Chapter 2 : Plausible Deniability
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When Rose and Albus got back to the Common Room, he made a beeline for the stairs to the boy’s dormitory, waving goodnight over his shoulder. She called “Night!” after him and went over to James and Roxanne, who’d put homework aside and were playing a match of exploding snap at a table in the corner.
Rose slumped into the chair beside Roxanne and let her head fall hard against the table.
They both looked up. “That bad?” asked James. Roxanne gathered up the cards, her deft fingers clearing the table in a matter of seconds.
“Worse.” Rose rested her elbows on the table and sunk her fingers into her hair. “How does anyone get to be quite that unpleasant?”
James looked around before responding. “Albus here?”
“No, he went up to bed.” Rose let out a sigh. “Thankfully. I’m making an effort, but Merlin, I can think of poisons that would be more pleasant than Scorpius Malfoy.” She thought for a moment about what her cousins - who were both very enthusiastic Gryffindors - would be most disgusted by. “He called me a coward.”
James and Roxanne did not disappoint her. “Jerk,” they said at the same time, and each cast a threatening glance toward the portrait hole.
“And he basically said that I was a conceited brat.” She wrinkled her nose. “He is so unpleasant. Why does Albus even like him?”
Roxanne put an arm around Rose’s shoulder. “Look, Rosie, if you think it’s warranted, we’d be happy to go around and show him who’s boss.”
“We could charm his stupid hair some ridiculous colour,” James suggested, clearly getting into the spirit. “Orange, maybe?”
“How about red?” Roxanne grinned. “You know, for Gryffindor.”
Rose giggled. “I like that. He kept calling me ‘Red.’” She pulled her braid over her shoulder and fingered it. “I like my hair.”
“Oh, he’s just trying to get a rise out of you. Don’t worry, we’ll show him.”
“Don’t tell Albus,” Rose said quickly.
“Do you think that we’re stupid?” James asked. “I don’t want him writing home that I’m being a jerk to his friend. I don’t need another howler.”
James had gotten many howlers over the course of his schooling. The year before, he and Roxanne had really gotten into the spirit of Halloween, hexing pumpkins in the Great Hall to shoot off sparks at odd intervals and charming suits of armor in very trafficked areas to randomly shout “Boo!” The caretaker had eventually caught them trying to charm the lights in the Potions classroom to be come out orange. They’d both gotten three detentions, and James’s parents had sent him a howler, in which his mother yelled that it was all well and good to fool around but that if he had the time to do that then when he took his O.W.L.s at the end of the year he’d better not fail any of them.
James maintained that it had totally been worth it.
Rose got up. “I should get to bed,” she told them.
They waved goodnight, and put their heads together, clearly thinking of other ways to make Scorpius miserable. She smiled. That would teach him to mess with the Weasley clan.
As she changed into her pajamas and crawled into bed, she realised that this would probably only add fire to his accusation that she walked around like she owned the school.
That would be a problem… if she cared what he thought. Thankfully, she didn’t.
When Rose came down the stairs and entered the Gryffindor common room the next morning, she was slightly surprised to see Roxanne sitting alone at one of the tables reading a book. She made her way over and let her bag slip onto the chair across from her cousin. “What, are you not hungry?”
Roxanne looked up. “Starving, actually. But I was waiting for you.” She shoved the book she’d been reading into her bag and stood up.
Rose slung her bag back over her shoulder and followed her cousin through the portrait hole. “Why?”
Her teeth flashed in a sharp contrast to her dark skin. “We need to talk business.” She was in her element and looked positively gleeful. Rose felt an answering smile spreading across her own face as they climbed out of the portrait hole - Roxanne’s enthusiasm tended to be infectious. “Where does that git have classes today?”
Rose thought as they padded down the corridor. “We’ve got Care of Magical Creatures right after you, and History of Magic with the Slytherins at the end of the day.”
Roxanne shook her head. “No, that won’t work,” she said as they began descending the stairs. “We’ve got double Charms last, and I don’t fancy us trying to skip out on Harding. She’d probably put us in detention for weeks. What’s he got before Care of Magical Creatures?” She skipped the last couple steps and landed at the bottom of the staircase with a resounding thud.
Rose thought for a moment. “Charms, I think.”
Roxanne considered that for a minute. “Okay, that has promise.” She rubbed her hands together. “Oh, this is going to be fun.”
When they entered the Great Hall a few minutes later, Roxanne circled around the table to sit down in the empty space next to James while Tyler Jordan and Marion Thomas moved over to make room for Rose.
“Good news,” James said cheerfully. “Extra Quidditch practice tonight. It’s supposed to rain, and I want us to practice playing in adverse conditions more than we did last year.”
Rose groaned. Sometimes James had a very interesting definition of the phrase ‘good news.’ “Oh, James, but Mondays are terrible for me. I’ve got Herbology, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Care of Magical Creatures...”
“Oh, you mean that Mondays are physically exhausting.”
