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Still Delicate by padfoot4ever
Chapter 31 : Double Negative
 
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A/N: This chapter is a bit filler-like, just to let you all know so there's no complaints! It's necessary to move the story along, I assure you! 




Chapter 31 - Double Negative

 “Go on, tell us everything,” Gladys insists, while filing her nails. I’ve just come into work; I haven’t even put my coat up on the hanger yet. Hazel and Linda become very attentive. As usual, all hospital work is forgotten. You know, it’s probably a good thing we’re not Healers or something. Nobody would ever get treated. Gossip comes before saving lives.

“There’s nothing much to tell,” I shrug, sitting down into my chair. I don’t know why I bother trying to be coy. I know I’m going to end up telling them every little detail about my date with Tom last night.

“Where did you go?” Linda asks.

“Rizzo’s,” I reply.

“Oh, what did you have?” Hazel asks.

“The parmesan chicken.”

“Did he pay?” Gladys asks.

“Yes.”

“How is he in bed?” Linda presses.

“I really wouldn’t know.”

“I’ve lost interest in this story,” says Gladys, and turns back to her work.

They’ve all lost interest, which I’m quite relieved about. I’m not really one for keeping secrets once people start asking me questions. Not that there are any secrets to be kept.

In truth, my date with Tom was very normal. It was my first real proper date with someone who wasn’t Scorpius, and even then my dates with him were never normal. They always ended with an argument, or with a long discussion about ‘us’. But last night was completely Scorpius-free and therefore drama-free; it was normal.

The ladies turn their conversation onto more important things, like who won the lotto last night and how short the evenings are getting. I, on the other hand, choose not to participate in the conversation and check my diary for what I have to do this week. Tonight I have to have dinner with Mum and Dad, while tomorrow night we’re having a get together for Al and Jenny, because they’re moving to Scotland next week. It’s also a sort of welcome home from rehab for James.

The get together is also a going away party for Scorpius and Daisy, but I’m choosing to ignore that bit.

In truth, the thought of Al and Jenny moving away makes me want to throw up, so I’ve tried really hard not to think about it. Jenny is the one sane person in my life who I can tell anything to and who will actually listen. I mean, I love Dom to bits and everything, but the girl is an awful listener, and basically as mentally messed up as I am.

As I sit, once again day dreaming and not doing any work, Healer Kennedy approaches the desk. The ladies don’t get quite as excited about it anymore, as he does it quite a bit since I joined the Potions class. In fact, he checks in almost weekly to see how I’m progressing.

“Morning Rose, ladies,” he nods at the girls.

“Morning Damien,” I reply. “Busy day?”

“As always,” he shrugs. “I’ve just come to offer you an internship as a Potioneer, if you’re interested. A spot has just opened up.”

He says it as if it’s not a massively huge deal. As if this isn’t a life changing opportunity he’s dangling before me. As if he’s not offering me a job that not only pays more than what I’m doing now, but is actually something I want to do. He says it like he’s offering me a cup of tea.

“Are...are you serious?” I stutter. “I mean, really? Me?”

“You’ve done the best in the class,” he tells me. “The internship lasts a year, and then you’ll do some more exams before you can become a fully fledged Potioneer. What do you think?”

“When do I start?!”

He says he’ll owl me all of the details, and that I’m starting Monday.

And just like that, I have a boyfriend and a real job.

I’m a grown up!

I did not see this coming.

“Oh Rose!” Linda cries happily when Damien has gone. “Congratulations, I knew you’d do well!”

“We’ll miss you here, lady,” Gladys adds sadly.

“You were always too smart for this job,” Hazel says. “Well done!”

After work, I head to Mum and Dad’s, still in blissful shock at the whole situation. Good things like this never happen for me. I can’t think of what I could have done to deserve it.

When I arrive at Mum and Dad’s, the house is in complete chaos. There are packed boxes everywhere; they’re moving into the Minister’s official residence for Mum’s term. I’m not sure what they’re going to do with the house, but it’s so strange to see my childhood home being packed up.

