Chapter 18 : Failure
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“Look! There’s Hayley!” said Lizzie enthusiastically, pointing to the general direction of where her cousin was hovering in the air, waving shyly at the crowd. She was playing the position of Seeker against -
“Scorpius! Look, he's there!” she said just as enthusiastically. He was much more confident than Hayley, grinning assuredly at the crowd.
“How are things going with him, by the way?” Dom asked Rose from her other side.
“Yeah, any secret snogging sessions we should know about?” Lizzie said, smiling.
“Of course not,” Rose snapped uncomfortably, colour rising predictably in her cheeks. They kept randomly bringing him up in conversation and it was starting to get on her nerves. “I just hope he survives this match, after what happened last time. So do you still like Al, Lizzie?” she asked, attempting to divert the attention away from herself.
“Oh, he’s nice, but I got over him ages ago,” she replied distractedly, as the whistle was blown and the players began to glide through the air at alarming speeds on their fancy state-of-the-art broomsticks.
“Thought so. So, uh, has Fabian asked you out yet?” she asked casually.
Lizzie’s head snapped over to stare at Rose in alarm. “Wh- what – how did you –”
“Well has he or not?” Dom demanded.
“Y- yeah, he did. A few days ago. I said no to him, obviously.”
“What?! Why?” Rose cried.
“Because you’re my best friend and you’re more important, of course,” Lizzie answered like it was obvious. “I do actually value our friendship, you know.”
“No! You don’t have to do that for me, Lizzie. If you like him… well, by all means, go for it.”
Lizzie was stunned. “You’d be okay with me and Fabian, um, going out?”
“Sure I would,” Rose replied. Lizzie raised both eyebrows, making her brown eyes appear even larger than usual. “He’s nice, you’re nice; I don’t know why I never saw this coming earlier, to be honest. He really cares about you. I can see that much.”
Lizzie smiled to herself. “Wouldn’t it be a bit weird, though? He’s my best friend’s ex… I think there’s some kind of unwritten rule about that.”
Dom nodded in agreement. “Your friendship may never be the same again,” she stated solemnly.
Rose couldn’t help but laugh and assured her, “Don’t worry about it! It’s totally fine. You have my, er, blessing. It’s not like you’re getting married or anything.”
She raised an eyebrow as Lizzie blushed. “What?" Rose continued. "Please don’t tell me you’re going to run off with him to Las Vegas straight after our NEWTs to get eloped.”
“No, of course not, it’s just, I had this dream the other night…”
“Okay, this is where I draw the line,” Rose said, amused, “I’m not discussing how dreamy Fabian is with you.”
“But he’s so fine,” Lizzie said, struggling to hold back the giggles. “How can you not help but admire his –”
“Time for you to leave,” said Rose, and she pushed Lizzie off her seat. “Go tell Fabian you want to bear his babies or something.”
“Too far, Rose, too far,” Lizzie muttered as she picked up her cardigan and left the Gryffindor stands in search of a certain Ravenclaw boy.
Rose turned her attention back to the game and watched Scorpius zoom lazily around the pitch in search of the Snitch, hardly trying. He obviously held no belief that Hayley would ever find it before him, as did around 99.97% of the spectators. Hufflepuff hadn’t won a Quidditch match since 2014 and that trend wasn’t likely to break anytime soon.
“Give me your hand,” Dom ordered after a while, evidently growing bored of the slow moving match, and began painting Rose’s nails with a clear sparkly polish. Slytherin was scoring Quaffle after Quaffle through the hoops and it looked as if the Fates were once again not in favour of the Hufflepuffs.
Rose zoned out. It was all getting a bit tedious. Couldn’t he just catch the damn Snitch already and spare the poor Hufflepuffs some dignity?
“Wait, what’s this – Hufflepuff Seeker Hayley Martin has spotted the Snitch! She lunges towards it – Malfoy has now spotted it as well and he’s after her like a rocket – they’re so close – but it’s too late; MARTIN’S GOT THE SNITCH! HUFFLEPUFF WIN THE MATCH, 150 to 120!”
For a second or two the crowd was deafeningly silent as they comprehended the sudden turn of events, but then there came a thunderous applause and roars of praise, as well as roars of rage from the Slytherins.
“Oh, what happened?” Dom enquired as she finally looked up at the pitch, sounding only half interested.
“Hufflepuff beat Slytherin,” Rose muttered, still disbelieving of the information her own eyes had just sent to her brain.
Dom raised a perfect blonde brow and smirked. “Seriously? That’s hilarious.”
Scorpius was still hovering in mid-air, staring vacantly at the spot where Hayley had caught the Snitch.
Al and Scorpius plonked themselves down on the bench next to the girls at dinner that evening.
“What are you losers doing at the Gryffindor table?” asked Dom with a smirk. “Has your own house disowned you for being such a failure?”
“No,” Scorpius answered quickly. Too quickly. Red patches appeared on his cheeks, which Rose thought was absolutely adorable.
