I refused to wake up, not yet. I shut my eyes tight and pretended I couldn’t hear Molly singing outside my door. She obviously cared not for my privacy or personal space, flinging the door open.
“Rooosie – bloody hell!” She interrupted her own singing, thank God.
“What?” I said into my elbow.
“Rose, do not be alarmed - there’s a man in your bed.”
I was too tired to deal with her hysterics, choosing to grunt disinterestedly instead. “So?”
“Rose – he’s naked.” She whispered the last word dramatically; now, this got my attention.
“What?” I sat up slowly, groaning from my stiff back; I’d slept on the floor. I looked over at my bed and saw Scorpius starting to wake up from all the noise we were making. As he sat up, the duvet fell away, leaving very little to the imagination. I shielded my eyes with my hands. “For fuck’s sake, Scorpius, put some clothes on!”
I fumbled my way towards Molly, trying not to look over my shoulder as I left. She guided me outside and shut the door. “What the hell is going on here?” she demanded.
“It isn’t what it looks like,” I said groggily, rubbing my eyes. “Nothing happened.”
“Then why is he in your bed?” Molly asked through gritted teeth.
“He needed somewhere to sleep!” I said indignantly.
“Then give him the sofa!” she exclaimed, holding her head in her hands, as though my stupidity gave her a headache (it probably did, actually). “You’re such a Naïve Nadia. You can’t go letting any old bloke sleep in your bed, he’ll get the wrong idea!”
“I spilled wine on the sofa,” I muttered.
Molly glared, her eyes flashing. “My parents are arriving in half an hour,” she growled. “If he isn’t gone and that sofa isn’t clean by then, you are going to be one very dead cousin. And don’t think we’ve finished talking about this, either,” she added as I reached for the doorknob. Sheesh, she was bloody stressy today.
Scurrying back into my room, I tore the duvet from Scorpius, instantly regretting my decision and throwing it back over him immediately. “Get dressed,” I said, chucking him his clothes. “Molly’s parents are coming over and they think I’m a nun.”
I saw Scorpius roll his eyes as he dressed himself. “Do you have any hair gel?”
“No,” I said testily.
He started buttoning up his shirt. “They don’t actually think you’re a nun, do they?”
I shook my head, searching around for my hairbrush so I could start making myself presentable. I hadn’t remembered to take off last night’s make-up, but after a quick look in the mirror I decided Scorpius probably wouldn’t notice so I’d sort it out after he’d gone. He probably thought I looked this attractive all the time… “No,” I said again. “But they’ve never ruled it out as a possibility. I don’t think the world is quite ready yet for Relationship Rose.” I wasn’t even ready for that version of me.
Scorpius frowned, flattening his hair down with his hands. “You’ll have to tell them one day.”
I sighed. “Can we not think about it too much? Let’s just go with the flow.”
“That sounds good to me.” Scorpius blew a kiss to himself in my mirror, winking at me before showing himself out. I shook my head in disbelief, sagging onto my bed. I was going to end up in right pickle with him if I wasn’t careful and no, that wasn’t a euphemism.
“Stop slacking!” Molly called from the hall. I scowled, throwing on some clean-ish clothes and grabbing my wand. I was going to have to use some of my rarely-practiced domestic spells.
By the time the doorbell rang, I’d actually managed to make myself look presentable and remove the wine stain from the sofa, meaning Molly (nor her family) would neither kill me or be repulsed by me.
I avoided more glaring when she went to answer the door by helpfully going to put the kettle on. I had this theory that whenever the kettle started boiling, Molly secretly and subconsciously started feeling happier, just because it usually meant an excellent cup of tea and numerous biscuits were to follow.
Aunt Audrey’s heavy heels clicked across the kitchen tiles purposefully as she made a beeline for me. “Rose!” she exclaimed delightedly. “Congratulations, petal. Your mother told me about the promotion, good job!”
I blushed, but luckily she couldn’t see my embarrassment because she chose that moment to crush me in a bony embrace (bony on her part, not mine, obviously). “Thank you,” I wheezed.
