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Chapter 6 : Roxburghii
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Then all the valleys would be pink and white, and soft to tread on. They would fall as light as feather, smelling sweet, and it would be like sleeping and yet waking, all at once.
Over the sea, Queen, where we soon shall go, will it rain roses?’
There are some stories, and roses, which are so slender it’s a wonder that they’re stories, or roses, at all. Like the Roxburghii, whose buds are tiny, tiny as rosehips, small little things. The stems are thin and whispy, the leaves like sheafs of tissue paper.
Some stories can be tossed off in a line or two, once upon a time… They are more like sums, than stories. Beginning + Middle = End. Still, it cannot be denied here that the briefest story cannot induce a powerful, indelible, curious power. For the same reason, one imagines, that an artist can produce thumbnail sketches, and that a bunch of tiny Roxburghii can bring the receiver to tears.
Once a girl received a single rose in a pot from a lover that represented their relationship. When it died out, the girl let the rose bloom
and bloom. She took the flower to the river, ripped the petals off, and flung them into the Thames.
Finley’s behaviour towards her changed as he reached the 70% mark. He knew that he would be, any day now, be winning her. But he was a kind man, a true Hufflepuff, and he didn’t want to win her cold, or against her will. He wanted her to like him, as he liked her. He wasn’t sure if he loved her, but he thought he would give it some time.
She dropped a book in the library, and the edge of the paper nicked her finger. She gasped in pain, and looked at the cut. A paper cut. The most tiny, insignificant… She gasped again. It hurt so much.
Finley knelt before her and picked up the book.
‘Here,’ He said, she took it gratefully. ‘You should soak it in murtlap essence. I had a real nasty cut,’ he grinned, ‘from a rose thorn, actually, once, and murtlap essence takes the edge off it.’
Rose nodded. ‘Yes, my mother used to make it for my father every time he was in the garden.’
‘Here,’ He said, producing a small bottle from the folds of his satchel bag. ‘I always carry it with me, just in case. That and pepper up potion. You never know when you’ll need that.’
‘Thanks.’ Rose said, taking the bottle.
She knew that he was being kind because he wanted her to like him, and she wasn’t sure if it was working or not.
Rose was sitting at the top of the astronomy tower, trying to get a good glimpse of Venus. She had been appearing at the oddest times, and now, late in the afternoon, Rose had been told she would appear again. It would greatly improve her chart if she could include a glimpse of such an elusive planet…
But Venus remained untrappable, and Rose huffed, pushing her telescope to the side. Slumped down against the balustrade she looked out over the gardens, and how beautiful Hogwarts was in the light of dusk. She looked towards the forest, and there, she could make out near a denser clump of trees a single figure moving.
That was rare, most people kept away from the forest, believing all the silly stories that had been told. It looked like him, tall-ish, fast moving. She hurried down the steps of the tower and into the night air, not even quite sure why she was moving so fast.
She reached the spot. No sign of him, just great big fir trees here and there, which in her restlessness looked all the same. She tugged at her tie, it was too tight, it was like a noose. It hung from her neck insouciantly, adding a sense of annoyance to her speckled beauty.
‘Yeah?’ Audrey replied. Rose rolled over in her bed.
‘How many guys our age have blonde-ish hair, taller than me, in our year.’
Audrey laughed. ‘You’re narrowing it down for me. Do you know the house? Was he fit?’
Rose sighed. ‘I suppose so, yeah. I don’t know the house, I didn’t see his tie.’
‘What, too busy focussing on his well developed muscle-age?’ Saskia cooed, and Rose threw a pillow at her.
‘Muscle-age is not a word, Saskia.’
‘Seriously though, Rosie, was there anything else about him?’
Rose thought back, trying to get a good look at him in her mind’s eye. ‘He had green eyes.’ She said, remembering their intensity. ‘Really, really green.’
Audrey bolted upright in her bed. ‘That’s Scorpius Malfoy, I’d bet my life on it. And if it wasn’t him I’ll…’ Audrey paused, searching for an idiom. ‘I’ll eat my hat!’
‘Scorpius Malfoy?’ Rose said dubiously, thinking back to the boy. She knew her dad was prejudiced to the Malfoy family, Merlin knows she’d heard enough about them to fill a book or two. He didn’t look so bad. Maybe he was a cousin, or something, unrelated to the people in the Malfoy family who her dad hated so much.
‘Yeah, he is quite fit, actually, Rosebud.’
