Chapter 30 : The Contenders
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I’m sitting in the waiting room of the Potions Abuse Rehabilitation Centre. It smells like St Mungo’s, of disinfectant and gloom, although granted it is quite a bit more comfortable. I’m sitting on a squishy peach coloured couch, flicking through a two month old copy of Witch Weekly, waiting for the nurse to call me. There is a lady in her early forties, I’m guessing, sitting across from me and she keeps eyeing me curiously. She knows who I am. I know that look; I’ve gotten it for basically my entire life.
“Miss Weasley, you can come now,” a young nurse says softly to me, like I’m dying. They all talk in soft, calming tones here. I find it creepy and unsettling. I’m used to shouting and arguing in basically every aspect of my life.
James has a room to himself. It’s very bright, with cream walls and a yellow bedspread and lamps everywhere. It’s creepy too, like everything in this place. James is sitting on a chair by the window, his feet resting up on the coffee table, reading a book.
At the sight of him, I burst into tears, and am completely mortified by my actions.
It’s not that he looks bad. He doesn't, he looks fantastic. He has put on all of the weight he lost over the last few months, his hair is slightly tidier and he has finally shaved. He looks positively frightened by my reaction to him. He looks exactly like his old self, but he’s not his old self.
He’s reading a book.
It’s like the thought of Molly having sex; it’s sick and wrong and disturbing.
“Jesus, Red,” James says, amused. “Do I really look that bad?”
I cheer up now that he’s called me Red again. I really hadn’t realised just how much I missed him. I’m finding it hard to get words out.
He puts down his book, folds his arms and stares at me. “You can sit down, you know.”
I sit down on his yellow bed and wipe away my tears. He’s definitely going to use this against me in the future.
“How are you?” I ask him gently.
“Fuck off,” he replies bluntly.
“Every person I’ve come into contact with for the last few weeks have been talking to me like I’m terminally sick; the therapist, the healers, my parents...I feel like a fucking four year old. Even Laura’s being nice which is really weird. I’m fine. I was an idiot and I deserve a good bollocking for it, but nobody seems to want to yell at me,” James vents, getting up and pacing around the room. “They’re all about ‘healing through love’ here and it’s such a load of crap! I was depending on you to give out to me Red, it’s what you’re best at! You’re a real disappointment.”
Suppressed anger starts bubbling inside me, but I don’t want to let it out yet. He’s still fragile. I don’t know how far I can go.
“I don’t want to give out, James. I’m just glad you’re doing well.”
James looks a bit frightened now. He looks how I felt when I saw him reading a book. This place does strange things to people, apparently.
“You don’t want to give out,” he says flatly. “Really. Even though I lied to all of you for months? Even though I was a complete prat to everyone we know? Even though I missed your son’s birthday, I wasn’t there for Al when Jenny miscarried, I was Scorpius’s Best Man –”
“FINE!” I snap. “You were an absolute and utter IDIOT! What were you thinking? You could have been kicked off the Quidditch team, it’s a miracle you haven’t been! What you did was reckless and stupid and illegal – are you ever going to grow up?”
“See that’s what I’m talking about –”
“Potion abuse! You know how dangerous it is!” I can’t stop myself. I knew this would happen. “And getting involved with Laura Phelps again? Have you got any brain at all in that ridiculously large head of yours? Why is it that when you two get together, one of you ends up nearly killing yourself with Potions?”
“I know, I –”
“And don’t get me started on Al and Jenny! They have done nothing but support you through all of your crap and you couldn’t pull your head out of your arse for ONE DAY to help them through their tough time! He is your brother, James!”
“I know and I’m sorry –”
“Sorry!” I laugh manically. “Oh, well that’s alright then. You’re sorry. Sorry makes everything better! You could have died, James!”
“But I didn’t!”
“But what if you had? What if you’d died? What would I do? You’re the best one! But you’re a fucking idiot!”
James breaks into a grin. I haven’t seen that grin in so long, so I get up from the bed and hug him.
“You think I’m the best one?” he says pompously when we finish hugging.
“Shut up,” I respond, realising just how big a mistake it is to compliment James in any way.
“I’m better than Golden Boy Al? And Dom?”
“You’re the only one who doesn't judge me.”
He laughs and sits back down in the chair at the window. Even though this place is creepy and weird and alienating, I can’t get over the good it has done him. He has colour in his cheeks and the mischievous sparkle in his eye that got lost somewhere in his addiction. He looks better.
