Chapter 17 : Flaming Yuletide
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Ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk turned the wheels of the Hogwart’s Express. Scorpius and Tarani were sharing a compartment with Justine and Cornelius. Scorpius leaned back against the window, his arms around Tarani, who was leaning against him. Justine sat directly in front of him, her back to the window, her legs draped on Cornelius’ lap. They sat talking and laughing, enjoying the ride back to King’s Cross for Christmas Holidays.
“I’m a little nervous,” Tarani admitted, looking back up at Scorpius,” at being introduced to your Father. Do you think he’ll like me?”
“Dad won’t be there. Nana Daphne is meeting me with my cousin, Corinne. She’s the one you’ll have to impress.” He teased.
“Is she doing alright?” Justine asked.
“Why wouldn’t she be well?” Questioned Tarani.
“Her Father was killed a few months ago. Don’t you remember?”
The awkward silence which encompassed the group was quickly dispelled by Cornelius. “Mum and Dad are throwing their annual Pizza Party New Years. You should bring Corinne along with Tarani. I’m sure she’d have a wonderful time.”
“That’s very nice of you. I’ll ask her.”
“Don’t you think she’s kind of young to be attending a New Year’s Party?” Tarani inquired. “I mean,” she continued as the other three stared at her, “her mother might not approve.”
“She’s the same age we were when we started going.” Justine answered.
Cornelius and Justine carried on the conversation, with Tarani contributing little. Scorpius soon fell asleep and didn’t wake up until they were at King’s Cross.
Nana Daphne hadn’t arrived yet. Scorpius warmly greeted the Phillips’ and kissed Tarani good-bye. Presently he traded pleasantries with Cornelius’ family who re-emphasized the invitation to New Years for Tarani, himself and Corinne. They lingered in order to meet her, but Scorpius’ family still hadn’t arrived.
“Should be stay longer, mate?” Cornelius asked.
“No, it’s alright. It’s actually not unusual for Nana Daphne to be late.”
“I’ll stay with him, Cornelius. I’ll see you later,” Justine said as she hugged Cornelius and his parents’ good-bye.
Corinne and Nana Daphne arrived shortly after. Nana Daphne looked annoyed and Corinne looked like she was ready to cry. Her long hair was pulled back in a messy, bizarre looking braid.
“So sorry we are late, Scorpius. Someone was dawdling.” Daphne Greengrass glared at her granddaughter as Corinne squirmed in shame.
“Not a problem at all, Nana Daphne,” Scorpius replied cheerfully. Turning to Corinne he grasped her hands, “It’s lovely to see you again, Corinne. I hope you are well?”
She smiled slightly and flushed under his gaze. He continued on, “I’d like for you to meet one of my best friends. Nana Daphne, Corinne, this is Justine Finch-Fletchley.”
Daphne nodded in acknowledgement, but most of Justine’s attention was fixed on Corinne. Corinne bloomed under the attention.
Their tête-à-tête short lived. “Scorpius, we really need to get going. I have to be somewhere this evening. You and Anemone will be on your own.” Corinne scowled at her Nana’s use of her dreaded given name, but otherwise did not comment.
“There’s my dad, Scorpius. I’ll see you all later. It was delightful meeting you, Corinne,” she said emphatically, “and Mrs. Greengrass.
That evening Scorpius and Corinne sat in front of the fireplace together, drinking hot cider. Nana Daphne had been long gone to her engagement, so the two cousins were able to chat openly. Corinne really opened up without the presence of her domineering grandmother.
“Justine seems really nice,” she complimented. “Is she your girlfriend?”
“No, my girlfriend’s name is Tarani. You’ll meet her on New Year’s Eve.”
“What’s happening on New Years?”
“Sorry, I’ve gone about this wrong. Cornelius, my friend and Justine’s boyfriend, always hosts a New Year’s Pizza Party. They’ve invited you to come as well.”
Corinne looked pleased. “Won’t I be a ‘third wheel’?”
“Not at all,” Scorpius reassured her. “Cornelius’ family is great. The food is always good and we play games. It’s not a ‘snog fest’ at all or anything like that. They all really want you to come with me.
Corinne smiled broadly and then looked sheepish. “I’m sorry we were late. I was nervous about meeting your friends and tried to spend extra time on my hair. The result was a disaster.”
“What’s wrong with your hair?”
“Mum insists on me keeping it long, but I hate how hard it is to care for and all the tangles I get. I’ve always wanted short hair.”
Scorpius thought for a moment. “How mad would your mother be if you cut it off?”
“I don’t know. She forbade me to use my own money to cut it. I know Nana Daphne would never agree.”
Scorpius leaned in towards her conspiratorially. “What if my Christmas present to you was to take you somewhere to get your hair cut? What would your mother say?”
Corinne laughed, “She’d be insanely angry, but, she’s also not going to be back until Easter.”
“Cousin, I think we now have a plan.”
Scorpius was as good as his word. After trading several owls with Cornelius on exchanging wizard galleons for muggle pounds, the two set on their way the next afternoon. They left the Greengrass Estate and passed through the magical barriers to Amberley village. They could see Amberley Castle in the distance.
There was enough activity in the small village for the two to pass off as tourists. Most muggles assumed they were the offspring of visitors to the castle.
