When my parents invited me round for Sunday lunch there was no chance I was going to refuse. My diet mostly involved fried food and biscuits (seeing as neither Molly or I could be bothered to cook fancy stuff) and I recognised a good thing when it stood in front of me smelling of roast chicken.
Sitting at the kitchen table watching my Dad cook was only making me hungry. Once my parents had got over their difficulties with gender stereotypes they realised that making my Mum cook inedible food was pointless when my Dad was actually pretty good. He was too busy chopping vegetables to notice Mum ‘tasting’ the wine he’d set aside earlier.
“Where’s Hugo?” I inquired as Mum reached for the wine bottle to refill her glass. “I thought he’d already be here.”
“He’s doing me a favour first,” she replied smoothly, though I didn’t miss the nervous glance she sent towards Dad. I raised an eyebrow; what had she done now?
“What favour?” I asked suspiciously. My Dad was completely oblivious to our conversation (he really couldn’t multitask) so I didn’t think he’d notice me being nosy. I was dead curious.
“Oh, nothing important,” she said as her cheeks slowly turned pink (I presumed this was from lying, not wine). “He’s just picking something up for me.”
“Right,” I conceded with a frown, letting the issue drop. My mother was a weird one, that was for sure. She probably had her reasons for not telling Dad what she was up to; one reason was undoubtedly that he had a temper like a mouse-trap.
There was a lengthy pause in which we exchanged narrowed eyes and knitted eyebrows. Eventually, Mum gave in to my superior expressions of disdain. “So,” she said lightly, “what’s new with you?”
“Um,” I stalled, wildly trying to remember anything interesting that had happened to me recently. Upon failing, I sighed. “Nothing much.”
“Any boys?” I grimaced at the slight hopeful edge to her question.
“No,” I said with a glare. When was she going to drop this mad scheme to get me wedded before I reached twenty-five? I presumed it was because she was getting broody for grandchildren. Maybe she had a bet with Auntie Ginny on who would be the first to become a grandparent. I shuddered at the prospect. In my mind, my cousins were all still under twenty years old and nowhere near ready to start settling down.
She seemed to take the hint, holding her hands up in a gesture of surrender. “Sorry, Rosie. I didn’t mean to pry. I just worry about you sometimes. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine,” I said with a roll of my eyes. I was spending far too much time with Molly; the eye-rolling was clearly contagious. “I’m perfectly happy.”
The doorbell rang. Mum drained her glass before getting up to answer the front door. I buried my head in my hands and stifled a groan. It was probably worth finding some poor guy to pose as my boyfriend just to get everyone off my back about tying the knot. I had plenty of my life left, thank you very much, and I was in no rush to do anything of that sort. Just because my parents married young didn’t mean that I had the same shelf-life.
“Just ignore Mum, Rosie,” Dad said over his chopped carrots. I looked up and gave him a weak smile. “There’s no one out there good enough for you anyway.”
“Thanks Dad.” My smile was genuine this time. Underneath the thinning red hair and gangly frame, he really was a sweetie.
Mum avoided my eyes when she re-joined us, sitting down and pouring herself another glass of wine. I frowned and turned my head towards the doorway to see what she was looking so guilty about.
“Rose!” Hugo looked as though the Chudley Cannons had just won the Quidditch season. “Hi.”
“Set another place at the table, will you?” He stepped further into the room. “We’ve got a surprise guest.”
I looked between my brother and mother in disbelief. I should have guessed who was about to step out from behind Hugo so I was ready to stick my neutral expression on my face. Inside, however, I was seething. My dad didn’t look very pleased either. He had that look he got when he didn’t get fed on time.
“I’ll do it in a minute,” I muttered grumpily. “I need to use the loo.”
I stood up abruptly, squeezing past Mum and Hugo as I left the room.
“Afternoon, Rose,” the very unwelcome visitor said loudly as I passed him.
“Hi,” I said quickly. I ignored his orange tie and green socks and made a break for the bathroom, locking the door behind me.
I sat down on the closed lid of the loo, burying my head in my hands once again. My bloody mother was responsible for all of this. She’d probably offered Scorpius some kind of reward for following me around everywhere. I pressed my fingers into my cheeks, prodding myself for no reason in particular. Maybe if I just stayed in here forever no one would notice and they’d eventually give up on me, though that would probably be after I’d died of starvation. It wasn’t a practical plan, but it was better than me going out there and facing a whole day of Smarmy Scorpius and my insufferable family.
I wasn’t sure how long I sat there prodding my face with trembling fingers, but eventually I heard a tap on the door.
“Rose? Are you okay?”
I glared at the bathroom sink. “Bugger off, Scorpius.” I suspected he had been waiting outside the door the whole time, the weirdo.
“What’s the matter?” He couldn’t even act like he was concerned; his voice had this horrible eager tone to it. He was probably hoping I’d go sob on his beige shirt or something and tell him all my problems. “Are you ill?”
“No,” I grumbled.
How was I going to get out of this without being any ruder? I’d have to say something, or else I’d just sat in the bathroom for half an hour for no reason. That was not normal behaviour. I needed an excuse. I looked around me for inspiration.
