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Chapter 9 : Well, It's About Time
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"Do you have any idea why Creevey's pants and knickers keep disappearing at random intervals?" Scorpius asked as he handed off Lorcan at lunch the next day.
"Is that all?" I asked, frowning, "They were supposed to catch on fire first."
"I knew it was you!" he said, grinning, "And there aren't any actual flames, they just sort of smoke for a bit."
I sighed. I wasn't a vengeful person, really. Or I hadn't been until now. I supposed that the tension had been building up ever since the start of term, and exploded all over Luke. It served him right, I supposed. He had had to spend three days in the hospital wing with some not-so-attractive-or-comfortable boils strewn about his person. And then there were the flaming pants.
I could've done better, but I didn't want to risk getting in too much trouble.
"I wanted to make sure every girl saw what they weren't missing," I said.
"What aren't they missing?" Lorcan asked innocently. Scorpius raised his eyebrows and fought down a laugh.
"His charming personality," I said quickly.
James took this opportunity to plop down across from us. He nodded to Scorpius and gave Lorcan a fist-bump (something that I had tried strongly to discourage, but unfortunately it stuck). He had been increasingly cordial to Scorpius these past few weeks. It would have been scary if it hadn't taken a bit of stress off of me.
"Keep looking over here, you tosser," he yelled across the hall to where Luke was glaring at me, "and I'll shove this fork up your--"
"James!" I warned sharply, nodding my head to Lorcan.
"Never mind," he muttered darkly, glaring daggers at Luke.
"You don't even know what he did," I said, raising an eyebrow.
"Doesn't matter," he said, shrugging, "No one messes with my cousin. Your hex was impressive, though. I always had doubts about whether or not we were related, but now I'm sure."
"Dear Merlin," I groaned, grinning.
A few moments passed in silence as I piled up a small plate for Lorcan. He had gone a solid week eating nothing but chicken and potatoes, which was slightly aggravating, but I supposed it could have been worse. When Hugo was little, he refused to eat unless one thing on his plate was made of chocolate.
"Are you feeling alright?" Scorpius asked, slightly concerned.
"Yes, why?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
"You look sort of pale," James said, studying my face, "Maybe you should skip next class."
"Nah," I said, shrugging, "I'll be fine."
I should have listened to them.
I had gotten through about ten minutes of class before my head started pounding, and soon after the room started spinning. So I left Lorcan with Gem and got permission to go to the hospital wing. Instead, I came back to the apartment and fell out on the couch.
I heard Scorpius come into the apartment rather than saw him. I was turned around the other way, facing the part of the couch that you lean your back on. What's it called? It doesn't matter; I'm too tired to remember. Anyhow, I was too comfortable to flip over.
"Rose?" he asked, "Are you alright?"
I shook my head. Talking would make my head hurt more.
"Is Lorcan with Gem?"
"Alright. You sleep. I'll go see if he can stay with Al and Gem for a while."
"Rose?" he whispered. It took me a moment to find my vocal chords, and then another to think of a proper response.
"I thought you were going to see Al and Gem," I mumbled thickly.
"I did. You've been asleep for a couple of hours now."
I turned around and faced him. My head still hurt, though not quite as badly. The room wasn't spinning, but I did have those annoying dots that popped up in my eyes every time that I got a migraine.
Scorpius was standing in front of me, a steaming mug in his hands.
"What's that?" I asked, sitting up slowly and wincing as my head screamed in protest.
"Something that my mum used to make whenever I got headaches," he said, handing me the mug.
"How do you know that I had a headache?" I asked, taking a sip. It was some kind of tea, but it had a deep, warm taste to it.
"I've had migraines ever since I was little," he said, "I know the signs."
"Funny, so have I," I said. This was so surreal. We never, ever, ever would have had this conversation just a few short months ago.
"Look, I should apologize," I said, running my finger over the rim of the mug, "For not believing you. And attacking you."
"It's alright," he said, plopping himself down beside me, "But can I ask you something?"
"Sure," I said, scooting over to make room.
"If you knew what he was like, then why did you date him?"
"Wow," I said, "Good question. I suppose…it was because at the beginning, he was nice. We talked, he made me laugh, and so on. But then he got…" I trailed off, no words seemed to fit, "All that he wanted to do was snog, and most of the time we ended up yelling at each other."
"So why didn't you end it?" he asked. He wasn't being pushy, surprisingly enough, but seemed genuinely interested.
"Because I remembered what he was like at the beginning," I said, "I guess I always want to bring out the best in people. Turns out there was no 'best' in Luke."
He seemed to take this into consideration and nodded. Then with a sigh he leaned back, closed his eyes, and propped his feet up on the coffee table.
There was something different about him. Not physically, there he was the same: blonde hair, blue eyes, gorgeous. It was more the way that he acted around me, and vice versa. We were different now than we had been.
"How odd is it that we're having this conversation?" he asked, a small smile on his face, "When all we used to want to do was strangle each other?"
Dear Merlin, can he read my mind?
"I still want to strangle you sometimes," I said, "But I've been able to fight the urge."
