Chapter 8 : Rose has a Human Side
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Considering that Scorpius was by now seeing the world as entirely pear-shaped and not as an oblate spheroid as it should be, he held up remarkably well in the final month up to Christmas. When I say he held up remarkably well, I mean that he didn’t descend into a full-scale nervous breakdown. He was still the same old Scorpius (although I’d only really known him for a couple of months, so I wasn’t really sure about this), still troubled by the minor woes and social anxieties of everyday life at the Art School. You know that joke? The one where a horse walks into the bar and the bartender goes ‘Why the long face?’ Well, he was kind of like that, except it was more like ‘Why the long face, Scorpius? Oh, no, wait, that’s a horse.’
Truth be told it wasn’t really anything like that at all. You know that thing where you try to be witty but, instead of laughter and admiration all you get is an awkward silence and a lot of staring? Happens to me a lot. Like just then. Anyway.
Scorpius doesn’t look anything like a horse, by the way. To make a short story long, he was basically still the miserable wretch of a boy I’d met in September. Not even in an outwardly miserable, woe-is-me tortured artistic turmoil sort of way. That was Barry’s trademark. No, Scorpius was miserable in that sort of resigned way. The sort of person whose nose (or camera) you could break and get no reaction apart from some serious puppy-dog eyes and a bit of fringe-flopping.
I could kind of see why Rose fancied him, in an abstract way. You could totally bully him into doing anything. Minor theft, for example, but I’m not going to go into that for reasons that I never hope to make clear. People like Rose always need minions, and by the fault of his own resigned misery, Scorpius was an unwilling minion of Gwendolyn/Raven and Tarquin. Not that I was any better, mind, I just like to think I had a bit more in the way of free will.
A letter came from my mother on the sixth of December, inviting me to spend Christmas with my family at my Nan Weasley’s place. Molly, Rose, Hugo, Dominique and Lily will all be there too, so you’ll have someone your age to talk to! she’d written, sounding quite desperate. We’ve already heard from the others but most are busy. I suppose you’re in contact with Albus so you probably know that he’s away to hotter climes for the fortnight. I hear James is taking his girlfriend to Paris for the holiday. Roxanne, on the other hand, is going up to Scotland to spend some time with her penfriend. I heard that this...and so the letter went on for another three feet of parchment, ending with but you probably knew that all already. See you on Christmas Eve! Love Mum.
‘What’s everyone doing for Christmas?’ I asked, the day after the letter, lounging in the common room. The windows had been Spellotaped shut to keep out the draughts that the weatherwitch promised would bring snow by the end of the week, but it was still fairly cold inside. Scorpius was shivering pathetically next to me in spite of the raucously patterned knitted jumper that he was wearing.
‘Going up to Birmingham to see the family.’ Tarquin said.
‘Going about a mile down the road to see my parents.’ Gwendolyn/Raven said.
‘Dunno,’ Scorpius dithered. ‘Think I’m staying with my Mum.’
‘I’m going to my Nan’s house,’ I explained. ‘Big family. Crazy Rose is going.’
Scorpius stiffened slightly, but didn’t say anything.
‘Oh, you big girl’s blouse,’ Gwendolyn/Raven tutted at Scorpius. ‘She’s not going to break down your door with an axe or anything.’
‘Wouldn’t put it past her,’ Scorpius said, quietly.
‘Where does your mum live?’ I asked, changing the subject.
‘Up north. Yorkshire way.’
‘I thought she was in London too?’ Tarquin asked.
‘She was,’ Scorpius looked confused. ‘I mean, she moves a lot. My dad’s the one in London.’
‘Your parents are divorced?’
The three of them looked at me like I was an idiot. (Which, I’ll admit, I was.)
‘Well, yeah.’ Scorpius said, slowly. ‘Have been for ages.’
‘Gosh, I didn’t know.’
‘It’s not a big deal,’ he looked uncomfortable. ‘Anyone want a cup of tea?’ he stood, almost knocking over one of France’s strange, misshaped pots in the process. Tarquin caught it one-handed. Catching was something Tarquin was very good at, it transpired, especially when it came to Scorpius knocking over things. I suppose it came from them living together.
