Chapter 11 : Love rule #11
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The Hogwarts Express was just pulling out of the station to go home for Christmas, when I realised I had nowhere to sit. Putting a blank expression over roiling emotions, I pulled my trunk through the train until I found a blessedly empty compartment. A group of girls skipped by laughing merrily, and I scowled.
“Why are you in here looking like the Grinch?” a familiar voice asked. I smiled up at the only person who could make me smile these days. Scorpius sat down opposite me, but I noticed he didn’t have his trunk.
“Where are the others, then?” I asked, and he looked uncomfortable.
“In the compartment next to you, actually. It’s just not the same without you in there. Remember at the start of the year, when you found out that I was head boy?” he asked, trying to break the tension. It worked – I laughed for the first time in a long time.
“I’ve missed that sound,” he said softly, and my heart stopped beating. Merlin, Malfoy could make me blush!
“You’re coming around at Christmas time, yeah?” I asked, ignoring my heart failure.
“When have I not?” Being Al's best friend, he always managed to turn up at family events, especially the ones involving copius amounts of food. I heard an outburst of laughter in the next carriage over, and winced.
“True. This is going to be an awful Christmas,” I sighed, and he shrugged. Pulling out a deck of exploding snap, he leaned forward and conjured a small table. He placed the cards down and cut the pack.
“It’ll be fine. Chocolate frog?” He pulled a pack from his other pocket, and I stared at him.
“Anything else in there? An armchair? Three course meal?”
He laughed, and I savoured the sound like the creepy person I am.
“No, just your two favourite things,” he replied, offering me the pack of frogs. I shook my head and he stared at me.
“Just had breakfast,” I mumbled in explanation, and it was his turn to shake his head.
“You weren’t at breakfast this morning. Or at dinner last night. What’s going on –“
“SNAP!” I yelled to distract him, and the pack of cards exploded. He grinned at me, but his eyes looked troubled.
“You’re not going to beat me that easily!”
So I’ll admit it. That train ride was the best one of my life. It was still difficult for me to get my head around that the person who drove me craziest these last several years was now the one keeping me anchored to reality. Scorp made me forget for eight hours that my friends were falling apart and my dad required constant care these days.
Arriving at King’s Cross was depressing though. Our respective Potter and Weasley parents were standing in a large, conspicuous group and there was no way I could avoid the others now. Depressingly, Mum was standing alone this year looking a little lost without Dad.
“Hiya, Mum,” I said, bounding up to her and squeezing her tight. Stop thinking about Dad! Focus on me, forget for a few hours, I willed her silently, and I was rewarded with a smile.
“Hello darling, I missed you. Hugo! Hello my babies,” she crooned, cuddling Hugo now.
I watched over her shoulder as Albus walked up to Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny with Callie in tow, and managed to close my mouth which had dropped open in surpise.
“Mum, Dad, I want you to meet Callie. My girlfriend.”
Callie blushed prettily, and I stared. Albus had never introduced a girlfriend to his parents ever. My aunt and uncle were perfectly polite, looking pleased. I saw Sophie saying goodbye to Fred and she walked through the barrier alone to meet her muggle parents.
“Callie is going to come for Christmas lunch, if that’s okay,” Albus was still saying.
“Of course, dear. The more the merrier!” Aunt Ginny, the traitor, said. I almost moaned in horror. This was going to be the most awkward Christmas lunch in the world.
“And her twin is coming as well,” he continued, and I resisted jumping back onto the Hogwarts Express to spend Christmas with the house elves. I spotted Jake lurking behind the group, and I glared when he met my eyes. He looked away uncomfortably as I seethed.
Maybe I was coming down with a deadly illness. Perhaps I could convince Hugo’s pet tarantulaculas to bite me.
“Oh, and our other friend Sophie is coming too!” Albus exclaimed, and my aunt and uncle looked amused.
“Any other strays you’re going to invite?” Harry asked with a grin, and everyone laughed. Yeah, laugh it up. Have fun. Bints. Prats. Worse Christmas ever.
By the time I’d raced up to my room, changed out of my school uniform and slid down the stair rails (hey, crappy Christmas or no crappy Christmas, it was still my favourite event of the year!), Hugo was already in the kitchen having a chat to Dad.
I stopped at the kitchen door and watched them. Dad was wheelchair bound, his face still drooping and unfamiliar. Even his vibrant red hair was drooping today. Hugo was seated at the kitchen table, leaning forward and helping Dad drink his tea, all while continuing to chatter on.
