Chapter 2 : Virginiana
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Disclaimer: Everything is JK’s, the OC’s belong to me, Eucalyptus by Murray Bail has influenced the work and the chapter title is a species of the genus Rosa. Phew!
It is certainly nothing new to value a Rose for its beauty. Any student of history, and there are many as the discipline seems to be almost as invigorating as rose hips, will tell you that our past is studded all over with the symbolism of the Rose. Beauty, mystery, love, passion.
In Ancient Rome a rose was placed under a door to indicate that secrets were being passed around like parcels. Sub Rosa , under the rose, means to keep a secret hidden beneath the folds of luscious red petals.
They grow wild in England and are the constant ebullient topic of many poems. Roses given to lovers, Roses to tell the lovers that they are loved, Roses to tell the lover they are no longer loved…
It was just this chaotic sense of diversity that attracted men to the Rose. There was a world within the world, endless possibility fenced in by four meagre letters. Who was to dictate what meant what, what a rose could mean? Four letters, like the sides of a square, trying to fence in the hopes and desires of an entire human race.
The point is in the world of flowers the Rose is both significant and forgotten. Some condemn it for cliché, others revel in it for history. But regardless there are none that match it in sheer numbers of species. And whenever anyone sees a Rose they always bend over to smell it.
Rose was a true english rose. Literally and figuratively. She stepped onto the Hogwarts express dressed impeccably well, her face shining with promise, her red hair the only thing that looked even a little wild about her person.
Her skirt was gathered chiffon that fell perfectly around her legs, her shirt silky and floaty around her upper body. She looked like she had stepped off a cloud. Pinned to the side of her shirt was a Prefects badge that she had received, shrieking with delight, in the mail. Her father and mother had been Prefects at Hogwarts too.
‘Rosebud!’ she turned to see her darling friend Audrey pull open the compartment and jumped up to hug her. She loved Audrey with all her heart, they were as close as sisters, and almost like real family.
Following Audrey in was Saskia, another of Rose’s friends. As they greeted each other after a long summer Rose could see Lily push open the door and slump down. She was a year older than them but still very close, as only cousins can be.
‘I’m glad to be going back to school.’ Rose said, and she was. She had missed it. She wasn’t 17 yet, and she hated being able to watch her brother Hugo apparate with the sharp crack of responsibility or do his chores simply with a lazy flick of the wand. At least at Hogwarts she was allowed to do magic again.
‘I’m not.’ Lily retorted, glaring out from under her long fringe, ‘Bloody Wood boy accosted me in the carriage corridor and practically groped me.’
‘Boys are getting more and more improper by the day.’ Audrey mused. She was well known for her nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ of chivalry, where men would not even think of touching a girl’s chest, even in jest.
‘As are you!’ Saskia retorted, grinning widely, ‘I saw you and that good-looking Hufflepuff, what was his name? Bones, was it?’ Audrey turned a deep shade of red and muttered something to herself.
‘I can’t wait for Quidditch to start.’ Rose said and the girls all nodded. Saskia and Lily played on the team, of which James Potter (Lily’s elder brother) was the captain. Rose and Audrey loved watching the matches and seeing their best friends swoop dangerously through the air.
‘I live vicariously through your quidditch playing, you know.’
‘That’s a dangerous life, Rose.’ Saskia said back, cocking an eyebrow.
‘Almost as dangerous as actually playing, I would say.’
The girls grinned and then erupted into giggles.
‘Bollocks,’ Rose said suddenly, jumping up, ‘I have prefect meetings. Gotta run,’ She said jumping up and startling a boy walking outside the compartment. He was so shocked at seeing her he walked straight into a glass door.
Rose gasped, ‘Do you think he’s alright?’ she said quickly before moving down towards the Prefect’s compartment.
Saskia, Audrey and Lily shook their heads. ‘She has no idea, that one. No idea at all.’
Rose was not really aware of her effect on anyone, which made her decision to not fall in love an alarming one for her friends and family. She was a beauty, a rare real beauty, but she told herself that she could not fall in love. It was not in her nature or her way. Perhaps if the right man came around, but then… Who’s to say who the right man was?
Once she toyed with the idea of only falling in love with a man who could name every single variety of rose, every single species and hybrid and perpetua. She could see them in her head now, lined up in a field, that was R. Floribunda , this one was R. Califuglia . A man who truly loved her would not find this task too much trouble to complete.
But she was kidding herself. It was the 21st century, not the 15th! People don’t get married and fall in love after they complete a task or run a gauntlet. It has to be the deepest most true feelings of adoration that could induce her into any sort of relationship. Whether or not they knew their Gallica from their Gauca.