Scorpius and Tarquin’s flat became a regular place of socialising that month. The pub, expensive and crammed with merry Christmas revellers on office parties, wasn’t the best choice anymore, and the open mic was suddenly awash with Christmas carols and festive poems. Festive poetry, of course, being a lot like normal poetry, just with bells on. After the second open mic we went to, Gwendolyn/Raven announced that she was sick to the death of Santa hats and festive angst, and insisted on a more home-grown form of recreation. This happened to be piling into Scorpius and Tarquin’s kitchen-cum-living room, wearing Santa hats and mocking Scorpius and his festive angst. Which, of course, was as dire as usual.
Take one such social evening, for example. Gwendolyn/Raven had fully got into the spirit with her old pointed Hogwarts hat by draping it entirely in tinsel and fixing a sparkly pom-pom to the tip. Tarquin had made mulled wine. Obscure Henry had bought a box of mince pies that Scorpius avoided like the plague until someone pointed out that they didn’t actually have mince in them. Frances and Ellen turned up and stared conspiratorially at everyone until, after a few drinks, Ellen sat at the piano and gave a rather wobbly and out-of-tune version of ‘Jingle Bells’ that nobody could quite remember the words to.
‘And as I stare/ into the whirlpool of my turmoil/ the spider’s web disintegrates/ in flaxen...in...’ Scorpius trailed off, reading his latest poem to me and Tarquin, already slightly drunk and slurring his words. ‘Any ideas?’
Tarquin thought about it for a second. ‘How about...as I stare into the festive whirlpool of my turmoil...my festive turmoil?’
‘What about the spider’s web disintegrates/ like old tinsel in the rain?’ I offered.
‘In festive rain?’
‘No use,’ Scorpius sighed, tucking his notebook back into his pocket. ‘Christmas is taking over everything.’
‘In a very festive way, I’ll say. When’s our big Christmas knees-up?’
‘What, you mean the party? I think it’s the-’
‘We’re having a party?’ I interrupted. ‘Exciting!’
‘Not really a party per se,’ Tarquin said, shrugging. ‘More like a bin full of cheap drinks and a lot of loud music...festive music.’
‘Could you stop with the festive thing?’ Scorpius pleaded.
‘No,’ Tarquin said, simply. ‘Anyway, the deal is that everyone chips in a Galleon and buys as much in the way of alcohol that they can, someone clears their living room out and then we get really hammered and do Christmassy things. To festive music. I believe that Screaming Bloodthirsty Disco recorded a Christmas EP last year...’
‘Oh no, don’t mention that,’ Scorpius moaned, putting his hands over his ears.
‘How did it go again? It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas, stop global warming, it’s Christmas, it’s Christmas, cats cats cats or something like that. How’s Lettuce doing, Scorpius?’
‘He’s in a new band,’ Scorpius said, mournfully. ‘Called the Sparkly Church Boys.’
‘Wowzers. He’s really outdone himself. How...festive.’
‘Bah...’ Scorpius accepted a small sweet from a passing Gwendolyn/Raven. ‘Humbug, anyone?’
‘So, what date’s the Christmas shindig?’ I said, taking a humbug. Tarquin unwrapped his and popped it into his mouth, sucking it into his cheek like a hamster with sticky-out ears.
‘Usually the twenty third, just before everyone jets off to Yorkshire and such.’
‘I wouldn’t travel on Christmas eve, if I were you,’ Scorpius cautioned. ‘If it’s anything like last year you’ll still be tipsy into Boxing Day.’
‘I’ll be good,’ I promised. ‘I’m off to see the family on Christmas Eve, so I’ll stick to Pumpkin juice.’
Scorpius and Tarquin both raised their eyebrows at me.
‘You’re as bad as he is,’ Scorpius jabbed a finger at Tarquin. ‘If you’re sticking to Pumpkin juice then I’m a giraffe.’
‘What if you are a giraffe? What if your perceptions of reality are so distorted that you’re actually a giraffe that thinks it’s a human? What if-’
‘What if we’re all ducks in a duck pond eating the bread of sorrow? Yeah, Tarquin, to be honest, all this existentialism is getting kind of old.’
