If there is one thing my family is exceptionally good at, it’s keeping a secret. And James, it turns out, is our biggest secret in quite a while.
Once James is checked into the rehabilitation facility, we construct our cover story to protect his dignity and to save the family some embarrassing stories appearing in the newspapers. Aunt Ginny makes the decision not to tell anyone who needs not know; for example, Aunt Audrey and Uncle Percy, and basically any member of the extended family who wasn’t there for the intervention. The official story is that James is on holiday in Barbados. It’s not entirely unbelievable; James has a habit of up and leaving without a word to anyone and returning three weeks later with an unbelievable tan and a new girlfriend.
I tell Aidan this story too, assuring him that James is very sorry to have missed his birthday party. Luckily six year olds don’t really hold grudges, so he lets it slide without much comment.
According to Uncle Harry, James is to stay in the centre for four weeks, two without any visitors whatsoever. It seems rather harsh, a bit like a prison, but if it helps him get back to normal then that’s all that matters. Also, it prevents the Quidditch board from finding out, so James hopefully won’t be kicked off the team.
And so, in the week following James’s incarceration (it’s the only word I can think of for what he’s going through), life returns to semi-normality. Normality for our family, of course, is anything but normal.
There is a certain tension still floating about the family, with Harry and Ginny tiptoeing around Al and Jenny, given the revelation about her miscarriage. I think what is particularly unsettling for Aunt Ginny is the fact that Jenny was pregnant in the first place, and that Al had really wanted to be a father. She thinks he’s too young for fatherhood, and I suppose in some ways she could be right. I’m not about to say that to them though.
James’s sixth day in rehab is also the day that Uncle George hosts the grand re-opening of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. It’s taken months to rebuild, and with everything that has been happening lately, I found myself very surprised to receive word of it from Mum. I had almost forgotten all about it, which just about makes me the worst niece in the world.
Given the nature of our family, the re-opening is a highly public affair. There are reporters and photographers, ministry officials and high profile celebrities of the wizarding world all in attendance; luckily, there are so many there, it takes the attention away from the fact that James isn’t. I leave Aidan with Draco and Astoria for the evening and head off to a night that I know will be full of acting and false smiling.
Ah, these public family occasions will never cease to amaze and annoy me.
I arrive with Hugo and Dom, and find Auntie Audrey out the front of the shop, posing for the cameras. Her poses are extremely cringe worthy.
“Oh Christ Jesus,” Dom mumbles as Audrey pouts her lips and sticks out her chest, strongly reminding me of a transgender prostitute. I always knew Percy had weird taste. “Can she see herself?”
“When did it become okay to wear fishnets?” I ask, taking in her entire outfit. A black dress, fishnet tights, red shoes and a red shawl...it looks like something she saw in Witch Weekly on a very young, skinny model and has tried to pull off despite that fact that she’s in her fifties. Mutton dressed up as lamb springs to mind.
“It was never okay to wear fishnets,” Dom spits, and even Hugo agrees. Hugo, who wore eyeliner and fingerless gloves for two whole years, has better fashion sense than Auntie Audrey.
We make our way inside to the very crowded shop. It is almost identical to the original shop, with more products added and a new area built on towards the back for invisibility garments. The large picture of Uncles George and Fred that was behind the counter was too badly damaged for repair. However, Uncle George has taken this opportunity to expand his business rather than downsize, which you really have to admire.
Mum is surrounded by people, as is the norm since she put her name in the running for Minister. Dad is standing on the sidelines, as usual, so we join him. He looks rather relieved to see us; up until this point he had to make pointless conversation with other ‘Ministry Spouses’, as he puts it himself. Although Dad works in the Ministry too, and is pretty high up, he is completely overshadowed by Mum’s success. Story of his life, really.
Al and Jenny are here too, but again are surrounded by photographers who are always very intrigued to see what style Jenny is carrying these days. For some reason Al and Jenny are seen as a ‘hot couple’ in the eyes of the media and are featured in Witch Weekly almost every month. Al finds it highly amusing. It’s even worse with Teddy and Victoire; they’re the beautiful people of the family. I’m just the mess.
“Finally,” Dad breathes at us as soon as we come near him, “Thought you’d never arrive.” He claps a hand on Hugo’s shoulder, as if offering him some moral support, or perhaps hoping to get some. He then asks Hugo: “Bring the girlfriend?”
“No,” Hugo grumbles, “Broke up.”
“When?” I exclaim, not at all bothering to be tactful.
“Bout a month ago.”
Dad and I look at each other guiltily. With everything that has been going on lately, we’ve sort of forgotten Hugo is a part of our family. He doesn’t really like to associate himself with us anyway.
