Chapter 8 : Pretty as a Picture
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I set another round of drinks down on our table. It was an actual miracle that I’d managed to carry them all the way from the bar to where we were sat cosily in the corner of the pub without spilling it either down myself or on someone else (I had spilled half of Molly’s drink on some woman’s bag, but seeing as the bag was offensively ugly, I felt it was no big loss). I crawled over Lorcan so that I could squish into my seat in the corner of the bench, noting the unpleasant potency of his after-shave. If you didn’t recoil in shock from anything Lorcan wore, it wasn’t worth wearing in his opinion. I sucked in my breath as I passed the drinks around.
“So tell me again, who did you see Hugo with last night?” Lorcan had been dishing the dirt on my brother as I had gone to get us some more drinks. I was hoping it was someone particularly ugly or gross so that I’d not be upstaged by him again. It always surprised me how he managed to get reasonable dates whilst I struggled on as a lonely singleton. Having no partner was better than an embarrassing one.
“Jane Finnegan,” Lorcan told me with a grimace. “She was in the year below you at Hogwarts.”
“Her?” I raised my eyebrows. “But she’s pretty.”
“Wasn’t she a prefect?” Albus mused.
“Wasn’t she blind?” I interjected scathingly. I couldn’t believe my brother had managed to pull someone attractive. Life was not fair at all.
“She’d need to be,” Molly said with a grin. “He’s not exactly a catch, is he?”
I gulped some of my drink. “Not exactly,” I agreed.
Lorcan brushed his highlighted hair from his face. “They were both pretty drunk, if I recall rightly,” he shrugged. “That cheap redcurrant rum in the Hog’s Head can knock even Freddie out after a couple of glasses.”
Albus frowned. “What were you doing in the Hog’s Head? I thought you were banned after that time with the goblin and the nun-”
“I do have friends outside of the Weasley family, you know,” Lorcan interrupted swiftly. He smoothed down his hair once again. “I was working, if you must know. Then I stopped working to spy on Hugo and his friend.”
Molly snorted into her butterbeer. “Right,” she said in a voice laced heavily with sarcasm. “Because you’re the obvious ‘Employee of the Month’.”
Lorcan held his hands up defensively. “I take my job very seriously!”
Albus laughed. “You’re a milkman.”
Crossing his arms and pouting, Lorcan glared in response. “Yeah, and I was delivering milk. Got a problem with that, Al?”
Albus scowled and took the hint to shut up.
“Didn’t you even try and ruin his evening?” I asked disappointedly.
“We’re not all antisocial like you, Rose,” Lorcan jested. “I didn’t want to be rude.”
“To his face,” Molly added wickedly.
I huffed. “Didn’t he see you at all?”
Lorcan shook his head smugly. “Of course not. I don’t exactly stand out from the crowd, do I? I just blend in with the scenery.” Molly, Albus and I sniggered as we looked him up and down, from his over-bleached hair to his stripy patent shoes. Lorcan had never blended in. “Okay,” he conceded. “Maybe I’m not completely inconspicuous. I just didn’t make a scene. You should try it sometime, Rose – it’s quite fun.”
“Oi,” I said, miffed. “I take offence at that. I don’t do it deliberately. Scenes just seem to find me at the most awkward times.”
“Whatever,” Lorcan said with a cheeky smirk. He drained his glass and rose from his seat. “Now, who wants another drink?”
Murmurs of “only if you’re paying” were heard before Lorcan trotted off to order us another round. Sometimes I wondered why I hung around with these people I referred to as my friends. They picked on me, the easy target. I suspected they were merely jealous of my superb social skills and evident beauty, or something like that, anyway.
We watched in amused silence as Lorcan attempted to chat up the barmaid and failed miserably. She probably wasn’t impressed with the fake tan and glow in the dark teeth.
“I don’t know why he bothers,” I mused as Lorcan pressed the flower on his shirt so that it squirted water at the barmaid’s face. She didn’t look impressed. “His chat-up lines could turn off a rabbit.”
“It keeps him busy, I guess,” Albus chipped in, swirling the dregs of his butterbeer around his glass. “It’s a bit like you and Scorpius; stalking is merely a pastime.”
“It’s nothing like me and Scorpius,” I scowled, glaring at his bespectacled face. “He has plenty of other things he could be doing but he chooses to bother me. And Lorcan doesn’t upset anyone or affect their daily life. Scorpius is an imposer.”
