A couple of days after the ceremony at Hogwarts, I collect Aidan from school and bring him home to stay the night in my flat, as has been agreed by Scorpius, and more reluctantly by Daisy. Daisy seems to reckon that we should stick to the stipulations set by the Wizengamot, and have Aidan stay with them until the next hearing, which is in about three weeks. But, at the end of the day, it’s Scorpius who makes the decisions where Aidan is concerned, not her. He is very excited to see me standing outside the school, which elevates my mood; when he lived with me, he was rarely that happy to see me. He usually saved that look of happiness for when Scorpius came to see him.
To celebrate Aidan’s return home for the night, I’ve bought him ice cream, pizza and chips. I do try to give him balanced meals – it’s the one area of my parenting I pride myself on – but I suppose I can treat him now that I’m his secondary care giver. It’s up to Scorpius and Daisy to make sure he’s getting all of his nutrients.
Aidan is just about the slowest eater I’ve ever come across, simply because he’ll take a bite of something, talk for ten minutes, and then take another bite. He likes talking more than food.
“I like living at Dad’s and Ollie likes it too because Dad takes her for a walk. She likes walking. Daisy took her for a walk once and I went too and we went to the park.”
“Mmmhmm.” I do tune out quite a bit when he talks.
“And sometimes Dad and Daisy and me –”
“And I,” I correct him.
“Dad and Daisy and me and I –”
“No, it’s just Dad, Daisy and I.”
He pauses and frowns at me. “Sometimes we take her for a walk in the park. But we didn’t this week because Daisy wasn’t very happy and she and Dad were fighting and I heard her crying, but she didn’t know I heard her crying –”
“They were fighting?” I perk up, suddenly very interested in what he’s saying. “Why were they fighting?”
“I dunno,” Aidan shrugs. “I think Dad was hiding from her in the cupboard and she doesn’t like playing Hide-and-Seek. Or maybe he broke one of the cups in the cupboard. I heard her say he was diriculous for hiding in a cupboard.”
“Ridiculous,” I correct him. “When was this?”
“Yesterday and the day before. When I play Hide-and-Seek with Mia and she can’t find me, sometimes she cries and her Mummy tells her to stop being a baby. I’m a really good hider and Mia never finds me. Maybe Daisy’s Mummy and Daddy should tell her to stop being a baby too.”
I decide to leave out the fact that Daisy’s ‘Daddy’ was a murderous Death Eater.
“And did you talk to her about it?” I press him, not wanting to appear too eager.
“I asked her why she was shouting at Dad,” Aidan continues. “She said she wasn’t shouting but I heard her. And I asked if he was being bold and she told me to eat my soup because it was getting cold. It was chicken soup. I don’t like chicken soup, but she always makes it even though I don’t like chicken soup –”
“And did your Dad seem sad after that?” I try to steer him back to the topic at hand. He takes another bite of his small pizza slice and swallows before continuing.
“He looked like he does when I leave my toys on the floor after he told me to put them away.”
The term for that is pissed off, dear.
I decide that I shouldn’t ask any more and change the subject entirely. After all, it’s none of my business if Scorpius and Daisy are arguing, even if what they are arguing about is the fact that Scorpius and I crept out of dinner to talk privately in a broom cupboard. I have to admit, it does seem rather suspicious. Funny how Daisy wasn’t at all suspicious when we were snogging to death at Al and Jenny’s wedding. It’s typical we’d get in trouble the one time we were actually being fairy innocent.
You know, love proclamations aside.
“Listen to this: James Potter has returned with a bang to the Chudley Cannons, after he was suspended from Quidditch for three matches. The suspension came when Potter lashed out at the Puddlemere United Beater, Mike Roland, last month. In yesterday’s match against the Wimbourne Wasps, Potter astoundingly caught the snitch within thirty seconds, putting the Cannons up two places in the league. Mr Roland will also return to Puddlemere United this week, having served his three-match man.”
Dom sets the Daily Prophet down on my table, where she is sitting drinking her coffee. “Did you know he was back playing?”
“Nope,” I reply. “Sounds like he’s fine, though. Maybe he’ll actually talk to us now.”
“If we want to talk to him,” Dom snaps fiercely. “He’s been acting the right prick these last few weeks.”
Brian and Dom have popped around to visit, though I sort of wish they hadn’t. I’m only in the door from work and I was planning on catching up on some work for my Potions class. On top of that, given the fact that I know Brian is considering a reunion with his ex-wife, I can’t help but feel a bit guilty. I hate keeping things from Dom. And I find it completely unreasonable that Brian expects me to keep this from her.
The guilt builds up even more when Brian goes to the bathroom and I’m left alone with her. I remind myself that Dom never really seemed all that interested in him anyway, and maybe their relationship will just fizzle out like every relationship she’s ever been in. Really, it’s not my place to tell her anything.
“I really like him,” she tells me quietly. Damn.
“I thought you weren’t pushed?”
“I didn’t want to be,” she admits. “You know me. I don’t really do that whole ‘love’ thing.”
