Chapter 12 : Love rule #12
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The rest of the Christmas break was tense and awkward at home, and going back to Hogwarts was only a slight improvement. The Winter Ball was close enough to provide a distraction from still being at odds with most of my friends. Normally I’d be panicking with the girls about a dress, hair and makeup, but apart from awkward nods in the halls we still weren’t quite speaking.
“Hey Rose, check this out,” Scorpius murmured. We were in an empty classroom, going over the final details of the ball. He’d been acting strange around me lately. Sometimes he wouldn’t speak to me all day, and other times he chattered almost nervously.
I looked up from where I was working on the rounds roster to meet his intense gaze. My stomach lurched and I smiled at him. And he blushed again, just like in the bathroom at Christmas. I liked this new Scorpius; it was nice to see that he was just as crazy as the rest of us.
“Check what out?” I asked, and he held up a poster. It was an elegant white and gold affair, full of beautiful cursive writing. “The Annual Winter Ball” was emblazoned across the top, and I loved it immediately.
“I’m sure all the females will love it, but I don’t think something that pretty will draw the guys in,” I said, reaching out to touch the charmed gold writing. It faded in and out, drawing the eye.
“I know. That’s why I added the last bit,” he said with a cheeky grin. I glanced at the bottom of the page. Written underneath a slowly rotating couple was “Free alcohol, food and entertainment.” I laughed.
“That’s genius. You’re amazing Scorp!”
“Hey,” he said, somewhat hesitantly, “You don’t mind going with me, do you?”
I snorted. “Like I have a choice! We’re stuck with each other.”
He stuck his tongue out at me, and I sighed, struck by a thought. “I will admit, I’m bloody nervous about the dancing bit. I’m such a klutz, I’m sure to fall flat on my face and embarrass myself.”
“You’ll embarrass me, too!”
“Prat. Maybe I should take some dance lessons.”
He stared at me, raising an eyebrow. “You really don’t know how to dance?”
“Of course I don’t. No one does these days.”
“I know how to dance,” he said with a shrug, not the least bit embarrassed, “Learnt when I was a kid.”
“Great, now I really will look like an idiot,” I sighed, maybe a little bit impressed.
“Want me to teach you? We can just do a basic step, nothing too fancy,” he offered, putting the poster down amid all of our mess – rosters, ball plans, detention lists. My eyes lit up.
“Oh would you? That would be brilliant, Scorp, thank you!” I exclaimed, and he smiled his ‘I like to make Rose’s heart stop beating’ smile. He stood up and magicked some desks out of the way.
“What are you doing?” I asked, putting aside my rounds roster. We’d never get any work done at this rate.
“Did you not want to learn how to dance?”
“What, right now?” I asked, suddenly nervous.
“Why not? Better start as soon as possible, don’t want you to embarrass me on the night. There’s no one here to see.” His logic was flawless, and I stood up with a gulp.
I wasn’t sure how long my heart could stand, being so close to him. What was this effect he was having on me?
He was standing in the middle of the circle of desks, and I stood a metre away.
“We can’t do a partner dance if you’re not touching me, Rose,” he said, raising an eyebrow. I took a step closer and he grinned, beckoning me further. I took another step and he rolled his eyes, grabbing my hands and settling them on his shoulders. His hands came around my waist, and I stopped breathing.
“Merlin, you really are getting very skinny,” he murmured. I could only blink up at him, my brain foggy. He had such a strange effect on me. “When I move my left leg towards you, move your right leg back.”
I nodded, but when he moved I was still staring up at him. “Oh, you mean you wanted me to move just then,” I said stupidly, and he laughed. His body vibrated under my hands, and I shivered.
“Okay, let’s try again. I’m moving… now!” he grinned, and I obediently took a step back. He nodded in approval. “Now we’re going to move to your left, my right.”
We did so, and he nodded again. “Now you’ll move this leg,” he said, releasing my waist and touching my right thigh, “Towards me.”
Did he light my leg on fire? Why is it so hot? I moved it numbly forward, and he nodded. “Now we’ll take a step to the right, my left.”