“Oh,” Dad clears his throat, “Sorry to hear that, son. Oh well, plenty of fish in the sea, eh?”
Hugo’s face contorts in anger. “I dumped her!”
It occurs to me to answer ‘sure you did’ sarcastically, but I manage to restrain myself, which is a personal record.
“Sure you did,” Dom smirks.
I leave the awkward silence that has ensued between my family and go to get a glass of champagne off one of the silver trays that are floating around the place. I gulp it down quickly, and it refills itself. See, this is why I love magic.
“Steady on there,” I hear someone say from behind me. I know who it is before I turn around; Tom. He just keeps popping up everywhere. He’s dressed in black dress robes, but has once again failed to brush his dark hair. He looks sharper than usual though. It’s strange to see him looking so...tidy.
“Hello,” I say dully.
“I think you might be following me,” he grins.
“This is my family’s shop!” I argue. “Surely you’re the one following me!”
“Ah, you’ve got me there.” He does this sort of flash of his eyebrows that instantly makes me feel uncomfortable. Almost as if he’s flirting, but I know he couldn’t be because he’s so much older than me and has a girlfriend and works with my mother.
“Right,” I frown.
“So how’s life since you got rid of me?”
“So much better.”
He laughs. And I feel uncomfortable again. I think my ears might be going red. I can always tell, but thankfully my hair covers them.
“The shop looks fantastic,” he observes, looking around him, and I sound in agreement. He then looks back at me. “You know Rose, you’re a hard person to make conversation with.”
“I’m not usually,” I say honestly, “I just don’t know why you want to make conversation. You don’t have to be polite, you know. I’m not your client anymore.”
Tom’s face becomes more serious now. He’s about to say something, but before he can a woman approaches me holding a pen and quill and starts asking me questions about Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes; she’s a reporter from the Daily Prophet, I vaguely recognise her but can’t remember her name.
“Rose, what do you think of the newly renovated Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes?” she asks me quickly.
“Oh it’s just fantastic, I’m so proud of –”
“And Rose, what’s happening with your custody battle against your ex-boyfriend over your son? It all seems to be brushed under the rug in light of your mother’s election campaign. What can you tell us about it?”
The question catches me completely off guard. It’s not like me to be speechless. Of course I should have expected it. Nobody really cares what I think of the shop. I’m the one with the messed up personal life that just about everyone wants to read about.
“Are you and Scorpius Malfoy getting back together? How did you feel when he got married? Is it true you slapped his new wife when you found out she was trying to take your son away from you?”
Where do they get this bullshit?
Before I get the chance to answer – not that I know what the hell to say – Tom steps in between me and the reporter. “Oh sod off,” he says simply, taking me by the arm and pulling me away from the reporter.
He leads me out the back of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, away from reporters, from my family, from everyone. I notice Hazel and Linda on the way by, but I pretend not to see them when they wave, looking very intrigued. Or should I say nosey.
I feel physically sick. I’ve always been used to the whole wizarding world knowing my business, but I hate the fact that it knows my son’s business too. Sometimes I wish I were born a Muggle, or into some other family.
Tom summons a chair from inside and tells me to sit down. For once, I don’t think to argue. He leans up against the wall opposite me, hands in his pockets, and stares at me. His eyes are green. Not like Uncle Harry’s or Al’s, but a paler kind of green. I don’t know why I’ve noticed that. They’re very unusual. But not in a bad way.
“What age are you?” The question escapes me before I even think about it. I remember Mum saying he was about thirty, but looking at him now he seems younger.
“Almost twenty-nine,” he replies.
“Sorry. I don’t know why I asked that. I’m twenty-three. But of course you knew that. From my file.”
“Yup. And you went into first year when I was in seventh,” he tells me.
“I don’t remember you,” I tell him apologetically.
“Why would you?”
“You remember me.”
“You’re Ron Weasley’s daughter. Everybody knew you.”
“Were you in Gryffindor?”
“Ravenclaw. I went out with your cousin in fourth year.”
“A whole two weeks,” he smiles. “She dumped me for some other bloke. Think he was a Hufflepuff. Funny how small the world is.”
There’s silence for a few minutes, and I feel wholly awkward. Tom doesn't seem to, but then again he seems very cool and nonchalant in most situations. He’s staring at the sky now.
“Thanks for saving me from that reporter,” I say sheepishly.
“Saving you? Isn’t that a bit melodramatic?” he teases. “Don’t get me wrong, I like being portrayed as a hero.”