It was slightly weird to feel good about myself in the vicinity of family members, I had to admit, though I waited warily for the feeling to subside, which it would surely do very soon. “We always knew you were a career bitch deep down! Brains over boys, isn’t that right, Lucy?”
Lucy popped her head around her mother’s side. “Right,” she squeaked, before ducking behind Audrey again. I tried not to laugh; Molly and I always had a good giggle at Lucy’s timidity, which seemed so oddly out of place in our family. We blamed the milkman.
I wasn’t exactly sure when I’d suddenly turned into a “career bitch”, as Audrey put it, but I resented the fact that she thought this meant I’d chosen my job over any potential men. Though, thinking about it, that could mean I was fighting them off with a too busy schedule and intimidating skirt suits instead of the reality (that I had given in to dating my stalker in order to spare his feelings).
“Actually,” Molly said smugly, plopping herself down on the sofa next to Uncle Percy (who was looking affronted at Audrey’s language). “Rose has got herself a fella.”
I glowered at her. There was no way in hell that I was ready to talk about Scorpius yet; it was still far too weird in my own head to be permitted to be said aloud. No, that was my secret.
“Oh really?” Audrey said, sensing a juicy nugget of gossip was about to cross her path. She looked almost greedy, drooling slightly at the corners of her mouth. I wouldn’t be surprised if she started frothing like a rabid dog in her mad desire for hearsay and spreadable rumour. “Anyone we know?”
I said “no” at the same time as Molly said “yes”. Audrey’s head snapped between us. “What I mean,” I interjected quickly before Molly could do more damage. “is that you don’t know him-” I gestured at her and Lucy. “- but Molly and I do. He’s – he’s a work colleague.”
“A work colleague?” Audrey looked very interested in this.
Molly appeared to be put out that I’d started to twist her plan. “His name’s Boris,” she added gleefully.
“No it bloody well isn’t,” I huffed. “It’s – it’s Matthew.”
As if she’d tried to tell everyone I was going out with Boris. She was definitely going to regret this, I would make sure of it. Audrey didn’t appear to notice the silent catfight going on between us; she picked up a couple of mugs and joined the others around the coffee table.
“Molly has a fella too,” I added conversationally as I made my own cup of tea. “He’s a –”
I smirked into my tea, scalding my lips on the freshly boiled water. Aunt Audrey looked bemused by our probably rather childish behaviour, but at least I’d managed to delay the Coming Out, so to speak.
“Well, you’re not the only ones who’ve got gentlemen,” Audrey said conspiratorially, leaning closer to us so that she could lower her voice. I didn’t really see the point in that, considering that we were the only ones in the flat (unless Scorpius was hanging around outside of my window again). “Dominique’s just announced she’s pregnant.”
Now, this was what I was happy to call juicy gossip. Molly and I exchanged a look. “I didn’t know she had a boyfriend,” Molly said cautiously.
“Oh, she doesn’t,” Audrey said, drawing out the syllables in the last word. “We don’t know who the father is; I’m not even sure that she does either.”
I couldn’t wait to talk to Molly about this; this was a scandal! It would definitely be the sort of thing Dom stuck in her own column, with a catchy headline like “War Heroes’ Daughter Up the Duff!” or something equally inappropriate yet hilarious. Of course, nothing like that would be in any of the newspapers, which was a shame really because a good old family scandal might liven the place up a bit. It did, however, mean that I would have to withhold all scandalous information on Roxanne; it wouldn’t do to give my Granddad a heart attack.
“How are Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur taking it?” I asked curiously.
“Not very well, as you can imagine,” Percy said sagely before Audrey could open her mouth. It was rare that he ever got a word in edgeways. “They’re insisting Dominique moves in with them towards the end of her pregnancy so they can keep an eye on her.”
I shuddered at the thought; I couldn’t imagine having to live with my parents again. They were always unbearable when I was growing up; I’d always been more fond of them when I didn’t see them very often, as awful as that sounded. It just meant that my Dad had less time to try and lock me away from the horrible things in the world and my Mum couldn’t try and convince me I wanted to work at the Ministry. I made a mental note to bet Molly fifty galleons that Dominique would go insane before the baby was born.
