Chapter 15 : Build Up
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“What the hell are you playing at?” Dad shouts at Percy, poking him in the chest. The two are about the same height, but I’m sure Dad could beat him, if it came to a fight. I think Uncle Percy would be more likely to bore someone to death, than to beat them to it. “You’re a sly git, d’you know that? Hermione would be perfect for Minister, you said so yourself! Why the hell are you running for it, you tosser?”
“Ron, leave it,” Mum tells him quietly, “There’s no point –”
“He’s a git!” Dad repeats, drawing his wand and pointing it at his older brother, “Always has been!”
“What’s going on?!”
The sound of Nana Molly’s voice causes Dad to lower his wand slightly. We decided to take the family dilemma to The Burrow, instead of brawling in the Ministry, where it would be sure to be printed on the front of the Evening Prophet. Hugo looks ready to kill Uncle Percy, who has yet to say anything at all about his extremely sudden decision to run for Minister, but Mum and I know who is really behind this – the infuriatingly smug woman by his side, Auntie Audrey.
“Ron, put your wand away,” Grandad snaps, entering the living room, where we have all congregated.
“He’s a backstabbing little –”
“We were listening to the announcement,” says Nana Molly, “Percy, we didn’t know you were going to run for Minister.”
Everyone now turns to Percy to see what he has to say for himself. He straightens himself up pompously, but pauses a moment before he begins speaking.
“I thought it would be a good career move,” he says. Even I want to hit him now. How is it that it’s only in the past twenty four hours that he’s realised being Minister for Magic would be good for his career?
“Rubbish!” Mum snaps, losing control, “You weren’t even interested in running until I fired Audrey from being my campaign manager!”
“What are you implying, Hermione?” Audrey asks.
“You know fine well what I’m implying,” Mum growls furiously.
“Why don’t we all just calm down?” says Nana Molly, trying to remain impartial, “Would anyone like a cup of tea? I have an apple tart in the oven...”
Bless her. Even during a family crisis, Nana Molly still wants to feed us. Mum, though furiously flustered, helps Nana Molly with the tea, while the rest of us sit down in the living room and try to calm ourselves. Al looks ready to burst out laughing at the tension that is mounting.
And James’s arrival definitely doesn’t help matters.
“I just heard from Dad!” James laughs after apparating into the hall, “Congrats, Hermione!” He comes into the living room, and I notice that he looks much thinner than usual. Not to sound too Nana Molly about it, but I do hope he’s eating properly. His hair needs a good cut too. “And congrats to you too, Percy, I suppose,” he comments in a somewhat teasing way, “No offence, but who’d nominate you?”
Percy shoots James a rather dirty look and does not dignify his question with an answer. Percy has always somewhat disapproved of James’s existence. I think he expected Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry to produce a much more gracious and bright first born. I think everybody did.
“I nominated him,” says Auntie Audrey proudly, “And my nomination was seconded by Timothy Russell himself!”
“How much did you bribe him?” Dad asks bitterly. James sits down on the floor beside my chair with the usual ‘alright, Red?’ and now that he’s this close, I’ve noticed how tired he looks too. He has dark circles under his eyes. He obviously hasn’t been sleeping. Sometimes I wonder if he does a bit too much partying.
“Percy has worked at the Ministry for over thirty years,” says Audrey haughtily, “He was Junior Assistant to the Minister of Magic himself, and a very high-ranking official for many years. Frankly, he has more experience than Hermione.”
“More experience?” Dad scoffs, “Are you forgetting that while Percy was working for the Death Eater-controlled Ministry, Hermione was out fighting Voldemort with me and Harry? Hermione has more real life experience in her little finger than Percy has in his whole body!”
“Ron,” says Grandad tiredly, “Please, don’t bring that up...”
“Why not?” Dad cries, “I never thought Percy would do this again. I actually had a bit of respect for you, Perce.”
“Do what again?” Al asks. Dad seems a bit surprised by Al’s question – I think he forgot we were here.
