arms and twirling him around in a circle. “I got a promotion,” I sang, beaming.

“A promotion?” he asked, falling out of my twirling very ungracefully. “To what?”

“Linda’s given me the shop,” I told him, skipping around the hallway in glee. “I’m a shop owner, Scorpius! I’ve got my own business. I’m going up in the world.” He tried to look pleased for me, I thought, but he sort of looked a bit downtrodden. I sighed heavily. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing,” he said petulantly. “It’s just, you’re not going to have time for me now you’re all important and stuff.”

I rolled my eyes. “Of course I’ll have time for you,” I told him. “When I have I ever not had time for you?” He looked at me as if to say, you know exactly when, and didn’t say anything in return. I sighed, admitting that he had a point. “Look, I’m going to be busy, but not too busy to hang out with you. Don’t worry about it.”

He shrugged, disappearing into his room to go and sulk or something. Honestly, that boy was so moody. I retreated into the kitchen to make him a cup of coffee as a way of saying sorry when the doorbell rang.

Scorpius clearly wasn’t coming out of his room so I went to answer the door. Dominique stood on the doorstep, looking slightly sheepish.

“Hi,” I said, wondering how she knew where I was and what on Earth she was doing here.

“Hello,” she replied distantly. “Can I come in?”

“Erm.” I looked behind me to check that Scorpius hadn’t decided to suddenly sneak up on me. “Okay.”

I took her into the living room and offered her coffee, which she declined.

“I need to say sorry,” Dom said after I continued to wait for her to speak. She held her hands over her bump and looked down at the floor. “I know everyone’s very disappointed and angry at me for what I did, but I never meant for it to do this to the family.” She looked up at me to see my reaction. I remained pretty impassive, waiting for her to finish. “I know it’s driven Victoire and me apart, and you and Teddy, and you and Molly. I know I’ve made a mess of everything but I love our family and I want them to love my baby too.”

I looked at my cousin from her swelling stomach to her begging eyes and knew it wasn’t my place to hold a grudge; only Victoire had that right. “I wish you hadn’t done it,” I said truthfully. “But I’m sure you feel the same way. If Victoire can forgive you, then so can I.”

Dominique gave me a watery smile. “Thanks, Rosie. I didn’t want everyone to find out the way they did. I was going to tell Victoire, I really was, but it was so difficult to find the right moment.”

“How is she?” I asked, ignoring her empty assurances that she was going to tell her sister that she’d slept with her fiancé.

“She’s…” Dominique trailed off as she searched for the right words. “She’s angry and hurt. She and Teddy were together for ten years.” She swallowed, looking exceptionally guilty, which I thought was only right and just. She should feel extremely guilty, at least for a decent period of time. Victoire was no doubt feeling a hundred times worse than Dom was right now. “She’s adjusting to the idea, I think. I thought she wasn’t going to talk to me ever again, but she wants to try and forgive me.”

I nodded. “It’ll take her a long time, I suppose,” I mused. “Don’t rush her.”

Dominique nodded too. “I know. I won’t.” She smiled ruefully. “I hope you’ll forgive me in time, too.”

She left soon after, probably to visit the next cousin on her list of apologies to be made. I did feel incredibly sorry for her; no doubt her evening was full of awkward explanations and apologies, but I supposed it was needed if Victoire was ever going to forgive her. I buried my face in my hands and let out an exhausted sigh. I felt so much older now than I ever had before; things had changed so much that I could barely believe I was still twenty-three years old. A lifetime seemed to have passed since my last birthday that it didn’t really make sense that I was still the same age. Matthew was right; life was incredibly short.




AN: So hopefully this update brings my 400th review on this story! Once again, and I know it's repetitive but it's so important that I say this: thank you so much to every person who reads and reviews. I'm so sad we've got two more left after this and I don't know quite what I'll do. I do have a new novel planned, so I'd be grateful to see you all again when that pops up. Love and hugs, Marina. 

