Chapter 16 : That's Amore
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I nibbled on a biscuit thoughtfully, considering my reflection in the mirror. I had two hours until Scorpius was going to drop by to take me out to dinner, and I faced a dilemma; to make an effort or not to make an effort. Obviously it wasn’t my aim to go out looking like a troll, but at the same time I couldn’t afford to give Scorpius the wrong impression; too much lipstick now could mean a clingy guy later down the line.
My options were limited; I didn’t have so little self-respect that I’d forgo wearing nice clothes or at least some make-up in favour of making myself look as bad as possible. Au natural wasn’t a particularly good look for me and it wasn’t polite to scare off someone who was paying for your dinner. It had to be appropriate.
“It won’t improve if you just stare at it,” Molly said scathingly as she watched me prod at my cheek fat. “Why are you so bothered, anyway?”
I sighed, turning to face her. “I don’t know what impression I want to give him,” I explained heavily. “He reads far too much into everything as it is.”
Molly rolled her eyes. “I think you’re the one who’s reading too much into it. Have you considered he might like your company more than what you look like?”
I could easily have taken that as an insult on my appearance, but I knew what Molly was getting at. “Even if he does, that doesn’t mean I have to let people see what you see. They’re not as tough as you are.”
She rolled her eyes again, and I rolled my eyes in response. We looked like a pair of washing machines. “You know, I think he might actually like you for who you are,” she said slowly, making each word clear and obvious. “Just relax, would you?”
She was right, of course; I was putting too much pressure on myself for absolutely no reason. Scorpius wasn’t nearly as judgmental as I was, he probably wasn’t going to ditch me because I’d forgone the lipstick. I mentally slapped myself, trying to start thinking a bit more sensibly. It was just dinner, it wasn’t marriage.
“I got a letter from Roxanne earlier,” I said as a means of distraction. “She was trying to apologise.”
Molly squinted at me, looking curious. “Ooh,” she said. “Let’s have a read, then.”
I gestured to a rumpled piece of parchment on my dresser, which she retrieved and examined, poking her ‘morning’ glasses further up her nose so she could read. Her eyes scanned the letter quickly, her eyebrows rising higher as she read on.
“No hard feelings?” Molly read aloud indignantly. “She’s always been a bitch, why should we believe anything’s changed now?”
“I suppose she hasn’t got anything to lord over us now,” I said thoughtfully, joining Molly on my bed. We tucked our feet under the covers. “She probably wants me to keep her news to myself. I doubt she wants the whole family to hear she got chucked out of Law School. I bet she’s embarrassed.”
Molly grinned evilly. “Of course she’s embarrassed, she’s a complete numpty. But we could work this to our advantage.”
I shook my head, turning to look at her sly expression. “You’re plotting something illegal, I can just tell.” I shifted away from her to the other side of the bed. “I don’t want anything to do with it, Molly. I’m a law-abiding citizen and that’s how I want it to stay.”
Another eye roll. “What are you talking about? I’m not perfect, I can’t help it if I forget that it’s a secret she’s failed her course. I’m only human.” Oh, my cousin was a wicked, wicked woman, but I loved her for it.
“As much as I’d like to cause trouble for Roxanne, she’ll know it’s me who told her secret. No, I think we need to keep it quiet; but for a price.”
Molly laughed. “Now we’re talking; what did you have in mind?”
“I’m not sure,” I conceded hesitantly. “Maybe I’ll just ask her to be nice to me for once and that’ll be enough. I might not dread family stuff so much if I knew she was going to be civil.”
Molly snorted. “Come on, it’s not that big a secret.”
I shrugged. “You never know. She thought it was worth working in a bookshop in order to stop everyone from finding out. I think she’s really ashamed.”
“I think she’s realised she hasn’t got a shiny career lined up and she needs some money until she decides what to do next,” Molly said shrewdly. “Just you wait – as soon as things start to look up she’ll return to her old self.”
Part of me did actually feel sorry for Roxanne; I’m sure she felt the pressures of having a large family as keenly as I did. She probably felt she had to maintain a successful stature in order to get everyone’s approval. It was no wonder, really; every time I saw any of my family they always wanted to know how things were going. I usually ended up telling some wild story about my road to success, never ready to admit that nothing at all had changed in the last year that I could be proud of. Maybe Roxanne had never actually applied to Law School and this was just her way of tying up the loose ends of the lie. It was all a bit ridiculous.