“Choose the Ministry over his family,” says Dad, “Fred would turn in his grave.”
Percy looks like Dad’s hit him. James, Al, Hugo and I all look at each other uncomfortably, knowing that Uncle Fred is always dangerous territory to venture into. Tears are beginning to well up in Nana Molly’s eyes.
“Stop it, Ron!” Nana Molly cries, her voice shaking.
“We better go,” says Percy quietly, “I’ll talk to you soon, mother.” He disapparates.
“You should be ashamed of yourself, Ronald,” says Audrey, “Using your brother’s death like that.” She disapparates just before Dad sends a curse at her, which hits one of Nana Molly’s vases instead. Nana Molly weeps as Mum repairs it.
“I hate them both!” Dad shouts.
“Ron, calm down!” Grandad roars at him. Grandad can be very scary, despite being very old, he still has complete control over his children.
“We all know this wasn’t Percy’s idea,” Mum points out.
We drink our tea and eat our tart in silence, Dad wolfing his down angrily. You can tell Dad’s mood by how he eats. If he eats silently, but quickly, then he’s angry. If he eats quickly and talks with his mouth full, he’s excited. If he eats slightly slower, he’s tired. If he doesn’t eat at all, he’s dying.
Mum and Dad return to work after finishing their tea and apple tart. Al is finished for the day, and so James drags him off to plan his stag night, asking him what kind of stripper he’d like. At least they are sticking to tradition for the stag night – no dreary weekends in the country for them.
I return to work too, where Linda, Hazel and Gladys congratulate me on my mother’s success. I’ve decided not to tell them about what escalated between me and Scorpius yesterday and have mentioned very little about the hen weekend. As far as they know, I had a perfectly nice time with my friends. As much as I appreciate having Linda, Hazel and Gladys look out for me, it can get quite annoying when they know absolutely everything about my life.
Today, Linda has decorated the receptionists’ desk with red and pink decorations for Valentine’s Day. She even has red love-heart shaped clips in her hair and Hazel has put up the card she got from her husband. I have my card up too. Aidan made me one at school yesterday. Brian obviously helped him with the writing. It just said ‘To Mum, Love From Aidan XXX’ on it. Linda has been cooing over it all day. I had completely forgotten about Valentine’s Day until Aidan gave me the card.
Healer Kennedy is even joining in on the festivities and is wearing a bright red tie underneath his robes. He approaches the desk with a box of heart-shaped chocolates.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, ladies,” he says, handing them to us. Gladys giggles. It’s a strange and gruesome sound.
“Thank you, sir,” Linda smiles, batting her eyelids.
“Oh, call me Damien,” he says, embarrassed. I suppose it must be weird for him to hear women older than himself calling him ‘sir’. My heart doesn’t even flutter slightly at the sight of him today because my mind is elsewhere. It is with someone who is celebrating his first Valentine’s Day with his new wife. How utterly depressing.
“I like your tie, Damien,” says Linda flirtatiously, suddenly very comfortable with being on first name terms with him.
“Thank you, Linda,” he replies, “My wife bought it for me.”
Linda looks thoroughly disappointed with this. “Damn,” she hisses when he’s gone, “I was hoping he was getting divorced.”
“Would you divorce that arse?” Gladys asks, “If my ex-husband had an arse like that...”
“Why do our conversations always have to take such a low tone?” I ask.
“We can go much lower,” Hazel points out.
“Speaking of divorce – how are Scorpius and Daisy?” Linda asks.
I change the subject very quickly to something else, hoping that they won’t notice how red my ears have gone.
Sitting at home, alone, on Valentine’s Day is something I’m very used to, but it doesn’t make it any less depressing. Brian has a date with some woman his friend set him up with, Scorpius and Daisy are going out to some very exclusive restaurant in London, according to James, who also has a date with a mystery woman. Laura, Dom and Lily are all busy tonight too. Even Aidan has received a Valentine’s Day card! I found it in his bedroom, and being the nosy mother I am, I had a peek. It read:
Happy Valentines Day,
From Mia xxx
I think it’s odd how this Mia person obviously got someone to spell ‘Valentines’ for her, but couldn’t discover the proper way to spell her love interest’s name. Still, I can’t be that critical of a five year old, but even my dyslexic son can spell his name. I didn’t bother asking Aidan who Mia is, because I know he’ll just get angry with me for reading his card. It’s very sad, however, that a five year old has a more interesting love life than I do.
