Chapter 35 : Confessions Are Awkward Business
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By Wednesday, however, it was starting to eat away at her, especially with the Quidditch match fast approaching. By the end of Care of Magical Creatures, her resolve had crumbled.
She’d managed to greet Scorpius perfectly normally when she sat down next to him, but when he’d grabbed hold of her hand partway through the lesson, it had brought the conversation she’d overheard rushing back. By the end of class, he could clearly tell something was wrong.
The only mercy was that he didn’t appear to realise yet that it had to do with him.
“Are you okay?” he asked with genuine concern during a lull in the lesson, and she forced a smile.
“I’ll live.” He continued to study her, and the worry lines on his forehead deepened. Rose made a split second decision. “Can you - er - after class-”
“Sure,” he said quickly. “Yeah. Absolutely.”
When the rest of the fifth years began to trudge up the hill toward the castle, he hung back while she took her time about packing up her books. The butterflies in her stomach seemed to have turned into hippogriffs, which really was extraordinarily uncomfortable, and she was having a hard time breathing. If it was just admitting that she’d eavesdropped, that would be one thing, but this was probably going to require her to deal with what she’d overheard, and she was more than a little afraid of what a conversation about that might lead to.
“So what’s wrong?” he asked as they started to follow their classmates up to the castle, albeit at a much slower pace.
For a moment, Rose was sorely tempted to try to distract him. She was fairly certain that she could... but then she’d be giving into cowardice, and that would be wrong.
A cool breeze blew across their faces, and she felt herself relax a little. The issue confronting her was no different than it had been five minutes before, but there was something about the autumn air that improved her disposition enough to give her the strength to tackle the issue.
“I-” She swallowed hard. This was even harder than she’d expected it to be, and from the expression on his face, he was starting to catch up. “I was in the library two nights ago,” she said in a rush before she could lose her nerve. “I just - I didn’t mean to be, I just was, and...” she trailed off. They’d reached a small patch of trees, and she let herself collapse into a pile of leaves under one of them, feeling very miserable.
She had liked it much better when she hadn’t felt guilty about eavesdropping on him.
“And you overheard something?” Scorpius asked carefully. She nodded, and he knelt down. “A conversation between me and Noah?” She nodded again, and he rocked back onto his heels. “Bloody hell.”
“I didn’t mean it,” she said again without looking up from the ground. She didn’t want to see his face. “I was just there, and then you were talking, and before I could-”
“Before you could what?” he asked. His voice was already heated. “Tell us you were there?” She didn’t respond, and he let himself fall backward so that he was sitting on the leaves, too. “It’s really not that hard. All you have to say is, ‘Hey, guys, I’m here.’”
“I couldn’t.” He gave a snort of skepticism, and she felt her temper start to rise, too. “It’s true,” she snapped. “There I was in the library, minding my own business and trying to find a book, and suddenly there you are talking about - it’s not my fault. I didn’t go there to eavesdrop on you, believe it or not.” She spat the last few words out, and he sighed.
“I believe you,” he said after a minute. “If you had, you wouldn’t be looking so miserable.”
“And then you started talking and I couldn’t move.” He started to say something, but she talked over him. “No, I literally couldn’t move. Where do you get off talking about something like - like that - in the library, anyway?”
She knew that she really should have stepped out and told them that she was there as soon as she’d heard them, but at the same time, she hadn’t even been wearing the cloak. If she overheard them, anyone could have, and that made it at least as much their fault as hers.
That was fair enough for her to halfway believe it, anyway, and it made her feel a little better.
Scorpius didn’t respond, and she peeked up at his face. It was inscrutable.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I didn’t mean to.”
He closed his eyes. “Well, you did.”
“You didn’t care this much before,” Rose pointed out.
“Yeah, well, before we weren’t anything but two people who didn’t really like each other, so I had no real expectation of respect.” His tone was still fairly mild, but there was an edge to it that made her nervous.
“I respect you,” she insisted. “I didn’t mean-”
Scorpius cut her off. “I believe you, but I have a hard time believing that there wasn’t any point that you could have stepped out and said, ‘Hey, I’m here, stop talking.’”
Rose didn’t say anything. She couldn’t think of anything to say, largely because he was right.
“Yeah,” he said. “I thought so.”
She broke the silence just as it was becoming awkward and uncomfortable. “Are you breaking up with me?” she asked in a small voice.
His eyebrows shot up. “Dunno,” he said casually. “I wasn’t aware that we were actually going out.” She reached out to smack his arm lightly, and a shadow of a smile appeared on his face.
“You know what I mean.”
“I actually don’t, but...” He sighed. “Merlin, Rose. I don’t know.” Her heart leapt into her throat, and he shook his head. “No. I guess not. It’s...” He fell backwards onto the ground and gazed up at the sky. “It’s not really about that,” he said. “You overheard something you really, really shouldn’t have, and it’s going to change the way you...”