“Do you ever wish we didn’t have so many relatives?” I mused, picking a piece of stray cotton from my duvet.
Molly looked pensive. “I don’t think so,” she said eventually. “I mean, they can be bloody annoying at times, but it means more Christmas presents, doesn’t it?”
I knew she was only joking, but I sort of saw what she was getting at. No matter how much Hugo irked me, I couldn’t deny that I’d never choose to be an only child over having him in my life. There seemed something so sad and lonely about not having any relatives, especially none your own age. I thought of Scorpius, friendless and lacking in family; even if I didn’t have many school friends left, at least I’d always have family and I’d never truly be a loner. “Yeah,” I agreed. “They’re sort of permanent distant friends. It’s quite nice.”
Molly nodded vigourously, some of her red hair flying in my face; I brushed it away impatiently. Molly was my best friend; I wondered if we’d ever have become friends if we weren’t thrown together from such a young age. Though, thinking about it, we could have met over the biscuits at Hogwarts and found kindred spirits in each other.
I sighed, throwing the covers back. “Right,” I said decisively. “Let’s do this.”
When Scorpius rang the doorbell, I was actually ready, something unheard of for me. As Molly always reminded me, I was definitely a late person. I left Molly to tidy up the clothes I’d discarded and dashed to the front door.
“Good evening,” he said pompously, offering me a bouquet of daffodils. I grinned, taking the flowers from him and giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. After dunking the flowers in a vase, we left.
“Where are we going?” I asked curiously as we strolled up the street. I shivered, sticking my hands inside my coat pocket to keep myself warm. Scorpius’s orange face caught my eye and I turned to see if he’d suddenly fake-tanned himself, but it was only the glow from the street lights. I forced myself to remember that I was exaggerating his weirdness far too much.
“Just somewhere small,” he said mysteriously, waving his hands in a strange pattern. He was probably trying to imitate a Muggle magician, but he merely gave the impression he was trying to dry nail varnish by waggling his fingers. I smiled, trying to suppress a laugh. “Are you mocking me?” he asked indignantly.
“Oh no,” I said, watching as he continued to dance up the street in a rather camp fashion. “I could never mock you.”
I couldn’t contain my laughter when he started to twirl himself around in circles, holding up an imaginary skirt. He was such a weirdo, but it was bloody entertaining. “Would you care to dance?” he asked, waiting for me to catch up and offering me his hand.
I snorted, shaking my head. “Not like that, I wouldn’t,” I scoffed. “But don’t let me stop you.”
He brushed off my scorn, taking my hand and attempting to twirl me up the street. I didn’t really appreciate the gesture, stumbling over my feet as he practically dragged me towards our destination.
“Hey,” I said suddenly, looking up the street. “I know where you’re taking me.”
Scorpius stopped dancing, glaring at me. “No you don’t!” he insisted, taking my hand again. “It’s has to be a surprise.”
“Right,” I said, rolling my eyes but deciding to play along. “A surprise.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what game he was trying to play; he was lucky there was no one around, or else I’d have put a stop to his dancing straightaway. It felt a little strange to be dancing around, completely sober, in the middle of March and pretending I didn’t know where he was taking me. It would almost be romantic, except that I was me and he was Scorpius and together we looked like the most unromantic couple ever to grace the Earth.
When we finally arrived, Scorpius pranced in front of the door, proffering me jazz hands. I looked as shocked as I could, given the situation, and tried as hard as possible not to look like a goldfish.
“What a lovely surprise,” I said lamely, eyeing the large sign that read “Jesús’s” doubtfully.
Scorpius bowed, and the door swung open on its own. I raised an eyebrow, walking nervously into the bar.
Admittedly I had graced this bar many a time with Molly, but I almost didn’t recognise it. It was fairly dark, with fairy lights strung from the ceiling to offer minimal light (probably a good thing, given the customers). It reminded me of a stage production, where everything was over-exaggerated in order to be more obvious for the audience. As I caught sight of Jesús, I noticed he’d even gone over the top with make-up, going too orange for the occasion. I wouldn’t be surprised if when he smiled, his teeth glowed in the dark.
