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Chapter 13 : James and Albus Take A Turn For The Worse
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Small Clearing Behind Greenhouses
I was terrified.
I’m not talking about the sort of fear you get when you get caught doing something illegal or when you get a whopper of a nightmare. I’m talking about the sort of fear you get when you’re speeding along a thousand feet in the air on a broomstick, flying above a sea of jagged rocks and your broom suddenly drops like a stone. I’m talking about the sort of fear you get when you find out Voldemort has risen from his grave and he has decided that you’re the new Harry Potter. Or, feck, even the sort of fear you get when you return home early after work and discover your partner/sibling/good friend playing Teatime with his/her secret squirrel taxidermy collection he’s/she’s never told you about.
Yes, well, you get the point.
‘Okay.’ I squeaked, gripping the handle of the Cleansweep Seven so hard I feared I would leave ten deep, mysteriously finger-shaped grooves in the wood.
‘You’re doing fantastic—just try to relax—’ I felt Scorpius’ grip on both of my shoulders loosen deliberately. I immediately let out a loud shriek.
‘No, don’t let go just yet!’
Scorpius’ grasp returned.
I started letting out short, sharp breaths. I can do this. I can. Really. Bloody hell, Rose, you’re only three feet off the ground. ‘I think I’m alright now.’
‘Are you sure?’ Scorpius asked warily from behind me. ‘You sure you’re not going to start screaming bloody murder once I take my hands off you?’
I nodded erratically. ‘Yes, yes I’m sure.’
‘Are you very sure?’
I screwed my eyes up tight.
Scorpius let go, and I heard him step back.
Well, this isn’t so bad.
‘Relax, Rose.’ Scorpius called out from behind me, laughter in his voice. ‘You’re hunching over so much your forehead is practically touching the handle.’
I straightened my back a tad, eyes still shut tight. ‘Mmm hmm. Better?’
‘Not really.’ I heard his heavy footsteps, and felt him forcibly tug me up.
‘Fuck! That hurt!’ I yowled, wobbling from side to side in an extremely worrying fashion. ‘Don’t jostle me!’
‘You’ve got to relax.’ Scorpius repeated, sighing. ‘And open your eyes, you won’t be able to see where you’re going if you don’t.’
I wrenched both my eyes open, trying to look at anywhere but the ground. ‘Now what?’ I squeaked.
‘Steady now…’ it seemed as thought Scorpius was trying very hard not to laugh. Hmmph. ‘Okay. Here are the basics of broom-riding. You want to go forward, you just lean forward and push the broomstick handle down ever so slightly. You want to go faster, just lean more and push harder. The broom will do the rest. You want turn left, lean left and direct the broom of your handle left. Lean right and direct your broom right if you’re going to go right. To brake, you pull the handle up and lean back. Understand?’
I shot him a terrified look. ‘Er – I think.’ Merlin, none of it makes sense. I’d honestly like to throttle and skin the person who came up with the momentously stupid idea of enchanting a bunch of wood to make it fly. I’m not a very violent person (though others - namely my various relatives – might vehemently claim otherwise) but this is a nightmare.
‘Right, we’ll start off nice and easy…’ he pushed up the sleeves of his gray jumper, and stepped back further. ‘Tilt your handle to your front very, very gently... er… Rose?’
‘Did you hear me?’
‘Yeah – yeah I did.’ I licked my dry, cracked lips. My tongue felt like a particularly furry dead rat. ‘I’m going to – er – yeah.’
I applied the tiniest bit of pressure possible to the handle and braced myself. ‘Did it move?’
‘A few millimeters, yeah.’ Scorpius said brightly. ‘How about pushing it a little harder?’
I hated the way he was talking to me. Like I was some imbecilic, annoying five-year-old. Stupid tosser. Feeling defiant and rather huffy, I hunched forward and pushed. The broom inched forward several feet. Miraculously, I was still sitting upright on the broom. Merlin’s beard.
‘That was good.’ Scorp walked over to my side. ‘Can you feel it humming?’
‘What?’ I said distractedly, too busy having mentally celebrating my small success. ‘Humming?’
‘Yeah – you should feel it vibrating a little right now.’
I stayed still for several moments. ‘Whoa – it is humming.’