 


Chapter 35: Family
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Family

I finally retrieved the last odd sock from under an armchair and stuck it in my suitcase. I was ready, physically, to move back in with Molly but whether I was mentally ready or not remained to be seen. Yesterday’s events had given me much food for thought and I had finally decided that the time had come to admit that we were both wrong about some things and move on from where we were. What if she fell off a magic carpet today without me ever telling her how much I loved her? I couldn’t leave things as they were. We were better than before Boris died, but we weren’t completely fixed just yet. I didn’t care if I had to pretend like it was all my fault, I wanted Molly back in my life permanently again.

When I rang our doorbell, I was slightly nervous. What if she wasn’t ready to let me move back in again? Admittedly we’d bought the flat together, but even so it didn’t mean she would make my life easy if I just turned up and lived with her if she didn’t want me there. I was almost crossing my fingers for luck in the hope that she’d accept me back without question.

“Rose?” She looked surprised to see me there, standing with my suitcase in the shadow of heavy clouds. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m moving back in,” I insisted, pushing past her and dragging my suitcase inside. She followed me all the way into my bedroom, where I hauled my suitcase onto the bed and turned to her triumphantly. “I’ve had a weird few weeks and I’ve realised that life is too short to be angry at you.”

Molly grinned. Stepping forward, she pulled me into a tight hug and refused to let me go. “Oh Rosie, I’m so relieved. I thought you were going to be angry with me for a lot longer than this.”

I pulled away from her and smiled. “I’m not very good at holding grudges,” I said with a shrug. “Believe me, I’ve tried really hard.”

She looked me up and down, barely concealing her glee. “I knew you’d cave eventually,” she said smugly. “Now, let’s go have a cup of tea and biscuit.”

When we’d sat down with the requisite snacks, I turned to face her with as serious a look as I could muster. “You have to promise you won’t lie to me again,” I said. “You have to tell me everything.”

“Everything?” she said unsurely.

“Well, important things,” I amended. “Unless someone has made you swear on your Mum’s life that you won’t tell anyone, in which case I’ll let you off.”

“Okay,” she conceded. She held out her hand and I shook it. “I promise to tell you everything. But you have to promise to not be so critical of everyone all the time.”

I frowned, trying not to be insulted. I found that, in fact, I wasn’t offended at all. “Fine, I promise.”

Molly observed me thoughtfully as I tried not to get teary eyed with relief. “I’m sorry, you know,” she added. “About some of the things I’ve said. I thought hating you would make it easier to lose you. I didn’t know what else to say - I’m not very good at fixing things.”

My efforts at holding back tears failed and I found myself pulling her into a tight hug. How stupid we had been to let our pride get in the way of our friendship, something that I couldn’t survive without no matter what we put each other through. I needed someone I could depend on to take me down a peg or two.

We eventually released each other and then I reached for the ginger biscuits. I knew now that we had both forgiven each other and decided in our own individual ways to move on. Neither of us were perfect and we definitely weren’t perfect together, but sometimes there were more important things than a perfect match. The fact that we (mostly) put up with each other’s bad sides meant that we could truly be ourselves with each other, and that was just what I needed in my best friend.

“How was the funeral?” Molly asked after I’d finished munching on my first biscuit. “Did you cry?”

I smiled bashfully. My cheeks reddened. “I actually laughed more than I cried. Matthew was very nice.”

She raised a solitary eyebrow. “I bet he was. That’s a very cheap move, that one.”

“Which one?”

“The picking up women at a funeral one,” she informed me.

“That doesn’t count,” I said crossly, though feeling thankful that we were teasing each other once again. “I didn’t meet him at the funeral. I knew him before. He was just offering some excellent moral support.”

Molly sighed and rolled her eyes at the same time. “I suppose,” she conceded. “Have you slept with him yet?”

I blushed even more and looked away from her. “No,” I said eventually when I’d got my nerve back. “We’re taking things slowly, I think. I’m going for a drink with him soon though.”