Again we did it, and he let me go. No!
“That was the simplest step in the book, the box step. If we keep elaborating on that, we should be fine for two weeks’ time.”
I could only nod, and he gave me a weird look. “You okay?”
I nodded. Then I grabbed my stuff and literally ran from the room, heart racing. I needed to find somewhere to calm down. Running blindly through the corridors, I turned a corner and smacked my head against something hard.
“What the hell? Rose!” someone groaned, and I looked over to see Albus on the ground beside me, rubbing his head. Our stuff was scattered around us and my eyes were streaming in response to the hard bang.
“Sorry, I wasn’t thinking!” I cried, and he snorted, rolling his eyes.
“You never do think, do you?” he muttered, getting to his feet and reluctantly hauling me to mine.
"Bony little thing, aren't you," I heard him say as he dropped my wrist.
Gathering our stuff, Albus handed me my bag and noticed my trembling hands.
“Hey, are you okay?” he asked, forehead creased. We were technically still not talking, but I think everyone was as fed up with the situation as I was.
“Yes I’m fine,” I said too fast. He sighed and pulled me behind a tapestry. The little alcove was lit by several lamps and there was a tiny window looking out on the grounds. I sat down on the ground and my cousin dropped down next to me.
“Speak,” he commanded, and I spoke.
“We were dancing and it was divine. He makes my heart stop beating whenever he’s close by, and sometimes when I just think about him I get butterflies in my belly. When I feel lost or down, he looks at me and everything is better. He’s been the only one there for me this last month when you guys were off being prats. He’s so amazing, and does this cute little thing with his pen when he doesn’t want to write an essay,” I said in a rush, flushing a deep red to match my hair.
Albus stared at me bemused, and I looked away.
“Let me guess,” he started in his know-it-all voice, “You like Scor-“
“NO! Don’t say it out loud, because then it might be true!”
“But it is true. You like Malf-“
“ALBUS! Don’t be such a –“
“ROSE LOVES SCORPIUS!” he yelled over the top of me, laughing. I hit him hard, but he ignored me.
“I hate you.”
“Merlin, I can’t believe it took you so long. You’re ridiculous, you know. Our group probably wouldn’t be so broken up if you just dated Scorp in the first place, not Jake.”
I gaped at him. "What? How can you try to blame all of this on me?"
"Well think about it. If you were with Scorp, then Jake wouldn't have yelled at you at dinner. You wouldn't have yelled at me at the lake. You wouldn't have had a breakdown and not realise your dad was sick. Hugo wouldn't be mad at you and neither would Callie. Ta duuuh!" he finished, flourishing his arms.
"You've clearly put a lot of thought into that," I said dryly, but then turned serious, "But life isn't that black and white. You can't put this on me, that's not fair."
He nodded, squeezing my hand. " I know, and I don't."
“You know Callie is in love with you, right?” I said, changing the subject.
“I know, and I fancy the pants off her. But I’ve royally fucked up. She’ll never have me back now,” he said, and to my surprise his eyes filled with tears.
“Oh my God, Al, you’re crying!” I said gleefully, and he pulled me into a hug.
“Shut up, you stupid bint. Be my cousin again?”
“Like I could ever stop.
When I woke up the next morning, I actually wanted to get out of bed. For the first time in a long time, I noticed that the sun was shining through the heavy snow clouds, and everything was sparkling with a clean freshness.
“Where did you disappear to last night?” Scorpius asked me, stepping out of his room as I skipped out of the shower. I glowed at the sight of him in his boxers and tight white shirt and kissed him on the cheek in delight.
“Al and I are talking again!”
I shut my bedroom door, missing the look happiness on Scorpius’ face as he touched his cheek. Throwing my uniform on with a vigour I forgot I had, I gathered my books, skipped breakfast and went straight to the library. Despite limited food (I think I last ate on Saturday, perhaps…) my mind felt clearer than it had in a long time.
I flew through several essays before the bell even went, and spent my free lesson planning on how to make up with Callie once and for all.