‘Only if you’re a duck.’
‘Oh, just...if you don’t stop I’ll...I’ll-’
‘Write a poem about it? What, TARQUIN! Your theories are SPARKLIN’! For you I’d go to Berlin with a kilt pin...’
Scorpius stared at him, slack-mouthed.
‘I’m a poet, see!’ Tarquin grinned. ‘LUCY! You look kind of juicy, let’s listen to Debussy...here comes Raven, she looks quite unshaven...Scorpius, stop being such a fool and get on that piano stool!’
Scorpius looked completely blank. I was trying hard not to snort into my mulled wine.
‘Charming.’ Scorpius said, eventually.
Scorpius turned out to be right on two counts. On the twenty fourth I stood beside my front door with suitcase in hand, fumbling with what I thought was my wand in the pocket of my handbag but actually turned out to be a self-inking quill that had turned both my hand and my bag an interesting shade of purple. Sleep-deprived and fresh from Scorpius and Tarquin’s flat (which seemed to have become an art school second home) I hadn’t had a chance to make myself look at all presentable. I was due to shoot away into the block’s communal fireplace in ten minutes, and my hair was still trying to play the part of a blue haystack on my head. I did have clips for it somewhere, but, honestly, they could have been needles for all the luck I had finding them. I half expected to arrive at my Nan’s house in the country and be mauled by cows thinking I was tasty blue food. I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to get started on thinking about the clothes, or even what Floo Powder would do to my fuzzy mind.
‘Wand,’ I scraped my hand around the rest of my bag. ‘Wand...’
A knock on the door interrupted my mumblings. Setting down the suitcase, I flung the door open to find Scorpius bent double on the doormat, wheezing.
‘You...left...this,’ he panted, holding out my wand at arms’ length. ‘Thought I’d catch you...before you...went...away.’
‘Ooh, thanks,’ I took it from him. ‘I know, there are a lot of stairs on the way up.’
‘What?’ he choked. ‘Oh, ran...didn’t fancy...apparating into flat...over the limit…splinch...’
‘You ran halfway across London to bring my wand? That’s nice, would you like a speedy cup of tea?’
‘Only…up the stairs…can’t...stay...for long. Also this...’ he pulled an envelope from his pocket. ‘Forgot...Christmas card.’
‘Thanks,’ I put down my handbag and took it. We’d swapped presents the night before, although I couldn’t actually remember who had given me what or even where I’d put it.
‘What happened to you?’ he asked, straightening up. ‘You look like you slept in a ditch.’
‘Feel like it too. You’re not much better,’ I said, taking in his appearance. The fact that his jumper was on back-to-front was enough, but the shiny red face, plastered back fringe and the glasses at a jaunty angle made him look like a librarian in a sauna.
‘Raven’s worse, I think her shoes are still in next door’s garden...I think Henry might be there too.’
‘Got a lot of cleaning up to do,’ he grimaced. ‘Did you bring the snake?’
‘I found a snake in the piano-’
‘In the piano?’
‘Yeah, not a real one, it’s an ornament or something, but it’s huge. There’s also a flock of birds in the bathroom, I’m too scared to open the door in case they all fly out and peck me,’ he flapped his arms around his head for effect. ‘I think they’re charms, but I don’t want to chance it...’
‘Raven? Or maybe Barry, he’s a bit of a dark horse.’
‘Dunno. I’m just...’ he yawned, not bothering to cover his mouth.
‘Tired. Looking forward to the break.’
‘Yeah,’ he nodded emphatically. ‘Suppose you’re off in a minute...’
‘Just going to use the Floo network. Can’t chance apparating that far in this state.’
‘Ah. Well. Enjoy yourself...’
‘I will. Happy Christmas, Scorp.’
‘Happy Christmas,’ he beamed. ‘See you in a week or so...I better start back to the flat and get some breakfast,’ he checked his glow-in-the-dark watch. ‘Or lunch, rather.’
I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was for saying goodbye, so I went in for a sort of one-armed hug that, I think, caught him a bit by surprise. He patted me awkwardly on the back before I released him and waved him off down the corridor, re-gathered my bags and stowed my wand safely into my pocket, grinning foolishly to myself. Giving Scorpius a headstart out of the building, I stalled for a moment by opening the card he’d given me.