“Kayla is really great, Dad. I’ve invited her to Christmas at Nana’s on Friday with everyone. Only three more days until you get to meet her! She doesn’t like Rose though, but no one likes Rose right now.”
Dad tried to talk, but Hugo just kept making him drink tea.
“Slow down, Hugo!” I said, walking in. If he kept it up, Dad would drown. We’d both done a quick course on how to care for a disabled person when Dad was still in hospital, so Hugo should have known better. My happy mood vanished as quickly as it appeared (these mood swings were exhausting me), but I forced a smile on my face for Dad.
“Hey, Papa. I missed you,” I said, kissing him on his head and wrapping my arms around his shoulders. He gave me a lopsided smile.
“I was doing fine, Rose,” Hugo protested. I rolled my eyes and sat down next to him, shushing him as Dad opened his mouth to speak.
“Too skinny,” he mumbled in a garbled voice, and I bit back a sigh.
“I’m fine, Dad. Hugo’s just been stressing me out all term,” I said, nudging my brother playfully. Normally he would play along, but today he glared at me and scooted away. My heart sank. I guess I still wasn’t forgiven in his eyes. I stayed for only a few more minutes. Watching Dad’s slow movements and difficulty with speech was breaking my heart.
Determined to clear my head, I pulled on my running shoes and went for the longest run I could get away with.
All too soon, it was Christmas day and we prepared to head to Nana’s house for lunch with every Weasley on earth. I cornered Hugo after we did family presents that morning. I’d gotten him the very expensive quiddich book he’d been lusting after, and he got me a card.
“Hugo, can we not put aside whatever is shitting you, and just have a nice day?” I said, grabbing his arm as he went to shower.
“Some things just aren’t easily forgiven, sis,” he muttered, wrenching his arm away and slamming the door. I sighed and went back to my room. He was clearly still seething about my absence from Mungo's.
Mum was getting Dad ready, and I had nothing to do but wait for the shower to be free. I sat down in front of my dresser and gazed in the mirror. I’d really stopped looking after myself these last few weeks. My skin was dry and flaky, my hair was limp and dull, and I had scary circles under my eyes.
Rummaging through my draws for products, I quickly moisturised my face and put product in my hair to make it shiny. Make up would help my eyes after my shower. What felt like hours later, Hugo finally emerged from the bathroom and I growled at him as I slammed the door. Following the ‘beauty regime’ Sophie created for me months ago, which I’d been ignoring lately, I washed the gunk out of my hair, shaved my legs, exfoliated, the whole lot - I would be seeing Scorpius and my estranged friends today after all. I emerged from the steaming shower feeling better than I had in a long time.
“We have to go in twenty minutes, Rose!” Mum called out as I opened the bathroom door. I cursed and sprinted to my room. Whipping out my wand, I quickly dried my body and hair, threw on my white stockings and grabbed my dress from where it was hanging in the closest and slipped it on.
It was a Christmas present from Mum – a pale green tunic dress with flowers embroidered on the sleeves. Very beautiful, but a size too big. I craned my neck around to look at the tag – size 8. I grinned, amazed. I’ve never fitted into a size 8 in my life! I quickly shrunk it around my waist where it was too baggy, and looked in the mirror. Maybe everyone was right. I was a bit thin. Perhaps I could keep running and just eat more? So long as I didn’t get fat again.
“Rose, ten minutes!” Mum yelled, banging on my door as she walked past. I cursed yet again, grabbing my wand and curling my hair around it. More hair product, moisturiser, make up and a charm on my nails to make them long and strong again. I’d been biting them down to the quick lately, and they were getting weak and flaky. I surveyed my handiwork and nodded, satisfied. My hair was shining and lovely once more, hanging almost to my waist. The bags under my eyes had been reduced, the dress fitted perfectly and I thought that maybe, for once in my life, I looked beautiful. If I’m facing all of my ‘friends’ and family on a day like today, I wanted to look good for it.
“Okay, we’re going!” I heard Hugo call from downstairs. I grabbed my coat from the closet, sprayed on some deodorant and slipped on my ankle boots.
“Here I am!” I called, sliding down the stair rails once more. Mum tutted and smiled at me, and I grabbed a handful of floo powder. Hugo and I would be flooing, while Mum and Dad drove over. Wheelchairs couldn’t go through a fireplace.