She nodded in approval, hiding her disappointment that I didn’t have some juicy gossip for her. I must be a constant source of disappointment for her. She probably wanted some regular updates on my love life that didn’t involve unrequited crushes or stalkers. Perhaps I’d actually be able to give her some interesting news in the near future.

“Linda’s given me the shop,” I said suddenly when Molly lapsed into thoughtful silence.

“What? You? Really?”

“There’s no need to sound so surprised,” I said in indignation. “Boris was very fond of me.”

“Was there no one else?” Molly asked.

I scowled at her. “Not exactly,” I told her. “Linda said their only relatives weren’t suitable. She wants to do all the paperwork soon.”

“Wow.”

“I know,” I said with a grin. “It’s like I’m an adult or something.”

Molly rolled her eyes yet again. “You’ve been an adult for years.”

“I know,” I explained. “But now I have a proper job; I own a business. I’ve never been a high-flying career woman like you or Roxanne. I never really had a high salary either. But now I feel like I have something to be really proud of.”

I shrugged, not really sure if Molly had got my point.

“This is about you feeling insecure, isn’t it?” Molly said slowly. “You should know comparing yourself with other members of our family is never a good idea. There’s always someone richer or more accomplished than you. But, I tell you what, there’s no one else in our family who could do what you do. You charmed your way into that job because you cared about your boss and the shop, so you thoroughly deserve it. Stop being so envious of other people when you’ve got it pretty good yourself.”

Wow, that was a whole explosion of emotion I never thought Molly was capable of.

“Was that a compliment?” I asked incredulously. “Are you ill?”

She slapped me on the arm playfully. “It might have been. That’s my quota filled for the year so you might as well make the most of it.”

I laughed, so happy that we were finally near normal with each other again. She didn’t mean anything personally, it was just the way she expressed herself. Our ability to tease each other showed fondness more than anything else.

“I’ll be cherishing your words for the rest of my life,” I joked. “I know not to push my luck.”

She glared at me, stuffing a ginger biscuit in my mouth before jumping up and dodging my subsequent biscuit throwing.

“Stop messing around,” she scolded. “I’m going to the pub to meet Lorcan and Albus. Do you want to come?”

Was that even a question? I never said no to the pub, which she clearly knew. I grabbed my handbag and followed her out of the house. She rummaged around under the plant pot by the front door and plucked out my keys.

“Here,” she said, dropping them into my palm. “I thought you might need these back.”

I grinned as we set off for the pub, happy that finally things had been set right. When we arrived, Albus and Lorcan were already sat around our usual table in the corner opposite the bar. Molly went to get us both a drink and I slid across the bench to sit beside Albus.

“So you two have made up, have you?” Lorcan asked pointedly as I beamed at them both.

“We have,” I told him, not letting his acerbic tone put a dampener on my good mood.

“Good,” Albus said in a much warmer tone than Lorcan had managed. He was probably touchy because Molly was his girlfriend and he had extra concern for her well-being. In any case, I didn’t care what he thought now that Molly and I were friends again.

“Did you get the Dom apology?” I asked Albus as he fiddled with his glasses. I was keen to work out how high up the list I’d been so I could tell how much of a priority I was.

“Yeah, she came to see me last night,” he said. He stopped playing with the frame of his glasses and cradled his drink instead. “That was one of the most awkward conversations I’ve ever had. I can’t believe she and Teddy could do that to poor Victoire.”

I nodded in agreement as Molly joined us, handing me a glass of wine. “Thanks,” I said to her.

“Are you talking about Dom?” she interrupted. “She dropped in yesterday to assure me she was very sorry for breaking the family up.” Molly shrugged. “I don’t see how apologising to every person in the family helps, but that’s her business.”

“I bet Victoire’s made her as part of some bargain to gain forgiveness,” Lorcan observed. “She probably wants to humiliate Dominique a bit before they can make up.”

I frowned, shaking my head. “No, that’s not Victoire’s style. She’s not really a revenge kind of girl.”