“Yes,” she said crossly, grabbing several pieces of toast off one of the serving platters. “That’s exactly what I mean.” She had yet to escape a Monday without some kind of bite or bruise or other injury. Granted, they hadn’t had very many Mondays yet, but even so, it was a pattern that she was less than thrilled with.
He shrugged. “Sorry, Rose. Grin and bear it. I have faith in you.” He reached for the bowl of fruit to pull out a pear.
“If it makes you feel any better, we’ve got Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology, and Charms today too,” said Roxanne, picking up the bacon on her plate. “We’ll all be falling off our brooms.”
“Hey, Roxanne, has your father invented any new snackboxes James hasn’t heard of yet?” asked Tyler. She shook her head and continued to shovel food into her mouth. “Too bad.” He looked momentarily crestfallen, but then he brightened. “We could all just boycott practice. He can’t get mad at all of us.”
“Watch me,” James said as he poured himself some juice. He was clearly not taking his team’s whining very seriously, since he turned his attention to Rose. “Got back your first homework ‘graded to O.W.L. standard’ yet?”
She grimaced. “Yeah. I only got an A in arithmancy.” Rose was rather worried about that. Arithmancy had always been one of her favorite subjects, and hearing her cousins Louis and Lucy talk about it had made her excited to continue on with it at N.E.W.T. level. At this rate, though, she wouldn’t have the grades to do so.
Marion shook her head, her thick hair shining to the bright lights hovering along the ceiling in the Great Hall. “Don’t worry about it. You’ll bring it up. I got an A on my first arithmancy assignment last year, and when the O.W.L. results came this summer, I’d gotten an E. You’ll be fine, don’t worry. Nobody gets better than an A their first assignment.”
That made Rose feel a little better, at least.
Roxanne and James had their heads together and were conversing quietly. Rose heard James mutter, “So you think we should just duck out of Woodmore’s class a few minutes early?”
“Yeah, she won’t mind.”
He was probably right. Professor Woodmore had only been teaching at Hogwarts for a few years, and as a former Gryffindor, any mention of the duties of Gryffindor Quidditch team tended to result in less homework or early class dismissals.
Rose cleared her throat. “Speaking of O.W.L.s, how many N.E.W.T.s did you all end up signing up for?”
“Why, Rosie, trying to figure out how many you can aim for?” Rose shrugged, and Roxanne’s face broke into a smile. “You’ve got time to figure it out later.” When Rose opened her mouth, Roxanne said smoothly, “But I signed up for seven.”
“The rest of us signed up for four or five,” Tyler cut in. “Because we’re, you know, sane.”
“I dropped Potions,” James said lazily, pushing his dark hair back from his eyes. He’d woken up too recently to have thoroughly made it messy yet, but Rose was sure it would be by the time she saw him next. “I didn’t want to be an Auror anyway. I heard that dark creatures are where it’s at these days.”
“Heard from where?” Marion asked.
“Somewhere,” James said vaguely, and Rose bit her lip to keep from smiling. She knew exactly where he’d heard that; their cousin Victoire was so enthusiastic about her job that she sometimes said more than she really should.
Roxanne looked around. The Great Hall was starting to empty. “I guess we’d better get down to class, especially if we want to warn her we’re leaving a little early. Stick to Albus until you get there, then he can’t suspect you.”
The five of them got up. The sixth years headed for the door, and Rose went down the table to meet up with Albus and her other friends among the fifth-years. She reached them just as they were all getting up to head to their first class of the day.
“Did James really schedule another practice for tonight?” asked Albus as she fell into step with them.
She nodded, and Damien Bell, a fellow fifth year, commented, “Looks like it’s going to rain. That’ll be fun to fly in.”
Rose looked up at the grey clouds streaming across the ceiling of the Great Hall and barely managed to keep herself from sighing. “Oh, he knows.”
An hour and a half later saw the fifth year Gryffindors and Ravenclaws staggering out of greenhouse five. Professor Longbottom had handed back their first homework during class, and to Rose’s relief, she’d gotten an E on it. She wasn’t as optimistic about the homework she’d handed in, but there wasn’t much she could do about it now.
On the bright side, she didn’t have a black eye - not yet, anyway. On the downside, she was sporting several bites from the fanged geranium, one of which was on her bicep, which she knew from experience would make passing the Quaffle more difficult - and more painful.
At least Longbottom was used to students swearing in his class. He hadn’t batted an eye when she’d cursed loudly at the last bite, though several other students had. Albus saw her rubbing the bite mournfully through her sweater and said, “That’s going to make Quidditch later painful, isn’t it?”
“There’s no way James will take that as an excuse.”
“Nope.” Not that she really thought he should - he was right, they did need practice playing in the rain. She shook herself, and remembered that with any luck, Malfoy would be showing up to Care of Magical Creatures after encountering whatever prank James and Roxanne decided to pull.
That cheered her up significantly. That would teach him what happened when he called her a coward.