My bitter attitude somewhat fades when Dom shows up at my flat at ten o’clock, having just escaped a horribly bad date. The bloke, who she met through a mutual friend, turned out to be a complete weirdo and actually asked her if he could look up her skirt during dinner. Apparently some guys just have very bad table manners.
“That date was a total waste of make-up. Why are all men so fucking annoying?” Dom growls, kicking off her high heels and throwing herself down on the couch beside me.
“They’re not all annoying,” I tell her, “Some are dead.”
“I’m telling you, I’m so close to becoming a nun, it’s not even funny.”
And so we spend our Valentines’ Night watching the telly and drinking cheap wine. It’s times like these when I wonder why we get so hung up on men, and why we think we need them to make us happy. When you can have a good laugh with your friends, a heart-to-heart with your cousin, babies from a cup and satisfaction from chocolate, who needs a bloke anyway? Men are definitely overrated.
Over the next week, Scorpius avoids me completely. He makes excuses not to come to my place to collect Aidan and sends Daisy, James or Al to get him instead. It’s so pathetic. He even makes Daisy answer the door to me when I go over to their place. Daisy and I hold very forced polite conversation for no more than thirty seconds, but at least we’re on semi-civil terms.
It goes on like this for days. Jenny starts getting suspicious as to why Scorpius is sending Al back and forth with our child, but I tell her that he’s just busy with work. I can’t tell her what I said to him – she’d kill me, and I couldn’t even defend myself because she’s pregnant. Luckily Jenny is so preoccupied with the wedding that she doesn’t press me for more information concerning Scorpius’s absence from my life.
Friday, exactly eight days before the Potter-Winters wedding, I’m supposed to go to Jenny’s to help with the preparations, and Scorpius is supposed to be taking Aidan for the weekend. I’m already twenty minutes late, and Aidan is sitting on the floor, petting Ollie boredly as we wait for the next messenger to come collect him. At half one, someone finally knocks on the door.
This time, he’s sent his parents.
Draco and Astoria Malfoy are at my door. How I wish he’d sent Daisy.
“Hello Rose!” Mrs Malfoy greets me happily, “I’m sure Scorpius told you we’d be coming.”
“Er, I’m sure he didn’t,” I reply.
“We’re taking Aidan for the weekend,” says Draco Malfoy, completely avoiding my eye line. I’ve never seen anyone less pleased to be at my flat as him. Our last confrontation was quite a strange one, what with our evil scheming and absurd bonding over our hatred for Scorpius’s wife – I don’t think we quite know what to say to each other.
“Well, Aidan is staying with us this weekend,” says Astoria, “I thought Scorpius told you...”
“Why is he staying with you?” I ask, not meaning to be as rude as I sound. I’ve always quite liked Astoria and got on quite well with her. I can’t say the same for her husband.
“It’s not unheard of for a child to visit his grandparents every now and again,” says Draco dryly.
I stare at him blankly and wait for a more satisfactory answer. I know he’ll get so uncomfortable under my stare that he’ll have to tell me eventually just why the hell Aidan isn’t staying with Scorpius this weekend, as planned.
“Scorpius and Daisy are gone away for the weekend,” he states, that disapproving look he usually saves for me plastered across his face.
Aidan runs out from the living room. “Grandad! Granny!” he cries happily. I can’t say very much now that Aidan is here, as I’ve made a promise to myself not to argue with people while he’s in earshot. I invite the Malfoys in for a moment, trying to pry some more information about Scorpius and Daisy’s whereabouts without seeming overbearing or jealous. However, they’re both too interested in Aidan to even acknowledge me. When they do, it’s to talk about Mum.