It was true, I thought. Despite my determination to dislike Victoire, she’d never been deliberately spiteful or hurtful towards others. Although we hadn’t been very close, she’d let me stay with her and had been perfectly civilised. I didn’t think she was the type to take revenge out so directly. There was no doubt that Dominique was in a load of trouble with her, but that didn’t mean Victoire was about to change her personality.

Lorcan shrugged. “You don’t know who is and isn’t prone to revenge until something like this happens. She might have gone crazy.”

I shook my head again, this time more vigourously. “Trust me, I know Victoire. She’ll be extremely quiet about the whole thing. She’ll make Dominique do all the work without giving her any hints as to how.”

Molly hastened to agree with me. “Rose is right. Victoire won’t make it as easy as that by telling her what to do. Dom will have to figure it out the hard way.”

It was going to be a long road to get the whole family back to normal again, but I felt like Dominique deserved some pretty harsh treatment. Admittedly she was already feeling terrible about the whole thing, but it was only going to get worse from here on out. Once the baby was born, it would serve as a constant reminder of everything Victoire had lost. I sincerely hoped for the good of the family that the baby looked nothing like Teddy. Victoire didn’t need the reminder of her heartbreak as the baby grew older and more like its parents. Really, the baby should have been Victoire’s in a year or so’s time. She was almost thirty and time was running out to start all over again.

I wondered what she’d do next. I didn’t get the impression that she was going to fall out of love with Teddy any time soon. Would he try and win her back, and if he did, would she even take him back? As far as I could tell, the Teddy and Dom thing was a one-off triggered by too much alcohol. Perhaps Victoire would decide it wasn’t worth throwing away the decade she’d had with Teddy. Then again, if I was having trust issues about the whole thing then I couldn’t even imagine how she was feeling.

“Has anyone seen Victoire recently?” I asked out of curiosity. All three of them shook their heads.

“I saw Aunt Fleur at my mum and dad’s the other day,” Albus offered. “But she didn’t give us any news at all about Victoire. I reckon she’s hiding away for the moment.”

“I don’t blame her,” Lorcan chipped in, draining his glass. He got up to go fetch another round. When he was well out of earshot, I leaned across the table to whisper something to Molly.

“What’s the matter with him?” I asked quietly.

Molly rolled her eyes. “He’s grumpy with you because of how you treated him and me, you know, when you found out.”

I sighed. “Really? I would have thought he’d have got over that by now,” I said irritably.

Molly shrugged. “He’s very protective of me.” A slight grin had worked its way onto her lips.

“You’re blushing,” I accused, eyeing her suspiciously. “Why are you blushing?”

“I’m not,” she denied, letting her hair fall forward to cover her face.

“You love him, don’t you?” I insisted. “My God, the unthinkable has happened. Molly Weasley has feelings.”

“No I don’t,” she snapped, looking over to the bar to see when Lorcan would be back. As it happened, he was just wandering over to us now, followed by four levitating drinks. When he reached us, he bent down and gave Molly a kiss before passing her her drink. Albus and I exchanged a knowing look, resulting in both of us trying to stifle our laughter. “Oh shut up,” Molly hissed. “You’re not funny, you know.”

“I know,” I replied cheerfully.

It was at that moment that the door to the pub swung open, causing a draught to whistle around our feet. We all looked towards the door to see a sheepish-looking Victoire, who was peering around the corner trying to look for somewhere to sit.

I waved at her, catching her attention and eliciting a smile. She approached us and we all budged round so she could fit on the bench.

“Hello,” she said, fiddling with her fingers awkwardly.

I could tell that she hadn’t expected to see us here, which was strange in itself because it felt like we were always here. Perhaps she’d come here to meet someone, or just to be alone with some alcohol, which personally I often found a very appealing idea.

“How are you?” Molly asked sympathetically. I went to kick her under the table for being so obvious but missed and ended up kicking Lorcan instead. His eyes watered in pain and he glared at me.

“I’m not too bad,” Victoire said, taking her time to chew over the words. “Well, I’m not great to be honest. But you all know that of course.”

We nodded sagely. I looked down at my drink in order to avoid looking at Victoire. I didn’t want to see her crying or anything.