She turned to Albus. “So, how did you do on the homework?”
“An A. That’s pretty good, right? For the first homework?”
“Yeah, definitely!” She related what Marion had told her over breakfast to him, and he looked a little more cheerful.
They arrived at Care of Magical Creatures a few minutes early and bumped into most of the sixth years, who were still packing up, including Marion. After exchanging a quick hello with her and another sixth year Gryffindor named Bridget Hopkins, Rose and Albus settled down on the grass.
“Wonder where James and Roxanne were,” he commented. When Rose looked at him, she thought he looked a little flushed, though she couldn’t think of any reason why he would be.
Rose shrugged. “I think James said something at breakfast about reserving the pitch for practice this week.”
“Ah.” Her cousin’s eyes widened when he caught sight of something behind her. “Scorpius?”
She turned around, and let out a loud giggle before she could help herself. Scorpius was coming toward them, and he looked distinctly irritated. The reason was immediately apparent: his hair, usually a very pale blond, was bright red.
Rose vowed not to complain about when James scheduled Quidditch practice for the next month.
“Yeah. I know.” Scorpius stopped in front of them and crossed his arms.
Albus shook his head, clearly struggling to find words. “What happened? When did that happen?”
“Well, I didn’t do it to myself,” Scorpius snapped. “I was leaving charms with Noah, and suddenly he started laughing.” He looked at Rose. “Do you have any idea what happened, Red?”
She shook her head, a broad smile still on her face. Albus gave her a sharp look, and then leaned closer and began peering at his friend’s hair.
Rose really wished she had a camera with her.
Al yanked on a lock of hair, and Scorpius jumped back. “Ow! It is still my hair, damnit!”
Albus frowned and continued poking at his friend’s hair. “Sorry. Somebody must have jinxed you.”
“No, really?” Scorpius snapped. “I can’t think of anyone who’d want to do that.”
Albus shot another glance at Rose, who’d stopped making any effort to control her giggles. She shook her head. “It wasn’t me, honest.”
“No, I guess it wasn’t, not if it was after Charms this morning.” Albus shook his head. “Well, I’m sure it’ll fade out… er… eventually.”
“Great. Until then, I can walk around looking a long lost Weasley cousin.”
“Hey, our hair is much nicer than that,” said Rose. “You look like you’ve had a bad encounter with your mum’s potions.’”
He shot her a withering glance and stalked off. Albus followed him, giving her a suspicious look.
“Really, Rose?” someone said softly, and Rose looked around. Natalia came to a stop next to her. Though she was managing to keep a reasonably somber look on her face, her dark eyes were glittering with mirth.
“How was Charms?” Rose asked brightly. Rather than answer, Natalia kept her gaze fixed on her friend. “Hey, it wasn’t me. I swear. I was in Herbology, and then I was here. Ask Al.”
Natalia shook her head and let the serious expression go; a glance over at Scorpius, whose hair was now being examined closely by both Albus and Damien, had sparked a fit of giggles. “So you’ve got an alibi and everything. How convenient.”
Rose smirked. “Ask me no secrets, I’ll tell you no lies.”
“He’s not that bad, you know.”
“If you say so,” Rose replied, shrugging. “But that’s neither here nor there, because I didn’t do it.”
“Didn’t do what?” asked Colleen. She and her brother Daniel, who was in Hufflepuff, were walking toward them. She stopped short. “Oh, my-”
Alex, who was just behind them, saw Scorpius’s hair and let out a loud snort. “Did you do that?” he asked Rose. Scorpius’s scowl deepened.
“I was just saying that I didn’t!” Rose protested. “He just told Al it happened on the way here from Charms, and I’ve been in Herbology with you and I came straight here, you know I did.”
Alex gave her a look of deepest skepticism. “So you have no idea who did it?”
“None at all,” Rose lied. Woodmore called the class to order, and she turned her attention to the professor.
“Liar,” murmured Natalia, softly enough so that no one else could hear her.
“Maybe a little,” Rose whispered back. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Scorpius studying her closely.
She gave him an innocent smile and looked away, fighting the urge to giggle. She had no idea how she was going to pay attention in History of Magic later, which was going to be far more dull than this.
After the lesson, which had ended up being about bowtruckles, she made a show of rummaging through her bag for something and waved their friends ahead. “I’ll catch up with you.” Natalia stood next to her until she straightened and slung her bag onto her shoulder, and they both waved goodbye to Professor Woodmore.
“Tell me the truth,” Natalia said, fixing her with a look. “I know you all too well for that.”
Rose smiled. “Okay, yeah, it was James and Roxanne.”
“But you all have plausible deniability?”
Natalia shook her head. “He really isn’t that bad, you know.” Before Rose could respond, she said, “Come on, let’s get some lunch.”
A/N: As always, I love to hear what you think, even though this chapter hasn't been drastically changed (other than a significant scene being shifted to the next chapter, anyway). If you have a chance, please leave a review, and either way, thank you so much for reading!
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