Chapter 13 : Chapter 13
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Well, everything changed for me, at least.
I’d become used to being ignored, forgotten about, and taken for granted by the rest of the staff. It had gotten to the point where I didn’t think they’d ever accept me, and I was ok with that, since I wasn’t going to be there for much longer anyway.
Scorpius didn't look like he was going to fail anytime soon, but I knew I couldn’t stay around the school for the rest of the year. I’d privately decided that if Scorpius got his article published, I’d quit my job and resign from the challenge.
Of course I hadn’t told Albus, Scorpius or Miranda that, and I had no plans to. I didn’t see the point in this stupid challenge any more. It wasn’t a positive thing to do, and it was downright immature. Waiting for someone to fail was mean, not to mention cruel. There were far more important things in life.
I looked up, my mind abruptly jerked away from thoughts of Scorpius, Albus and stupid challenges.
“Phillip?” I said, surprised to see the one other staff member smiling down at me.
It was nearing the end of the lunch hour, and most of the other staff were long gone. Jack Pinton sat at a table by the window, but he, as usual, wasn’t paying me any attention.
“Mind if I sit?” he asked, gesturing to the chair opposite me, and I nodded, still in shock.
Sure, he spoke to me when we passed in the hallways, but that didn’t mean he had to sit with me at lunchtime. This was bordering on friendship territory now.
“How are you?” he asked, and I frowned slightly.
“I’m fine,” I said shortly, and then, realising how rude I sounded, I returned the question.
He smiled warmly, and I couldn’t help but smile back despite myself.
There was a bit of a pause after that, and I inspected the fingernails on my right hand awkwardly. I had no idea what to say to him, and he didn’t seem to be trying to direct the conversation, or, indeed, have any conversation at all.
“So, Rose,” Phillip finally said, and I looked up from my nails.
“I was wondering if you’d like to go out with my tomorrow night. Nothing serious. Just drinks, maybe some food.”
He….was he asking me out?
Surely not. He was old.
As soon as that thought crossed my mind, however, I realised that he wasn’t all that old. A few years my senior, yes, but he wouldn’t have been older than twenty four.
“Um…” I mumbled, stalling for time while my mind whirled.
What on earth was I going to say? Sorry, I’m still possibly carrying around feelings for my high school boyfriend that I need to get over?
I didn’t really need to point out the fact that I was barely out of school. Gosh, it was obvious enough. I’d gone into this thinking I’d become a teacher straight off the bat. I’d been completely wrong, and I could see how stupid and naïve I’d been now.
My mother had even tried to warn me, but I hadn’t listened, as usual. Everyone else on staff here had gone to university. That being said, I wasn’t really on staff, I was just helping out, and getting paid a pittance for my efforts.
I turned back to look at Phillip, having a hard time focusing on the task at hand. I didn’t want to say yes, but I knew that was because I kept thinking of Scorpius. That relationship would never happen again.
I needed to get him out of my head once and for all.
Maybe Phillip Brown would be the distraction I needed. Perhaps not. Who knows, but I had to at least try. Dating a Muggle would be, ah, a new experience, if nothing else.
“Brilliant. I’ll drop by around seven to pick you up?” he said, and I found myself blinking stupidly again.
“You know where I live?” I said slowly, and he chuckled at my confusion.
“The small cottage that was for sale not long ago, right?” he said, and I just nodded.
“Bye,” I said weakly as he walked off to go to his class, leaving me sitting there utterly stumped.
Jack Pinton stood from his seat by the window and left as well, and I had no doubt that he’d heard the entire conversation. His subtle sneer and snigger as he passed my chair only confirmed my suspicions.
Resolving to not let his ways get to me, I stood and returned to the classroom and Penelope. So I was going on a date with a man a few years older than me. So what?
So, he was a Muggle. Witches and wizards dated Muggles all the time. And yes, a group of magical traders were possibly trying to hunt me down. What of it?
Life was good, and I was going to get over Scorpius. That was one problem I could deal with. That, and Albus and Miranda. We’d slowly been pushing them together, and tomorrow, before the date I’d just agreed to, I’d finally managed to convince Miranda to say something to Albus.
Naturally we were all heading over to the Leaky Cauldron once again, for a catch up session. Albus, however, didn’t know that Scorpius and I were going to mysteriously disappear, leaving Miranda and he alone to ‘talk’.
I was heading over to Miranda’s in the morning to give her a pep talk. She had to do this, and she knew that. She’d be better for it.