“We heard about your mother’s nomination for Minister!” says Astoria, “She must be so excited. She has our vote!”
Draco once again looks very uncomfortable. It’s common knowledge that he has a strong dislike for my parents, and my whole family in general, but it’s clear now that he is facing a huge dilemma now – who does he hate more, Mum or Uncle Percy?
“Thank you, Mrs Malfoy,” I say. I then look at the clock and realise that I was supposed to be at Jenny’s half an hour ago. I’m sure I’ll be receiving a howler from her any minute if I don’t get a move on, so I kiss Aidan goodbye and let him go with his grandparents, who are taking him to the zoo, apparently.
And so Scorpius continues to dodge me for days and days. I don’t know what he’s hoping is going to happen by avoiding me – does he think I’ll just go away? Or that my feelings will go away? If I thought that, I’d have moved to Japan at this stage. Whoever made up the phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’ was full of crap.
“Maybe it’s a coincidence,” says Brian when I confide in him about the whole situation, “You know, maybe he’s just busy.”
“He’s a broomstick charmer,” I say flatly, “How busy can he be?”
Brian, still looking very amused by the notion of a broomstick charmer, places a cup of tea down in front of me. I’m at his house upon invite – he wanted to complain to me about his crappy Valentines’ date with a woman named Greta, and I want to complain about the same person I always complain about.
“You did sort of just spring it on him,” says Brian, “I’d probably hide from you too.”
“Cheers, Brian, you’re so helpful.”
“I wish Greta would avoid me,” he says darkly, taking his phone out of his pocket, clicking a button, and putting it back, “She won’t stop texting me. I wish she’d take the hint.”
“Poor Greta,” I say, “You know, you ought to be more sensitive. I know what it’s like to be on Greta’s end of things!”
“It’s not the same,” Brian laughs, “I don’t have a kid with her. Thank God. You know, one of these days I’m actually going to go on a good date...” He looks sort of depressed about it. I feel sorry for him.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. My cousin Dom –”
I stop suddenly. It hits me like lightening. Why haven’t I thought of it before?
“Brian, how would you like to come to a wedding with me?” I ask, “My cousin, Al, is getting married on Saturday.”
He looks slightly suspicious at my sudden change of subject. But he has no idea of my ingenious plan.
“I’m going to need moral support,” I tell him, “Plus, you’ll get to meet lots of witches and wizards.”
This seems to seal the deal. And just like that I have a new project, as if I didn’t have enough of them. On top of Potions, apparition classes, motherhood, work, Mum’s Ministry campaign, not killing Daisy and preparing for Jenny’s wedding, I am now bound to play matchmaker between my friend Brian and my cousin Dom.
On the eve of Al and Jenny’s wedding, the boys are having the stag night, while Dom, Lily, Jenny’s sister and I all stay at Jenny’s parents’ house. Her parents are staying at the hotel the reception is in tonight - they don't want to be here for the massacre that is the morning of the wedding.
The place has already been converted into a bridesmaid- refuge. Jenny has laid out all of the make-up in the bathroom, in the order it goes on, so that the beautician will be able to navigate it properly in the morning. Nana Molly dropped off the wedding cake earlier, and it is in the kitchen, to be brought to the reception hall tomorrow morning by Teddy.
It’s so hard to believe that the wedding is here already. Their engagement party seems like just yesterday. Actually, their first date seems like just yesterday – it’s so strange to think it’s been over five years. And Jenny just seems so calm about the whole thing. It’s like she was born to be a Potter.
We go to bed early, to look our best tomorrow. However, I’m shaken awake at one o’clock in the morning by a very frantic Jenny, whose tranquillity seems to have disappeared completely.
“I don’t have my veil!” she screeches, “I left my veil back at the flat!”
“Calm down,” I croak, sitting up in the bed, “Are you sure?”
“YES I’M SURE!” she shouts, “Rose, what am I going to do? I don’t have my veil!”
