By the time I reached the common room (thankfully having avoided any further detection) I felt utterly drained. It seemed as though there were as many new questions as there were answers when it came to my ... relationship ... with Scorpius, and for the first time I was actually relieved that I wouldn’t have any reason to see him again in the near future. He kissed me too. I had become somewhat accustomed to my own unexpressed attachment, but concept that my feelings might be reciprocated left me almost sick with cautious excitement.
As I climbed through the portrait hole, I was surprised to find the room practically empty. Even on a normal evening the room was generally bustling until gone eleven, and Valentine’s Day traditionally caused later bedtimes, rather than earlier, so to find that there was just my brother still up seemed suspicious. I raised an eyebrow while pointedly scanning the room, and he shrugged:
“Temporary dung-bomb,” he explained dismissively, “we need to talk.”
“Really?” I responded icily, still stung by his earlier actions, “I think you’ve said quite enough.”
“Well then, how about I listen, and you explain what the hell’s been happening? Hanging out with Slytherins, making out with older guys, not to mention that little trick you pulled.”
I bought myself some thinking time, by pulling up an armchair to sit in, before replying, “Yeah, sorry about that, but I really don’t like being pulled along like a five year old.”
“Fair play. Still, how did you even manage it? I mean, no offence, but you’re hardly Rose.”
“Ah, well actually...” I figured that at least one secret was going to have to give, “I’m a lot better at magic than I’ve been letting everyone think. You remember back when we were kids, and I started disapparating all over the place?”
James chuckled, “Yeah, I remember I didn’t speak to you for a week! So, what, have things like that started happening again?”
“They never stopped. It’s just that I wanted my brother to speak to me, so I kept it a secret.”
We both sat in silence for a few seconds, as I waited for him to respond.
“I guess I can see why you’d do that. You didn’t have to though, you know; I would have gotten over it.”
“Well, of course; you’re normally so reasonable about things, and you certainly never hold grudges.” I mumbled sarcastically. James chuckled again, before reaching over and ruffling my hair.
“Yeah, well I’ll certainly be holding a grudge against Hugo for a long time. I mean, inflicting on me the image of my baby sister kissing that slime ball ... that was just nasty. Guess that’s what happens when you buy such a cheap gimmick.”
“What do you mean?” I asked curiously.
“Well, clearly the thing just shoots people with a cheap love potion. I mean heck, it made Malfoy want to kiss you!”
I glared at my brother, and he hurriedly continued: “Not that there’s anything wrong with you, I guess... for someone your own age... in the very distant future. Still, it was clearly a reckless thing to let loose.”
I felt myself mentally slump, as the sense of James’ words hit me. This would hardly be the first malfunctioning product that Uncle George has made recently. I can’t believe I let myself think that it was something more.
“So, are we done here?” I asked dejectedly.
“Sure, once you tell me why you were hanging out with a Slytherin in the first place. He hasn’t been bullying you, or anything, right?”
“No, nothing like that. I just ran into him on the way to the owlery, thought I’d say thanks for his catching me last month.” I lied quickly.
“Well, OK then, but be careful. I don’t want him thinking he can take advantage of you, or anything.”
“I thought you said he wouldn’t be interested in me?”
“That was before all this happened. He’d do anything to get one over on Albus and me, and seducing our baby sister, well it would definitely be a good way to hurt us.”
I shook my head, saying “Don’t worry; I can take care of myself.” I got up, sensing that I had at last been let off the hook, and started towards the girl’s staircase. As I reached it, I had a sudden thought, and so turned back and added:
“You won’t tell anyone about this, right?”
James snorted, answering “Hardly! I don’t want people thinking my sister’s available that way. Besides, imagine if Dad heard about it? He’d never forgive me for letting you get in trouble like that.”
Annoyed at the implied over-protection, but relieved by the promised discretion, I wished him goodnight and headed up for bed.
As I entered the dormitory, I realised that the evening wasn’t quite over just yet; Electra and Chelsea were sitting on my bed playing a game of exploding snap, while Verity Clearhaven and Adriana Ducharme – our two other dorm-mates – were busy composing their latest musical masterpiece in the far corner. I nodded to them before joining the pair on my bed.
“You know, if I hadn’t seen your recent rise to academic excellence, I’d swear you were hooking up with some mystery ‘Library Boy’. Seriously, it’s almost eleven!” Electra remarked, bemused.
“Nope, just loving the learning,” I joked, “but what happened to your big evening?”