“Rose,” she said, ensuring that I had to lift my eyes and look at her. “I’ve been meaning to say thank you to you, for… well, you know.”

I gave her a fake smile, which was the best I could muster. This was a very touchy subject indeed among us all anyway, seeing as I had been one of the last people to find out when really I should have known ages ago. I supposed in the end I had done the right thing and spoken to Teddy about it rather than being too scared to say anything. I’d even surprised myself really, considering bravery wasn’t exactly my most famous trait.

“Um,” I stuttered. “You’re welcome.” This didn’t really adequately sum up how I really felt, so I cleared my throat and tried again. “I thought you deserved to know,” I added.

Victoire nodded, seeming to understand what I was trying to get across. “I think I’m going to stick around here,” she said eventually when none of us could find anything appropriate to say. “Teddy’s got the house in Bordeaux…” She trailed off in thought at the mention of her ex-fiancé and her eyes seemed to glaze over. Molly cleared her throat pointedly, rousing Victoire from her daydream. “There’s nothing left for me out there now. It’s all gone. Dominique needs me now, despite all of this mess.”

I almost felt relieved that she was going to support Dom. I was reminded of what I’d said to her a couple of months ago when I had visited her and Teddy in France; her and Dominique had to stick together.

“I don’t know if I can forgive her,” Victoire added, looking like she was offloading the huge weight from her shoulders. I was willing to bet that this was the first time she had voiced any of this out loud. Who else was she supposed to talk to? Her parents couldn’t hate Dominique despite what she had done. It was almost as if this sordid business had brought us closer together. “I’m not sure if I want to. But it’s not her baby’s fault, any of this, and I’m not going to abandon it because of Dom’s mistakes.”

I finally realised what the funny feeling was that was growing inside of me; I admired Victoire. Through everything, she had acted so maturely, so reasonably that I could only hope to be like her when I was her age. I had reacted way more rashly to the news than Victoire had and she was the one directly affected.

“What will you do now?” Lorcan asked when no one else spoke.

Victoire sighed. “It’s back to job-hunting, isn’t it?” she mused. “I’ve got a few contacts that can help me out, I won’t be destitute.”

I thought for a moment, suddenly coming to the realisation that I could help her. “Victoire – if you get desperate for a job, you can come and work for me at Flourish and Blotts. We’re interviewing people next week.”

She smiled gratefully, dabbing at tears forming in the corners of her eyes. “Thank you,” she managed.

Perhaps I’d gone soft, or maybe it was that my perspective had changed, but suddenly helping out my family seemed far more important than my own pride. I had rejected Roxanne’s application for a job because she was using me, but why was that any different to helping Victoire? I supposed Victoire had never asked for any of this. What did she have now that Teddy was gone? Roxanne had so much to lose by leaving Law School and coming to work for me, but Victoire had nothing left.

As much as my family could be meddling, irritating and inconvenient, at least they loved us all unconditionally. Dominique hadn’t been thrown out or disowned; Victoire was willing to support her even after everything that she’d done. Molly and I might have clashing personalities, but in the end we loved each other and that was all that mattered.



AN: So this is the last chapter before the epilogue! Thank you so much, once again, for all the support, the reviews, the reads, the patience when I was slow and then for keeping up with me when I updated quicker. If you're still here, thank you and please leave a review. Thank you to Rachel who makes sure my terrible typos never see the light of day. -Marina


Chapter 36: Epilogue
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Epilogue

4 months later

“How do I look?”

Matthew observed me as I preened in front of the mirror. He rolled his eyes as I hitched my tights up again and hoped that they would do their job of tummy-smoothing. It was honestly their primary purpose, far more important than keeping my legs warm in autumn.

“You look great, stop fussing,” he scolded, looking back down at his newspaper.

I sighed, pretending like I didn’t enjoy fishing for compliments. He knew exactly what I was doing and it didn’t bother either of us in the slightest. It was like a routine, me being overly worried about my appearance and him criticising my insecurities.

