Chapter 5 : five
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Lily was smiling at him, and he was in a great library surrounded by shelves and shelves of beautiful old books. Scorpius reached out to touch one; the leather was cool and soft beneath his hand and he thought that if he really was dead, it wasn’t so bad.
The ground beneath him trembled, and Scorpius clutched at the nearest shelf, looking wildly around. Lily turned to smoke and vanished and he called her name as books rained down on him. Everything grew darker and then suddenly light and he was blinking and gasping for air, the rain and the green of the jungle filling his throat.
Frank was looking down at him, his wand out. He raised the tip to his lips and blew on it, like Scorpius had once seen a man in a large hat do in an old muggle film.
“You still with us then, Malfoy?”
Scorpius groaned and nodded, sitting up. He glanced down at himself and sucked in a breath – he was covered in mud. It coated his chest and arms, and he could feel it on his face. Something crawled over his skin and he jumped, slapping at his neck. Rose started laughing.
“God, Malfoy,” she giggled. “Are you going to faint again?”
Even Lorcan was smiling, and Juan was doing nothing to hide his amusement.
Blood drained from faces as the dragon roared again, and Scorpius remembered what it was that had caused him such fear. He froze, his body turning to marble as something very large and very annoyed crashed through the jungle towards them.
“Run,” Lorcan said in a strangely calm voice. “Now.”
Scorpius tried to move but his legs failed him. Juan and Frank grabbed an arm each and hauled him to his feet, dragging him unceremoniously through the trees. Leaves slapped his face, he swallowed a bug and all the while, the dragon was coming closer. Lorcan stopped and turned to face the beast. Scorpius watched, amazed at the other man’s fearlessness, as Lorcan transfigured a boulder into a cow. The next became a goat, and suddenly Scorpius was falling to his knees as Juan took out his wand and began transfiguring the jungle around him as the rain began to fall again.
Rose had stopped also; she was standing not far from Scorpius and they shared a quick glance. He was mildly pleased to see her face was pasty white. She was not as tough as she thought she was, and it made him smirk. She scowled and turned her attention back to their impending doom.
Scorpius wondered why no one was running. Were they all mad? He pushed the rain from his face, backed up a step, tripped on a tree root and went down again. He heard someone laughing and glanced around wildly, watching as Frank lifted his camera to his eyes.
“This is excellent,” he said jubilantly.
“Come on, Frank,” Rose snapped. “Put that bloody thing down and help us!”
Scorpius took out his wand, aimed at the nearest solid object and a goat rushed away down the path. Rose swung around, saw him and nodded. Lorcan was standing further up the path, his wand clutched tightly in one hand. A length of rope hovered by his side, the end twitching, ready and waiting to capture its prey and as the Vipertooth emerged from the jungle, Scorpius felt his stomach leap into his throat.
She was small and golden and even from a distance he could see the glint in her eye and the smoke billowing from her nostrils. Her claws tore the earth as she walked and he swallowed, wondering what it felt like to be eaten. He wanted to disappear, or faint again, but he couldn’t even manage that. The Vipertooth roared again and the ground beneath him shook as she opened her mouth wide and spat a great plume of fire into the air.
“Get down,” Rose shouted, and Scorpius buried his face in the leaves, not caring about mud or bugs or anything except staying alive. “Frank you moron, come back here!”
Scorpius lifted his head in time to see Frank race forward, camera raised. Juan took a step towards him and then faltered as the dragon moved inexorably closer. Rose hesitated and then took off at a run, and Scorpius watched in disbelief as she raced towards the dragon, not away from it. Lorcan’s rope was trying to wind itself around the dragon’s forefeet and Lorcan was moving closer to the great beast, his wand raised. The dragon tossed her beautiful head and it seemed to Scorpius that her gaze searched the jungle for him; he met her eye and saw pain and fear there, before she bent her head and opened her jaws once more.
In slow motion, fire escaped the Vipertooth’s mouth and crawled its way through the trees; Scorpius felt the heat and dropped to his knees. He heard a shout and watched, incredulous, as Rose threw herself across the clearing. She tackled Frank around the waist and brought him down as a great rush of fire spread over their heads.