“I doubt that happens very often,” I reply, finally coming back into myself and resorting back to the normal offensive relationship I share with him. Not that it’s much of a relationship, really. I have more of a relationship with my hairdresser.
“You’d be surprised. I spend my free time floating around, rescuing damsels in distress.”
“Oh please, I was not in distress!”
“And you’re not a damsel either, but I still rescued you!” I hate how good at arguing he is. I should have known better than to argue with someone who argues for a living. Sometimes I wonder if I had gotten my NEWTs would I have followed Mum into the law profession. I might have been good at it. But I’ll just stick with my potions for now. And being a receptionist.
“Those reporters are vultures, Rose,” Tom says more seriously. “They love to see the decline of the high and mighty. You just hold your head up. You have nothing to hide.”
Oh Tom, I have plenty to hide. I have plenty to be ashamed of. If the papers knew even half of what I’ve done, they’d throw a parade.
“I wish that were true,” I scoffed, and immediately wish I didn’t. I am dangerously close to opening up to him.
I never thought I would meet someone who would annoy me as much as Scorpius, but at least at the end of the day I love – or loved – Scorpius so I could put up with it. Tom is just my former solicitor, nothing more than an acquaintance I have done my hardest not to become friendly with.
I’m afraid of becoming friendly with him. He’s the kind of person who if I opened up to him, I would spill every sordid detail of my life.
“I should go inside,” I jump up immediately from the chair. “Thank you again, Tom. Nice to see you again.” The forced civility is nothing but weird between the two of us.
“Right.” He doesn't move at all. He continues standing there, hands in pockets, hair too scruffy for a lawyer, dress robes completely unnatural looking on his lanky body. And those strangely green eyes.
I definitely drank that champagne too fast.
“See you,” he says, and I realise that even though I said I was going inside, I still haven’t moved. I rush inside quickly and straight to the bathroom to splash my face with cold water. Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I notice that it’s not just my ears that have gone red, but my entire face. Did he notice? And if he did, why do I even care if he notices?
From one of the toilet cubicles, I hear a sniffling of somebody crying. Undoubtedly it is one of my family, as the majority of people here are related to me, so I knock.
“Hello? Are you alright in there?”
Oh shit. I know that voice. It’s not a family member at all, it’s much worse.
“Er, yeah, it’s me.”
She unlocks the cubicle doors and emerges, her eyes swollen and her nose very red. She has been in here a while. I didn’t even realise they were here; I haven’t seen Scorpius at all.
“What happened?” I ask.
“N-nothing,” she sniffs, “I’m just being stupid.” Then in the same breath: “It’s Scorpius.”
Of course it is. It always is. “What’s he done now?”
“He’s never home anymore, Rose. H-he said he’d meet me here after work, but I know he left work at seven b-because I rang Kelly. Sh-she’s the receptionist.” She wipes her eyes with tissue, and I grab her some more, completely confused as to why I’m even bothering. Aren’t I supposed to hate her? “It’s half ten now. Where is he?”
I have absolutely no answer for her. I have no idea what he’s playing at.
“We haven’t had sex in weeks. He’s cheating, Rose, I know he’s cheating.”
“I’m sure he’s not cheating,” I say firmly. The news that they haven’t had sex in weeks hasn’t affected me as much as I thought it might. It’s just a bit too much information for my liking.
Somehow, deep down, I know he’s not cheating. If he was, surely he’d cheat with me? I know that sounds awful and selfish, but it’s the truth. If he’s not cheating on her with me, he’s not cheating on her with anyone.
“I think I should go and find him. Do like you said at Aidan’s party; I should follow him.”
“Oh Daisy, you really don’t want to take my advice when it comes to men,” I tell her, but she’s not listening. She’s stopped crying; her new plan seems to have her distracted from crying.
“You need to come with me!” she exclaims. I groan. “Rose, you know him better than anyone, you know where he’ll be!”
I don’t know why I agree to it. Maybe because I don’t want to stay here and run the risk of running into reporters and family and Tom. Or maybe because I want to prove to Daisy – and to myself – that Scorpius wouldn’t cheat on her with some random girl.
We leave through the back door, passing through the alleyway that Tom and I were in not ten minutes previously. Our first stop is the most obvious: The Leaky Cauldron. It’s Scorpius’s local. He goes there with the lads from work sometimes, but when we ask behind the bar, we’re told he hasn’t been in all night.
Daisy suggests a pub that’s close to Nimbus, but again there has been no sign of Scorpius there all night. After checking another few pubs in the area, we quickly run out of ideas. It seems like he really doesn't want to be found.
Typical. Just when we start to get James sorted out, Scorpius goes off the handle. I swear, I’m giving up on the lot of them.