Rose was slightly heartened by the fact that he seemed to be having quite as much trouble talking about all of this as she was. “But I told you,” she pointed out when he didn’t continue. “Right now, which is basically as soon as I could, I barely saw you yesterday.”
He shrugged, and the leaves crackled beneath his shoulders. “True,” he said. “How much time did it take Al to persuade you?”
“He doesn’t know.” Scorpius looked a little taken aback, and she added, “James doesn’t, either. I decided to tell you all on my own.”
“Huh.” His gaze flickered over to her. “Well, that’s progress for you, isn’t it?”
He looked back up at the sky and sighed again. He was doing an awful lot of sighing, and it was Rose’s experience that sighing rarely led to anything good.
“Rose,” he said after a moment, and she steeled herself for the blow. “Don’t take this the wrong way - I really am glad that you told me - but right now I’m feeling pissed off and kind of embarrassed, so can you please go away?”
That wasn’t quite as bad as she’d expected, but it was bad enough. “I am sorry,” she said as she prepared to push herself to her feet. “Really.”
“I know you are.” He glanced back over at her and smiled. “You’re really bothered, aren’t you?” She nodded, and he snorted. “Serves you right. Don’t eavesdrop on me, and we won’t have this problem.” She smiled back and leaned over, intending to brush her lips against his before she left.
Scorpius, however, seemed to have other plans; he turned his head to the side, so all she got was his cheek.
Rose pulled back. He was biting his lip, and the smile had vanished as though it had never been there at all. “Just leave. Please.”
She pushed herself to her feet and walked away without looking back. She half-expected him to call something after her - an apology, a reassurance, something - but nothing was forthcoming.
When she got back to the castle, she considered joining everyone in the Great Hall for lunch, but the conversation with Scorpius had made her lose her appetite.
“Being emotionally invested in someone is awful,” she muttered as she stomped up the stairs. “Why did I ever even consider-”
She stopped herself. She knew why she’d considered it. She knew why she was hoping so strongly that Scorpius would decide to forgive her. She knew why she felt like her stomach was in her throat.
Scorpius Malfoy had definitely grown on her - a lot, and rather quickly, too.
When she got up to the Common Room, it was completely empty. While the solitude was exactly what she’d been hoping for, she appreciated it less than she’d expected to. She didn’t want to launch into the entire thing with Albus - and anyway, lunch had to be nearly over, and she was sure he’d get a good earful about it from Scorpius during Divination and Muggle Studies that afternoon.
James would probably be up here soon, but Rose didn’t especially want to talk to James about it, either. He was making an effort with Scorpius, and she knew that he’d decided that maybe the blond Slytherin wasn’t quite as obnoxious as he’d initially thought, but it still felt vaguely unsporting to talk about something so personal that she was fairly certain Scorpius would not want James knowing.
And Roxanne was certain to be no help.
She climbed back out of the portrait hole and wandered downstairs toward the Hufflepuff Common Room. Hopefully, she’d be able to catch someone coming out of it to ask where Lucy was. She was sure that Lucy would understand.
When she got to the portrait, however, there was no one there, and there didn’t seem to be any activity in the halls. She slid down the wall to the floor to wait, wishing she had a book with her. Staring at the wall hanging directly across from her could only occupy her for so long, and the smell of the food wafting through the corridor from the kitchen was reminding her of how hungry she was.
Thankfully, she didn’t have to wait very long; after about five minutes, she heard her cousin’s voice say, “Rose? Is that you?”
Rose looked up quickly. Lucy was approaching with Evelyn Greengrass.
“I - I was just waiting for you,” she said, stumbling over her words. Lucy cocked her head to the side and frowned a little. “But I can go, if you’re - if you’re busy and - I can go-”
Her cousin shook her head. “Rosie, it’s fine. I just need to get a book for Evy before she has to go off to Ancient Runes. I’ll just be a minute.” She whispered something to the painting hanging on the wall, and it swung open.
As it closed behind her, Rose looked over at the Head Girl. Of all the people she could be alone with right now, Scorpius’s cousin was near the bottom of the list - though at least this particular cousin probably didn’t know about his declaration of love.
“Hey, Rose,” Evelyn said, leaning against the wall. “How are you?”
Rose shrugged. That felt unfairly rude to her, however, so after a moment, she mumbled, “I’m having a bad day.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do?”
Rose shook her head. “I’ll be okay,” she said instead. “I just need Lucy to knock some sense into me and I’ll be fine.”
Evelyn laughed. “You mean you want to cry and have Lucy rub your back and promise it’ll all be okay?”
Rose smiled despite herself. “Something like that,” she admitted as Lucy reemerged from behind the portrait.
“Well, you’ve picked the right cousin,” Evelyn said, getting to her feet as Lucy held out the book. “She’s good at that. Thanks, Luce. I’ll see you later.”
Lucy reached a hand down to Rose to help her to her feet. “Hey, Rosie,” she said. “You okay?”
Rose shook her head. “No. I-” She could feel her lower lip starting to tremble, and she stopped talking.
