Chapter 1 : Let Them Eat Cake
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Let Them Eat Cake
The whole situation was rather dire, really. Family meetings are similar to that one bacon sandwich too many; the concept was excellent but in the long run the effect was pretty disappointing. We were well past the initial stage of maybe this wasn’t such a great idea and into the Merlin, help me now! phase. The only way was up from here, surely.
Oh no; Auntie Audrey had just brought out the trivia quiz.
Sighing, I turned to my cousin Molly, desperation creasing my forehead. “You have to help me,” I whispered, both of us warily watching her mother designate teams.
“It can’t be any worse than last year,” she muttered grimly as we were herded towards a dozing Uncle George. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget Dad’s face when Hugo decided to answer every one of Mum’s questions with explicit jokes. He’s been washing his ears every day ever since, I swear.”
“I didn’t mean that,” I hissed, returning the frown she wore on her face framed with auburn hair. “I was talking about this thing with Scorpius.” I lowered my voice to barely a whisper, causing her to lean closer to me, eyes widening.
“Oh, that,” she said darkly.
We both turned to look behind us, where a smartly-dressed Scorpius was perching on the arm of one of Grandma’s armchairs. I shuddered, turning back to Molly. “He won’t leave me alone, you know. I had no idea he was going to be here today; I think Mum invited him.”
“Come off it, Rosie,” Molly scoffed as Audrey handed her a blank page of parchment. “Your Mum hates the Malfoys.”
“I’ve told you,” I said through gritted teeth, the irritation tainting my voice. “She’s doing it to piss off Dad. She knows that Scorpius has no chance, she just likes winding him up.”
Molly rolled her dark eyes. “You’re being ridiculous. Knowing him, he probably just invited himself. It’s not as though he’d be noticed among this lot.”
She was right, of course; an elephant could have been joining Team Dungbomb (Hugo’s idea for a team name, naturally) for all we knew and we wouldn’t have noticed it amongst the rabble. When all together, or almost all together as we were today, we were quite a number and Weasleys had a tendency to be a little rowdy. Scorpius in his pale denim jeans and beige shirt practically faded into the wallpaper.
“I don’t understand why he just won’t get the hint,” I groaned as I heard him approach us. No doubt he had seen us sneak a glance and had decided that was enough to warrant starting up conversation.
“Need an extra team member, ladies?” He said in what he probably presumed was a smooth voice, but he just sounded like a strangled dog. Although I was being a little cruel, perhaps; I had long since reached the stage where every single thing he did made me want to slap his smug smile off his face. I didn’t know where he learned his moves from, but I sincerely doubted they had ever got married and would die lonely and unloved by many. I predicted he would meet the same end. Justice.
“Sure,” I muttered, trying to ignore the fact that he had just called Uncle George a lady and holding back a snort. Apart from the fact that snorting derisively was not very ladylike and usually ended in being shunned, I wasn’t so rude as to openly laugh in Scorpius’ face (yet).
We budged up so that he could huddle close to our group, though he was starting to huddle far too close to me. At that moment, I decided not to wash for about three weeks the next time something like this came up; poor hygiene might actually scare him off. A girl could dream… As it was, he was as keen as ever to sniff my neck and try and get some sort of body contact. Molly and I had affectionately nicknamed him Rat Boy, because his pointed features strongly reminded me of an unwanted rodent. Well, not necessarily just unwanted rodents, but this one certainly wasn’t wanted by us.
The word “stalking” was a little too strong. He never had that many friends when we were in school together and I shouldn’t think anything has changed since he went into whatever job it was that he found. Private detective? Bodyguard? Guide dog? Whatever it was, it definitely involved a lot of following me around. Anyway, I felt kind of sorry for him and I also felt sorry enough for myself to accept his stalking as a half-compliment. I could just casually slip into any conversation “and this is my Scorpius, he follows me around” and I was suddenly interesting.
Seeming interesting was actually quite high on my priority list, sadly. I always got the feeling that I was the disappointment in the family, merely because when relatives updated their circles about the latest news, my name never came up. It was always Lucy got 500 NEWTs, all full marks! or did you hear about Louis’ girlfriend, she’s doing so well! I was so forgettable that it was preferable to make things up than to admit that I was ashamed at how little I had to tell people. What did I do with my time that meant that I had nothing whatsoever to contribute to the family figurative trophy case? Intelligence alone no longer sufficed now that I was in the “real world”, as Mum called it. Molly regularly told me that I shouldn’t care what people think of me, but I often wondered what people see when they look at me. Did they see Rose Weasley, the daughter of the brilliant Hermione Weasley, and then await a performance of some kind? With so much to live up to I must have decided at a very early age not to bother attempting to outweigh her achievements.
Besides, I was too busy not growing up to fully reach my potential.
Blinking a few times, I realised I’d missed the first question due to the talking to myself in my head thing. I did that quite a lot, which often led to me zoning in and out of conversations accidentally. It had always made me wonder whether other people talked to themselves in their heads or if it was just me being weird. Clearly there was plenty wrong with me, which in a way made me interesting. Excellent progress.
