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 on my face, I pulled my trunk through the train until I found a blessedly empty compartment. I sat in the corner at the window and curled my feet up under me. Despite several layers of clothes and a woolie hat, nothing seemed to be keeping the cold off of late.
“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!
"I behaved so atrociously, and I never really did apologise. So, sorry for saying that I would rather have stuck my head in an oven than have you be Head Boy."
He laughed, slapping his knee. "I was so offended. I guess I'll accept your apology."
“Kind of you. 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 again, and I was envious of how he saw amusement in so much.
“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, Weasley.”
In the end, the train ride was the best one of my Hogwarts career yet. 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. Scorpius made me forget for eight hours that my friendships 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. 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.
I walked away from the station without saying goodbye to anyone except for Scorpius.
By the time I ran up to my room, changed out of my school uniform and ran back up and down the stairs a few times for exercise, 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.
“School is going really great at the moment. I think I'm going to be captain of the Gobstones team soon because the current captain is leaving at the end of the year. And Professor Longbottom says my mandrakes are really growing well.”
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. 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 he was still mad at me. I only stayed for 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 Nanna’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.
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 the first time in my life, I looked beautiful. .
“Okay, we’re going!” I heard Mum 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. 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 crimson 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 was my grandfather, not hers!
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, Nanna 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 Nanna, 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.
“Merry Christmas, Aunt Ginny. Hey Sophie” 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 back out..
Mum and Dad were just arriving through the front door, and everyone crowded around Dad. The sheer amount of people in the house was a good thing, because it meant Mum could have a break from constantly needing to help Dad.
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, not wanting to let go for fear of him seeing my teary eyes. A hug from Fred was just what I needed.
“Merry Christmas Freddy,” I whispered, tearing myself away and disappearing upstairs. I was starting to feel suffocated by the people and the food. Buying time, 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, 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, Nanna’s magnified voice boomed through the house. “Everyone to the table!”
I sighed, head dropping. 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 am speaking to my friends," I said with a shrug, "I've spoken to Sophie and Scorpius, and Fred hugged me."
“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 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.
“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 if your father and I 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, Nanna waved her wand and everyone’s plates filled up. I looked at mine, dread making my stomach hurt. Or was that hunger?
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.
“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. 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 peas. Waiting until Dad finished chewing and swallowing, I offered him my peas. 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 turned away from his accusing glare. When all of my food 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 finished scraping every last morsel of food from the plates. After cleaning up, 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, Scorpius was sitting on the toilet with the cover thankfully down and Hugo was sitting in the shower.
Groaning, I turned around and jiggled the door handle, slamming my fists into the door when it wouldn't open. "Mum! I'm going to murder you!"
In the awkward silence that followed, I refrained from banging my head against the locked door.
After taking out my wand and trying spell after spell on the lock, I grudgingly admitted that perhaps Hermione Weasley truly was the greatest witch of her age, even if she did refuse to accio the bloody box of damn tissues. I finally gave up on the door with a great sigh, turning around and sliding to the floor.
“Lucky your nanna is a cleaning freak,” Sophie said, surveying the clean bathroom, and there was another silence.
“This is really awkward,” Albus said, and I threw the doorstop at him. He wasn’t helping the situation. It bounced off his head and hit Callie, and I couldn’t help but giggle at their shocked faces. Then they relaxed and smiled, but everything was still tense and awkward. Jake was sitting directly opposite me, shoulders hunched.
He suddenly blurted out, “Rose, I’m so sorry for what I said to you, and for not trusting you.” He turned red and looked back at the tiles in front of him. I slowly nodded.
"Okay. Thank you." Everyone stared at me in surprise and I frowned. "What?"
"Forgiveness was never one of your strong points. Good for you, Rose," Albus said, looking impressed.
“I’m sorry for ignoring your wishes and bringing alcohol to your common room party. And for getting angry at you at Mungo’s, especially when you dad was in the bed next to us,” Callie grudgingly muttered, “I was just so worried about you, Rose. Look how skinny you’re getting!”
“I’m sorry for yelling at you at the lake, and calling you childish. Even if you did throw sand at me,” Albus said, meeting my eyes. Merlin, I’ve missed him.
“I’m sorry for not splitting my time equally between you and Callie," Sophie said, blushing. Even in the confusion and awkwardness of the situation, I found it sweet that that was the only thing she had to be sorry for.
“I’m sorry for the same thing,” Fred said, shrugging, “I’ve missed you being around.”
Everyone looked at Scorpius, who was idly folding toilet paper into origami shapes. He looked up when he noticed the silence. “Oh, I ah – I don’t really have anything to be sorry for. I’m as innocent as a lamb.”
I grinned. “Plus you already apologised.”
Everyone’s eyes went to Hugo, who glared around the bathroom. “I’m not sorry. Rose, I think you’re a really horrible person when you want to be. You know what? You still haven’t given me a reasonable explanation about where you were the week Dad was in hospital.”
At his words, everyone nodded in agreement. Everyone turned to look at me, faces expectant.
“I – I don’t really… I was in my room, okay?” I finally said, and was met with raised eyebrows and eye rolls.
“You’re full of crap,” Hugo said bitterly, red in the face.
“I’ll take a truth veritaserum and repeat those words,” I said quietly, “After Albus finished tearing down every ounce of self-confidence that I had left-“ he at least looked a bit ashamed at that – “I went up to my room. Scorpius saw me when I walked through the common room. I didn’t get out of bed for four days.”
There was silence as Scorpius nodded in confirmation, and I continued. “None of you even came to check on me. Sure, the girls sent me a letter, but that was it. There was no knock on my door, no checking to see if I was still alive. I get that I don’t matter to anyone, but it still hurt.”