“I’m sure Victoire’s miffed that she won’t get to pop the first grandchild,” Lucy said in a whiney voice. “She likes to play the favourite.”
I nearly gagged at the idea of Victoire having children; that would mean she and Teddy would have a family, something a bit more permanent than just a house. At least at this point there was still a very small possibility that I could break them up and ride off into the sunset on a pony with him. Babies were pretty gross, anyway, I’d long ago decided. I didn’t envy Dominique one bit, especially if she had to do that whole thing herself. She was only twenty-eight… well, that actually sounded quite old, now I thought about it, especially for a surprise pregnancy. But these days, everyone started doing things late, there was plenty of time left for everyone to settle down.
Damn, I was starting to worry now. I was nearing the end of my life, I could feel it; I barely had any time left at all to settle down and do the family thing before my biological clock stopped ticking. I needed to get Scorpius to commit straight away before it was too late.
“Rose, are you all right? You’ve gone awfully pale.” Percy pushed his glasses up his nose as he peered at me from across the coffee table.
I swallowed audibly. “I’m fine,” I said in a high-pitched voice. I cleared my throat, hoping to sound less like a chipmunk. “I’m fine,” I repeated, this time in a very low voice. Molly sniggered into her mug of tea. “I was just thinking.” It was a very dangerous activity, I really need to stop doing so much of it. Uncle Percy seemed satisfied that I wasn’t about to pass out or anything, so decided to change the subject.
When they finally left, Molly turned to me with a packet of biscuits and pointed them sternly at me. “What is the matter with you today?”
“I feel old,” I moaned, accepting her biscuit. “Everyone’s old in our family. Dominique’s having a baby, Molly. A baby! She’s going to be the first parent out of us all and it’s bloody scary.”
Molly nodded, helping herself to a biscuit as well. “I know, it is,” she agreed sympathetically. “We all have to grow up at some point, though. It’s inevitable.”
“Mm,” I said through a mouthful of biscuits.
“And there’s something else that’s inevitable,” she added forcefully. “You’re going to tell me why there was a Scorpius in your bed this morning.”
I blushed crimson. “He took me to dinner at Jesús’,” I informed her. When she looked unimpressed, I hastened to add, “but he got the restaurant closed to everyone else and decorated it and stuff. It was sweet. Anyway, after we finished eating, I invited him back for coffee.”
“Except that you had wine,” Molly pointed out shrewdly, pointing to the now invisible patch of wine on the sofa.
“I didn’t,” I corrected her. “But he did. And then he sort of passed out on the sofa, spilling the wine, so I moved him to my bed.”
“Where you took off his clothes?” she questioned, her head cocked to one side.
“No!” I denied. “He must have taken them off himself during the night - I had nothing to do with that.”
She wiggled her eyebrows. “So you two didn’t –?”
“No,” I growled.
“Not even a bit?”
I scowled at her. “What do you mean, not even a bit? Either we did or we didn’t, and we definitely didn’t.”
“Oh,” she said disappointedly. “Are you going to?”
“I suppose so,” I said, not completely repulsed by the idea. “He is my boyfriend after all.”
Molly raised her eyebrows at that last bit. “You don’t sound very enthusiastic.”
“It’s just…” I began, then stopped. I looked down at my biscuit for help, but it didn’t offer me the words I was looking for. “I don’t know. It’s Scorpius, isn’t it? I don’t find him that attractive. At all.”
“I did wonder,” Molly admitted, pulling a face. “I thought you might see something I didn’t. How did you get yourself into this, muppet-face?”
I winced. “I felt really sorry for him.”
“Oh, Rosie.” Molly shook her head sadly. “You silly sausage.”
I whimpered. “I know. I don’t know what to do; he’s so nice to me and I think we could be friends. But I don’t look at him and want to rip his trousers off, if you see what I mean.”
“I do,” Molly nodded wisely. “Maybe you’ll want to one day?”
“I suppose I can try,” I conceded doubtfully. “It just feels wrong to make him think I like him like that, that’s all.”
“Giving him a chance is good, though,” Molly argued, finishing the packet of biscuits. “And you never know how you might feel later.”