“Hi Rosie!” Dad greets me happily. He’s packing lots of our pictures that were once hanging on the walls into a large box. Mum’s doing likewise with the good china; Dad’s using magic, but Mum is doing it the old fashioned Muggle way.

They were looking after Aidan today, and he is sitting in the middle of a lot of bubble wrap looking very content indeed bursting it. When I swoop down to give him a kiss, he takes absolutely no notice.

“Wow, you’re really making progress,” I observe, looking around at the empty living room.

“I truly think packing is the most hateful pastime ever,” Mum sighs. I don’t want to be cheeky and point out that packing’s not a pastime. But, you know, it’s not. Well, maybe it is for her. Her other ‘pastimes’ include fixing broken vases by hand, and painting house elf figurines. Just some of the many quirks my mother has expertly hidden from the rest of the magical world.

When I deliver the news about my new job, Dad insists on breaking out a bottle of champagne, while Mum squeals happily for about twenty minutes, completely abandoning her packing.

“Does that mean we can buy a mansion?” Aidan asks innocently. “Because that’d be cool.”

“We’ll see in a few years,” I tell him.

“Dad and Daisy are going to live in a mansion when they go to America,” he says happily, “and they say I can visit!”

Mum and Dad look at each other uncomfortably. The subject of Scorpius moving away has been a highly touchy one for basically everyone but me and Aidan. Dad and Dom had similar reactions when they found out; they both wanted Scorpius’s head on a platter. Mum was upset too that Aidan’s father wouldn’t be nearby, which was basically Jenny’s reaction too.

Aidan, on the other hand, doesn't really grasp how far away America is and is just very excited about going to visit Scorpius in another country. Scorpius has promised to visit every week; I doubt this will pan out, but we’ll see.

After we eat dinner among the many boxes in the dining room, Dad takes me aside to talk in private. At first I think he’s going to say something to me about Scorpius.

“Rosie, your mum and I have been talking, and we were wondering if you’d like to move in here,” he says quietly, as if it’s a secret or something. “I mean, we’ll need somebody to look after the house until her term is up. And...that flat is just too small...”

I don’t know why people are delivering excellent news to me today like it’s a bloody death sentence. They’re asking me things as if they’re asking huge favours of me. Let’s see, do I want to move out of my shoebox of a flat into my parents’ five bedroomed, ridiculously warm and cosy house? Do I want a job that I’ve been working towards all year?

“Absolutely!” I cry.

Well, if I must.

This, except for the day Aidan was born, is the best day ever. When Aidan and I get home, we start packing.

*

The next night our get together is in Dom’s flat, which is an extremely random location. We never go to Dom’s. In fact, Dom’s is a mysterious place that none of us generally want to venture into. Aidan’s not allowed there until he’s over seventeen, that’s for sure. She is possibly the worst hostess in the world. She doesn't offer anybody a drink, it’s generally a ‘bring your own toilet roll’ sort of deal, and we never end up sleeping in a bed if we’re staying over.

Basically, at a party in hell, Satan would be a much better host.

Dom’s already drunk when I arrive. And crying. Drunk and crying. Brian isn’t here either, so it’s up to me to comfort her.

“I can’t believe Jenny’s moving away!” she sobs to me in her bedroom. “And our Al! We were best friends since we were babies, you, me and Al! Now he’s gone!”

“He’s going to Scotland, Dom,” I say. “Not India. We can literally apparate there in two seconds.”

“But it’s not the same!” she cries. “How are you not more upset?”

“Because it’s Scotland!”

“Scorpius is going to America,” she snaps. “Why aren’t you more upset about that? You should be in pieces and you’re just fine with it. He’s the father of your child!”

“Yes, I’m aware of that,” I say dryly.

“You were so in love with him a few months ago! Now you’ve just moved on to some lawyer bloke? I don’t buy it, Rose!”