‘Means you’re on the right track.’ Scorpius informed me, a huge grin breaking over his face. ‘Go on – try going faster.’
‘Faster?’ I yelped. ‘Isn’t this good enough?’
‘Rose, I could walk faster than that.’ Scorpius said derisively. ‘Go on.’
I pushed the handle forward again, more firmly this time. The broom drifted forward several more feet, floating lazily through the air. ‘Woo!’ I cheered. This was actually pretty fun! My sneakers were just barely skimming the dewy grass, and I picked my robes up to keep them from trailing on the ground.
My head whipped around. ‘What?’
‘You’re barely three feet off the ground.’ Scorpius said a-matter-of-factly.
‘How exactly do you do that?’ I said nervously.
‘Well, you’ve got to pick up a bit more speed first. Go faster, then when you’re about halfway across this clearing, pull the handle up and stretch yourself upwards a bit. Sort of like this, yeah?’ he demonstrated. Apparently, he noticed my horrorstruck expression, because he added, ‘Don’t worry. You’ve already gone this far, I’m sure you’ll have no problem with this.’
I gulped down several mouthfuls of chilly October air.
I flexed my fingers.
I pushed back several stray locks of my hair.
This time I gave the handle of my Cleansweep Seven a good hard shove. The broomstick jerked forward and began speeding towards the greenhouses opposite.
‘Argh!’ I screamed as shrilly as I could. The cold air felt like long knives were being continuously stabbed into my exposed face. My hair completely blinded me (I knew I should’ve tied it up) and I was going far too bloody fast.
‘Pull the handle up!’ I heard Scorpius shout behind me.
Fuck fuck fuck... how the sodding hell does the brake work again?
My mind went completely blank. I was still hurtling towards the greenhouses. Well, maybe using the word “hurtling” would be a bit of a stretch, but still.
The greenhouse was getting closer. I could see several newly potted Venomous Tentacula through the greenhouse’s glass. I can only imagine what those stupid Tentacula will do to me once I crash through those glass walls. Probably wrap those tentacles around my neck and squeeze.
I bet Professor Longbottom won’t be happy to find that Greenhouse Seven is going to have this great big hole in one of the walls. Come to think of it, he might even tell Mum and Dad about this.
And when Mum and Dad know, the rest of the Weasley-Potter clan are bound to find out. That means they’ll all know about Scorpius. Dad will literally explode. Granddad Weasley is going to have a second stroke. James, Hugo, Albus and Freddie will kill me.
Fuck, James, Hugo, Albus and Freddie will know.
In a moment of blinding panic at the notion of those four eejits knowing about Scorpius, I tugged the broom handle up at the last minute and soared.
What am I supposed to do now?
The broomstick started jerking about wildly and bucked up and down. I was steadily rising higher and higher. Five feet, ten feet, fifteen feet…
I let out another hysterical scream.
‘Rose! Steady the broom and head towards the ground!’ Malfoy bellowed from somewhere below me.
Don’t look down. I can’t look down.
I looked down.
Whoa, the ground looks really far away from up here. Scorpius was nothing more than a small blond splodge against a backdrop of green grass. Merlin, this wooden handle really hurts. My arms felt like they were being ripped out of their sockets. I was holding on for dear life – literally – and I was slowly but surely slipping.
I whizzed past the North Tower, rocketing around crazily.
‘Point the handle towards the ground!’
I tried, I honestly did. But the handle would not budge. I thought the Cleansweep Seven was my friend, but evidently it was more interested in killing me than being peaceable companions.
I screamed again. ‘AUUUUUURRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGH!’
I tugged helplessly on the handle, and it suddenly shifted. The broomstick dropped like a stone. I was now headed straight for Scorpius.
‘Slow down, Rose! SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!’
I forcefully drew the handle towards me, and the broomstick abruptly jerked to a halt. This would have been a good thing if I wasn’t still seven feet in the air. My fingers were yanked from the handle. I flew completely over the broomstick and plowed right into Scorpius Malfoy. It was all really very confusing for a few seconds. Everything was a blur until I found myself lying right on top of a groaning Scorpius Malfoy.