Nodding, I accepted that Molly was probably right; there was no point fighting him off just yet when I wasn’t even sure that I didn’t feel anything for him. He was nice to hang around with, and if I told him the truth he probably wouldn’t want to see me anymore. So, for selfish reasons, I might as well attempt to make this thing work.
“Have you spoken to Lorcan recently?” I asked innocently, hoping that Lorcan hadn’t mentioned that I’d sort of stalked him the other day.
“I saw him yesterday,” Molly said with a coy smile. “We’ll see how things go. He’s off to the coast with Lysander on a trip, but when he gets back he said he’d cook me dinner.”
“That’s sweet,” I said, happy for her. The little tiff between us was definitely in the past, she seemed to have forgiven me for going psycho on her. “Can he cook?”
Molly laughed. “I don’t think so. He’s never mentioned cooking ever before now, so I can’t imagine him being a closet culinary genius or anything.”
“Me neither,” I agreed. I checked my watch, sighing. “I suppose I should go – I have some stuff to do at the shop.” Molly rolled her eyes as I fetched my coat and scarf. “I’ll see you later.”
Arriving at work, I was surprised to see Boris slumped over the till, hair mussed, in what could only be described as a state of utter misery.
“Boris?” I inquired, poking his flabby shoulders with a book. He groaned, removing his face from the till slightly to look at me. “What’s the matter?”
Looking over my shoulder, I saw two old ladies in matching lilac robes pointing at Boris with curious looks on their faces. Typical, he would have a bloody mental breakdown in front of customers. Sometimes I wondered if he was even fit to own this place; he could be so unprofessional.
“I’ll be with you in just a minute,” I said to the ladies pointedly, resisting glaring at them.
I grabbed a chair from the storeroom and forced Boris onto it. “Talk to me,” I commanded impatiently.
“My wife,” he stuttered hoarsely. “My wife is leaving me.”
Oh, fuck; this wasn’t good at all. There was no way anything I said was going to make things better; he was a goner. Now he was going to crush the till with his misery and leave me to piece the damn thing back together when I didn’t know how to work it anyway. Then, the business would go under from lack of sales and I’d be out of a job.
“I’m sorry,” I offered by way of support, checking to see if the old ladies were minding their own business. Naturally, they were peering over the counter, their elbows propping them up for support, the Nosy Nigels.
“She didn’t enjoy last weekend at all,” he wailed miserably. I had to admit, this did explain the absolutely foul temper he’d been in all week. I bet his wife was a right pain.
“Have you - err - tried talking to her about it?” I asked lamely. I was getting back-ache from leaning down to him, so I got down and knelt on the floor.
“Oh!” cried one of the old ladies. “Look, Betty! She’s proposing!”
“Oooh!” the other one catcalled.
“No I’m not!” I snapped at them.
“I don’t like these modern women, Betty,” the first lady said. “It’s all very forward.”
“What a slapper,” Betty agreed, banging her walking stick on the floor for extra effect. “He’s not even divorced yet.”
I gritted my teeth, standing up and facing them. “Can I help you?” I demanded, looking between them with a hard glint in my eye. “Or are you going to stand there and insult me?”
“Didn’t I tell you, Edith?” Betty wheezed. “Got no manners, this one.”
“Very forward,” Edith agreed, bearing her false teeth.
“Is that all?” I asked dangerously. “Because we’re closing now.”
The old ladies frowned at each other. “It’s only two o’clock,” Betty said pointedly. “You don’t close until five.”
I smiled tetchily at them. “You must need to get your prescription changed,” I said sweetly. “My watch says five past five. Goodbye!”
The old ladies, grudgingly saw themselves out, though I was pretty certain I heard one grumble slapper as she left.
“Now,” I said, turning back to Boris. “Let me get us a cup of tea and we’ll see if we can sort this out.”
Never mind my recent promotion, I was definitely just a tea girl at heart; I was probably the best job for me. Tea was basically my life anyway.
AN: Happy 1st Birthday, Just Rose! Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter and also thank you to everyone who's reviewed this story over the last year. I'm very grateful indeed :)