“Keep your voice down!” I hiss. “You really are the worst drunk ever.”

As Dom starts mumbling on and on about how life is changing so much, James interrupts and asks if everything is alright. I take this as my cue to get out of dodge, and leave him to cheer her up.

“Cheer up Domsky, you’ve still got me!” I hear him chirp happily. It’s so nice to have the old James back.

James turned up to the party with Laura. Nobody commented on this. Nobody really knows what James and Laura are, and nobody really cares to ask. Friends, or lovers, or enemies, or just two people equally messed up that have some sort of understanding with each other. I’m not sure there’s a label for what they are.

I rejoin the party in the living room, and immediately wish I’d stayed with Dom. It’s the most random array of people; although we were all great friends once, it’s nothing short of uncomfortable now.

Al and Jenny are cuddled together, oblivious to everyone else around them. Lily has brought Lysander Scamander with her to the party, and he is chatting to Laura, who looks about ready to kill him. Daisy and Scorpius are here, and they are as strange as ever with each other; Daisy is talking to Molly, while Scorpius is chatting with Hugo. Victoire and Teddy are such an old married couple now that they didn’t make it at all. And Fred is here, but not Roxie.

Here they are, my family. I can’t help but wonder when Al and Jenny leave, and Scorpius and Daisy move away, how often I’ll actually see these people.

“Rose! Heard you had a date the other night with that man from the Ministry party,” Molly drawls. “How did that go?”

I’m very aware of how quiet the room has gone, and how everybody is now staring at me, waiting for my response.

“Oh, fine. So, I got the internship in St Mungo’s,” I change the subject quickly, and may I say, expertly.

Everybody is interested in the new changes in my life. It’s nice that I’m moving on with everybody else, because if I weren’t and they were all just leaving me, I think I’d be just depressed. It’s nice that I’m not the family member they all have to feel sorry for anymore.

Scorpius makes no attempt to talk to me, or to congratulate me all evening. Daisy, on the other hand, is full of chats.

“Rose, congratulations, it’s so wonderful you got that internship!” she says happily. I can tell it’s a false sort of happy. We’re in the kitchen, just the two of us, so I can tell there’s more to this conversation than just congratulations.

“Thanks Daisy,” I say politely. “And congratulations on your new job.”

She looks around her shiftily, double checking there is nobody listening.

“Thank you,” she says, with a lot of emphasis. “Thanks for letting him go, I mean. If you weren’t alright with him moving, I know he wouldn’t have come. So...thanks.”

It’s so strange that I am the one to save Scorpius’s marriage. After all we’ve been through, it’s odd to think that this is how it all will end. And yet, I feel empty when I think about it. I feel nothing.

“No need to thank me,” I shrug. “I’m sure you two will have a great life in America.”

I’m not sure how much I believe that. And maybe it’s because I don’t believe that that I am able to let him go.

Almost as soon as Daisy goes back to rejoin the group in the living room (James has managed to get the sobbing Dom out of her room), Jenny comes into the kitchen, her eyes ablaze. She’s been eavesdropping – nothing new there.

“I can’t believe she said that!” Jenny whispers to me. “As if you let Scorpius go – he’s bloody leaving you and his son!”

“Actually...” I say guiltily. I haven’t told anyone this bit. “I told him to go. He asked me to ask him to stay...and I told him to go.”

Jenny looks even more shocked by this. “But why?!”

“Because we’ll both be happier that way,” I tell her.

“Doubtful,” she snorts. “Haven’t you noticed how miserable he’s looked all night?”

“He’ll get over it,” I shrug, but Jenny continues to look upset. “Jen, I need to let him go.”

“Letting him go is one thing,” she says. “Telling him to go is something completely different.”

I don’t really know how to respond to that.

* * * * * *

Two weeks later, I am living in Mum and Dad’s house, working as an intern Potioneer, and have had six dates with Tom. Scorpius and Daisy are in America; Al and Jenny are in Scotland. Aidan has started back at school...oh, and Dom and Brian have split up.