“Are you sure you can’t come?” I whined. “I’m really not looking forward to facing today alone.”

I turned to him, sitting at the foot of the bed near his feet.

“Sorry,” he said, putting his newspaper beside him on the bed and leaning forward to kiss me on the nose. “I have lots of work to do. And you know what my boss is like if I don’t keep on top of things. She’s a real ogre.”

I scowled. “I’m sure she won’t mind this once,” I grumbled, playing along.

“She’ll fire me for sure,” he said with a grin. “Anyway, you won’t be alone with all your family there. Molly’s going, isn’t she?”

“Yes,” I conceded. “I just like showing you off to everyone.”

He laughed. “Who can blame you? Go on, you’ll be late.”

I kissed him square on the lips before grabbing my handbag and dashing out into the hall. I knocked on Molly’s door, waiting for her to emerge before speaking.

“Are you dreading this as much as I am?” I asked as she shrugged on her coat.

Molly shrugged. “You’re overthinking it. It’ll be fine.”

I grimaced. “I don’t think you’re thinking about it enough. This will be the first time the family’s been all together in one place since the split, you know. It’s going to be an absolute disaster.”

Molly snorted. “Oh come off it, Rose. We’re not all immature like you. I’m sure everyone will be civilised.”

Somehow I doubted that, but I dropped the matter and took Molly’s hand as she took us to Shell Cottage, where Dominique was now living permanently. I couldn’t blame her for wanting to move back in with her parents now that she had a baby, but there was no way I could ever see myself living with my mum and dad again; they’d drive me mental within a week.

“I’m not sure I like babies,” I said thoughtfully as Molly reached up to ring the doorbell.

There was a chilly sea breeze coming up over the cliffs to bother us and I shivered, wrapping my coat closer around my body. It was about to rain at any moment, I could tell, and I hadn’t brought my umbrella.

“Nobody does, except for their own,” Molly informed me. “Just say it’s the most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen and they’ll be happy.”

The door was tugged open by a tanned looking Fred; he had flown over from Australia two days ago for the big party, presumably under threat from his mother, and was looking very healthy indeed.

“Come in,” he told us. “Everyone’s in the living room until you get called for your turn to see the baby.”

I looked at Molly out of the corner of my eye and couldn’t help but snigger. Of course there were so many of us that we had to queue up to see the new-born. I bet Dominique was going to be very tired after today. I wondered if she’d really suggested that her parents throw a big party to celebrate the arrival of the newest member of our family or if she’d actually been coerced into it.

As we walked through into the living room, I quickly surveyed where all the family members were. James, Roxanne, Louis and Hugo were all huddled up together in the corner nearest the table of drinks. Lily and Lucy were busy chatting to Aunt Audrey about something that was most likely very uninteresting. The other adults were presumably either seeing the baby or helping to prepare lunch. Finally, I spotted Victoire; she was sat on her own, nursing a glass of champagne and looking like she was about to drown herself in it. I tugged on Molly’s sleeve and tilted my head in Victoire’s direction.

“Hi,” Molly said, causing Victoire to look up and relax at the sight of us.

“Hello,” she said, budging up on the sofa so we could both fit. “I thought you’d never get here. I’ve never felt more awkward.”

I knew that the party itself wasn’t the root of Victoire’s anxiousness; she’d spent a lot of time with Dominique and the baby since he was born ten days ago so that couldn’t be why she felt on edge. I narrowed my eyes. “Is Teddy coming?” I asked. I hoped she would prove my hunch wrong and say no, but I knew I wasn’t that lucky.

“Supposedly,” she said sourly. “My parents thought it would be churlish not to invite him.”

Oh dear; this was exactly why I hadn’t been looking forward to a large gathering. I knew one day I’d have to see him again but I wasn’t sure this was the moment. Poor Victoire, she would always be caught in the middle of this strange triangle which she supposedly left months ago. How could she help but feel involved? She was hardly about to forget the last ten years of her life. Still, she seemed to be dealing with it well. If I had been her, I would have just not turned up. Then again, that didn’t exactly make for happy family relations if she just refused to be there for Dom and her baby when Teddy was there, and there was a high probability that he was going to be around a lot at important occasions and large family gatherings.