“Aw, you poor neglected soul. I guess my cousin’s just too skilled for you. How can you bear to show your face after that humiliating fiasco?” said Lizzie, unsuccessfully masking her laughter. He threw a grape at her forehead to shut her up.
“Everyone on our table’s shooting daggers at Scorp,” Al explained. “We decided to leave before things got… physical.”
“It must suck to be a has-been,” Dom added musingly.
"Are you not man enough to handle some fisticuffs?"
“They’re being mean to me! Make them stop!” Scorpius whined in a childish voice across the table to Rose, who had been quietly observing her friends with an amused expression on her face. “I’ve already been told I’m a huge let-down by my captain, as well as Scarlett almost hexing me since she swears I mucked up on purpose. I don’t need to hear it again.”
“But Scorpius,” Rose said, “you got your arse kicked by a bunch of Hufflepuffs.”
He pouted as everyone burst out laughing. “Gee, thanks, Rose. You’re meant to be my friend.”
“And you’re meant to be the sensational Slytherin seeker. What happened?”
“I was hardly trying; I didn’t realise she could fly so fast! Thought it’d be a walk in the park.” He lowered his head morosely.
“Moral of the story: never underestimate a Hufflepuff,” Lizzie chuckled.
Scorpius leaned down to whisper in Rose’s ear, covering up by reaching for the jug of pumpkin juice.
“You’re going to pay for not sticking up for me, Weasley.”
“Whatever,” she whispered back, trying to ignore the tingle zipping down her spine.
He just smiled smugly, pouring himself a drink.
“So what are the final rankings?” Lizzie asked eagerly.
Reaching out to grab the fruit bowl, Scorpius said, “Gryffindor won overall, Slytherin in second place, Hufflepuff in third and Ravenclaw last. They would’ve come last if they hadn’t won today’s match. It didn’t even affect Slytherin’s ranking anyway.” His arm grazed Rose’s ever so slightly as he brought it back to his side, causing her to catch her breath in shock. She turned to give him a questioning look but he was munching an apple, eyes all wide and innocent.
“Yeah, go lions! I knew we’d do it! Third year in a row,” Lizzie grinned.
Al rolled his eyes and said, “Don’t look so smug, we’ll get you next ye –” His voice droned out towards the end as his face dawned with realisation.
“We won’t be here next year, Al.”
“God, yeah. I forgot.” After a short pause, he continued, “we have exams that will determine how well we do in later life in just one week’s time.”
“You only just realised?” scoffed Scorpius. Suddenly he brushed his leg into Rose’s, and she almost choked on her pie, letting out a conspicuous giggle-squeak.
Scooting a safe distance away, she asked in a higher-pitched voice, “haven’t you been revising, Al? These exams are really important.”
“Don’t worry, Professor, I’ve done a bit.” She rolled her eyes. “But not all of us like to waste our time sat in front of a textbook all day.”
“Hey,” she said defensively in response to his pointed look her way, “I just really don’t want an Exceeds Expectations, alright? They’re like a stain on the results sheet.”
He stared at her with his mouth hung open attractively.
“Have you been Confounded or something? I’d love to get an E!”
“E’s are really good,” she quickly agreed. “I’d just be so chuffed with all O’s.”
Dom snorted. "I'd be chuffed with all A's."
“It’s only just hit me, though,” Al said pensively after a few seconds. “We’re leaving Hogwarts soon, forever.”
Rose almost spat out the contents of her mouth when, without moving any closer to her, Scorpius linked his left ankle around hers. “Aw, I’m gonna miss you guys. Even if you are a bunch of meanies.”
“What are you doing?” she hissed, looking down at her foot (which was now being molested by Scorpius’s), feeling rather confused by his actions; she didn’t have a clue what he was up to but for some unfathomable reason she didn’t move away. She was hyper-aware of every little movement, like how his foot was subtly moving further up her leg…
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, glinting eyes saying quite the opposite.
“You are enjoying this far too much,” she stated, tentative.
“Yes, yes I am,” he smiled pleasantly.
“This is harassment.”
He smirked and kicked her foot lightly with his own. “You love it.”
“Um, guys?” Dom interrupted. “It’s kind of rude to have a private conversation when there are five of us present.”
“Honestly, you can’t get any privacy around here,” muttered Scorpius, scooting further away from Rose again.
She let out a long, slightly shaky breath of relief. As embarrassing as it was to admit, her lungs seemed to suffer from air deficiency whenever he got too close and she felt all hot and bothered.
“This is where it gets serious,” Lizzie announced solemnly. “Quidditch season is over, and the only obstacle in our way to graduating is NEWTs. If we want good grades for a bright future, we’re gonna have to work really hard in this coming week.”
“Oh bollocks,” Al muttered, mostly to himself. None of them looked too happy at the thought of working ‘really hard’.
“Yeah,” Rose finally agreed. “We should meet up in the library every day at, let’s say, 5pm, and revise till dinner. How does that sound?”