The dragon moaned and Lorcan approached her, talking in a low, soothing voice, making short, sharp movements through the air with his wand. Silence fell; Scorpius could hear his heart thundering in his ears and he watched, amazed, as the Vipertooth turned away, her attention caught by one of the transfigured cows as it raced by. He watched the dragon until he could see it no more, and then climbed to his feet.
Rose was suddenly shouting at Frank. “You bloody idiot, Longbottom! You could have been killed! Are you seriously that much of a malfunctioning human being that you would put yourself in the path of a dragon for a fucking photograph? Ugh, Frank.” She slapped at his face with her hands and he caught them, pinning her against his chest as they lay in the mud. He smiled and flipped her over, holding her hands above her head as she blinked the rain from her lashes.
“I was right; you do care,” Scorpius heard him say. “And all I had to do was get you to rescue me to prove it.”
“Sod off,” Rose hissed. “You’re a lunatic.”
Frank laughed, released her hands and Scorpius watched, stunned, as he cupped her face and kissed her on the mouth. Rose fought him but he would not let her go and moments later, she relaxed into his arms and kissed him back.
Lorcan came back down the path. He ran a muddy hand across his face, smearing his cheek. “She’s gone for the moment, but we should get out of here.” No one moved. “Oi, lovebirds, not really the time, yeah? Malfoy, get a move on; Juan, lead us out of here.”
Rose climbed to her feet, ignoring Frank for the rest of the walk through the jungle but Scorpius could not help sneaking glances at the pair of them. At the beach, they climbed into the boat without another word and were soon making their way back along the expanse of the river and towards their camp. They were all tired, wet and muddy and Scorpius knew he, for one, was seriously hungry. Must be the adrenalin, he thought absently as Juan headed for land.
Rose jumped from the boat before it had completely stopped, landing knee-deep in the water and she stalked away before anyone could say anything. Frank sighed and scrambled over the rim of the boat, jogging up the beach after her. “Rose, wait.”
“Will you wait a moment, please? I’m sorry, okay. I don’t do these things on purpose, you know that.”
She glared at him, then apparated away. Frank kicked at the sand furiously before he vanished. Lorcan laughed softly.
“They’re still as functioning as I remember,” he muttered, and Scorpius suddenly realised what was going on.
Rose and Frank. He could hardly believe it; not that there was any reason why they shouldn’t be involved, only that he was surprised to find they were. Frank was nothing like the boys he remembered Rose going around with at school. All Quidditch players, those boys were loud and annoying and a bunch of bullies; they were everything Frank was not, and he wondered suddenly what Frank saw in Rose.
By the time Scorpius apparated back to camp, there was no sign of Rose or Frank, and Lysander was sitting in the dining tent staring morosely at the rain. He waved and Scorpius lifted a hand hesitantly in return. He did not want to talk to Lysander – he wanted to change and wash and take a moment to recover his sanity. Part of him was angry that he had let Rose goad him into chasing after dragons in the Peruvian rainforest, but another part, a larger, stronger part, was cheering inside. He had never done anything remotely that exciting before and he could feel the adrenalin still charging around his body, filling his blood with a mild electrical charge that made him want to dance.
He smiled, closing his eyes as it began to rain again, lightly at first, before the sky broke apart and he found himself standing in a deluge. His hair flattened itself to his scalp, the water made his clothes heavy and he could feel his boots slowly filling with liquid, but he didn’t care. Scorpius turned his face to the rain and laughed, until someone shouted at him to stop it, he looked like a crazy person.
In his tent, he washed the last of the mud from his skin and slipped into dry clothes, wondering what to do now. He could hear, over the rain, Lorcan’s voice lifted in excitement as he recalled recent events to his brother. After a while, they fell silent, and Scorpius crawled onto his bed, linked his hands behind his head and closed his eyes. He scrambled to his feet some time later and stuck his head out of his tent, surprised to find it was dark. A quick glance behind him at the clock on his small desk showed him well after seven, and he had been asleep longer than he realised.
He had missed dinner. Rose was still in the dining tent, scowling as she washed dishes by hand.
“Why don’t you use your wand?” Scorpius asked as he ducked into the tent.