It wasn’t actually a card at all. It was a photograph, one I instantly recognised as being hand-developed. Gwendolyn/Raven and Tarquin stood to one side with matching cheesy grins and pointy hats poker-straight, Scorpius and I on their left looking quite sheepish. The four of us were grinning stupidly, posing for the camera, and the vague blur of Obscure Henry hung around in the background. Beneath the scene, Scorpius had scrawled ‘Merry Christmas’ in red ink. Or, at least I thought it said Merry Christmas anyway, but Scorpius had pretty messy handwriting and I wasn’t totally sure.
To quote Tarquin, thought, I would have said that the whole thing was very...festive.
The photograph was an admittedly lovely gesture. I was still thinking about it when I sprawled onto my Gran’s carpet ten minutes later, coated in a fine layer of soot and with my haystack hair in an even worse state. My Mum seemed to have been hovering around all day waiting for me to arrive.
‘Lucy!’ she trilled, scooping me up into a hug. ‘How are you?’
‘Splendid,’ I told her through gritted teeth. Another drumming party was getting warmed up in my head and I was fully aware of the staleness of my breath.
‘Oh,’ she drew away, grimacing slightly. ‘You look...tired.’
‘I have that seasonal flu that’s going around,’ I searched in my pockets for a tissue and found a grotty handkerchief, sniffing for effect. ‘I’ve not been very well.’
‘Oh, my poor wee lamb,’ my Mum soothed, bustling off towards the kitchen. ‘I’ll fetch you some potion.’
‘That’s not a cold, is it?’ a voice came from the other side of the room. Molly rose from an armchair, devastatingly attractive in makeup that seemed to have been applied with a trowel. In the dark. ‘You’ve been out.’
‘What’s it to you?’ I stuffed the tissue back into my pocket.
‘Mum’d kill you if she knew what you got up to.’
‘Whatever do you mean, Molly? I’m the perfect model of a daughter. Purity is my middle name.’
‘Your middle name is Carol,’ she snorted. ‘Come off it, you look like the wild woman of the Forbidden Forest. Smell like her too...’
‘Says the girl who’s got so much makeup on she looks like a Satsuma.’
‘Oh, yeah, original, Lucy. At least I go to decent parties, you look like you party in a skip.’
‘It’s how we art students chill out. Keep up.’
Molly made to speak, but my Mum entered again, a steaming cup of potion in her hand. I downed it in one, thankful that it wasn’t Scorpius’ home brew.
‘Thanks, Mum. Molly was just telling me about her exciting social life,’ I said, casually. ‘All those parties she goes to.’
‘She’s joking, Mum,’ Molly whined. ‘She always does this.’
‘Not really,’ I shrugged. ‘All those Hogsmeade weekends, Molly...I didn’t know they let fifth years buy Firewhiskey. Professor Aspidistra would have your head served up on the Ravenclaw table for dinner if she knew.’
‘What are you trying to say, Lucy?’ my Mum demanded. ‘Molly, is this true?’
‘Of course it’s true. Molly is-’
‘Lucy has a hangover,’ Molly blurted out. ‘She’s faking the cold.’
My Mum turned to stare at me.
‘I’m totally innocent,’ I held up my hands. ‘Seasonal flu, I swear.’
‘Girls,’ my Mum’s voice was stern. ‘I don’t know what’s going on here, but this is Christmas and it’s time for family, so please be polite. Molly, why don’t you take Lucy upstairs and – er – let her get cleaned up?’
Tossing her hair over her shoulder, Molly stormed from the room. Lifting my suitcase, I followed her.
‘We’re sharing with Rose,’ she called as we ascended the stairs. ‘Worst Christmas ever, she’s such a killjoy, I swear I’ll murder her – oh, hi, Rose!’
In a perfect example of bad timing, Rose had appeared on the landing at the top of the stairs, a tray of mince pies in her hand and a dying smile on her face.
‘Oh, hello, Lucy. I didn’t realise you were here.’
‘Hi Rose,’ I waved cheerily with my free hand. ‘Merry Christmas.’