Lucy sighed, put an arm around her shoulder, and began to guide her away from the kitchens. “Room of Requirement or outside?” she asked.
Rose was fairly sure that Scorpius would be back inside by now, but she didn’t want to risk bumping into him again if he wasn’t. The awkwardness would probably cause one or both of them to sink into the ground. “Room of Requirement,” she managed to get out.
“Okay, then.” They started to ascend the stairs, and Lucy asked, “Did you have a fight with one of the boys?” Rose shook her head. “Roxanne?” She shook her head again, and Lucy sighed. “Your boyfriend?”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” Rose said automatically, and Lucy tightened her hold on Rose momentarily in a hug.
“I was afraid of that.” When they got to the Room of Requirement, Lucy paced in front of it while Rose leaned against the wall, trying not to burst into tears. Now that she was out of danger of bumping into anyone, it was becoming harder to hold it all together. Her emotions were hitting her like a herd of rampaging hippogriffs, and it wasn’t fun.
The door materialised, and Lucy pulled it open and motioned Rose inside. The interior looked much like it did on the occasions when Rose made her way up here for a cup (or two) of tea, and she collapsed onto the burgundy couch gratefully.
Lucy sat down next to her. “What happened?” she asked gently.
That was enough. Rose burst into tears.
“I overheard them - Scorpius and his cousin Noah - talk - talking yesterday in the li - li - library,” she sobbed. “And he said he loved me and he’s not allowed t - to love m - m - me, and I didn’t mean it, and it’s not f - f - fair, and then I t - told him today and he told me to go a - away, and...” She trailed off and buried her face in a conveniently-placed pillow.
After a moment, she felt a hand on her back. “It’s okay,” Lucy said soothingly. “It’s okay.”
It probably took a good ten minutes for Rose to calm down enough to look up, but Lucy weathered it with more patience than Rose could ever imagine having. That was probably why Lucy was the Hufflepuff, not her.
“So let me get this straight,” Lucy said as Rose blew her nose noisily. “You accidentally overheard Scorpius Malfoy telling his cousin - I’m assuming Andrew’s little brother?” Rose nodded. “Right. You heard him saying that he loved you, and you didn’t say you were there, and now he’s mad at you?”
“Yes,” Rose said. Her eyes were beginning to tear up again. “It’s a rubbish feeling.”
“I know.” Lucy frowned. “And you claim that he’s not your boyfriend?”
“He’s not!” Rose snapped. “He’s - he’s - we’re-”
“I thought Evy told me that he’s been on and on about you lately,” Lucy interrupted her. There was a crease in her forehead as she thought about it. “And that he’s been bragging all over their Common Room about how Rose Weasley likes him and generally being a pain in the arse about it.”
Rose gave a strangled sort of laugh. “Well, I doubt he will be for much longer,” she said morosely. “He basically said that he didn’t want anything to do with m - me.”
“Oh, Rose.” Lucy leaned back against the arm of the couch. Though she was clearly taking the entire thing very seriously, there was something calming about her face. Lucy was not prone to emotional outbursts or panic. “Did he really say that?”
“Not exactly,” Rose admitted. “But that was the sentiment.”
Lucy snorted. “Somehow I doubt that. Look, Rosie, I’m sure his pride’s hurt. He likes you, and he’s probably afraid that he likes you more than you like him.” Rose’s expression must have reflected how affronted she was still feeling, because Lucy asked, “Well, does he like you more than you like him?”
Rose thought about it for a minute. “Probably,” she admitted after a moment. “Or he’s had more time to process it, anyway. He’s smarter than me when it comes to that stuff.”
“Tell him that,” Lucy suggested. “And just give his pride a little time to heal.”
“I can’t tell him that I love him.”
Lucy shrugged. “You don’t have to - and honestly, Rose, I doubt he really loves you, either. He’s infatuated. Maybe he could - or will - love you eventually. But really, you’re fifteen and you’ve been involved for about a month. He doesn’t really love you. He just... you know?”
Rose’s heartbeat was finally starting to slow down. “Really? You think so?” It was essentially what Louis had told her when he’d found her, but somehow, Lucy’s delivery was finally making the message sink in.
“Yes, I do.” Lucy regarded her carefully for a moment, and then she held out her arms. “It’s okay, Rosie. I’m sure he just needs to cool down.”
Rose inched across the couch and buried her face in her cousin’s shoulder. “I love you,” she mumbled into it. “You’re the best cousin ever.”
“Wonder what the Potters boys and Roxanne would have to say to that.” Rose pulled back, and the expression on her face made her cousin laugh. “Oh, Rose. For someone who teases everyone around her nonstop, you should really get better at being teased.”
A/N: Hello, lovely readers! I hope you enjoyed this chapter - I'd love any reviews you'd like to leave me. :) As a sidenote, Lucy is a much more central character in the sequel to this (which I will be editing/adding to for Camp NaNo), so if you're curious about her... well, you'll see a lot more.
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