Wordlessly, I shakily rolled off him and settled myself somewhere beside him. I was panting and breathing harder than I ever had in my entire life, and my heart was going into overdrive.
‘Are—are you okay?’ Scorpius croaked, hugging his abdomen gingerly. ‘Sorry about that – I shouldn’t have rushed you into it.’
‘Are you kidding?’ I sat right up, eyes going wide. ‘That. Was. Fantastic.’
Scorpius’ brow furrowed. ‘Come again?’
‘That was fantastic!’ I burbled enthusiastically, adrenaline still pumping furiously through my blood. I hadn’t felt anything like that before. And it was, for lack of a better word, completely incredible. ‘Let’s do it again!’
Scorpius stared at me. ‘Um.’
‘I’m serious!’ I insisted, pulling him up hastily. ‘Sorry about that, by the way. The knocking you over part, I mean. Did you see me? I was going so fast! I thought I was going to crash into that greenhouse – then I followed your instructions and pulled up – and the broomstick went utterly mad. I don’t know what happened! You’ve got to tell me how to control a broomstick – can’t have that happening every time I fly, can I?’
Scorpius continued staring.
‘What?’ I said defensively.
‘You’ve gone bonkers.’ Scorpius replied dazedly. He nodded erratically several times. ‘Yeah – that’s it.’
‘Don’t be stupid.’ I frowned. ‘It really was an amazing feeling, being in the air like that.’ I didn’t understand why Scorpius didn’t get it.
‘I never should’ve agreed to training you.’ He mumbled, clutching at his head. It was then that I realized a marvelously purple bruise was beginning to form on his left temple.
‘Shit – did I do that?’ I exclaimed, horrified.
‘S’nothing.’ He patted down his fringe to cover the bruise.
‘No, it’s not!’ I argued. ‘Come on – let me heal it.’
Scorpius stopped fidgeting long enough for me to heal his huge bruise. Surprisingly enough, I was more or less unscathed. Funny that – when these sort of things happen I’m usually the one worse off.
‘You really love flying now?’ Scorpius said after a few silent moments of staring at me suspiciously. ‘That crash didn’t addle your brain, or anything?’
‘You’re not hallucinating, by any chance?’
‘Is this some sort of trick?’ he demanded, brushing grass off his grey sweater vest.
‘ I’m not really the sort to play tricks on someone.’ I shrugged. ‘What time is it?’
Scorpius checked his watch. ‘Around five minutes to seven.’
‘Well, come on then. Let’s go get some dinner.’
One Day Later
Attention to all fifth-year students and above,
New Year’s Eve Ball
The yearly New Year’s Eve Ball will be held at 7.00 p.m., December 31, 2020, in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. Only fifth-year students and above are allowed to attend. Please note that any fourth-year and below students caught at the ball will be forcibly removed by Mr. Filch.
All students must wear formal dress robes to the event. For females: dress robes above the knee/navel and below the collarbone are not permitted.
All students must exhibit proper behavior at the event. The following are expressly forbidden at the New Year’s Eve Ball:
Smuggling in alcohol
Dueling or any sort of magical combat
Using Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder when everyone is dancing
Jinxing anyone dancing with the Jelly-Legs Curse
Letting loose a horde of Cornish Pixies/Nifflers/Bowtruckles/any sort of magical creature in the Great Hall to wreak havoc
Switching punch with Amortentia/Veritaserum/The Draught of Sleeping Death/any sort of magical concoction or potion
The full list can be found with Mr. Filch.
The purpose of the New Year’s Eve Ball is to strengthen the ties and promote unity between the four houses– Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin – so students are expected to find a partner from a house other than your own to the ball. Partners are, however, optional.
‘What’s the notice about?’
‘It’s about that naff ball… why’s Hogwarts still having it? I thought they completely dropped this ball thing after you set fire to the decorations last year?’
‘It says here we’re supposed to get someone from another house to go to the ball.’
‘I’m so taking Jemima Davies from Ravenclaw with me!’
‘Blimey, you still think you have a chance with her?’
I stopped short on my way to the girl’s dorm when I heard James and Hugh No-Last-Name muttering on about some ball, interest piqued. The New Year’s Eve Ball?
‘What’re you two talking about?’ I asked, slightly out of breath.