“See you in a few minutes,” I said, bending down to kiss Dad. I grabbed Hugo’s hand, threw the floo powder into the fire and jumped in.
“The Burrow!” we yelled in unison, and I didn’t even have a chance to acknowledge the stab of dread and hunger in my belly before we were spat out into a room full of rowdy, redhaired people.
I noticed several things at one time. As I straightened up and pulled my dress down, I met Scorpius’ eyes across the room. The world stood still as he held my gaze. His eyes were wide with something uncomprehendable, and he mouthed “You look beautiful.”
I blushed and looked away, only to see Albus and Callie talking to Poppa Weasley. He was laughing at something she said, and I felt a stab of ridiculous jealousy.
He’s my grandfather!
She briefly glanced over and met my eyes. To my surprise, instead of her usual sneer of late, her eyes filled with tears and she looked down. Before I could ponder that, Nana Molly bustled over.
“Hugo! Rose! Merry Christmas, dears. I can’t wait to get some roast into you, Rose. You look positively starved!” she cried, bundling us into a cuddle. Hugo edged away from me and fled across the room to Uncle George.
“Hi Nana, Merry Christmas,” I said halfheartedly, and she patted my hand before turning to the new arrivals, Percy and Audrey. I rolled my eyes and wandered into the kitchen. The smells of roasting and baking almost made me cry, it all smelt that delicious. Maybe I could have a whole plate of food today?
“Hello dear,” a voice said from the table, and I saw Aunt Ginny seated with a cup of tea.
She was talking to Sophie, and I smiled at my aunt. She noticed that I didn’t even acknowledge Sophie and raised an eyebrow at me.
“Merry Christmas, Aunty,” I said, walking over and pouring myself a glass of water. Water would fill me up and help me ignore the divine cooking smells. Before I could sit down, Jake walked in and so I walked straight out. He made my skin crawl, with the way he looked at me these days.
Mum and Dad were just arriving through the front door, and everyone crowded around Dad. Through the commotion, I almost didn’t notice Hugo’s girlfriend slip in behind them. She met my eyes and turned white. I forced a smile at her, sick of being regarded like a freak. She just squeaked and disappeared, no doubt to find Hugo, sneaky little bint.
Freddy appeared out of nowhere, and shocked me by wrapping me in a cuddle. “Merry Christmas, skinny Rose,” he said with a smile, and I clung to him. I couldn’t let go of him for fear of him seeing my teary eyes. Of course Freddy would get over everything on Christmas day, he was just that kind of guy.
“Merry Christmas Freddy,” I whispered, tearing myself away and disappearing upstairs. There was just too much going on down there; people everywhere, food, hateful friends and family. Happy people who didn’t see how torn apart I was. I carefully wiped my eyes on some tissue and retouched my make up with supplies that I’d shoved in my handbag before leaving home.
There was a knock at the door, and I sighed. Time to face the world again, and it was only eleven thirty. I opened the door to admit Scorpius. He stood there with worry on his face and two glasses of champagne.
“Can I come in?”
“Into the bathroom?”
“Good point. Join me out the back? Your genius grandpa put heating charms everywhere.”
I nodded, took the proffered glass of alcohol and followed him down the stairs. He’d had a haircut, I noticed. I half reached out a hand to run it through his soft-looking hair, but pulled back just in time.
“Your hair is shorter,” I blurted. He paused and looking at me.
“Your hair is longer,” he said, question in his voice. I shrugged.
“I notice these things,” I muttered, and he smiled at me. The world is a better place when he does that.
“And I notice things about you. New dress?”
I nodded, and we reached the lounge room. Callie and Albus were still joined at the hip, and this time it was him who met my eyes. He began to smile, before remembering we were fighting. We never fight, you see, so I think he finds it hard to figure that we’re not meant to be speaking. I raised an eyebrow at him and he almost laughed. Shaking his head, he turned away.
Just as Scorpius went to open the back door, Nana’s magnified voice boomed through the house. “Everyone to the dinner table!”
I sighed, head dropping. I needed to have a good chat with Scorpius - this was going to be a painful lunch. Malfoy squeezed my shoulder before walking ahead to catch up with Albus. The dining room was magically enlarged to accommodate everyone. I seated myself as far away from my friends as possible, and looked up only when Dad wheeled into the empty space next to me. I put my hand on his knee, and he squeezed it feebly.