“Urgh! Utter flop. I went to the seventh floor corridor, to meet up with my mystery admirer, and there was no-one there!”
“No one?” I queried, suddenly all too aware of what Hugo must have done, and wondering what exactly had gone wrong.
“Well, there was some weird guy in the year below – Jasper something, I think – and a couple of Ravenclaws. Certainly no-one I’d be seen dead spending Valentine’s Day with. So, I moseyed on back here, and found Chelsea inexplicably dateless, Hugo having basically vanished.”
“He said he had a good reason, and that I’d understand once I understood.” Chelsea chipped in serenely as the deck exploded, “I’ve decided to give him a chance to explain before I eviscerate him.”
“Right... um... good. So, any chance I’m going to get my bed back some time this evening?”
“It’s not looking good,” Electra told me with mock solemnity, “but if you’re very lucky, we’ll deal you in on the next round.”
At breakfast the next morning, ours were not the only drooping eyelids or stifled yawns, as the school paid for the lateness of their Valentine celebrations. We were once again a cosy foursome; there had been an awkward few moments when Hugo failed to adequately explain his mysterious departure, but a stunning silver necklace quickly bought him back into Chelsea’s good graces. Once she and Electra had left to find a matching outfit to go with it, I turned on my cousin and asked:
“So, where’d you conjure that from?”
“Let’s just say I was prepared for grovelling in advance. On that note, I hear I owe you an apology too – James said you helped him catch it, or something?” Hugo’s instant flush implied that he knew more than he was letting on, but I chose to ignore it.
“Well how about another necklace and I’ll forget it ever happened, which will probably help you escape dismemberment.”
“You really think Chelsea would be that angry?” my cousin asked nervously, guiltily scanning the room for possible eavesdroppers.
“Probably, but I imagine she would simply immobilise you; Electra would do the actual dismembering. Really, what were you thinking?”
“I know,” he replied, shamefaced, “I really will butt out now though; I’ve learnt my lesson. Louis is even worse than usual – as far as he’s concerned, he either got stood up or asked out by one of the least appealing options in his year. Apparently, he took one look down the corridor and ran a mile!”
“Well, I sent him a card saying his blind date would meet him in the seventh floor corridor. He turns up, and the only girls he can see are Amelia and Christina. You know Louis’ rule – ‘never park your broom on your own quidditch pitch’, so he turned tail and went back to sulking.”
Cringing at my cousins’ crudeness, I shook my head and said, “Well, so long as you are really finished, I’ll stick to my ‘studying’ story, but you’re on thin ice.”
“Sounds fair. So, do you prefer silver or gold for your jewellery?”
Over the next few days, things seemed to return to normal, or thereabouts. James ended up in detention for his part in no less than four inter-house duels, but this was not particularly surprising unless you realised that all of these had involved sixth years. Mortified by my earlier actions, and those of my elder brother, I was avoiding the thankfully-unscathed Slytherin-in-question. However, as our paths had very little reason to cross anyway, this largely translated to simply spending less time in the library, much to my friends’ delight.
The only other change that occurred was my use of magic. Emboldened by James’ easy acceptance, I had started to perform the spells set in class without feigning incompetence. Initially, there was an increase in whispered gossiping, but as I had recently been told, my fellow pupils soon ‘handled it’ just fine, and treated me pretty much as before. My teachers gave it all slightly more attention, but only in terms of setting me ever more complex homework.
All in all, things should have been great for me, but as the days continued, I couldn’t ignore the hole that Scorpius had left in my life. By Saturday, I had eventually given up, and went in search of him, only to find him utterly elusive. In desperation, I eventually stopped Vincent Rook – a shy and thoughtful Slytherin, and probably Scorpius’ closest friend.
“Hi, Vincent?” I ventured. He turned, and as he recognised me, a look of suspicious glee crossed his face. I was instantly very worried.
“Looking for Scorpius?” he asked shrewdly, as I blushed, mortified.
“Uh, yeah. I, um...” blindsided by his awareness of the situation, I stumbled over my excuses.
“Whatever,” he interrupted, waving off my excuses with a good-natured smile. “He’s away for the weekend.”
“Away?” I queried, before a sudden realisation dawned. It was February 17th, the day before his grandfather’s birthday, and the long-anticipated visit to Azkaban. “Right, OK, never mind.”
I quickly turned and started walking away, though not fast enough to avoid hearing his final confusing remarks:
“See you around. Oh, and if you’re giving charms lessons, maybe you should work with your brothers next, before they get themselves hurt.”