When she was going out with Scorpius way back when, she most definitely did do the ‘love’ thing. She declared herself in love with him, she even threatened to sleep with him, but the news of my pregnancy put a spanner in the works there. Then when she went from Scorpius to Mark Matthews, she was in love again. Once they broke up she went back to being the cold-hearted cow I know and love, and she never ever once mentioned the word ‘love’ again, nor did she ever acknowledge that she had been in love twice. That’s if she ever was really in love with Scorpius in the first place.
So I play dumb and nod.
“I mean, what good does ‘love’ do anybody?” she asks. “It all just ends in tears. So I’m just saying...I really like him.”
She hasn’t ‘really liked’ anyone in a long time either. This could be bad. If Brian leaves her for his wife, that could be the end of love for Dom forever.
I resolve that I’m not going to get involved. Anything I get involved in seems to wind up in shit, so I’m going to leave them to it to sort out themselves – if I can. I am quite the meddler. But I really do have to stop, for my own good if for nothing else. One of these days I’m going to get myself into serious trouble.
A few days later, I’m invited to dinner with the Potters. I do this every now and again to catch up with my godparents, and I think my entire family are doing their best to keep my mind of the custody hearing. When I arrive at their house, I’m surprised to find that James is here too, looking strangely...happy? It doesn’t feel right to use that word, but I can’t really think of a better one for his expression.
“Red!” he exclaims, pulling me into a tight hug. I see Ginny looking at him suspiciously. “How the hell are you?”
“Erm, fine,” I mumble. Has he completely forgotten everything that transpired the last time we spoke? Has he spoken to Al and Jenny since the miscarriage? I can’t ask him now, because Harry and Ginny never knew they were expecting a grandchild in the first place, and it’s not my place to tell them. “You seem cheery.”
“’Course I’m cheery!” James grins. “Caught the snitch in under thirty seconds, can you believe it?”
It is just myself and James here for dinner. Al and Lily are apparently busy; Al has a meeting with someone about something that nobody seems to know anything about, while Lily has a date. James is chirpy and talkative the whole way through dinner, while Harry and Ginny are slightly on edge with him, but carry on the conversation politely. I can tell Harry’s had a word with him about why he wasn’t at the anniversary ceremony, but James doesn’t at all seem too apologetic.
“So they think that if I keep doing as well as I’m doing, I’ll get a forty per cent pay rise! I’m telling you, I’ll never have money troubles again.”
“As long as you keep your head during matches,” Ginny warns him. “You were lucky this time you only had a three-match suspension. You don’t want to earn a name as a hothead.”
“You worry too much, Mum,” James brushes her off. “Those Quidditch officials will be kissing my feet after that performance.” There’s something strange about his arrogance today. Don't get me wrong, arrogance is not something alien on him, but it’s more of a confident arrogance now than a comedic one. We used to find James’s cockiness funny and endearing, because we knew that deep down underneath it all was the insecure boy that resides in most men’s souls. Now, it’s almost like that boy has been devoured by this egotistical moron, and I really don’t like him for it.
“Don't get too ahead of yourself,” Harry says sternly. “Nobody wants to hire a narcissist.”
“Not even one that can catch a snitch in thirty seconds? Bet you never made a catch like that, Dad.”
“No, but I always find the people who are most big-headed are the ones who’ll get the biggest comeuppance.”
Something tells me that Harry is talking about Draco Malfoy. He’s always struck me as someone who’s had a severe blow to his once-existent pride, someone who’s been taken down a peg or two.
James simply rolls his eyes and ignores his father’s warnings. I can see the irritation on Harry’s face, and as I’ve said before, Harry is not a nice person to be around when he’s angry. Ginny looks pissed off too, and I can tell that if I weren’t here, there would be a family brawl right here in the dining room. Perhaps it’s a good thing Al couldn’t make it to dinner.
“Rose, you’ve been very quiet,” Ginny smiles at me encouragingly. “How’s everything with you?”
“Fine,” I reply lamely. I’m not quite sure what to say to lighten the tense atmosphere; Harry’s a ticking time bomb, and James is going out of his way to set him off. Then I remember the golden rule when trying to make peace: turn everyone’s hatred on to somebody else. “Audrey’s really been going out of her way to make Mum look bad; she’s tried spreading rumours that Mum had an affair.”
That just about does it. Harry stops glaring at James and turns to me. “That’s ridiculous! Nobody’s going to believe her, are they?”
“Audrey can be very convincing,” Ginny says darkly. “Although I would hope people would have more sense than to believe that. Honestly, I’m beginning to forget it’s Percy running against your Mum, not Audrey.”
“Is it Percy, though?” Harry asks, an eyebrow raised. “We all know if he wins, it’s going to be her pulling the strings.”
“That’s what Dad thinks,” I add.
“They’re both a pair of tossers anyway,” James decides. “It’s obvious Hermione’s going to win.”
I wish I could have James’s naive faith sometimes.
“So you’re sure Scorpius is just going to ask for the four days a week?”
“Yes, for the thousandth time, but that’s still not good enough!”