“You love the attention, Rose,” Molly quipped, winking at me. “He makes you feel loved.”
I arranged my face in what I hoped was a believably shocked face. “That’s ridiculous! I don’t need him to give me love – I have family and… family for that. Even if you do show it in peculiar ways.”
Albus seemed to buy my over the top horror, but I knew Molly was rolling her eyes without even looking at her.
“So it doesn’t bother you that he’s stopped following you around?” Molly’s tone was far too accusatory for my liking.
“He hasn’t stopped,” I denied. “He’s probably just busy… with important things.”
“Ha!” Molly cried, flipping all her carrot-coloured hair to one side and whipping Albus and me in the face. I spluttered. “I knew it. You can’t bear the thought that he’s not interested in you anymore. You hypocrite.” She grinned gleefully at me and I gritted my teeth in an attempt to stop myself from hexing her.
“That’s not true at all,” I said calmly after swallowing a gulp. “I was defending the effectiveness of his efforts. It’s not fair of you to slight him.”
Lorcan then chose this rather awkward moment to return to his seat. Thankfully, he ignored the colour of my cheeks and passed me another drink. I sipped it thoughtfully.
“Molly has a point though, Rose,” Albus said apprehensively. “Nobody’s seen hide nor hair of him for a couple of weeks. Do you think he’s finally got the message?”
I shrugged. “Maybe.” I felt really uncomfortable with the idea that he’d given up. He’d been there for years, a part of my everyday life that I’d come to take for granted. He was the interesting part of my life, a part of my “quirky” side. Now I had one less thing to moan about and I didn’t like it at all.
“I think it’s a good thing that he’s taken the hint, Rosie,” Molly said, squeezing my hand gently. “You don’t need that sort of bloke hanging around you all the time. He scares off the good ones, I reckon. The offers will start flooding in now.”
I sighed wistfully at the prospect. Visions of dapper young men offering me drinks and flowers (and biscuits) floated in front of my eyes. I must have gone glassy eyed or started drooling because I jumped when Molly snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Sorry,” I said with a hasty cough to cover up my drifting off. “I was meditating.”
“Right,” Molly muttered with a disturbed frown. “Sure you were. Were you dreaming, by any chance, because I think your dream is about to become nightmarish.” She looked pointedly over my shoulder and I turned to follow her gaze.
Rat Boy stood in the doorway, leaning in what he presumed was a seductive manner but in my opinion he just looked winded. I rolled my eyes and faced my cousins again. “Not him again. I’m really over this stalking thing, no matter what you say.”
Albus shook his head bemusedly. “Just a minute ago you were suggesting that you missed him.”
“You need to kiss and make up,” Molly added sweetly. “There’s clearly some tension between you.”
“Sexual tension,” Lorcan said through a fake cough.
Molly raised her eyebrows suggestively. “You ought to clear the air with him.”
I gritted my teeth. “Shut up. He hasn’t seen me yet and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”
To my dismay, I saw Molly and Lorcan exchange a half glance and before I could say “not on your biscuits”, they had both shouted “Scorpius!”.
My heart sank as I heard him approach our table. I looked down at my feet and saw his purple suede man-heels and closed my eyes out of the cringe factor. Nobody said anything for a good minute, whilst Molly and Lorcan tittered to themselves and Albus patted my knee sympathetically (not for a full minute, just briefly - that would have been odd). Eventually I raised my eyes and manage to choke out a “hello”.
There were no spare chairs for him, the pub being popular and especially busy on a Friday night, so he just stood there awkwardly, running a hand through his over-gelled hair as though he had nits.
I needed some air. I could feel Molly and Lorcan smirking at me out of the corners of their eyes and Albus looked like he wanted to melt into his seat. The pressure was on my to provide entertainment in the form of making a fool out of myself; I could do that just fine without an audience and I didn’t particularly appreciate being forced into this situation. With a heavy sigh, I climbed over Lorcan and stood up beside Scorpius.
“Do you want a drink?” I asked heavily, hoping that he’d take the hint and come with me away from the table.
“No thanks,” he responded with a grin. “I’m teetotal.”
I grimaced. “Well I definitely need a drink so you can accompany me to the bar.”
Grabbing him by the wrist, I marched him over to the bar where I ordered a double shot of firewhiskey. His company required copious amounts of alcohol to make him anywhere near tolerable.
He didn’t say anything until after I’d downed my shot. “How are you?”