To be honest, I’m surprised they lasted this long. Dom isn’t one for relationships, and while drunk at the party for Al and Jenny, she called Brian and told him it was over. They haven’t been in touch since; I never got the full story, and I’m not sure I want it. When I spoke to Brian, he called it ‘irreconcilable differences’. I’m sure I will eventually get the story from Dom. I always do.

Scorpius has either sent a letter or called every day, each time addressing Aidan. He has very little to say to me. He didn’t even say goodbye to me, not really. It was more of a “see you around” sort of thing. He’s planning on seeing Aidan next week. Note Aidan, not me. Which I am absolutely fine with, because my relationship with Tom is developing quite nicely.

“Mum, how far away is America?” Aidan asks me one day after school.

“Really far,” I tell him. “It’s all the way across the sea.”

“But Ireland’s all the way across the sea and it’s really near,” he points out.

“Yes, but there’s another sea between Ireland and America and it’s much bigger. So we have to cross two seas,” I try to explain.

“How many miles?”

“I don’t know. Lots.”

“No but how many?

“A million,” I respond.

“Wow,” he gasps. “Cool. Could I fly there on a broom?”

“No, you could fly on an airplane,” I say.

“Uncle James says they’re dangerous,” Aidan tells me.

Uncle James says airplanes are dangerous, yet gives the child fireworks for his fifth birthday. Yes, Uncle James has perspective for sure.

“You shouldn’t listen to everything Uncle James tells you.”

“Is Tom coming over tonight?”

Strangely enough, Aidan has taken a liking to Tom. Considering his initial hatred of Brian, I’m quite surprised that Aidan likes the man I actually am going out with. I think even he has given up any hope of me and Scorpius getting back together. Smart boy, my son.

“Yes, he is,” I tell him. “And you’re sleeping over at Remus’s remember?”

Aidan is excited about this, as am I, I must admit. Tom and I will have the house to ourselves for the first time. We will be completely alone. And I’m slightly terrified.

I’ve only ever slept with Scorpius, and each time it was spontaneous. I have no idea how to go about bringing up the topic, or how to move things on to that stage, or even if I’m ready to move on to that stage. Because he’s a few years older than me, I’m kind of leaving it to him to take the lead. I mean, I’m sure he’s been with much more people than I have. I just assume that when he sees we have the house to ourselves, he’ll be expecting us to sleep together.

Tom comes over at eight, after I’ve dropped Aidan at Teddy’s. It’s nice not to be ashamed of where I live anymore. Mum and Dad’s house is so big, and so nicely decorated, that I can actually be proud to say I live here. On the other hand, taking a bloke into the house you learned to walk in with the intention of sleeping with him is a bit unsettling.

“Evening,” he greets me with a kiss on the cheek. It’s weird that after only a couple of weeks of dating, it feels like we’ve been together for ages. We’re so comfortable around each other now. I can pretty much say anything to him, and he actually listens. I was sure men like him didn’t exist. Dom is now sure that men like him don’t exist. Oh, I got the full story of the Dom and Brian break up, but I’ll get to that.

Tom seems so relaxed; I’m not a bit relaxed. I’m just wondering if he’s thinking as much as I am about what might or might not happen tonight.

“Are you alright?” he asks. He looks nice tonight. He’s wearing jeans and a red shirt. I like the colour red on him, but it does clash with my hair. Which is fine, I know, because I’m not the one wearing it. My mind is wandering again...

“Fine!” I say brightly, which is really weird, because I’m rarely bright. “Glass of wine?”

“If you’re having one,” he responds, still looking at me suspiciously.

I bustle around the kitchen, practically shaking with nerves, as he takes of his jacket and starts telling me about his day. Why was I never this nervous with Scorpius? Maybe it was because we’re the same age, and I knew his experience was basically at the same level as my own. Tom is a mature man of the world. What if I’m completely crap in bed?

