Chapter 11 : Secrets
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By the end of their Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson that morning, Rose had almost completely forgotten about the encounter with Scorpius at the lake and was feeling thoroughly discouraged. Despite her initial success under the influence of the Elixir to Induce Euphoria, she had not even been able to produce the silvery vapor that Albus managed thirty minutes into the lesson and Natalia only a few minutes later.
When she and Albus joined James and Tyler for lunch, Rose filled her plate, but rather than eat the food, she pushed it around her plate with her fork. After about ten minutes, her meal was reduced to an unappetizing meld of potatoes, beans, and apple slices.
“Hey, Rose,” Tyler said. She glanced up. “Are you okay?”
James and Albus stopped discussing the most recent Quidditch results and looked over at her.
She tossed her fork down onto her plate. “I’m just frustrated,” she said. “We were supposed to be learning the Patronus Charm in class today, and I couldn’t even make vapor.”
“I’ll help you tonight, if you like,” James offered immediately.
“I will, too, if you like,” Tyler added. “Forget vapor, we’ll have you casting a corporeal Patronus in no time.” He grinned. “Without Malfoy slipping something into your tea.”
The mention of Scorpius brought her memories rushing back.
She glanced over her shoulder at the Slytherin table. Scorpius was sitting there with Nott and one of their other friends – Claire something or other. He was laughing at something she had said, and Rose felt a quick stab of unexpected jealousy that she found more than a little disturbing.
Before he could catch her staring at him, she looked away. Albus and Tyler had gone back to talking about Quidditch, but James was staring at her in a way she really didn’t like. When Albus and Tyler got up to leave, James kicked her under the table, and she sighed.
“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” she told Albus. “I just want to finish my apple.”
He shrugged and departed.
“Anything you want to tell me about?” James asked pointedly.
Rose glared at her apple. “I hate you,” she told him.
“No, you don’t. What’s with you and Malfoy?” he asked, refusing to be deterred. “You got all uncomfortable when Tyler mentioned him, and he kept staring at you all through lunch.”
She allowed herself to feel a quick moment of triumph before saying sheepishly, “I kind of gave him a choice.”
“A choice between…” he prompted her when she stopped talking.
“I said that I would turn his hair green next time or kiss him.”
She snuck a look up at James in time to see him roll his eyes. “Oh, Rose. That was nice. Have you even figured out if you like him?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s kind of amusing. Do you really think that was unfair?”
“I take it he said he’d prefer to be kissed, and you did it?” James asked. She nodded, and he shrugged, too. “Hey, you gave him the choice.”
James’s approval was definitely reassuring. “I told him maybe I’d kiss him again. He wasn’t pleased.”
James laughed. “No, I don’t imagine he was. You know, at this point, you really should be thinking about telling Albus something.”
“What’s to tell?” Rose asked. “He was teasing me, I kissed him, he… enjoyed it, and I told him maybe we’d do it again sometime and walked away.”
“Well,” James said after a moment, “I probably wouldn’t present it like that. You know, I don’t get it. He’s a git. Why?”
She frowned. “I don’t really know. He’s kind of amusing, and he’s not bad-looking.” In all honesty, she thought that Scorpius was significantly better than “not bad-looking,” though it had never really had much of an effect before this year. Blonds had never been her type.
“If you say so,” James said skeptically. “I still think he’s a git.”
“I thought you felt bad for him,” Rose said.
“I do. Doesn’t stop me thinking he’s a git.”
Rose rolled her eyes and grabbed her bag off the bench next to her. “I should get to Potions.”
Rose was in a very good mood when she left Potions that afternoon. It was one of her favourite classes, and between the ruckus Tuesday and being in the hospital week the day before, she hadn’t been in class yet that week. An hour and a half in the dungeon was exactly what she’d needed to clear her head.
She’d nearly forgotten that they had Transfiguration with the Slytherins until she walked into the classroom and saw Albus, Scorpius, and Nott sitting together near the windows. She steeled herself and walked past them to the front of the classroom.
James was right. It had gotten different in a hurry.
She slid into the chair and, on impulse, pulled a chocolate frog out. She turned so that she was sure Scorpius could see her face. She pulled the frog out and bit off its head, and closed her eyes as she chewed, savoring it. She looked at the card as she ate the rest.