“Correct!” Audrey beamed and Scorpius afforded me a slap on the back. Merlin, what had I just said?
Audrey continued to read out the next question and I shot Molly a bewildered look. “Did I say something out-loud?”
“‘Progress’,” she whispered, a half-smile adorning her lips. “Which happened to be the answer to the last question, luckily for us. Now shut up and let me pay attention.”
I sighed, recognising that Molly had gone into competitive mode. It was the same with everything in my family; we all had to be winners, which naturally led to plenty of disagreements, what with there being so many of us. I observed them all, sat in a circle like hungry vultures, only they were more like angry vultures, glaring at Auntie Audrey as they failed to answer a question correctly. This would end in tears, most likely Audrey’s. She was prone to crying. My Dad suggested we buy her a box of tissues for her birthday next month; Mum stomped on that idea pretty quick.
It was best I stayed out of this quiz thing as much as possible and focused on not giving Scorpius the wrong idea. Last time we met I accidentally handed him a pair of my knickers, aiming to play a joke on my friend which, in the end, seriously backfired.
No, it was best I avoided any contact at all with him. I couldn’t be trusted.
It was a few moments later that Audrey’s Quiz of Doom was interrupted by my grandmother bringing out Lucy’s seventeenth birthday cake, mini-fireworks shooting from the candles spectacularly. I was distracted from the singing momentarily as I leaned away from the candles that were steadily making their way towards me. Last year I’d had a rather nasty incident with my Mum’s birthday candles. Let me put it this way: my eyebrows have never been the same since.
Hang on. I was leaning against something squishy.
“Ooh, hello!” Scorpius grinned smugly as I sat bolt upright. How did I keep on getting into these situations? “Making the most of the romantic mood, are we?”
“No,” I spluttered disgustedly, shifting over to Molly. What romantic mood? I was sat in a giant circle of nosy relatives; there was nothing romantic about it at all! If he meant that I was making the most of the momentary darkness he was sadly mistaken. I leaned towards Molly’s ear and whispered, “help me!”
I really hoped I was imagining that smirk on her face. She was not allowed to enjoy my discomfort, especially when it concerned Rat-Face.
Eventually, after much scoffing of cake, Molly and I escaped the madness and hid in the larder, finally finding a bit of peace and quiet.
“Do you think Scorpius followed us?” I asked worriedly, squinting through the keyhole into the kitchen. As far as I could see, no one had noticed our absence, but there was always the chance that he was just lurking out of sight, waiting to pounce. At that thought, I groaned miserably. “What did I do to encourage this ridiculousness?”
Again, Molly smirked. “I wonder if it has something to do with how you’re terminally single,” she mused, poking a finger into a pot of honey and licking her finger.
“Don’t start,” I warned. “I’ve already had Aunt Fleur on at me about how important it is to settle down, blah blah blah.”
Molly grinned delightfully. “She has a point, you know. You’re in your mid-twenties now. You can’t avoid reality altogether.”
"I can try,” I muttered grumpily. “And it’s all right for you, you have a significant other. The fact of the matter is, no one is ever going to fancy a boring old troll like me. I’ve long since accepted it. I shall spend my retired days in solitude.”
Molly set the honey back on the shelf and continued to inspect the contents of the larder. “You’re not going to end up alone,” she said scathingly.
“You’re right,” I agreed. “I’ll have lots of owls… and a cat.”
I could see her eyes twitching from where she was trying not to roll her eyes. “Shut up. The truth is none of this would be happening if you hadn’t gone and fallen for bloody Teddy.”
I moaned. “We agreed not to talk about it.”
Molly drew her wand from her pocket and twirled it menacingly. I gulped; Molly was definitely the best at spells in the family. “Well, we’re going to talk about it. I told you you should have told him how you feel. But you didn’t listen to me, as usual.”
“He’s eloping to France with Victoire in a month. What’s the point?”
“What’s the point?” Molly said indignantly. “My dear Rose, since when have things had to have a point?” I nodded in false agreement. “Anyway,” she added triumphantly. “Victoire is ugly.”
I snorted. She was lying, of course, but I appreciated the moral support. She was right, she always is, but there was no way I was saying anything to Teddy. I had barely spoken to him in the last two years as it was and he had clearly made it known that he was in love with Victoire, my cousin. It couldn’t end well and so I had decided years ago that my feelings for him were best sat on and squashed until they were so miniscule that I couldn’t possible feel anything. That plan hadn’t worked and so I had resorted to Plan: pretend I was not ready for love or relationships and then I would seem normal. Naturally it was my normality that Scorpius found so attractive…
I wasn’t really sure why Scorpius liked me so much. Maybe his father had told him specifically to avoid all Weasleys and so he made it his aim to irritate his father as much as possible. I hoped that was the case because otherwise I’d feel really guilty about being so mean to him. It was nice to have some attention from somebody; it wasn’t as though I was Miss Popular or anything. I also wasn’t desperate, so I wasn’t going to stop avoiding him even if it meant he’d stop annoying me.
