Chapter 24 : Family Secrets
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“What is it?” she asked, coming to a stop next to him.
He glanced over at her. “Dueling club,” he said. “Goldstein and Neville are running it. It starts next month - it should be good.” He turned toward the portrait hole, and she followed him across the room.
She looked at him. He looked morose, which was a significant change from his usual devil-may-care demeanor. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing.” James cast a quick glance over his shoulder.
Rose knew from long experience that pressing the issue probably wouldn’t get her anywhere, since James very rarely actually answered questions that made him uncomfortable. However, this time, curiosity got the better of her. “Avoiding someone?”
To her surprise, he made a face and actually gave her a straight answer. “Roxanne,” he said. “She and Marion were huddled in the corner of the Common Room talking for awhile last night, and I think it might have been about me.”
Rose winced in sympathy. Roxanne had never been shy about dressing someone down when she thought that they deserved it, and Rose had no trouble believing that their cousin would feel that any drama between two of her closest friends qualified.
“I don’t think she’ll mention it in front of everyone,” James continued, “but just you...” He shrugged.
“What’s going on with that? When Albus and I saw you this weekend, things seemed to be good… or were you just going to your empty dormitory to show her your miniature broomstick collection?”
“Nah, we were doing our best impression of you and Scorpius, except on my bed and with a couple fewer clothes.” Rose noted with interest that ‘Malfoy’ seemed to have changed to ‘Scorpius’ for James, at least when her cousin wasn’t paying attention. “So yeah, that’s what I thought. She’s said a couple things, though - I don’t think she likes my plans for after Hogwarts very much, and it’s making her rethink the whole thing.”
She patted his shoulder sympathetically and didn’t press the issue further. For his part, James did not mention Scorpius again. Instead, they talked about the Dueling Club on the way down to breakfast. It had been wildly popular the year before, and Rose hoped that she would qualify for one of the more advanced groups; her fellow fifth-years often left something to be desired.
When they reached the Great Hall, she followed James’s lead, and when he headed over to join Roxanne, Marion, and Tyler, she followed him, feeling slightly curious despite herself.
As they slid into the empty space on the bench, Tyler said, in long-suffering voice, “It looks like rain through tomorrow night.”
James glanced up from his plate, which he’d just finished spooning food onto. “Yes, it does,” he said cheerfully.
“Maybe I’ll use a snackbox to get out of practice.”
“I won’t use a snackbox,” Marion said, grinning at James. Whatever the drama going on between them was, either Marion wanted to put a good face on it in public or she wasn’t quite ready to give up on him just yet. “I’ll just break my arm. A Chaser can’t play with a broken arm.”
James snorted. “You wouldn’t dare,” he said to Tyler. Then he turned his attention to Marion. “And breaking your arm would just be a stupid way to get out of practice, Madam Pomfrey can heal that in about a minute.”
“You would know,” muttered Rose.
He reached around Roxanne to punch her arm lightly. “Don’t hate me because I’m not afraid to break bones to win a game.”
Roxanne rolled her eyes. “James, half the time you break bones it’s because you’re goofing off. When was the last time you actually broke a bone in a Quidditch game?”
“Last year’s match with Slytherin,” he said promptly. “My ankle.” He ran a hand through his hair, and Rose could have sworn that he shot a quick glance toward Marion. She resisted the urge to smile with difficulty. “I remember all my broken bones.”
“You’d think you’d lose track after awhile.” Tyler shook his head. “Or learn to be more careful.”
James shrugged. “I can take the pain. Anyway, I just consider it good training for my career.” Rose wasn’t sure that now was quite the time to make this stand, but she knew James, and she knew that that wasn’t going to stop him. He raised his goblet in Rose’s direction. “Rosie’s with me, aren’t you?”
“Of course I am,” Rose said immediately, getting drawn in despite her better judgment. “What’s life without a few bruises and broken bones?”
“James, you can be so morbid sometimes,” Marion said. She was still smiling, but some of the mirth had left her eyes.
“Why?” he asked. “Because I don’t play at denial?” His voice had gotten a little combative, which Roxanne had clearly noticed. She shot him an irritated look that told Rose quite plainly that James was right to be concerned about her dressing him down.
Marion looked like she was maintaining calm, but when she spoke, the heat in her voice betrayed her true feelings. “No. Because you can joke about yourself and people you supposedly care about being seriously injured.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do?” James snapped. “Go crazy worrying about half my family? Everyone knows the risks. You don’t see V or Teddy quitting their jobs just because of a few bruises and broken bones, and you won’t see me doing it, either.”