When the next bell rang, I walked to DADA with a spring in my step. A portrait scowled at me as I wished it a good morning, but that didn’t dampen my spirirts.
Callie and Sophie were already waiting outside the classroom, not standing together. I walked up to Callie without stopping, knowing I'd have second thoughts otherwise.
She just looked at me.
“How are you?”
She snorted and turned away. Stumped but not defeated, I went to Sophie.
She allowed a small smile before looking away.
“Taking Fred to the Winter Ball?"
This earned me a grin, but she still didn’t say anything. Deciding that was progress for the day, I walked into the classroom and sat down, twirling my wand.
Nothing more happened until the next Saturday. We had a week to go until the ball, and everywhere I went I heard conversations about dresses and dates. Even the guys were getting into it which was impressive. Malfoy and I continued our dancing lessons, and I finished each one feeling woozy and disorientated.
“I still haven’t got a dress,” I sighed, sitting in the great hall for the first time in a long time. Al was sitting opposite Scorpius and I, and he kept smiling at me condescendingly. I glared at him and continued to push a grape around my plate.
“Well I haven’t got a date,” Al said as Callie strutted past. She threw him a scornful look, but faltered slightly at the longing in his eyes. Less certain of herself, she kept walking.
“Thank Merlin for Hogsmead today,” I said earnestly, “I’m sure there’ll be a dress there somewhere.”
The boys shifted uncomfortably, and I resisted the urge to reach out and brush Scorp’s hair out of his eyes. “You, uh,” he started, “You don’t want us to come, do you?”
I laughed. “I couldn’t think of anything worse. Walk me down, and then you can do whatever the hell you want,” I said, and they both looked relieved. I’d taken Hugo dress shopping once – worse mistake of my life.
A few hours later and we were rugged up against the snow. I was stopped outside a shop, and the boys were looking longingly towards Honeyduke’s.
“Go!” I said with a laugh, and they ran off. Scorpius glanced behind him once and met my eyes, and I stood transfixed until someone ran into me. Shaking myself out of my reverie, I opened the shop door and went in. Then came straight back out and tried a different shop. Then another, and another, and another. It was hopeless. There was absolutely nothing I could wear in any of them.
Struck by inspiration when I saw a wizard disapparate, I hurried into an alley to do the same thing. It was against so many rules for students to leave Hogsmead, but I was getting desperate.
Closing my eyes and turning on the spot, I pictured an alley similar to the one I was currently in, but one with the smell of sea salt and the sound of seagulls. With a spin and a gutwrenching pop! I apparated successfully in the tiny seaside town near Shell Cottage. The girls and I had visited regularly in the summer, and I knew there were several lovely boutique stores scattered around the place.
I smiled, straightening my clothes and walking out. A man walking down the street gave me a weird look as I appeared from behind a bin. Walking up the street, I was struck by how quiet the town was in winter. A bitter wind tore through the main street, bringing the sharp smell of the ocean with it.
I stopped by a tiny café, cold and hungry. Ducking in, I seated myself at the window and ordered a black coffee. The cakes stared enticingly at me from their display, but I turned my eyes away.
“Thank you,” I said to the girl who brought me my coffee.
“Sure you don’t want a sandwich, love?” she asked, and I shook my head. She nodded at me and went back to cleaning glasses. I quickly drank the scalding liquid, aware that I had very little time. I stood with a slight sway, handed the girl some muggle pounds and headed to a shop where Sophie, Callie and I had seen some beautiful dresses in summer.
Pushing the little boutique’s door open, I smiled at the woman behind the counter. She nodded at me warily – in a seasonal town like this, she probably didn’t expect me to be buying anything. Most of their sales would happen in the warmer months.
“Hello,” I said, walking up to her.
“How can I help you, miss?” the middle-aged sales consultant asked reluctantly, taking in my school uniform with the covered crest and clearly thinking that I didn’t actually want to buy anything. I quickly explained that I had a school ball on next the weekend, and her eyes lit up.