As for what I’d do after the intervention, I had no idea. I’d have to head home and get ready for my date, but I’d also have to shake Scorpius off. It would be interesting, and it was a problem for tomorrow.
Today, however, I had a few more hours of class to get through, and then a mountain of dirty dishes and clothes awaiting me at home. Just because I could use magic there didn’t mean I was particularly fast at cleaning. I hadn’t really got the hang of most of those spells yet.
I was slightly better at cleaning than cooking, thankfully. That was at least something. I also hadn’t poisoned myself yet, so I was doing fairly well. I had a feeling my parents were rather surprised with that fact.
Mum made a point of owling me every few days to check up on my status and make sure I hadn’t died of food poisoning, been overcome by a plague of rats, or injured myself in a stove fire. All her words, not mine. She seemed to have very specific concerns for my safety. Dad owled a few times as well, though lately all we really talked about was the case. He refused to tell me anything confidential, as I’d expected.
It was the law, after all.
Sighing, I entered the classroom, currently empty. In a few moments, though, the bell would ring, and the children would return. I’d gotten rather used to the routine now, but I couldn’t imagine doing it every day for the rest of my life. It was rather boring.
I suppose every job was like that, however, and it was scary. Sure, I said I would quit this job, but what would I do after?
That was a good question, and one I still didn’t have an answer to. I was starting to doubt that I ever would.
Saturday dawned cold and wet, which wasn’t a surprise at this time of the year. Winter was quickly approaching, and with it my temper. I hated winter, I much preferred to sweat it out in the heat of summer.
Scorpius was the same, and I fully expected him to show up today with a scarf and coat, as I would. Miranda and Albus were the opposite, Miranda in particular loved winter for the layers of clothing it allowed for. She had a massive collection of scarves, and winter was the only time she could really show them off.
I didn’t understand it, personally. They were simply thin pieces of material, I wasn’t sure how she could have such a fascination with them.
I had a lot of difficulty getting myself out of bed that morning, as my bed was warm and comfortable, and getting up would mean that, well, I wasn’t warm or comfortable anymore.
With great effort, I dragged myself to the kitchen, made a cup of coffee, then settled down to read the Daily Prophet, handing the owl the required amount of Knuts as I did so.
The front page held nothing particularly interesting, and there was no new breakthroughs on the trading case. James’s team, Puddlemere, had won another round, securing them a spot in the quickly approaching finals. James had stepped in for three games in a row now, and was quickly becoming the rising star of Quidditch in the United Kingdom.
I was happy for him, but it was also mildly irritating. He was now the ‘golden child’ of the family, the one who succeeded. The rest of us had a lot to live up to, particularly Albus, and I had no doubt that he felt the pressure.
I eventually managed to pull on some clothes and head to Miranda’s. I had a feeling it was going to be a stressful day.
“Morning,” I said dully as Miranda let me in.
She smiled brightly, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to think. I’d been expecting a nervous wreck, but she seemed fine.
It was probably an act. I could easily see her trying to act calm and hitting the point that it seemed enthusiastic, like it did now.
“Hi!” she said, stepping aside to let me past.
“Er…how are you?” I asked, thrown off by her attitude.
“I’m great. Better than great, I’m fantastic!” she said, and I narrowed my eyes.
This wasn’t the usual Miranda. We were friends for a reason, after all, and right now she was acting scarily like my cousin Lily.
“You’re not fine,” I said bluntly, stalking past her and heading into her bedroom.
“Of course I am!” she adamantly replied, and I sighed.
Clearly she was putting the whole Albus issue out of her mind and ignoring it. That was not what she should have been doing. She was going to face it, today, and she needed to prepare for that.
“Have you thought about what you’re going to say?” I said carefully, watching her face as I did so.
As I expected, her face fell slightly, though she quickly covered it with a fake smile. I’d been right, she was just acting. I had a feeling she couldn’t cope with the depth of her feelings and what could possibly happen today, so she was ignoring it.
Fight or flight, I suppose.
“No. I’ll wing it,” she said, turning her face away from me.
There was a few moments silence whilst I tried to figure out what to say. I would be a hypocrite if I told her off for not facing things – doing just that was how I operated.
“Miranda…” I started, and then stopped.
What did I say? I truly had no idea. I was quite possibly the worst person to ask when it came to relationship advice.
“Miranda, Albus might reject you. Or he might not. You have to face it, and accept it,” I finally said, seeing no point in darting around the issue.
I saw her stiffen and knew my suspicions had been right.