There was a murmur of agreement.
“Okay, good. This is gonna be fun,” she grumbled. Although she was probably the most hard-working of the group, Rose also found relaxing in the sun with friends much more appealing than spending hours on end with her head stuck in a potions textbook.
A warm, comforting arm snuck around her waist. “Cheer up, Rose,” Scorpius uttered into her ear. “I’m here to brighten up your dreary days of potions revision.”
Instead of flinching or shaking his arm off her, she turned her head to smile up at him gratefully. In all honesty, her days really had become brighter since they’d become friends again.
It was Sunday night on the last day of May, a day before NEWTs began.
Rose was in her bed with the curtains closed around her, heart pumping blood abnormally fast around her body considering she had been lying completely still for the past twenty minutes. She just couldn’t calm her mind, overflowing with frightening thoughts like ‘I’m going to forget everything I’ve ever learnt’ and ‘I’m going to let everyone down’, but most importantly ‘Scorpius will beat me in every subject’. She’d never live that one down.
She knew she was expected to get all O’s, but maybe a few E’s if she was having a bad day, like she did for her OWLs. But even then she’d had to work relentlessly, and everyone knew NEWTs were ten times harder than OWLs. Not to mention ten times more important.
She breathed deeply and rocked herself in a ball, cuddling Georgie the Pygmy Puff close to her chest. The purring vibrated against her heart and somehow managed to calm her nerves slightly.
She knew she needed sleep or else she wouldn’t be able to concentrate in the exams.
Praying to Merlin she wouldn’t have a nightmare of some giant rubber duck grading all her papers as ‘Troll’, she eventually sunk into a dreamless slumber.
“Don’t look at me, I’m hideous,” moaned Dom as she checked her reflection in the back of a spoon at breakfast. “My face is breaking out.”
“Me too,” sighed Rose as she licked her spoon free of milk and cereal and used it to scrutinize her face. “Just my luck, I’ve got a huge zit on the tip of my nose. I’ll call it… Herbert.”
“This one here,” Dom said, pointing to a large spot on her chin, “is called La Dame Blanche.”
“Okay… that’s even weirder than Herbert.”
“It’s French for ‘the white lady’ – the highest mountain in France, scarily similar in size to the spot on my chin,” Dom clarified. She was met with a baffled look from Rose, and shrugged.
“My face is pretty clear,” said Lizzie, “which is ironic since I’m usually the spottiest out of us all. Ah, the joys of exam stress.”
“Shut up,” muttered Dom, covering her chin with her hand. “I’ll have to owl Uncle George about sending me some new WonderWitch products that actually work.”
“Speaking of owls, here they come now.”
Rose was delighted to see her family owl, Mad-eye, land gracefully in front of her, steering clear of her breakfast. He was a lovely little owl and Rose stroked the side of his face affectionately, just below his twitching eye. Rose was afraid of him when they first bought him as she thought his convulsing eye meant he had rabies or something, but she’d grown used to it and now found him adorable. The poor thing would’ve been perched in the corner of Magical Menagerie forever if they hadn’t taken him home.
She fed him a piece of bread before reading her letter:
Good luck on your first exam today, love! You’ve worked hard for this so just take a deep breath and do your best. I know you’ll do brilliantly- you always do. I’m so proud of you.
Write back once they’re over to tell me how they go. I know you won’t let your father and I down.
Lots of love, Mum
Rose smiled happily and felt a new burst of confidence, as well as a little extra pressure, surge through her as she put the letter in her bag. Al came over not long after and passed her another letter.
“This is for you, it came with my owl,” he shrugged.
She grinned as she recognised the familiar scruffy writing.
I sent this with Harry’s owl since your mum had already sent Mad-eye off with her letter. She’s been stressing out about your exams for weeks, but Merlin knows why. There’s no need. Just relax - you’re easily the cleverest in your year, and you know you can’t disappoint me as long as you beat Scorpius. I haven’t taken a single NEWT in my life and look at your old man now: a high-earning member of the Ministry. I know they’re nastily exhausting and all but I hope you’re not panicking as much as your mother, Rosie.
I love you so much,
p.s. I trust you’re staying away from boys and concentrating on your studies.
Rose rolled her eyes with a smile as she read the last line; he had added that on the end of every single letter he’d sent to her since first year. According to her father, every one of her friends was female, even though Scorpius had visited their house multiple times with Al in the holidays.
“Can all fifth and seventh year students taking an examination this morning gather in the entrance hall immediately,” Professor McGonagall called out, breaking Rose out of her happy shell.
“Oh, Merlin,” the three girls muttered in unison, sharing petrified looks.
A/N: ...Dun dun dun!
Out of curiosity, do you guys prefer longer chapters (4000+ words ;)) or shorter ones (2000 words)?
Anyways, hope you enjoyed it! I was cackling like a mad woman whilst writing the dinner scene, haha.
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