“Scorpius…” I mumbled, not really quite sure what was happening.
“Happy birthday, Rose,” he said happily, leading me to a lone table in the middle of the bar, where two candles were flickering.
I sat, slightly dazed by the whole thing. “It’s not my birthday,” I informed him slowly, looking around at the twinkling lights.
“I know that,” Scorpius said, flattening his hair to his scalp as he joined me at our table. “But he doesn’t.” He jabbed his thumb in the direction of Jesús. “It was the only thing I could say to convince him to shut the bar for us.”
My eyebrows were almost falling off my face from too much emotion. This was genuinely sweet; I really didn’t know how to react.
“Thank you,” I said quietly, snapping my eyes back to him. “This is really nice.”
He beamed, grinning from ear to ear. I grinned along with him, his good mood completely infectious. I was starting to feel genuinely cheerful, which I didn’t feel that often; there was far too much to moan about usually.
Jesús was being abnormally quiet; I dearly hoped Scorpius hadn’t asked him to do a private dance for us later, as that would probably spoil the mood forever. He brought over a menu, which I deliberated over hiding behind, just so that I could compose myself before talking to Scorpius. It wouldn’t do to start blubbing at this point in the evening. He’d probably write me off as a complete nutter and refuse to pay for my food and then I’d have to wash up for Jesús for a week as payment.
When I lowered my menu, Scorpius looked up; he was still grinning, somewhat maniacally, but at least he hadn’t run out of the restaurant yet.
“Stop leering at me,” I scolded softly. He dropped his grin. “It looks odd.”
“Sorry,” he said quickly, trying to arrange his face so that he stopped grinning. He twisted his mouth into a crooked frown and squished his eyes closed. “Is that better?”
“A bit,” I conceded half-heartedly. I supposed I was actually quite grateful there was no one else in the bar with us; it meant there were far fewer witnesses to my cringing.
We scanned our menus in silence, until Scorpius coughed pointedly. “So,” he said. “Have you and Molly patched things up?”
I nodded, smiling. “Yeah. She and Lorcan really like each other, as it happens.”
“That’s good,” he said happily. He coughed again. “And what about the new bloke in your shop – do you really like him?”
“Matthew?” I asked, frowning slightly. I hoped he wasn’t going to get jealous over him; he was too young for me. “He seems very nice so far.”
“Nice,” Scorpius repeated, sounding relieved. I neglected to tell him that I was the one who’d interviewed him; the small details were unimportant. I could imagine him as someone prone to clinginess anyway, and I wanted to avoid getting to a point where he had to follow me around again, hiding in bushes just so that he could check up on me. Shaking my head, I tried to push such thoughts away; I was way overthinking things. This was technically only our first ‘date’, it wasn’t marriage or anything. I needed to snap out of it.
When Jesús wandered over to take our order, he was whistling ‘That’s Amore’ under his breath, which I found irritating for two reasons: firstly, it was not ‘amore’ and secondly he was not Italian but Spanish. He should have picked something more appropriate to sing to lull me into a false sense of actually being in Spain. I was not ready for a night in Italy just yet, thank you very much. When in Rome… oh, well, you got the drift.
Jesús tangoed away, kicking his legs about in a silly fashion. Sometimes, in comparison to some people, Scorpius seemed positively normal. At least he hadn’t decided to wear a flamenco dress or anything, that would have been too much for one girl to handle.
“I spoke to my father today,” Scorpius blurted out as I started to admire the flowers on the table. “He likes you.”
I raised my eyebrows at this. Although I’d never properly met Mr Malfoy, I’d heard some pretty disparaging things about him from my Dad. The idea that he was okay with his only son cavorting about with someone from my family wasn’t entirely believable. “Oh yes? What did you tell him?” I asked sceptically.
“That I really like you,” he admitted, blushing a bit. “He said he was glad I’d found a good friend.”
My eyebrows rose higher. Could it be that the cold-hearted wormy git my Dad had described actually didn’t have a heart made of stone? I should have known not to take anything my Dad said too seriously; he was always trying to put me off things with tall tales. “Your Dad sounds all right,” I conceded. “He and my parents weren’t exactly close at school.”