“Why don’t you shut up?”
“Just asking; it would be easier.”
She turned from the sink to face him, soap suds dripping from her gloved hands. “Louis has this stupid rule about magic – he thinks that using it for everyday things like washing up and cooking will turn us all soft. It’s a load of rubbish, of course, but he enjoys torturing us.”
“I see. Um, I hate to ask but is there any food?”
Rose pointed at the large pot on the camp stove. “Frank cooked. It’s edible – he’s actually not bad in the kitchen.”
Scorpius filled a bowl with what looked like a mixture of mud and leaves from the forest floor. “What is it?”
“Stew. I hope you’re not a bloody vegetarian or anything weird, Malfoy.”
“No, nothing weird,” Scorpius promised, sitting down to eat. She was right – it was edible, good even, and he finished the bowl without another word to Rose. She was waiting for him, hands on her hips, and she snatched his bowl and cutlery and tossed it into the sink where it was vigorously attacked with a sponge.
“What if I wanted more?”
“Tough,” she snapped. He sighed and climbed to his feet, picking up a tea-towel. “What are you doing?”
“Drying the dishes?”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Whatever.”
He dried up in silence, sneaking glances at her occasionally. She was hard and prickly and so terribly difficult to get along with. He had never met a woman like her, and she intrigued him. He had seen, in the moment with Frank after she had rescued him from a dragon, a touch of vulnerability, of caring about more than her work, but he knew she would probably kill him if he dared mention it.
She was so different to Lily he could barely comprehend they were cousins. Lily talked about her family often, but she never mentioned Rose and Scorpius wondered why that was. It was another thing he was curious about but also another thing he would never ask about, not from Rose anyway.
Pedro strolled past the tent and called a goodnight. “Oh,” he said, taking an envelope from his pocket. “This arrived today for you, Scorpius.” He flicked his wand and the letter floated across and placed itself on the table. Scorpius called out thanks, and eyed the letter with wonder.
“Who the bloody hell is writing to you?” Rose asked, slipping off her gloves.
He shrugged, scooping the envelope up and pulling it open. A wave of perfume hit his face and he coughed. Rose pulled a face. He turned the letter over; there was a wax seal with a tiny flower in it.
“It’s from Lily,” Scorpius whispered, amazed.
“Ooo a love letter.” Rose snatched the note from his fingers, flipping it open before he could protest. He lunged for it clumsily and she snickered, dancing easily out of his reach. “Dear Scorpius,” she began in a loud voice, sneaking a glance at his face. “I miss you so much my darling. It has been too long since I have held you in my arms and caressed the glowing splendour of your hair. I cannot wait for the day when we are together again, when you throw me to the bed and -”
He made one final lunge, ripping the letter from her fingers. Rose laughed as his eyes moved frantically across the page, before he scowled, scrunching the parchment into a ball between his palms. She raised her eyebrows.
“Not the news you wanted?”
“Shut up,” he muttered. “You don’t know a bloody thing.”
She frowned. “Scorpius, look...”
“Don’t speak to me at the moment, Rose,” he snapped. His insides were burning; her teasing took him places he didn’t wish to remember: to the library at Hogwarts, when he was fourteen; to the corridor outside numerous classrooms and to his dorm room in the middle of the night. It was too much and he felt his face twist further.
She noticed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I know how my cousin can be.”
He glanced at her curiously, wondering at her apology. “Yeah, well, so do I, unfortunately.”
“So why do you stay with her if she makes you so miserable?” Rose asked.
Scorpius shook his head. “I honestly don’t know.”
Silence dropped between them and Rose turned away, hesitated, and glanced back over her shoulder.
“Anyway, Malfoy, I could use your help tomorrow.”
“Of course you could,” he joked and it was her turn to scowl.
“You’re an arrogant arse,” she muttered, and stalked off into the evening air. He heard her storm away and the smile fell from his face. Slowly, he unwound the crumbled letter, reading Lily’s words again. She did say she missed him and that she wanted to see him, but somehow, although it was what he had hoped for, it left him feeling strangely empty. There was no feeling to her words, no substance; nothing that was Lily had made it onto the page. He wondered for a fleeting second if she had actually written the letter.