“I’m getting worried now,” Daisy says, biting her thumbnail.
“You passed ‘worried’ about three hours ago,” I remind her. It then occurs to me that if Scorpius doesn't want to be found, he would go somewhere far away from London where nobody would be bothered looking for him. “We should try the Hog’s Head.”
“Hogsmeade?” Daisy frowns. “Surely he wouldn’t go the whole way up there?”
“He’s not exactly predictable,” I remind her. “It’s worth a try.”
We have to apparate twice because it is so far away, but we arrive in Hogsmeade a short time later. It doesn't occur to me to look in the Three Broomsticks; it’s far too cheerful. The dull and dreary Hogs Head seems like a place a moody Malfoy might go to avoid his wife.
One quick glance around the pub tells us that Scorpius isn’t there.
“Why did we even bother?” Daisy snaps angrily.
I approach the man who is serving behind the bar, not ready to give up just yet. Daisy is such a novice. You’d swear she never stalked Scorpius before.
“Excuse me, was there a man in here tonight with blonde hair? Scottish? About six foot two, wearing work robes? Scorpius Malfoy is his name.”
The man, who looks like he might be in his fifties, is nothing but dodgy. I’m not in the least bit intimidated by him.
“Yeah, was in here earlier,” he grumbles. Daisy perks up and rushes to my side at this news.
“Really? Was he with anyone? Do you know where he went?” she asks desperately.
The man studies the pair of us. “What’s the information worth to ye?”
I roll my eyes.
“Fine, we’ll take two Firewhiskys!” Daisy snaps, “Now tell us!”
“I’ll make ‘em doubles shall I?”
“Whatever, just spit it out!”
Daisy pays for the two drinks and gulps her own down quickly. I take sips of mine, full sure that I will be on my ear by the end of this night.
“He was in here about eight o’clock,” the man tells us. “Stayed about an hour and a half. Was on his own for most of it.”
“Most of it?” I ask, suddenly very interested in what the man has to say.
“Yeah. Then he got talking to a girl.”
I see the colour drain from Daisy’s face, but I need more information.
“A girl?” I enquire.
“Yeah. Pretty girl too. Looked cosy enough. He bought her a couple of drinks and left together. Think they were holding hands.”
I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. Daisy looks like she might throw up.
“Why, who’s this bloke anyway?” the barman asks.
“He’s my husband,” Daisy says in barely more than a whisper.
The barman now looks uncomfortable and a bit guilty. “Oh...er...well maybe she’s just a friend-”
“Firewhisky!” Daisy snaps.
He doesn't charge us this time.
I don’t go back to the party. Daisy goes straight home to wait for Scorpius to return. I go back to the flat to think. I feel betrayed. I know it’s stupid and I know I have absolutely no reason to feel betrayed. But I do. I want to take Scorpius and I want to hit him, strangle him, curse him until he feels even a morsel of the pain that I do. I feel like I have wasted seven years of my life on him.
Aidan is the only good thing Scorpius has ever done for me. If it weren’t for Aidan, I would cut Scorpius out of my life forever. I rue the day I neglected to listen to my father when he told me all Malfoys were evil.
Why Scorpius? Why would you do it?
He’s just a Slytherin. There’s nothing more to it. A downright Slytherin.
I lie on my bed, thinking about what the girl he’s with is like. I imagine she has dark hair. I imagine he has gone for someone who’s neither like Daisy nor like me. She’s probably about nineteen. She’s probably carefree and uncomplicated and fun. She probably makes him forget his troubles, forget that he’s a father and a husband and all the other things that are apparently making him miserable in his life.
I thought after the James fiasco he and I had reached a new understanding where we respected each other. We don’t pull crap like this anymore. I don’t go off with strange Muggles in nightclubs and he’ll stop being such an unreasonable prick the whole time. I was so stupid to ever get involved with him.
And I feel bad for Daisy. No, I don’t like her, and I don’t ever expect to, but she never deserved this. She’s had a hard life, I understand that. The daughter of a murderer, making her own way in the world at such a young age. She deserves better than Scorpius Malfoy. And so do I.
It’s past midnight now. I wonder if he’s returned home yet. I wonder if they’re going to split up. I know they’ve had all kinds of problems since Aidan was sick. I consider calling Daisy to find out, but I doubt she wants to speak with me. She certainly didn’t want to speak to me in Hogsmeade.
While I’m looking at the phone, considering calling her, it begins to ring. I leap up from the bed to answer it, but it’s just Mum.
“Rose, where did you disappear to?” Mum snaps, sounding very annoyed. “You’ve missed Uncle George’s speech! They’re taking pictures with the whole family and you better get back here this instant!”