“Rose, are you even listening?”

“Um...yes,” I say. “Of course! You won your case today.”

I won’t lie. It was a shot in the dark.

“You weren’t listening, but I love you for guessing the positive outcome,” he laughs.

Oh it’s awkward.

It’s so so awkward.

There’s just a silence.

Maybe I’ll pretend I wasn’t listening just then either. That might work.

I slowly turn around and start pouring out the wine.

“So we’re just going to leave that hanging in the air, yeah?” Tom asks.

I still don’t respond. You know, because that makes it much less awkward.

“Okay then,” Tom says awkwardly. “Maybe I should just go...”

“No!” I snap. “Don’t...don’t go. I mean...you know, we can just forget you said that, I know you didn’t mean to.”

“I rarely say things I don’t mean,” he responds calmly.

Seriously. What the hell?

How can he just throw ‘I love you’ out like that and then say he means it? Why isn’t he playing any stupid mind tricks? Could he really be...normal?

Although normal people don’t say ‘I love you’ that soon.

“So you mean it then?” I ask.

“I do. And I know it’s a bit soon to say it but...yeah. I love you. And I know you’re going to do your Rose thing and be weird for a while, but that’s okay. I’ve been preparing for it.”

“I don’t do a weird Rose thing!” I protest, even though I definitely do. He says ‘I love you’ and I decide I’ve gone temporarily deaf. It’s obviously weird. When he dumps me after this incident, he’s just going to refer to me as ‘that weird girl I used to go out with’.

I can’t say it back yet though, can I? It’s only a few months ago I was saying those words to Scorpius, to say them now to someone else would seem insincere. Except that I don’t feel like I can’t say them either, because in all honesty, I don’t not love Tom either.

“I don’t not love you,” I tell him.

Nice one, Rose. Real romantic. A double negative will really satisfy him.

But he laughs, thankfully. He loves my cold heartedness and my inability to feel things. And that’s why I don’t not love him.

“Okay, I don’t not love you too,” he responds, and wraps his arms around my waist. I don’t really like to be touched, but it’s nice when he does it. He kisses me.

I wonder how Scorpius would feel if he knew I’d said this to Tom.

I don’t care though. After all, he says it to Daisy all the time, presumably. He doesn't not love her, and I don’t not love Tom, and we don’t love each other, so it’s all perfect. Nobody really loves anybody.

That night Tom and I sleep in my bed; just sleep. And it’s lovely.

Things move quickly after the ridiculous declaration of love, or not not love, between Tom and I. A few weeks later, he basically moves in, without officially doing so. He spends almost every night in my house, and has bonded really well with Aidan. He’s even brought Aidan to a few Quidditch matches. Scorpius has returned to see Aidan a couple of times, and has basically avoided seeing and talking to me in the process, given that he only returns to see him when Aidan is staying with Draco and Astoria every second weekend.

I’ve met Tom’s parents too, who are very lovely people. His father is a very kind and polite man, who opens the door for ladies, and stands up when I enter a room. Think Draco Malfoy...and then think of everything he’s not, and that is who Mr Fox is. Mrs Fox is a very glamorous lady who sends bucket loads of food home with me every time I’m in their house. They are literally the perfect parents-in-law to have. Not that I’m suggesting they will ever be my in-laws, but I’m just saying they’re kind of the in-laws you can only dream of having.

Tom gets on so well with my parents too. Obviously he knows Mum having worked under her at the Ministry, but he gets on well with Dad too. They talk about Quidditch, and that’s about it, and Dad’s happy with that.

The only person who hasn’t really taken a liking to him is James, who I think will be forever on Team Scorpius. I suppose, playing with the Chudley Cannons, he’s used to being on the losing team.

One month after our love declaration, we finally sleep together. First we share our history; he’s slept with three women. I’ve obviously only slept with one man. He’s been in love once before, with his Hogwarts girlfriend. I tell him I was in love with Scorpius. He says he figured as much.