‘Yes,’ she looked distracted. ‘Well, I best be off and get the dinner started.’
She bustled past us, almost upsetting the tray of pies as she squeezed past my suitcase. Molly raised her fiercely plucked eyebrows at me.
‘Yeah, so, anyway,’ she continued up the stairs. ‘Dom and Lily are across the corridor and Hugo’s in with Ron and Hermione. This is going to be soooo boring, I really wanted to stay at Hogwarts with my mates but Mum insisted.’
‘Chin up, it’ll be fine.’
Molly barged her way into the room. Three single beds had been set up; two were neat with sheets folded precisely, the third a jumble of blankets and clothes, the bedside table heaped with cosmetics and dog-eared magazines. Molly plonked herself down on top of the mess, twisting a blonde curl around one finger.
‘You’re in the middle,’ she said. ‘Be careful not to put any of your stuff in Rose’s area or she’ll flip. Don’t even breathe on it.’
‘Right.’ I dumped my suitcase on the top of the middle bed, wrinkling the sheets beyond repair. Molly had fallen back on her bed, feet resting on a pillow, flicking through a copy of Witch Weekly that boasted headlines such as ‘the best party dresses’ and ‘improve your performance in the bedroom with these top ten tips.’
‘Got a boyfriend, Molly?’ I asked.
‘Why do you ask?’
‘Didn’t know you were so keen to improve your performance in the bedroom-’
‘Shut your face,’ a tube of lipstick came whizzing at my head and missed. I chose that moment to beat a hasty retreat to the bathroom.
As much as I loved my family (well, as much as I loved anyone that wasn’t Molly or Rose) I had to admit that I shared Molly’s lack of enthusiasm about the whole Christmas fandango. No Albus, no James, no Louis – I was abandoned with nitpicking control freaks like Rose and boy-obsessed sisters like Molly who had long ago sacrificed normal skin for a layer of orange foundation. Not to mention my doily-loving mother and father. And Rose was making dinner. I felt sick at the thought of having my carrots and parsnips arranged at perfect right angles on my plate.
Two hours later the family were gathered in the sitting room, all half-asleep around a roaring fire. I’d somehow managed to tame my haystack into a ponytail, although I was still at a loss to why I’d found a twig in it (obviously some remnant of the previous night). Rose had shut herself in the kitchen, leaving the rest of us to nod off over books and games of wizard chess. My Nan kept throwing anxious glances towards the kitchen door, reassured every so often by Aunt Hermione.
‘Rose is a good cook,’ she soothed. ‘Very organised. It’ll be perfect, I’m sure.’
‘If I could just oversee the trifle...’
‘Rose is fine,’ Hugo said determinedly, putting an end to the conversation.
An hour later and there was still no sign of Rose. The family seemed relatively unconcerned, but this was probably down to the fact that most of them were asleep or, in the case of Hugo and Dominique, orchestrating a violent tussle between a bishop and a castle.
‘I’ll just go check on Rose, shall I?’ I asked to the room at large. I got nothing but an almighty snore from my father, which I took as a yes.
‘Rose?’ I knocked on the door. There was no answer. ‘Parsnips behaving properly?’
Still no response. I shrugged and pushed the door open. Rose was kneeling on the floor, a fat turkey resting squat on a tray in front of her.
‘Hello,’ I said, cheerfully. ‘How’s it going?’
It was at that inconvenient moment that I noticed Rose was crying.
‘The turkey!’ she sniffed. ‘Won’t...won’t fit in the oven!’
‘Erm...oh dear,’ I knelt beside her, looking from the turkey to the oven door. There was no chance in a million years that the two would meet.
‘And I promised Mum I’d sort out the whole dinner and the vegetables are done and they’re going cold and it all went fine when I did the Christmas dinner at the law school and speaking of the law school I have so much work to do this holiday and I really don’t want to fail and half of my friends don’t talk to me anymore and I really miss him...’ she blubbered. A few tears fell onto the turkey. The whole situation would have looked absurd to anybody watching, but I was pretty sure that the family was comatose in the next room and wouldn’t bother us.