Tyler was starting to look distinctly uncomfortable, especially since Roxanne seemed to be rallying to make a speech.
“This is exactly what my issue is with you,” Marion retorted. “Like I’d want to be in and out of St. Mungo’s every other week because you did something stupid—”
“Stop it!” Rose said loudly as James and Roxanne both opened their mouths to respond. “Can we not start the day this way?”
Marion glared at one of the plates on the table, and James crossed his arms, looking sour.
“Or you could go find some secret passage to go… work it all out,” Tyler said suggestively, clearly trying to break the tension.
Rose wished she were sitting next to James, who had begun to concentrate on his food without responding to any of them.
After they’d finished eating, Rose trudged off to Potions with Albus, who had joined them as they were finishing up breakfast. After a Potions lesson in which Rose was pleased to produce a halfway decent Sleeping Potion, they headed off to Transfiguration.
Scorpius was looking significantly better than he had the day before, which she suspected had something to do with the passage they’d found for some privacy the night before - she hadn’t quite gotten his shirt off yet, but last night, it had been close. He greeted them quite cheerfully before the lesson began, though he looked a little disappointed when she hurried off to Arithmancy as soon as their class had been dismissed. Once she got out of Arithmancy, she started to head toward the Great Hall for lunch. Before she’d even gotten to the stairs, however, however, she heard someone call her name. When she turned around, she saw Scorpius and Albus heading toward her.
“Hey,” she said as they neared her.
Her cousin nodded, and Scorpius smiled back. “Hey,” he replied. Before he had a chance to say anything more, she heard a voice behind her.
"I told you.” She whirled around, and found Soebly and Flint heading toward them. "I said that hanging out with him was a slippery slope,” Soebly continued, jerking his head toward Albus, “And from what I hear, you’ve been shagging a Mudblood’s brat all over the school. That’s definitely another step down.”
Scorpius’s eyes flashed, and Rose felt her face get hot - both for the slur and because she and Scorpius were nowhere near that particular activity. Before either of them said anything, however, they heard a clipped female voice behind them. “Detention,” Claire snapped. “For both of you.” Her lower lip was jutting out and her dark eyes had narrowed to slits - though she really was a fairly petite girl, at the moment she looked like someone Rose wouldn’t have wanted to meet in a dark alley. "And twenty points from Slytherin."
“But it’s your house!"
“So maybe next time, you don’t use nasty slurs and you mind your own business. Then I won’t have to take them.”
“But - “
"Each," she amended. "Shut up, or it'll be fifty."
They both regarded her warily; neither seemed to want to test her. "So now you're a Weasley lover too, Claire?” Flint asked finally.
She glanced over at Rose. "Not especially," she said, the coolness still apparent in her voice. It was clear that the other prefect was sticking up for Scorpius despite his choice of company, not because of it. "But you're still out of order."
They stared at her for another moment before turning to leave. From the way they glanced back at Scorpius, however, Rose could tell that they were far from done.
Scorpius slumped back against the wall and groaned. “Ruin my life, why don’t you,” he muttered, and then looked up at Claire. “Thanks,” he said.
She nodded wordlessly and headed off in the direction of the Great Hall, her light brown curls bouncing behind her. Rose stared at her until she vanished around the corner.
“I thought she’s been angry with you,” she commented after a minute.
Scorpius glanced up in surprise. “What?” After a moment, he processed what she’d said and shrugged. “Oh. She still is, but that typically doesn’t stop her from sticking up for me.” Rose felt a slight stab of jealousy again, and Scorpius added, “Sorry about them.”
“It’s not your fault,” she said.
He shrugged an acknowledgment. “Well, no,” he agreed. “But you might just not want to deal with the drama when you can run off and go out with Finnigan or someone.”
Rose considered that for a moment, as much to see him twitch uncomfortably to reassure herself after her brief moment of jealousy as anything else. “No,” she said. “If it doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t bother me.”
He smiled slightly and reached out to grab her hand. Albus wrinkled his nose and turned away. “You’re both...” Words seemed to fail him, and he headed off to the Great Hall without waiting for a response.
“I’ve got work to do, but do you want to do something tonight after I’m done?” Rose asked. “I can get the cloak so we don’t have to worry about being caught out of our Common Rooms after hours - we just got lucky last time.”
Scorpius cocked his head to one side. “The cloak?” he asked curiously, and too late, she realized her slip up.
“I - oh, hell.”
His face lit up. “I knew it,” he said excitedly. “I knew you had an invisibility cloak.”
