Chapter 9 : Nine
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To the credit of the school staff, the whole thing got cleared away pretty quickly. I’d been yanked away by Professor Longbottom - embarrassing enough, that, considering he’s on pretty good terms with my parents - and we’d both immediately been shunted off back to the castle. I’d gotten a glimpse of one of the Quidditch scouts before I left, and he was shaking his head sadly, marking something off on his stupid clipboard.
It was very, very difficult to resist the urge to have a small victory dance in the middle of the lawn, let me tell you. I’d even had one prepared, but as such, my talents went unobserved another day.
We got shoved all the way back to McGonagall’s office, and were told to stay there and not kill each other until she came in to scream at us - this wasn’t exact wording, mind, but the sentiment is right. To tell the truth, I was sort of nervous Snake Eyes might try something underhanded with one of McGonagall’s inexplicably heavy paperweights, but he just sat there and pouted until she came in.
Our headmistress was now pacing up and down in front of the desk like a saggy old dragon, her nostrils flaring so widely I was sort of concerned she might inhale something. Her arms were folded behind her back, clutching her forearms in a vise grip. “Nothing,” she said at last, with enough venom to poison a troll, “merits the behavior of two of our finest students at today’s match.”
I choked a bit on a suppressed laugh, and both Scorpius and McGonagall shot me nasty looks at the exact same moment. I shut up.
“Miss Weasley, you were under a strict agreement to not insult, torment, or otherwise befoul your post as a Quidditch commentator. Are we in accordance on this?” She raised a spidery eyebrow at me now, and I beamed at her.
“I do believe you are correct, my dear lady.”
Scorpius rolled his eyes so hugely I imagined I could see the whites of them. I stuck my tongue out at him.
“And you did not uphold your end of this agreement, Miss Weasley.”
“To be fair, Professor,” I said in my most polite voice, crossing one leg over the other and clasping my hands atop both of them. “That excuse for a human being sort of crashed into me. I could have died,” I added, widening my eyes to make myself appear more innocent.
Which I was, of course. Mostly.
“We are discussing you. Although,” she said crisply, momentarily deterred from her original line of thought, as tends to happen to old people, “I was rather disappointed in your antics, Mr. Malfoy. I expected better of you, based on past behaviors.
Scorpius mumbled something that sounded like “alligator corset” and didn’t choose to elaborate further. I smirked.
McGonagall heaved a great sigh and unfolded her arms, propping them on her desk and leaning on them stiffly. “Well, I don’t particularly want to get to the bottom of this one. A month’s worth of detentions for the both of you -“
Scorpius’s mouth went earthward.
“ - and I shall be writing letters to your parents, as well,” she finished, standing up straight, her sharp eyes flicking from Scorpius to me and back again.
I gave a small sigh, but it was really more for show than anything else. Mum and Dad had had enough letters from Hogwarts over the years to keep them on their toes, and this wouldn’t have much of an effect. Mum might feign disappointment for a couple of minutes, but then she’d get wrapped up in some new legislation or another and forget just how much her daughter resembled her husband in the mischief-making department.
I blame lots of things on my family, I think, but it’s good for the soul to be a Weasley. There’s always somebody to blame.
After that little pronouncement about the letters, there was a sort of awkward silence, and finally I raised my hand, something I rarely remembered to do in lessons. “Can we go, Professor?”
McGonagall pursed her lips. “Your Heads of Houses will escort you back to your dormitories, in case things should get” - she paused for the briefest of seconds - “nasty.”
Scorpius looked indignant. “They won’t -“
“You will wait here for Professor Slughorn and Professor Longbottom.” She pursed her lips so hard it looked like it probably hurt, and swept out of the classroom without so much as a how-do-you-do. It was at that moment that I became aware of a very pressing problem - namely, I was stuck alone with a murderous Slytherin who clearly wanted nothing more than to conk me in the head and drag my body into the dungeons, where it would become fodder for rats and acromantulas.
Although he was hiding it pretty well, I must say.
Finally, after perhaps the longest silence in the history of time, he spoke out of the corner of his mouth in a sort of hissing voice. “You - are - an - idiot.”
I squawked a bit, but no words came out. “I really underestimated your sheer stupidity, Weasley,” he continued nastily. “Do the words ‘we have a deal’ mean anything to you, or do you just make promises solely for the fun of breaking them?”
“Oh, you are so one to talk,” I snapped back, coherence coming back to me in a miraculous rush. “What about you, then? Hypocrisy sound like a right joke to you, does it?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re not innocent, Malfoy,” I said waspishly; my mouth was a little bitter from the acidity of the words that were seeping out of it. “You’re far from it, and where I’m concerned you deserved to look stupid in front of those scouts -“
Scorpius made a move like he was going to stand up, and then thought better of it, so it looked like a massive twitch. Probably guilty conscience for ratting me out to Julian, the wart.
It occurred to me rather suddenly that I’d left Julian out of the entire equation up until that point. Actually, if I was being truthful, I’d sort of forgotten he’d existed since beginning that whole revenge plan. But that was probably because I was filled with such -
Oh, damn. Scorp-Face was still talking.
