Chapter 7 : Catch Me If I Fall
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'Yes... But if he hadn't been there... I hate to imagine it... She would have had no chance.'
'We can't tell her that, though... Please, what should I do?'
'I would suggest that you don't show her any of the articles or let her talk about it too much. She must be traumatised enough already.'
The crisp starched sheets were cool against my body as I lay there listening to the voices of my mother and a man who seemed to be a doctor. That meant that I must be in a Muggle hospital. Why, I didn't quite know.
I kept my breathing deep and even as I tried to cast my mind back to what had gotten me in here, but everything seemed foggy. The last thing I could remember was sitting with Kate at breakfast on the day of Slughorn's party. But that was in Hogwarts, so how did I end up in the Muggle world?
The voices started again, but it was still just my mother and the doctor. I kept as still as possible to try and hear their words then the soft click of a closing door told me that they had left the room. Now all I could hear was the muffled drone of the Muggle machines I was hooked up to.
It was about time, so I allowed my eyes to flutter open and took in my clean white surroundings. It seemed that my mum had connections in every world, if this private room was anything to go by.
I had barely taken all that in when my mum came running back through the door, looking like she would throw herself at me before stopping at the last minute. She crouched down slightly so that she was at my level.
'Oh Rosie,' she cried, taking my hand in hers and squeezing it tightly. Well my mother was known more for being overdramatic than affectionate.
'What happened?' I asked, not looking at her.
'What, you mean you don't remember?' her grip loosened in surprise and out of the corner of my eye I saw her glance at the doctor who had silently entered the room after her.
'Yes, Rose, please tell us what you last remember,' he said, his voice seeming silkier now. He was wearing one of those long old fashioned white coats that I thought doctors weren't allowed to wear anymore. His cold grey eyes were a matte colour, as if they sucked in all of the light without reflecting any. I shook my head, berating myself for making an innocent doctor into some sort of evil villain. Get a grip, Rose.
'I was at school...' I glanced at the doctor again at this point, not too sure how much to say. 'It was breakfast time on the day before we were supposed to be coming home.'
'Interesting...' the doctor said, making some notes on the clipboard he held.
'What do you mean "interesting"?' I demanded, staring at him hard now.
'Well, it is now two and a half days later and you have been unconscious for the past day,' he said matter of frankly. Oh.
'Well, what happened then?' I asked, looking between the two.
'You see, you had a fall dear,' mum said. For some reason, I didn't think that that was the whole truth.
'Where?' I asked, trying to keep my suspicions out of my voice.
'Kings Cross... You hit your head...' my mum's voice broke slightly then, as a sob rose in her throat. 'You were so limp, so still... We thought that we were going to lose you, Rose!'
At that point the door slammed open again and my dad came running in.
'I came as soon as I could!' he panted, coming round to the other side of the bed and grasping my hand in his. 'Are you alright, honey?'
I smiled slightly, taking in his harried appearance - good old dad.
'She can't remember anything of yesterday,' mum answered for me. I turned to look at her just in time to see her giving dad a pointed look. But it was replaced so quickly with a pained smile that I thought that I might have imagined it.
'Oh. Well that's good, I guess... We don't want to be reminding you of that fall, it must have been rather scary,' dad said, glancing at mum for reassurance. He may not push as much, but that's just because he was born without a backbone.
'Yes, it was,' mum said, shaking her head wearily. But it was probably just an act, knowing my mother.
'Well, we should probably let you get some rest now,' she said after a few moments of silence. Yep, classic mum, get away from your unpopular embarrassment of a daughter as soon as possible with the quickest excuse. I didn't bother to point out that according to them I had been resting for the past day. Instead I let her kiss my forehead and leave, the pale pink of her lipstick left imprinted on my face.
Despite my reservations, I had managed to fall asleep and woke up to see the quite small hospital room filled with Weasleys.
Silence fell as I opened my eyes and I stopped for a moment to appreciate the power of injuring yourself - I had never seen our family fall silent so quickly before.