Saskia narrowed her eyes. ‘But why are you asking?’ Then her voice grew excited, ‘Aw, he never joined the quest, Rosie?’
Rose shook her head. ‘No, it’s not that. I just saw him the other day, and he was talking about something, and it interested me.’
‘Was it naked people?’ Audrey asked, a straight face. Rose burst into laughter.
‘Yes, Audrey, it was naked people. I’m so dreadfully interested in naked people.’ Rose deadpanned. ‘Goodnight, all.’
Rose leant back against the wooden shelf of the library, tired from searching. She knew that muggle contraptions wouldn’t even work in the library, but damn they needed a computer or something. Old Madam Pince was going half batty and didn’t know her biography from her botany, and they were probably housed in the same sections too. She just wanted a simple history book, but she probably wouldn’t find it until next year.
‘You’re still here.’ A voice said, to her right. Rose started, and then saw who it was.
‘Oh, it’s you.’ She said, surveying Scorpius. ‘What are you doing here?’
He shrugged, ‘A bite of apple?’
The lure of sharing food, of taking a bite from the same spherical orb that Adam and Eve had once shared, is irresistible. The interesting thing about apples is that you can see exactly how much someone has eaten. They might take small, measured bites, and that shows that they are a careful person. Or they might take large’, haphazard bites, which show that they don’t take themselves too seriously. Scorpius had taken just one bit, to the left of the apple. Rose didn’t know what that meant. When she reached out, her sleeve slid back and laid bare her freckled arm.
‘I thought I saw you, the other day, in the forest.’ Rose said, and immediately hated herself for saying it. Scorpius had taken a bite from the apple and appeared to nod. The way his jaw moved reminded her of a horse, she could see the bones working methodically. She wondered if he could see hers. She paused and then said, ‘Scorpius.’ No response.
‘Aren’t you surprised that I know your name?’ Rose asked and he shrugged.
‘It’s just a name.’ He answered. ‘I know yours, doesn’t mean I know you.’
Rose was struck. That was true. She would hate to think that her name summed her up infinitely. Rose, a flower of beauty. That was what some people thought she was. Weasley, a family of infinite proportions and red hair and freckles. She was that too. But she was more as well, that didn’t take into account the smell of a Rose, the roots of a rose, the thorns (as Poison so aptly told us, every rose has them), the leaves, the colour…
Rose loved roses, she thought they were beautiful. But that wasn’t why she loved them. She loved them because they were historic, and metaphorical, and lovely, and so expressive. They were beautiful, but that wasn’t why she loved them.
This stranger, looking at her now, seemed to understand this, and nodded.
There was an Italian. Scorpius said, with a slight lick of his lips. He owned an ice-cream shop in Diagon Alley.
This man, he continued, was the first in all of London to call himself a ice-creamologist. He even had it painted in red letters on the front of his shop. His ice cream was the best quality. He lived above the shop. Both his parents had died. He had a hunchback, not a severe one, mind, but enough to make him lean over just a little as he moved.
Everybody liked him, he listened to women, he was nice to children, he nodded with the men. In turn everyone spoke so well of him, and his little shop, and his kind demeanour.
And his ice-cream, that was another thing entirely. It was like every flavour, and there were many, had been infused with something different altogether. Infused with happiness, or love, or kindness or gentleness or intensity of feeling. No-one could quite understand how a scoop of his rich and decadent Chocolate Madness could restore you to good feeling, or just one tiny taste of his Strawberry Silliness could send you over the edge, but it did. Just like Magic.
His shop was famous for its window displays. He would compose them, with great carefulness and attention to detail, late at night. He might make pictures out of tiny little ice cream balls, frozen with a spell to keep their shape. Another day he would make a castle out of ice cream cones, complete with turrets and flags flying. As his skills increased he turned to sculpture, carving Big Ben, Stone Henge and The Eiffel Tower out of different coloured blocks of ice-cream.
It was his hobby, that also happened to be good for business. People, busy doing busy things in Diagon Alley would stop and pause in front of the shop window. They would smile, and venture in, asking how he was doing, and what was new that day. Children would scream with delight and drag their parents in, demanding ice-cream and demanding it NOW.
As more and more people commented on the displays he put more and more effort into them. They demanded more of him as they became more elaborate, growing in ambition and complexity like a summer rose. He would continue serving quietly in the shop, and his window kept becoming more and more beautiful, quietly.
There was a woman who worked in the robes shop next door who often came in on hot summer’s days to get an ice-cream. Whenever he came in he paused to look at her, but never once did she glance his way. He gave her a scoop once, and she took them with barely a thankyou. It was as if she couldn’t see him, even when he was standing in his apron and ruddy cheeks right in front of her.