"Good to know," he said, grinning.
There was a loud knock on the door, followed by an impatient quieter one.
"It's unlocked," Scorpius called.
"Hey, Rose," Gem said, looking apologetic as Lorcan burst through the door, "Are you feeling any better?"
"I'm fine," I said as Lorcan climbed into my lap and looked me over, "Really, bud. I feel better."
"James will be glad to hear that," Gem said.
"Why would--? Oh, crap!" I said, handing Lorcan to Scorpius, bolting off of the couch, and rushing into my room. I threw on some clothes and grabbed my bag from beside my closet.
"Rose, what--?" Scorpius asked, dumbfounded.
"Quidditch!" I said, "Tonight's match!"
"Rose, you're not fit to play," Scorpius protested, getting off of the couch and walking over to the door. He stood in front of it, blocking my exit.
"I'm fine!" I said, "Now move!"
"Rose--" he said.
"Scorpius Malfoy, if you don't move out of my way right now, Lorcan is the last child that you will ever have!" I screeched.
"I would move if I were you," Gem said helpfully. With a glare, Scorpius moved and I all but ran down to the pitch.
I had to force myself not to watch Lorcan from my place at the goals. I was afraid that he would fall over the stands, but Scorpius kept a tight hold on him.
My head was still sore and the warmth from Scorpius' tea was starting to dissipate. James had practically cried when I burst into the changing rooms. We didn't have an alternate keeper and he had never forfeit a match in his life.
Focus, Rose. I told myself. That was one thing I could do well. Focus, that is. With a few deep breaths, I was entirely immersed in the game.
We were playing Ravenclaw, which meant that Roxie was playing chaser and Freddie was a beater. Games against family (so, every game) were fun, but they were also more difficult because we had all grown up playing together and we knew each other's strengths and weaknesses.
So when Roxie came shooting towards me with the quaffle, I knew what she was planning to do. My left side had always been my weaker side; and my cousins had learned to exploit it.
Not this time, I thought, hunkering down. Wait for it…Now!
As soon as she threw the quaffle towards my left, I jerked my broom to the right. The end of my broom connected with the quaffle, sending it soaring back towards a waiting Lily.
But something was wrong.
When my broom stopped spinning, the pitch didn't. My head pounded harder than ever before, made worse by the insane screaming coming from the Gryffindor stands. I wasn't going to make it, but I couldn't even muster up the strength to call a time out.
The last thing that I remembered was feeling my grip slacken and my breath catch, and then everything went black.
I had never felt so helpless as I did as I watched Rose slip from her broom and plummet towards the ground, landing with a sickening crunch. There was a beat of silence before the screaming started, and every player on a broom landed. I grabbed Lorcan, who was screaming and ready to climb over the stands, and followed Al as he bolted down to the pitch.
"Mum!" Lorcan yelled, breaking away from me and throwing himself over Rose's body.
I didn't care that I was the only non-family member standing around her. All that mattered was that she was, miraculously, breathing. I knelt down beside her and put my hand on Lorcan's shoulder.
"Mum is going to be alright," I said, trying to keep my voice from shaking as McGonagall appeared beside me, "But we have to let them take her to the hospital wing."
"I don't want to leave her!" he cried, holding tighter.
"You can follow her to the hospital wing," McGonagall said. It was the kindest that I had ever heard her.
"Promise?" Lorcan asked, turning his tear-stained face up to me.
"Promise," I said, holding out my arms. He climbed into them and buried his face in my shoulder, shaking with sobs. It took everything I had not to break down with him.
I had expected snide comments from James, at least, as they magically lifted Rose onto a stretcher and steered it towards the castle. Instead he nodded grimly as we made our way through the halls and up to the hospital wing.
Madam Spence made us wait outside while she tended to her. I still held Lorcan, rubbing his back soothingly as I paced. He had managed to cry himself to sleep.
"Do you want me to hold him?" Lily asked quietly.
"I've got him," I said, shaking my head, "Thanks, though."
"No problem," she said, giving me a small tentative smile. I like her, I decided. She had never treated me like a pariah.
Then again, neither had any of the others here. Not anymore, anyway. Sure, they were stealing glances at me every so often, but that was understandable. I was the only outsider, besides Gem. They probably thought I was here because of husbandly duty or for Lorcan. Al was the only one that knew my real feelings.
At least I hoped Al was the only one that knew.
"You can come in now," Madam Spence said, opening the door. We trooped in, Al falling into step beside me.
Rose was as pale as a ghost, with bandages wrapped around her head and a splint on her left arm. Her breathing was slow but regular, allowing all of us to breathe a sigh of relief. Her face was smooth, but twitched every so often.
"She had some nasty injuries," Madam Spence said, "A broken rib, shattered wrist, and twisted knee. Thankfully, she only bruised her skull. I've done as much as I can."
"Thank you," Al said quietly. She nodded and left.
"Rose," James said hoarsely, touching her hand, "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have let you play."
"It's not your fault," I said quietly, "It's no ones fault."