He sighed and made his way to his tent, sitting down at the writing desk to pen a response to Lily. He hardly knew what to say, so he talked about the camp, about who was there and how he was feeling to still be alive after their encounter with the Vipertooth. His quill hovered over the parchment; he wanted to ask if she knew about Rose and Frank, but decided not to. He was curious; he had to admit it, but he was not one to gossip.
He was surprised to realise it had taken him a little over an hour to write such a small letter. Scorpius headed back out into the darkness to find Louis sitting outside his tent in a camp chair, drinking something that looked like but did not smell like coffee. “I need to send a letter,” he said, the envelope with his words to Lily held securely between his hands.
“Frank handles all that stuff,” Louis said indifferently. “He’s going down river tomorrow – if you want that posted, you’d better go see him. He’ll be gone at dawn.”
Scorpius nodded, slipped his letter into his pocket and made his way through the darkness to Frank’s tent. He didn’t bother to knock, or announce his presence in any way – he just pushed the flap aside and strode in, his head full of Lily.
“Frank, Louis said...oh. I’m sorry, were you sleeping?”
“Something like that.”
Scorpius watched as Frank unfolded himself from his bed, turning away quickly as the other man slipped into a pair of trousers. Moments later, he heard match being struck and smoke filled the air.
“Was there something you wanted, Malfoy?”
Scorpius turned around to see Frank, belt undone and shirtless, the customary cigarette dangling from his lips, feeling around for something. His hair was everywhere and Scorpius was mildly surprised to see that for a skinny guy, Frank was fairly well built.
“Louis said -”
“Your glasses are on the table, Frank,” a female voice lifted itself from the tangled mess of sheets and Scorpius blinked as she rolled over. She saw him, held his gaze for a moment and then stretched her arms above her head with a groan. She groped around in the bed, frowning, before leaning over the edge and feeling around on the floor. Scorpius swallowed, watching the muscles of her back move beneath her skin. She was pale, her limbs long; as she moved, he saw the length of her thigh peeking out from the twisted sheet wrapped around her and he noticed a strange mark on her side, sneaking around her ribs.
“Where’s my shirt?” Rose asked, her voice muffled.
Frank was lounging in the hammock near the mouth of his tent. “Dunno; you tossed it away in a fit of passion.”
She lifted her head; a small smile danced around her mouth. “Just help me find my clothes.”
“Why? You’re better naked; wouldn’t you say so, Malfoy?”
“Erm...I...” Scorpius began, blushing furiously. He wanted to leave but his feet refused to move.
“Frank,” Rose sighed, “please don’t piss me off, not after today.”
He smiled apologetically, taking out his wand and flicking it lazily. A bundle of clothing whizzed its way around the tent from varying directions; Scorpius ducked as what he thought was a pair of underwear flew over his head.
“Can you get out?”
Scorpius blinked as he realised Rose was addressing him. Swallowing, he backed away hastily, hearing Frank tell him to wait a minute. His heart was thundering, but that wasn’t what startled him the most – it was the look of complete comfort on Rose’s face, and how, in one moment, his entire opinion of her had changed.
Gone was the crusty shell, the biting tongue. She was soft and fluid, like water, and Scorpius found himself thinking of Lily and what it felt like to hold her. He found himself wondering had she ever been as comfortable with him as Rose was with Frank, and he found himself wondering if he had ever given her reason to. The envelope in his hands crumpled as he curled his fist around it.
A moment later, the tent flap flew open and Rose walked out. Her eyes flickered to him briefly, before she slipped away into the darkness. Scorpius cleared his throat, pulling the letter to Lily from his pocket and went back inside, figuring he may as well do what he came to do.
Frank was still in his hammock. A cigarette dangled from his hand and he held up the packet, waving it in Scorpius’ direction. “Want one?”
“I don’t smoke, Longbottom.”
“Sure you don’t,” Frank said with good humour as Scorpius lingered in the doorway. “I’ve seen the way you look at my smokes – with the look of a lover, a companion, a long lost friend.”