‘Erm...sorry, Rose,’ I said, patting her shoulder awkwardly. The two of us had never really got on too well (to cut a long story short, she disagreed with my rulebreaking, I disagreed with her disagreeing). She gave an almighty, snotty sniff, and then sat back against the wall. Just as well, as I was beginning to worry about how hygienic our Christmas dinner would be with her crying over it. The next problem was figuring out how to make her stop crying.
‘It’s alright,’ she sniffed again, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. ‘It’s silly, really...you won’t...you won’t tell anyone about this, will you?’
‘Alright, sure...who do you miss?’ I asked, but she ignored me, standing and crossing the room in search of a piece of kitchen paper.
‘It’s so stupid!’ she blurted out, blotting at her eyes with the extra-absorbent tissue. ‘I’m crying about a bird!’
‘The oven just isn’t big enough!’
‘It’s utterly absurd!’ Rose tossed the mascara-stained piece of kitchen paper aside, her usual crisp voice returning. ‘I can’t believe it!’
‘I just don’t know what to do!’
I shrugged. ‘You were the Ravenclaw.’
‘Make the oven bigger?’
‘I dunno, maybe...’ I took my wand from my pocket and pointed it squarely at the oven, but Rose grabbed my wrist and pushed it back again.
‘Erm, should I do it? Perhaps an undetectable extension charm would do the trick...’
‘Yeah, thought so,’ I said, trying to forget the fact that I’d been on the verge of saying Reducto and blasting my Nan’s kitchen to smithereens.
Rose swept her wand through the air in a figure of eight, sticking out her tongue in concentration. The oven did nothing.
‘Rose, it isn’t working.’
‘That’s because it’s an undetectable extension charm?’
It did work, however, because five minutes later Rose had popped the turkey in with no trouble at all, straight-faced, prim and proper again.
‘Right, that’s that sorted,’ she said, sounding businesslike. ‘I’ll get the sauce done then. You can go back through.’
The crying seemed to have been forgotten. Slightly miffed at being brushed off that quickly, I wandered back through to the living room to find that Molly had taken my armchair.
‘Shove it, Molly.’
Such was the mood for the rest of Christmas Eve. Rose, organiser in chief, served up a pretty much perfect dinner later that evening, much to my Aunt Hermione’s delight. She was all smiles as she doled out the sprouts and the parsnips, but by the time we got to pudding she was as miserable as Barry on a good day, poking glumly at her trifle without eating a bite.
‘What’s the matter?’ I accosted her in our room later that night, after what felt like a century of ‘traditional’ Satsuma peeling and sherry drinking.
‘Nothing,’ she said, briskly. ‘I’m absolutely fine, Lucy.’
‘You were crying earlier!’
‘What on earth are you talking about? I’m absolutely fantastic,’ she beamed. The conversation ended a moment later as Molly slouched in, party hat askew on her head, yawning widely.
Christmas day is, in the Weasley clan, a day for the family. Sharing a room with Molly and Rose meant that the family day started at seven, with Rose leaping out of bed and throwing the curtains open, hollering all sorts of generic proverbs at the room in an attempt to wake Molly and I up. Which, of course, didn’t happen until about ten, when Molly, rolled up in her duvet like a giant sausage roll, trundled into the bathroom and stuck a brush into her hair. Not that I was much better. By then I’d only managed to get one sock on, and I wasn’t really planning to get out of my pyjamas until at least six in the evening. Rose, by contrast, was fully dressed, washed, brushed and sitting downstairs in the living room waiting for the rest of the house to rise and shine.
‘Blergh,’ Molly said as she came out of the bathroom.
‘Merry Christmas to you to, dear.’
Still in my pyjamas, I made my way downstairs, bleary-eyed in the bright winter sun streaming in through the windows. I bumped into Hugo on the stairs, just as bleary as I was, nursing a hot cup of tea.
‘Morning,’ he said. ‘Rose is going mad in the sitting room, I swear she’s organising the presents by colour or something by now.’
‘I’m not going in there alone.’
‘Lily and Dom are in there, you better rescue them.’
And so I ended up playing Scrabble. I know, I know, I’m absolutely insane. I voluntarily wandered into the sitting room, sat down next to Rose, and started playing Scrabble with them.