James Potter. It was another Order of the Phoenix card.
Rose smiled and put it in her bag, making a mental note to give it to James. As Professor Hanley stepped to the front of the class and called it to order, she glanced back at the boys. Scorpius had clearly just looked away from her, and she turned back to the front of the room with a smirk on her face.
If she was going to start noticing the way he looked and feel jealous over stupid things, he’d better be feeling it, too.
When Professor Hanley dismissed them, Rose got to her feet and slung her bag over her shoulder. “Ready for Herbology?” she asked Albus.
He made a face, but followed suit. “I know I got a P on the essay we gave him last class,” he said unhappily. “And I probably deserved a D. It was awful.”
Scorpius snorted as he and Noah followed them to the door. “Al, if your worst work manages a D, I have no hope in hell of passing my O.W.L.”
“You’re not that bad,” Noah said as they exited the room. “You just need to apply yourself.”
“Thanks, Mum.” Noah rolled his eyes, and Scorpius looked over at Rose and Albus. “We should get to Charms. I’ll see you later, Al.” He hesitated, and as Albus and Rose turned away, he said in a strangled sort of voice, “Bye, Rose.”
She waved at them as she and Albus made their way down the hallway. When she looked over at him, he looked completely perplexed. “What was that about?”
Rose didn’t bother to ask what he meant. “No idea,” she said smoothly. “I always told you Malfoy was strange.”
After a minute, Albus shrugged, clearly deciding that the topic wasn’t worth pursuing.
By the time they made it downstairs, it had started to, and by the end of the lesson, it was a steady downpour.
Rose usually didn’t dread Quidditch practice, but she certainly was now.
“This is going to be fun to fly in,” Albus commented as they were packing up at the end of class.
“Yeah, well,” she said distractedly. “I promised James I wouldn’t complain about practice this week.”
“Why’s that?” he asked, sounding curious.
Rose realised what she was referencing just in time and thought fast. “He’s helping me with the Patronus Charm.”
“Oh, that.” Albus gave her a one-armed hug. “You’ll get it, I know you will.” He held out his hand. “Give me your bag. I’ll take it back so it doesn’t get soaked.”
She handed it over. “Thanks, Al.”
“No problem.” They exchanged brief farewells, and Rose made her way down to the pitch alone. Part of her was hoping that Roxanne had forgotten to grab her broom.
She had no such luck. Practice was predictably exhausting. The rain always made it ten times harder, and even a couple hours of it really left Rose craving the warmth of the Gryffindor Common Room.
“I don’t want to go to Dorny’s stupid party,” she muttered to Roxanne as the trudged through the mud. “I’m tired.”
“So don’t,” Roxanne said simply.
Rose considered the option for a minute. On one hand, keeping Dorny happy was always a good thing. On the other hand, she was already behind on her work, and she was cold, and she didn’t want to deal with lots of people.
“I don’t think I will,” she said slowly.
“We’ll tell her you’re sick or something,” James said as they approached the castle.
She knew that she really should go. “Thank you.”
After a quick bath when they got back to Gryffindor tower, she waved to Roxanne and James as they climbed out of the portrait hole and joined Albus in front of the fireplace.
He glanced up from his book. “No party for you?”
Rose shook her head. “I don’t feel like it.”
He snorted in response. Albus had never had any time for Dorny’s parties. “Do you mind talking about something?”
She looked up. He was biting his lip. “Can you clear that up a bit?”
Albus sighed. “Look, Scorpius and I had an interesting conversation while you were at practice.”
Rose managed, with great difficulty, to stop herself from saying, “Well, isn’t that just terrific.” Instead, she gave what she hoped was a bland smile and simply said, “Oh?”
Albus was looking at her very closely. “Apparently, he’s decided he fancies you.”
“Has he?” she asked.
“Yes. He also said that you knew everything he was telling me,” Albus said, giving her a pointed look.
She ran her fingers through her hair and met his gaze. As soon as she had, she wished she hadn’t. “Okay, yes, I do.”
