Chapter 2 : They'd Overdone It A Bit
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They'd Overdone It A Bit
I put my quill away hastily, denying myself the chance to customise my calendar with the countdown to Teddy’s departure. I was beginning to think my obsession was verging on the Scorpius side. I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do, I thought about him far more than was healthy.
Molly lay dozing on my bed, a tattered copy of Witch Weekly spread open across her face. She groaned miserably. “I’ve got a family hangover,” she grumbled groggily. “We need to stop seeing so much of them at one time, it isn’t good for our health.”
“I’ll say,” I agreed without really listening, banishing a romantic farewell scene in which Teddy magically decided to abandon Victoire in favour of me.
“Did you even hear what I said?” Sitting up, the magazine fell from Molly’s face. Strange lines appeared on her freckled cheek from the glossy pages. “Or were you too busy daydreaming again?”
I blushed, knowing that there was no use denying it. “So what if I was?”
Molly huffed, swinging her legs to the floor and standing up in an elegant flourish. Sometimes she was too pompous for her own good. “I wish you’d give up with that already. It’s not constructive.”
“Nothing I do is constructive in your eyes,” I retorted grumpily.
My cousin crossed the room and for a moment I wondered if she was going to threaten me with her wand; it wouldn’t be the first time. Instead, she grabbed the quill from my desk and circled the date Teddy was due to leave on my calendar (13th February) and glared at me.
“You have about a month to sort your life out, Rose Weasley,” she announced grimly. “And if you won’t help yourself then I’ll have to do it for you.”
“I don’t need your help, thanks,” I said patiently. “I’m quite happy with my life.”
“Rubbish,” Molly said sweetly. “Of course you’re not. Yesterday you were telling me you envisaged a future with owls and cats. That’s not what I call being happy with your life.”
I recognised that Molly was on one of her missions and decided that it was probably best just to go along with it. When she got like this, there was usually little I could do to dissuade her. She’d calm down eventually and find some other poor sod to irritate, but whilst we could spend a quiet Sunday afternoon together with little to do, she’d find something to improve.
“What’s your plan, then?” I asked resignedly.
She observed me, looking me up and down. If she suggested a make-over, it might just be me doing the hexing, not her. If she was going to meddle, it needed to be with as little effort on my part as possible.
“Your problem,” she began decisively, “is that you are a waiter. You’re waiting around for Teddy to fall in love with you and you’re not doing anything to push him along the way.”
I narrowed my eyes. “I am not going to fling myself at him. I’m not that desperate.” Yet.
“I wasn’t suggesting that,” Molly said, rolling her eyes. I might be a waiter, but she was definitely a roller. I was going to pop an eyeball out soon if she didn’t stop being so bloody patronising. “I just think you should circulate.”
“Circulate?” I laughed. “I’m not a slag either, Molly.”
“Do you want my help or not?”
I considered her face scrunched up in concentration and couldn’t quite decide what the right answer was. The truthful answer was “no”, but I valued my friendship with her more than I did my dignity. I had a feeling even if I did say no, she’d meddle anyway.
“Of course I do, I’m sorry,” I placated her with a few hasty words, plopping myself down on my bed. “Go on.”
“Well,” she said thoughtfully, munching on a shortbread finger. “You’re not going to impress him by hiding here and making yourself invisible.”
“I’m not hiding,” I said indignantly. “I’m not the type of girl who happily throws herself at men for fun. Stop criticising me.”
“No need to get so defensive,” Molly muttered. “I’m only trying to help.”
I tried not to glare at her as she stuffed the rest of her biscuit into her mouth and made herself comfortable on my bed. She always looked at ease, it wasn’t fair. I didn’t know why I had to be such an Awkward Annie; I made everything into a big deal when it was just unnecessary stress.
“I know,” I mumbled, sitting down next to her. “But I don’t think even you can sort out my issues. There are far too many.”
“Don’t be such a negative ninny,” she admonished boldly, whacking me with the magazine. “This is your problem, you’re so pessimistic all the time. Life isn’t as hard as you make it seem. Go with the flow.”
Now I was rolling my eyes. “This 'help' thing isn’t an excuse for you to insult me. I am aware I have problems, I never claimed to be a simple case.”