Mum sat on my other side and leaned forward to whisper in my ear. “Are you going to tell me why you aren’t speaking to any of your friends, or do I have to lock you all in a room to so that you can fight it out?”
I sighed and shrugged away from her. But she wasn’t finished yet. “You may think we have no idea what’s going on with you Rose, but I talk to your professors on a weekly basis these days. I don’t want to have this conversation at our Christmas dinner, but believe me when I say that your father and I are going to sit here and watch you eat every morsel of food I put on your plate.”
I swallowed nervously and went to stand up, but Mum’s firm hand on my shoulder kept me in my place. I took a nervous gulp of champagne, managing to drain the glass, and it refilled itself.
“I’m perfectly fine Mum. There’s no need for any of this,” I protested feebly, but she shook her head.
“If that’s the case, then it won’t be any problem for your father and I to sit here.”
I looked pleadingly at Dad, but he gave me his droopy smile and shrugged. I sighed and glared at my currently empty plate. Around us, every seat was filled and there was laughter and talking everywhere but our miserable corner of the table. Further down, my cousin Lily who I’d barely seen all term was talking loudly.
“I’ve got a tryout for Puddlemere United in the summer,” she was boasting to anyone who was listening, her dark hair shining and eyes merry. I’ve always been jealous but proud of my cousin. She was a complete natural on a broomstick, and absolutely stunningly beautiful. Two years younger than me and already taller than my 5’9”, I’ve never known someone more sure of themselves than little Lily Potter.
“Like you’ll get it,” Al snorted, and Lily threw a pea at him. Before an all-out food fight could start, Nana waved her wand and everyone’s plates filled up. I looked at mine in dread. Meat, potatoes, dressing, pumpkin.
But seeing Nana wave her wand at the food struck me with an idea. I carefully eased my wand out of my pocket, making sure Mum was occupied with Aunt Angelina on her other side. As I reached towards Dad’s knife and fork to help him eat, I cast a vanishing spell at my potatoes. Glancing around to make sure everyone was preoccupied and hadn’t noticed anything, I allowed myself a few moments of victory. Yes!
“Here, Daddy,” I said, spearing some meat from his plate and holding it to his mouth. He looked at me gratefully, no doubt wanting to shove it all in his face like he normally did - which gave me another idea. Still holding his knife and fork, I cut up all the food on my plate to make it messy and confusing, and scooped up some of my potatoes. Waiting until Dad finished chewing and swallowing, I offered him the potato. His eyes lit up, and he couldn’t eat it fast enough.
So between vanishing my food on my plate and feeding it to Dad, I worked steadily through it all without taking a single bite. I glanced up when about three quarters was gone, to meet Malfoy’s eyes. He raised both eyebrows at me this time, which was a first, looking pointedly at my plate. I flushed and hoped he wouldn’t say anything. Thank Merlin he was much further down the table.I turned my eyes resolutely from him and continued to help Dad. When it was finally all gone, I took a long sip of champagne. There were a lot of calories in alcohol, but I considered it my reward for not eating any lunch.
Finally, finally everyone had finished scraping every last morsel of food from the plates, the pigs. We were all released to mingle and get pissed. I drifted away from the table, no particular destination in mind. My stomach cramped painfully, but my head spun happily.
“Rose, can you grab me some tissues from the bathroom?” Mum said, looking shifty as we went to sit down on a lounge. I raised an eyebrow.
“Okay… Just summon them?” I asked, taking my wand out.
“No! No, just go get them please,” she said, turning away. I stared at her back. The most brilliant witch of her age couldn’t accio a box of tissues. Shrugging, I trudged upstairs wondering where the world was going to.
I reached the landing and wrenched open the bathroom door. Not looking as I took a step in, I jumped in surprise as the door slammed shut behind me and locked with a loud click. Blinking in surprise, I took note of everything around me.
“Hello, Rose,” Albus said dryly from the bath. He and Callie were seated in the empty bath, legs hanging over the side. Sophie was leaning against the wall next to it. Jake was sitting on the ground next to her, Freddie had his bum up on the sink and Scorpius was sitting on the toilet with the cover thankfully down. Hugo was sitting in the shower, and his girlfriend had her back against a counter. I sighed.
“It appears we’ve been locked in,” Freddie rumbled in his deep voice. Albus rolled his eyes.
“Thanks, Captain Obvious.”
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