“Look,” Albus said, sighing again, “I just… look, I know you don’t like him. I don’t expect you to. But it seems to me like you’ve been… encouraging him, and I kind of think you’ve been doing it on purpose.” She looked down, feeling guilty. She didn’t see how she could have told him before now, but it rankled that Malfoy had managed it first.
Albus had stopped talking, and she looked back up. He looked very conflicted. “Spit it out,” she told him, feeling horribly vulnerable. This was exactly why she hadn’t talked to him about it. Al might not be judgmental, but he could definitely make you feel ashamed of yourself.
Even when you hadn’t really done anything wrong.
Well. Maybe her definition of ‘anything wrong’ wasn’t really the same as Al’s. She was sure that he would regard plenty of things about her conduct over the past week as ‘wrong.’ Today hadn’t been quite as bad, but she suspected that Albus wouldn’t approve of her ‘make him chase me’ approach, either.
“Rose, you’re my cousin and I love you. I do.”
He stopped, and she unclenched her jaw long enough to say, “But?” This was even more uncomfortable than she’d thought it would be.
“But I think it’s a really rubbish thing to do to play with someone’s feelings like that when you don’t like them,” he said quickly.
“How do you know I don’t?” asked Rose.
Albus stared at her for a moment and then said, “Do you?”
She groaned. She knew this conversation had to happen, but she very much wished it didn’t. “I hate you, Albus. Go away.”
His eyes got wider. “You do?” Rose made a face. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You’re his friend,” she pointed out, her voice a little muffled.
She could see Albus shaking his head out of the corner of her eye. “Well, that makes everything else I was planning to say pointless.” He paused for a minute, and then asked disbelievingly, “Do you really?”
“Yes,” she snapped, feeling the resentment at being forced to admit it build up.
“Since when?” He had clearly been completely thrown by this new information. That was gratifying, at least – she wasn’t the only one who was feeling completely wrong-footed. She shrugged, and he pressed further. “So what, does that mean you’re together?”
“No!” she said, so vehemently that several people looked over.
Albus was looking very confused again. “But you said that you liked him.”
Rose made a disgusted sound. “Yeah, and he’s always insulting me. I have too much self-respect to go out with someone who insults me. And he's a Slytherin.”
It was a mark of how thrown her cousin was by the situation that he didn't bother to argue with her about the relative merits of Slytherin house. Instead, he was shaking his head in amazement. “This is like that old muggle show. The midnight zone.”
“Twilight,” Rose corrected quickly.
He clearly wasn’t listening. “How did you know he was feeling like this?”
“There have been signs. Like when he heard that Alex asked me to go Hogsmeade with him. And… other things,” she said vaguely.
“Like what?” he demanded. “I mean, yes, I noticed his reaction, which was why I stopped the conversation, and why I wasn’t completely shocked today, but what ‘other signs’ are you talking about?”
She didn’t know if she wanted to get into this with him, but she was afraid she’d backed herself into a corner. “Just, you know. Other signs.”
Albus was apparently not in a forgiving mood, because he did not let her off the hook. “Like what?” he asked again, and she could tell he wasn’t going to let up until she told him. She tried to think of more benign examples, but his eyes narrowed as she hesitated. “Don’t make anything up.”
“Like blushing every time I asked him whether he found me attractive.”
“Why were you asking that?” Al’s face was stony.
Rose ran her fingers through her hair. “Okay. So. Here’s the thing.”
“Nothing good ever comes after that,” he said, “but let’s hear it.”
“So, when you were talking to each other, in the corridor that one day… and he was saying he thought I was arrogant…”
“Go on,” Albus said, after she’d trailed off. “I’d really love to hear how you eavesdropped on my private conversation with my friend. I take it he knows? Because he’s not stupid enough to take you at your word?”
She didn’t even feel like she’d done anything really bad by eavesdropping, and she was still feeling terrible about herself. “I was just curious,” she said. “Because he was so nasty to me, and I hadn’t even done anything wrong. And you guys were right there, and then you started talking, and…” she stopped, feeling that she was probably not helping her case.
Rose would have felt better if Albus had started screaming. Instead, he sat back, crossed his arms, and said calmly, “Well, on one hand, I’m a little surprised that he’s apparently gotten more interested in you knowing that, but on the other, I’m really starting to think that the two of you deserve each other.”