James and Hugh No-Last Name turned around, slightly alarmed. Well, Hugh No-Last-Name looked alarmed. James just looked completely exhausted. I suppose that stupid bet with Albus was taking its toll on him. His eyes were scarily bloodshot and there were faint purple crescents under them. His skin was sallow and pale and his hair was actually quite terrifying. He’s been going without any rest for around thirty hours now. I’m surprised he’s still on his feet.
James has been downing several million cups of coffee to keep him awake. The whole Common Room’s littered with his tea cups. Albus and James both stay in the Common Room all night, just sitting in their respective armchairs and stare at each other, trying not to lose consciousness. Just about everyone agrees that the two of them are extremely stupid.
I heard that Albus very nearly fell asleep in History of Magic. James has resorted to skipping History of Magic entirely – you could fall asleep in that bloody class even with fifty hours of sleep. I don’t think any of the teachers have found out yet, but I’m seriously debating telling one. At this rate, the loser will probably be the one who drops dead first.
‘Whhat?’ James mumbled. ‘What’re you doing up so early?’
‘It’s only six-thirty.’ I snorted.
‘Exactly.’ Hugh No-Last-Name raised an eyebrow.
‘Out jogging again?’ James peered at me balefully.
I smiled back innocently and crossed my sweaty arms. ‘Yes.’
I think James thinks there’s something suspicious about me suddenly developing an interest for jogging but he can’t exactly stop me from wanting to improve my physical health, can he?
‘You look chipper.’ Hugh No-Last-Name observed.
The funny thing is, I do feel chipper. I think all this exercise might actually be doing me good. I went jogging without Scorpius today (he failed to show up after I waited at our rock beside the Black Lake for forty-five minutes) and I’m extremely proud to say I wasn’t even out of breath for the first lap. I’ve found there’s something very relaxing about the rhythmic and steady thud of my feet on wet grass and the way my thighs feel like they’re on fire after a good half-hour run. Of course, I still trip over everything in sight but somehow it’s sort of worth it. Sort of. My stamina, hand-eye coordination and overall athletic skill is still appalling.
Instead of answering their question, I wiped sweat off my brow and asked, ‘So, what were you two talking about?’
‘None of your beeswax.’ James snapped. James’ mood has also been on the black side lately. I suppose that comes with getting zero sleep.
‘It’s that ball thing. The New Year’s Eve one.’ Hugh No-Last-Name said, looking bored. ‘You’re fifth-year, right?’
My eyes widened. ‘New Year’s Eve Ball?’ I repeated, feeling a certain sense of doom envelop me.
The New Year’s Eve Ball was possibly the only part of becoming a fifth-year I wasn’t looking forward to, thought for others (example, girls like Veronica Imp) the ball might be the only good thing about being a fifth-year. Hogwarts introduced this ball about three years before I came to Hogwarts, and students under fifteen aren’t allowed to go. Bleargh. I’m envisioning horrendous dress robes and awkward dates. Though, in my case, I probably won’t even manage to get a date.
‘Yuck.’ I made a face.
‘You going?’ Hugh No-Last-Name scanned the notice again nonchalantly while James stomped away, grumbling about something. A gaggle of fourth-year girls were beginning to swarm around the Gryffindor notice board. ‘Ah,’ one moaned. ‘We have to wait till next year!’
‘Probably not.’ I replied, jogging up the girl’s dormitory. There’s absolutely no way I’m going to that stupid ball.
‘You have to go.’
‘Come on, Rosie.’
Elisha poked me. ‘It’s going to be fun.’
‘You get to wear lovely dress robes.’ Iris wheedled.
‘Don’t have any.’
‘If you’re worried about not having a date,’ Poppy piped up. ‘I won’t have a date, too.’
‘I’d rather not.’
Fred turned around in his seat. ‘Why aren’t you going? Every fifth-year female is bloody excited about this ball thing.’
‘I just don’t want to go.’ I said, gritting my teeth.
‘But you can’t stay alone in the dorm by yourself while we go merrily dancing!’ Elisha said, outraged. ‘You have to come. Wait—Albus is falling asleep again.’
‘Oh.’ Fred turned back and gave Albus a hard shove. ‘Oy! Wake up!’