“They say I can go home on Friday,” James tells me.
“That’s brilliant,” I say sincerely.
“So you better warn me what to expect,” he continues. “No offence, Red, but you don’t look great. What’s been happening?”
I look away from him and wonder where to begin. I’m unsure how much I can tell him without sounding completely self absorbed.
“Come on. I know you want to talk about Scorpius. Tell me,” James coerces.
And so I begin. I tell him how Scorpius and Daisy are going through a rough patch that stems all the way back to when Aidan had his allergic reaction to the peanuts Daisy accidentally gave him. I tell him of the night Daisy and I went stalking and found out he had met a girl in a pub. I tell him how Daisy temporarily left Scorpius and how I did my best to ignore him the whole way through Mum’s victory party, which was three days ago. And finally I tell him of my conversation with Scorpius this morning...
Scorpius stopped by my flat this morning to look after Aidan while I went out. Aidan was more interested in playing with Ollie, as he hadn’t seen her in quite a while. I leave her with Teddy and Victoire most days, who are happy to have her and where she has space to run around and play with other animals. This was the first time we had her home in nearly two weeks. And obviously pets trump parents in the mind of a six-year-old, so Aidan barely even noticed Scorpius was there.
While Aidan played with Ollie in the living room, Scorpius and I talked in the kitchen. I could tell it would be one of ‘those talks’, one of the talks that would inevitably end in us arguing or kissing or both.
“Daisy’s back,” he started with. “She was in America. For work.”
“Right,” I replied. “So?”
“She had an interview,” he went on. “There’s this company that designs Quidditch brooms specifically in Las Vegas. It’s where we were back in December –”
“When you got married?” I asked, viciously.
“Yeah. They’ve been headhunting her for a while now. They want her to move there.”
“Well yes, it would be a rather long commute,” I responded, trying to avoid what Scorpius was actually trying to tell me.
He put his hands in his pockets and looked down at the floor, and I instantly wished I’d swept it before he came. “She wants to go. She wants us both to go.”
I folded my arms and stared at him blankly. “You’re moving to America.”
“The company said they could sort something out with Aidan, organise weekly Transatlantic Portkeys, whatever we want. And when he’s older, he could come out to us and visit.” He looked up from the floor at me, his eyes firmly focused on me, looking for my reaction. I didn’t show one.
“So you’re going then. You’ve decided.”
He looked torn and supremely unhappy. “Tell me not to. Tell me not to go and I won’t.”
“Don’t put this on me,” I told him quietly, so Aidan wouldn’t hear. “If you want to go then do.”
“Do you want me to?”
I wanted to say yes. I wanted to tell him to leave with his wife, to go and live in the place they got married in, to un-complicate my life by leaving it completely. I wanted to say that.
“I have to go,” I told him. “I’m going to see James. I’ll talk to you later.”
James’s mouth has dropped open by my revelation. I’m glad that my problems make him forget his own, but still I’d rather this crap happened to somebody else. And I haven’t even told him where this all gets really complicated.
“So what are you going to tell him?” James asks. “You can’t just let him ride off into the sunset on some cow!”
Oh James, I’ve missed you.
“I haven’t told you everything,” I admit, which causes him to raise his eyebrows. “I’m kind of going out with someone...”
I wish he wouldn’t look so shocked by this. Is it really that unbelievable?
“You’re going out with someone? Who?!”
And so I tell him the story of Tom. I remind him that Tom was my solicitor, that there has been minor flirtations, that we kissed the night of Mum’s victory party, and what happened just after...
There are gardens at the side of the Ministry of Magic. They have all sorts of strange plants, plants I know I learned the name of in Herbology, but it’s been so long since I learned Herbology that I don’t remember their names. Officially, the gardens are there to look pretty and for workers to enjoy and to lift their morale. Unofficially, they are where everybody in the Ministry goes to smoke.
They are also where people go to get some privacy at formal gatherings.
After our kiss on the night of Mum’s party, Tom led me out to the gardens, which thankfully were empty. We sat at a small table in the corner, right beside a willow tree.
“You just kissed me,” I frowned once we were settled.
“You’re observant. That’s why I like you.”
“Could you not be such a smart arse?” I snapped. “Is that allowed?”
“You kissing me!”
“Of course!” he laughed, but suddenly became very serious. “Wait, you’re over seventeen right? Because you have to tell me if you’re not...”