And, of course, she never noticed his displays in the windows. So, consequently, they become much more elaborate in order to catch her eye.
She was in the possession of extraordinary blue eyes, a distilled version of the blurry blue of mountains, or the rough blue of seas. Even more extraordinary, but perhaps not surprising all things considered, was the way that she looked at herself at every opportunity. In mirrors, in windows, doors, metal of any sort, puddles of water… It didn’t matter if she was serving a customer or in the middle of a conversation, if she caught a glimpse of herself she had to look.
And she liked to look too, of course. When she saw herself she would adjust her hair or clothing, making a small face to see what it looked like on her. Here was self-absorption made into an obsessive act.
Rose wondered if she was lovely or beautiful? She wondered about those blue eyes.
Lovely or beautiful, Scorpius mused, it didn’t really matter. The hunchback ice cream man had an obsession, even about her straight hair and her slightly vacant expression. He needed to have her in his life, and then it would be complete.
He devised a way to catch her attention, and wrote a list. He sent out letters to overseas merchants. Quantities and exact numbers were calculated, and burnt into his brain. He went on trips to France and Italy, personally selecting each item, checking for colour, intensity, shape, weight.
All Sunday he closed the shop and worked behind the shutters in the window. He worked all through the night, and then into the morning, even when he could hear his fellow shop keepers opening their doors. Suddenly he opened the shutters, and watched as the usual customers and bystanders waited eagerly.
There was an intake of breath, and a murmur of admiration that tittered between them. He smiled. It had passed the first test. Now all he had to do was wait.
A little child with red hair skipped into the shop smiling. ‘It’s really great, Mister.’ He said, and then paused. ‘Can I have two scoops of Chocolate Madness?’
Another regular on his way to the bookshop gave his praise. ‘It’s your best yet, really. A masterpiece. And believe you me, I do not use that word lightly.’
Then she appeared, her long legs encased in nylon tights, her feet clacking over the pavement in patent black stilettos. He left the customer in mid sentence and moved to the window, waiting to see if she would notice.
She was rushing for work, but still managed to catch a glimpse of herself in the reflection of a window, and pouted a little. She walked straight past his window without a second glance. He waited, expecting her maybe to leave her shop and walk past, or come in for an ice cream. She didn’t come.
At about lunch time She left her shop again and passed his window by, in the early afternoon she came back swinging with a bag of grapes on her arm and she didn’t even look his way, but rather was preoccupied by her reflection in the mirror of a bicycle.
Had she looked she would have seen herself modelled in his window, head, shoulders, body, feet, faithful to her image and sculpted out of ice cream and cones. She had a peach sorbet complexion, juicy strawberry lips, long waves of chocolate madness hair, eyebrows of liquorice, small freckles of malt sprinkle, ears fashioned out of a cone, the yellowy-white of vanilla bean for the dress. There were others, too subtle to pick up immediately but that contributed to the whole irrevocably.
It was all there, faithful to a tee, and beautiful too. The only thing that he had been unable to find was the eyes, the intensity of the light blue he had slaved away with dye all night, but had been unable to capture. Without the eyes she had been apparently unable to see herself.
As scorpius finished the story he reached across Rose to get his pile of books and apple core, and had accidently brushed against her.
‘Why did he have to be a hunchback?’
‘It doesn’t matter. It’s only a story.’
‘But why? He already had enough problems what with the self-obsessed girl and working the shop all by himself.’
‘It doesn’t matter.’
When Scorpius had left the story hanging like a stalactite in mid air Rose felt imapatient and annoyed at his indifference. It did matter about these things. Like why did he have to label himself an ‘ice cream-ologist?’ and did the girl ever stop in front of the shop and see herself? And then what, what did she do then? And what about those shoes? What brand were they? And how come she was so obsessed with her reflection?
‘It doesn’t matter.’ Scorpius repeated, looking deeply at her. ‘Why do you think these things matter.’
‘Because they do.’ Rose replied huffily, ‘They do matter. I want to know if these stories are true or not.’
‘They’re stories, Rose, what do you think?’
A/N; Another incredibly long wait. I am so so so so so so so so sorry. I hope you like this! more scorpius for all of you that love him so. I know i do!!! I loved this chapter, poor Rose is lost in front of the haughty but nonchalant cool of our hero. I'm so glad people like this story, thanks for reading,. You guys are amazing!!!!
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