“I know, alright? I know! Jesus, are you always this angry?”
I never realised just how annoying lawyers can be until I met Thomas Fox. Aside from the fact that he appears to have no conscience, he has an overwhelming amount of arrogance. It’s practically suffocating. We agreed to this meeting to discuss exactly what I want from the custody agreement, but all I want now is to kick Tom where it hurts. We’ve been told that the next hearing will be in the next few weeks, which means I will need to spend the next few weeks preparing my case with my arse of a lawyer.
“I’m only angry around you,” I say, somewhat dishonestly.
“I had noticed,” he rolls his eyes. “Look, if you always get this heated up, maybe you shouldn’t get Ai-”
“Shut up!” I snap, reaching for my wand. “Don't you dare –”
“I just mean you should learn to control that temper of yours!” he snaps back.
“Or maybe I should just find another lawyer! I can’t believe my mother recommended you. How did you even get this job? Collect fifty Chocolate Frog Cards and become a lawyer?”
“I’m good at my job I’ll have you know, Weasley!”
“Then why is my son still living with the Malfoys?”
“Because you insist on being such a bitch!”
A knock on the office door interrupts my retort. Tom’s secretary comes in looking rather frightened; she’s clearly heard every word of our argument. How could she not? The office is so small her desk is practically inside Tom’s.
“Erm, excuse me for interrupting Mr Fox, your 11am is waiting,” she says meekly. I look at my watch and it’s eleven-thirty already. I have to be at work in half an hour.
“Cheers,” Tom nods, and then rubs his eyes in frustration. He takes a deep breath and I decide to do the same.
“Look, Rose, I’m trying my best here,” he sighs. “You need to get your head sorted out. I mean, one minute you want to take Scorpius down, the next you don’t want to hurt him. One minute you want to give Scorpius three days a week, the next only every other weekend. If you don’t decide what kind of agreement you want, the Wizengamot is going to do it for you.”
I know he’s only trying to help me. But the smug look he seems to display on his face whenever he tells me something I don’t know just makes me want to smack him. I wish I were as lovely as Jenny sometimes. Maybe my innate bitchiness is the reason I’m inevitably going to end up alone. Even my lawyer can’t stand me.
“Fine,” I say shortly. “I’ll ring you.”
He nods. I think we have both silently agreed that it’s best if we limit our contact, thus limiting the chance we’re going to end up killing each other.
I get up and leave his office, noticing a very angry looking wizard outside Tom’s office, who has been listening us argue for the last half an hour. He pushes past me into the office without even being called, and I nod politely (and somewhat embarrassed) to Tom’s secretary.
Work is quite busy, which means I have very little time to bitch and moan about Tom to the girls. I also have very little time to get through the Potions work that was set during my last night class. Despite the fact that I have more time on my hands now that Aidan is staying with Scorpius and his cow, I find myself slacking on my Potions homework simply because I’m too busy wallowing in self-pity. I really am the same girl I was six years ago.
However, by the time four o’clock comes, everything dies down and Hazel, Gladys, Linda and I can resort back to our usual gossiping session. St Mungo’s is so lucky to have such dedicated receptionists.
“We hear your James is back on form,” is how Linda starts the conversation. “He really is a bit of alright, you know.”
“Ok, that’s my cousin you’re on about,” I frown, although it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. In fact, it’s not the ninety-first time I heard it. Honestly, I will never know what women see in James Potter. The man’s an idiot.
“Ever find out what was wrong with him?” Gladys asks.
“No,” I answer darkly. The question still bothers me: why has James changed so much in the last few month? What or who has changed him?
“Probably just PMT,” Hazel butts in. “I swear, men get it so much worse than women. My husband has such mood swings –”
“Don't even talk to me about men’s mood swings! Our Liam constantly looks at me like I’ve just drowned his dog!” Linda exclaims.
It always comes back to men. We bitch about the men in our lives, and I come to realise I have far too many moody men in mine. Scorpius, James, Tom, Draco Malfoy, Dad, even Aidan are all such Drama Kings. Maybe Hazel’s right; maybe men do get PMT like women do. The only difference is theirs seems weekly rather than monthly.
Mid-way through our ritual of tea and gossip, the doors burst open with such urgency that can only mean an emergency. Healer Kennedy and some nurses rush forward to help; the patient has been carried in by paramedics on a stretcher. We stand up straight away, ready to help in any way we can, when I notice that Daisy is with the patient who has been brought in. She’s crying, and I when I get a look at the stretcher I see –
My heart stops for a moment as I look at my five-year-old, who isn’t moving. As if my brain is completely detached from my body, I rush to his side, and stare at Daisy for answers.
“I’m s-sorry Rose!” Daisy sobs. “I didn’t mean to...”
A/N - Dun dun dun! C'mon, I haven't done the cliffhanger thing in a while! I know this chapter is kinda short, but I do always try to hit the 3000 word mark. Hope you liked it, the next chapter will be more entertaining, promise!!!
Thanks so much for all the reviews, I really appreciate feedback!!