I get out of the bed, and grab her shoulders. It’s not often that I’m the rational one between the two of us, but weddings can do awful things to people, particularly when there is a pregnant bride involved.
“Jenny, you need to calm down,” I tell her, “It’s fine. We’ll get James to bring it over in the morning.”
“Now!” Jenny cries, “I need it now! Everything has to go perfectly in the morning, Rose! I need everything together!”
“Well then pull yourself together!” I shout. I’m a fan of tough love. “You are pregnant, you don’t need any added stress. Now I’m going to ring James and have him bring the veil over. Go to bed.”
She doesn’t go to bed until after I’ve rang James and assured her that he’ll be over in ten minutes. I then go downstairs and wait for him to arrive, wondering why the hell I was saddled with the job of maid of honour. Lily is Jenny’s future sister in law – Gillian is Jenny’s sister! I think she’s doing it to punish me for something I’ve done to piss her off.
But it’s not James who arrives with the veil. It’s Scorpius.
It’s strange how Scorpius will send our son from pillar to post with any Tom, Dick or Harry, but he must deliver Jenny’s veil in person.
“The others were too drunk to apparate,” he explains straight away, “They would have splinched themselves.”
I can’t imagine what Jenny would say if the best man turned up to the wedding without a nose.
“So...eh, here,” he says, handing me the veil. I take it from him, and stare, waiting for him to bring up something about what I said the other week. He doesn’t. “Right, I’m going to head off...”
“Seriously?” I ask, “That’s it? That’s all I get?”
He’s a little bit tipsy, I can tell, but he’s not half as bad as I thought he’d be, given the fact that he’s been at Al’s stag night. “What do you want me to say?” he shrugs.
“Why have you been avoiding me?” I ask him.
“I haven’t –”
“Please don’t insult my intelligence,” I snap, “I haven’t seen you in nearly two weeks. Why?”
He pauses for a moment. “You know why,” he says angrily, “I’d rather not get into this now, Rose, it’s nearly half one in the morning.”
“Look, I’m sorry,” I tell him, “I know I shouldn’t have just come out with it the way I did, but you have to understand –”
“Just shut up, would you?” he snaps, “You sound pathetic!”
It burns, cuts and stings all at the same time. The look he’s given me, I’ve only ever seen on his face once, and it was aimed towards his father. It’s hard being on the receiving end – perhaps this is why Draco Malfoy is always so miserable.
“Please, just hear me out,” I go on, sounding even more pathetic.
“No,” he hisses.
“I didn’t mean to spring it on you, really I didn’t!” I tell him, “But it’s been eating me up. I can’t think of anything else –”
“You’re only saying this because I’m with someone else!” Scorpius snarls, “When I was available, you couldn’t be bothered with me!”
“It’s not true!” I cry, “I was going to tell you, but then you told me you were married and it’s all been downhill from there...”
“I really do love you, Scorpius!” I tell him, “I do! And I was so gutted when I heard that you were married – that’s why I’ve been so horrible to Daisy all this time.” It’s like someone has stuffed me full of Veritaserum. “I know I’ve been a bitch, but you really hurt me this time, Scorp.”
“Good,” he snaps coldly, and takes a good look at me, “At last you finally know how it feels.”
He leaves. Before I can burst into tears, I go to leave the veil upstairs, and find Jenny standing at the top of them, glaring at me, having just heard the whole conversation.
A/N - I know, I've taken ages, but believe me, nobody is happier that this chapter is finally up than me! I've changed it a few times, and I've been busy with other stuff, so they are my excuses. The good news is that work is underway for a dramatic chapter 16, so stay tuned! And by-the-by - 3000 REVIEWS!!!! SQUEE!!! I squeed out loud when I saw! You guys are such total legends. I have the best reader/reviewers in the whole world. I'm so grateful!! I know I'm so unbelievably bad at answering reviews, but you can contact me on my HPFF author page. And as always, I do read every single review, and I appreciate them all. *HUG* (",)
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