It’s so different to being with Scorpius. I try not to compare it, but I suppose it’s only natural to compare. It’s neither good nor bad different. I enjoy it no more or no less than with Scorpius. And afterwards, when we lie in my bed chatting, I wish I could get the comparisons out of my head. Tom is not Scorpius. Scorpius is not Tom. They have nothing to do with one another.

*

Another two weeks later, there’s some awful Muggle film on the television, which the two of us watch in bed together. It’s about some woman who gets engaged to some bloke, decides she loves his brother instead, and leaves the bloke at the altar.

“That’s an awful dress,” I comment. She’s wearing a very puffy number, with lots of frills.

“Well, it’s an awful film,” Tom responds. “I mean, come on, she was never going to end up with the first bloke. Look at his hair.”

“I know. You’d think he’d have done something to it for the wedding. Not that you can talk,” I add. Tom’s hair will be eternally messy, not unlike James’s.

“Don’t worry, I’ll at least brush it for our wedding.”

I freeze. I know he was joking, but I’m still freaking out. Who says that after a few months of dating? Scorpius Malfoy, that’s who. Except he’s serious about it and goes and gets married in Las Vegas. I am not Scorpius Malfoy!

“Um, I’m going to get a glass of water,” I tell him, and give him a quick kiss before throwing on my dressing gown and heading downstairs. I have no intention of getting a glass of water. Instead, I apparate to Al and Jenny’s new house just outside Hogsmeade.

I rap on the door for a solid ten minutes before Al answers the door in his boxer shorts and a t-shirt. I’ve woken him up. I don’t care.

“Hey cuz, the missus in?” I ask, sauntering past him.

“Rose, it’s past midnight. I have work in the morning,” he grumbles.

“Won’t be a moment, Al. Would love a cuppa though, there’s a good lad,” I say hurriedly, and rush into their bedroom. Jenny is fast asleep, but awakens when I hop into bed beside her and shake her.

“R-Rose?” she asks groggily. “What’s the matter?”

“Tom said he wants to marry me,” I paraphrase. I’m blowing what he said out of proportion, but that’s just what I do.

Jenny sits up, now very interested. “He said that? Isn’t it a bit soon?”

“A bit?” I exclaim. “I only met the chap six months ago!”

“Did he give you a ring?” she asks.

I pause. “Well, no. I mean, he wasn’t exactly proposing...”

Jenny raises an eyebrow. “Rose, what exactly did he say?”

“We were watching some stupid film, and this couple were getting married and the groom had really bad hair. And I commented on it, and he said something like ‘I’ll brush my hair when we get married’! Crazy or what?”

Jenny looks at me blankly. “You really apparated the whole way up here in the middle of the night to freak out about that? Rose, he was obviously joking! You know Tom, he’s a joker!”

I hate that all of my family now ‘know’ Tom. They think they know him better than I do.

“What if he wasn’t joking?” I press.

“He was joking!” she snaps. “Unless you don’t want him to be joking...”

“I’d rather he just didn’t joke about anything like that!”

Jenny keeps giving me this sceptical look. Realising just how stupid I’ve been, I go back home and make my excuses to Tom. I think he bought it when I said I thought I saw a unicorn in the garden. The film is over by the time I return.

“She got with the brother, surprise surprise,” Tom tells me.

“Did he brush his hair for the wedding?”

“Yeah, but he had great hair anyway,” Tom responds.

“Good. And just so you know, you’ll cut your hair for our wedding, that’s for sure.”

He laughs. He gets I’m joking. He doesn't travel the whole way to Scotland to freak out. Perhaps some of his normality will someday wear off on me.




A/N: I rewrote this chapter SO many times! Not sure I like it, but it's necessary. I like the next chapter much better. I can confirm there will be 35 chapters, so four to go! Hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and thank you so much for your ongoing support and reviews!!! I really do love the feedback! :) Next update will be quick, I promise! x


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