“Oh, I know,” Scorpius said, leaning forward conspiratorially. “He was a bit of a loser, from what I’ve heard. But don’t tell him I said that…”
“I won’t,” I said immediately, though the likelihood of me ever even talking to Mr Malfoy about that was extremely small. “But I’m glad he likes me.”
“I’ll take you to visit my parents soon,” he said eagerly. “If you’d like that?”
Oh dear, this was all getting too intense for me. First it was dinner, next it was meeting the parents and then it’d be wedding bells, stretch marks and growing old together. My stomach turned; this was far too fast. “Scorpius-” I began, trying to stop him before he went overboard. He seemed to sense my concern.
“It might just stop him worrying so much about me,” he said quickly, looking apologetic. My frown softened and I nodded. “And I’m sure you’d like him.”
Yeah, I could really see us being pals, Mr Malfoy and me; in fact, Scorpius needed to be careful I didn’t ditch him for his father and elope. It could happen…
Suddenly, all the lights went out, giving me time to remove the disgusted face I was pulling at my own mental images. Then, a song reverberated throughout the dark room.
I looked around to where Jesús was inevitably hiding, coming face to face with a flaming octopus. Shrieking, I fell out of my chair in an attempt to get away from the hideous thing, watching in horror as the flames licked at its slimy head. It seemingly floated down onto my plate where it squished into a heap. Jesús was continuing to sing Happy Birthday to me in Spanish, only he’d reached the end of the song and had started to chant in English, “what’s your boyfriend’s first name?”
I almost cried. “What is it?”
“It’s my main course,” Scorpius said sagely, watching the dancing flames with interest. It seemed that Jesús had managed to mix up our order, the great bloody idiot, and had decided that Scorpius’ octopus was the perfect dish to act as a birthday cake.
When the lights flicked back on, Jesús had gone. Scorpius looked down at where I crouched on the floor with amusement. “Aren’t you hungry?” he asked cheerfully.
“Not anymore,” I said, almost gagging at the sight of the bulging purple octopus on my plate. I pushed it towards Scorpius grimly.
I eventually got my main course and picked at it with slightly less fervour than usual. The octopus didn’t seem to have been affected by its fiery journey, if Scorpius’ clean plate was anything to go by. Gross.
"So," Scorpius said conversationally as we got the bill. "Does this make you my girlfriend now?"
I spluttered into my drink. "Erm," I said slowly. I knew this was going to fast, I should have guessed he'd ask soon enough. I hadn't had time to properly decide what I wanted to do; I was unprepared, and I hated that - I couldn't bear being out of control. He looked at me with large eyes and I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. I was being such a bitch, but I still couldn't work out if I was stringing him along or not. "I suppose so."
I felt myself blush as he grinned yet again. "Can I invite my girlfriend back for coffee after dinner?"
I laughed, shaking my head slightly. He was being far too sweet about it, and I seem to have genuinely made him happy; I never set out to make people happy, but I couldn't deny this felt good. Perhaps I was a good person after all, somewhere deep down? "She prefers tea, I think," I retorted gently.
"Tea it is," he said with a wink.
I looked at my watch; if I didn’t come home soon, Molly would assume I’d been kidnapped or something ghastly. "Why don't you come back to mine instead?" I asked with a sudden boldness. "It's only round the corner, after all. It makes more sense."
He took my hand and helped me up from my seat. "Okay," he said chirpily, leading me outside.
As we tottered off up the street, I started to panic. What on Earth was I doing, taking him back to my flat? I hadn’t tidied my room in years; I hadn’t even got much milk left. Apart from the impending issues, I’d actually just agreed to be his girlfriend, and I hadn’t been a girlfriend in years either. I wasn’t a spinster anymore, which had horrible consequences on everything that I wasn’t really sure I was ready for; what about my ambition of becoming a cat lady? Did Scorpius even like cats? Merlin, I was making a massive mistake. I was not emotionally equipped for a relationship.
Maybe Scorpius felt my hand sweating or something, but he squeezed it and tried to comfort me. “Stop worrying. Everything’s going to be fine.”
Yeah, sure, maybe everything would be fine for him, but for me it was all over. When my family heard about this they were going to have a field day.
AN: "Cumpleaños feliz" is Spanish for Happy Birthday. "That's Amore" is a song by Dean Martin. Thank you so much once again to everyone who's left a review, you all make my day :)
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