“I like a challenge,” she said happily, ignoring my rant.
She wandered over to my mirror and threw her hair back into a pony-tail. She had the enviable knack of getting her hair looking nice the first time she tried; it took me at least half an hour to achieve anything nearly as good, and I usually ended up starting again anyway. I cut off most of my hair a few years ago to tackle that problem. Molly was irritatingly natural.
“You still haven’t given me a realistic plan,” I said, envying her beautiful auburn locks from the bed.
“The whole point of a challenge, Rosie, is that it doesn’t have a simple solution,” Molly said patronisingly as she stole another shortbread finger from my biscuit tin. I made a mental note to steal some biscuits from her room later when she went out.
The biscuits were the worst thing about having my cousin for a flatmate; she never stopped eating them. No biscuits were safe from her greedy fingers and she was rarely found without one. Don’t get me wrong, she was excellent to live with in other ways (she was obsessively tidy and could cook), but I was seriously considering buying a padlock for my biscuit tin.
“Can’t I just move to France?” I whined.
“No,” Molly retorted curtly.
“Is killing Victoire an option?” I asked, biting my lip.
Molly stared at me as though I’d grown a pair of horns. “You would seriously consider killing your own cousin just so that you could have a pass at Teddy?”
I scowled. “Of course I bloody wouldn’t. It would be so much easier to hate her if she wasn’t actually related to me.”
Molly rolled her kohl-framed eyes yet again. “Have you also considered that you already have a perfectly willing man waiting for you to say I do?”
I frowned. “Who?”
Another roll of the eyes and a smack from Witch Weekly. “Scorpius, of course. He’s dead keen on you, Rose.”
“Rat Boy? Are you seriously suggesting that I hook up with him just because he’s followed me around since Sixth Year?” I couldn’t believe she was actually offering that as a plausible course of action. “I already told you, I’m not desperate.”
Molly laughed, her eyes lighting up wickedly. “Okay, fair point. You’re right, this is Scorpius we’re talking about.”
The laughter died in her eyes as she saw who was standing outside my window, looking in. Bloody ground floor flats, bloody open windows and bloody flaming cheeks.
Why does this happen to me? I didn’t ask for Scorpius to turn up unasked all the time, I never told him that standing outside of my window and earwigging was sexy. I was mortified and angry at him, even though deep down I knew it was because we’d been caught bad-mouthing him.
I held my hand over my eyes to reduce the glare from the sunlight, but it was too late to make out his reaction; he had already turned and walked away.
I groaned. “I have to stop this. It’s horrendous and I feel terrible that he’s getting hurt by it. What do I do?”
My cousin looked thoughtful, an ink-stained finger scratching a freckled nose.
“Perhaps you could ask Teddy for help? As a guy, he’d probably give you advice on how to tell Scorpius tactfully.”
I stared blankly at her for a moment whilst I registered what she had said. Then, I threw my arms around her and squished her in my grip. “Molly Weasley, you are a genius!”
“So they tell me,” Molly gasped in my embrace. As I drew away, she smoothed down her hair and beamed. “Now go and put some make-up on; I’m buying you lunch.”
Half an hour later, after many reattempts at applying mascara, we found ourselves ready to leave. Except, of course, for the fact that I could never find anything and I was currently coatless.
“Where did you last see it?” Molly barked impatiently as I stuck my head under my bed.
“On me!” I grumbled. “I don’t understand how things disappear like this. Can’t I borrow one of your coats?”
“Things have a habit of going pear-shaped around you,” Molly observed as I threw a pile of clothes off a chair and onto the floor. “I wish you’d just let me tidy your room, you’d be able to find it easily then.”
I let out a cry of frustration, drawing my wand from my pocket. “Accio coat!”
Nothing happened for a minute and Molly looked at me slyly. Couldn’t I even cast a summoning spell properly? Then, the light in the room dimmed as something obscured the sun; my coat flew in the open window and fell into my outstretched arms.
“Where the bloody hell did that just come from?” I gaped. “What utter madness do I live in?”