I winced at the burning sensation in my throat. “Fine,” I spluttered. I could feel curious gazes on us and I looked around for somewhere with a bit more privacy. “Look, we really need to talk. In private,” I added as I turned my back on my friends.
Scorpius nodded. “Okay. Where?”
“Well, we can’t stay here,” I conceded, glancing around the room at the packed pub. There were no spare chairs, let alone any spare tables. “If we go back to mine, they’ll be sure to follow.” I tilted my head in the direction of our table. Scorpius nodded, catching my drift.
“We can go to my house,” he offered. I caught his eye and there was this understanding between us that we were to ignore all connotations of leaving together and to just pretend like nothing out of the ordinary was happening. This suited me down to the ground; I was all for ignoring problems and putting on a brave face.
“Let’s go, then.” I strolled back to our table, grabbed my coat and bag and bid them goodbye. “Don’t wait up for me, Molly. I need to sort out a couple of things with Scorpius.”
Molly’s eyebrows disappeared into her fringe. “Are you going home with him?”
I glowered. “It’s not like that,” I hissed as she lowered her left eyebrow slightly. “Shut up.”
I flounced off, heading for the exit with Scorpius in tow. As we left, I heard Lorcan call “have a safe time!”
I blushed furiously, but luckily it was dark outside and my red cheeks could easily be attributed with the cold wind. Scorpius took my hand, squeezed it, then we Disapparated.
I almost whistled when I saw his house; he (or rather, his parents) had completely renovated the Shrieking Shack in Hogsmeade and it was almost completely unrecognisable from the pictures of it my parents had shown me from when they were at school. He let us in, flicking his wand to give us some light.
I wrinkled my nose at the décor; he clearly had lots of money, but money couldn’t buy you good taste. This was evident in his choice of wallpaper (orange polkadot on lime green) and furniture. As he led me into his lounge, I wanted to close my eyes to block out all the clashing colours.
“Why do you have a statue of a drowning monkey?” I asked disgustedly as I looked around the dark room.
“Do you like it?” Scorpius responded proudly. “It was a present for my twenty-third birthday from my aunt. I’d been hankering after it for ages.”
“Right,” I said, backing off quickly before he revealed he was after any other strange or terrifying gifts.
We stood awkwardly side-by-side in the middle of the room whilst I tried to look anywhere but at the weird things adorning the walls. I could have sworn that there was a glittery pig’s head in the cabinet at the other side of the room.
I shuffled from one foot to the other. “Do you want a biscuit?” Scorpius poked me, causing me to jump out of my uncomfortable reverie.
“Um, no thanks,” I said despite very much craving a good ginger biscuit. In the back of my mind I had a nagging feeling that he’d have some very odd biscuits on offer that I’d have to oblige him by eating just because they were biscuits.
“I have some soap if you’d rather have that?”
I didn’t know if he was trying to be funny or just being extremely rude. “No thank you. I had some earlier.” I barely managed to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. He shrugged.
“So,” Scorpius said as he plopped himself down on the leopard print sofa, realising that we were just standing there in silence. “What do you want to talk about?” He patted the space beside him but I chose to ignore his gesture. Instead, I sat in the tartan armchair by the fireplace.
“I found the roses you sent me,” I said with some hesitancy. “I don’t understand why you threw them away.”
Scorpius patted down a flyaway strand of hair and looked away nervously. “I changed my mind. I thought you’d get the wrong idea if I started sending you flowers. I don’t want to upset you.”
I frowned. “You didn’t upset me. It was mildly sweet,” I conceded. “I thought I’d upset you. I was a bit tactless the last time I saw you.”
Scorpius shrugged, worrying the edge of the glow in the dark rug with his toes. “I understand. I’ve been a bit forward.”
“A bit,” I teased, smiling slightly. “I’m a tad curious why you never tried to win me over using normal methods. Does the obsessive stalker act usually work for you?”
Scorpius blushed. “I’ve never tried it before. I just didn’t know how else to let you know I liked you. And it’s kind of working now, isn’t it? At least, we’re sort of talking.”
I laughed at the irony of it all. It was true; we were sort of talking, much against my better judgment.
“You’re not all that bad,” I admitted, with a little push from the firewhiskey. “Just lay off the creepy and we’ll get along much better.”
He nodded, resting his hands on his knees. “I can do that.”
“Good,” I said, casting my eyes around. “Can I use your loo?”
Scorpius pointed to somewhere through the coffee-stain effect wall. “Third on your left.”