“Do you even know where to go?” Corinne whispered.
“No, I’m making this up as I go along.” He placed her hand in his arm and they strolled through the lanes. “If we can’t find a place here, we’ll take the train to another town. We’ll go to London if we have to.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to floo to Diagon Alley?”
“Where is your sense of adventure?”
She giggled at the look on his face.
Behind the church they found a small house which adverstised an at-home hair salon. The two entered to find a middle-aged woman finishing up styling an elderly lady’s hair.
When it was Corinne’s turn she was visibly nervous describing what she wanted.
“How short do you want it dear?” The woman asked gently.
“I’d like it very short, please.”
“Are you interested in the Michelle Williams look?”
Scorpius and Corinne looked at each other blankly. Neither one knew who that person was.
The woman laughed, “I guess that’s more my generation than yours.”
Corinne took a deep breath, “Yes that would be fine.”
“Corinne, I’ll take care of some shopping and then be back to collect you within the hour.”
It didn’t take Scorpius long to cover the entire village. The few shops there, excluding the grocers/post office, were closed during the winter. He did find, however, an artist selling pottery out of her home. He chose a small vase for Nana and one for his parents. He found mugs for Corinne, Justine, and Tarani: white for Corinne, gold for Justine, and Red for Tarani. The woman selling them offered to personalize them for him, so he added black lettering for Corinne’s and Justine’s names, and gold for Tarani’s.
He thought he’d order candy from Honeyduke’s for Cornelius and his family. Shivering in the cold and wet he returned to the parlor to get Corinne.
He was speechless at the result. In place of the shy, quiet, withdrawn, little girl was an impish looking…he didn’t know what. Vixen was not the right word. Vixen implied some negative connotations.
There was nothing negative about Corinne here. Her cropped hair gave her confidence an extra boost. The short style suited her. Watching her glowing eyes and her deepening left dimple he knew she was pleased.
Scorpius paid for the cut and led Corinne out into the street.
“Do you like it?” She asked shyly. “What do you think Nana Daphne will say?”
“I can’t believe after all of that she didn’t even notice!” Corinne giggled her face red from the constant laughter.
“It probably would have interfered with her social engagement if she’d taken the time to scold you.”
“Thank you Scorpius, for everything. These past two days have been the best time I’ve had at Nana’s ever.”
“Thanks to you too, Corinne. Dad was the one before who always made stays at Nana’s bearable.”
“What would you two do?”
“Usually Quidditch, broom racing, and exploding snap.”
“Will you teach me how to fly?”
“Yes, but in the morning. I’m tired.”
“Alright then, goodnight.”
Returning to his room Scorpius quickly finished and sent off his owl order to Honeydukes and crashed into bed.
Only two hours later he woke up shivering. There were plenty of blankets on his bed, but the fire in the fireplace burned low. Stumbling out of bed he grabbed his wand off the nightstand and pulled the cushioned bench, positioned at the foot of his bed, closer to the fireplace. He mumbled a spell causing the fire to start up again. Snatching the fur coverlet off of his bed he wrapped himself up and collapsed on the bench. Momentarily he began to warm up and fall back asleep.
The wheels of the Hogwart’s Express thundered in his head. Tarani, Kavi, Antonella, Cornelius, and Justine were talking, completely ignoring him. Louder and louder he shouted. He could feel the strain on his vocal chords and the burning in his throat, but no sound emerged from his mouth. Only the thundering of the wheels became louder.
Why won’t they hear me? Why won’t that sound go away? The pounding has got to stop…
“Stop!” He yelled and fell off the bench.
Someone was knocking at his door. Ignoring the pounding in his head he opened the door.
Corinne stood there, completely dressed to go outside.
“Corinne, it’s,” he looked over at the clock, “it is 5:00 in the morning?!”
“I know, Scorpius, but it snowed! Can you believe it? Come outside and play with me—it’s too beautiful."
Scorpius looked at the excitement and earnestness in Corinne’s face and didn’t have the heart to say no. He ignored the pounding in his head. He dressed warmly and headed out with Corinne in the snow.
They built a snowman. They helped each other build snow forts and then proceeded to battle each other. Scorpius was the better shot, but as the morning dragged on, the sun slowly rising in the sky, Corinne’s aim improved.
“I suppose we should go in for breakfast,” Corinne commented, wiping away tears of laughter. “Do you think Nana Daphne is awake yet?”
Scorpius couldn’t answer; he could feel a large sneeze building up. Holding up his hand to Corinne, in a halting gesture, he closed his eyes and turned his head away from her.
The sneeze brought a feeling of relief, but was quickly followed by confusion. He smelled something burning. Opening his eyes he took in a bizarre scene. In the directional path of his sneeze was a streak of melted snow, smoke rising from the ground. He felt more burning sensations from his nostrils. He looked back at Corinne’s shocked face.
“What just happened?” He asked.
She shook her head in response. “Scorpius, you’re skin is turning green.” She whispered.
“What?” The pounding in his head doubled and he collapsed to his knees.
“I’ll go get help,” she cried and ran back to the house.
A/N: This chapter is shorter than originally planned. What happens with Scorpius next was making this chapter too long, so I decided to cut it off here. The next part is well underway and will be posted soon.
Thanks for reading :)
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