Albus’ eyelids started sliding shut.
‘Lucky socks. Bet. James winning.’ Fred said.
Albus’ eyes immediately snapped open and he jumped five miles in the air, successfully knocking over his bottle of red ink and splattering it all over his robes. ‘Who? What? Where?’ he croaked, scrabbling at his table, eyes glazed.
‘Relax, mate.’ Fred gave Albus a pat on his back. ‘You haven’t lost the bet yet.’
‘Fuck.’ Albus whipped around. Elisha, Poppy, Iris and I leaned back a little in alarm as Albus stared at us with bloodshot, tired eyes. His gaze held the sort of scary intensity you’d expect from a person who hadn’t eaten anything in several centuries. ‘Don’t tell James.’ He begged desperately.
‘Alb, you didn’t actually fall asleep.’ I reminded him, slightly frightened.
‘Still.’ He mumbled.
‘Don’t you think this is going a little overboard?’ Elisha asked, raising an eyebrow.
‘He’s going to take my lucky socks away!’ Albus wailed, tugging at his messy head of black hair, glasses askew. ‘I can’t live without my socks!’
‘Probably just as well.’ Fred added in. ‘You’ll get gangrene if you wear those dirty socks any longer.’
‘You don’t get gangrene from wearing dirty socks, you get athlete’s foot.’ I corrected Fred immediately. He ignored this.
‘Mad.’ Iris shook her head. Without warning, she turned to me accusingly. ‘You’re mad too.’
My eyes widened, thrown. ‘What?’
‘This fitness frenzy that’s taken over you, that’s what.’
Poppy, Elisha, Fred and Albus all swiveled towards me. ‘Yeah,’ Fred said suspiciously. ‘that is a little weird, now that you mention it. Why have you been jogging and trying to get into shape these past few weeks?’
Their doubtful glares made me squirm and fidget in my seat. ‘What’s wrong with trying to lose a bit of weight?’ I asked, trying to seem confident. Though Elisha already knew, it’s still really, really uncomfortable to tell a lie when there’s someone in your audience that knows not one thing that comes out of your mouth is true. Ugh.
‘You’ve already fed me that lie; don’t expect the rest of us to believe it.’ Albus snorted, wiping his furiously watering eyes with the back of his ink-stained hands. Apparently he had no idea his hands were drenched in red ink because then he howled in pain and clutched at his eyes, howling, ‘My eyes!’
We ignored him. ‘So what’re you really up to?’ Fred asked eagerly, leaning in slightly. ‘Come on, Rosie. I’m your favorite cousin, aren’t I? You can tell me absolutely everything.’
Oh, Fred. If only you knew.
‘I – er – just feel it’s about time I got myself fit, you know?’ I tried to sound earnest. ‘I mean, you blokes always talk about sports like it’s a religion so I just wanted to see what the fuss was all about.’
I hear a soft snort of derision somewhere from my left. Eyes still looking at Fred, I stealthily aimed a kick at Elisha under my desk.
‘Ow!’ Albus yowled, hands leaving his eyes and going to cradle his foot. ‘Who kicked me?’
‘I don’t believe you.’ Iris declared.
‘Neither do I.’ Fred shrugged. ‘Truth, please.’
‘I think my left foot’s toe is bruised.’ Albus said mournfully. A huge streaky stripe of red was on his face, and some of it on his glasses.
‘Look, it’s not my fault you lot don’t believe me.’ I went for the defensive approach. Always works. ‘Is it really that unbelievable that I want to get fit? Merlin – just trust me.’
Fred opened his mouth to say something but Professor Valencia interrupted. ‘Is there a problem back there?’ she said loudly, pausing the class for a bit. Some of the students turned around to gawp but most of the others were too busy trying to memorize the way Professor Valencia’s chest positively bulged when she reached up to remove her black-framed glasses.
‘No, Professor.’ I said hastily, burying my face behind page 103 of Advanced Defense Against The Dark Arts.
Grumbling, the rest of them went back to listen to Professor Valencia ramble on about counter-jinxes and their uses.
Author's Note: I promise I won't make the ball all cheesy! It's a pretty important plot device-thing. :D Please leave a review!
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