(Never play Scrabble with a nitpicker extraordinaire. Not only will you never win, but you will also look like the biggest fool since foolish behaviour began).
‘G-L-A-S-G-O-W,’ I spelt out, laying down my tiles on the board under the beady eye of Rose. ‘Triple word score, if you please.’
‘It’s a proper noun,’ she said, brusquely. ‘You can’t have them.’
Dom and Lily shot me sympathetic smiles from the other side of the table. Rose was mopping the floor with us. Not literally, of course, more in a metaphorical way.
So, still in my jammies, I wandered back upstairs, searching for a Hugo or even a Mum to escape to. No such luck; I ended up back in the bedroom, looking from Molly’s bed to Rose’s and wondering how different cousins really could be.
Perched on the end of my bed and contemplating the slice of toast in my hand, my mind drifted to the Christmas days I supposed my friends were enjoying. Tarquin and Scorpius were both easy to picture in novelty jumpers (well, Scorpius did wear interesting knitwear on a daily basis) but somehow I couldn’t picture Gwendolyn/Raven in any sort of festive family scenario. In my mind, she slept in a coffin and was secretly a bat animagus.
This reminded me of the presents they’d given, which were still stashed in my suitcase, unopened. So I decided to open them when I was alone in the bedroom - which, I have to say, was my first wise action of the Christmas holiday. I didn’t think I could get away with Sc-Tarquin again, and any hint of Scorpius and his festive angst would turn Rose into the extremely organised banshee I knew lurked beneath her prim mask.
The first present was from Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven: a pack of exploding snap cards featuring a collection of fancy hippogriff paintings on the backs. Scorpius’ was a typical slab of chocolate. Chocolate was one step down from tea on the ultimate foodstuffs-that-make-everything-much-better scale, and I was pretty chuffed that Scorpius had gone for the giant slab option instead of the tricky, over-packaged posh box of truffles most people went for at Christmas. He evidently knew me well.
I told him this after I’d opened the bar and taken a square or two. Not that he heard, mind, mostly because I was talking to the photograph he’d given me as a card. Bearing in mind that I spent a lot of time holed up in a pitch-black room inhaling photographic chemicals, I didn’t exactly consider this strange behaviour.
‘I know you can’t hear me, but, mmm,’ I said to the photo, snapping off another ten squares or so of the chocolate, ‘but this is a really great present. All I need is a cup of tea and it’ll be super stuff. It’s really boring here, it’s like being hit over the head repeatedly with a huge brick whilst being force-fed citrus fruits...it’s like satsuma city here, I hope things are better with you lot. Nice fancy hippogriffs, by the way, Tarquin, didn’t realise you were such a fan-’
This was the moment that Rose picked to walk in. Unfortunately. With a speed and agility I didn’t quite know I had, I thrust the photograph down the back of the bedstand with one hand and held up the slab of chocolate with the other, grinning as if I’d meant to hand it to her all along.
‘Hi, Lucy,’ Rose said, staring down her nose at the chocolate, which I was now waving in front of her face in an effort to distract her from the fact that my hand had got stuck behind the bed. ‘Er, no thanks.’
‘Go on, have a piece!’ I beamed, waving it in her face. ‘I was just about to come downstairs and, er, carry on the game!’
‘We finished ages ago. I won with a-’
‘Something wrong?’ Rose asked, curiously.
‘Just my hand,’ I panted, waving it around madly as if that’d take away the sudden, throbbing pain. ‘Stuck behind the bed.’
‘Lost my wand!’
‘Your wand is on the bedside table...’
‘That’s because...er, I just put it there!’
‘No, you...well, nevermind. I came up to ask if you wanted a drink...’
‘Yes please!’ I nodded furiously, nursing my sore hand.
‘Something alcoholic. Please.’
‘It’s only two in the afternoon,’
‘It’s Christmas! And I’m a student.’
‘Fair enough,’ Rose shrugged. ‘Could use a drink myself.’
A/N: I suppose I should mention here that Scrabble is a trademark of Mattel, and Jingle Bells is apparently a public domain song so I think I can mention it here.
edited yet again 17/06/2012
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