'How's it going, Rose?' Teddy asked, breaking the silence. I was often glad that Teddy was basically a member of our family, he had the knack of knowing exactly what to say to avoid an awkward situation.
'Oh great, you know, I'm stuck in this boring hospital bed and I can't remember why. Just spiffing,' I told him smiling. 'What about your end?'
'Yeah, it's all good, Victoire was in here a minute ago... I think she went to the toilet,' he replied, grinning his trademark smile before turning to talk to someone else. As if our conversation had been permission to start talking again, the room erupted with voices and I turned my attention to the overflowing collection of the sweets, flowers and honestly quite gruesome teddies that people send you when your in the hospital.
There were red roses from each uncle and aunt and a massive white bear with a card signed by 'Anonymous'.
I read the card again before throwing it away. Scorpius was such a massive idiot sometimes, I thought viciously as the words he had written ran through my mind.
"Oh ho ho, well, well, well, now who's being rude."
Well it certainly wasn't me. What was he even talking about anyway?!
Ignoring the overdone rose related presents, I searched for a pack of sugar quills, Kate's favourite sweet. They were on the floor, pretending to be grapes.
When I picked them up they turned back to their usual shape and I surreptitiously started to suck on the sugary sweet as I read through the letter that was attached.
I heard about your accident and I have to say I'm just glad you're alright! I only know because I managed to smuggle the daily profit past mum - she's only getting the society pages from each newspaper so that she can count the number of mentions I get and compare me to her friends' daughters.
This will probably be the only letter I manage to send, so don't bother replying. Just remember, if someone saves your life, they still don't get a free snog.
Get well soon,
I looked at it again, staring at the last line. What was she on about?
But in the end I just folded it up and slipped it back into the package. She always came out with random advice like that.
They kept me in the hospital again that night, but because I seemed fine I was allowed to leave in the morning.
For the whole time I was sitting in that bed I tried desperately to remember what had happened in the last few days. I could tell that mum was hiding something from me but everybody else I asked said nothing, even Hugo who I was sure was supposed to be on my side in things like this.
Going home to the country felt strange. Sure, I was used to coming back after a few months and everything being different, but this time it was even odder... Hugo had already been home and when I walked into the door the place was covered in his stuff. I stood slightly awkwardly in the doorway, not too sure what to do. Dad had taken my bags from me and sent them up to my room so I didn't even have that to sort out.
'Do you want something to eat, Rose? Or something to drink?' my mother's anxious voice cut through my daze and I shook my head mechanically.
'I think I'll just go and lie down,' I told her vaguely, walking up the stairs to the second floor. Some sort of pink steam was issuing from under Hugo's door. I wondered if I should tell him about it, but decided that he probably already knew.
Pushing the dark wood door open, I walked into my bedroom wondering. Wondering what had happened that my mother wanted to hide, why everyone else was in on it and, most importantly, why I wasn't allowed to read any newspapers.
A fragment of the conversation I had overheard between the doctor and my mother drifted through my head.
"If he hadn't been there she would have had no chance".
Who was "he"? And what did "he" do? Obviously she didn't want me to know, or so I assumed as she didn't mention a boy at any point.
I threw myself onto my bed, staring up at the high white ceiling for a few minutes before rolling off of my bed and pacing up and down on the plush cream carpet beneath my feet. I shut my eyes to block out the light blue wallpaper and matching bedspread and matching everything. I didn't like being home, I didn't like being in my horribly pristine bedroom, I didn't like being anywhere near the stupid furniture that I had never actually liked.
In the first term of first year my mum got in some uppity interior designer to redo my room into one that a girl my age should love. Unsurprisingly enough, I didn't. And ever since then the same idiot would come in every two years to "update my space". Hugo had downright refused to have his room touched in any way, so mum had gone crazy with wood colours and fabric swabs everywhere apart from there.
Sometimes I would come home and not even recognise the house.
Claustrophobia pressed in on me so I grabbed a coat and a purse full of Muggle money, before running down the stairs and out of the house.