He looked over at me, and something in his eyes had changed. His face seemed to set, and we came to a sort of inexplicable understanding. He nodded.
Lorcan stirred, rubbing his eyes and looking around.
"Mum?" he asked, looking down at the bed.
"She'll be alright. She needs to sleep," I said quietly.
"I'm hungry," Lorcan said, looking up at me guiltily.
"I don't want--" I started, but then stopped. I don't want to leave her.
"I'll take you to the kitchens," Gem said quickly, looking up at me. I nodded in appreciation.
"I'll go with you," Al said.
"We're going to have to forfeit the match," James said with a wince, motioning for the rest of the team to follow.
"Who is going to watch mum?" Lorcan asked, concerned.
"I'll watch her," I said. Every eye snapped to me and there as a beat of silence. Everyone turned to Hugo, who looked to James for a verdict.
"Alright," James said finally, "Take care of her."
"I will," I said. Everyone nodded and left. Finally, we were alone.
I grabbed a chair and sat by her side, feeling more protective that I ever had. She had always been so strong. To see her this way, so vulnerable, was frightening.
She was so very beautiful. Even now: pale as death, bandaged, with her shock of red hair pushed haphazardly around her face, I couldn't look away. She drew me in as she always had. I didn't know if I loved her, but I definitely had strong feelings for her.
I ran my finger over her hand, and then took it in my own. It was cold. I traced small circles with my thumb, willing her to wake up. With my other hand I stroked her face, feeling her breath tickle my fingers; reassuring myself that she really would be alright.
I ran my fingers down her neck, feeling her pulse, and then down her arm. Her skin was soft and smooth, as it had been the night I had kissed her. I could still taste her, I could still feel her in my arms.
Her arm twitched and I jerked my hand away as if stung. Her eyelids twitched as if she were fighting something.
"Scor--" she moaned quietly.
"I'm here," I breathed. Was she really saying my name?
Her eyes fluttered open and she blinked, looking up at me.
"Scorpius?" she asked.
"I’m here," I said. She looked down at her hand, clasped in mine, and then back up at me.
"You fell off your broom," I said, watching her eyes fight to focus on my face.
"Where is everyone?" she asked, "Where's Lorcan?"
"James and the team went to forfeit. Al and Gem took Lorcan to get some food."
"Why are you here?" she asked. She tried to keep her expression steady, but I knew that there was more than one meaning to the question.
" I didn't want to leave you," I confessed quietly.
Neither of us had noticed, but we had gravitated towards each other in the last few moments. Or, rather, I had leaned in closer to her, as if pulled by some invisible force. No, I thought, The force is her.
She took her hand from mine and reached up, stroking my face as I had hers. Then she slid it around to my neck and gently pulled me down until our lips met.
The kiss wasn't as passionate as our first. It was slow and sweet, filled with all of the things that we felt but couldn't put into words.
"Thank you," she said quietly when we parted.
"For what?" I asked, voice husky.
"For everything. Dealing with Lorcan. Dealing with Luke. Dealing with me."
"I only want to deal with you," I said. She smiled, despite the sappiness.
"I want to be with you. I really do," she said, pleading, "But I just can't handle this with our parents here…and I don't want to be alone."
"I understand," I said. It was true. I doubted if anyone else would.
Our parents, or rather our fathers, hated each other. If they visited and found us as a couple, there was no telling what they would say or do. It was better that we let them in slowly. As much as I wanted to be with her, I was willing to do anything that she needed of me to make this easy on her. Including hold off for our parents' sake.
"You won't be alone," I said, taking her hand, "I'll be beside you every step of the way."
"Alright," she said with a relieved grin, "You take your dad. I'll handle mine."
"Deal," I said.
With a smile, she guided my mouth down to hers again.
"Well, it's about time!" Al exclaimed, making us both jump apart.
"You do do it when I'm not in the room!" Lorcan exclaimed, his mouth full of sandwich. Rose and I looked at each other, and then burst out laughing.
"Be careful not to let James see you," Al said, "He'll tell Uncle Ron the second that he gets here."
"I'm not so sure that he would," I said, remembering our momentary understanding.
"You have much more faith in him that I do," Rose said.
Lorcan climbed into the bed with her, "Are you feeling better Mum?"
"Yes, bud," she said, wincing as he pressed against her.
"Lorcan, how would you like to have a sleepover with Leah?" Gem asked, "So that mummy can get some rest."
"You watch her," Lorcan said, pointing at me before shimmying off the bed and running to Gem.
"You're welcome," she mouthed, smirking.
"You kids be careful," Al said, saluting as he left the room, "One child is enough for now."
A/N: So I'm not completely happy with this chap. I don't think that Luke's punishment was quite bad enough, but I'm too much of a goody-goody to come up with anything better. So suggestions? I might write it in to this chapter or a later chapter.
And for those of you who are waiting oh-so-patiently for the arrival of the parents, I promise that it will be in the next chapter. I just wanted to get this out of the way. I'm just not sure when the next chapter will be here, since school has started back. Be patient and I will deliver!
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