“Why don’t you come out?”
“Because,” I started hesitantly, casting my eyes around the room. “I like the smell of this soap.”
As soon as the words left my mouth I stuck my head in my hands again, trying desperately not to bash my head on the wall in embarrassment. What was wrong with me?
“Right,” Scorpius said slowly. “Well, why don’t you take the soap out with you?”
I grimaced, admitting defeat. If I stayed in here any longer I’d start saying even more stupid things like I enjoyed the feel of loo roll on my face. Picking up a bar of soap, I cradled it in my hands and reluctantly unlocked the door. Scorpius beamed at me as I pushed past him.
That was how I ended up eating my Sunday lunch with a bar of soap nestling in my napkin. My brother had given me such a weird look when I sat down at the table with it, but for once he chose not to comment. I ate in silence, listening to the peripheral conversation without interest.
Scorpius was being extraordinarily irritating. He was completely pretending he wasn’t a stalker or a creep and acting like a normal person. No wonder my Mum was getting ideas about him, she had probably never seen his freaky side.
“Are you enjoying your job, then?” Mum was asking interestedly. I inwardly groaned; if there was one thing she loved to yak about, it was work. Knowing my luck she’d end up offering him a permanent position in her department at the Ministry and I would never be rid of him.
“Oh, yes,” Scorpius said with a keen grin. I could see bits of potato stuck in his teeth and I shuddered. “It’s actually really handy because I often pass Flourish and Blotts during my coffee breaks.” He winked in my direction.
I gritted my teeth as my mother looked between Scorpius and me curiously. “Really? Rose, you never said you worked near Scorpius.”
“I don’t,” I growled. “He works in Hogsmeade.”
Mum shook her head as though completely disappointed in me and turned back to further her interesting conversation with him. I looked at my Dad indignantly; he shrugged, giving me a look that said “don’t argue with your mother”. I scowled and prodded a roast potato unhappily. I was so awkward I wasn’t even hungry.
“Ron,” Mum said after a lull in the conversation. “What did I do with that letter from Fleur?”
I continued to mess with my food but I started listening properly now. What had Fleur said to Mum that was important enough to bring up at dinner?
“It’s in that pile of parchment by the kettle.”
“Right, good,” Mum said, getting up to find the letter amongst a huge tower of parchment. Once she’d retrieved it, she handed it around the table for us to read. “Fleur’s throwing a party a couple of nights before Teddy and Victoire leave for France.”
“That’s nice,” I said with false casual interest. “I’ll try to be there.”
I avoided Hugo’s stare and shovelled some chicken into my mouth. I pretended I wasn’t going red.
“I’ll be there,” Hugo said smugly. He then pointed looked at me and raised his voice. “And I’m sure Rose will definitely make the effort to go.”
Shit, this wasn’t happening. My ears grew hot under his stare. I hoped no one would make a big deal out of his comment. Maybe we could sweep this all under the rug.
“I hope you will both go. You may not see your cousin for a while,” Mum said with an air of concern.
I decided it would be unwise to reveal that Teddy had invited me to go and visit them. I didn’t want to draw any unnecessary attention to myself.
“Rose will want to give Teddy a kiss goodbye, I’m sure,” Hugo added cruelly.
“Shut up,” I said through a mouthful of chicken.
“Sorry, Rose,” he replied in a voice that suggested he wasn’t really sorry at all. “Got something to hide?”
My face was unbelievably hot; maybe I should go open a window.
“Hugo, stop antagonising your sister,” Dad chided with a frown. “Just ignore him, Rosie. He’s trying to get a rise out of you.”
Too bloody right he was; he wanted to humiliate me in the most painful way possible. I went over to the kitchen window and opened it, breathing in the cool air for a moment and letting the wind cool my cheeks. If I hadn’t left my wand in my bag in the hall, I would have been very tempted to obliviate my irritating little brother.
When I re-joined the table, my father had engaged Hugo in a conversation about Quidditch and Mum had started to clear the table. I wearily turned to face Scorpius.
“So,” I managed, trying not to wince when he nearly wacked me with his hair gel as he spun around. I felt like telling him he really didn’t need to be applying any more. He stared at me whilst I searched for something to contribute. It was all so off-putting. I gave up, shrugging and looking away.
“What did Hugo mean?”
Oh bollocks. I really did not want to discuss this with anyone except perhaps my therapist in thirty years’ time. “Nothing,” I said uneasily. Why did I always sound guilty? “It was a joke.”
“Why do you want to kiss Teddy goodbye?”
I gave the table the evils. “I don’t,” I grouched. “It was a joke. Will you just drop it?”
He was still staring at me intently. I looked over to Mum for some help, but she just raised her eyebrows and turned away. Was nobody going to help dig me out of this hole?
I boycotted the rest of the conversation on principle. I was surrounded by children who were causing me a lot of grief and two adults who refused to even entertain the idea of helping me. They were all useless. The only person I could really trust was Molly, but she wasn’t there with me. We had run out of biscuits earlier and she had decided that a supermarket shop was in order. Not very helpful of her, but I’d be thanking her later when we tucked ourselves under the rug with a copy of Witch Weekly and two or three double chocolate chip cookies and steaming cups of tea.