'I'm going for a walk!' I called behind me before striding away from our front door towards the town that lay only a few miles away from our house. That is, if you don't mind walking across fields. It didn't take me long to get there, and I strode down the main road into the town until I reached the shops. I glanced into their windows as I walked along, slightly standing out, the only girl walking along without a huge group of friends. Well, and the fact that bright red hair made it difficult to ever really blend in.
But I didn't care, instead I popped into a second hand bookshop and picked up a book at random. I didn't look at the blurb before handing over a fifty piece coin to the man at the till and walking back out again.
There was a little cafe a few doors down so I ordered a hot chocolate and sat down to read my book.
I tried my best to make it last, but I had finished my book within a few hours and I knew that I couldn't put off the confrontation with my mum any longer.
So, reluctantly, I trudged home, taking a deep breath of the fresh air before my mother wrenched the door open and started shouting.
'Where have you been Rose?' she demanded, stopping me after my first step inside.
'I just went into town for a coffee,' I reassured her, smiling innocently.
'You should have told me!' she admonished, smiling back slightly. 'You used to be such a nice, obedient little girl...'
I forced myself to keep the smile on my face as I stepped past her to go up to my room. But her voice made me pause.
'Oh, Rose? Pack some of your thing, will you? We are leaving for The Burrow in the morning,' she told me, before stepping out of the wood panelled hall and into the lounge. But she poked her head back round and eyed my clothes critically. 'And do try to wear some of the new things I've bought you, dear. Those get ups are just really unflattering! You have years to be dowdy, but only a few to flaunt what you've got!'
I kept climbing the stairs, ignoring the sting of tears in my eyes by trying to remember the old burrow. I had been three when Grandma finally moved from the ramshackle homely building to a cold stern manor not too far away. It always shocked me that they named it after the old one, that I could only remember from seeing it in pictures, but which looked much nicer than their current home. Even if it was a fifth of the ridiculous size.
Arriving at The Burrow was a lot less disorganised than it had been when we were children, but where it had used to be fun, now it was just something that had to be done. I walked up to the door with the rest of family and smiled as I was hugged by various aunts and uncles, wondering vaguely how Albus was managing to text on his phone with all of the residual magic of the mansion.
I moved with the crowd into the big parlour where Grandma and Grandpa sat grinning at everyone while people talked and laughed and ate from the nibbles on the coffee table.
I couldn't stay. I mumbled something about needing some fresh air and left behind my family, many of whom were nodding sympathetic to each other as I exited. Once I got out into the grounds I started running, adrenaline bursting through my veins as my feet pounded the floor. I didn't know where I was going this time, just that I wanted to get away. Before too long I slowed to a walk, wandering across the fields till I reached the woods that I was certain weren't part of the grounds. I stepped lightly between the tall leafless trees, beginning to feel slightly chilly, even with my coat on when a soft miaowing made me look up.
A little tabby cat was perched in the branches of the tree around me, its amber cat eyes wide in fear.
'It's okay kitty,' I whispered, reaching into my pocket to draw out my wand. But I had left it back at the house.
There was only one thing for it. I started climbing.
The cat wasn't too far up, but since the tree didn't offer an abundance of hand and foot holds it looked like it might be pretty difficult. Nevertheless, it didn't take long for me to swing myself up to the correct branch, edging along it towards the tiny animal.
'Shush, it's okay kitty,' I crooned softly, reaching out a hand towards it. It turned around and glared at me for a second before jumping off of the branch.
I sighed and noticed some movement on below me. Stupid cat, making me come all the way up this tree only to jump down. Sometimes I think that I must have some sort of sign on my head which tells animals to hate me.
Cautiously I moved my foot backwards, trying to find the tree trunk. It was too far, so I rested my foot against another branch, crawling with my hands and other leg towards the trunk. The thin branch broke under the pressure, unbalancing me. I tried to stay upright and teetered for a moment on the thick branch. But I had over compensated and found myself flying towards the ground for a single agonising second.
And then, from nowhere, arms grasped me, hugging me to a strong chest. Something about this felt familiar, but until I opened my eyes, I didn't know what.