“I still say she’s been getting secret lessons from Aiden.”
“Don’t be silly, she was casting rings round Aiden in charms – no way is he teaching her!”
My friends continued to squabble as we left our last class the following Monday. Along with the rest of our classmates, they had accepted my rapidly improving abilities with bemused nonchalance, concerned only with the potential romantic secrets it might be linked to. Admittedly, I still hadn’t revealed the full extent of my skills, but given the reactions so far, I wasn’t overly worried about it. Instead, I was busy concerning myself with how to find and talk to Scorpius, now that he was back from Azkaban; going anywhere near the Slytherin common room being out of the question, for obvious Vincent-shaped reasons. Since that little encounter, I had been left with more questions than ever, but no more faith that I would actually like the answers.
So engrossed was I in my own mental turmoil, that I didn’t even realise my book-bag splitting until my books were all over the floor. Glad for the excuse to escape my inquisitive friends, I took the opportunity to wave them on, before bending down to gather them up. As I did so, I noticed one quill rolling along the corridor. I followed it for several paces, not quite ever catching up, until suddenly I found myself being tugged sideways, behind one of the many large tapestries lining the walls.
As the tapestry fell back in place, I realised that I was in a small hidden enclosure, and that I was not alone. Scorpius, the very person I had been hoping to ‘accidentally’ run into, had clearly wanted to talk to me too.
“Sorry about that,” he started with, as he charmed my bag back together, “wasn’t sure how else to get you alone.”
At his words, I became aware of how very ‘alone’ we were; the hideaway was barely big enough for both of our bodies, and as such we were almost as close as the last time we’d seen each other. Scorpius had rested his arm across the entrance, unconsciously – I hoped – blocking the only exit and bringing our bodies within a few inches of each other.
“No problem!” I said, blushing, unsure of how to act as my brain became overwhelmed by his now familiar cologne.
“So, I hear you were looking for me over the weekend?” he prompted.
“Oh, right, yeah. I was just going to wish you good luck,” I bluffed, unconvincingly, “and, um, apologise for the other night.”
“Which bit exactly? The bit where you kissed me, or the bit where you left me unconscious in an empty classroom? Because I’ve got to say, I really didn’t mind the first bit.”
I gulped, as the heat of my blush seemed to travel down my torso.
“The second bit then? My brother was the one to find us, and he didn’t really let me hang around.” Well, that’s kind of true.
“I’ll let you off then. So, the kiss...” he smiled and raised an eyebrow, waiting for my explanation.
“Yeah, blame that on another of my relatives. Hugo let off a ‘Quick-Fix Cupid’, in an attempt to get Louis and Electra back together. Of course, he lost control, and it ended up shooting us instead.”
He laughed, before responding, “So that’s where it came from.” Noting my confusion, he continued, “We weren’t the only ones it got. I put my own hazy memories together with the other reports, and worked out that the WWW had most likely struck again. Still, if that is what got us, then it raises another question; are you attracted to me?”
My heart, already racing, seemed almost to buzz in my chest, and my breathing became ragged as I answered, “Well, I... are you attracted to me?”
He smiled, and took a step forwards, so that I was entirely trapped between his body and the wall.
“Yes, I’m definitely attracted to you.”
My eyes widened at his words; despite everything, I had still believed that he saw me as a precocious kid, rather than a maturing girl. Interpreting my reaction correctly, he slid his arm behind me, gently yet firmly pulling me up against him. What does James know; he does care for me after all! Slowly, he bent his head towards mine, and kissed me.
Time seemed to stand still in that tiny hideaway, as I finally let Scorpius know just how I felt about him, in the only way I knew how. Eventually, he pulled back.
“I knew you’d fall for me eventually; I knew you wanted me too,” he rambled comfortably, still holding me close, “if James and Albus saw us now...”
I pulled away with a start. WHAT! This is all about my brothers? “What do you mean by that?” I asked warily, my tone icy. Unthinkingly, he replied,
“Well, can you imagine? You and me, I’m pretty sure that’s their worst nightmare!”
“So that’s what all this is to you? Some great prank on my idiot brothers? Just another battle in the great war you’re all insistent on fighting? That’s all I am to you?”
As I finished speaking, I found myself welling up, with the kind of great sobs that would take over my entire body. Unwilling to let him see this, to humiliate myself any further in front of him, I hurriedly pushed past him and ran, hoping to get far enough away that when I finally broke down, he wouldn’t hear me cry.
A.N. Reviews? Please? I'd really like to know what people are thinking about this latest twist!