When she was in 5th year she had written a list of every single variety of rose and pinned it to the inside cover of her potions text book, intending to learn them off by heart. One day in class her potions partner, she couldn’t even remember who it was now, had perused over them, reading the names slowly and laughing at pronunciation. They had chatted about gardening, about weeds and thorns and pesky worms that eat their way through everything. When the bell rang she felt she had been talking for years.
But she didn’t have much to do with that man afterwards. This all contributed to the growing legend around her, the tales of her beauty that had travelled through the castle and were said to have coursed over two seas. She was untouchable, as if behind a veil of thinnest gauze. She could be seen, observed, spied upon. But she could not be touched.
Here are a few quick notes on feminine beauty. Why not, really. Now is as good a time as ever. I shall try to be brief, though. It must be noted that a nice, lovely, smooth kind of beauty attracts thoughts of mothers and aunts in men, and – sexually speaking – who wants that? When a woman is a little rough and angry then all thoughts of their matriarchs are banished, and an attraction is formed immediately.
Rose was different. She was neither demure nor passionate, neither modest nor obscene. She was not a pious girl who did not swear or drink or be rebellious. She was known in her time to let loose some terrible words and have a little too much on the alcohol side. But nor was she the girl always to be found in broom closets half dressed, or by the side of the school sniffing dubious substances. Rose knew what went on in the school, she was by no means naïve, she just felt no inherent need to be a part of that culture. She was Rose.
One thing did happen, however. She was pestered and harassed almost daily by boys from all years trying to get a date. She would often find herself late to class, which she abhorred, because she had to fight her way through corridors. To combat this unhealthy obsession she grew aloof, avoiding the eyes of men.
Perhaps this had an effect on her decision never to fall in love. The only men she could trust were her father, brother and cousins.
Once she laughed in a corridor, and it was as if the bubbling waterfalls of Asian mountains had been transposed into the dusty halls of Hogwarts. On the way to History of Magic Audrey had said something dry, and Rose threw back her head and laughed, a deep sort of unruly sound that did not fit her appearance.
Men stopped in their tracks. Audrey blushed a little and grabbed her hand, pulling her through the halls into the classroom. She didn’t mind that Rose was so oddly beautiful. She was very proud, that someone that lovely would want to be her friend.
If men did not cajole her or annoy her with lewd remarks and smooth talking then they just stood stock still, watching. Sometimes she hated these men even more, for they were sinister in their looks, and predatory in their behaviour. Rose sometimes screamed in fright when walking through a corridor after prefect rounds she would see a boy half hidden in shadow, eyes staring widely out at her.
Sometimes she would surprise Hogwarts by her behaviour. She would go up into the highest towers when it snowed, flinging scraps of blue and green paper into the wind. They fell like teardrops onto the snow.
She would hum on her way to class, her throat making deep guttural sounds. She would scream at the top of her lungs at Quidditch matches, and was not afraid to get herself dirty and muddy afterwards at victory celebrations. She was fiercely loyal, and would stand up to anyone who said anything about her friends behind their backs.
For all her beauty she ate noisily.
‘Prefects, you are charged with difficult tasks this year. You are now sixth years, and are in your second last year of school. I expect a degree of maturity from you that I did not get last year.’
The head girl, Victoire Weasley, Rose’s cousin in Ravenclaw was staring round at the 8 16 year olds assembled before her.
‘I was in 5th year once too, and I know what you all get up to on your rounds. But this year it is serious. Leave the canoodling and quick gropes to the 5th years. I expect you to take your duties seriously, and to ensure the safety of students at the school.’
‘Come off it, Vicky,’ The Ravenclaw 6th year prefect Edmund Bones protested, ‘We all know what you get up to in the Head dorms.’
Victoire did not even blush. ‘No, we don’t, Bones, seeing as I have a boyfriend out of hogwarts and have no interest in James Potter, as he is my cousin.’ She said smiling at her fellow Head Boy who winked back at her.
‘And don’t call me Vicky.’
After everyone assembled had left Victoire and Rose began to talk freely. Victoire, herself a victim of boys attentions because of her Veela blood, wanted to ensure that Rose knew how to deal with it.
‘Deal with what?’
‘You know…’ She gestured with her hand, not entirely sure about whether or not Rose did know.
Victoire lowered her voice. ‘Boys.’
‘What about them?’
‘Rose, do I have to spell it out for you?’
‘Unfortunately at this stage that is a resounding yes.’
‘Unwanted attention from them.’
‘BOYS!’ Victoire shouted exasperatedly.
‘Oh, no need to worry on that account.’ Rose said happily. Victoire cocked an eyebrow, from what she had seen and heard there was a lot to worry about on that account.
‘Are you sure, dearest?’
‘Oh yes. One hundred percent. No-one notices me, I’m just boring old Rose.’