“ - and I don’t know what you shoved into your ears, but it’s obviously pierced your brain and I’d kindly advise you to do something about it.” He raised a condescending eyebrow, and I tried hard to look like I’d listened to the rest of what he’d said, and was therefore insulted by it.
Unfortunately, it was a rather good insult. That boy could play this game well.
“You started it,” I said childishly, a bit abashed that it was the only thing I could come up with. He threw his hands in the air and his head leaned back at an alarming angle, so that he was looking briefly at the ceiling. I glanced up there, too, but it looked rather ordinary.
“Why the hell do you keep saying that? I didn’t -“
But whatever he did or didn’t do was a bit of a moot point, because right at that moment the door opened and McGonagall sauntered back in, Longbottom and Slughorn close behind her. The former looked like he’d rather be doing anything than escorting a Weasley away from the headmistress’s office; the latter, like this was a rather amusing end to his pleasure-filled afternoon.
“Quite a speech you gave today, Miss Weasley! Cheeky!” he said jovially upon seeing I was looking in his direction; he added a mock-wag of the finger in unfelt reproach.
“This is not the time, Horace,” said the old bat tartly. “Both of you may go,” she added in Scorpius’s and my direction. He stood up quickly and, without a second look, stomped away, not even pausing to wait for Slughorn. I exchanged an uneasy look with Professor Longbottom, but he just shrugged a bit and resumed studying the nails of his right hand.
That feeling in my stomach could be termed guilt. And it picked the absolute worst time in the world to manifest itself.
When I got back to the common room, and Professor Longbottom had high-tailed it out of there as quickly as his legs would allow - bless him, he just does not get enough exercise in those greenhouses of his - I found three people waiting for me on the sofa near the fire in the common room. Pippa and Albus sat on either side of Hugo, who looked like he’d just swallowed a very large and particularly putrid Cockroach Cluster.
Both Al and Pips opened their mouths at the same moment, ready to launch into the verbal attack.
“Look,” I said quickly, holding up my hands in my best stay-away-bubonic-plague gesture. “I don’t really feel like having my nose rubbed in how horribly that went, if it’s all the same to you. Quite frankly, I am going to crawl in bed and stay there for a century or five.”
Albus looked slightly crestfallen for a moment, but Pippa, brave soul that she is, opened her mouth right back up again and forged on with whatever she’d wanted to say in the first place. “We’ve got something to tell you, Rose,” she said firmly, and to my surprise, nudged Hugo in the ribs. He squirmed in discomfort. “Or, rather, your brother does.”
I frowned and leaned against the stretch of wall next to the fireplace. I wasn’t so sure that I bought into this just yet - they might be trying to trick me into something. Like apologizing. And being humble was not something I did well.
It’s all those feminine charms and wiles girls are always reading about in Witch Weekly. Humbleness is one of those, but it’s as out of my reach as Scorpius at the moment.
Julian, rather. Well, I mean, either one’s sort of kaput - but I don’t care that Scorpius is mad at me.
“I’m listening,” I said, trying to wrench my mind back to the dilemma at hand while simultaneously forgetting about the Scorpius-is-a-backstabbing-liar one swimming about up there. Hugo took a deep breath and squeezed his eyes shut tightly.
“Imighthavetoldacertainsomeonecertainthingsaboutacertainsomeoneelse" - he paused for breath - "andtheymightnothavebeencertainlytrueandI’mprettycertainI’msorry" - another breath - "andI’mreallycertainIdon’twanttodie.” He peeped one eye open to see how I was taking that humdinger of a run-on sentence. I blinked at him and looked back at Pippa.
“The only thing I caught from that was ‘certain’.”
She scowled at Hugo, who looked very much like he wanted to sink right into the sofa cushions. And that alone was enough to impress me, because usually Pippa was the one coming to my brother’s aid when I was getting onto him for annoying things. Like existing.
“This is what comes of your snide comments to Hugo about Quidditch,” piped up Al helpfully, but Pippa shushed him with a little fluttering of the hand.
“Your brother,” she informed me stoutly, “heard you talking about Julian a while back and apparently decided it would be good to take matters into his own hands.” Hugo wriggled so pitifully at that that I almost felt sorry for the worm.
“You did what?!” I screamed. “And just what is that supposed to - oh, Merlin.” I covered my face with my hands and let out an award-winning groan, because it just slammed home in my brain what that meant. If Hugo had interfered - and it looked very much as though he had…
Scorpius was innocent.
“You were nasty to me first!” Hugo spoke up hotly, although he still largely resembled the sofa behind him in coloring. “You’re always being mean to me, interrupting my Quidditch tactics and calling me a shrimp and all that sort of stuff.” He cleared his throat and fiddled with his tie.
I pinched the bridge of my nose and tried with everything in me not to wrap my hands about his throat. “Okay, Hugo. Focus. When exactly did you tell Julian… what you’d heard?”