This was definitely worse than she thought it would be. “I didn’t mean anything by it,” she said, a little desperately.
“Rose, why should I believe you?” he asked harshly. She shouldn’t have brought up the eavesdropping. She knew he hated being lied to like that. He could usually put up with omissions, and she hadn’t actually lied to him about Malfoy’s hair, but she had convincingly lied to his face about the secret passage.
She swallowed hard, and could feel her eyes welling up with tears. She didn’t much care about fighting with other people, but she hated fighting with her cousins like this. Especially Albus, who really did have a special knack for making you feel ashamed of yourself. “Because it’s the truth!” she snapped. “I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. I was just curious.”
“And you thought that curiosity was a good excuse to lie?” he asked, but she could tell he was trying to calm himself down.
“I just didn’t want you to get mad at me.” She tried to stop herself from crying. She hated crying.
Albus sighed, and put his face in his hands. She took the opportunity to wipe the tears from her eyes. “You didn’t want me to get mad at you. Great.” He looked back up. “Okay. Fine. So nothing has actually happened?” Something clearly occurred to him, and he added, “Does he even know how you feel?”
“He knows,” Rose said, choosing to answer the second question first. Albus gave her a severe look, and she wrinkled her nose. “Well, I wouldn’t say nothing would be precisely correct.”
“Great,” he muttered. Throughout the entire conversation, he face had been getting redder and redder with suppressed frustration. At this point, he reminded her of a tomato.“What would be precisely correct?”
“Well…” she drew out the word, and paused. “I guess we’ve kissed a few times. He started it!” Technically, that was true. Some people might say that there was a world of difference between a kiss on the cheek and what she’d initiated that morning. Most people would probably say that, even. They would all be right. Still, technically, Malfoy had started it.
“Since when?” asked Albus, clearly trying to find his footing again.
“You were in the hospital wing all day yesterday,” he said.
She shrugged. “He visited me.”
Albus was starting to look very irritated again. “He visited you in the hospital wing and decided that it was a good time to—”
“It was only a kiss on the cheek,” Rose said hurriedly.
He looked mollified. “So that’s all there was?”
She swallowed. “No. This morning… well, it wasn’t just a kiss on the cheek.” Her cousin’s eyebrows shot up, and she was suddenly reminded very strongly of his brother, though James rarely looked this severe. “It wasn’t my fault! He decided to come and bother me! And he basically dared me! Anyway, he certainly didn’t mind.” That might be a bit of a loose interpretation, but she thought it got the message across.
Rose was afraid that he would get annoyed again, but he didn’t. Instead, he shook his head and leaned forward. “So… where exactly does that leave you?” he asked.
She shrugged. “He’s your friend, why don’t you track him down and ask him?” Albus looked stung, and she forced herself to calm down. “I’m sorry. And I’m sorry I lied to you. Look, are you really that annoyed?”
Albus sighed. “I don’t know. That you lied to me and that he’s apparently been a lot more interested in you than he ever told me is definitely annoying me, yeah. I’m honest with you guys. Why can’t you be honest with me?”
Rose hated Al’s guilt trips. He was so good at them. “Because you have a talent for making me feel awful about myself even when I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Then why doesn’t it ever stop you from doing it again?” he asked. She didn’t answer, and he shook his head. “No, I guess I’m not that annoyed. Or, I am, but I’ll get over it.”
“Look, I’m not just playing with his feelings or trying to make him feel bad. Okay?” He nodded, and they spent the next hour in awkward before they both decided to call it an early night.
As she crawled into bed, it occurred to her that quite a lot had happened since she’d woken up that morning, and she hoped that the next day wouldn’t bring anything more exciting than Quidditch practice and more schoolwork. Her life had certainly become a lot more interesting, but she needed a day off.
Credit: "The Twilight Zone" was an American tv show created by Rod Serling in the late 50s. Rose's grandparents are big fans and tend to have on old episodes during New Year's.
A/N: Hey! I'm sorry I made you, my lovely readers, wait so long - I've been working on other stories, because I have lots of plot bunnies running around in my head. :P I hope you feel that this was worth the wait.
Thank you all so much for reading, and if you celebrate any end-of-December holidays, I hope that you have a lovely time! See you in 2012!
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