Boring old Rose. That was just like saying Victoire was juts a pretty face, or like saying that the misunderstood Scorpius Malfoy was just plain anti-social. There was so much more to all of them. So much more hidden behind the face. Pull the petals away and you’re at the heart of the flower, now that is where the magic happens.
‘Miss Weasley!’ The Head of Gryffindor Neville Longbottom came up the aisle towards her, brandishing two pieces of parchment. Rose loved him dearly, like an uncle, and he was a close family friend. Though at school she had to treat him with all due respect.
‘Time table and prefect duties, good luck. See you in herbology.’
Rose unfolded the parchment and saw she had duties that night. Excellent. She loved duties, night time was when she could wander the halls, touching the cold sandstone and conduct conversations with the portraits without being bothered by all the people. Sometimes they crowded things, she noticed. Sometimes it was nicer when everything was less busy.
Her mother sat her down one night, took her hands in her own and smiled at her in a way that made Rose wish she could paint. Her mother, just then, in that one moment, was perfect. She wished she was an artist and could get it all down. She wished to remember her always like that, with her hair slightly wispy and her eyes deep and thoughtful.
‘My darling, I want you to promise me something. Promise me that you will think very carefully before you go out with anyone.’
‘You know that I had only a few boyfriends in my time.’
‘It’s different now. Besides, you know I don’t care about boys. They’re all silly.’
‘That may be true, and I am quite sure that it is, but be careful.’
‘I will, of course I will. I’m not silly.’
‘I know, you’re something much worse. You’re beautiful.’
Rose looked at her mother, and then in the mirror behind her. She looked at her odd features, her wide eyes and small mouth. Her freckles and vivid red hair.
‘I don’t think so, I think I look weird.’
‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ Her mother said softly.
‘Listen, Rosebud… Beware. Beware of any man who deliberately tells a story. For with their tongue they weave threads of gold which can only turn to rust at the first sight of rain.’
‘You remember when I bought those curtains from that salesman at the door, the one who told me so sweetly, so convincingly that there was no better in all of England, that there were no curtains finer, more robust, better shape or colour…’
Rose did remember. She looked at the curtains now, faded to within an inch of their life. Her mother had bought those less than a year ago.
‘I want you to have fun at school, to experiment and to taste it all for yourself. But beware of any man who stands in front of you concocting a story. You must always ask yourself, why is he doing this? Why is he telling it? What does he want?’
A certain Mr Dominic Wood had once come up behind her at a Christmas dance, grabbed her by a speckled wrist and kissed her hard on the lips. His arms tangled into her long hair, and went to her waist travelling downwards as quick as he could manage.
With some difficulty she manage to disengage herself, slap the offending boy and storm off into the comforting embrace of her friends and family, who tried sincerely not to laugh at her red-faced indignation.
Mr Dominic Wood, by all means a charming man and quite a gifted quidditch player, was not in any way amenable to keeping his experienced mouth shut. Days after the dance, which happened in her 5th year, the castle was buzzing with the gossip of Rose completely rejecting one of the most handsome boys in the year. Rumours started, and you know how the rest goes.
The idea that she was the princess in the tower, off limits to all men because of a restricting parent was completely false. She was, after all, in Hogwarts. She was, after all, afforded great freedoms and liberties, and by most standards, had a very fun sort of life.
Lord knows it was odd, but she had never found any one, so far, which had taken her fancy. That, and that alone, was the reason why she had not had a boyfriend. Not because her parents forbade it, or because she batted for the other team. She was very particular about these sorts of things.
It all started on her first day of 6th year. The morning had begun so well, her time table was great, prefect duties excited her. And then it happened.
‘Hey, Rose, do you wanna go out with me.’
She swivelled in her seat in history of magic and looked upon the spotty face of Ian Marchmain, a Hufflepuff and terribly shy.
‘Oh no thankyou, Ian.’
‘Alright then. My friend Will wants to know if you’d go out with him, then.’
Rose looked over to Will, whose brown eyes were wide with anticipation and eagerness.
‘Thanks all the same, Will, but uh, I’m sorry I can’t say yes.’
The boys looked at each other and turned back to the class. She scoffed a little to herself and then turned back to her work. Saskia raised her eyebrows questioningly but Rose just shrugged. I’ll tell you later she wrote on the edge of a piece of parchment.
She was walking out of class, excited because she had arithmancy next, when an interesting looking Ravenclaw stopped her in the corridor.
‘Hi, I’m Jacob Ryder.’
‘Can I walk with you to Arithmancy?’
‘Oh, sure, yes.’
They walked in silence for a little, Rose trying to discern whether she remembered the boy from any of her arithmancy classes. She couldn’t. His face was entirely new to her.