“I’m happy to wait for Mr Right Version 2 to appear. Why can’t we forget I ever mentioned my feelings? Besides, I’ve definitely changed my mind, don’t love him at all.” My cheeks turning red had nothing to do with the conversation, of course. It was getting rather hot in here.
“Rose Weasley,” Molly growled menacingly. “Just bloody admit that you love Teddy.”
We both winced at the same time as light suddenly spilled into the larder. Shit! Who had the nerve to open the door on our secret hiding place? Had they heard all of that?
I squinted into the light and identified my brother with a waterfall of dread. His face looked gleeful.
“Rose loves Teddy?” he repeated with a grin.
“No, stupid,” I scowled. “It was just a joke; a private joke, between me and Molly. You wouldn’t get it.”
He raised an eyebrow and it was all I could muster not to slap him. Damn, why did he have to walk in of all people? Fair enough, most siblings hated each other to a certain degree, but Hugo genuinely hated me. He didn’t care for my feelings or even acknowledge them, which meant he would do anything to cause me discomfort. Mum and I had always hoped he’d grow out of it, but at nineteen, we had lost hope. I glanced at Molly, quickly deciding that neither begging nor bribery would work. There was only one thing I could do.
“Hugo,” I began sweetly, “If you tell anyone about our little joke, I’ll tell Dad that you were the one who stole his thousand-galleon firewhiskey and mixed it with cheap butterbeer and shared it amongst your friends.”
Hugo smirked, his flame-coloured hair flopping onto his face. Looking like a mushed carrot was apparently in fashion at the moment. “He already knows about that.”
Bugger. I didn’t know what else to do; if I made an issue out of it he’d realise how much I didn’t want him to tell anyone about this, which would only make him want to spread the beans more. He’d see through any attempt at being casual about the whole thing.
Maybe I could obliviate him? Was that even legal? I’d have to ask Mum. But for now, a menacing glare and a door slammed in his face would have to suffice.
“See what my life is like?” I grumbled as Molly sat on an upturned bucket. “I don’t need any more embarrassment in it, thanks very much. Hugo will tell the whole world about this and I shall be shamed and shunned and cast out of the family.”
Molly rolled her eyes yet again. She was going to do her eyeballs an injury if she kept that up. There was clearly just something about me that she found ridiculous.
“Nonsense,” she soothed. “Hugo won’t tell anyone.”
“Yes he bloody will! He enjoys my pain,” I cried.
“He won’t,” she said smugly. “Because he knows that I know that he broke Grandma’s clock yesterday. If he wants to see his next birthday, he’ll keep his mouth shut.”
My jaw dropped like a stone. “That was him?”
Wow. He would definitely be dead within the week if anyone found out about that. This morning we had woken up to our grandmother sobbing as she tried to piece together the family clock, the one with all our names on each hand. No magic had worked so far, so I had to wonder what Hugo had done to the poor thing.
“Don’t worry about it,” Molly said in a satisfied voice, picking a biscuit from a shelf as she stood up. She turned to look at me through the gloom with an eyebrow cocked.
“Fine,” I sighed, brushing a cobweb from my elbow and stealing a biscuit for myself.
We slipped back into the living room, where our grandfather was snoring away as Audrey continued in vain to continue her quiz. Only Scorpius noticed that we had been gone for about twenty minutes. Situation normal, then.
It was as Auntie Audrey was finishing up her quiz that Teddy and Victoire joined us. I felt heat building in my face and neck and tried to remember how to act normal.
Seeing them together made me nauseous and I could feel Hugo’s eyes on me as I settled on staring at my sleeping grandfather. Ignoring him was just as conspicuous, I reasoned with myself. Maybe if I glanced and then turned away?
I snuck a look at him and found myself unable to look away. He was just so gorgeous it was impossible to understand why anyone who ever came into contact with him didn’t just melt from the sheer heat that brought pink to my own cheeks. I blushed easily, I realised as I watched him find a comfy spot on the floor next to my cousin Dominique. He and Victoire made a beautiful couple, which only made me want to stab her more. It was unreasonable to wish harm upon your own family, but love made me a little bit irrational. Come on, I was a twenty-something year old woman, I couldn’t not notice him. The irritating thing was, he was the darling of the whole family. He was so nice, my aunts reminded me on a regular basis and everything he did was so fabulous. I couldn’t get away from him, even if I wanted to.
“Rose,” Molly hissed. “You’re staring.”
“No I’m not,” I mumbled as I continued to stare at the back of his head.
“You’ll burn holes in his neck if you don’t stop it. Or worse, someone will notice that you’re drooling.”
I dragged my eyes from Teddy and threw an indignant glare in her direction; I was not drooling! Well, maybe not physically…
Enough; Molly was right, of course. I couldn’t continue to gaze at him lustfully if I wasn’t willing to do anything about it. For someone younger than me, she was far wiser. Life was so unfair.
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