I pulled it over my jumper and we left the flat, me still in complete confusion. Molly did not seem affected by this strange occurrence; I supposed she had come to accept that the weird and wacky were normal in my life.
We crossed the road and rounded a corner when I heard footsteps behind me.
“Rose?” I didn’t need to turn around to know who that was.
“Good afternoon, Scorpius,” I said sheepishly, turning on my boots to face him. His light blonde hair shone in the low winter sun, his blue eyes squinting against the light.
How much had he heard of our conversation earlier?
“I came by earlier to drop your coat off,” he said, gesturing at my attire. His voice was scratchy and I got the impression he hadn’t slept much. “But I got the impression it wasn’t a good time.”
The heat went straight to my cheeks at his words as I blushed. I decided ignoring this awkward declaration was the way forward. “Why on Earth did you have my coat?” I questioned. Had he snuck into my house whilst I was out or, worse, when I was sleeping? He was so unbelievably creepy!
“You left it at your grandmother’s yesterday,” he said shortly. “I promised your Mum that I’d drop it off.”
“Oh,” I said meekly, my cheeks turning redder by the minute. Damn my complexion.
I felt truly awful now. I was sure that, underneath it all, he was a nice guy, but I found his unnerving ability to be in the right place at the right time where I was concerned to be extraordinarily weird.
Silence hung between us and the more I thought about it the more awkward it became. I blushed deeper as he enjoyed my discomfort. Luckily, my cousin came to my rescue and stepped forward.
“We’re off for some lunch,” Molly said, nodding in my direction. Thank Merlin for her knack of using her brain. Now here was our chance to slip away without me stooping to shouting insults at him to hide my guilt. “Why don’t you join us?”
What? Oh no, this couldn’t be more awkward. He and I both knew that I’d been bitching about him earlier; there was no escape from this uncomfortable nightmare. I was going to kill her!
“Yeah,” Scorpius said after considering her offer. He was pointedly avoiding eye contact with me. “I’d like that.”
Molly smiled smugly and set off up the street, leaving Scorpius and me in her shadow.
I inwardly groaned; the small talk was about to commence, I could just feel the awkwardness climbing up my short frame, higher and higher until it would surely settle in my voice, ready to embarrass me.
“So,” Scorpius said slowly as we followed Molly, my eyes determinedly fixed on her mustard-coloured jumper.
“So,” I agreed, searching my surroundings for a topic of conversation. I found none; the weather was bland, the houses were non-descript and Scorpius most certainly was nothing to shout about.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Scorpius nod, satisfied with the conversation. I wanted to slap the tiny frown off his ratty features. Everything about him frustrated me; I was certain that his continual strange behaviour was my punishment for something I had done in a past life, or something terrible I was going to do. I could probably blame my parents, thinking about it, for their terse relationship with the Malfoys. Maybe this was Mr Malfoy’s idea of a sick joke.
The silence between us grew until I couldn’t bare it. His silence was judgemental, as my own had so often been in the past, and every word he didn’t speak became a declaration of disgust in my mind until I snapped.
“I’m sorry, okay!” I blurted. “I didn’t know my Mum had sent you, I really didn’t mean to be rude.” My cheeks reddened as I felt him turn his head towards me. His glare made me feel clammy and irrationally angry at him. “Stop looking at me like that,” I snapped. “I said I was sorry.”
“I’m not looking at you like anything,” he said gruffly, looking straight ahead again. “I was just staggered to hear you apologise for something.”
I scoffed at that. “What are you talking about? I apologise all the time!”
It was true, I was forever doing things wrong, making mistakes, generally mucking up my life. ‘Sorry’ was the first word in my vocabulary.
“Well, you seem to blame me at every opportunity you get,” he said quietly, clearly irritated.
I stopped, staring at his slicked back hair he stopped a few paces ahead of me. “That is not true! I don’t know where you got that idea. But maybe if you didn’t turn up everywhere I went I wouldn’t even have grounds for involving you in my defense.”
He turned to face me, his frown deepening. My fingers twitched with desire to poke him in the eye, that would sort that scowl out. “I don’t turn up everywhere. Have you considered that it might be coincidental? The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know.”
