Chapter 11 : Natural Disaster
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I woke up early on Sunday morning with a heavy sense of dread in my heart. Apart from the fact that I'd managed to leave my bedroom window open and ice was forming on the tip of my nose, I was remarkably uncomfortable. Tossing and turning for about ten minutes, I finally decided to crawl out of bed. I was confronted with my calendar and the giant red circle surrounding today's date.
Today was Teddy and Victoire's leaving party. This was it, they were finally going. I should have expected it would creep up on me eventually, but for some reason I couldn't take my eyes off the calendar; I felt more shocked than I should have.
Should I have been relieved that Teddy was leaving for a place where my humiliation couldn't follow, or weeping and sobbing into my pygmy puff pillow and bemoaning my future life as a nun? Once he left, the only potential man in my life was Scorpius and I was not ready to accept that. And then there was the fact that I still hadn't told Teddy that I loved him more than my own brother (though that didn't really say much, thinking about it). If there was ever a time to tell him, now was it. I could unload all of my issues onto him and he'd stick them in his pocket and take them with him to France where they wouldn't bother me anymore. It seemed like the perfect solution, except I really couldn't see any way in hell that I'd ever tell him. I'd rather cut off my own arm than admit such a weakness. It was too cringe.
Molly interrupted my thoughts, wandering into my room with a plate of toast and a cup of tea.
"Good morning, grumpy," she sang, plopping herself down on my bed. I dragged my eyes off the calendar and turned to scowl at her.
"You're so charming," I huffed, sitting down next to her and helping myself to a slice of toast. "Did you sleep well?"
"Not really," she said with a shrug. "I had that dream again that Jake is chasing after me with a giant marshmallow."
"I'm sure that symbolises a deep fear of obesity, you know," I mused.
"Something like that." We both munched on our respective slices of toast, then found ourselves staring at my calendar. "So, today's the big day," she announced unnecessarily.
"You make it sound like I'm getting married." I pinched the cup of tea from her and sipped, not really caring that it was too hot to drink comfortably. If I burnt my lips, maybe I would save money on lipstick.
"Well, it is a bit like that," Molly conceded. "You've got to say "I love you" at least once and then resign yourself to never having sex with anyone else."
"I haven't had sex with Teddy."
Molly handed me another slice of toast. "But it's not like you're sleeping with anyone else at the moment, is it? You're fighting them off for no reason at all, really."
"I'm not fighting them off!" I denied. "It's not like men throw themselves at me, is it?"
I gulped down more hot tea, trying to mask my blushing face. Molly eyed me as I failed in being subtle, though I couldn't really tell if she was staring at the mug (which had a close-up of Scorpius' face on it) or not.
"Well, maybe they would if you didn't have "not interested" stamped all over your face." I glared at her. "I'm not being critical; I just want to help you."
"Right," I said, trying not to sound hurt. "Well, I obviously didn't put Scorpius off."
Molly raised her eyebrows but wisely chose to keep quiet. We finished the toast and she went off to get dressed. I found myself staring at the calendar again, trying desperately to work out what I was supposed to do. I didn't think for one moment that telling Teddy that I was a little obsessed with him would do any good; I wasn't expecting him to leave Victoire and shack up with me. I felt like this was my last chance to admit that I liked him; if I never told him, I would never know what he felt about me, even if it was nothing. Then I could let him go off to France without expecting things to suddenly change.
Sighing, I wearily looked through my wardrobe for something inoffensive. It was hard to make an effort for a party without looking like you'd tried a tiny bit to look nice. It wasn't as if I could just roll out of bed and rock up in my sheep-pattern pyjamas, as much as I really wanted to.
By the time Molly and I were ready to leave at lunchtime, I was a bit of a nervous wreck. I fiddled with my clothes so much that eventually Molly threw a biscuit at me and told me to stop it. As we apparated to Aunt Fleur's house, I resolved to keep my mouth shut for the rest of the day; it was the only way I'd leave with my dignity intact.
Molly rang the doorbell whilst I hung back behind her. She was humming a tune under her breath and it was really starting to irritate me. I crossed my arms over my chest and tried not to look like a grumpy goblin.