“You can’t ignore it for much longer, and you know that. You’re doing the right thing, the mature thing, even if he says no. Though I don’t think he will,” I said, and as I added the last part on, I realised how true it was.
I couldn’t see Albus turning her down. He may date other women, but he was never serious with them. He’d been friends with Miranda for years, and they had a lot in common. They talked, like Scorpius and I did.
Not that that meant anything.
I blinked, quickly turning back to Miranda.
“So, outfit possibilities?” I said, knowing she would jump at the thought of clothes.
“Well, I was thinking about this…” she said, and delved into the depths of her closet.
I sighed, and once again found myself batting away thoughts of Scorpius Malfoy.
Yes, I was most definitely a hypocrite. What Miranda was about to do was exactly what I should have also been doing. Instead, I was running from it. If only I would take my own advice.
We sat side by side at the table, Miranda nervously jiggling her leg. I could feel it bouncing up and down and reverberating through the wooden floor, but I didn’t say anything.
Neither Scorpius or Albus were here yet, and I could tell the waiting was making Miranda anxious. I understood that, I hated waiting as well.
“It’ll be fine,” I said, though I had no way of knowing that.
It was just one of those phrases people say in such situations. Stupid, really, all you were doing was pointing out that it probably wasn’t going to be fine, and that there was no way of knowing such things.
We waited in silence, our untouched drinks (butterbeer for me, gillywater for her, as always) on the table in front of us. For some reason I was nervous as well, probably in anticipation of my date tonight, which I hadn’t told anyone about. I outright refused to delve any deeper into my reason for keeping it a secret.
“They’re here,” Miranda said softly a few minutes later, and my head snapped up.
They were indeed here. The two of them had arrived together, and they didn’t look at all nervous, which wasn’t surprising since Albus had no idea what was going on.
“Morning,” Scorpius said as he slid into the seat opposite me and Albus did the same on the other side.
We’d decided on a lunch time meeting, as a change from after work. For one, it was a weekend, and two, I had a date. Not that they knew that, but it worked out conveniently anyway.
I had a sick feeling in my stomach every time I thought about Phillip Brown and ‘drinks’, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I had to move on from Scorpius, so I had to at least try this.
What could possibly go wrong?
I looked up from my drink, startled out of my musings.
“I’m fine,” I said, smiling at Scorpius who didn’t look at all convinced.
“You don’t look fine. You look….” he pondered this, giving me a quizzical look “almost sick. Nauseous.”
There was an awkward silence.
“I’m fine,” I repeated, aware of how unconvincing I sounded.
He didn’t respond after that, and the two of us drifted into an awkward silence. He was mad at me for taking off and getting into that situation, I knew it. The atmosphere between the two of us eerily reminded me of what it had been like in our seventh year.
“You can’t just not talk to him,” Miranda said from her perch on her bed.
I ignored her, continuing on in my search through my trunk.
“Rose,” she said again, sounding exasperated.
“I can ignore him, and I will. He’s better off without me.” I said shortly, seizing a pair of boots in my hand and moving to sit on the edge of my bed, tugging them on violently.
I heard Miranda sigh in frustration, but I didn’t look up or acknowledge it. I knew she wanted to know what had happened, but I wasn’t going to tell her.
“Let’s just go to breakfast, ok?” I said, standing up and looking at my reflection.
I was getting rather good at bending the rules just enough that I could wear random articles of clothing that weren’t in the dress code, but still keep within the rules.
It was an art.
“Fine,” she said, and we headed down to the Great Hall, not speaking.
I hated the silence that had fallen around me lately. It was self-imposed for the most part, but it frustrated me. Everyone was taking Scorpius’ side, since I couldn’t really back up any of my claims. None of them understood why I’d acted in such a way.
Fair enough, I suppose.
I certainly wasn’t going to come out and say that he could do better than me, and that I was dragging him down. I was definitely not going to point out the fact that I was hardly worth dating. Those sorts of things were private, and I did not need them trying to make me feel better about myself.
Keeping it inside was a better option.
There were already a fair amount of students in the Great Hall, and Miranda and I moved to take our regular spots at the Gryffindor table.
I helped myself to an assortment of breakfast foods, with toast, pancakes, fruit, muffins, coffee and pumpkin juice gracing the table around me. I didn't often eat extreme amounts of food. I was a stress eater, and whenever I did succumb to the habit, I blamed it on the Weasley eating habits. Genetics had to be good for something.
I felt the weight of two students sit down opposite us, and I saw them do so, but I didn’t look up. Even without seeing their faces, as my eyes were trained on my food, I could tell who it was.