“Oh shut up. What I mean is, are you allowed to kiss your clients?”
“You’re not my client,” he pointed out. “And I never really looked into whether I’m allowed or not. Never stopped me before...” He coughed uncomfortably when I glared at him. “Um, anyway, yes, I’m allowed to kiss you.”
I considered this for a moment. Really, even if he had said no, we aren’t allowed to kiss, I’m not sure that would have stopped me. In fact, knowing me, it would probably have spurred me on. I tend to only kiss those who are completely off limits and unavailable.
“But...since when did you want to kiss me?” I knew I was pushing my luck. I had a very good-looking man wanting to kiss me and all I could do was question his motives.
“Since the first day you came into my office and told me to stop boycotting hairbrushes,” he shrugged.
“You clearly haven’t taken my advice,” I shot back. I have a serious problem with insulting people as soon as they start being nice to me. But in my defence, his hair was still messy.
“So what do you reckon?” he said, sitting back in his chair and folding his arms. “Do you want to give it a go?”
“Give what a go?”
“Do you want to go out with me?”
I thought about it for a moment. I thought of Scorpius, and how much time I’ve wasted on him for the past seven years, roughly. I thought about the fact that I’m twenty-three with a six year old and there aren’t going to be that many men queuing up to go out with me, especially because I’m such a sarcastic bitch and not particularly good looking. There are very few men in this world who have seen me at my very worst and still want to go out with me. Actually, I thought there might only be one – at least one unmarried one – and he was sitting right in front of me, waiting for my response.
“Alright then. When?”
“When do you want me to go out with you?”
He looked nervous, as if he hadn’t thought that far yet. Maybe he was just generally asking me to ‘go out’ with him, rather than actually go on a planned date.
“How’s next Friday night?”
“So I have a date with Tom now on Friday, and I have Scorpius telling me to tell him not to go to America...”
“And I thought I had problems,” James sighs.
“I would quite honestly trade places with you. I wouldn’t mind a bit of a break in rehab,” I admit.
James jumps up from his seat and rustles through one of his drawers. He pulls out some parchment and a quill, and sits back down and starts scribbling. “Right, we need to make a list. A New Guy versus Malfoy list. We need to meet the contenders.”
“His name is Tom.”
He writes ‘Malfoy’ on one side of the page and ‘New Guy’ on the other.
“Since when are you into lists?” I ask.
“Since I went to rehab and have nothing to do all day,” he responds. “Right: one good thing about Malfoy.”
I think for a minute. It can’t be a good sign that I cannot immediately think of anything good about Scorpius. There is no good left.
“He’s Aidan’s dad,” I say. James scribbles this down.
“And New Guy?”
“He’s mature,” I say confidently. Although it’s probably not strictly true, he’s definitely more mature than Scorpius.
“Now, one bad thing about Malfoy...other than the fact he’s a Malfoy,” James quips.
“He has a wife, he got married without consulting me, he’s an idiot, he’s immature, he’s a liar, he’s inconsiderate, he’s walked over me too many times to count –”
“Slow down I can’t write that fast!”
“He’s unreliable, he tried to take Aidan away from me, he cheated on me with a slutty Hufflepuff six years ago, he asked Dom out after sleeping with me –”
“Not that you hold a grudge or anything,” James says. “Now bad things about New Guy! Well first of all, he’s got the same first name as Voldemort. That’s never a good sign...”
I try to think of something bad about Tom, but I can’t. I suppose I don’t know him well enough to know bad things about him. Everything that I initially perceived as bad about him has turned into things that make my heart beat faster. It’s annoying, but I’m sure it can’t be perceived as bad that I actually like him.
“I can’t think of any...I suppose that means my choice is made then.”
James looks disappointed and uncomfortable with this decision. I knew he would take Scorpius’s side in this.
“I know you’ll probably hit me for suggesting this, but can I offer a few words in Malfoy’s defence?”
I do want to hit him, but I manage to restrain myself. I don’t say anything, so he takes this as a ‘yes’.
“Right, well, I was there through the initial stages of Scorpius and Daisy’s relationship,” he starts. “She is the definition of the rebound girl.”
“Shut up, Red, let me finish. I’m not saying he doesn't like her, or even love her, but he was on the rebound when he met her. He became friends with her just after you turned down his proposal. She was his boss, but she was clearly into him from day one,” James tells me. “I know this because I kept trying it on with her at Quidditch after-parties, but she was having none of it. I thought she might be a lesbian at first.”