“St Mungo’s twelve steps right?” Frank laughed. “As you can see, I stopped at step one – I admitted I was powerless, and then I admitted I was comfortable with it. I also admitted I have poor impulse control, especially when it comes to women.”
“Yes, apparently I have weak ego boundaries, meaning I have an unbalance id.”
“You have a what?”
Frank smiled lazily. “And here I was thinking you were smart. The id, ego and superego, Malfoy. Haven’t you ever read Freud? No, I suppose you haven’t. Freud was a Muggle neurologist. Anyway, his theory of personality states that the id is the pleasure principle, the ego is the reality principle, and the superego is the morality principle. My id, according to my Healer, enjoys itself too much – I let myself be ruled by the most basic drives, including a desire to engage in ‘destructive self-gratifying behaviour’,” he said, making quotation marks in the air with his fingers. “I would guess that you, my friend, suffer from something rather similar, although I am no psychiatrist so don’t take my word for it.”
“And what makes you think that?”
“You want what you can’t really have,” Frank said softly, his eyes moving across tent to his bed and back again. “Lily Potter. I’ve heard the rumours, Malfoy, so you can’t deny anything, and I’m a journalist – I know stuff.” Frank tapped the side of his head with his index finger, a little smirk playing around the edges of his mouth. “You want what you can’t have, and it really pisses you off.”
Scorpius studied him, stunned, and shook his head. “That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.”
“It’s not,” Frank replied. “I know how you feel, because I want something I cannot have. Well, I can have it, just not as I want it.”
Scorpius wasn’t sure what to say, not wishing to offend although he got the impression that with Frank, one could say whatever they wished and not cause insult. The man was so casually in the moment that Scorpius found it totally alien to be around him, and, he realised with a jolt, he was insanely jealous of Frank’s ability to just let himself be who he was, wherever he was. Just once, Scorpius wished he could say what was directly on his mind, and not care so much. He looked at Frank, who again proffered the cigarettes and this time, Scorpius took one.
“Promise me this conversation will not end up in The Prophet.”
“Godric’s honour,” Frank said.
“Don’t you find her a little...brash?” Scorpius asked tentatively, fumbling with the matches.
Frank laughed. “Mate, that’s part of her charm.”
“Of course. She’s tough, she’s determined, she not afraid to get her hands dirty – how many women do you know who would choose to live rough in the middle of nowhere because they love what they do? I find that incredibly attractive.”
“I see,” Scorpius said slowly, his brow furrowed.
Frank laughed again. “Oh I get it Mr. Rich Boy. So she’s not content to sit and sip tea and make polite conversation about the weather or the latest fashion like some upper-crust lady would.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Scorpius argued, cheeks hot.
“Well, if it is,” Frank said gently, “I feel sorry for you, Malfoy.” He swung himself out of the hammock and moved across the tent to fall onto his bed, leaving Scorpius feeling oddly dazed. He studied the ground, thinking. Frank’s words swirled through his head and he wondered suddenly if the other man was right. “What did you want anyway?”
“Oh, I have a letter I need sent home and -”
“Just leave it on the table,” Frank muttered, face buried in the pillow. “And go away; I need sleep. I’m thoroughly shagged.”
The only answer was Frank’s deep snoring, so Scorpius slipped back out the flap and into the night. The camp was dark and silent, no lights glowed from behind canvas, and the moon was hidden by a cloudy carpet. Scorpius stood a moment before his tent, listening to the tropical world around him. The air was thick, the absence of human sound deep and slowly, as he stood and waited, the frogs began their chorus.
“In case you’re wondering,” a voice said, and he jumped as Rose slunk around the side of his tent. Her skin and eyes glowed in the darkness, giving her a sinister, predatory appearance and he swallowed, suddenly nervous. “About Frank and me, that is, we -”
“I wasn’t; well, not really,” Scorpius answered. She raised an eyebrow. “It’s not my business.”
Rose was silent for a long moment, before she shook her head. “Do you and Lily have anything in common then?”
He blinked. “We have loads in common.”
“Right,” Rose smiled, “Because you’re so alike and all. Good night, Malfoy.”
And she was gone, leaving him frowning into the darkness.
Edited 29.3 for typos
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