“I know that,” I seethed. “But sometimes it’s one coincidence too many. You’re just –argh!” I cried in frustration, storming off up the street past him.
I didn’t look back, focusing on catching up with Molly, finally matching her stride around a corner.
“The tactful approach is going well, then,” Molly jested as I gritted my teeth.
“I’m not going to forgive you for this,” I grumbled as we neared our favourite Muggle bar and café. “I’ve never met anyone more annoying in my life.”
Molly laughed as she held the door open for me. “That’s probably because he scares them all away.”
I smiled in response and ducked under her arm, heading for our usual table in a dark alcove, the furthest from the window (a necessary precaution). It was not the most glamourous place either of us had ever been to, but the shabby décor and peeling wallpaper had charmed us from the beginning of our tenancy in our flat. It was owned by an old Spanish man who had taken a shine to Molly and me, often slipping us cocktails on the house.
Scorpius finally reached the café, sitting primly in the seat next to Molly. I caught the owner’s eye and he nodded. Jesús approached us, enrobed in an apron dotted with burn holes and whistling a tune through his teeth, a cheerful smile lighting up his eyes as he spotted Scorpius.
“Hello ladies and gentleman,” he said with a wink in my direction. I blushed yet again, wondering whether I should just charm my cheeks permanently red and have done. It took literally nothing to set me off. “What can I get you today?”
We ordered sausage rolls, Molly’s favourite. I couldn’t really fathom the reasoning behind Jesús’s menu; you would have thought he’d serve Spanish food or something, but he served more traditional English dishes, like pies and anything with chips. Still, it was a great place for comfort food, as Molly often reminded me whilst I poked my wobbly stomach. Skinny cow.
Jesús was really like the weird uncle Molly and I had never had; we had plenty of relatives, but none as delightfully crazy as our Spanish friend. He’d open the café early on a Sunday for us so he could make us much needed bacon sandwiches, always ready with a large grin to cheer us up. Yes, I know what you’re thinking; all the men in my life are creepy. You may have a point. I wasn’t necessarily including Jesús as a possible eligible bachelor, seeing as he preferred cooking casserole whilst dancing to Spanish folk songs to doing anything remotely normal.
It was whilst I was observing Jesús do the Conga solo that I realised that Molly and Scorpius had not yet spoken. Scorpius looked dangerously closed to sulking and Molly was nibbling her sausage roll as slowly as she could to avoid speaking to him, which was bloody unfair seeing as she invited him along in the first place. Well, I wasn’t going to be the weak one, I wasn’t going to give in. Instead, I took great joy in staring at both of them as they wriggled uncomfortably.
“Cut it out, Rose,” Molly said eventually as she finished her sausage roll. “Can’t you think of anything to say?”
I glared at her, knowing that now she’d said that I wouldn’t be able to think of anything. Under pressure, I was definitely outrageously crap. She and Scorpius stared back at me until a snapped and muttered, “it’s going to snow on Thursday.”
Molly shook her head, as though I was a severe disappointment to her. I supposed I was a disappointment to everyone, really. The problem with being a boring person was that I tended to bore other people as well. Nobody really cares about the weather as long as it doesn’t affect their plans. I never had plans other than going to work, returning from work, eating biscuits and sleeping. The weather didn’t affect my Apparition skills and so I didn’t honestly care about it.
Sighing, Molly handed me a handful of Muggle coins. “Come on, let’s go.”
I grimaced at her tone and wandered over to the counter where Jesús was now tuning a ukulele. Handing over the change, he gave me a wink, leaning over the till conspiringly. He gave me a significant look, his eyes flicking over to Scorpius then back again. “Dare I ask?”
I glared at him, threw the change onto the counter and stormed out of the café. That was the last bloody straw. I despised being viewed as the youngest spinster on the planet, everyone was so damned rude about it. It was as though they deliberately wanted me to feel bad about being unloved and alone.
Scorpius stopped me outside the café and leaned towards me. “Aren’t you going to invite me back for coffee?” He winked happily.
Happy people made me grumpy; gross people sent me into a deep, dark pit of despair, more commonly known as Rose-Land. I’d said it before and I’d say it again: help me.
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by Ellyn Rose