Brown messy hair, eyebrows pulled together in worry, bright blue eyes full of concern, long aristocratic nose, small mouth with corners turned down in a frown. And then his expression smoothed into a grin.
'Why do I have the feeling that we've done this before?' he asked, beaming down at me. 'Do you have a habit of falling out of the sky into stranger's arms?'
With a gasp I remembered. I remembered everything.
'Oh!' I exclaimed, the memory of Scorpius holding me in his arms burning in my brain as image after image of those missing two days poured into my mind. And then I noticed the confused look I was getting from the man who's arms I was still cradled in. Trying my best to come up with something witty, I smiled back.
'Do you have a habit of standing under trees in the hope that a girl will fall out?'
'Touché,' he chuckled, holding me slightly tighter. 'Well I might take it up if the girls in question are anywhere near as pretty as you.'
I couldn't help blushing slightly and became very aware that I was sitting there like a lemon in the arms of a stranger who's name I didn't even know.
'Shouldn't you tell me your name if you're going to start complimenting me?' I suggested, feeling strangely confident and grown up.
'You don't know who I am?' he asked, confused again.
'No...' I said, frowning. 'Should I?'
There was a strange look on his face before he laughed and grinned widely down at me.
'I guess not, I was just thinking you might have seen one of the many newspaper articles that we've starred in recently,' he said easily. I blushed slightly again, smiling. 'Well, I'm Jack. And you, my dear, must be Rose.'
It was all I could do not to start singing 'My Heart Will Go On' and threatening to jump off a ship... Although he had saved me from falling to my death once already.
'Lovely to meet you Jack,' I replied, grinning, unable to stop the song playing in my head even if I could stop myself singing it out loud. 'I would introduce myself but you've already taken care of that!'
Oh goodness, what was I saying?! Stop mouth, stop!
Luckily he just laughed, smiling down at me. His chest moved up and down as he chuckled and I was hit with a jolt of awkwardness, as I realised that I was still in his arms. The arms of someone who's name I had just learned. This didn't exactly bode well.
'You know, as chivalrous as this whole "carrying me bridal style" is, I'm pretty sure that I must be rather heavy... So don't think that I would be insulted if you wanted to put me down,' I told him, determine not to be made nervous by the closeness of his face to mine.
'On the contrary, fair lady, but if you so wish it...' with one graceful movement he placed me back on my feet, smiling. If I had been even slightly weaker, I definitely would have swooned. As it was, I did feel a little weak at the knees.
Despite that, I did realise that I definitely had been heavy and he was probably really grateful to be able to put me down, but I knew better than to complain about politeness.
'So, what brings you here, of all places? Only it would appear that you're stalking me, Mr...' I trailed off, realising that I didn't actually know his last name. He had been carrying me, he'd saved my live and I didn't web know his surname.
'Prince,' he supplied after a moments pause. 'And I don't know about you, but I'm not the sort to stalk...'
'Ah, but that's exactly what a stalker would say!' I pointed out, grinning. 'So how do I know that you aren't lying?'
'You don't, I guess,' he murmured stepping slightly closer. I could smell his clean fresh scent and see the individual tiny hairs from where he had shaved. 'You'll just have to trust me.'
I panicked for a second, not at all sure how to reply.
'Will I now?' I asked with utterly fake confidence. I stepped back slightly looking around the forest. 'But seriously now, why are you in this particular wood in this particular county?'
'One of my friends lives near by - he's planning his wedding and the frills were getting a bit much. So I decided to go for a walk,' he explained, shrugging. 'What about you, dear Rose? Is it an interesting story?'
'Not particularly,' I admitted, shrugging. 'All the family are at my Grandma's and it got a bit too loud for me.'
'Oh, the joy of family gatherings!' he said sarcastically, grinning at me. 'Well, don't worry, I have definitely felt your pain more than a few times!'
I smiled back at him, strangely glad that we had something in common.
'So, do you want to get out of this random forest and grab a coffee or something?' he asked, almost shyly.
'I thought you'd never ask,' I replied, unable to contain the broad smile that stretched across my face. 'But I'll have to warn you, I'm not exactly a coffee fan...'