I crossed the room, feeling his eyes on me and pretended that I didn’t feel like the biggest loser ever. What was I doing here, pretending like we were friends? Sure, he was being nice now, but I couldn’t exactly forget his past weirdness, like that time in Seventh Year when I caught him levitating outside my window as I got dressed and when he followed me all the way to my new flat after I’d moved out of my parents’ house. But he was being so friendly; I didn’t know what to think.
I approached the next door on my left, pushing it open without much thought. When I turned the lights on, I almost screamed in horror.
“Scorpius!” I cried. “What the hell is this?”
He rushed to my side and followed my gaze. I was staring at an altogether more horrific wallpaper; this room was covered from floor to ceiling in pictures of me. Rose petals hung on string from the ceiling and there were all sorts of things I recognised on small tables all around the room. On one, there was a pile of t-shirts that I’d assumed had blown off the washing line. On another, there was a load of handwritten shopping lists that I’d discarded. As I walked around, looking on in more horror at each item, I wondered how long he’d been collecting all of my junk.
“This isn’t the loo,” he muttered obtusely, his cheeks a very noticeable red.
“What was I just saying?” I grumbled exasperatedly. “This is creepy, Scorpius. You can’t go around stealing and – and worshipping my stuff. Is this some sort of shrine?”
He slowly started backing away from me – I must have looked quite a sight, hair flying, cheeks red and surrounded by thousands of equally disturbed Roses in their frames. “I didn’t think you wanted any of this stuff…”
“That doesn’t give you the right to keep it,” I said, shaking my head. I leant against the table, before leaping up from where I’d sat on my old braces. “That is so gross,” I mumbled to myself.
“I haven’t taken anything recently,” Scorpius mumbled embarrassedly. “Not for about six months, I promise.”
I shook as I tried to control my temper. I was very close to grabbing my empty bottles of perfume and throwing them at something. “I don’t understand why you would do this. This is a… a violation of my human rights or something.”
He had almost backed into the door now. “I’m really sorry. I just wanted to be close to you. I wanted to know more about you.”
I buried my hands into my hair frustratedely. “There is more to me than this crap.” I looked around at years’ worth of stuff, trying to salvage the situation. “Throw it out.”
“What?” He reached behind him for the doorknob.
“Stay where you are,” I ordered, inching closer to him. “You’re going to throw all of this out right now and then we’ll pretend this never happened. Then, you’re going to find me a bottle of firewhiskey and escort me home.”
He had the good grace to nod meekly. His hair had started to lose its stiffness as his sweat dissolved the gel. At least I was making him fear me a bit more; perhaps I should have let rip a long time ago. Fumbling with his wand, flick by flick he destroyed all the evidence. I sagged against the wall as he vanished the last of my odd socks.
Leaving briefly to fetch me that bottle of firewhiskey, he finally approached me, head down. I took the bottle from him gratefully. “I’m sorry, Rose,” he said softly as I drank straight from the bottle.
“Just promise me,” I said with a gasp as the liquid burned my throat, “that you’ll never ever do something like this again. I’ll never talk to you again if you do.”
“I promise,” he said quietly as I held the cool bottle against my burning cheeks. “This is the most embarrassed I have ever been in my whole life.”
I scowled at him. “Me too.”
He looked guilty. “I really am sorry.”
“Can I make it up to you?” he asked hesitantly. I eyed him suspiciously. “Let me take you out to dinner. I’ll prove to you that I can be normal.”
I took another swig. “How do I know that it won’t end in disaster?”
He frowned. “You don’t. Anything can end in disaster. But I’ll do my best to show you a good time.”
I rolled my eyes. There was no such thing as a free lunch, so my mother always told me, but a free dinner was never worth passing up. “Fine. But let’s go somewhere where we’re not going to meet someone we know. And keep it a secret.”
He finally grinned. “Okay, it’s a date.”
I glared at him. “No it bloody isn’t.”
Author's Note: I just want to thank PenguinsWillReignSupreme for giving me the idea for the shrine - if she wasn't so fabulous I'd never have built my own shrine in order to worship her amazingness. As always, thank you dear.
Also, I would like to dedicate this chapter to the acquaintance of nextgenoration/NGSeries/Ash who apparently told her one day that she was reading this story and they were able to have a moment of Real Life HPFF bonding. I don't know if you've read this yet, but I hope you're enjoying the story! By the way, I've named you Doris as I don't know your real name :) - Marina
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