My Dad entered the room, spotting me and beckoning me over. I grabbed Molly and went to see what he wanted.

“It’s your turn to go upstairs,” he told us, looking a bit emotional (from too much of my mother’s painful baby talk, I expected). As we left the room, I overheard him telling Fred how Mum and I had single-handedly destroyed Gilderoy Lockhart’s bid for Minister with our education scandal. I rolled my eyes at his over-exaggeration; all that had happened was that Mum went off to have a quiet word with him and it had somehow made the news (it helps to have journalists like James in the family). After that he’d decided it was best if he stepped down from the candidacy.

Molly and I trooped upstairs to find Dom alone with the baby in her room. It was strangely quiet up here compared to the low drone of conversation throughout the rest of the house.

“Your mum just had to go wipe her eyes,” Dominique said with a small smile. She was cradling her child in her arms, and offered him up for us to hold.

When I didn’t move, Molly took him out of Dom’s arms and nestling him in her elbow.

“He’s so tiny,” she cooed, looking gooey eyed. I panicked slightly, hoping that Molly wasn’t about to get any ideas about starting a family with Lorcan any time soon.

“What’s his name?” I asked quietly, hoping not to disturb him too much. Molly stroked the top of his head softly, running over a tuft of white blonde hair.

“We’re going to call him William,” she told me, looking fondly at the baby. “He’s going to be big and strong just like his Grandpa.”

I smiled, thinking that it was a nice gesture, but at the same time vowing to never call my child after my parents; I didn’t think any child would appreciate being called Ron or Hermione. I definitely wouldn’t be naming a boy after poor Boris; as much as I missed him, there was no way any child of mine would be getting his name, not even as a middle name.

“He’s the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen,” I told Dom, remembering what Molly had said earlier. I wasn’t being completely insincere; he had very tiny fingers and legs that were cute. I didn’t know what else I was supposed to be looking for, but Dom seemed to look proud anyway.

When we returned downstairs, a slight hush had fallen over the room. I saw Teddy standing awkwardly on his own by the door whilst Victoire looked pointedly away. Molly went to join Victoire back on the sofa; I dithered undecided for a split second before choosing to go and talk to Teddy briefly. I couldn’t ignore him forever and I doubted he would be leaving any time soon.

“Hi,” I said, joining him by the open door.

“Hello,” he replied stiffly. “I thought you wouldn’t want to talk to me.”

I shrugged. “There’s no point in being uncivilised, is there?”

He nodded. It was remarkable how I felt literally nothing for him these days. I was no longer obsessed with him, no longer trying to convince myself I wasn’t madly in love with him but I wasn’t even angry at him anymore. He was just the father of my cousin’s baby and that was it.

“Your son is beautiful,” I told him in order to break the silence. “You must be very proud.”

He grimaced. “I’m not sure proud is the right word for it,” he retorted. “Ashamed is more like it.”

He really had learned nothing from all of this, I thought. “That’s not his fault,” I told him sharply. “You have to put all of that behind you now.”

Turning to me, he fixed his eyes on me. “It’s easier said than done. I’m trying, believe me. It just takes time to stop regretting the biggest mistake of your life.”

It was then that I walked away from him, not lowering myself to respond to him. It seemed to me that Victoire was doing a better job of dealing with this than he was, and it had been his decision to make. To be honest, I sincerely hoped he never had to have the conversation with William that went something like, “no you weren’t planned, you were actually the biggest mistake of my life”. Honestly, his attitude was what he really needed to be ashamed of.

It was this that made me really sure that I no longer loved him. Everyone made mistakes, they were unavoidable, but he was dealing with it in a most unfavourable manner. He needed to eat a big slice of humble pie and get on with it.

Later, Molly and I found Albus sitting outside in the rain. His shoes were buried in fresh mud, his hair dripping and his skin shining with damp.