As early darkness fell on the winter scenery outside the window, I checked my watch. I figured that now was the perfect time to make my excuses and escape this terrible experience. I stood up, brushing shortbread crumbs off my chest and kissed my parents goodbye.
I pulled my coat on and went to fetch my bag from the hall, only to find myself followed by the very person I was trying to run away from.
“What do you want?” I said exasperatedly. Checking my coat pockets for my wand before remembering it was tucked in my bag.
“Your mum said that I had to walk you home,” Scorpius said with a shrug.
“Did she really?” I said scathingly. “Or are you just using this as an excuse to follow me home?”
“No,” he denied, his hands on his hips. “She didn’t want you walking home in the dark.”
I frowned with irritation. He really couldn’t take a hint. If persistency was what I looked for in a man, I’d be so flattered by his attention. I clearly didn’t look for persistency, as proved by affections for Teddy who most certainly wasn’t persistent with regards to me.
“Oh,” I said in embarrassment. “Well, I’m apparating anyway. So thanks, but I’m okay.”
There was a very awkward pause between us, in which he continued to stare at me. Eventually, I pushed passed him and reached for the doorknob.
“Rose!” I heard my mother call from the living room.
“What?” I called back exasperatedly. She was never going to let me leave in a collected and dignified manner. She was going to drag it out to cause the most discomfort.
“Don’t you dare leave this house without Scorpius!”
I let out a very audible groan of frustration. With an enormous scowl on my face, I conceded. “Fine.”
As I had expected, Scorpius followed me outside. It was bloody cold, but I was careful not to let him see that for fear of an unwanted embrace or something else completely unnecessary to stop me from getting cold.
“So, where are we going?”
I stared at him incredulously. “I’m going home. You know where, you barely leave my street.”
He coughed awkwardly. “Right, yes. Okay. Lead on then.”
I rolled my eyes, fishing my wand out of my bag and turning on the spot. He arrived moments after I did, both of us facing the door to my flat. I could see the light was on in the kitchen and Molly’s silhouette was clearly visible from where I stood. Maybe I could signal subtly to her to try and get her to come out and rescue me; the only thing I could think of was jumping around with flailing arms, which didn’t really seem all that subtle.
Mum was clearly trying to set us up. There was no need for him to walk me home when I had to take about three steps from her front door to mine. She was so old-fashioned.
“Well,” I said after Scorpius made no move to leave. “Thank you for, um, walking me home.”
“It was my pleasure,” he said with a bow. I shuddered, observing his ruler-straight parting as he bent very low. “Any time.”
“Right,” I mumbled. If I didn’t make any positive remarks he might not be encouraged to repeat this afternoon. I just needed to stay quiet and avoid him for the rest of my life and maybe he would forget me.
“Rose?” I stopped in my tracks as I started to turn away from him. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” I huffed.
“What did Hugo mean earlier? About you and Teddy?”
“Look,” I started warily. “I really don’t want to talk about it.”
He frowned. “Is there something going on between you?”
“Definitely not,” I conceded sadly. I might as well give up now and just tell him everything. Maybe he would then realise how strange I was and decided he had too much strange for the both of us and clear off.
“I didn’t know you liked someone else,” Scorpius muttered, looking away from me. I felt really awful, though I wasn’t sure why; I never asked him to stalk me.
“I’m sorry,” I offered. “But it’s not like anything will happen, so it doesn’t really matter.”
He frowned again and peered at me. “Why won’t anything happen?”
I laughed hollowly. “Have you seen Victoire? Have you seen me? I’ve got no chance. And I’m not about to break them up, either.”
Scorpius tutted, grabbing a shoulder and shaking me a bit. I stepped back, alarmed.
“I don’t think Victoire is as beautiful as you are, Rose,” he said sincerely. I raised my eyebrows, my cheeks reddening again. “And there’s more to beauty than what you look like.”
“Um,” I stammered uncertainly. “Thanks Scorpius.”
“That’s all right,” he smiled. “I think you’re fantastic. I’m sure Teddy thinks the same.”
This was getting extraordinarily awkward. What was I supposed to say? How was I supposed to remove his hand from my shoulder? Why was he leaning closer?
Now he had both arms wrapped around me, his slimy face drawing closer. His lips touched mine and I tasted blueberry chapstick. It was beyond strange. I was too stunned to do anything, so I stood there dumbstruck as he kissed me. I sincerely hoped I wasn’t about to vomit on him.
He drew back, smiling in what he presumed was an attractive manner. My expression of horror was probably frozen in place, but I had forgotten how to move my facial muscles. He waved goodbye coyly before turning on his heel and disapparating.
I numbly heard the front door of my flat being thrown open. Molly dashed to my side and looked at me in disgust.
“Did you just - ?” she started in disbelief. When I didn’t respond or move, she wrapped an arm around me. “Here, dear, have a biscuit. You poor thing!”
I wasn’t really sure which had disgusted me more: the fact that he had just kissed me or the fact that I had just been given relationship advice by Scorpius Malfoy.