'This way, my lady,' he said, taking my hand and pulling me along with him.
We talked and laughed and talked some more as we strolled between the trees before we arrived at a quaint little town I had never visited before.
Despite the quite cold weather he put on a pair of sunglasses and straw trilby, shrugging when I asked him about it. So I just let it lie.
He led me to a little coffee shop which was already pretty full. He snagged a table in the corner and grinned at me as he passed me the handwritten menu.
'So, what do you want then?' he asked, leaning his elbows on the table.
'Hmm, good question...' I replied, scanning the menu. 'I'll just have a hot chocolate, I think...'
'Good choice,' he smiled, nodding as he surveyed his own menu. The undoubtedly pretty young waitress sauntered over, and I couldn't help wondering why I was thinking about her prettiness. But Jack didn't even glance at her as he ordered. 'Two hot chocolates please.'
She walked away, but I hardly registered the fact, my eyes caught by his liquid chocolate ones. He held my gaze for a few moments before leaning in slightly.
'You know, I really like you, Rose,' he murmured, his lips curving upwards slightly.
'You aren't too bad yourself,' I replied, smiling back. 'Although for all I know you could be an axe murderer...'
'True... But I did save your life, so you sorta owe me the benefit of the doubt,' he pointed out, leaning back slightly. The words from Kate's letter suddenly started to make sense...
'Maybe... But you might have saved me only so that you could have your wicked way with me!' I suggested, smiling to hide my mortification at the fact that I had just said the words "wicked way". But really, who says that?! At least my reddening ears were covered by my hair.
'Well, I do admit that it has crossed my mind,' he replied, winking. My ears were now burning so much, I wouldn't be surprised if my hair caught alight.
Luckily, I was saved from embarrassing myself further by the waitress arriving with our drinks.
'Thanks,' I said politely, smiling at the waitress, before taking a tentative sip of my drink and burning my tongue. 'Be careful, it's hot!'
He just grinned back, blowing lightly on the surface of his drink. 'Better safe than sorry, Rose!'
I smiled back wryly, and followed his lead, deciding not to read anything into his words.
'So, favourite book,' he said, placing his mug back on the table.
'Gosh, that's a hard one...' I replied, smiling at his question. 'Maybe I'll say something annoyingly pretentious, like War and Peace - the original Russian version, of course - or maybe even 1984 or Animal Farm and we'll bond over a shared love for modern classics that everyone has either read, or claims that they have.'
'Or,' he suggested, 'You could simply tell me the truth.'
'But that wouldn't be anywhere near as much fun,' I explained, trying my drink again. It had cooled enough for me to drink it without too much trouble.
'Maybe, but it could also be loads of fun,' he pointed out, copying me and drinking some of his own.
'Okay then, I guess I'll try it your way,' I allowed, shrugging slightly. 'Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery has been my favourite since childhood - if only because she has red hair as well.'
'That seems like a good enough reason - my favourite book was Dick Whittington for years just because I wanted to have a pet cat,' he told me, grinning self deprecatingly.
'Well, why didn't you just buy a cat, instead of reading the book?' I asked, tucking a stray strand of hair behind my ear.
'My mother isn't exactly a cat fan... And anyway, my little sister is allergic to cat hair, so I wouldn't have been able to anyway,' he replied, shrugging. 'But I think I more wanted it because I couldn't have it than because I actually really wanted one.'
I nodded slightly, leaning forward to blow on my mug, strands of hair falling forward in front of my face again. I glanced up to see him staring at me with those decadent chocolate eyes and I could feel myself start to melt.
'You're really very beautiful, Rose,' he told me, carefully pushing my hair back from my face.
And with those words he leant and kissed me sweetly, stroking my hair as he pulled away.
I didn't quite know what to do after his sudden movement, unsure how I felt about him. I mean, I hardly knew the guy.
But then Scorpius' taunts swam through my mind uncalled for. I was not a prude, I was not predictable and I was not a darn English Rose!
So I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him again.
Sorry about the wait!
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