“But – but why would you do that? We all thought you were already at the hospital, that’s why we didn’t check up on you!” Callie said, looking unsure.
“Because I was exhausted and embarrassed, and I didn’t see the point in being awake. So I went to sleep.”
There was more silence.
“You could have come to one of us,” Albus said quietly, looking ashamed. “Even if we’re fighting, we’re here for you.”
I shrugged, embarrassed to have said so much. Hugo was still glaring at me but I ignored him. I’d have to thank Mum later. My heart was feeling lighter after the round of apologies.
“My turn,” I said. “Jake, I’m sorry for not accepting your apology sooner. I’m still hurt and embarrassed by what you said, but I’ll work on it. Albus, I’m sorry for throwing sand at you when you were trying to help me. Callie, I’m sorry if my actions hurt you even if I think I was justified. Did I miss anyone?”
There were head shakes, and I leaned back against the wall feeling even more relieved.
Fred turned to Sophie and said, “I’m not sorry for wanting to shove Petey Myers head in a potion cauldron when you took him to the Halloween party.”
Sophie blushed, looking down at her hands. I wondered if she had told him that she fancied him yet, and vice versa. By the looks of things, I think they had shared that information with each other.
I cleared my throat, remembering something else that was keeping me awake at night. I looked pointedly at Callie and Albus’ intertwined fingers and said, “I think it’s time to address the big blue hippogryff standing in the corner,” They both flushed, and I continued, “They’re lying to all of you. They’re only dating to make Sophie jealous.”
“Huh? Why would I be jealous? I don’t fancy Albus,” Sophie said, looking confused.
”Yes, and that’s why it’s the stupidest idea I’ve heard in my life,” I said, glaring at Albus.
“Oh, shut up, Rose,” Al muttered, turning pink. It seemed that he had finally seen how terrible his plan was.
“How exactly was it going to work?” Fred said, glaring at Albus.
“I dunno. Something to do with jealousy and unavailability. I don’t recommend it mate.”
“What about me?” Callie whispered, looking at Albus with wounded eyes. Al looked uncomfortable, letting go of her hand.
Callie’s mouth dropped open, and she turned pale.
“The charade is over, Callie. You knew what you were agreeing to,” he said awkwardly, not meeting her eyes. Callie started crying, which I think shocked me more than Al’s cold brutality – Callista May never cries.
“You jerk,” Sophie said coldly, “I would never love someone who would use my best friend like that. Callie, you should have just told me what was going on from the start!”
And for an instant, we were all united with our mutual dislike of my idiot cousin. Really, couldn't he see that neither of them were pretending to be in love anymore, but actually truly were?
Albus looked lost for words for a moment, but then rounded on Scorpius.
“You!” he yelled, and the blonde raised an eyebrow. I sighed and sat back to watch the proceedings. It seemed as soon as we resolved one issue, more cropped up. Callie was still crying, but I couldn’t help think, told you so - because I did. Al was still tearing into Malfoy.
“If you had just told Rose in the first place, none of this would be happening!” Al was yelling at the seemingly-blameless Scorpius. Malfoy sighed, looking uncomfortable.
“Told Rose what?” I asked, but was ignored by all.
“If you grew some balls, Jake wouldn’t have even been on the scene,” Al continued to yell.
“Leave him alone, Al. You’ve already done enough damage today,” I said.
“Of course you would defend him, Rose!”
“What’s that meant to mean?”
“The whole world knows that you two are meant for each other. If you just stop being so stupid, all of this could end and life would go on!” he yelled, not making any sense.
Malfoy met my eyes, looking nervous. I rolled my eyes at Albus, shaking my head.
“How many times do I have to tell you, Scorpius and I will never be together. We’re just friends!” I exclaimed. Jake snorted, and I glared at him.
“What,” I said to the boy sitting opposite me, “Have something else to say about this? You haven’t finished being a clingy, annoying idiot?”
“Don’t talk to my brother like that,” Callie hissed, “You used him as much as Albus used me.” Her voice broke at the end, and I sighed.
“But I broke up with him, Callie. It’s different.” I said.
“This is ridiculous!” Sophie screamed over the top of all the raised voices, “We’re meant to be friends! We’re meant to be fixing everything! Just stop fighting, please,” she begged, ever the peace maker. I shook my head.
“Some things go beyond fixing,” I said, standing up on unsteady feet. My stomach lurched uncomfortably in hunger, and I swayed slightly. Shutting my eyes and steadying myself by putting a hand against the wall, everyone’s angry voices disappeared as my vision wavered between black and white. A few seconds of disorientation, and it passed.
“Rosie, are you okay?” Freddie asked from the sink. He reached out a hand, and I snatched my arm away.
“I’m fine, but I’m sick of you lot. Have a very Merry Christmas,” I hissed, wrenching the door open. I’d heard the lock turn a few minutes back, thank Merlin.
I guess Mum didn’t want a death in the family on Christmas day.
I stomped down the stairs, angrier than I’d ever been in my life. Mum looked up hopefully as I walked into the lounge room. She was sitting with my aunts, probably having a cosy little chat about all of us. She took in my pale face and no doubt frazzled appearance, and a frown creased her pretty forehead.
“I hope you’re happy, Mum! You have no idea what’s going on, so for future reference, don’t even bother getting involved.”
The room was silent as red heads of hair turned to stare at me. I pushed my way to the merrily crackling fire, picking my bag up along the way. Grabbing a handful of floo powder, I spun until I was spat out at home, a dizzy, sad mess.
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