“Mum,” I groan, “I’m not feeling well.”
“Oh stop being so dramatic. You’re coming back now or I’ll come over there and drag you here myself!”
I begrudgingly agree to return to Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. The party is in full swing now. There’s a band and dancing and everything; the centre of the shop has been cleared to make a dance floor. I pose in plenty of pictures, a fake smile plastered over my face. For some reason, I keep scanning the room, expecting to see Scorpius here. But of all places to go to after being caught cheating, the den of the Weasleys certainly isn’t one of them. Dom, of course, wants to know where I disappeared off to, but I’m not ready to tell her just yet. I can’t talk about it.
I don’t dance. I sit in the corner by myself, with random intervals of chats with my many cousins. Al and Jenny leave quite early, but I’m warned by Mum to at least stay for an hour or else it will look bad. I don’t know who it’s supposed to look bad for, but I presume it’s her and her campaign.
Tom is still here, I noticed when I first came back in the door. He’s been standing at the bar talking to some Ministry officials for a while, and talking to pretty girls too. He had a girlfriend at the Hogwarts memorial ceremony. I think I remember he said that. Perhaps they broke up.
It’s one of those situations where you’re looking at somebody who knows you’re looking at them. Every time he looks my way, I blush and look away, or pretend I was looking at something behind him. I don’t know why I keep looking at him. However, he isn’t quite as subtle about things as I am. When we finally make eye contact, he nods and makes his way over towards me.
He sits down next to me, placing a glass of wine in front of me.
“Drink up, you look bored,” he tells me. I don’t say anything, but do as I’m told. It seems like the more I drink, the more uncomfortable I get around him and the less I want to look at him. “So where did you disappear off to?” The seventieth person to ask me that question.
“Nowhere important,” I mumble, swirling the wine around in the glass.
“Nothing. Why do you ask?”
“Because,” he frowns, “You won’t look at me, you look as if somebody just killed your entire family and you won’t stop swirling that glass.”
My emotions get the better of me and I’m suddenly extremely pissed off. “It’s really none of your business,” I snap. “What is with you and trying to get me to open up? I’m not going to confide in you!”
He looks mildly surprised by my outburst, but not too surprised. We had some fairly heated arguments while we were working on the custody battle.
I feel like I might cry.
“I’m going home,” I jump up immediately, stumbling slightly. Tom grabs hold of me to steady me, but I shrug him off quickly. I don’t want him touching me. It feels too...strange. Just strange.
“And how exactly are you getting home?”
“You can’t apparate, you’ve been drinking,” he points out.
“Yes, thank you Mr Lawyer.”
I’m not at all surprised when he follows me outside and the whole way down Diagon Alley, as far as Gringotts.
“Why are you following me?” I yell.
“Do you want me to stop following you?”
I feel uncomfortable again. I don’t know how to answer the question. Although I’m shouting at him for following me, I don’t want him to leave me. And although I tell him not to touch me, I don’t want him not to touch me either.
“You shouldn’t bother,” I tell him, “really. I’m not worth the trouble.”
He raises his eyebrows, and even I’m shocked by this outburst. It’s like I’ve just confirmed that there was indeed flirting going on between us, however twisted it might have been.
“I think you might just be,” he says and starts walking closer to me. I don’t back away this time, and I don’t look away either.
“You have a girlfriend,” I say pathetically.
“No I don’t. Haven’t had for a while.”
He takes hold of my hand, and I feel like I could collapse. What is wrong with me? When did this come about? Since when did anyone make me feel like this who wasn’t Scorpius?
At first I think he’s going to kiss me, but he doesn’t. Instead he pulls me into a gentle hug and rests his head on my shoulder. My nose is touching his neck; he smells sweet and fresh.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper, “I’m sorry I’ve been such a bitch.”
He half-laughs and says nothing, but goes on holding me, for how long, I’m not sure.
And honestly, at this moment I’m not sure if I could pick Scorpius out of a line-up.
A/N: *bullet proof vest on* I know. It's never been this long before. I wouldn't be surprised if I had no readers left. I can't believe how much the Delicate series has grown in the last few months (a recommendation in TIME magazine??), it's a lot of pressure and so overwhelming. I really don't know what to say! Life has been very busy with college, I had finals and everything, and I am now a graduate!
Anyway, I hope you liked the chapter! I've had it planned for a while, I'm not sure if you guys like Tom or not? Personally I really like him. But what's next??? I hope to have the next chapter up MUCH sooner, and thank you to all who've stuck with me! I admire your patience!! xx