“You’ve left it a bit late, love. But I do love a challenge. Step back,” she said, finally warming up. I grinned and did as I was told.
“Coat,” she commanded, holding out her hand. I shrugged it off and passed it to her. She hung it up and surveyed me with beady eyes.
“Hmm, you’re only a scrap of a thing. Beautiful hair, beautiful blue eyes, small breasts… let me see.” She hurried over to a rack of floor-length gowns and picked out a creamy, lacy concoction.
“Is money an issue, miss?” she paused and asked, and I shook my head. Her face lit up and she pushed me towards the change rooms. “Put this one on, and I’ll find some more.”
Thank Merlin the shop was well heated, as would the great hall be next week, because there was barely anything to the dress. Although it fell to the floor, the back was open and the front plunged beyond my ‘small breasts’.
“Ummm, maybe something a bit more… substantial?” I asked, pulling aside the curtain, “It is a school event after all..”
She nodded, straight away understanding, and thrust several more hangers at me. I grinned and tugged the curtains back in place.
This would be perfect if only the girls were here. My heart sank when I remembered Callie’s determined ignoring outside of DADA and wondered if she’d ever forgive me for outing her and Albus, and for whatever she thought I did to Jake.
I pulled the first dress off and tried the next one on. As I was about to call out to the lady, the bell above the door rang and someone entered the shop. I shrugged and tugged the zip up on the current dress, a slinky black, silky thing. I didn’t mind it. It was strappy and pretty, but not me.
“What about this one?” I asked, stepping out of the change room.
I was answered with a, “I hardly think so, you look like a waif. Merlin, Rosie, you can do better than that!”
Callie was standing there, hand reaching out to a rack of dresses as I walked out. I stared at her, and she stared at me.
“What are you doing here?”
“What are you doing here?” she retaliated. The shop keeper raised her eyebrows and walked into my change room to hang up some more dresses and bring the first one back out.
“I need a dress for the ball,” I said in a small voice, “I don’t know what to get.”
“Definitely not that one,” she said vehemently. Then she saw the hurt in my eyes (and maybe the tears starting to form) and she softened.
“How about this?” She held out a pale blue gown, and I burst into tears properly. To the shop keeper’s horror, Callie started crying too. She strode towards me and pulled me into a bone-crushing hug, the dress trapped between us.
“Girls, please! The dress! The dress!” the lady said, and I giggled through my tears.
Callie let me go and sheepishly handed the lady the poor dress.
"Will you talk to me again?" I asked, shyly pressing creases out of the dress I was wearing. Callie reached out and squeezed my arm.
"Only if you talk to me," she said.
"I did! I said hello the other day!"
"Then yeah, let's talk again."
With that, she pushed me through to the change room, and pulled the curtain shut. My head spun with happiness as I felt a load lift off my shoulders.
“Here, take this one,” Callie said, passing a dress over the top of the door. My fingers closed around a beautiful green dress that Sophie tried on when we were here together. It had fit tiny Sophie, and now I was about to try it on. I hesitated, then stuck my head through the curtain.
“But that one is Sophie’s,” I muttered, and Callie rolled her eyes.
“She’s hardly here to stake her claim, is she?”
I shrugged and put the dress on. The shop bell rang again, but I was too distracted by the dress. It truly was beautiful – a big bow encased my waist at the back, thick straps crossed over my shoulders, the high neckline leant it class and it flowed all the way down to my toes.
I looked in the mirror and smoothed the fabric with shaking hands. Sophie, tiny little Sophie, had tried on this dress. And now it was fitting me.
My mind spun at how much things had changed between the summer holidays and December. Checking the dress tag, I noted that I'd lost about four dress sizes.
“Do you think it'll match Scorpius' eyes?” I blurted out stupidly, opening the door and stepping out. Callie grinned and raised an eyebrow. Beside her, Sophie put a hand to her mouth and giggled.
“Oh la la, mon cherie, thinking about Scorpius while getting dressed. Now take my dress off, you skinny cow.”
The smile on my face started to hurt after a while.
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