The door flew open and Victoire smiled down at us, a smarmy grin on her face. "Hi Molly! Come on in!" I tried not to scowl at her over the top smiling face; there was something so offensive about a happy person when you yourself weren't extremely joyous. Her eyes scanned my dress and eventually found my goblin-face. "Hello Rose."
I mustered a smile and nodded, trying to escape her painful presence as soon as possible. I have no idea why she'd taken against me; admittedly we'd never really got on, but that was mostly because she was an annoying, insufferable, future husband-stealing cow. It wasn't my fault at all.
Inside, lanterns had been strung from the ceiling, casting flickering shadows around the living room and dining room. Plates of iced buns floated slowly between all of my family members, who were already enjoying their refilling glasses. Pink "Good luck" confetti crunched beneath my heels as Molly and I bravely waded through a ridiculous number of cousins, aunts and uncles. We found Albus, who was sitting at the edge of the fireplace (which was hidden by pale pink satin) looking revolted by the whole thing.
"This is disgusting," Molly said cheerfully as we rescued him.
"I'm bloody glad they're leaving," he muttered, poking some stray confetti with his finger. "I can't bear any more of Fleur's sickly parties."
I saw Lily carrying a tray of pink champagne over and deftly pinched two from her, one of which I handed to Molly. "Yeah," I agreed, sipping at my glass. "But free drinks."
Molly tutted, eyeing me warily as I continued to drink. "Behave, Miss Weasley," she warned.
I rolled my eyes. "YOU behave, Miss Weasley. They want us to drink; family is unbearable without it."
"Speaking of unbearable," Albus interjected. "Is it true you're going out with Scorpius?"
I spluttered into my drink. "Who told you that? I mean, no, of course I'm not."
Albus raised his eyebrows, glancing at Molly. "James said you two went to a Valentine's Day thing."
I tried not to brandish my now-empty glass at him. "I didn't know it was for Valentine's Day," I grumbled through gritted teeth. "My boss gave me free tickets."
"Right," Albus said, lengthening the word so much that I thought he might just burst into song. "So these pictures are completely innocent, then?" He held up a polaroid just out of my reach.
I paled, watching as Scorpius' photographic-self wrestled me to the ground. I made to snatch the photograph out of Albus' hand, but he just held his hand higher. "Give me that," I snapped.
Molly laughed as I attempted to take back my dignity. "Not as innocent as we appear, are we Rosie?"
"I am innocent," I snapped. "He was just doing my hair." I whipped my wand out and pointed it at the photo. "Now give me that before I destroy it."
Albus grinned. "I'd like to see you try." He adjusted his glasses, which had slipped down his nose. I did try, and discovered that no matter what spell I used, the photograph remained intact.
"What did you bloody to do it?" I harrumphed. "Turn it into a horcrux?"
"Not exactly," Albus said slyly. I decided not to question him further, seeing as he held my (indestructible) reputation in his hands. I was busy plotting how to get it off him when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I threw a brief warning glare at Albus and turned around.
"Rosie, can I borrow you a moment?" Mum looked irritated.
I followed her into the kitchen, where I was pleased to discover that my glass had refilled. "What?"
"There's a bit of a situation," she began, wringing her hands together. "Angelina promised me she'd bake a cake for today, but she forgot and now we don't have a cake."
"Cake," I repeated, slightly incredulous. Since when was it traditional to give a cake to a leaving couple?
"Yes, we need a cake. You couldn't just whip one up now, could you? I'd do it myself, only..." She drifted off, looking at her wine glass apologetically. Great, so my mother was too intoxicated to bake a cake, and she expected me, the infamous chef of the family (not), to whip one out of thin air. Fan-fucking-tastic.
For whatever reason, I found myself agreeing to do as she asked. She disappeared off with an apologetic smile and a full glass.
I looked around the tidy kitchen and my eyes fell on a tray of baking ingredients. Sighing I set to work, hoping I could do most of the work with my wand and thus prevent any major damage.
I turned to the kitchen door to see Teddy walk in with an empty plate. My hands shook, making my wand point at the cake mixture, which decided to leap out of the bowl and onto my neck.