Albus and Scorpius, of course.
“Good morning, Rose. Miranda,” Albus said, helping himself to some of our food.
It had been normal over the past few months for the four of us to eat together. Now, however, it was full of awkward tension. Scorpius didn’t say anything to me, and I didn’t say anything to him, or indeed, anything at all.
I could feel the glances of both Miranda and Albus on my form, but I didn’t acknowledge them. It wasn’t their business.
It was entirely my own business, and entirely my fault. I was determined to avoid the issue.
“Well, I need to run to Gringotts on a quick errand,” Scorpius said at one point about half an hour into lunch.
Albus looked up, his brow furrowed in confusion.
“It can’t wait?” he asked, and Scorpius shook his head in mock sadness.
“Unfortunately not. Rose needs to come too, don’t you Rose?” he said, turning to me.
Subtle, Scorpius. Very, very subtle.
“Er…yes,” I said, standing up as Scorpius did.
I could see that Albus was starting to suspect something, and Miranda was freaking out a little. I sent her an encouraging smile, though I didn’t get much time before Scorpius grabbed my wrist and pulled me away quickly.
“Ow!” I exclaimed as soon as we were out of the Leaky Cauldron, jerking my wrist out of his grasp and rubbing it.
He rolled his eyes but didn’t apologize.
“She’ll be fine, stop worrying,” he said as he darted into a side alley in Muggle London.
I glared at him.
“I was just being supportive,” I said, my tone defensive, and he snorted.
“Let’s just get out of here, ok?”
With that, we both turned on the spot and apparated away. We hadn’t really planned anything from this point onwards, but I half expected him to return to his house.
Hence when I opened my eyes in my kitchen, I groaned when I saw him standing a few feet away.
“Why are you here?” I whined, my eyes darting self-consciously to the pile of dirty dishes in the sink.
I subtly waved my wand, hoping he didn’t notice as they started cleaning themselves.
“I wanted to ask you a few more questions for the story,” he grunted, and I paused.
I suppose that was logical. I’d hardly told him anything, as he’d been too busy yelling at me and storming off.
“It’s nearly finished then?” I enquired, trying to keep the mood light.
I didn’t particularly want to fight with him today, it was a stressful enough day as it was. I certainly wasn’t going to tell him about my date, that wouldn’t help matters at all.
“Almost. I need a few more details from you, just to back up some things. Hopefully it’ll be published within the week,” he said, and my eyes widened slightly.
“Well, congratulations for that,” I said, and I meant it.
It was fairly impressive, after all, that the newest employee landed such a story.
“Er, thanks,” he said awkwardly, taking a seat at my table.
He set about questioning me, and I didn’t hold back with anything. I wanted him to publish the article, I truly did. I could see that he’d figured that out, and was wondering about it.
“Can I just ask,” he said, shifting in his seat awkwardly, “why are you helping me so willingly? This is a competition, after all.”
I sighed. It was a reasonable question.
“I don’t know, Scorpius. I don’t really care about the competition anymore,” I said with a shrug.
That was fair enough, and pretty much anyone observant enough could see that. However I wasn’t going to tell him about my plan to quit when he got published.
“It does seem rather pointless, doesn’t it?” he said, surprising me. I hadn’t expected him to agree.
“Well, yes,” I said frankly.
“It has helped me, I suppose. I would only have been travelling if it wasn’t for this, though who knows what I’ll do after this is over,” I said, forgetting who I was talking to momentarily.
Despite the animosity between us, he was still remarkably easy to talk to.
“I suppose it’s motivated me,” he admitted, and I cocked my head to the side, regarding this.
It was true, I suppose. He’d started working harder once the challenge had started. Though, that being said, he hadn’t truly tried until this trading story fell into his lap.
“Look…” I started, trying to think of a legitimate excuse to kick him out of my house.
Telling him I had to get ready for a date, which I’d only agreed to because I needed a distraction from him, wasn’t a good idea.
“Um…I have a thing tonight,” I said vaguely, waving my hands around to somehow demonstrate this ‘thing’, “and I kind of need to get ready…” I trailed off awkwardly, smiling sheepishly at him.
“Oh. Okay,” he said, and I could see he felt uncomfortable.
He shot up from his chair immediately, gathering the bits of parchment he’d been using to make notes.
“Thanks for this, I’ll…I’ll…uhh, I’ll see you later.” He said, his arms full of parchment as he turned on the spot and apparated away before I could get a word in.
I stood still, blinking at the spot he had recently occupied.
Well, that was awkward.
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