He frowned, tipping his head to the side. “It was one of your announcement days -“
“Every day is one of Rose’s announcement days,” Albus tossed in helpfully. He looked as though he was rather enjoying the whole thing; I imagine Roman society wore similar expressions of amusement to attend gladiator fights.
“Oh, no, wait! It was that day I ran into Pippa and knocked her to the ground!” Hugo clapped his hands a bit and glanced at Pippa, who grimaced as she recalled that particular incident and the bruises that she probably still had as a result. “And then you told me I was being annoying,” he added petulantly, with a dark look in my direction.
“I did not,” I said instantly. Rose Weasley may not have a lot of dignity left at this point, but there are shredded remains, and I would like to keep this as long as -
Oh, no, wait. I did call him annoying. And come to think of it, I might have called him gross, too.
“So I got angry,” he was saying now, still in that whiny and defensive tone, “and then I saw Julian in the corridor later… and it just sort of… slipped out.”
There was a very heavy sort of silence then, and I continued rubbing my face, mostly because I didn’t want to look at Albus and see what sort of gloating look he had on at that moment. What else was I supposed to say? It’s all right, Hugo, I’m sure you didn’t mean for things to wind up in a heap of rubble with Scorpius on top of me, while I was shouting -
Oh, hang on. That just sounds weird.
“And tell her what else you did, Hugo.” Pippa was madder than I could ever remember seeing her, looking ready to spit smoke and flames, like a gum-chewing dragon. Which wouldn’t work, but my mind wasn’t really up to making sound allusions at the moment. I stared daggers at my brother, who was still trying his hardest to become one with the sofa. He swallowed.
“I… well, Uncle George was telling me about some of the pranks he used to pull on Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry when they were dating…”
This did not sound promising. At all.
He stopped speaking and looked sideways at Al, beseeching him for help. Albus grinned back at him helpfully. “Go on, buddy,” he said, rubbing Hugo’s hair in a way that he, Hugo, did not seem to find appealing in the least.
“I… may have sent Pippa that original letter from Scorpius,” he whispered. And suddenly, I remembered in a rather vivid fashion what Pippa had said that night we’d burned all Scorpius’s letters of explanation:
“Funny thing is, it didn’t even look like his handwriting on that letter - he probably got that girl to write it for him, the coward…”
Without my approval, my voice box chose that moment to make a strangled sort of squeaking sound.
It was Hugo. It was Hugo’s fault that Pippa had broken up with Scorpius, and Hugo’s fault that I’d encouraged Pippa to burn all Scorpius’s letters, and Hugo’s fault I was so hateful to him in the first place…
Oh my Merlin.
“Hugo Bertram Weasley, you are so dead,” I hissed, my fingers arching into claws and itching to gouge out his stupid eyeballs. “Deader than dead. Deader than that snake you found in the garden when you were three. Deader than -“ There weren’t even words anymore for how dead he was.
“Would it help if I said I was really, really sorry?” Hugo was pouting, something that always seemed to fool Dad into making him think he was serious. He was a brilliant pouter - he had this way of making his eyes go all wide and blinking.
I hissed at him. “Why would you even do something like that?!”
“Roxanne told me it would be funny!” he wailed. “I didn’t think it would go that far!” Poor sap - he actually had tears in his eyes at this point.
Well, good. I hoped he’d cry.
Pippa finally spoke up, sounding as though she really didn’t want to. “So… what are you going to do about this, Rose?” I peeked at her from between my fingers. She was nibbling on her bottom lip like it was the newest flavor of Bertie Bott’s.
“I’m not going to do anything,” I said staunchly. “It’s Hugo who should be apologizing to Scorpius, not me.” But even as I said it, there was that sort of cold, shivery feeling trotting through my insides. My conscience speaking again, probably, after all those years of smothering it to no avail.
It was Hugo’s fault - but I had been the one to act on it.
Conscience, you suck forever.
“Technically, you never had proof enough to warrant calling Malfoy a - what was it? a ‘dirty, rotten sack of scum’.” Albus looked like Christmas had come a month earlier than normal. “I think you need to apologize, Rosie.”
Pippa nodded mutely; Hugo joined in for a head-bob or two, but was quickly deterred by the stinging look I chucked in his general direction.
I flopped to the hearth rug and groaned into it loudly, accidentally inhaling a dust bunny or two and nearly coughing up a lung. I tapped the tips of my shoes, too, for good measure - it added an overall despairing effect.
There are times that call for histrionics, and facing the prospect of sucking up my pride, and actually apologizing to Scorpius for about a year’s worth of wrongs? Definitely one of these.
A/N: I was so pleased to see everyone's faith in Scorpius! And he even had the Malfoy genes working against him, and you still stuck by that boy. As well you should have, this author says in a biased fashion. Shout-out to katti4493 and Lia for correctly guessing Hugo's part in this dastardly deed!
We've got one chapter left to go now -- one chapter! That is so strange. I think I'll miss this story when it's over. But thanks so much for all the reads and reviews and favorites so far -- it means a lot to me!
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