“What are you doing?” I asked, sitting down beside him. Molly placed her coat down on the ground as a mat before joining us. She hugged her knees to her chest in protest.

“I needed some peace and quiet,” he told us, smiling as we listened to the howling wind and the beating of the rain. Somewhere beneath us, angry waves buffeted against the cliff face. “I don’t like crowds.”

“Don’t you?” Molly asked. “I never knew that.”

Poor Albus, trapped in a family too large to suit his personality. He’d always been the quietest of us all and we’d left him to it, accepting him for that. He was, perhaps, the most easy-going of us all, completely comfortable in his own skin. He was like Matthew; happy in his own company and quiet until something needed to be said. Sometimes I wish I could be like them both, never needing to fill in awkward silences with stupid sentences and so making a fool of myself.

Deciding that it was stupid to sit around in the wet and cold, and for fear that I would catch pneumonia, I made my excuses and left them to it. Inside, everyone was drifting off to go grab whatever lunch Aunt Fleur had rustled up. When no one was looking, I retrieved my coat and a bottle of champagne and left. I’d done my duty and made the right noises, but now I felt like it was time for me to leave. There was only so much of my family I could take in one go.

Arriving in Hogsmeade, I walked up the muddy path to the Shrieking Shack. Scorpius answered the door almost as soon as I rang the doorbell, pot of hair gel in one hand and the other poised to smear it onto his scalp.

“Rose,” he said, caught off-guard. “I didn’t think you were coming over until after the party later?”

I shrugged. “I’ve been to the party and I did my bit so I left.” I chucked him the bottle of champagne, causing him to drop the gel on the floor so he could catch it. “Here, free booze as promised.”

“Ooh, thanks.” He stuck the bottle on a table and bent to pick up the gel. “You caught me in the middle of my beauty regime, I’m afraid.”

I rolled my eyes, almost laughing at the fact that he thought applying hair gel counted as a beauty regime. “You don’t have to make yourself beautiful for me, Scorp,” I told him, watching critically as he went to work on smoothing his fringe down.

“Of course I do,” he scolded. “I’m still hoping you’ll go out with me again one day. I have to make the right impression.”

I sighed. “I have a boyfriend now, you know. I’m not going to go out with you.”

He winked. “I know. I was only joking, silly.”

Of course he was joking, I thought with relief. He wouldn’t be stupid enough to bring up the idea of us being romantically involved again… would he?

“Good,” I said after I remembered I was halfway through a conversation. “I thought you were keen on that girl you met at your knitting group.”

“Oh, I am,” he said cheerfully. “She’s knitting me some earmuffs ready for the winter.”

I couldn’t help it; I laughed, so hard that I eventually couldn’t stop tears from falling. The image of Scorpius, his hair smoothed down and streamlined, wearing a pair of knitted earmuffs was far too much for me. There was one thing I could never ever criticise about Scorpius; he always made me laugh. So what if it was at him, not with him? Sometimes all you needed was a little bit of comic relief in your life to put everything else into perspective.

“You know what?” I said lightly as Scorpius frowned at my hysterics. “I think they’ll really, really suit you.”

I didn’t think he could tell whether or not I was mocking him, but in the end what did it matter? A little bit of uncertainty never hurt anyone; I was definitely testimony to that.

The End.




AN: Squee! Okay, I have many things I want to say but I don't want to bore you. First of all, definitely thank you to everyone who has managed to reach the end, to everyone who has been reviewing and reading and helping me continue all the way until the epilogue. Thank you to Rachel for nagging, for correcting and for cheering me on. I'm so happy yet so sad this is over... except that I have already started writing a sequel so you won't be missing me for long. Thanks for making this my favourite story to write to date and hopefully I'll be seeing you again for the sequel very shortly. Love ♥

And, well I don't usually mention this because I'm shy, but hey, what the heck. If you enjoyed this story, the Dobby awards are up over at the forums if you want to consider nominating me. Much love again! *shuffles off in awkwardness* 


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