"Crap," I muttered, my cheeks red as I rushed to the sink to wash off the mess.
I could have cried quite easily then. I was stupidly nervous around him, probably not helped by the drink and the fact that I'd been dreading today for days/years. I bit my lip as I dabbed at my neck with a cloth, hoping that he wouldn't notice my unfortunate wet t-shirt situation.
"Here," he said gently, taking his own wand out and forcing me to turn and face him. I resolutely fixed my gaze on anything but him as he charmed my shirt clean and dry.
"Thanks," I mumbled, feeling my ears eat up. I wondered if wrapping my head in ice cubes would help the situation at all. He only smiled, and I felt like I needed to fill the silence with anything that would prevent me from saying something I would later regret. "I'm making a cake."
"So I see," he said, smiling more as he looked at my pathetic effort.
Oh, Teddy. I'd gobble him up over cake any day. I wished he wasn't so sweet or so kind or so nice to me. He probably didn't even realise what a great guy he was, and let's face it, there weren't that many of them around.
"Um," I managed. "Are you all packed and ready to go?"
"I think so," he said after considering it. "I still can't believe we're leaving in two days," he added thoughtfully. "I sort of want to pack up my life here and take it with me, but that's not going to happen."
I was probably just imagining it, but in my head he almost sounded sad. It was probably tough to leave all your friends behind and waltz off to another country with your psycho girlfriend.
"You'll come back though, won't you?" I asked, trying to keep the desperation out of my voice. The truth was, I couldn't imagine my life without him in it, whether it was just because he was the only reason I had ever looked forward to family gatherings. I had grown up looking up to him, spending time with him. For him not to be there really made me realised how grown up we all were.
"Of course I'll come back! We'll definitely be here for Christmas," he said contentedly, looking quite fine whilst inside my heart was banging away in a panicky manner. Christmas? That was ten months away. My eyes almost went teary at the thought.
"Christmas," I repeated somewhat sadly.
"You can come and visit, you know," he added. "Get some time off work and I'll teach you what French I've learned."
I stared at him hopefully, forcing myself to laugh nonchalantly. "I'd like that." He'd remembered that I wanted to learn French, meaning that he thought about me all the time and loved me forever and ever, naturally. I almost shook my head as I started imagining a white wedding, topped off with a speech about our shared love of languages.
Teddy flicked his dark hair from his face and turned to my cake. "How about I help you with this?"
I nodded. "Thanks. I'm really rubbish at baking."
As he helped me salvage the mess I'd made of the cake, I wondered if at that moment my face was covered in "Not Interested" stamps. What Molly had said that morning worried me more than I'd first let on; yes, I didn't want him to know that I was interested, but maybe that meant he wouldn't be interested. What I really needed was a stamp that said "I am interested, but only if you're interested because I fear rejection but actually have loved you for years". It's a shame those sort of stamps weren't readily available.
The kitchen door banged open and I looked up to see Hugo barging in. I stepped away from Teddy hastily, not wanting to give my brother the wrong idea.
"What are you doing?" he asked in a sing-song voice, looking bloody menacing. He knew he'd caught me, and he knew he had all the blackmail material. I gave him a look, but he didn't seem to care that I was threatening him with life-long hatred, loathing and detestation.
"Making a cake," I said as innocently as I could. Hugo smiled knowingly, looking pointedly between Teddy and me. I glared at him. "Shut up," I hissed.
Teddy looked at me curiously, then looked at Hugo.
"Do you make cakes with all the boys?" He raised his eyebrows suggestively.
"No," I said through gritted teeth.
My cheeks were growing more and more red by the second.
"Have you made cakes with Scorpius?"
He was going to get a slap in a minute. "Hugo, shut up. No, I haven't."
"That's not what I've heard," Hugo said smugly, chucking another polaroid at me. I snatched it from the air before Teddy could see it. I bloody hated having journalists in my family; nothing remained private for long.
Happy that he'd ruined my life, Hugo stalked off, leaving me clutching the picture to my chest with a head the colour of tomatoes.
"What's that?" Teddy asked, look at my clasped hands. "What's Hugo talking about?"
"Nothing," I squeaked, pressing my hands closer to my body.