She glanced around the empty hallway and hissed, “Lower your voice.” Her heart was beginning to pound. James was going to kill her, especially given his current mood.
“Sorry,” he said in a much softer tone. “But you do, don’t you?” She tried to think of plausible lie, and his grey eyes hardened a little. “Don’t lie to me,” he said. “I told you, I don’t like it.”
Rose briefly considered lying anyway, but when she thought about him getting fed up with her if he ever found out, the idea really bothered her.
She pulled her hand away from his and groaned. “Damn it,” she muttered, closing her eyes and leaning her head against the wall. “Damn it.”
“I won’t tell anyone you told me,” Scorpius promised. She opened her eyes to look at him; he looked sincere, but she wasn’t sure whether that was saying much. Slytherins were supposed to be good at lying. “Not even Albus.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “You lie to your best friend?”
Scorpius shrugged. “Sometimes. When it makes my life easier.” He seemed to guess what was coming, because he cut it off quickly. “No, Rose, that doesn’t mean I’m going to lie to you. Do I look stupid?”
She considered him for a moment, and he rolled his eyes. “No,” she finally relented.
“If I lie to you, you’ll ditch me,” he said, crossing his arms. “I don’t want you to ditch me. Therefore, I won’t lie to you. It’s pretty simple.”
“Well, we’re not technically going out.”
“Whatever.” Scorpius didn’t seem to think very much more of her rebuttal than she had the moment it left her mouth; when you were snogging a boy on a daily basis in random corridors and making plans to meet him after hours, the line between “going out” and “not going out” did seem rather thin.
“We’re not,” she insisted. “A month ago you hated me.”
He shook his head. “No, a month ago, you hated me,” he corrected her. A slight smile was spreading across his face. “A month ago, I was trying to figure out whether I wanted to wring your neck or kiss you.”
Rose felt her face get a little hot. “Have you decided?” she asked lightly, and his smile broadened.
“Well, now that I know how much fun it is to kiss you, I’m leaning toward the latter.” He reached out and grabbed her hand again, and she allowed him to lead her down the corridor. “You know, I just don’t feel like eating with my house today,” he said lightly. “Can I join you instead?”
She glanced up at him. To her surprise, he seemed serious. “If you’d like.”
As they started walking down the hall, he muttered, “I knew you had a cloak.”
Rose made a face. However much her feelings toward him had changed recently, the very last thing she’d intended to do was make Scorpius Malfoy into a confidant about one of their biggest family secrets. It was one thing for Albus to do it, but her?
He leaned down to kiss her cheek. “Cheer up,” he said. “If it’ll make you feel better, I can tell you about a Malfoy family secret.”
Rose couldn’t stop her nose from wrinkling at the concept. “No, thank you.” She had no idea what secrets the Malfoy family had, but given his family’s background, she was fairly certain that she didn’t want to.
Scorpius shrugged. “Tell me if you change your mind.”
She looked at him for a moment before shaking her head. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re very strange?” As his laugh echoed down the empty corridor, Rose reconsidered her answer. “Actually, yes,” she said, changing her mind. “Tell me a Malfoy family secret.”
He stopped dead in his tracks and dropped her hand. “Are you serious?”
Rose crossed her arms, feeling very pleased with herself for regaining the upper hand. “Yes. It’s only fair.”
“Because you let it slip out?” he asked incredulously. She opened her mouth, and he shook his head quickly. “No, it’s fine. I will.” He gazed at the wall absentmindedly as he thought.
“Are you serious? It’s taking you that long to think of one?”
Scorpius sighed. “I only said that to make you feel better. The only family secrets we have are boring ones and Death Eater ones. Well,” he amended his statement, “the Greengrasses have other secrets, but Johanna is hardly confiding in me about Auror business.”
“There must be something,” she pressed him.
“I’ll think about it,” he said finally. “Sorry. My family’s really kind of boring these days - with our recent history, we kind of have to be. My dad even still has the scar from the dark mark, you know - he’s tried everything, but he can’t get rid of it. I’ve heard him talking to Mum about it.” He glanced toward the Great Hall, which was just in sight. “Come on. I’m hungry.”
She followed him into the Hall without saying anything else, but inside, she resolved to press the issue further at some point. She had a very hard time believing that a family full of former Death Eaters didn’t have anything to hide.
A/N: The first time I wrote this, I dodged away from sharing crazy Malfoy family secrets. I did not do so this time - they're coming up!
Thanks for reading! If you'd like to leave a review, I'd love to hear your thoughts. :)
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