“Are you really that big headed?”
James stares at me blankly. “Did you really need to ask that?”
No, I suppose I didn’t.
“Anyway, they were friends for about two years after that and he wasn’t really into her at all. He’d talk about you to her the whole time and she’d listen and offer advice and stuff. He couldn’t really talk to me or Al about it, because we’re your cousins and all. Then around this time last year he asked her out, because it was looking fairly bleak between you and him; it was never going to happen.”
I feel sick listening to this. I know James isn’t trying to make me feel bad, but it’s as if Scorpius’s marriage was my fault to begin with.
Maybe it was. Maybe I’ve put myself through this.
“And so Daisy thought he was over you. Well, I’m pretty sure she knew he wasn’t, but she pretended he was over you. And then around November he told me they’d talked about getting married.”
“What?!” I exclaim. “They talked about it? After only a few months? I thought it was a drunken decision made on a spur of the moment!”
“No, there was no drink involved. Anyway, I told him he was fucking mental to even consider getting married at all, never mind to someone who wasn’t you,” James continues. “So he dropped it, didn’t bring it up again...until we went away just before Christmas.”
“To Las Vegas,” I mumble angrily.
“Yeah. After a few days away from you I think Malfoy’s head went a bit funny. He got all confident he was over you because he’d gone without seeing you for a week and didn’t miss you. So he asked Daisy to marry him – had to talk her into it a bit – and then they did a few days later. In a little registry office. And they were happy, until they came back to England. Red, he hasn’t been happy with Daisy since December. Not since they came home to reality.”
I don’t know what to do with all of this information. I don’t know what James expects me to say, or how this has anything to do with the decision I have to make. It doesn't excuse all of the shit Scorpius has pulled over the last few months. It doesn't change anything.
“I...just thought you should get the full story,” James sighs. “I don’t know that you ever got it before...”
“No,” I whisper, “I didn’t.”
I walk home from the rehab centre, considering the situation.
Tom or Scorpius.
I’ve always hated those girls who complain about being torn between two guys. I find it hard to get one bloke interested, so why should anyone complain about having two? Stuff like this shouldn’t happen to me. I’ll either get greedy and want both, or angry and want neither. I was so looking forward to my date with Tom, and now I feel sick thinking about it.
My mind is made up by the time I arrive home. Scorpius and Aidan are watching the TV. They both have their arm rested on opposite ends of the couch, with their heads on their hands and I can’t help but wonder if Aidan is just a tiny clone of Scorpius that was created by some crazy scientist and placed in my womb for nine months. I both love and hate that he looks so like him.
“Hi boys,” I greet them when I come in.
“Hi Mum,” Aidan replies lazily. “We played Quidditch.”
“Oh, who won?”
“Me,” Aidan tells me proudly.
“Boy’s a natural,” Scorpius decides.
“Dad says I’m better than Uncle James.”
“Uncle James is coming home from his holiday soon,” I tell Aidan, and Scorpius looks at me curiously. “He should be home by the weekend. Why don’t you make him a Welcome Home card?”
“Yeah!” Aidan jumps up from the couch excitedly and then runs to his room to get his arts and crafts kit. I take this small opportunity to talk to Scorpius.
“So James is really getting out?”
“Go to America,” I tell him. I have to say it quickly, or I won’t say it at all. He frowns at me, but I continue talking before he can say anything. “You were happy there, you and Daisy. You haven’t been happy here. Go to America, be with your wife.”
“But I can stay here with you, if you want –”
“But I don’t want you to,” I say, and my heart might have just broken a bit. “I’m seeing somebody. So...go to America. Daisy wants to be with you. I don’t.”
Aidan runs back into the living room with orange card and ink, talking excitedly about seeing James soon, completely oblivious to the fact that his parents have ended any semblance of a relationship between them, any chance of a reconciliation, convicting him to a broken home.
A/N: I bet you all want to throw stuff at me after that last scene. BUT James is back! And he's better! And he'll hopefully get funnier! And 8200 REVIEWS?? *spasm* I love you all so much. And I know I always say that but I MEAN IT! LOVE LOVE LOVE! I hope you liked this chapter, Rose's story is going to be wrapped up soon! But there is still plenty more to come on all of the Weasleys, so stay tuned :)
P.S: Notice how the 'Cow' jokes are making a comeback?! And notice my awesomeamazingbrilliant banner by PhoenixAlthor? Worship it. I command you.
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