"Rose," he warned. "Show me."
I was another step closer to bursting into ugly and childish tears. "No."
"Are you... 'making cakes' with Scorpius?" He looked me in the eye, but I couldn't face him for fear of him laughing at me.
"No," I said quietly. "It's not that sort of picture."
He sighed. "Then why won't you show me?"
I narrowed my eyes, finally looking at him. "Because you'll just get the wrong impression, like everyone else did," I huffed. "Nothing's going on between Scorpius and me, we're just friends. Not that it's anybody else's business."
He seemed shocked by my outburst and I mentally berated myself. He probably thought I was a complete nutcase.
"Sorry," he said after a pause. "I didn't mean to pry. It's just... you know. It's Scorpius."
I sighed, pocketing the photograph and turning back to the cake. "Well, it's not as if I have many other options, is it? And he's not as bad as everyone thinks."
Teddy helped me pour the mixture into a cake tin and we stuck it in the oven. "You should never settle for second best, Rosie."
I closed my eyes briefly, hanging onto the oven door longer than I should have. He made it so bloody difficult to remain normal, as etiquette required, when I wanted to leap into his arms and demand that he love me.
"What if the best is already taken?" I muttered bitterly.
I didn't really mean for him to hear me, but at the same time, I didn't know why I didn't just keep my big fat mouth shut. He looked at me oddly for a moment, a confused look on his face.
"Rose-" I really didn't need any more questions, so I ducked under his arm and left.
I wondered where I could hide; I didn't know Aunt Fleur's house nearly as well as I needed to for hide and (no) seek. Molly would probably have offered to help me hide for the rest of the day, but then she'd expect me to tell her everything and I couldn't do that without admitting I was a hopeless case with no future but in a convent with fifty cats and ten owls. I wasn't ready to accept that, not yet.
I settled for sitting outside on the freezing cold doorstep and drinking as much champagne as I could. Sometimes I wondered if my own company was better than other people anyway; I didn't need them, I had champagne!
Albus found me about an hour later, bringing my coat out and wrapping it around my shoulders. "It's not that bad, Rose."
"It is," I said, draining my glass. "I'm going to be alone forever, or worse, do what everyone expects and end up with Scorpius. I can't decide which is worse."
Albus shook his head, wrapping his arm around me and hugging me. "You're not going to end up alone. Don't be ridiculous." I sniffled pathetically. "We're going to have some cake now, if you want to come inside?"
"Okay," I said with a sigh. I wasn't feeling very chirpy, but cake was cake.
Back inside, nobody seemed to have noticed my absence except for Molly, who looked from my glass back to my face, and Teddy, who glanced at me and looked away hurriedly. Albus fetched me some cake, which someone had laced with pink icing (presumably not Teddy), and we sat in a corner and scoffed away.
I knew it was inevitable that I would have to say goodbye at some point, but as everyone started to leave, I began to get edgy again. I would have slipped away long before now if Albus wasn't keeping such a close watch on me (who did he think he was - Scorpius?).
Victoire and Teddy waited by the door as everyone queued up to say their goodbyes. The waiting just made it even worse, as I tried to think of something romantically neutral to say. I didn't want him to leave, but I couldn't tell him that. I wanted to have his babies, but I definitely couldn't tell him that... How could I tell him how much he meant to me in a few words?
Molly nudged me in the back as I reached them. I kissed Victoire on the cheek, wished her a half-hearted good luck and moved on. I looked up at Teddy sheepishly, who looked equally unsure of himself.
"Good luck," I said eventually. "It's going to be quiet around here without you."
It seemed right to hug him then, so I walked into his arms and hoped to Merlin that he'd never let me go. He was so warm and for a moment I forgot that I'd made a massive idiot of myself and his girlfriend hated me and that he was about to leave for a strange country. If I clung to him now, maybe he wouldn't have to go.
"Goodbye, Rosie," he said into my hair. "You're the best."
As soon as we stepped back, Molly whisked me out of the house, holding my hand firmly.
"Come on," she said softly, squeezing me. She was taking on her big sister role again, and I let her. "Let's go and have a cup of tea and biscuit."
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