‘Alright, here we are. Where do you sit?’
‘No, I don’t take it.’
‘Arithmancy.’ He said, looking at her funnily.
‘Oh.’ Rose was confused, ‘Then why-‘
‘Do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me?’ He asked suddenly.
‘No thanks, Jacob. You better get to class, it’s about to start.’
‘I have a free. So was that a no?’
‘No. Jacob, it was a no.’
‘Right. Too bad. You’re very beautiful you know.’
‘Thanks, I suppose.’
Rose was thoroughly confused, and she hated that. She wasn’t about to get any relief. When she sat down in Arithmancy an extremely intelligent Slytherin asked for her hand in marriage, which she polited refused and then at lunch a 7th year Gryffindor Prefect asked her out across the table. What was going on?
‘That was the 5th boy today.’
‘What was the 5th boy?’ Audrey asked.
‘That one that just asked me. That makes 5 today that have asked me out.’
‘Well, well, Rose.’
‘No well, well. Where did it come from?’
‘I don’t know, hormones?’
‘Shut up, Saskia. Something’s wrong.’
‘Nothing’s wrong, Rose. The boys just think you’re very beautiful that’s all.’
‘I can’t see it.’
‘We know that, Rose dear,’ Saskia said, ‘But everyone else can.’
‘But why, suddenly, are they all asking?’
‘You’ve never had a boyfriend before.’ Audrey said and Saskia nodded.
‘Maybe it’s the novelty factor. You should just accept one and have it done with. Then everyone would stop asking.’
‘I’m not going to go out with one so that all the others stop. That’s stupid. Besides, I don’t like any of them.’
‘You don’t have to like them…’ Audrey said and Saskia scoffed.
‘Don’t listen to Audrey, she’s not the best role model for womanly virtues.’
‘Whatever. I have prefect duties.’ Rose muttered and got out of the dormitory before her friends could launch into a rant about boys again. They got on her nerves and made her feel so self-conscious. She thought they made her feel as red as her hair.
She liked prefect duty because it was one of the only times she was alone, truly alone. She could wander the corridors at leisure and touch a graceful hand to each brick of sandstone. It calmed her.
‘Hey, Weasley.’ Rose turned to find a gangly youth standing in the shadows behind the portrait of Sir Cadogan.
‘Yes?’ She said, unsure who the speaker was.
‘Wanna go out with me?’
Rose’s eyes narrowed. ‘That is enough . Enough! I am sick to death of people asking me that question! The answer is no and always will be.’
‘That’s my kind of woman.’ Sir Cadogan said, ‘Defend yourself against beast and foe.’
‘And enough out of you.’ Rose muttered to the portrait.
‘How was duty?’ Saskia asked.
‘Terrible. 3 more boys asked me out.’
‘Oh, poor Rose.’ Audrey said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. Rose threw a pillow in her direction, silencing her.
‘I’ve had it up to here with them. Prefect’s duty was the only time I could really be myself and think, and now they’ve completely violated that too.’
‘What are you going to do?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You could make a quest, you know. Like an old school quest.’ Saskia said, eyes flashing.
‘What do you mean?’ Rose asked warily.
‘Like, some kind of gauntlet that they have to run or quest they have to conquer in order to win the fair maiden’s hand.’
‘That’s crazy, Saskia.’
‘Nah! It’ll be fun! Besides, its 6th year. We have nothing better to do.’
‘Yeah, come on, Rosie.’ Audrey said, leaning forward on her elbows.
‘Well, what kind of quest?’ Rose asked weakly. ‘I think this is all terribly chauvinistic.’
‘Enough out of you.’ Saskia said and turned to Audrey.
‘What do you think?’
‘Something clever and original.’
‘So, like, the person who can write the best love poem gets to go out with her?’ Saskia suggested. Rose snorted.
‘Sounds like fun.’ Rose muttered.
‘Shut up.’ Audrey and Saskia said in unison and put their heads together.
‘What about the person who can name every member of the Weasley family.’
‘We want her to be able to get a boyfriend before she dies, Audrey.’
‘Fine then.’ Audrey huffed, annoyed now.
Rose was thinking. What could be a good test. A test that would find out the boys that liked her for real, and not just because she was pretty. The boys that could prove that they knew a thing or two about life, and love and…
‘I know.’ She muttered and the girls looked at her.
‘You know what?’
‘I know what it should be!’
Audrey and Saskia turned towards her, prepared for the question to be naming every Shakespeare play or something equally as literary.
‘The person who can name every single variety of Rose can, you know, have the hand of the fair maiden.’
Audrey and Saskia were stunned. It was perfect.
‘That’s perfect, Rose.’
‘Thanks! I do try.’
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